Monday, December 31, 2012

People with difficult lives

Compared to the people I know, I have it easy:
  • A woman in her early 60s.  She adopted a child with fetal alcohol syndrome, attention deficit disorder, and mental retardation.  Now he is around 20 or so.  He found a girlfriend -- obsessive compulsive disorder, self-centered, childish.  They had a baby.  They did not have jobs.  They moved in with the baby's grandmother, the aforementioned woman in her early 60s.  Then the child's mother ran off with another guy.  Then the social workers said both of the child's parents are unfit parents, and are not allowed to be with the child unless another adult is present and awake.  The child's father had to move out of the apartment, otherwise, there was a chance he'd wake up and be with his son while his mother was still asleep.  At first she thought it would be harder, having to do the child care all by herself.  Turns out it was easier, not having to care for the child's parents.  She also has some serious health problems.  She has had to miss some work, both due to health problems and due to going  to court for child custody issues.  Her employer is not happy with her.  She's trying to hold onto her job until she can retire.  After all, if she can't keep this job, who else would hire a woman in her early 60s with health problems and not a lot of education?
  • A woman went into surgery to have her eye problem fixed.  Instead, the surgery took away her eyesight entirely.
  • A woman is sickened by pollutants in the air.  The air is clearer in the morning, but by afternoon, it makes her sick to go out in her yard, or even into her kitchen.  She stays in her bedroom, with the air purifier running and the door closed.  She used to enjoy going to church, but she doesn't go any more because it makes her sick.
  • A young person (mid-20s) experimented with open relationships and for a few months enjoyed having three girlfriends.  Turns out, the down side of having three girlfriends is that you can go through three breakups simultaneously.
  • A man came home and told his wife that he had been laid off from his job.  She said, "My life is over."  She quit her part-time job, because she didn't want to support him.  She pressured him to get a new job.  When he failed to do so, she kicked him out of the house by telling him that if he stayed in the house, she would claim to the police that he was beating her.  He consulted the police, and they said that by law, if she made that claim, they would have to arrest him, even if they did not believe her claim.  She got the house he had paid for, and he moved into a small apartment.  A few years later, he moved into an apartment he really likes.  He has a part-time job and he's always in imminent danger that either his hours will be decreased or the job will go away entirely.  If his income decreases at all, he will no longer be able to afford the rent on the apartment he loves and will have to move somewhere less pleasant.  He is 65 and has health problems that make it difficult to work or to drive.  It is only a short drive to his job, the grocery store, the pharmacy, and the doctor, but he probably shouldn't be driving even that much.  He does it anyway, because how else can he live?
  • A man who lives with chronic pain exacerbated by exercise exacerbates his pain by shoveling snow, because he can't get groceries unless he gets the car out.
And here I am, feeling sorry for myself because it's hard to maintain so many activities in addition to my full-time job? I am privileged  I have a job that pays me enough money.  My job gives me ample time off, allows me the sick time I need, and allows me enough vacation time to do fun things.  I have a nice apartment. I do fun things outside my job.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Advice: It's better to give than receive

It is better to give than to receive.  That is what most people seem to think about advice.  They get annoyed when they are on the receiving end of advice.  But then they give advice, and when it is not positively received they go around complaining to everyone, "He shouldn't be so upset with me.  I was just trying to help,"  or, "I tried to tell him, but he wouldn't listen.  He never learns."

Advice is not help.  It's easy to understand that when you are on the receiving end, but we still can't seem to understand that when we are on the giving end.

It is not helpful to:
  1. Tell people what to do.
  2. Tell people how to feel, i.e. "don't worry" or "cheer up."
What is helpful? I can think of two things:
  1. Being present.  Listening.  Calling. Sending a card.  Spending time with someone.  Saying "I am here for you," or "How can I help," or "I'm sorry," or "That's difficult."  
  2. Material support.  What the person needs will depend on the situation, but it may be things like giving someone a ride, making phone calls on someone's behalf, picking something up at the store, preparing meals, washing dishes, or watching the kids.  

It's not just the internet -- the natural world is rich too

Ten days ago in my post Overload, I was thinking about how's there's so much information out there on the internet that our attention spans have shrunk.  We just skim the headlines because we don't have time to read all the articles.

But you know, even without the internet, the world is so full of stuff that we can't take it all in.  We walk by nature every day and we don't notice the details.  I was looking at a baby tree yesterday, just some twigs poking out of the ground.  It looked like some sort of maple or ash, but I didn't know any more than that! I look at maple and ash trees every single day normally.  I should know their twigs by now!

I hereby resolve to look at the twigs of maple and ash.

Soundtrack in your head

I watched a DVD about Buffy Sainte-Marie last night. In it, she said that she always has music playing in her head, and that when she was a kid, she thought that everyone did.  That got me wondering -- what runs in my head?  And is it different from what runs in other people's heads?

Much of the time, in my head there are emails and blog posts being composed.  Sometimes I imagine scenarios of things that might happen in the future, like if some event that I fear or hope for occurs, how will I deal with it?

Also, when I hear music, I see dance in my head.  Not all music, but sometimes.

Rebuilding for 2013

I have been falling apart the past few months.  I'm still broken.  I'm still afflicted with this fatigue/illness.  When I have it, I tend to feel hopeless and lonely.  Sometimes, by taking good care of myself I can stave off the sadness, but there is no cure for the fatigue.

As 2012 comes to a close, how do I put the pieces of my life back together for 2013?

Here are the pieces:
  1. I'm tired.  I don't always feel as bad as I have in the past few weeks, but I'm never going to be able to do everything I want to do.
  2. Basic taking care of myself: eating, sleeping, resting, and exercising are things I've long been bad at.  In the past few months, as I've fallen apart, even more things have slipped, like flossing my teeth.
  3. Chores: bills and sorting through all the clutter are the ones I have the most trouble with.  I seem to pull off some other ones, like laundry and groceries.  
  4. Druidry.  I've lapsed in the past few months.  I skipped things I was supposed to do -- meditation, time outdoors, seasonal rituals.  I skipped them more and more, until I was not doing them at all.  As of yesterday, I'm back with my druidry.  I think I need it to help me get through.
  5. Earning a living.  I've been unhappy with my job.  To a certain extent, I think I really am unhappy with it.  But also, I'm really tired.  I don't have the energy to work full-time.  That makes me like my job less, both because it's hard to be excited about doing something when you are too tired to do it, and also because my lack of productivity causes me to fall behind, which makes it more stressful.  There are actually some things I like about my job.  For now, I have to keep going to my job until I find a better way to earn a living.  As long as I have to keep going to it, how do I survive it?  
  6. Finding a new way to earn a living.  I have a lot of ideas.  Applying for jobs, going to conferences, taking classes, networking.  But I just can't do anything more than I'm already doing.  I'm already doing more than I can take, and therefore, I'm falling apart.
  7. I'm involved in three activities.  They all have their place.  I can't bear to quit any one of them, and yet I don't have the strength to do more.

    One is fun, brings me joy, and is with a good community of people.  It's not job-related, and yet the people I've met there have given me some leads on jobs.  I think just being out in the world with people doing something that I like with people I like helps with networking for jobs.

    The second activity is more job related.  It's a chance to do administrative tasks outside of my job.  I think it's really important for my jobhunting, because it restores my hope that a) there are tasks that I like to do, b) there are tasks that I'm good at, and c) there are people who value my skills.  I was feeling quite hopeless in those areas, and you can't really get a new job when you're feeling like there's nothing you like to do and nothing you're good at.

    The third activity is more solitary, and there's value in that too.  I really like that I have a chance to implement my own vision, unhampered by other people.  It's a way of being creative.  It gets me immersed in something larger than myself, takes my mind away from fretting about my life.
  8. I yearn to be doing so much more with music and dance.  

I can't see how to build my life.  There are just too many things I need to do, and I can't do them all.  One thing I think I should work on is getting help.  Sometimes it seems like the only way I know how to relate to other people is to offer to help them.  I need to be better at articulating needs.  I feel like I need help, and yet, I can't really think of any specific things that I want people to help me with.

Saturday, December 22, 2012


Since about mid-November, I haven't been able to keep up with myself.  My blog has become boring, because all I do is mope about how tired and sick and overwhelmed I am.  My druid practices have been slipping away.  I used to meditate daily, go for a nature walk weekly, and practice seasonal rituals 8 times a year.  I'm not doing that any more.  I did make a choice to let it go, because I had too many other things.  Even after I let it go, I still had too many things.

I want to do even more things.  It bothers me all the time that I don't spend enough time with the people I like, I don't spend enough time dancing, I don't spend enough time singing, I don't spend any time learning to play a musical instrument.

I have to find another way.

I've been trying to find another way for a long time.  It's easier said that done.

Friday, December 21, 2012


I love dance! I watch these videos, and I can't help but feel joy.



Solstice.  Before the light comes, we must feel the dark.

Vacation.  Don't have to go to my office.  A few days at home before I leave to visit my family.  There is so much to get done before I leave to visit my family.  So, a few days to work hard on doing that.  Then when I leave, I can relax.  I'll be away from it all.

