Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Careful about helping people

In my experience, people who try to help often do more harm than good.  My experience is mostly in regard to how people respond to illness and depression.  The story "Mother of a Transgender Toddler Gets a Lesson in Love" mentions that the child's first therapist did more harm than good by pushing him to embrace femininity.  As the family pushed him to be a girl, he would ask, "Why does God hate me?"

Doing the wrong thing when you try to help someone can increase the person's hurt.  That doesn't mean we shouldn't try to help.  It means we should always listen to how our help is being received, and make adjustments based on the responses we get.

And if the help someone is giving you doesn't make you feel good, trust your instinct.  Don't tie yourself up in knots trying to convince yourself to accept the viewpoint that they tell you to adopt. Like they tell you to look on the bright side.  But you know, if you're hurting, you're hurting, don't let anyone tell you it's wrong to feel it.

Looking for a way to live in accordance with my Quaker values

I'm still thinking about some of the things that were on my mind wen I wrote my post "My Quaker Culture."

I live a certain way.  Some of the things that I do are consistent with my values.  Some are not.  We can never live in a way that is absolutely always consistent with our ideal, but we can work toward improving.

There are some things that I just do because that's what everyone does.  Quakers have a history of not following along that way.  Quakers have a history of thinking about their values and their actions, and choosing not to partake of activities that don't fit their values.

Some Quakers have refused to pay taxes, because their consciences won't allow them to put money toward the military.

Some Quakers have left the U.S. and gone to live in Costa Rica, a country with no army.

Quakers don't just refuse to partake of the world.  They try to build something that is consistent with their values.

There are some things that are commonplace in my world, but which I know go against my Quaker values.

Quakers value honesty, integrity, simplicity, and compassion.

Politicians these days seem to be all about fundraising and sound bites.  Politicians these days are more concerned with image than with truth.  Politicians these days love to seize on things that will make their opponents look bad.

And it's not just politicians.  It's every day people.  Liberals are so quick to seize on stories that make conservatives look bad.  Conservatives are so quick to seize on stories that make liberals look bad.

This is not Quakerly.  Quakerly would be everyone working together to try to find ways to make society better.  Quakerly would be everyone working together in search of truth, the truth to be found in knowledge and wisdom.

Businesses these days are all about trying to squeeze more money out of you.  They have sales and coupons to try to lure you into buying.  They try to sell you more than you need.

This is not Quakerly.  Quakerly businesspeople would make quality products, sell them at a fair price, and not try to sell you something you did not want.

How can I try to live in accordance with my values? I can ignore the politicians and boycott big corporations driven by profit.    That's what I can step out of.  But I need to not only step away from politicians and corporations, but also to try to build the alternative.  I need to foster positive dialogue, to work with others to build a positive community.  I need to support my local farmers and craftspeople who do put care into the products they sell.

Water conservation

They tell us that to live sustainably we should do things like take shorter showers, make sure we don't leave the water running while we are brushing our teeth, and so on.

According to the Marketplace story "An oil refinery secures an essential material: water," "your shower uses about three gallons a minute. The vast BP oil refinery in south Los Angeles uses thousands of gallons a minute, 24 hours a day."

Maybe we should worry less about the length of our showers and more about building a society that is not so dependent on fossil fuels.

Shorter showers is easier though than transforming society.  The easy things are a start, but doing the easy things is not an excuse to ignore the hard things.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

A difficult day

I've learned, when it comes, to treat depression as illness, to pamper myself and wait for it to pass.  I've learned to recognize, even in the throes of it, that it will pass, that I just have to wait it out, that I'll feel better in the morning.

Usually the end of the week is worst -- Thursday, Friday, Saturday.  After a weekend to rest, I'm refreshed, just in time to start another week of getting my soul sucked.

The past week was especially difficult.  Both the past week and the week before demanded long hours at work, so I was all the more tired by the end of the week.  Plus the two people I normally talk to on the phone on a daily basis happened to both choose the same week to be unavailable to me.  Fatigue brings depression, but consistently having someone to talk to is what keeps me from going over the edge.

We humans crave to be loved.  Perhaps we evolved that way because we are more successful if we can cooperate with others.

