Monday, December 31, 2012

People with difficult lives

Compared to the people I know, I have it easy:
  • A woman in her early 60s.  She adopted a child with fetal alcohol syndrome, attention deficit disorder, and mental retardation.  Now he is around 20 or so.  He found a girlfriend -- obsessive compulsive disorder, self-centered, childish.  They had a baby.  They did not have jobs.  They moved in with the baby's grandmother, the aforementioned woman in her early 60s.  Then the child's mother ran off with another guy.  Then the social workers said both of the child's parents are unfit parents, and are not allowed to be with the child unless another adult is present and awake.  The child's father had to move out of the apartment, otherwise, there was a chance he'd wake up and be with his son while his mother was still asleep.  At first she thought it would be harder, having to do the child care all by herself.  Turns out it was easier, not having to care for the child's parents.  She also has some serious health problems.  She has had to miss some work, both due to health problems and due to going  to court for child custody issues.  Her employer is not happy with her.  She's trying to hold onto her job until she can retire.  After all, if she can't keep this job, who else would hire a woman in her early 60s with health problems and not a lot of education?
  • A woman went into surgery to have her eye problem fixed.  Instead, the surgery took away her eyesight entirely.
  • A woman is sickened by pollutants in the air.  The air is clearer in the morning, but by afternoon, it makes her sick to go out in her yard, or even into her kitchen.  She stays in her bedroom, with the air purifier running and the door closed.  She used to enjoy going to church, but she doesn't go any more because it makes her sick.
  • A young person (mid-20s) experimented with open relationships and for a few months enjoyed having three girlfriends.  Turns out, the down side of having three girlfriends is that you can go through three breakups simultaneously.
  • A man came home and told his wife that he had been laid off from his job.  She said, "My life is over."  She quit her part-time job, because she didn't want to support him.  She pressured him to get a new job.  When he failed to do so, she kicked him out of the house by telling him that if he stayed in the house, she would claim to the police that he was beating her.  He consulted the police, and they said that by law, if she made that claim, they would have to arrest him, even if they did not believe her claim.  She got the house he had paid for, and he moved into a small apartment.  A few years later, he moved into an apartment he really likes.  He has a part-time job and he's always in imminent danger that either his hours will be decreased or the job will go away entirely.  If his income decreases at all, he will no longer be able to afford the rent on the apartment he loves and will have to move somewhere less pleasant.  He is 65 and has health problems that make it difficult to work or to drive.  It is only a short drive to his job, the grocery store, the pharmacy, and the doctor, but he probably shouldn't be driving even that much.  He does it anyway, because how else can he live?
  • A man who lives with chronic pain exacerbated by exercise exacerbates his pain by shoveling snow, because he can't get groceries unless he gets the car out.
And here I am, feeling sorry for myself because it's hard to maintain so many activities in addition to my full-time job? I am privileged  I have a job that pays me enough money.  My job gives me ample time off, allows me the sick time I need, and allows me enough vacation time to do fun things.  I have a nice apartment. I do fun things outside my job.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Advice: It's better to give than receive

It is better to give than to receive.  That is what most people seem to think about advice.  They get annoyed when they are on the receiving end of advice.  But then they give advice, and when it is not positively received they go around complaining to everyone, "He shouldn't be so upset with me.  I was just trying to help,"  or, "I tried to tell him, but he wouldn't listen.  He never learns."

Advice is not help.  It's easy to understand that when you are on the receiving end, but we still can't seem to understand that when we are on the giving end.

It is not helpful to:
  1. Tell people what to do.
  2. Tell people how to feel, i.e. "don't worry" or "cheer up."
What is helpful? I can think of two things:
  1. Being present.  Listening.  Calling. Sending a card.  Spending time with someone.  Saying "I am here for you," or "How can I help," or "I'm sorry," or "That's difficult."  
  2. Material support.  What the person needs will depend on the situation, but it may be things like giving someone a ride, making phone calls on someone's behalf, picking something up at the store, preparing meals, washing dishes, or watching the kids.  

It's not just the internet -- the natural world is rich too

Ten days ago in my post Overload, I was thinking about how's there's so much information out there on the internet that our attention spans have shrunk.  We just skim the headlines because we don't have time to read all the articles.

