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.  

Slow Sunday

I was too tired to prepare food and coffee so I decided to go out for breakfast. I started to get ready, but then I found I was too tired to brush my hair.  I had coffee and food at home after all.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Crop insurance

The idea of crop insurance is that way farmers don't have to suffer such loss of income if they lose their crop to drought, flood, hail, etc.  But what about the human race? What if we lose our crop due to climate change? Getting money from crop insurance is only useful as long as somebody else has still been able to grow food that you can buy with that money.  Money will be of no use if we can't grow enough food.

You don't have to know what you're doing to know what you're doing

I tried to learn sailing a few decades ago.  I didn't have a boat.  I tried to learn through a class and a book.  It seemed very hard to understand the angle of the wind and the angle of the sail.

I tried to learn music.  It seemed hard to judge the length of a note -- how do you know the half note you are playing is exactly twice as long as the quarter notes.  It seemed hard to know which beats to accent.

But then I just started playing songs on the ukulele, songs that I already knew how they sounded.  Then the length of the notes was instinctive.  I didn't have to think of which note was a quarter note and which wasn't. I just played the song the way it goes.

People speak their native languages with correct grammar, even if they can't tell you what a direct object is.  I find in music that I'm able to play songs without my brain fully knowing what I'm doing.  I think perhaps if I were sailing a boat and I could feel the pressure of wind on sail, I would know how to adjust the sail, even if I couldn't conceptualize the angles.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012


I walked around outside around where I work and saw all the strange people, and I was antisocial.  I hated my fellow humans.

I walked around outside at  the farmer's market, and as I saw all the strange people walking around, I couldn't help but smile with joy, because I was so happy to see them all.

I went downtown, same location as the farmer's market, but when the farmer's market wasn't there, and again I hated humans.

I think there were at least two factors at work.

  1. The farmer's market people are the kind of people I like to be around, people whose values and culture are similar to mine.
  2. There was live music at the farmer's market.  Music usually helps me love my fellow humans.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Solitude and companionship

Yesterday was a good day.  It made me so happy to have some free time.  It wasn't exactly free because I was working on something that has to be ready by today, but it was my something, not for my job.

I haven't have free time in weeks.  Last weekend, I was crippled by fatigue and depression, so I couldn't do much that I wanted to do.  The weekend before, I went to my job.  The weekend before that, I went on a trip.  But finally, now I have a few days to putter around at home doing the things I want to be doing.  Sure the trip a few weeks ago was something I wanted to do, but it's just not the same as being able to have time to myself at home.  I really love having time to myself.

At times in my life when good companions are abundant, I need to take some time away from them.  I need quiet time to read, write, and think. I feel suffocated without it.

It's true that when I'm depressed, I feel that being alone is a bad thing. But that is a symptom of my depression.  I'm not myself when I'm depressed.  When I'm myself, which is most of the time, I know that 1) Everyone needs a balance of time with others and time alone, 2) I seem to like more time alone than some people, 3) I have more than enough of people at my job, so I'm glad to get away from people in my free time, and 4) there are a few people I like who I wish wanted to spend more time with me.

I don't mind being alone.  What I mind is when the people I want to be with push me away.  What I mind is when they do fun things, things I'd love to do, and they don't invite me.  What I mind is when I invite them to do something with me, and they don't want to do it.  What I mind is that parents of small children seem to only want to spend time with other parents.  You would think they would see that as a childless person, I have a pair of spare hands.  You would think they would find it useful to hang out with someone who has a pair of spare hands, to either hold a kid, or do whatever they can't do while they are holding a kid.  I love to dance, but when I took ballroom dance class, there were too many women.  The men were supposed to ask different women each time, but I kept on being one of the leftovers, every time.  I don't think it's fair that unpopular people don't get to dance.

So, I love being alone, but I hate being unwanted.