Saturday, July 28, 2012

All the lonely people

At work, when someone brings a baby to the office, the women squeal and shower the baby with attention.  When a baby is born, we have such hopes -- that no one will hurt her, that she will thrive, that her dreams will come true.  We protect babies.  We care for babies.

Babies grow to adults.  We have no love to shower upon them any more.

Thursday, someone said to me, "No one in [name of city] likes me."

Friday, someone different said to me, "[Name of person] explained to me that the reason no one wants to hang out with me is because I'm a pain bearer."

You'd think with all the adults feeling alone, we could somehow get together and not be alone.

It's not so simple.

Babies are happy to be smiled at, babies are happy if their bellies are full and their diapers are clean.

Adults want so much more.

We annoy each other.  We hurt each other.  Most people, I don't actually like.  Most people, I keep a distance from.  So lonely we all stay.  But then there are the people I choose to let into my life.  Choosing to let people into my life means I will hurt them and they will hurt me.

The reason my first friend felt that nobody liked him was because he tried to get people to do things with him, and no one did.  

I've tried to get my first friend to do things with me, and he didn't do them.  It left me feeling that no one likes me.

My second friend received the comment  about being a pain bearer in response to his talking about feeling that no one would spend time with him.  He had just expressed what he was hurting about, and his companion went in and stabbed him right where he was hurting.

There was a time when I told my second friend what I was hurting about, and he went in and stabbed me right where I was hurting.

They don't like being hurt, but that does not free them of the ability to hurt others.  Nor am I free of the ability to hurt others.  

I want to heal the hurts of my friends, but I can't do it.  My friends feel as if nobody likes them, in spite of that fact that I like them.   Whatever they want is not  something I can give them.

It's like when I was little, I said, "I want somebody to tie my shoe."  My mother went to tie my shoe, and I said, "No, I want Somebody to tie my shoe," because I really wanted my aunt to tie it.  I can't make my friends happy, just like my mother couldn't make me happy.

And so we live, a bunch of lonely people, trapped in unhappiness, hurting each other, unable to heal each other's hurts.

The answer often given to the question, "If God exists and is all powerful, why does suffering exist?" is that it is because God has given us free will.  

I don't believe that the universe is as it is due to the will of a deity.  I also don't really think that free will explains why cancer exists.  However, what that answer does tell me is the unhappiness we often live with is a result of our complexity, and our complexity is also what makes life so beautiful.  If we were still babies, we couldn't play the ukulele.  If we were still babies, we couldn't dance.  If we were still babies, we couldn't paddle a kayak.  If we were still babies, we couldn't articulate our thoughts and have those thoughts be understood by others.  

We grow up from being babies.  We become strangers to each other.  We annoy each other.  We hurt each other.  But still, we transcend all that.  We find a way to share joy with each other, to laugh together, to dance together, to be kind to each other, to forgive, to love.  And that is the exquisite miracle of what it is to be human.


A rainy Saturday afternoon.  Home is stocked with fresh fruits and vegetables from the farmer's market.  The living room is adorned with clean laundry hanging up to dry.  A perfect time to relax, to love being home blogging, listening to music, reading.

The music of summer

Every night an orchestra performs in my neighborhood.  An orchestra of crickets and katydids.  Most people don't notice.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Thursday, July 26, 2012


On the hillside, the grass is dry, brown, while the weeds are green.  Dandelion, clover, plantain, and chicory thrive.

Is there a lesson in this? Perhaps the practical lesson is that for successful gardening, it is best to plant things which will grow readily in the climate.  There are metaphorical lessons too.  One about undertaking projects which are suited to thrive in the given climate.  Another about putting ourselves in the environments where we will thrive.

And yet, there are times when it's good to fight for something even though conditions are not favorable for it.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012


Our lives have only a finite number of moments.  Let us be mindful of how we spend each moment, whether it's gazing at the azure sky, or cleaning up to make our home a haven.

Monday, July 23, 2012

We're here to dance

At, Barabara Chepaitis writes something which sounds very druidly to me:
This is what we’re here for. To dance with each other. To walk oddly clad down unlikely streets and sing to our particular vision of the sacred. To appreciate, enjoy, and help each other....we’re here to dance. So go dance, or sing, or plant your garden.Thumb your nose at the celebrities and be the star of your own life. Dig deep to find the right problems to solve, then solve them. Go put something good in the world. Make art. Make supper. And don’t forget to play with your food.