But you know, even without the internet, the world is so full of stuff that we can't take it all in.  We walk by nature every day and we don't notice the details.  I was looking at a baby tree yesterday, just some twigs poking out of the ground.  It looked like some sort of maple or ash, but I didn't know any more than that! I look at maple and ash trees every single day normally.  I should know their twigs by now!

I hereby resolve to look at the twigs of maple and ash.

Soundtrack in your head

I watched a DVD about Buffy Sainte-Marie last night. In it, she said that she always has music playing in her head, and that when she was a kid, she thought that everyone did.  That got me wondering -- what runs in my head?  And is it different from what runs in other people's heads?

Much of the time, in my head there are emails and blog posts being composed.  Sometimes I imagine scenarios of things that might happen in the future, like if some event that I fear or hope for occurs, how will I deal with it?

Also, when I hear music, I see dance in my head.  Not all music, but sometimes.

Rebuilding for 2013

I have been falling apart the past few months.  I'm still broken.  I'm still afflicted with this fatigue/illness.  When I have it, I tend to feel hopeless and lonely.  Sometimes, by taking good care of myself I can stave off the sadness, but there is no cure for the fatigue.

As 2012 comes to a close, how do I put the pieces of my life back together for 2013?

Here are the pieces:
  1. I'm tired.  I don't always feel as bad as I have in the past few weeks, but I'm never going to be able to do everything I want to do.
  2. Basic taking care of myself: eating, sleeping, resting, and exercising are things I've long been bad at.  In the past few months, as I've fallen apart, even more things have slipped, like flossing my teeth.
  3. Chores: bills and sorting through all the clutter are the ones I have the most trouble with.  I seem to pull off some other ones, like laundry and groceries.  
  4. Druidry.  I've lapsed in the past few months.  I skipped things I was supposed to do -- meditation, time outdoors, seasonal rituals.  I skipped them more and more, until I was not doing them at all.  As of yesterday, I'm back with my druidry.  I think I need it to help me get through.
  5. Earning a living.  I've been unhappy with my job.  To a certain extent, I think I really am unhappy with it.  But also, I'm really tired.  I don't have the energy to work full-time.  That makes me like my job less, both because it's hard to be excited about doing something when you are too tired to do it, and also because my lack of productivity causes me to fall behind, which makes it more stressful.  There are actually some things I like about my job.  For now, I have to keep going to my job until I find a better way to earn a living.  As long as I have to keep going to it, how do I survive it?  
  6. Finding a new way to earn a living.  I have a lot of ideas.  Applying for jobs, going to conferences, taking classes, networking.  But I just can't do anything more than I'm already doing.  I'm already doing more than I can take, and therefore, I'm falling apart.
  7. I'm involved in three activities.  They all have their place.  I can't bear to quit any one of them, and yet I don't have the strength to do more.

    One is fun, brings me joy, and is with a good community of people.  It's not job-related, and yet the people I've met there have given me some leads on jobs.  I think just being out in the world with people doing something that I like with people I like helps with networking for jobs.

    The second activity is more job related.  It's a chance to do administrative tasks outside of my job.  I think it's really important for my jobhunting, because it restores my hope that a) there are tasks that I like to do, b) there are tasks that I'm good at, and c) there are people who value my skills.  I was feeling quite hopeless in those areas, and you can't really get a new job when you're feeling like there's nothing you like to do and nothing you're good at.

    The third activity is more solitary, and there's value in that too.  I really like that I have a chance to implement my own vision, unhampered by other people.  It's a way of being creative.  It gets me immersed in something larger than myself, takes my mind away from fretting about my life.
  8. I yearn to be doing so much more with music and dance.  

I can't see how to build my life.  There are just too many things I need to do, and I can't do them all.  One thing I think I should work on is getting help.  Sometimes it seems like the only way I know how to relate to other people is to offer to help them.  I need to be better at articulating needs.  I feel like I need help, and yet, I can't really think of any specific things that I want people to help me with.

Saturday, December 22, 2012


Since about mid-November, I haven't been able to keep up with myself.  My blog has become boring, because all I do is mope about how tired and sick and overwhelmed I am.  My druid practices have been slipping away.  I used to meditate daily, go for a nature walk weekly, and practice seasonal rituals 8 times a year.  I'm not doing that any more.  I did make a choice to let it go, because I had too many other things.  Even after I let it go, I still had too many things.