No.  Now is the moment to relax.

My breath is shallow with anxiety.  My bones are heavy with fatigue. Now is the moment to relax.

Now is the moment for solstice.  To let the darkness fill me, because it is only after the darkness fills me that I'll find the way to the light.

Last weekend I filled with songs of hope.  Songs of light from darkness, warmth from cold.

It was too soon for that.

First I must know the darkness.

I'm tired of pretending it's okay.  I'm tired of pretending I can do it.

I listen to Darkling and the Jubilee.  It's what I always listen to when it's time to give way to the darkness.

Today is mine.  Today is not for chores.  Today is not for accomplishments.  Today is for indulgence.

I've gotten hardly any Christmas presents.  It's not that I'm obliged to give Christmas presents. It's that I want to.  I want to.  There are many things I want to do.  I have to let go.  I just can't do everything I want to do.

My life is not what I want it to be.  I can't make it what I want it to be.

I don't trust myself.  I think that if I ever stop working, it will all fall apart even more than it already is.

Time to let go.

Sometimes gifts come.  Sometimes something good happens when I didn't even work for it.

People view me as an encyclopedia, not as someone who is fun to hang out with.  That's because I act like an encyclopedia.  It's my fault.

I can't be the life of the party.  I'd be popular if I could.  But I can't.

I'm sorry for trying to organize your life. I know you can take care of yourself.

Yesterday I wrote an email that said, "I just need to finish my work at my job, finish my work to go on my holiday travels, and then leave and have a good time. But right now I feel like a pile of spaghetti....when I finally get home from work, I'm not going to immediately work hard on getting ready for travels. First I'm going to curl up in a ball."

Yesterday, I thought the curling up in a ball would take place in the evening after work, and that today I'd be ready to get back to doing things.  But today, the curling up in a ball goes on.   I think it's good for me, to let go once in a while.  To let go of trying to make my life be okay.  To be sad that it's not okay.

I give in to darkness for a time, and then I find the strength to walk back into the light.

New day

Someone posted on Facebook,"Don't start your day with the broken pieces of yesterday. Every morning we wake up is the first day of the rest of our life."

I agree with the second sentence, but not the first.

The broken pieces of yesterday are the foundation on which we build.

Thursday, December 20, 2012


Sometimes I feel like I used to be smarter.

It seems like I don't have the attention span any more to read an article that takes some thinking to understand.  I also have less patience for reading documentation to figure out how to use software.  Maybe I am spoiled -- user interfaces have become more intuitive so I'm used to being able to use unfamiliar software without much study.

I think another factor may be information overload.  There is so  much out there on the internet now.  I scroll through the postings on Facebook, and it already takes enough time to do that, I don't have time to also click on the links and read the articles or watch the videos.

Or not just information overload, but activity overload.  If I'm home, I have to prepare the food, wash the dishes, pay the bills, and do work for the activities I'm involved in.  That doesn't leave productive energy for reading nonfiction.  When I read, it's an escape from productivity, so I read fiction. 

The things I am supposed to be doing are not getting done.  I don't get my bills paid on time.

At my job, everyone is on overload. There may be something that needs to be processed by three people in succession.  What each person needs to do is brief, so a person should be able to have it done the same day it comes in.  But everyone has a backlog.  So what should be done in one day takes two weeks.  And when three people take two weeks, that means the whole thing takes six weeks.  Our slow response time sometimes causes negative consequences.

So in both my job and my personal life, this overload just is not working.  And yet, it's not so simple to find a way out of it.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Aversion to differences

I've seen several of my Facebook friends post something that shows a photo of a baby, and says something about how we aren't born hating, that racism is something that is taught.

That does not ring true to me.  It seems to me that humans are biologically predisposed to feel more comfortable with those who are culturally similar to them.  Humans operate in families, tribes.  We protect others who are "one of us" and we feel threatened by those who come from other groups.

I was not taught racism.  What I was taught was that racism is wrong.  I was taught that all people should be treated with respect and compassion.

But still, I do feel most comfortable with people who are culturally similar to me.  And it is more about culture than anything else.  I am more comfortable with a person who looks different from me ethnically but seems similar culturally, than with a person who  looks the same as me but is different culturally.

My culture is one American subculture.  My culture includes people who value intellect  but disdain the pursuit of wealth and power.  It's comfortable to be around people who find my values, food choices, musical taste, and interests to be normal.  It's comfortable to be around people who don't say "Huh? What are you talking about?" every time I try to explain something.

It's hard to be around people who are different.  It's hard to be around people who believe that younger people should adhere to the guidance of their elders.  It's hard to be around people who think that a fun time is listening to really loud music while consuming alcoholic beverages.  It's hard to be around people who think that a fun time is hanging out at the mall.  It's hard to be around people who think a normal meal consists of going to McDonald's for a hamburger, soda, and French fries.  It's  hard to be around people who express themselves in a pushy, aggressive way.  It's hard to be around people who express themselves in glib small talk.  It's hard to be around people who speak with an accent that is difficult for me to understand.  It's hard to be around people who expect that all the women will congregate on one side talking about children and cooking while all the men will congregate on the other side talking about sports and politics.

I was not taught to dislike people who are different from me.  I was taught that I must love everyone equally.  These instincts to prefer the company of those who are similar to me bubble up in me, but I was taught that they are wrong, so I feel guilty and try to suppress them.

Monday, December 10, 2012


Sick.  Daze. Haze. Fog. Sleep.  I wake up. It's day time. I'm dimly aware I'm supposed to be feeding myself three meals a day.  And drinking plenty of fluids.  What shall I do about that? I remember I have some packets of miso soup mix.  That would be easy to make and would feel good on my sore throat. That's what I'll do.

I fall back asleep.  I dream about miso soup.

Oh, I was supposed to make it, not dream about it.  Oh well, dreaming is close enough.  Easier then getting up.

I wake up again.  I remember there's a world out there. I'm supposed to be doing something.  I'm supposed to be interesting and intelligent.  I'm supposed to earn a living. I'm supposed to earn friends.

I'm a blob. No use to humanity.  Helpless.  I'll lose my job when they find out how useless I am.  Which means no rent no groceries.  No music. No dance.

My skin aches, sore with fever.

I fall back asleep.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Druidly clothing

When I'm at home, I wear the clothes I don't like.  The fleece pants that, while comfortable, are just a little too short, making them funny-looking.  The white sweater that, while warm, has stains on it.  I wear the clothes I don't like when I'm home, because I'm saving the clothes I like for when I go out.

Some years ago, someone said, if you don't like those clothes, get rid of them.  Don't let your house be filled up with stuff you don't even like.

One way to look at clothing choices from a druid perspective is keep it simple.  Don't have too much.  If you can't wear it for many purposes, if you won't wear it if another human is going to see you, then don't bother to have it.  Don't have too much stuff.

But another way to look at it from a druid perspective is don't waste stuff.  If you have clothes, it is your obligation to keep on wearing them until you wear them out.

If someone else might like the clothes that I don't like, I will give them away.  But I don't think anyone wants my stained clothes.  So I dutifully wear them whenever there is no one to see.

Druidly food

As a druid, I should grow my own food and prepare my own food.  Or what I don't grow myself, I should buy from local farmers.  I shouldn't be buying processed foods.

But I can't do it all.  I buy fresh vegetables.  Then I don't have the energy to chop them, and they go bad.

I buy microwave dinners.  Those I can eat.  Sometimes it does seem like a lot of work to get up and put things in the microwave.  Sometimes I'm hungry for a while before I make myself get up and do it.

As a druid, I should face my problems head-on.  I should accept that I can't do even half of what I aspire to do.  I should figure out solutions.  I should figure out realistic aspirations.

But I guess I don't do it because I can't bear to aspire to eating microwave dinners.

Isn't coffee supposed to be energizing?

Got up this morning.  Had some breakfast.  Had some coffee.

Within a few hours, I was fast asleep.

How long did I sleep? Maybe two and a half hours.  I was awakened by the sound of the harsh voices of my neighbors.  After awaking, I had a second cup of coffee.  I didn't drink it all at once, because it was too tiring to stay sitting up that long.  I drank some sitting in the living room, then I lay down in the living room, then I took it to bed with me, and finished drinking it.

Whatever it is that afflicts me, it's more than coffee can cure.

I don't think I can do it

I don't think I have what it takes.  At my job, I wear out.  Before 5:00 rolls around, I'm already done.  I'm so tired.  I just can't work any more.

Is it that I just don't have the strength to work full-time? Or is it something about my job in particular that wears me out? It could either be lack of interest in the tasks at hand, or something about the physical environment in my office.  My job is not physically strenuous, and my office seems physically comfortable, but I know that sometimes people are sensitive to things like toxins in the air.

They say you can do anything if you work hard, but I just don't think I have the physical ability to do anything.  I try to work hard but my body does not cooperate.