My druid path

I think druidry is a journey, not a destination.  It's not something you can learn or accomplish and then be done with.  It's a way of living in the world.

Druidry is different for each person, but in my personal druid path, druidry means:
  • To continually seek to grow in knowledge, skill, wisdom, and compassion.
  • To nurture others in their attempts to grow in knowledge, skill, wisdom, and compassion.
  • To cherish and learn from others.
  • To preserve and pass on the learning of my community.
  • To foster positive relations between people.  
  • To care for the earth.  
  • To learn to live more sustainably.
  • To help my community live more sustainably.
  • To spend time outdoors, listening to nature.
  • To learn about trees.
  • To study Celtic and druid history, tradition, and ritual.
  • To seek spiritual grounding through meditation, ritual, time in nature, music, and dance.
  • To develop in both rational and artistic areas.
  • To develop my skills in music and dance.
  • To use music and dance to foster positive relations between people.  


How many of us know how to slaughter a chicken? To make wheat into flour? To sew a shirt? To build a table? To build a house? To make a stove? To make a pair of boots? 

These are the skills needed to sustain our lives.  Most of us don't have these skills.


A friend read in the newspaper that the best Mexican food in the area was made by a woman who does not have a restaurant, who only sells at farmer's markets.  Now he is eager to try her food.

A few years ago, I told him about the woman who sells Mexican food at the farmer's market.  I said he would probably like her food.  He scoffed at me.  He said, "It's probably Americanized, not real Mexican food."

When I reminded him of that, he said, "Well, I didn't know." 

Yeah, well, I told you.  So how can you say you didn't know? Because you assume that what I tell you has no credibility.  But when someone else tells you, then you assume it's true.

My stepfather is the same way.  When my mother tells him something, he doesn't believe it.  But when he hears the same thing from someone else, then he assumes it is true. 

It's my job to tell the truth. It's not my job to make other people believe the truth.  I say it, and they can take it or leave it.  But when people consistently choose to leave it, just because I'm the source of it, then I will leave them.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Earth Festivals book and the autumn equinox

I recently started reading Earth Festivals: Seasonal Celebrations for Everyone Young and Old by Dolores LaChapelle and Janet Bourque.  Basically the book presents activities that are suited to be done with a small group of children about once a week.  The activities draw on Native American traditions, and are meant to honor the earth, the turning of the seasons, and the Native Americans who have called this land home for millenia.

So far I'm only up to page 20 of the book, so I'm not in a position to comment on the whole book.  But I do have some comments on what I've seen so far.

Now that I have been studying druid, Celtic, and English traditions for the past two years, I notice the differences and similarities.  One similarity is the idea of a circle with four directions, with each direction being associated with a color, an animal, and a way of being.

Despite the similarities, I notice that I do not embrace Native American tradition in the same way that I embrace Celtic and English traditions.  I can respect and admire Native American tradition, but I feel that it's not my own.  I feel that to try to adopt such traditions would be trying to be someone I'm not.

Another similarity is taking a cyclical view, looking at day and night; summer and winter.  The book says that who we are in the day is different from who we are at night.  In the section on the autumn equinox, it says, "If our part of the earth changes and gets darker we have to change just a bit, too, to remain balanced.  We can't act just exactly the same way we did in the summer and expect to remain in harmony with the earth....Gloomy, dark days make some people cross or sad so we should be aware of that and balance things out.  The Indians managed to do this during the fall  and winter months by having more get-togethers such as parties, by telling funny stories and by more dancing and singing and chanting."

Stories that fuel hatred

People are so eager to criticize those they don't like. The liberals pick on the conservatives, and the conservatives pick on the liberals.

All over the news that past few days they are talking about a shooting at a movie theater. A conservative posted to Facebook an article about how the liberals are blaming the shooting on the Tea Party. A liberal posted an article about how the conservatives are blaming the shooting on attacks on Judeo-Christian beliefs.

Maybe some people on both sides did make unfortunate attributions of blame.  But those were isolated cases.  It is not the case that all liberals blame the Tea Party.  But conservatives, eager for evidence of liberal stupidity, latch onto one statement about the Tea Party as if it represents the view of all liberals, just as liberals, eager for evidence of conservative stupidity, latch onto one statement about attacks on Judeo-Christian beliefs as if it represents the views of all conservatives.

When people hear stories that fuel their existing hatreds, they latch onto those stories, with little concern for their veracity. Conservatives latched onto the idea of a "Ground Zero mosque" a few years ago, not caring that it was neither at Ground Zero nor a mosque. When police use force against a suspect, liberals are quick to declare that it's another case of police brutality, before the facts of the case are known.