I want to do even more things.  It bothers me all the time that I don't spend enough time with the people I like, I don't spend enough time dancing, I don't spend enough time singing, I don't spend any time learning to play a musical instrument.

I have to find another way.

I've been trying to find another way for a long time.  It's easier said that done.

Friday, December 21, 2012


I love dance! I watch these videos, and I can't help but feel joy.



Solstice.  Before the light comes, we must feel the dark.

Vacation.  Don't have to go to my office.  A few days at home before I leave to visit my family.  There is so much to get done before I leave to visit my family.  So, a few days to work hard on doing that.  Then when I leave, I can relax.  I'll be away from it all.

No.  Now is the moment to relax.

My breath is shallow with anxiety.  My bones are heavy with fatigue. Now is the moment to relax.

Now is the moment for solstice.  To let the darkness fill me, because it is only after the darkness fills me that I'll find the way to the light.

Last weekend I filled with songs of hope.  Songs of light from darkness, warmth from cold.

It was too soon for that.

First I must know the darkness.

I'm tired of pretending it's okay.  I'm tired of pretending I can do it.

I listen to Darkling and the Jubilee.  It's what I always listen to when it's time to give way to the darkness.

Today is mine.  Today is not for chores.  Today is not for accomplishments.  Today is for indulgence.

I've gotten hardly any Christmas presents.  It's not that I'm obliged to give Christmas presents. It's that I want to.  I want to.  There are many things I want to do.  I have to let go.  I just can't do everything I want to do.

My life is not what I want it to be.  I can't make it what I want it to be.

I don't trust myself.  I think that if I ever stop working, it will all fall apart even more than it already is.

Time to let go.

Sometimes gifts come.  Sometimes something good happens when I didn't even work for it.

People view me as an encyclopedia, not as someone who is fun to hang out with.  That's because I act like an encyclopedia.  It's my fault.

I can't be the life of the party.  I'd be popular if I could.  But I can't.

I'm sorry for trying to organize your life. I know you can take care of yourself.

Yesterday I wrote an email that said, "I just need to finish my work at my job, finish my work to go on my holiday travels, and then leave and have a good time. But right now I feel like a pile of spaghetti....when I finally get home from work, I'm not going to immediately work hard on getting ready for travels. First I'm going to curl up in a ball."

Yesterday, I thought the curling up in a ball would take place in the evening after work, and that today I'd be ready to get back to doing things.  But today, the curling up in a ball goes on.   I think it's good for me, to let go once in a while.  To let go of trying to make my life be okay.  To be sad that it's not okay.

I give in to darkness for a time, and then I find the strength to walk back into the light.

New day

Someone posted on Facebook,"Don't start your day with the broken pieces of yesterday. Every morning we wake up is the first day of the rest of our life."

I agree with the second sentence, but not the first.

The broken pieces of yesterday are the foundation on which we build.

Thursday, December 20, 2012


Sometimes I feel like I used to be smarter.

It seems like I don't have the attention span any more to read an article that takes some thinking to understand.  I also have less patience for reading documentation to figure out how to use software.  Maybe I am spoiled -- user interfaces have become more intuitive so I'm used to being able to use unfamiliar software without much study.

I think another factor may be information overload.  There is so  much out there on the internet now.  I scroll through the postings on Facebook, and it already takes enough time to do that, I don't have time to also click on the links and read the articles or watch the videos.

Or not just information overload, but activity overload.  If I'm home, I have to prepare the food, wash the dishes, pay the bills, and do work for the activities I'm involved in.  That doesn't leave productive energy for reading nonfiction.  When I read, it's an escape from productivity, so I read fiction. 

The things I am supposed to be doing are not getting done.  I don't get my bills paid on time.

At my job, everyone is on overload. There may be something that needs to be processed by three people in succession.  What each person needs to do is brief, so a person should be able to have it done the same day it comes in.  But everyone has a backlog.  So what should be done in one day takes two weeks.  And when three people take two weeks, that means the whole thing takes six weeks.  Our slow response time sometimes causes negative consequences.