Friday, December 7, 2012

No one knew he turned into a bear

On his way to work, he lumbered, struggling to get up the stairs.  They thought he was fat and weak.  No one knew he had turned into a bear.  They did not know his growl was fierce and his claws were sharp.  He was too kind to turn those sharp claws on those who scoffed at him.

Dreams for family and friends

Last night I wrote a fantasy for myself, but what about my family and friends?  Here are some of them:

  • Girassol teaches capoeira and circus arts to children in poor communities in Brazil.  She joins us in Bar Harbor during the summer, and gives presentations about her work to the wealthy tourists, who then provide plenty of funds to support her work.
  • Jane is an English professor at Burlington College, a massage therapist, and herbalist, and a chef.  She lives in a teepee with a clawfoot bathtub.
  • Eduardo lives in our eco-village with his Siamese cat, and does a radio show about Latin American music, poetry, and politics.  People around the country listen avidly.
  • Pan teaches science at College of the Atlantic, and performs as a roving minstrel at festivals and fairs.  His cottage in the eco-village is positioned so that from his bedroom window, he can see the sun rising over the ocean.  Each morning, after the sun awakens him, and before he goes to his job at COA, he spends several hours roaming the island's forests.
  • Also performing at festivals and fairs are jugglers Jove and Mountain Laurel.  When not performing, they are home in the eco-village, raising their children and gardening, or bicycling around the island.
  • Jove and Laurel's children are growing up playing with the children of Vid and Aoife.  Vid and Aoife spend their time playing with their kids, making music and hiking.
  • Ellen lives in the eco-village, gardens, and goes for walks.
  • Mary also lives in the eco-village, and spends her time singing, dancing, and riding horses.
Hmm, it's hard.  There are people who should be there who are not listed.  I don't want to make up dreams for other people.  I want other people to live out their own dreams.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Army of good deed doers

The place where my friend works is being renovated.  She will be working from a temporary location in the coming months while the renovation takes place.  In preparation for the move, she is packing up stuff from her office.  She had some plants in her office, so she took them home.  When she took the coleus home on the bus, the bus driver admired it.  She had dinner, got some groceries, then went back to the office.  She then took the spider plant home on the bus.  She had the same bus driver.  He told her he has a spider plant at home, but wishes he had a coleus. When she got home, she transplanted a part of her coleus into a new pot. She went out to the bus stop, and when the bus came back from the other way, she gave the plant to the bus driver.

I've loved to do things like that ever since I was a kid.  I love to come up with secret plots to do kind things for people.  I sometimes fantasize about being part of a subversive army of good deed doers.  

Wildest Dream

I get alumni magazines from 5 different colleges/universities.  One does not share my values at all and I am turned off by the things the alumni are doing.  But when I read the other four, sometimes I feel bad that the alumni of those schools are accomplishing so many amazing things while I am not.  So tonight I started imagining what an alumni magazine would say about me, if I were doing amazing things.  The magazine I was reading tonight was from the College of the Atlantic (COA) so my fantasy starts there.  I imagine something that would be taking place a few decades in the future, to give me time to get there.  Here's what I imagine the COA magazine would say about me, in my wildest dreams:
Terra Maple Forester serves as archivist at the College of the Atlantic.  The entire COA community eagerly awaits the blog posts she writes once a week.  In these posts, she shares stories and photos from COA's past with today's COA community.  She also works at the COA library, helping students ground their work in the knowledge of what has been done before. 
Her work as archivist and librarian is part-time, allowing her ample time to pursue her many other interests.  She is one of the nation's most skilled dancers, and performs regularly in dances in a number of styles, including Morris, jazz, and modern.  At the age of 65, she has the stamina, flexibility, and agility of an 18-year-old.
Men of all ages admire her striking good looks and vivacious spirit, but she only has eyes for her husband Greg, a folk singer who has been a steady presence in her life for decades.  Whenever she is tired or sad, he sings to her, and the warmth of his voice soothes her.  But most often, their life together is full of laughter and silliness.  Terra and Greg take walks together every day, basking in the beauty of Mount Desert Island's ocean, mountains and forests.  The photos Terra takes on these walks are stunning.
In addition to the daily walks, Terra enjoys kayaking and inline skating during the summer, and skate skiing during the winter.
Electricity and heat in Terra and Greg's home is provided entirely through a passive solar design and photovoltaic panels.  Even on the coldest Maine winter days, their home is warm and sunny.  On winter days, they love sitting together in their sunny study room, reading, writing, and doing research.  Many of Terra's COA blogs were researched and written from this location. 
Their home is just one of many solar homes in the eco-village in which they live.  Terra raised the funds to build this eco-village by selling her photos, which are in great demand. All of Terra's friends and relatives have chosen to come to Maine and live in this eco-village.  The oldest resident is Terra's grandmother, who at age 115 still thrives physically and mentally.   
Terra is also a druid, and has achieved the level of Adept in AODA and the level of Druid in OBOD.
Terra organizes community singalongs, which are held every Friday evening, and community dances, which are held every Saturday evening.  As a result of the bonds and positive feelings formed during these events, the people of Mount Desert Island are a well-knit community, and readily help each other in times of need.  As a result, disputes are rare, but in the event of a dispute, Terra plays her harp, and the sound of the music inspires people to settle their conflicts peacefully and kindly.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Contentment is enough

Between vacation and holidays, I will go for 8 weeks without working a five day week.  This is the start of the 4th of the 8 weeks.

I think I'm starting to get a grip on myself.  Not on doing things, but on myself.  I still have way more things to do than I can handle, and I still have things falling through the cracks.  But before, I was so often getting tired and depressed.  The way that I'm getting a grip on myself now is that I'm not getting too worn out, and therefore, I'm not getting too depressed.

I am content.  I had a wonderful weekend.  I was doing fun things with people I like.

In general, in my life overall, I am not lonely.  That is, I feel lonely when I'm tired or sick, but that's only because I'm tired and sick.  There are a range of people in my life.  I would not want to move to a different place, because there are so many good things going on here, and so many good people.

I'm doing some things that I'm really interested in pursuing.  I have ideas about how to learn more.

I like my apartment. I like the town I live in.

So life is rolling forward.  As long as I'm not at my job, I am happy.  But not so often joyous.  There are people I talk to freely.  There are people I really like.  There are people who will be there for me when I need them.  There are people who value what I have to offer.

But there aren't people to play with.  There aren't people to laugh with.  I just don't have anyone in my life with whom I can connect in that way.

When I go out in the world, when I talk to humans, it's like there's this layer between me and the world.  I can talk, and tell them what's in my head.  It's like I'm here and they're there, and I'm reporting on what is happening here, while they report on what is happening there.

I remember times when it was different.  I remember times when I truly connected with other people.  Times when all of us occupied the same "here."

It was a most joyous thing.  I don't exactly miss it though.  Connecting with people like that is a fleeting thing.  Anyone who has experienced it is blessed.  I am blessed, for all the years I had people in my life like that.  Maybe it will come again some day.  It would be lovely if it did.  But it's not something to strive for or long for.  Because I am here in the now, and the now is beautiful.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012


Simple pleasures.  Seeing the exquisiteness of this moment.  Sipping herb tea.  Listening to music, beautiful music that fits my mood perfectly.

I got this CD years ago.  There was a radio show I listened to.  I liked the music I heard on that show. I did not hear that kind of music anywhere else.  I wanted to hear more of it.  So I bought the CD.  At the time, it was just a radio show.  Now the host of that radio show is my best friend.  Listening to the CD, I remember that when I bought it, I had no inkling of the friendship in my future.

And a year ago, I had no inkling of what my life would be like today.  In the past year, I have joined two groups, and in both groups, I have found a wealth of lovely people.

Today I had lunch with a friend.  We've been friends for 12 years.  Tonight, I helped another friend with a Christmas gift for his mother.  And I made plans with a third friend.

At the end of December, I will visit my family.  I will see my new baby niece for the first time.  I will see my parents, who have always been there for me all my life.

I am so exquisitely blessed to have these people in my life.  May I always cherish and nurture these friendships.

And I am also exquisitely blessed to have peace and solitude, time to sip herb tea, listen to music, and realize how blessed I am.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Elizabeth C. Bunce

A few weeks ago in my post Reading Bittersweet, I mentioned that I read two novels that weekend, but I only wrote about one of them, Bittersweet.  The other book I read that weekend was Star Crossed by Elizabeth C. Bunce.  After reading that, I ordered her other books, Curse Dark As Gold and Liar's Moon, on interlibrary loan.  Now I have read all three of her books twice each, and I have added her to my list of favorite authors, alongside Frances Hardinge, Mercedes Lackey, Cynthia Voigt, and Tamora Pierce.

