Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Not born to succeed

If you want to make something, make cooking or crafts or home repair, and you are following the directions, and it says to use something you don't have, or to do something that's hard, just skip that part and do what you can.  That's how I was raised.  But the thing is, when you do it that way, it does not come out very well.  So, I was raised to do things wrong.  I was raised not to succeed.

Can I change that? The things I need to work on include:

  • Hands-on skills
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Doing a thorough job on whatever I undertake in the above two arenas.  I actually am more thorough when it comes to writing, which sometimes seems like the only thing I know how to do properly.
But I'm always thinking of new things to do.  Then I remember how overwhelmed I am by work and health problems.  I keep blithely adding self-improvements to my to do list, and then finding there is no time and energy in which to do them.  But I can start small.  Focus on how I approach the things I'm already doing.  How I approach washing dishes, doing laundry.

New Year's melancholy

A video that touched me today:



I feel honored that I know one of the creators of this video.  I have watched it three times so far today, and three times it has made me cry.  It touches the sadnesses of life: the people we've lost, and the fact that our life didn't turn out the way we expected or hoped.

I am not who I should be.

My values say to treat everyone with kindness and respect, and to reach out to those in need.  In reality, I am withdrawn, and I turn away from those in need.

My values say learn to create things yourself, and value that which is made locally.  In reality, if I need something, I order it from the internet.

My values say savor beauty, and dance with joy and silliness.  In reality, I curl up at home, feeling sick.

My values say earn your living doing something you believe in.  In reality, I earn my living doing things I think are wrong.

My values say spend time with family.  In reality, I do not live near anyone in my family.

I'm tired of the people who say, "So, change your life."  Sometimes you can't. I'm tired of people who say, "What do you mean, you can't? You can do anything if you set you mind to it."

That's why this video touches me.  Because it says sometimes we are just sad.  It doesn't say, "You have no right to be sad, because you ought to pull yourself up by your bootstraps and live your dreams."

The people who made this video, they have such skills --  making the puppets, manipulating the puppets, writing the script, singing, acting, filming, editing video, editing sound, etc.  What skills do I have? Is there anything I can offer the world?

Monday, December 23, 2013

The tribe

I've been reading a bit of The Apple Branch by Alexei Kontratiev.  I like the fact that he says that the Celts have been Christian for centuries, so it's kind of silly to be into Celtic stuff but be anti-Christian.  But then I don't like where he goes after that.  He defines Tribe as people who speak a common language.  Then he goes on to say therefore, if you are interested in Celtic stuff, you should learn a Celtic language.  I would think that the same logic he used with regard to Christianity would apply here --for many Celts, English is their native language now.

I don't like it when people get fixed in their mind that one particular moment in history is the correct one, that the people who lived in that place and time are the true natives of that land, and anyone who came after was an intruder.  The reality is that human history is a history of migration and cultural change.

Some of my ancestors came to North America from England.  Some take the attitude you English should not have come, you should go back where you came from.  But people from England, they had ancestors too, they had Angles, Saxons, Jutes, Celts, Romans, Normans.  Yes, at one time in history some of my ancestors lived in England, but they lived in other places before that, and they lived in New England after that.  Why pick on England as the place where my people are truly from?  That kind of thinking is a narrow view, that does not grasp the way cultures shift through history.

Wrapping Christmas presents

Wrapping Christmas presents.  Doing it the way my family has done it as long as I can remember.  We re-use the paper year after year.  To make it re-usable, we don't use tape, just ribbons, which of course are also re-used year after year.  Labels can also be re-used, or can be made from old Christmas cards.  You use a hole punch to make a hole in the label, and then you put the ribbon through it.

It was nice, wrapping with care something chosen for a particular person.

I've been so harried. It has been a long time since I've done anything like this.

I like to put attention into doing something for others.

I used to have people over for dinner sometimes.  That was the same sort of thing.

Also, it brought back to me that when I was a kid, I always liked to have on hand things like construction paper, glue, glitter, stickers, markers, crayons, and hole punches.  There always seemed to be a need for them.

Now I never use such things.  I think that at some point I learned that I am not good at that sort of thing.

It's a shame that we are not supposed to do things we aren't good at  -- crafts, drawing, cooking, singing, dancing.  People who do such things with no skill get scoffed at.  But the purpose of doing such things should not be to demonstrate skill.  The purpose of doing such things should be to spark joy and imagination in the person doing them.