So in both my job and my personal life, this overload just is not working.  And yet, it's not so simple to find a way out of it.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Aversion to differences

I've seen several of my Facebook friends post something that shows a photo of a baby, and says something about how we aren't born hating, that racism is something that is taught.

That does not ring true to me.  It seems to me that humans are biologically predisposed to feel more comfortable with those who are culturally similar to them.  Humans operate in families, tribes.  We protect others who are "one of us" and we feel threatened by those who come from other groups.

I was not taught racism.  What I was taught was that racism is wrong.  I was taught that all people should be treated with respect and compassion.

But still, I do feel most comfortable with people who are culturally similar to me.  And it is more about culture than anything else.  I am more comfortable with a person who looks different from me ethnically but seems similar culturally, than with a person who  looks the same as me but is different culturally.

My culture is one American subculture.  My culture includes people who value intellect  but disdain the pursuit of wealth and power.  It's comfortable to be around people who find my values, food choices, musical taste, and interests to be normal.  It's comfortable to be around people who don't say "Huh? What are you talking about?" every time I try to explain something.

It's hard to be around people who are different.  It's hard to be around people who believe that younger people should adhere to the guidance of their elders.  It's hard to be around people who think that a fun time is listening to really loud music while consuming alcoholic beverages.  It's hard to be around people who think that a fun time is hanging out at the mall.  It's hard to be around people who think a normal meal consists of going to McDonald's for a hamburger, soda, and French fries.  It's  hard to be around people who express themselves in a pushy, aggressive way.  It's hard to be around people who express themselves in glib small talk.  It's hard to be around people who speak with an accent that is difficult for me to understand.  It's hard to be around people who expect that all the women will congregate on one side talking about children and cooking while all the men will congregate on the other side talking about sports and politics.

I was not taught to dislike people who are different from me.  I was taught that I must love everyone equally.  These instincts to prefer the company of those who are similar to me bubble up in me, but I was taught that they are wrong, so I feel guilty and try to suppress them.

Monday, December 10, 2012


Sick.  Daze. Haze. Fog. Sleep.  I wake up. It's day time. I'm dimly aware I'm supposed to be feeding myself three meals a day.  And drinking plenty of fluids.  What shall I do about that? I remember I have some packets of miso soup mix.  That would be easy to make and would feel good on my sore throat. That's what I'll do.

I fall back asleep.  I dream about miso soup.

Oh, I was supposed to make it, not dream about it.  Oh well, dreaming is close enough.  Easier then getting up.

I wake up again.  I remember there's a world out there. I'm supposed to be doing something.  I'm supposed to be interesting and intelligent.  I'm supposed to earn a living. I'm supposed to earn friends.

I'm a blob. No use to humanity.  Helpless.  I'll lose my job when they find out how useless I am.  Which means no rent no groceries.  No music. No dance.

My skin aches, sore with fever.

I fall back asleep.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Druidly clothing

When I'm at home, I wear the clothes I don't like.  The fleece pants that, while comfortable, are just a little too short, making them funny-looking.  The white sweater that, while warm, has stains on it.  I wear the clothes I don't like when I'm home, because I'm saving the clothes I like for when I go out.

Some years ago, someone said, if you don't like those clothes, get rid of them.  Don't let your house be filled up with stuff you don't even like.

One way to look at clothing choices from a druid perspective is keep it simple.  Don't have too much.  If you can't wear it for many purposes, if you won't wear it if another human is going to see you, then don't bother to have it.  Don't have too much stuff.

But another way to look at it from a druid perspective is don't waste stuff.  If you have clothes, it is your obligation to keep on wearing them until you wear them out.

If someone else might like the clothes that I don't like, I will give them away.  But I don't think anyone wants my stained clothes.  So I dutifully wear them whenever there is no one to see.

Druidly food

As a druid, I should grow my own food and prepare my own food.  Or what I don't grow myself, I should buy from local farmers.  I shouldn't be buying processed foods.

But I can't do it all.  I buy fresh vegetables.  Then I don't have the energy to chop them, and they go bad.

I buy microwave dinners.  Those I can eat.  Sometimes it does seem like a lot of work to get up and put things in the microwave.  Sometimes I'm hungry for a while before I make myself get up and do it.