In my post Reading Bittersweet, I described the kind of book I usually read:
Mostly I read Young Adult fantasy novels with female main characters written by female authors. I read that kind of book because I can't relate to books about people with jobs or cars or children or guns or adult cynicism. I don't like fantasy novels that drip with magic, unicorns, dragons, and quests to find magical objects. I like fantasy novels because they often involve time spent in forests, and because they don't usually involve cars, jobs, offices, factories, and guns.
Bittersweet was not that kind of book.  Bunce's books are that kind of book (although guns do make minor appearances).  I like her books because they have rich plots, so they hold up to multiple readings.  I like her books because they have the kind of main characters I can relate to -- strong, stubborn women who plunge ahead in the fight to protect the people they care about, who are not the least bit dainty, who aren't afraid to get dirty, who scale walls, who blurt out things they shouldn't say.

Maybe that's not the kind of person that other people think I am, but when I'm immersed in books, that's the kind of character that I can immerse myself in being, the kind of character who feels like me on the inside.

(Warning: don't read Liar's Moon if you don't like cliffhangers.  Or at least, don't read all the way to the end.)

Why I don't like what people say to depressed people

I like the post Adventures in Depression.  Not for the happy ending, but because of the way it portrays the hurtful things that people say to depressed people, and that depressed people say to themselves.  One of my pet peeves is the things that people say to depressed or sick people.  My friend Fay writes about it too, in her post Depression for the Optimist.

I seem to take it personally and get disturbed when I hear people telling other people how they should feel or what they should do.  Some years ago, someone had carpal tunnel syndrome, and another person was lecturing the person who had it about how it's not so bad if only you do such-and-such.  I tend not to interfere in other people's interactions, but that one disturbed me so much I snapped and made the lecturer stop the lecture.

To me, one of the most important parts of Adventures in Depression is the part that says, "But trying to use willpower to overcome the apathetic sort of sadness that accompanies depression is like a person with no arms trying to punch themselves until their hands grow back.  A fundamental component of the plan is missing and it isn't going to work."

That's what people just don't get.  They say "snap out of it," but people just can't snap.

I'm not sure why this resonates with me so much.  I don't think that I have depression, not like the authors of these two blog posts.  People have thought that I do though, and treated me in the ways described in these posts.  But that was mainly when I was so tired  in the first few years after I had mono.  This kind of thing has bugged me since long before I had mono.

I've always been bugged by pushiness, so maybe it's a part of that.  I hate when people are pushy about how to deal with depression and sickness, just like I hate when they are pushy about everything else.

Maybe it's because I come from a quirky family, so I've chosen quirky friends because that's who I feel most at home with.  By quirky friends and family, I mean people who have a hard time with things that other people tell them they should not have  a hard time with.  People who won't get a flu shot because they don't like needles.  People who won't use credit cards.  People who don't use computers.  People who are not comfortable driving or riding in a car as it goes over a bridge.  People who aren't comfortable driving or riding in a car at any time.  People who get sick if they go into a store.  People who don't like to be touched.  People who choose to live in homes without plumbing.  People who can't stand to be in crowds, like at festivals or concerts.  People who don't like sudden noises.  People who don't like continuous background noises.  People who won't go to a doctor.  People who won't say certain things over the phone for fear of surveillance.  People who won't wear clothes made with synthetic fabrics. Brainy people who never finished high school.

Anyhow, whether your friend has depression or carpal tunnel syndrome or an aversion to needles, if you tell them that they can easily overcome it by adopting the right attitude or the right cure, you're going to really bug me.

Many colored sea

When people like me for my surface personality, when they seem to like me without knowing who I am,  they seem to see me as a deep sea of serenity and wisdom.  But really I am a roiling sea shimmering with the many colors of hard work,  joy, discouragement, exuberance, alienation, love, fatigue, energy, insecurity, confidence, passion, intellect, sexiness, playfulness, silliness, and confusion.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Mercy Now

I'm trying to do too many things.  I get tired.  When I get tired, I get depressed.

Humans are like chickens, always pecking at me.  They tell me: You should get a new job. You should spend more time on looking for a job.  You should taking singing lessons.  You should take ukulele lessons.  You should exercise more.  You should eat more vegetables.  You should eat more meat.  You should take more vitamins.  You should work harder on learning your dancing.  You should not spent so much time preparing for your radio show.  You should play different songs on on your radio show.  That project you volunteered for, you can do it however you want, except the way you're doing it is wrong.  Here's another project you should volunteer for.  Don't worry so much.

Every now and then, a message comes through that is different.  Every now and then someone says: I'm glad to see you.  You're beautiful.  It's okay to be who you are.  It's okay to worry. It's okay to work hard.  It's okay to take a break.  It's a pleasure to be with you.  You make me smile.

These are the messages that are pointing the way, telling me which friendships I need to pay attention to nurturing.

But the best thing when all the chickens are pecking at me is to go home to the stillness and freedom of solitude.  No one to place demands on me.  I play Joe Crookston's album Darkling and the Bluebird Jubilee.  He sings Mary Gauthier's song, "Yeah, we all could use a little mercy now.  We don't deserve it, but we need it anyhow."

Yes, I need some mercy now.  I know I can't live up to doing all the things the chickens think I should do.  I know I'm not smart enough, not beautiful enough, not energetic enough, not bold enough.  But I am who I am. That's all I can be.  I'm just trying to do the best I can with what I've got.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Work hard or go with the flow

Tuesday: Ten or fifteen minutes or so talking with a friend I haven't seen in some time.  It was so genuine.  I spoke of my loneliness, and tears came to my eyes.  None of the usual pretending I'm strong.  Free of trying to be what I'm supposed to be.  Free to be what I am.

Friday: Exhausted, as I usually am by the end of the week.  That day at work there was yet another reminder of how horrid a certain person at work is.  He forces people to jump through hoops.  You do X, he tells you do Y.  You do Y, he says, "That is worthless, I told you to do Z."  I don't work directly with him, but it is my job to carry out his demands.  I'm telling the better people who are directly above me that I can't do it any more.  I hope they can help save me from him.

Saturday: Practiced music with a friend.  Not a close friend, but someone I know and like.  She was positive, supportive, pleasant to be around.  Like Tuesday, it was a relief for it to be okay to be what I am.

A tickle in my mind: isn't there a song about that?  The song I finally came up with was by Lui Collins, "Move to the now.  You who have created it, move to the now.  All the world awaits you."

Still had a feeling that there were other songs about it, but couldn't come up with any more.

The idea is, the thing that you need is right in front of you, all you have to do is step into it.

Is it? It sounds so easy.  If it were so easy, I would think I would be there already.

I depend on my job for survival.  I'm trying to find another way to survive, but until I do, I'm stuck with what I've got.

And the rest of it -- sometimes it seems like such a struggle to be friends with people I like, to distance myself from people I don't like, to get involved in the activities I want to get involved in.

What if I stopped struggling? What if I only did the things that welcomed me?

On Tuesday, my friend was struck by the commonalities between himself and two other people he knew I was close to.  He said, "You always go for the flaky ones."

Somtimes it seems I have no interest in the normal people, and only like the people who are difficult to be close to.

It's so ingrained in our culture that if we just work hard enough, we can get whatever we want.  It's overly ingrained in me.  I need to keep reminding myself to stop struggling and just go with the flow.

But is that right? You don't get anywhere if you don't try.  If I don't keep fighting, I'll never escape  my job.

A song I've known pretty much all my life, because my parents liked it when I was little says, "few people get there quick by their chosen road.  They don't know it's quicker to go by natural velocity."

Maybe there's a middle ground between fighting hard against the grain and giving up all fight.  Maybe I can keep in mind what I want, but also take into account whether I'm on a path that demands great struggle or a path that flows easily.  If I find myself encountering great resistance on the way I'm going, maybe it's time to stop for a bit and reconsider my route.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Deathbed priorities

After writing my previous post "Taste the Joy" based on a response to something written by Tom Hartmann, I moved on in my internet browsing to Christine Hartmann, and found something that related to what I had just written about.  In Prioritizing from your deathbed, she writes that one way to decide about what to do is to think about how you will feel about it on your deathbed.  One thing I like about this approach is that it encompasses both the immediate indulgences and the long-term planning.

On my deathbed, I will regret staying at this stupid job for so long, wasting these years of my life.  In my free time, mostly I dance, listen to music, spend time outdoors, spend time with family and friends, write emails and blogs, read, and compile photos.  Those are my passions, those are what I really want to do.  When I'm on my deathbed, I want to look back at a life spent doing those things.  But I also want to look back on a life that didn't involve so many years at this stupid job, so I need to also spend time on the difficult and unpleasant task of digging out my escape route.

Taste the joy

In, Tom Hartmann writes regarding a summer romance during his college years, "we had put off consummating our romance until my final evening in the country."  My feeling upon reading that was "why wait -- taste joy whenever you have the opportunity!"

The song "No Time at All" comes to mind.  It says, "When you are old as will woefully wonder could squander away or sequester a drop of a precious's time to start livin'....'cause spring will turn to fall in just no time at all."

Of course it's not always so simple.  Sometimes finding the things that will bring us the most joy takes long-term planning and work, not just immediate indulgence.  Sometimes we are crushed by fatigue, illness, hurt, and loss.

