Saturday, May 26, 2012

Why I hate my job

Last night I went to a dinner at a hotel. They do lots of events there, like conferences, weddings, graduations, etc. They are really good at it. Anything we wanted, they were there to accommodate. We arrived carrying boxes of supplies for our event. They hastened to take the boxes, to carry them for us. As we sat there at the registration table, checking in our guests, they brought us water to drink. When we told them that more people had asked at the last minute to attend, they said, "Would they like beef, fish or pasta?" Where I work, it would not have been like that. It would have been like, "The final count was due two weeks ago. We can't add more people now." "If you want to drink water, that's $5 extra." "We don't carry boxes, that's not our job." And it's, "Your form was signed in blue ink, so we rejected it, because we require black ink." "You can't do that unless you fill out three forms." And to do anything, you have to submit a spreadsheet to one office, wait two weeks for them to process it, then submit a form to another office, wait two weeks for them to process it, then submit another form, wait another two weeks for it to be processed, then if approved it goes to another office. And that's why I hate my job. I want to be where people actually try to be helpful.

Pattern by Angie Smith

The May 14 blog post "Pattern" by Angie Smith is a masterpiece.

What makes good writing is the ability to convey a very particular moment vividly and concretely, while at the same time, connecting that moment to something universal.

She writes of sewing, of trying to return to a dress she had started to make in the past, and sewing becomes a metaphor for a relationship.  She says:

"It would have been beautiful if I had just paid attention when it was new, and now I’m left with the pieces."


"But it wasn’t the fabric I loved. It wasn’t even the finished product. It was watching the needle and knowing that it was working all the time to mend, even as it pierced. It looks like it’s dangerous, and as if it’s wounding. It tears through layers and even through skin. I’m convinced it will come away flawed and torn, and then I see the beauty of it all. And the hum of the sewing machine reminds me again what it looks like to allow yourself to be wounded because you believe in what will one day come of it all."

Is it heroic to sacrifice yourself for a cause?

People tend to glorify those who give their life for a cause.  I don't see it that way.  When a man dies for his cause, he deprives his parents of a son, his wife of a husband, his children of a father, and his siblings of a brother.  He deprives the world of all the things he might have done in his life -- the writing, the art, the scientific discoveries.

I once started reading Siddhartha, but I did not get far.  It glorified a man for leaving his wife and baby.  To me, that is all wrong.

We live in this world as individual threads in a tapestry.  Everything we do affects other people, and affects the earth.  We cannot possibly foresee all consequences of our actions.  We cannot possibly avoid causing harm to others.  We must act in the this world, despite the fact that there are no perfect actions.  We must act in this world, despite the fact that every action will in some way cause some harm to someone.

But at the same time, we have a responsibility.  When we choose to let someone become close to us, we have a responsibility to care for that person.  We have a responsibility to think of how our actions might hurt that person.  To go off and die for a cause without thought to one's family, or to leave one's wife and baby in search of enlightenment -- to me, such actions are not heroic deeds.  They are abominations, violations of one's obligation to care for others.

Coming of age stories and worthy people

I read fantasy novels which are coming of age stories with female main characters.  Typical plot: girl feels like a misfit, girl becomes a heroine, girl finds love.  The thing is, why does she have to do heroic things before she can find love? Am I unworthy of love because I have not yet found a way to be of value to my community?

That is not how it is presented in the books.  It is presented like the girl is strong, and she needs to find herself in her own right first, before finding love, in order to give her strength a chance to blossom on its own.

Still, I wonder, do I have to contribute to my community in order to be worth anything? I have this belief that people should be loved for who they are, that they shouldn't have to earn that love.  But at the same time, it does seem to me that a person has to make some contribution.  I live in a country where worth is often measured by employment and wealth, which seems pretty bizarre to me.  I don't measure worth that way, but I do measure worth.  A homemaker who has no job, but who cares for her family, she has worth because she cares for her family.  A small child or a severely disabled person may seem unable to contribute,  but that's not true.  They have worth because of the joy the bring to the people around them.  Just look at how people act around a baby, and it's obvious that babies add something to the lives of those around them.

What about me? What do I contribute? Not much.  Some things, but not enough.  That's why I read the stories.  I am middle aged, but I'm still reading these coming of age stories about teenagers, because I'm still hoping to find a way to contribute to my community, and still hoping to become worthy of love.

Belonging to the earth: Dragon's Milk by Susan Fletcher

In Dragon's Milk by Susan Fletcher, Kaeldra is of Kragish descent, but grows up in Elythia.  Like the Kragish people, she is tall and fair.  Elythia is a land of small, dark people.  Kaeldra looks like a freak, and the people fear her.

"For as long as she could remember, she had tried to be like the others.  She had watched how they did things, always following, always moving a half beat behind so as to get it right: the turn of hand, the tilt of head, the lift of voice.  She weaved her gown in the the Elythian way, dyed it in the pale pastels they wore, and cut it long, so as not to look so tall."