It happens at the personal level too. When we don't like someone, we see fault in every little thing they do. We complain that they are wearing the wrong kind of shoes.

People with this sort of attitude think they are so different from each other -- liberals think they are the opposite of conservatives, and vice versa. But to me, they look much the same. They are people fueled by hate. They are people consumed with attacking others, rather than with building a better world.

I think where it comes from is that people are hurting. They feel disempowered, oppressed, marginalized. To protect themselves against feeling crushed, they cast hatred out toward others.

It's not a problem I can solve singlehandedly. But I can do my best to do my part. I can refrain from spreading those hate-fueled stories. I can try to be kind to others. I can try to bring to light things of beauty -- music, nature, stories of kindness. I can join with others who are trying to build something better. Together, we can build something positive.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Gonna Get Through This World

Woody Guthrie left behind many lyrics which he had not set to music. Lisa Gutkin of The Klezmatics put to music and sings leads vocals on Gonna Get Through This World.

In general, I like songs about walking through hardship with strength, and this is one such song.  In addition, I like the way that strength builds over the course of the song, expanding from surviving to contributing to something larger than oneself. 

I also like the sound of the song.  I like Lisa Gutkin's singing.  Probably fancy music people have a name for the kind of singing that I like.  I just know it when I hear it.  In Lisa Gutkin's singing, I hear the same quality that I like in the singing of Linda Thompson, Leandra Peak, Carol Young, Carol Noonan, and Mary Travers.

Woody Guthrie's writing

Another thing I heard in the documentary about Woody Guthrie was Arlo Guthrie saying that Woody was always writing.  If there was any piece of paper in the home, he would write on it.  If he went to someone's house, he'd write all over whatever paper they had in their house.  If there was toilet paper, he'd put it through the typewriter, and then he'd turn it over to the other side and put it through again.

In a way, I can relate.  I'm not as prolific, I use the computer rather than paper, and I don't write lyrics, but still, I have the compulsion to write.  The words well up inside me and demand to be written.

Woody Guthrie's successes

The other day I heard part of a Woody Guthrie documentary on the radio.  One of the interviewees said that Woody Guthrie was never very successful at enjoying making money.  A little later, he was talking about how at one point, Woody Guthrie wanted to go back to a place he had previously lived, but could not because he had severed his ties.  He said that Woody Guthrie was very successful at severing ties. 

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Pantheist song by Woody Guthrie

Today I found a pantheist song written by Woody Guthrie.  It's called "Holy Ground."  Lyrics are at

Magic of music

Many druids believe in magic.  I don't believe in magic in a supernatural sense.  As a pantheist, I find that what nature offers us provides magic enough.  I believe our state of mind is something that happens in our neurons.  But what amazing states of mind we experience!

In particular, there seems to be a magic happening when we sing or dance with other people,  and even when we are just listening to music.  For me, I think it especially helps to be outside.  I watched a band playing outdoors in my town, and I looked around at all the other people listening, and in that moment, I loved them.  Another day, I was outdoors singing with a group of people.  There were maybe 50 people, and I knew about 15 of them, but in that moment, everyone there was my community.  And it wasn't only that moment.  That moment kindled the bonds, but as the music ended and time passed, those bonds continued to flourish.

I don't know what I'm doing with my life, but I've always felt some calling to knit people together, and it seems to me that music and dance are a good way to do that.  If in any small way I can use music and dance to foster positive connections between people, then I will have done something worthy with my life.

Summer, please don't end

Usually in the week or two before a holiday, I start reviewing the ritual for that holiday.  Today I started to review the Lughnasadh ritual, and I recoiled in horror from the idea that summer will end.

Summer.  It's light outside when I wake up.  It's light outside when I get out of work.  After work, I sit on my  balcony.  If I want to, at night, I can sleep on my balcony.  I can wear clothes that allow freedom of movement.  I love the touch of the air upon my skin.  I love the feel of grass on my feet.  Every day I listen to crickets, watch the birds, gaze at the leaves, and see the rabbits.

I'm not ready for this to end. I know I still have some time left, but I don't see how I can ever be ready for this to end.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Good for now

Sometimes things are looking good, sometimes things are looking bad.  Either way, I tend to fall into the trap of feeling things will stay that way.