Actually, right now I think that everything I want will take long-term planning and work.  And right now, I feel like I am usually crushed by fatigue, illness, hurt, and loss.  I guess that's why I had the response to Tom's blog post  -- because at the time, he didn't have those things standing in his way.  And little did he know, soon he would be struck by them.

But wherever we are in life, there will be both.  Wherever we are in life, we need to work on the long-term planning.  Wherever we are in life, we need to care for the physical and emotional hurts that plague us. But wherever we are in life, let us not forget to taste the joy.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Holiday greetings

On the way in to work this morning, I showed my coworker friend that I was dressed in orange and black for Halloween.  He said, "I'm dressed in blue and green," joking that he was dressed for Halloween too, although blue and green are not traditionally Halloween colors.

Then at the end of the day when he was leaving, he said, "Happy Halloween my festively dressed fellow."

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Reading Bittersweet

A few days ago.  Last week. Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday.  I felt good.  Mostly the past few months I have not been sick, but last week  I felt even better than what is currently normal for me. Fatigue was lifted.  I relished living.

Yesterday, Friday, fatigue hit.

Okay, yeah, usually Friday night I'm tired, take it easy.  I assumed Saturday would go back to normal.

"I feel like a bulldozer," I said,

"You feel like you got hit by a bulldozer, or you feel like you are a bulldozer? There's a difference you know," he said.

"What does it sound like?"  I said.  I knew he knew the answer to the question he had asked.  I had just told him how my day was going. It was nearly 3pm at that point.  I was still in bed, still in my pajamas.  I told him I had been dozing when he called.  I woke up at 10:30am, and thought I was going to get up, but instead, I was still dozing on and off.

With fatigue comes depression.  Comes a feeling that no one loves me.  Comes a feeling that my life is hopeless.  Comes a feeling that all I ever do is work hard, that all I have are demands upon me, no place for joy, no place to relax.

When it comes, I escape. I rebel.  Some rebel with drunken carousing.  I rebel by staying up too late reading fiction.

Two weeks ago, I got three novels out of the library.  One I read already.  Two were left.  Last night, I chose the shorter one. I chose the shorter one because I did not want to stay up too late.

I chose the shorter one and I read it. I read it beginning to end, and it was only a little bit late.  Maybe 10:30.  I always aim to go to bed 9:30, but never make it so early.

I finished the book, and it was only a little bit late, so I went back to the beginning and started reading it again.

I read it one and a half times last night.  I put it down before finishing it the second time. I think it was around midnight when I went to sleep.

I went to sleep and I slept and slept, and was still dozing around 2pm when my friend called me.

We finished talking around 3, and finally I got out of bed and got some breakfast.

I started reading the second book, the longer one.

My friend called again around 7.  I told him that I had started reading around 3:45 and was now on page 202.  He thought that was a lot of reading.  He said, "Be careful, or you'll get in-letter-gestion."

We finished talking and I went back to reading. I finished that book.  I went back to the book I had read one and a half times, and finished the second half of that one.

Mostly I read Young Adult fantasy novels with female main characters written by female authors.  I read that kind of book because I can't relate to books about people with jobs or cars or children or guns or adult cynicism.  I don't like fantasy novels that drip with magic, unicorns, dragons, and quests to find magical objects.  I like fantasy novels because they often involve time spent in forests, and because they don't usually involve cars, jobs, offices, factories, and guns.

The book I read last night was Bittersweet by Drew Lamm.  Not a fantasy novel.  When I was in the library that day two weeks ago, I pulled it off the shelf and opened it at random to see if it was good.  Soon, tears were in my eyes. Yes, this must be an engaging story. So I got it.

Reading it last night, it made me cry.

Usually when I stay up late reading novels, then when I emerge back into reality, I'm depressed.  Of course I was depressed to begin with, that's why I started reading.  But I think that they make me worse.  What I should do, instead of reading, is listen to music.  I've done that sometimes when I'm depressed, and it has been healing.

Anyway, Bittersweet.  It a way it reminded me of Deerskin by Robin McKinley, because both are about a girl numbed by hurt, and her journey to reclaim her life.

It was a good book. Good because the author draws you into the heart of the main character, whose name is Taylor.

Taylor is like a boat on a stormy sea.  Tossed about by her emotions, she behaves in ways she doesn't like.  It is as if she is lost within herself, out of touch with the way her physical body is behaving in the real world.

She's hurting and she's numb and she's running away.

And as I read, I cried and cried for all the ways I'm hurting and numb and running away.

In the end, she reclaims herself.

She writes
I was covered
in earth and leaves
when the white-throated sparrow inside me
reminding me of the tops of trees,
and who I am when I stand up.
So I push
hard off the ground
and run
into my own arms
But in the end, she loves a guy who loves her back.  In the end, she has health.  In the end, her survival does not depend on going to a job she hates.  Seems to me it would be easier to reclaim my life if I had those things.  On the other hand, I do have the things she lost -- a mother, a grandmother.  And though I don't have romantic love in my life, I have a friend who helps me keep me from getting too far out of touch with reality by calling me often.

In the end, she says she will "gather in what I love," and "sip the sweet juice of each of my days," and "You won't catch me dying while I'm alive -- I'm not going to die until I'm dead."

It's hard to live zestfully while I'm sick, which is what I seem to be today.

But I know I will not always be so.  Today, bulldozed, I sleep and read.  In time, I'll be better and I'll go back to dancing and gazing at trees.  I'll still have the burden of that horrid job weighting me down.

Maybe I won't be able to stand up and run like Taylor does in her poem.  But the sparrow within me will find its voice again.

Thursday, October 25, 2012


The skirt I ordered came in the mail.  At first glance, I did not like it much.  Maybe I should send it back.  I tried it on.  Then I didn't want to take it off.  I had to take it off though, because I had to try on the pants that also arrived that day.  The pants were for a performance the next day.  If they were not going to work, I would have to go out shopping for some that would.  Luckily the pants were just what they needed to be.  I put the skirt back on and wore it the rest of the evening.  Its appearance is plain, but it's very comfortable.

Then there's the new goblet I got for druid rituals.  Ornately decorated, green and brown, Celtic knots, a tree.  Until now, I've been using ordinary mugs or glasses for rituals.  I could have kept on that way.  But instead I bought something.  I like its beauty.

It's wrong though, to like material things.  That's what they told me.

But material things make us human.  Humans wear clothes.  Humans cook their food in pots.  Humans live in houses.  We depend on material things for our survival.

Why then this shame?

It comes from my background as a Quaker and as a New Englander.

I think the aversion to materialism is much like prudishness about sex.  In order for humans to survive, we need material things, and in order for us to continue as a species, we need to procreate.  Therefore, we are endowed with desires for material things and for procreative activity.  The desires are strong, but if unchecked, can have disastrous consequences.  Therefore, we check them with cultural prohibitions.

I grew up in a culture of sexual revolution.  I was never taught that sexuality was shameful.  I was taught that it was joyful and good, but best kept private.

But I did grew up with the cultural prohibition on materialism.  And I still believe in it.  I believe that we consume far more than we need, and in so doing, we are destroying our habitat.  I believe that it's very wrong that some live in wealth while others live in poverty.

So yes, let me loosen up a bit and let myself enjoy a comfortable skirt and a beautiful goblet, but let me never forget the true cost of these things  -- what was taken from the environment to create and transport them, what work was done by humans to make them.

Charm is overrated

This is a follow-up to my post "Annoying and not so annoying people."  I continue to wonder about why I like some people and dislike others.

One sort of person I tend to dislike is charming, flirtatious people.  I think I used to push aside that dislike.  I used to think I only dislike flirtatious women because I'm jealous of the attention they get from men.  I used to think I only dislike flirtatious men because I'm jealous of the attention they give to other women.

I realized though, that's not all there is to it.

But even if that was what there was to it, so what? I could still dislike them.  No point in trying to make myself feel how I think I ought to feel, i.e. not jealous. Better to feel what I feel.

I find just because you feel something, you don't have to do anything about it.  You can just sit and watch the river go by, the river of thoughts and feelings.

Anyhow, back to charming and flirtatious people.  What do I mean by charming and flirtatious people? They are the people who try to draw a reaction out of you, who try to make you like them.

I've never liked pushy people.  I've always liked people who give others room to be whoever they are.  I like people who listen and watch, and respond according to what they see in others.  If someone shrinks back from them, they stop pushing so hard.

And I just realized in the past few days, that's the same reason I don't like flirtatious people, because they are  pushy in a way. They are trying to push me into responding to them in a certain way, to push me into liking them.

I was once close to someone like that.  When he was with people he did not know well, he demanded their attention.  That always bothered me.  But when he was comfortable with people, he mellowed out, and that was the side of him that I liked.

There are some people I know who are really high quality people.  They are comfortable enough in themselves that they aren't always trying to make other people respond to them in a certain way.  They just go about living life with integrity, joy, playfulness, and kindness.  Those are the kind of people I want to be around, and that's the kind of person I want to be.

Druid ritual

Druid ritual.  Done in the freedom of solitude.  Don't worry about how it sounds.  Don't worry what they think.  Just give voice to the spirit.  Let the spirit flow.