But most of the time, no one really loves us.  They are friends with us for a time, as long as they find us entertaining.  But then they move on. Then they have more important things to do.

I am here, alone in my depression, alone in my fatigue, alone in my anxiety about my job.  Where did they go, the friends I thought I had? They are off chasing what's important to them.  What's important to them does not include me.

I always thought friends were the same as adopted family.  I was quick to adopt my friends, to consider them my family, to give away my loyalty.  But they tired of me and moved on.  They did not value the loyalty I offered them.

Family too moves on, the younger ones.  While the older family members feel their job is to nurture the younger family members, the younger ones feel their job is to grow up and leave the nest, to move on.

My grandmothers and my parents, they are the only ones who have always been there for me.

I will outlive them, and then I will be alone.

I'm sorry I gave away the teddy bear I had as a child.

I will feel better in the morning.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Saturday, August 18, 2012

We are all the same human flesh

When I looked at the data about visits to my blog, I saw that many recent visits seemed to come from one particular web site.  I looked at that web site to see what it was.  Turns out it is an "adult" social networking site.  Now I'm not sure why people on such a site would find their way to my blog.  Maybe it's a trick on the part of that web site to draw blog writers to visit their web site.

In any case, I went to the web site, and I went to the page where you view profiles of men.  There you'll find row upon row of photos.  These photos are the profile pictures of the various men on the site.  Now on Facebook, profile photos vary, but most profile photos are of faces.  Here, profile photos vary, but most profile photos are of genitals.

I suppose that the men in the photos expect that my response to the photos will be arousal and awe.  Instead, what I see is that we are all human flesh.  Here are photos of men from around the world, but they are all much the same.  When you take away the clothes and the hairstyle, underneath we are all of the same flesh. All desire sex, all long to be loved.

All those high faluting people who think they are so smart, who think they deserve to make so much more money than other people, they are all flesh too.  Underneath their airs, they have the same basic biologic needs, instincts, and desires as any human animal.

Friday, August 17, 2012

My Quaker culture

Certain things are ingrained in me by my Quaker upbringing.  You could say it's Quaker values, but I'm inclined to call it Quaker culture.  Values are something that you believe in.  Culture is doing things a certain way because that's how you were brought up, and it just feels wrong when things are done differently.

So here are some things I've gotten from my Quaker culture:

  • Look for that of God in everyone.  Don't hate people.  Try to understand why they are behaving as they are.   
  • It is immoral to condemn anyone based on the gender or number of their sexual partners, their gender identity or expression, their religion, their intelligence, their apperance, etc.  The only measures of morality are whether people treat others with respect, kindness, and integrity.
  • Do not elevate certain people over other people.  People should not be distinguished by their status.  Instead of treating the college president with deference and behaving as if the janitor is invisibe, treat both as persons to be listened to and respected.  I was disgusted to see a high status person have an employee hold an umbrella over her, while he got wet.  In druidry, I'm okay with  the way you can progress through different levels as you study, but I'm not comfortable when this progress through the study program is used to determine things such as what part of the grove you can stand in, or which rituals you may witness.
  • Think more than you speak, rather than vice versa.
  • Do not exaggerate or boast.  Do not be loud or pushy.  Understatement is better than overstatement.  Calm is better than bluster.
  • When being funny, make fun of yourself, not of others.
  • Be truthful and be kind.  Some see these two things as being at odds with each other, but with the reserve and understatement that are ingrained as part of my Quaker culture, it is usually  not  so difficult to reconcile these things.  Being truthful does not mean saying everything you think.  It means being truthful in the things you do say. Often, if I don't like what other people are doing, I just go a different way, do my thing away from them.  If someone were to ask me, "Do you like my shirt?" I might  say, "It's not really my style," rather than, "It's appalling,"
  • The goal of a businessperson should be to meet the needs of the customer.  The goal of the customer should be to pay a fair price without fuss.  Sales, discounts, coupons, and bargaining are wrong, because they are an attempt by the businessperson to lure the customer into buying, and an attempt by the customer to get out of paying a fair price.  My Quaker great grandfather expressed his objection to aggressive sales policies by adopting a policy that if he saw a product advertised,  he would not buy that product.
  • Gambling, betting, or buying a lottery ticket is wrong because it's an attempt to get money without earning it.
  • We are pacifists.  Weapons have no place in our world.  When a friend inherited a pistol from his grandfather and applied for a permit to possess it, he asked me to be a reference for him.  I said I could not do it, despite the fact the he intended to keep it as a family heirloom, not to use it as a weapon.  Similarly, I am not comfortable with the use of swords and knives in druid rituals.
  • Sexuality is not immoral.  In fact, it can be sacred.  But it is private.  It is inappropriate to dress or conduct yourself in a way that publicly draws attention to your sexual attractiveness.  That's the way you behave in private with your sexual partner, not the way you behave in public.
  • Do not comment on a person's appearance, because that gives the impression that appearance matters. Especially, do not comment on the body.  Do not compliment someone on their weight loss.   It is not so bad to compliment their clothing or jewelry, because that is something that they chose, so it comes from who they are inside.
  • Mass produced culture -- chain restaurants, malls, TV, movies, etc. -- is disgusting.  Spend time outdoors.  Spend time with family and friends at their home or yours.  Shop locally.  Shop at the farmer's market.  Grow your own food.  Buy things made by hand.  Make things by hand.  Sing and play musical instruments.  
  • Soda, potato chips, candy bars, and French fries are disgusting.  Go for organic, locally grown foods. Go for whole grains, legumes, fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and juices.  If you eat meat, go for free range.
  • Don't wear make-up and high heels.  Keep jewelry simple.  
  • We don't smoke or drink alcohol.  Some people may drink coffee or caffeine tea, but others don't.
  • We don't go out to bars late at night.  A late night is when you go to a singalong, contra dance, or folk concert that ends later than 9pm.
So that's what's ingrained in me from my Quaker upbringing.  Much of it I do believe in.  But in some cases, I think there's no good reason for it, it's just certain instincts I have about how things should or should not be.

And, this is what I learned from my Quaker upbringing.  Different Quakers will have had different things instilled in them.

When I was in my teens and twenties, I was learning about the world.  I tried new activities, new foods, new beliefs, new values.  But now the ones I grew up with are calling me home.

When I was in college, they told us about how we were too smart to be housewives.  They told us we should be successful career women.  I knew there was something wrong in that.  I did try to articulate it. I wrote about it for a college publication.  Yet I felt I couldn't fully articulate, couldn't fully put my finger on, what was so wrong about it.  Then a few years ago, I found Radical Homemakers by Shannon Hayes.  That said it.  

But there's more to be said.  The way I feel about the things I've described about Quaker culture is somewhat like the way I felt in college about homemakers -- that there's something there that's important to me, even though I can't fully articulate it and make sense of it.

I live in this mainstream world.  There are some things I do that everybody does and there doesn't really appear to be anything wrong with them, but I know that's not the life I want to live.  I want to find people who share the values I've described above, and I want to be part of a community based on those values.

Sunday, August 12, 2012


A practical, no-nonsense woman, she strides about doing what needs to be done.  No need to bother with small talk.  She's a farmer.  She slaughters chickens. It's part of the work of raising food.  Her long hair is pulled back in a braid. Her masculine-looking hands have dirty fingernails.

What I do -- music, dance, druidry, nature walks -- that's frivolity.  I'm trying to escape the urban lifestyle.  But what I do, it's just playing.  I go out for a coffee, I write a blog.  I rent a kayak.  Meanwhile, a farmer is shoveling the manure out of the horse's stall. These are not horses for equestrians to ride, these are the horses that pull the plow.


Nudism does not really appeal to me.  I'm just not interested in being nude around other people, or having other people be nude around me, unless it's someone I've chosen as a sexual partner.  Nor am I interested in being nude when I'm home alone.

But if I can be confident of my solitude, being outdoors is another matter.  If the temperature is comfortable, I love to feel the air on my skin, the sun on my skin.

A better day

I guess I was feeling kind of pathetic when I wrote my recent post "Love and Looking Dorky."  I don't usually feel that way.  Usually it comes of being tired.  That was Friday evening that I wrote it.  Usually as the week goes on I get more and more tired, so I think Thursday and Friday evenings are most likely to be tough.