Things are good now.  Perhaps it is because in the last 12 weeks, I've only worked a full 5 days for 5 weeks.  Or maybe it is because I'm taking a different combination of supplements.

For whatever reason, or for no reason, my health has been good for the past few days, and I've been very ambitious.  I've been getting involved in all sorts of stuff and I'm excited about my life.

Knowing that such things are often short-lived, I just want to make note now: I am grateful for these days of having the strength to dive into life, and I yearn for them to continue.

Teeming with gardeners

I put out a post on freecycle to give away tomato cages, and within a day, I had heard from 11 people who wanted them.  It seems to me that this place is teeming with gardeners.  Good kind of place to live.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Richness of the world around us

You know the difference between black and white and color? Or the difference between two dimensional and three dimensional? That's kind of like the difference between the world we see and the world that is.  There is so much right under our noses that we never see. 

Always we can strive to expand our vision, but always there will be more than what we see. 

We can expand our vision by learning what others see, as expressed in books, blog posts, art work, and in-person communication.  And of course the ultimate way to expand our vision is to look. Instead of traipsing briskly through life, set on our goal, wrapped in our thoughts, let us pause and really see what is front of us -- the human souls, the bees visiting the clover, the needles of a hemlock. And it's not only vision and looking.  We can also listen, touch, taste, and smell. Did you hear the crickets? Have you tasted the twig of sweet birch? Do you know the feel of the stem of Queen Anne's lace?  Have you smelled the pines? What else can you perceive?

Monday, July 9, 2012

Druid robe

Some modern day druids wear white robes for ceremonial occasions. I've always had my reservations about this.  White robes seem about the least practical thing one could choose to wear in the out of doors.  Also, it apparently matters to me that white robes have nothing to do with how the ancient druids dressed.  It is strange that this should bother me, because I'm definitely not a Reconstructionist.  I believe we should move forward into the present and the future, drawing wisdom and inspiration from wherever it may be found.

Yet despite my reservations, there are reasons why I might want a druid robe.

One is for myself, as part of ritual. In druidry, there is no holy book or holy building.  Sacredness may be found in any time and place.  Ritual is like a light, it is one thing that can show us the sacredness that exists in a particular time and place.  For some people, wearing special clothing is a part of that ritual, the clothing is something that helps us access the sacredness.

Another reason is that if I ever do a druid ritual with other people, I might want to wear a robe.  If everyone else is wearing a white robe and I'm not, then I would stand out for it, and I don't necessarily want to stand out in that way. Or, if I am presiding as priestess, then wearing the robe helps with my setting the mood.

Knowing that I might someday want a robe, I compiled a short list of where I might find one.  Yet none of those called to me.

One thing that occurred to me is that in summer, I prefer not to wear clothes with sleeves.  I thought I might want a robe without sleeves.  Layers could be worn with it in winter.

Another thought that occurred to me was that if I am a good druid, I will not have a robe unless I can sew it by hand from organic material.

Well, I found my robe.  I didn't sew it by hand.  I didn't even buy it from a craftsperson.  I bought it from a giant corporation.  Very un-druid-like of me.

It's also not white.  According to the catalog, it's khaki.  Nor is it a robe.  It's a dress.

Imperfect though it may be, this is the one I chose:

Pan and the dragon

The Greek god Pan wandered through the streets of my city the other day, playing a merry tune on his pipes.

"Your music is cheery," I said.

Instantly, Pan was transformed into Puddleglum.  In the gloomiest of tones, he said something like, "Oh well, I try," indicating that the mood of the music did not reflect his feelings.

Today, I was a dragon.  I showed my fire by wearing an ankle-length dress, brightly tie-dyed in red, orange, yellow, and pink.  I was determined to conquer the day.  Yet despite the colors, there was a heavy gray within me.

We all have many facets, and all of them are real.  Fury, fatigue, joy, hurt, hollowness, passion, boredom, playfulness, strength, light-heartedness, longing.  It might seem that I put on the fiery clothes to hide the discouragement within me, but the fiery is real too.

When the gloom lies heavy, the gloom is real, but the other things have not died.  When the gloom lies heavy, let us bring to light the shine of those other facets.

Pan, fly free from this dirty old city.  Dance with wood nymphs, dance in forests and fields.

Dragon, find your home, where you don't have to fight, where your gifts are appreciated and your weariness is cradled, where you can sing and dance and touch the trees.

Needing to be needed

I'm part of a group trying to build a community in which everyone's needs are met and everyone's gifts are appreciated.