Words memorized, repeated.  Let their meanings cast their footsteps.  Speak the words memorized, and speak the new words which bubble forth.  Don't worry if they make sense.  They tell me what is in my heart.

Roots. Return to your roots.  I returned to my father's land.  It reminded who I am.  Returning to my roots tells me how to step forward.

Wisdom.  Wisdom tells me what I need to know. Wisdom tells me what I need to do. Escape my job.  There's where I need to turn.

The wheel of the year turns round and round. Summer turns to fall turns to winter turns to spring turns to summer turns to fall.  Keeps going round and round.  But not like the hamster's wheel.  The wheel of the year is always marching forward.  Each year, we carry with us the wisdom grown in years past.

The year outside me now is in autumn, but my life, I think it's in spring.  I hope.  Six years ago my year was in winter solstice, the bottom of the darkness.  My health left. My friends left.  Betrayed.  As winter solstice turns to Imbolc, so I slowly turned to light, building my life up first inwardly, in solitude.  I immersed myself in music.  I found pantheism. I found druidry.  I gazed at trees.  I danced in solitude and in joy.  Then, my soul flooded with light once more, I reached out.  I found communities.  I found people I liked.  I found people who value what I  have to offer.  I pray that I continue to move forward.  I pray that I stay grounded within while also blossoming without.  The nature of life is that despair will come again one day.  And the nature of life is that I will then rebuild myself once again.

People used to know how to make stuff.  But I don't know how. I just buy stuff.  If I was going to make something, I could buy the cloth, buy the pattern, sew it.  But still, buying stuff.  People used to make the pattern.  People used to make the cloth.

The words of the ritual flow forth.  Stored somewhere in  my memory.  If I think about it in isolation, I don't know what that line is. But when I say the line that comes before it, then it flows forth.  Like with the dances. I can't think how they go, but when I'm out there with people doing them, my body seems to do them.  And the songs I've learned on the ukulele.  I can't think what the notes are, but when I play them, they emerge from my fingers.

So much lives somewhere within us, more than the mind can see.

I walk around the circle.  Melody pours forth.  This is not part of the memorized ritual.  This is the spirit.  The spirit tells me to sing, so I sing.  I don't have to think, I just turn my body over to the spirit, and the spirit gives me song.

We have evolved to find joy in song, in dance, in religious ritual, in sex.  Perhaps these evolved for practical reasons.  But now, forget the practical reasons.  The joy is here.  Let us revel in it.

The ritual has found its end.  I blow out the candle.  The flame is extinguished but the spirit lives on.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012


Stories are a part of human cultures.  We have stories like the Bible, the Mabinogion, Robin Hood, King Arthur, Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, and Beauty and the Beast.  The stories we grow up with shape our view of the world.  In that way, the stories shape our culture.  But the culture also shapes the stories.  The stories we tell now are not the same as the stories we told centuries ago.  In folk music, I notice that the songs that are centuries old tend to have plots more like Romeo and Juliet -- people fall in love and then they die -- while in more modern songs, it's more common to have a plot in which people fall in love and then they live happily ever after.  Now once dark tales become Disney movies with less violence and more kindness.

How have stories shaped our culture? One way is that we all know what unicorns, giants, elves, fairies, vampires, gnomes, and dwarves are, even though they don't exist.  I think another way is stories tell us what traits make one heroic.  For example, Robin Hood says it is noble to steal from the rich and give to the poor.

Many stories today push a message of love while at the same time the heroes fight battles using physical violence (for example, Harry Potter).  A Quaker story would not do that.  The Bronze Bow by Elizabeth George Speare is an example of a good Quaker story I have read.

Three couples

There were a number of couples at an event I attended last weekend. Three in particular showed me something about what I value in relationships.

One couple has an open relationship. The wife said her husband could not be there at the event because it was the only weekend when he could visit his girlfriend in another state. When older, more traditional people expressed alarm, she said, "Oh I have several boyfriends."  During the event, she kept in touch with him by text messages and voice phone calls, telling him what was going on, and announcing his comments to the group, so that he was in attendance, though not physically present.

I think if I were to be married, I'd want it to be monogamous, although since I don't have anyone to marry at the moment, I think there are a range of kinds of relationships that I would be interested in.  So, though I do feel a twinge of envy that there are men who want her, mainly what I see is that this is not what I would want if I were to be married.

In another couple, the man has an illness which severely limits his movement and functioning. His wife was matter of factly attentive to his needs. For example, a mug was passed around and everyone was invited to sip from it. When the mug came to them, she whipped out a straw so that he too would be able to drink from it. But she didn't only attend to practical matters. She also showed little loving gestures, like stroking his hair.

It reminds me of the song "Everyday Things" by Gene and Gayla Mills, which says:
I've heard those love songs, you've heard 'em too
about all the things those lovers would do
They'd climb the high mountain, swim the wide sea
Walk through a fire, even die if need be
Oh, but how many times in the course of our lives
does the need for any of those things arise?
To me, relationships are about caring for each other in the realities of daily life.

I noticed not only the couple, but also the community that surrounded them. Though disabled, the man is still invited to parties, still welcomed. No one complains about the noise made by the machine he depends on. They just say, "It's always good to see you." If ever I am disabled like that, that is what I hope for: a welcoming circle of friends, a loving caretaker, people who take me places so that I can still participate in life.

And if ever I were married to someone, I would hope he would allow me to meet his needs lovingly, the way this man allowed his wife to do.  What I mean is, I don't wish for anyone to be so disabled, but everyone has needs, and I've been with people who did not want to show their needs or accept what I had to offer.  

I noticed the third couple during the singalong.  The way it works with this group, a person who wants to sing a song just starts the song.  The rest of the group sings along the person, but the person leading is responsible for knowing the words to the verses.

A woman started a song, but then started floundering on the words.  She looked toward her husband for help.  He started singing with her.  He just seemed so consistent, so steady.  It was like he was holding her, like he would never drop her.  That's what I want. Someone I can count on to be there, solid like a rock.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Burden or temptation

I was talking to someone last night who said that she doesn't really know how to use Facebook or do anything on the computer. She said she doesn't need computers for her job. She feels she should learn, but after a long day at work, she doesn't want to be using the computer. It's not joyful. She'd rather be sewing, knitting, and cooking. To me, sewing, knitting and cooking are burdensome chores that I never get around to. To me, when I get home from a long day at work, what I most want to be doing is to be on the computer -- catching up on Facebook, writing emails, writing blogs, and working with my digital photos. Those are the temptations, the things I try to resist doing, because I really ought to be doing other chores. It's eye-opening sometimes to see another person's perspective, to realize that my temptation is someone else's burden, while their temptation is my burden. And so, maybe I shouldn't be so quick to dismiss the things that call me as temptations. Maybe they are worth doing.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Back to my roots

I go to my father's house. Back to my roots. I realize I've been trying to be someone else. I always think I should keep my house less cluttered. My father's house is more cluttered than mine. I always think I should cook more. My father cooks less than I do.

So many things he has around his house are the same things I have in my house. I did not grow up living with my father. Many of the things we both do now are things we did not do in the past. These are not habits that I learned from him. There are a few exceptions, things I first saw at his house and then decided to buy for myself, but for the most part, these are habits we have both evolved separately, in parallel.

We both have the same brand of soy milk. We have the same brand of canned salmon. Not only do we both have frozen vegetables in our freezer, we have the same kinds of vegetables and the same brand. We both have oatmeal, and both keep in the oatmeal a 1/4 cup measuring cup. Some years back, I started using protein powder, and the next time I visited my father, I found he was using the same brand of protein powder. Never before that time had I known him to use protein powder. And now neither of us uses it. We both have seltzer, apples, natural peanut butter, and the same brand and flavor of instant soup. We both take various medications and supplements which we keep together in a box -- my box is on the counter, his is on the table. We both have bookshelves full of books that have bookmarks in them. We both have TVs that we don't use because we don't pay for cable so the TVs don't receive any channels. There are some exceptions. I don't eat mammals or birds; he does. I eat whole eggs; he eats egg whites. He eats a lot of mayonnaise; I don't like mayonnaise.

My grandmother recently told me a story. She said that after my parents divorced, before my mother married her second husband, she was dating a man who was looking for a Quaker bride he could take back to California. After the man met the family, he confided to my mother's grandfather that he was not going to propose to her. He said she would not fit in in California because she did not know her wines and cheeses.

I don't know my wines and cheeses. I don't keep a fancy house and serve fancy meals. When I'm out in the world, I feel that somehow that there's some way that humans are supposed to be that I can't quite be. But when I'm with my family, I feel like I'm in a world where I'm a regular person.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Leaves fall

Leaves fall from the trees, flutter to the ground. They look like butterflies or birds. It takes a while, but finally I catch on -- when things fluttering in the air catch my eye, they are not live flying creatures, they are leaves falling. Then I see a leaf fluttering in the air. It's not falling. It rises higher. It's a butterfly after all.