Saturday was a good day.  Most days that I don't go to work are good days.  Saturday, I was engaged in projects.  Mostly I was home by myself, but I was working on things that involved other people.  I felt like a valued member of several communities.  I liked having projects to engage my mind.

And I did go out and interact briefly with an acquaintance, and it reminded me that what I felt when I was tired on Friday was wrong.  Friday I felt that someone just looking at me, not knowing me well, would find me unappealing.  But that's not true.  This acquaintance has been an acquaintance for several years.  He does not know me well.  But when he sees me, he reaches out, as if he wants to know me better.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Balance. Peace. Love. Joy. Freedom.

Balance. Peace. Love. Joy. Freedom.

Those are the key words I say these days to remind myself of perspective and priorities.

Balance: That all the things that come under peace, love, joy, and freedom must be balanced, that I should not spend too much time in one and neglect another.

Peace: I need quiet time, unscheduled time.  I need time to work on chores, to keep my life in order, to reflect, to read, to blog, to write emails, to sit on my balcony, to stare at the trees.

Love: I value spending time with friends and family, whether that time is spent in person, by phone, or by email.  Even though the conversation may seem mundane and dull at times, those ties are precious.

Joy: Music. Singing.  Dancing.  Rollerblading.  Kayaking.  Rivers. Oceans. Lakes.  Sunsets.  Trees.  Green maple leaves.  Skiing.  Rowing. Canoeing. Hiking.  Mountains.  Gentle breezes caressing my skin.

Freedom: This one is a bit of a misnomer. Freedom is actually when I'm home by myself and I put on a CD and I dance in whatever way the music tells me to dance. But I'm using the word for another purpose in this context. Freedom means escaping from the prison that is my job.  Unemployment would be another kind of prison.  So freedom means freedom from having to go somewhere I hate and do tasks I hate, freedom from financial insecurity, and freedom from that sense of boredom and uselessness that comes with lack of meaningful work.


I found an email I wrote in October 2010, and I thought it would be suitable for a blog post so here it is.

A year and a half ago I was walking to work, same as I've been doing for years, and I fell and broke my wrist. It was an example of how things can just happen in an instant.

When something good happens that we didn't work for and earn, something good that is just a gift and blessing, that's what I think of as "grace."

 When bad things happen, I'm not sure what to call it, maybe "fate."

 I don't believe in fate in the sense that I don't think it's good to have an attitude like, "Life sucks and that is just my fate so I won't try to make it better."

 But things just happen, they just come upon us for no reason. Good things happen and bad things happen. 

We can go on for years with things being ordinary, and then we can be abruptly hit by something tragic or something wonderful.

I sat out on my balcony tonight and gazed at the trees and stars. In my 44 years, it's a miracle that nothing has struck my eyes to render them blind. Every moment that I can gaze upon stars is a gift. Every moment that we are alive is a miracle.

Love and looking dorky

I kept checking youtube to see if the video had been posted yet.  As soon as it was up, I was going to post it to Facebook.

The video came out.  I didn't post it to Facebook.  I didn't post it to Facebook because I looked so dorky in the video.

Instead of proudly posting it, I hurried off to get a haircut, in the hopes I could make myself look not quite so bad.

On Facebook, someone posted a photo of a friend I have not seen in years.  I loved the photo, because my friend was in it.  It touched my heart to see him.  Only after a bit did I realize that objectively speaking, my friend looks dorky in the photo.  But that's not what I see when I look at the photo.  I look at the photo, and my heart fills with love.

What do people see when they look at me? Do they see dorky? Do they see love?

What do I see when I look at other people? I have this ingrained belief that I ought to love all people, but I don't.  Usually what I see when I'm out in public, watching people walk by, is ugliness.

As for the people in my life, some I love, some I don't.  Sometimes as part of my spiritual practice, I wish well to each person in my life.  It's interesting to see how for some people I can do it with a pure heart, and for others, I just don't have it in me to love them.  It's interesting to learn through this exercise which ones I love, because it does not necessarily correspond to how close I am to the person, how I treat the person, or how the person behaves.