I'm finding it's hard for me to articulate my needs and it's hard for me to let people help me.  Yet I long to be helped.  Often when people attempt to help me, I feel they do more harm than good.  In that case, it's my responsibility to articulate what I need, so that they can help in a way that is actually helpful.   That's what I apparently have not really succeeded at.

But one strong need that I do know that I have is the need to help others.  I am suffocating with the smallness of what I do.

When someone told me her car would be in the shop for a few months, I said let me know if you need any rides.  She said she is okay on the bus for her day-to-day stuff, but that she will want a ride to her car to get stuff out of her trunk.  It was such a relief to find someone who actually wanted something from me.  And it shows how pathetic my life is, that I'm so desperate to be useful.

It's not only about being needed.  What I long for is to be engaged with other people, to be part of something larger than myself.  When I'm having a conversation with someone, and they say something that makes five ideas explode in my head, that's similar but far better than giving someone a ride.

Whether it's exchanging ideas or giving someone a ride, what matters is that instead of being locked inside my own little world, there's something beyond me that I can respond to.

The world is so full of things that need to be fixed.  I am so in need of things to fix.  But there's a gap there.  We can't find each other.  I have gifts to offer the world, but I can't find anywhere where they'll be wanted.

Time management techniques

Time management techniques = techniques to force yourself to do that which you do not wish to do.

There's got to be something better in life than this.

Holding up the ceiling

Speaking of song lyrics, one song that has been coming to mind from time to time for a while is "So Heavy" by Susan Werner.

It's so heavy when you're holding up the ceiling
Ain't it lighter when you let the thing fall
Ain't it better having something you believe in
And ain't it heaven when you're never holding back at all

I'm still holding up the ceiling.  I haven't found a way to let it fall.  I haven't found a place where it's safe to never hold back at all, except maybe when I'm alone and at home.  

In "Hell No (I'm Not Alright)", written by Nanci Griffith and Maura Kennedy, Nanci Griffith sings with fury:

Did you really think you could be okay
To leave me stranded alone that day
Did you really think you could wait so long
To call me up to see if you're alright
Hell no, I'm not alright
You can talk all day and ask all night
Nothing's gonna change, no end in sight

I wish I could say that.  Inside, I thrash against my life.  But still I keep on holding up the ceiling.

The hope of your heart is much bigger than this

I don't like David Wilcox's singing, but I do like his songwriting. I just heard his song "That's What the Lonely is For." It says:

If I feel hollow that's just my proof that there's more
For me to follow - that's what the lonely is for
From the deep of your dreams, the height of your wishes
The length of your vision to see, the hope of your heart
Is much bigger than this

Full lyrics are at

Friday, July 6, 2012


I looked up swallows on the internet, and I found the post at like the part that says, "The centrifugal forces in my life pull me in a thousand random directions. At times I fear that I will simply fly apart. This little haven of water and fields and birds helps to hold my vital center."

My communities, past and present

In the good old days, I used to like to do outdoorsy things.  I also liked to organize groups of people to do outdoorsy things, and maybe expose people to activities they had not tried before.  I chose friends who would go with me for hiking, rollerblading, and skiing.

Then my body failed.  I was too tired to do such things.  And I felt betrayed that my friends left me behind.

I thought I turned away from all that, that I turned to more spiritual pursuits and chose my friends accordingly.

Apparently, I haven't changed so much.  Today I found myself organizing groups of people to do outdoorsy things.  In a way, it's reassuring that I'm still the same person I always was.

Another community that I was involved in in the good old days was the folk music and dance community.  During the so-called good old days, I tried to be involved, but felt like I was kind of on the margins and couldn't really find my place.  However, over time, my involvement has developed.  It may have been in part that this is where I turned when I moved away from the more outdoorsy stuff.  So far I've mostly been involved in supporting professional performances -- concerts, festivals, and radio.  However, my ideals are really with supporting participatory music and dance, and I am trying to shift my involvements more in that direction.

I'm also involved in another community.  Though I just wrote a blog post about how it doesn't work to just build community for the sake of building community, that's pretty much what my other community is about, and for me it works.

Six years ago, I felt betrayed by my body and by my friends.  It seemed that the people who tried to help me did more harm than good.  I retreated into solitude.  Since then, I've been trying to make tentative steps back out into the world.  In the past six months especially, these two communities have embraced me -- the folk music and dance community, and the community that is trying to build community.  I feel myself opening up.  I feel myself starting to believe that humans I like are not just a few occasional exceptions, but are something that generally exist in the world.