Thursday, October 4, 2012


Darkness, darkness, be my pillow,
Take my hand, and let me sleep.
In the coolness of your shadow,
In the silence of your deep. 
 So says the song "Darkness, Darkness" by Jesse Colin Young.

In this time of autumn equinox, I am grateful for the darkness.  Daytime is full of humans, full of demands, full of responsibilities.  They want this from me, they want that from me.  They were offended by what I said.  They didn't understand what I said.  They think I did it wrong.  They have a project to be undertaken and they think I'm just the one to do it.

I go home and in darkness I find silence, I find calm.  Thank you darkness for this peace.

Jennifer Livingston Speaks Against Bullying

This video of Jennifer Livingston speaking out against bullying has gone viral.  Usually I don't repost things that everyone has already seen many times, but I couldn't resist.  What she says is touching and inspiring.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012


If there is a piece of paper which is printed on one side and blank on the other side, you save it for scrap paper.  When you have written on 2/3 of the formerly blank side, then you tear off the 1/3 that remains blank and save that for scrap paper.

When you receive a package in the mail, you save the box so you can use it.  When you use the last piece of kleenex in the box, you save the box so you can use it.

When you open a new bottle of pills and there is cotton in the top of it, you save the cotton so you can use it.

When you boil vegetables, then in addition to eating the vegetables, you also have to drink the water in which you boiled the vegetables, because it has become vegetable broth and you don't want to waste the vitamins..

This is how I was brought up.  It's just part of the normal things that you do, like sleeping on a bed at night and wearing boots when you go out in the snow.

People scoff at it.  They call us packrats.  But the people who are wrong are not the people who save things.  The people who are wrong are the people who throw things away, who fill up the landfills.

But the problem is, I have more scrap paper than I can use, more boxes than I can use, more cotton than I can use.  The problem is, I live in a world of material abundance.  I can't give stuff away because no one wants it.  When there is more stuff than people want, that means we are living wastefully.  We need to be better stewards of the earth's resources.  How can I stop things that I don't need from coming into my house?  How can I stop the society's overproduction of things? The store shelves are filled with plastic junk, stuff no one needs.  But companies keep producing them, because they find they can get rich that way, by convincing people to buy stuff they don't need.

Annoying and not so annoying people

I've written about it before, this struggle I have with not liking people.  It was so ingrained in me as a Quaker that my job is to see that of God in everyone.  But there are some people I just don't like.  I'm trying to come to terms with that.  I guess I still believe there is that of God in everyone, but I also believe that for me to love everyone in the world is just not a realistic task.

Even when I don't know someone well, I may still have a strong feeling about whether I like or dislike them.  There are people I see around at my work.  They go to the same meetings I go to, but I don't really interact with them much directly.  And that's all it takes for me to make a judgment. There is a woman who just seems nice.  Something about how she carries herself, how she speaks. There are others who annoy me every time I see them.

And I'm finding the common threads, noticing which traits I like and dislike.  I dislike pushy people.  I dislike people who tell others what they ought to do, who give unsolicited advice.  I dislike people who pontificate, so convinced that what they  have to say is so much more correct than what others have to say.  I dislike people who are ambitious about capturing resources for themselves.  I dislike people who are smoothly charming, trying to manipulate others into liking them. I dislike women who squeal, who giggle, who are fashionable, the kind of women who exclaim, "oh what a cute purse!"

I like people who are not too loud.  I like people who ponder different ways of looking at things rather than seizing one viewpoint and being blind to all others. I like people who are careful to review the information before coming to a conclusion.  I like people who seek truth and kindness.  I like people who are rugged, practical, and direct. 

Despite my instinct to the contrary, it's okay to like some people more than others.  It's okay to learn which traits I value, to try to cultivate them in myself, to try to put myself in the company of people who exhibit those traits.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Passions beckon

I was first exposed to feminism in college.  The feminists there seemed to be about decrying two things: pornography and homemaking.  I didn't really see much wrong with either pornography or homemaking.  I believed the feminists were knowledgeable and I tried to see things their way, but I just couldn't buy into it.

Now that I'm old enough to think for myself instead of feeling I have to buy into others' beliefs, here's what I think: I don't think I would call it feminism. I would call it passionism maybe.  Being a liberated person means being able to live out your passions.  It's different for each person.  I know one woman whose passion leads her to be a homemaker.  I know another woman whose passion leads her to polyamory and sadomasochism.  I know a woman whose passion is community organizing, and another whose passion is circus arts.  So it's not that a particular path (such as homemaking) is inherently liberating or not liberating.  It's about having the freedom to follow your own unique path.

We can't all have everything all the time.  There will always be things that interfere at times with living our passions.  We all suffer disappointments, illnesses, failures, mistakes, losses. But the spark of passion burns on nonetheless, like a beacon, beckoning us to the life we desire.

Often I am far from my passions.  Often I am weighed down by my job, responsibilities, illness, fatigue, or rejection.  But still my passions beckon.  I steal moments, moments when I escape my chains and feel as free as the wind.  Often I feel stuck by not knowing how to escape my chains, but never do I wonder what my passions are.   My passions beckon.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

The wisdom to know the difference

"God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; the courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference."

Sounds simple enough.  But it seems to me sometimes like a lifetime's task to figure out the part about knowing the difference.

There's poverty and violence and drugs in my city.  The people affected by such maladies seem to have a vastly different culture than I do.  I instinctively turn away from it.  Yesterday, I vowed not to.  Yesterday I vowed to reach out in kindness to all in my city.  Today at the laundromat I heard a woman yelling at her kid, so loud, so harsh.  I know that for a person to have such harshness within her, she must have had a harsh life.  I know she needs kindness.  But I don't think I'm the one to give it to her.  It hurts me to hear kids yelled at that way.  It hurts me, so I should do something.  I should help parents to raise their kids in a loving environment.  But I don't think I have the strength to do it.  When I hear it, even though I'm not the one being yelled at, it makes me cringe as if it is directed at me.  Putting myself in the line of verbal abuse is not where I need to be.

How much can a person really change? Sometimes we can move to a different situation, and sometimes a different situation allows us more chance to blossom.  But we can't change who we fundamentally are.  But who am I? What potentials lie within me, and what would it take to unlock them?

I know that I can be more than what I am in my current circumstance.  I know that I can be more vivacious, more willing to reach out to others.  I know that my current circumstance inspires me to curl up in a ball and hide from the world.  I know that is not what I want to be.  I know that I want to be who I was when I felt surrounded by people who supported me, who shared my values, and who could have intellectually stimulating conversations with me.

When I have that grounding of a community that does share my values, then that's what gives me the courage to reach out to also interact with those who do not share my values.

Every day I tell myself if I just work harder at it, I can get where I want to be.  I can get a different job.  I can be more compassionate.  I can get my house cleaned.  I can get my bills paid.  I can find a community that will believe in me.

Every day I tell myself I just have to work harder at it, but it never gets done.  My life is never transformed.  I'm still stuck here in the same place.

Telling myself to work harder at it doesn't get me there.  Is there anything that would get me there?  Or is this just who I am? Is it that it doesn't get any better than this?

My question a few paragraphs ago, "What potentials lie within me, and what would it take to unlock them?" reminds me of the final season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  It's a beautiful concept on Buffy, but doing magic to unlock vampire slaying ability is one thing.  Is there anything that will help me unlock my life?

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Druidry and free will

It says in The Path Through the Forest by Julie White and Graeme Talboys (pages 99-100), "the Celtic metaphysic is based firmly on the principle that we all have free will.  We must do as we see fit and we may not coerce others."

That fits with my philosophy.  In fact, I'm so unwilling to impose my will on others that people think that I am timid, that I'm not assertive enough.

I think of my grandmother.  She is tactful and agreeable, but that doesn't mean she doesn't do as she wishes.

The song "Sara McCutcheon" by Cathy Fink reminds me of my grandmother.  Sara's adult son comes for a visit and is alarmed to find his elderly mother up on a ladder working on the house.  He sends  her off to an old age home.  While living there, she goes out for a walk each day.  Each day, she takes something back to her house.  Then one day she tells the people at the old age home that all her stuff has been moved back home, so now she will move back home too.

That's how I was raised.  Do your thing.  Don't make a stink about it.  Don't mess with other people doing their thing.

I think it's no coincidence that I feel an affinity for druidry.  I am of Irish and English ancestry.  Druidry comes from Ireland and Britain.  I feel comfortable with it culturally.

Making a cold cruel world

I've written about it before.  When I go downtown, it's quite common for me to be approached by people asking for something.  They want money, they want a ride, they want to use my cell phone, sometimes I don't know what they want because I don't give them a chance to tell me.  Sometimes I help them.  Sometimes I don't.  When I help them, I feel bad.  I feel like the story they told me was a lie, and I'm rewarding them for lying.  When I don't help them, I feel bad. I feel like I'm cruelly turning my back on someone in need, like I'm making this a cold world.

Today I turned my back on people twice.  It upset me.  Especially because it's a split section decision whether to stay and listen to the appeal and walk away, and sometimes in retrospect, I come to a different conclusion about which appeals to listen to.