That is me, always trying to act like a normal person, never quite able to pull it off.

The guys were never attracted to Kaeldra.  They were attracted to her foster sister Mirym, four years younger.

"No one had looked at Kaeldra that way....Boys liked Mirym.  They liked little, lithe, girls, with lilting laughs like Mirym's.  And much as Kaeldra told herself she was just an early grower, it was clear that she could never be little or lithe.   She towered over the boys; they avoided her.  She felt awkward, overgrown."

And indeed, time after time, I have seen the men around me attracted to petite girls, cutesy girls, girly girls.  I could never be that.  I don't want to be that.

Then, over the course of the book, Kaeldra saves the dragons.  She is upset about the humans who seek to kill the dragons, saying, "They belong to the earth as much as we!"

Kaeldra finds love with Jeorg, who, like her, is of Kragish descent.  Together, they set out to return to her home in Elythia.  He gives her clothes for the journey.  She says,

"They're beautiful.... But why did you pay so dearly for things I cannot wear in Elythia.  They are too bright.  People would stare."

Jeorg's reply: "People ought to stare at you....I don't see why you always tried to make yourself into something you weren't....You aren't of Elythian descent.  You're a Krag.  Trying to make yourself into an Elythian is like trying to turn a dragon into a --- a sun lizard.  You too belong to the earth you know."

That is what I long for, to feel as if I belong to this earth.  To feel like it's okay to be who I am.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Poets in the everyday world

Often, before meditation, I'll read a little in a druid book, and draw something from the reading to use as a meditation theme.  Tonight my theme came from The Path Through the Forest by Julie White and Graeme Talboys.  According to the book, the Celtic people "had the ability to see and live in the everyday world as poets of the divine." 

So I sat there, and I saw the trees silhouetted against the sky.  I saw the leaves fluttering in the breeze.  I saw the exquisiteness of this moment.  The trees are always there, but sometimes we take them for granted.  Sometimes we don't see them.  In that moment, I saw them.  

 Then I heard the neighbor say, "Oh shit!" Then I heard a helicopter loudly circling above me.  

Poetry is not only about beauty.  It's about seeing each moment, whatever that moment may contain.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Grateful for the season of leaves

I am grateful that the season of leaves has returned.  I love to look up from the base of a maple tree, and see layer upon layer of green leaves.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

When I'm gone

Phil Ochs wrote a song called "When I'm Gone."  Each verse has three lines of things he won't be able to do when he's gone, followed by a fourth line saying "So I guess I'll have to do it while I'm here."  The lines from his song which most resonate with me are:

Won't see the golden of the sun when I'm gone
And I won't breathe the bracing air when I'm gone
All my days won't be dances of delight when I'm gone
All the pleasures of love will not be mine when I'm gone
My pen won't pour out a lyric line when I'm gone
Won't be asked to do my share when I'm gone
Can't say who's to praise and who's to blame when I'm gone

Is there anything I would add? For me, it's about sun, leaves, trees, oceans, breezes, dancing, family, friends, laughing, children, music, love, and joy.  He captures some of those things, and for the rest, I'm not sure I can write lines beautiful enough to go with his.

If I'm lucky, I'm halfway through my life.  If I'm not lucky, even less time is left.  This is how I want to pass the time while I'm here: in sun, leaves, trees, oceans, breezes, dancing, family, friends, laughing, children, music, love, and joy.

If only that were enough for me

The mothers, the women, they like me because I'm a good girl.
They like me because I do my duty, I take care of other people.
But if I try to talk of what's really on my mind, they wash me away.
Don't worry about that, they tell me.
Things are fine just as they are, they tell me.

The men, well, the gay men, they show me warmth and affection.
They know it's safe. They know they'll never have to love me.
The men on the street, they tell me I'm hot.
They like the outside of me.
But they know nothing of the inside.
The men who know the inside of me, they keep me away.
Oh, they wish they had a girl.
But not me.
For they've seen the inside of me.
They know I'm not the one they want.

The colleagues, they like that I do such a good job at my work.
That's all that matters, that they get what they need from me.
Not that I'm dying of boredom at that place.

The businesspeople, they smile at me when I give them my money.
They call me by name.
Nothing like a little money to grease the wheels of friendship.

We humans, we were born with the desire to be loved.
A most inconvenient thing.
I hear a bird, singing for the dawn.
If only that were enough for me.

Not at home on this earth

Not what I want.
Not the hunger, not the fear, not the politeness.
None of it.
Someone else was meant to walk in these shoes.
Let me slip out of these shoes.
Can I not dance with the trees?
Why do you not love me?
Why am I not at home on this earth?
Why can I not touch that which is before me?
Earth, heaven, the brow of a stranger.
We are all strangers.
Look, but don't touch.
Sounds, but not heard.
Come, come and hear me.
Come, come and touch me.
Let me awaken to passion.
Let me awaken to life.