Still, I must be careful.  My body is not really up to it.  Always there are lots more things that I'd love to do than I actually have the energy for.  I pray that I can continue to grow my involvement in these two communities while at the same time giving myself enough time for rest and reflection.

Building community

I think we don't build community by saying let's make a community.  We build community by coming together with people who have similar interests and values and working together toward a common purpose.  We build community be creating something together, like organizing a festival, concert, or dance.

The luxury of summer

We have been in the warm half of the year long enough that it's easy to forget there was any other way to live.  I take for granted that it's light outside after work.  I take for granted that I can sit outside without shivering.  I take for granted that surrounding scenery is always green.  It is such a wonderful luxury.

Of course I sit out on my balcony for meditation, but I find that I stay much longer than the allotted meditation time.  Before and after the official meditation time, I also sit there, gazing at sky and trees, daydreaming.  

I think it is good for my peace of mind to have time to daydream.  I think I don't do it so much in winter.  In winter, if I'm going to just lie or sit around, I turn on the radio or a CD, rather than just listen to the world around me.

Head banging

What I do in my job is I collect information from some people and give it to other people.  Except the people I'm trying to collect the information from don't give it to me.

Another thing I do in my job is organize events.  That entails asking people to participate.  Many don't want to participate.

So basically what I do in my job is pull teeth and bang my head against walls.

So I think I want a different job.  I apply for jobs, but I don't get them.  More head banging.

In "Grandma's Battle Cry," Faith Petric sings about how she has been marching against war since she was 10, and continues to do so in her 80s.

I made my friend angry when I said, "Hasn't she noticed that all that marching hasn't worked?"

The attitude I grew up with is I should pick what I want to do and go ahead and do it, regardless of whether the world hinders or helps.  It's a Quaker attitude of doing what's right, regardless of whether it goes against societal trends.  It's also the New England emphasis on independence and self-reliance.

But I think there's something to be said for going where we are welcome.

Once I had a friend who played tennis with a bunch of friends.  I told him I would like to play too.  He said he did not want me to join the group because it was no fun playing against beginners.

A few months ago, I joined the Morris dancers.  I think it cuts into their fun, to adjust their practices to accommodate a beginner.  But they never said that.  They just kept telling me how well I was learning it, and how glad they were to see me.

The Morris dancers are also into pub singing.  I told a friend from Morris dancing that I'd like to join the pub singing too.  I told him I don't drink and I can't sing, but maybe I'll learn to sing.  He said, "I like the way you think."

A far cry from the response I got from my tennis playing friend.  I think someone who discouraged me from doing things never should have been called a friend.  That was someone I spent time with, but not a friend, because friends support and encourage.

Some people believe that if things go wrong, it's a sign that you should not do a thing.  Like if you lose your ticket, that's a sign you should not take that trip.  I don't believe in signs.  And certainly I've had trips that had rocky starts that turned out well once I got there.

But I'm tired of banging my head against walls.  I don't know where I'm going.  I don't know the right way.  Maybe I should just keep sending out more resumes.  But if a path beckons, I think there's something to be said for following it.  I think I'll go pub singing.  If I go where I am welcome, maybe I'll find room to blossom.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012


Sometimes I see birds.  Sometimes I hear birds.  But today I was lucky enough to do both at once.  I think it was a catbird.  It sat perched in a tree, uttering a long, complex song.  I'm so fortunate to see such a sight.

What my depression and happiness feel like

When I am depressed,  I feel hopeless and alone. I feel like there is no one there to support me, and that because of that, I will never have the strength to make my life better.  I feel like if only there were one person who believed in me, then I could manage.  I also feel self-destructive impulses.  I want to eat junk food, not healthy food.  I want to stay up late, not go to bed on time.  I feel (but don't worry, I won't do these things) like cutting myself or jumping off from a height.

When I'm happy, I feel like the song in my heart is so strong that no negative events in my life can quell it.  I feel like I can take risks, because I will be okay.  If I fall, I will just get right back up with a smile and go on with loving life.

Druids know life is cyclical.  Sometimes I'll be depressed. Sometimes I'll be happy.  That's how life is.  That's okay.