What if I said yes to everyone? Why not just try it and see what happens? If it does not turn out well, then I'll know and I can choose not to do it any more.

It's not only the people on the street asking for something, the ones who look like unsavory characters.  I turn away from so-called upstanding people as well.  I don't like humans.  That is, I only like a small percentage of the people I've met.

My feelings here are the opposite of my beliefs.  I believe in treating all with love and respect.

But I just don't like humans.

I went to school to train to be a social worker.  But I couldn't do it.  I couldn't be a social worker.

It's a hard thing, to live in a way violates your beliefs, to do things that you feel are wrong.

It makes me want to escape.  It makes me want to dive into a novel, to escape my reality.

But a good druid examines her beliefs and makes choices about how she will live.

I went downtown and turned my back on those in need.  Then I came home and looked at my mail.  It was a bunch of advertisers, they all want me to shop at their store, eat at their restaurant.

They are cruel too, just like I'm cruel.  They are cruel because they are just trying to get money from me.

This is not the kind of world I want to live in.

How can I make the world I want to live in? By being kind to all, not just those who seem to share my values and culture, but the unsavory types downtown.  By buying from farmers and craftspeople who take care in their work instead of from big companies trying to squeeze money out of me anyway they can.  By not buying so much.  By sitting down and listening -- listening to the trees, listening to the stories people tell.

I can't do it.  I don't like humans.  I just want to stay in my house with my computer.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Sustainable living

In "The Birthday Balloon," Shannon Hayes writes:
"I was being interviewed by a parenting magazine for a story they were running on eco-parenting.... she was examining the added financial burdens parents faced when they chose to raise their children in an ecologically responsible way—as examples, she mentioned chlorine-free diapers, bisphenol and phthalate-free baby bottles, organic baby foods and clothing, and all-natural, fair-trade, and zero-impact toys. Ula was a mobile baby at the time, and as the reporter spoke, I watched her approach her favorite all-natural toy, the family laundry basket. ...Taking a cue from my daughter, I interrupted the conversation. 'I’m sorry, but that’s not what eco-parenting means to me. It isn’t about going out and buying ecologically-produced versions of products I think I may need. It’s about discovering what I don’t need.'”
I think this is true not only for parenting, but for sustainable living in general.  Sustainable living is not about buying fancy stuff.  It's about not buying stuff.

Getting older and wiser

When I was in college, and for a number of years after college, when I went out in the world, I felt like I didn't know what I was doing, didn't know how to do things, and I thought it was because I was too young.  Then as the years went on, I would hear about people who were younger than I was doing things that I was not up to doing.  It made me feel inadequate. I felt like I was supposed to grow up to be able to do that, but I failed to do so.

Now that I'm older, sometimes I look at it differently.  Sometimes I look at people younger than I am doing things, and I realize, that's not who I am.  It's not a matter of my failure to develop in that way.  It's that I have one path and they have a different path.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Turning to the dark time of the year

From autumn equinox second of Arianrhod's Dance by Julie White and Graeme Talboys:
"it was second nature for our ancestors to start building up their stores of firewood and food, to make sure their dwellings were capable of withstanding the storms of winter, to see the outer world put in order before retreating within their dwellings and their selves.  There, they would take up work that could be done indoors, just as they would take up work that could be done within themselves.  It was a time of weaving and repairing, a time of storytelling, a time when they were forced together and had to learn to get along.  It was a time to sit quietly and think, a time of patience."
This resonates with me a great deal.  I have been running around so much lately.  No time to gaze at trees, read, put my house in order.  Now is the time to do those things, to stop running around, to put my house in order, to put myself in order.


Ancestors.  We all have 2 parents, 4 grandparents, 8 great grandparents, 16 great great grandparents, and 32 great great great grandparents and so on back.   I exist only because all these people came together in particular ways.  Who were they? What were their lives?  How hard did my great great great grandparents work to sustain the lives of my great great grandparents?  That work led to the creation of me.

All that went into the creation of me.  I feel some responsibility to carry with me and pass on who my ancestors were, what they believed in.  I feel that responsibility, and yet, I don't have the knowledge to do it.  I do actually know about 2 of my great great great grandparents.  When one of them died another one, his widow, wrote his biography.  But I don't know about the other 30.

There are some things I could learn by searching for stories and records.  But there is so much that is just gone -- no record left of what they thought, how they felt, what they did.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Introverts and Extraverts

There's someone I haven't worked with that long who does not seem to have caught on that I'm competent.  I figure sometimes extraverts are a little slow to catch on to the fact that introverts can be capable, confident, intelligent, alert, and strongwilled.  I figure she'll realize in time what I'm capable of.

I commented about this to a relative, who fervently agreed with my comment about extraverts being slow to catch on to introverts' abilities.  She then went on to tell me about a man in her church named Bob.  At meetings, she often chose to sit next to Bob because he radiated calm, while other people would chatter on about what they had for lunch.  One day, when Bob was not there, the pastor made a comment about serving on a committee with Bob.  He said, "I never thought someone so quiet would be so full of ideas."

I figure we introverted people may also be slow to catch on to extraverts.  We may be inclined to think that because they are always chattering about nonsense, they must not be able to perceive what is going on with the people around them, and must not be capable of deeper thought.


On Marketplace tonight they were talking about a teacher's strike.  The story ended with "A few parents I heard from were happy the school was open. They didn’t have to make other arrangements. But eventually, Griffith says, they’ll want their kids learning again."  So they think that kids only learn when teachers are present? Kids learn all the time.  Kids learn when they are playing in the dirt.  I think sometimes kids learn more from interacting with the world than the do from struggling over paper and pencil.


Looking through a catalog, I read "will revolutionize your spice storage."

I have a friend who likes revolutionaries.  I don't think spice racks are what he has in mind though.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Thanks to those who truly help

People seem to think that the way to help people is to try to reform them.

Sometimes it's a lecture about changing your attitude.  One such lecture says you have a lot, you should appreciate it, there are many people who wish they had what you had.  Then there's another lecture about how you can do anything if you just believe in yourself and work hard.

Or, the attempted reform could be about a change of behavior rather than about a change in attitude.  They say, "You should exercise more," "You should go out and socialize with other people more," "You would have more energy if you drank acai berry juice every day," "You should turn to God," "You should get a different job."

When people try to reform me, I don't experience it as helpful.

When people lecture me, nag me, or tell me what to do, I turn away from them.

There are however things that do truly help me.
  1. There's a song by Don McLean, "If We Try," that says, "let me watch while you live."  Sometimes if people would stop trying to reform me and just be present in the moment, I would learn a lot more from them.  Three times last spring, I was fortunate to be able to go on a nature walk with someone.  He didn't lecture me on what everything was.  If he had, it would not have stuck in my brain.  Instead, I appreciated the opportunity to be present, to be witness to what he was noticing.  He pauses to listen to a sound, and then I too notice that sound.  And one of the most inspiring things for me in learning music came from the same person, when he told me of how the way he got to where he is, knowing so much about music, was by spending hours messing around with music, figuring stuff out.  After years of being told that I just don't have musical ability, I realized that if I just mess around with music, I can figure stuff out.  And that's what I've been doing.  What helped me was not a lecture on how I should approach music, but being witness to another person's experience.
  2. Providing useful resources helps. These resources may be labor, information, or physical objects.  There are many tasks which are just physically easier when you have help than when done alone, like carrying heavy objects or setting up tents.  There are many things other people know that I would like to know, so I appreciate when people can answer my questions, like "What kind of bird is that?"  People can teach me things like dance steps and tai chi.  When I have a lot of people over for dinner, there are a lot of dirty dishes afterwards, so I appreciate it when my guests help with the cleanup.  I don't need a lecture that tells me "You should get a different job," what I need is someone to say, "There's a job opening here that would be a great match for you."  This category of help is tricky,  because it's only helpful if it's what the person actually wants. If I'm carrying something heavy, I may appreciate help, but there's also a point at which it becomes offensive if it seems a person assumes that I am incapable of carrying even the lightest thing.  The job referrals one is especially difficult, because people tend to think that I should be interested in jobs that I know really aren't a match for me.  I know that people can't read my mind, and I try to communicate, but sometimes my communications seem to fall on deaf ears.
  3. Praise really helps.  When someone tells me that I'm doing something right, then that's something I will grow.  At Morris dancing, even though I'm a beginner and can't do it right, they told me that I'm catching on really quick.  So I kept coming back, kept practicing, kept trying to learn it more.
  4. Being allowed to be useful really helps.  The article "How Kids Benefit from Chores" conveyed to me that when we let kids participate in gardening, cooking, and cleaning, we are letting them know that they have something of value to contribute.  In the article, after  the kids washed the floor, they "were admiring how the floor caught the light," and looked "satisfied with a job well done."  I think one of the most difficult things for elderly, sick, and disabled people is feeling that they don't have anything of value to contribute.  If you want to help someone, start by appreciating their contributions.