As a druid, I should face my problems head-on.  I should accept that I can't do even half of what I aspire to do.  I should figure out solutions.  I should figure out realistic aspirations.

But I guess I don't do it because I can't bear to aspire to eating microwave dinners.

Isn't coffee supposed to be energizing?

Got up this morning.  Had some breakfast.  Had some coffee.

Within a few hours, I was fast asleep.

How long did I sleep? Maybe two and a half hours.  I was awakened by the sound of the harsh voices of my neighbors.  After awaking, I had a second cup of coffee.  I didn't drink it all at once, because it was too tiring to stay sitting up that long.  I drank some sitting in the living room, then I lay down in the living room, then I took it to bed with me, and finished drinking it.

Whatever it is that afflicts me, it's more than coffee can cure.

I don't think I can do it

I don't think I have what it takes.  At my job, I wear out.  Before 5:00 rolls around, I'm already done.  I'm so tired.  I just can't work any more.

Is it that I just don't have the strength to work full-time? Or is it something about my job in particular that wears me out? It could either be lack of interest in the tasks at hand, or something about the physical environment in my office.  My job is not physically strenuous, and my office seems physically comfortable, but I know that sometimes people are sensitive to things like toxins in the air.

They say you can do anything if you work hard, but I just don't think I have the physical ability to do anything.  I try to work hard but my body does not cooperate.

Friday, December 7, 2012

No one knew he turned into a bear

On his way to work, he lumbered, struggling to get up the stairs.  They thought he was fat and weak.  No one knew he had turned into a bear.  They did not know his growl was fierce and his claws were sharp.  He was too kind to turn those sharp claws on those who scoffed at him.

Dreams for family and friends

Last night I wrote a fantasy for myself, but what about my family and friends?  Here are some of them:

  • Girassol teaches capoeira and circus arts to children in poor communities in Brazil.  She joins us in Bar Harbor during the summer, and gives presentations about her work to the wealthy tourists, who then provide plenty of funds to support her work.
  • Jane is an English professor at Burlington College, a massage therapist, and herbalist, and a chef.  She lives in a teepee with a clawfoot bathtub.
  • Eduardo lives in our eco-village with his Siamese cat, and does a radio show about Latin American music, poetry, and politics.  People around the country listen avidly.
  • Pan teaches science at College of the Atlantic, and performs as a roving minstrel at festivals and fairs.  His cottage in the eco-village is positioned so that from his bedroom window, he can see the sun rising over the ocean.  Each morning, after the sun awakens him, and before he goes to his job at COA, he spends several hours roaming the island's forests.
  • Also performing at festivals and fairs are jugglers Jove and Mountain Laurel.  When not performing, they are home in the eco-village, raising their children and gardening, or bicycling around the island.
  • Jove and Laurel's children are growing up playing with the children of Vid and Aoife.  Vid and Aoife spend their time playing with their kids, making music and hiking.
  • Ellen lives in the eco-village, gardens, and goes for walks.
  • Mary also lives in the eco-village, and spends her time singing, dancing, and riding horses.
Hmm, it's hard.  There are people who should be there who are not listed.  I don't want to make up dreams for other people.  I want other people to live out their own dreams.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Army of good deed doers

The place where my friend works is being renovated.  She will be working from a temporary location in the coming months while the renovation takes place.  In preparation for the move, she is packing up stuff from her office.  She had some plants in her office, so she took them home.  When she took the coleus home on the bus, the bus driver admired it.  She had dinner, got some groceries, then went back to the office.  She then took the spider plant home on the bus.  She had the same bus driver.  He told her he has a spider plant at home, but wishes he had a coleus. When she got home, she transplanted a part of her coleus into a new pot. She went out to the bus stop, and when the bus came back from the other way, she gave the plant to the bus driver.

I've loved to do things like that ever since I was a kid.  I love to come up with secret plots to do kind things for people.  I sometimes fantasize about being part of a subversive army of good deed doers.  