Balcony holiday

Holiday today.  Day off work.  I've committed to attend an event this evening, but I'm free for the day.  How do I wish to spend my day? Three things I could do: 1) Go out and enjoy the beauty of the day, gaze at trees, rollerblade, kayak, listen to the birds, 2) Go  to my office.  I'm very behind on my work and it's my fault because I have not been doing a good job of focusing.  Sometimes it's easier to focus when no one is there, like today.  3) Stay home and work on my various chores, such as figuring out a different job, figuring out what maintenance needs to be done on my car, paying my bills, sorting through the clutter.

I sit on my balcony.  There are lots of birds.  Some I hear but do not see.  Some I see.  I see a finch, a cardinal.  I like seeing the birds.  I should go out in the woods and be still, still until the birds are no longer afraid, and I can watch them and listen to them.

I am here, and I am still, and the birds are no longer afraid.  On my balcony, I'm closer to the branches than I would be on the ground in the woods.

Three crows land in the tree next to me.  They are so large.  Why three? Don't birds usually travel either as flocks or as pairs?

I hear the sound of a gull in the distance.  I don't often hear gulls around here.  The gull sounds like the sea.  The sea is embedded deep in my heart.  The sound of the gull touches there.  It pierces me like a teardrop.

So many different birds are talking.  Are there usually this many? Usually I am here in the evening. Are there more because it's morning? It's not sunrise though, it's four hours after sunrise.

To humans, it seems the birds sing because they are happy.  To humans, the flight of birds is freedom.  I feel it on my lunch hour -- I see the hawk soaring, and I feel I've escaped the pressures of my job.

I don't know why birds really sing.  I mean, I think they sing to attract a mate, to warn of danger, to declare their territory, but I don't know why they sing at sunrise, or why they are singing now.

Whatever the birds do, they aren't trying to decide whether to spend the day kayaking or applying for jobs.  It seems a simple life -- eat, mate, build a nest, raise the young, travel in spring and fall to a more pleasant climate.  It seems like an enviable life.

But lives of birds are short, and I find joy in many things not known to birds.

The squirrel runs along the tree trunk.  The squirrel is the same color as the tree.  You can see the squirrel was meant to be there.

And I was born to be human.  Human is what I am, where I belong.  Human, sitting on balcony, pondering the sound of birds.  This is what I am meant to be. This is what I am.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Some factors affecting mood and energy

While depression and joy, fatigue and energy, do come and go to a certain extent without cause, there are some external factors that make a difference, so I can try to do my best to optimize conditions to increase the likelihood of joy and energy rather than depression and fatigue.  Some things that I do know are:
  • My moods are very much affected by my physical state.  When I have fatigue, I feel hopeless.  When I have energy, I feel optimistic.   Usually when I get depressed, I also get a sore throat, so it's clear there is a physical connection.
  • There are times when I've had enough, when I need some relaxation.  If I push myself to do things that I'm too tired to do, I may become unhappy.  If I allow myself to live at my own pace, to do restful things, I may find great happiness in what I'm doing.
  • Having someone be consistently there for me helps keep me even-keeled.  Sometimes I've had that in my life, other times I haven't.  I have that now, someone I talk to on the phone daily.  It means that when I get tired, sometimes it can be just that, just tired, without spiraling into despair. 

Ride the waves

Depression and joy,  Energy and fatigue.  They come and go in and out of my life of their own accord.  Like humans.  Like butterflies.  I cannot predict.  I cannot control.  I can only ride the waves.  Riding the waves can be a beautiful thing, as long as there is more joy than depression, more energy than fatigue. 

Indulging depression

Last August, there was a post to the Naturalistic Pagans email list about how to respond to being depressed.  The suggestion was attributed to The Depression Book by Cheri Huber.  The idea was to eat chocolate cake and watch depressing movies. 

I think maybe I'll try that next time I get depressed.  Not the cake and movies, but the idea of indulging my feelings rather than banishing them.  Indulging is what I usually do anyhow, to a certain extent, but I should try embracing the indulgence, rather than telling myself that I should do something that would cheer me up, like exercise.  Indulging does seem to work.  After some time, I hit bottom, and then I'm fine.  Maybe the more I indulge my depression, the sooner I'll hit bottom and recover.

At least for me, that's the kind of depression that I get.  It's normally something that just comes for one evening, and then it's gone the next morning.  For someone who has a more chronic situation, perhaps they wouldn't have that experience of hitting bottom and then bouncing back.