We all want to be loved.  When I say that I saw myself looking dorky, maybe what I was saying is that I saw myself looking like someone no one would love.  Because in the video, I was wearing that armor of reserve and kutziness that often comes over me when I'm out in public.  I think I've had that armor all my life.  I've always hated it, and I've always felt that because of it, no one will like me.

Some people find me useful because I write and look stuff up and keep track of things.  Useful like a tool is useful, like an inanimate object.  The don't see my spirit, my joy, my silliness, my passion, my pain.  It's my fault they don't see it.  They don't see it because I lack the ability to break through that weight of armor that falls down around me.

The woman next to me in the video exudes freespiritedness and joy.  She is the one everyone loves.  I like her too, and it doesn't hurt me that other people like her. What hurts me is to see how I look next to her.

But maybe as I feel such love for my friend who looks dorky in the photo, maybe, even though I look dorky in the video, maybe that doesn't mean I'm un-loveable.  The one in the photo, I trust that he loves me as I love him.  And there have been others whose vision has pierced through that stupid armor that burdens me, who have seen through it to me.


Two days ago, I went somewhere two hours away, so round trip, I had four hours in the car.  I had a great time.  Not that it's good to be using all that fossil fuel, but it was a scenic drive, lots of trees and mountains, and I had tapes for my car's tape deck.  I sang along with gusto.

Several songs were about the dawning of joy.  They told of someone filled with hope at the prospect of a romance.

From "If We Try"

I don't know if it will work out right
But somehow I think that it just might

From "Every Day"

Every day, it's a getting closer
Going faster than a roller coaster
Love like yours will surely come my way

Now blossoming romance is not my situation in life, but I truly felt the spirit of those songs.  Because romance is not all that blossoms.  In my life, health, music, dance, friends, and community are blossoming.  I feel that joy of wonderful things starting to unfold.

Seeing the rainbow

As I walked with my rainbow colored umbrella, my friend said, "I like your umbrella.  It's raining and I can't see the sun, but I can see the rainbow."

I think often, the rainbow is right in front of us, but we have to have the vision to see it.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Build community by reaching out to people

I have my theories about why members of  our time bank aren't making many exchanges.  I could write an essay about it.

Essays don't build community.

I didn't write the essay.

Instead, I went to the meeting and I said: What we need to do to foster exchanges is to reach out and make exchanges.  And not just with each other.  We on the coordinating committee all know each other.  What we need to do is look in the database for people who don't know anyone and don't make exchanges, and we need to make exchanges with them.

It's easier said than done, but at least it has been said.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Helping people

I'm a member of a time bank.  We are supposed to earn and spend hours by helping others and being helped.

Hardly anyone does it.

Today, I spent about seven hours helping someone.  Tomorrow, I'll spend about an hour helping someone else.

I'm not doing it as part of the time bank system.  I'm doing because it's what I want to be doing.

Why doesn't the time bank work?

I want to help and be helped by the people I like.  When helping people means doing something constructive with people whose company I enjoy, I feel like I'm privileged that they have allowed me to be part of their lives.  This is not something I want them to pay me for in time bank hours.

It is useful though to have the time bank.  At times, all of us may need things our pool of friends does not provide.  At the first time bank meeting I attended, it was exciting to see the way people's needs and offers were matching up.

I have more thoughts about how to make the time bank work, but that's to write at another time.  Right now is a moment to just feel grateful for the opportunity I had today to be a part of helping people I like.

White keys and black keys

When I learned to play piano as a kid, there were the white keys and the black keys. The black keys were the sharps and flats.  If the key signature told you about any sharps or flats, then you automatically played those every time you saw that note.  Or, if the note wasn't always sharp or flat, just sometimes, then it would tell you at the time the note turned up.

Now I'm learning to play the ukulele.  What the ukulele shows is that all the notes proceed equally one after another.  The piano is designed in the key of C.  On the piano, F is a white key, but you know, if you are playing in the key of D, then F actually becomes a black key, a sharp or flat.

It's so cool when you see things as fitting into one framework, and then your mind expands and you can see things in a different way.