Wildest Dream

I get alumni magazines from 5 different colleges/universities.  One does not share my values at all and I am turned off by the things the alumni are doing.  But when I read the other four, sometimes I feel bad that the alumni of those schools are accomplishing so many amazing things while I am not.  So tonight I started imagining what an alumni magazine would say about me, if I were doing amazing things.  The magazine I was reading tonight was from the College of the Atlantic (COA) so my fantasy starts there.  I imagine something that would be taking place a few decades in the future, to give me time to get there.  Here's what I imagine the COA magazine would say about me, in my wildest dreams:
Terra Maple Forester serves as archivist at the College of the Atlantic.  The entire COA community eagerly awaits the blog posts she writes once a week.  In these posts, she shares stories and photos from COA's past with today's COA community.  She also works at the COA library, helping students ground their work in the knowledge of what has been done before. 
Her work as archivist and librarian is part-time, allowing her ample time to pursue her many other interests.  She is one of the nation's most skilled dancers, and performs regularly in dances in a number of styles, including Morris, jazz, and modern.  At the age of 65, she has the stamina, flexibility, and agility of an 18-year-old.
Men of all ages admire her striking good looks and vivacious spirit, but she only has eyes for her husband Greg, a folk singer who has been a steady presence in her life for decades.  Whenever she is tired or sad, he sings to her, and the warmth of his voice soothes her.  But most often, their life together is full of laughter and silliness.  Terra and Greg take walks together every day, basking in the beauty of Mount Desert Island's ocean, mountains and forests.  The photos Terra takes on these walks are stunning.
In addition to the daily walks, Terra enjoys kayaking and inline skating during the summer, and skate skiing during the winter.
Electricity and heat in Terra and Greg's home is provided entirely through a passive solar design and photovoltaic panels.  Even on the coldest Maine winter days, their home is warm and sunny.  On winter days, they love sitting together in their sunny study room, reading, writing, and doing research.  Many of Terra's COA blogs were researched and written from this location. 
Their home is just one of many solar homes in the eco-village in which they live.  Terra raised the funds to build this eco-village by selling her photos, which are in great demand. All of Terra's friends and relatives have chosen to come to Maine and live in this eco-village.  The oldest resident is Terra's grandmother, who at age 115 still thrives physically and mentally.   
Terra is also a druid, and has achieved the level of Adept in AODA and the level of Druid in OBOD.
Terra organizes community singalongs, which are held every Friday evening, and community dances, which are held every Saturday evening.  As a result of the bonds and positive feelings formed during these events, the people of Mount Desert Island are a well-knit community, and readily help each other in times of need.  As a result, disputes are rare, but in the event of a dispute, Terra plays her harp, and the sound of the music inspires people to settle their conflicts peacefully and kindly.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Contentment is enough

Between vacation and holidays, I will go for 8 weeks without working a five day week.  This is the start of the 4th of the 8 weeks.

I think I'm starting to get a grip on myself.  Not on doing things, but on myself.  I still have way more things to do than I can handle, and I still have things falling through the cracks.  But before, I was so often getting tired and depressed.  The way that I'm getting a grip on myself now is that I'm not getting too worn out, and therefore, I'm not getting too depressed.

I am content.  I had a wonderful weekend.  I was doing fun things with people I like.

In general, in my life overall, I am not lonely.  That is, I feel lonely when I'm tired or sick, but that's only because I'm tired and sick.  There are a range of people in my life.  I would not want to move to a different place, because there are so many good things going on here, and so many good people.

I'm doing some things that I'm really interested in pursuing.  I have ideas about how to learn more.

I like my apartment. I like the town I live in.

So life is rolling forward.  As long as I'm not at my job, I am happy.  But not so often joyous.  There are people I talk to freely.  There are people I really like.  There are people who will be there for me when I need them.  There are people who value what I have to offer.

But there aren't people to play with.  There aren't people to laugh with.  I just don't have anyone in my life with whom I can connect in that way.

When I go out in the world, when I talk to humans, it's like there's this layer between me and the world.  I can talk, and tell them what's in my head.  It's like I'm here and they're there, and I'm reporting on what is happening here, while they report on what is happening there.

I remember times when it was different.  I remember times when I truly connected with other people.  Times when all of us occupied the same "here."

It was a most joyous thing.  I don't exactly miss it though.  Connecting with people like that is a fleeting thing.  Anyone who has experienced it is blessed.  I am blessed, for all the years I had people in my life like that.  Maybe it will come again some day.  It would be lovely if it did.  But it's not something to strive for or long for.  Because I am here in the now, and the now is beautiful.