It doesn't have to be just depression.  Any time there's something I'm trying to banish, instead, I can listen to it.  For example, I hate the whole employment thing.  I do make progress on trying to figure out different ways of earning a living, but at the same time, I'm always feeling I should be doing more.  In this case, the thing that I'm trying to banish is the fear that I'm not doing enough, and the fear that because I never do enough, I'll always be stuck in the same place.  Indulgence would mean wallowing in self-loathing for not doing enough.  After that wallowing, maybe I would realize that I'm doing the best I can, or maybe I would be motivated to do more.  Either way, maybe I could come to some acceptance.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Dance of joy

I am so blessed. I am blessed to have a job that allows me to live in the home of my choice, free of roommates. I have a great clear living room floor. I put on a CD and I dance and I sing.

No one there to tell me I can't carry a tune. No one there to tell me I look dorky when I dance. No one living below to complain that I stomp on the floor. No one there to tell me I sing too loud. No one there to tell me when I get the lyrics wrong.

I am free. I sing my heart out. I dance my heart out. The joy swirling about the room is palpable.

I dance to the music of a 70's hippie rock band, Spirit in Flesh. I have loved this music since I was little.

My first memory of the music is from hearing the band perform live at their commune. I was about five years old. Moved by the music, I got up and spun around and around.

The music still makes me soar. It's the sound I respond to most. I found two of the songs on YouTube, so I've included those below to give a taste of it. Also here are some of the lyrics that I like:

Two snippets from "The Jack Baker Song." I am trying to transcribe them from the recording, but I know I don't have it quite right:

"The wise man tend his thoughts with love and care
and the roses, happiness and sunshine there."


"To find the good in everyone we come to
I'm sure that's the way we ought to be
To constantly return good for evil
And shine the light for those who cannot see"

When I was a kid dancing to this music, I did not give much thought to what the lyrics meant. Then I grew up to be a druid Quaker pantheist, and discovered that the lyrics expressed my beliefs. The second snippet above from "The Jack Baker Song" describes Quakerism, and the bit below from "Riverside Song" describes pantheism.

Once I sat by the riverside
I saw the force that made it go
And as I sat by the riverside
I found myself in the flow
I was a tree
I was a river
I was the wind that swept and shook the tide
I was all the things that I had left behind
My spirit is the very same force set the river on its way
My spirit is the very same force that makes the pine trees sway
I was a tree I was a river
I was the wind that swept and shook the tide
I was all the things that I had left behind
Once I sat by the riverside
Watching the force
Wondering how things could be as they are
Suddenly I realized the river and I were one

Music, dance, singing, art -- they tap into the heart, they give the heart expression. A little spark of joy becomes a roaring bonfire.

I love the freedom to dance and sing in solitude, but I love to dance and sing with other people too. I am blessed that two days from now, I will get to sing with others, and I'm going to try to get in some dancing with them too.

When people sing and dance together, it strengthens the bonds of community between them.

I would love to bring the joy of singing and dancing to everyone. In this moment, I feel that if everyone could sing and dance together, there'd be no poverty because everyone would share what they had. Of course, it's not so simple. Just like it was not so simple when my great-great-great-grandmother crusaded for women to get the right to vote. She believed if women could vote, there would be no more war, because women would never vote in support of sending their husbands and brothers and sons into battle.

Nothing will fix all our problems, but singing and dancing sure help to inject joy into life, and to create good feelings between the people who do them together.

Mood swings

I got hit by a depression last night.  Now I'm happy again.  I knew I would be.  I was there last night, knowing that I was just being hit by a depression, knowing that I would feel better in the morning, knowing that I should just go to bed, but instead I just stayed awake.  That's how it always goes.  I know the things that I should do when I'm depressed -- go outside, exercise, listen to music, go to sleep (it's usually bedtime when depression strikes).  When depression hits, I can still remember that these are the things I should do, but I'm paralyzed. I don't actually do them.

What I want at those times is a human connection.  A kind word. Someone to be present with me.

What I don't want is someone who will
a) Tell me not to be depressed because I have a lot of good things in my life, or
b) Tell me what I should do to fix my life. 

People who do either or both of the above just make it worse.  For some reason, those are the two things most people do. 

I've written before about what I want at those times, in "What to say to sick people and depressed people." 

I always think I should be able to handle everything on my own, but it's okay to want someone to be there for me when I'm depressed.

Sometimes someone is there for me, and that makes it easier.

Other times, I face it on my own.

It's okay that the universe does not always hand us what we want. 

Some things are easier with help, but we get by one way or the other anyhow.

I got by.  It's gone now.  Today I'm loving the music I'm listening to, and looking forward to going outside walking and rollerblading and looking at trees.