Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Holiday greetings

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

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

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Reading Bittersweet

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

Yesterday, Friday, fatigue hit.

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

"I feel like a bulldozer," I said,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I started reading the second book, the longer one.

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

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

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

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

Reading it last night, it made me cry.

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

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

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

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

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

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

In the end, she reclaims herself.

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, October 25, 2012


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

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

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

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

Why then this shame?

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

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

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

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

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

Charm is overrated

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Druid ritual

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, October 24, 2012


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

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

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

Three couples

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Burden or temptation

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

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Back to my roots

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, October 5, 2012

Leaves fall

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

Thursday, October 4, 2012


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

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

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

Jennifer Livingston Speaks Against Bullying

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

Wednesday, October 3, 2012


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Annoying and not so annoying people

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Passions beckon

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

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

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

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