My mother loves to sing, especially around Christmas.  She feels she can't sing around my brother and sister-in-law, because they are professional musicians.

It's sad, when singing is silenced.

After wrapping presents, I visited the computer.  On Facebook I saw a photo of presents which my brother and sister-in-law were wrapping for their kids.  I wrapped presents for their kids tonight.  My presents can never be as good as theirs, because they are with their kids all the time so know best what to get them.

I want to give gifts, prepared with care.  But it's sad to know that my gifts will always be inferior.

I think my parents at least will like the gifts I give to them.

Knowledge and practicality

I heard  the professors talking.  They know a lot, but it's esoteric. They just like to explore ideas.  They don't care that it has no practical value.

I heard the activists talking.  They are passionate about the state of the world.  They have strong opinions.  They think they know a lot about their issue, but they've just read a few books, just looked at it from one point of view.

Once in a while someone comes along who combines a professor's depth and breadth of knowledge with an activist's vision for what is important for the welfare of the world.

I would like that combination to come about more often.  That's one reason I'm interested in education and librarianship.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

I need to learn to talk to strangers

They teach kids not to talk to strangers.  I've never un-learned that lesson.

Three of my siblings have significant others.  They are nice and I want to welcome them to the family.  But I don't talk to them.  I want to, but I don't know how.  So I just smile at them to make up for it, and say positive things about them in their presence when I'm talking to my sibling.

Talking to strangers is a skill I  need to develop.

Happy solstice

I re-posted one of the things going around Facebook that said don't be offended if someone says Merry Christmas and you aren't Christian, or if they say Happy Holidays and you are Christian, just appreciate that they are wishing you well.  I believe that.  But when people wished me happy solstice, I felt warm inside.  I felt like "how did they know?" since I don't talk about my druidry.  But I don't think it's that they knew.  I think it's that solstice is their holiday too.  So I don't think they really knew that solstice is the holiday closest to my heart, but it sill warmed my heart that they spoke the way they would speak if they did know.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

I wish more people could live with imperfection

There is an attitude in our culture that you can have anything you want if you just pursue your dreams.  I detest that attitude.  If I mention any aspect of my life that is not fully perfect, people start lecturing me about what I should do to reform myself.

I have one friend I can talk to, someone who, having lived with much hardship, understands that life is not perfect.  With everyone else, I've learned to hold back on expressing my dissatisfactions.

Now, if you are, like most people, wanting to reform me, at this point, you will say that I just have to be better at communicating with others, telling them when I want sympathy rather than advice.  And if you are like most people, you say that without having any idea what attempts I have already made to communicate with people.  People try to oblige for a few minutes, but then they revert back to their instincts and start reforming me again.  And I get tired of trying to explain what I want over and over.

Leaders as gardeners

A good leader or teacher is like a gardener.  It's about finding the seed of potential within a person and nursing it into blossoming.  A bad leader or teacher treats people as blank slates, attempting to drill things into them and extract certain behaviors out of them.

Misheard

On the Marketplace radio show on Monday, December 16, there was a story, "Young Greeks struggle with lack of work."  One of the people interviewed said, "You need to have the attitude of a winner."  Unaccustomed to his accent, I thought he said, "You need to have the attitude of a weiner."

New year's resolutions

I do tend to take stock of my life as December turns to January, but I don't believe in New Year's resolutions.  You can't change your life just by resolving something.  I resolve things all the time, but that doesn't mean I can do them.  The fact is, I have limited time and energy.  I spend my time on the things that are most important to me.  Resolving to do more of a particular thing is not going to create more time and energy.  The only way to do more of one thing is to do less of another, and the things I'm already doing are more important than the things I'm not doing.

Where I'm at as the solstice approaches: what I wish for, what I'm grateful for

Annoying things:
  • Doctors who diagnose you with "non-wheezing" asthma, and then at all future visits, when they check in to see how you are doing with your asthma, they say, "Have you had any wheezing?"
  • People who complain about something, but when you offer them the thing they are complaining about, they refuse it.  They'd rather keep complaining.
  • When you tell people you are not feeling well they just keep telling you that you should adopt their favorite remedy, and can't really grasp the fact that you have already tried it and it did not work.
  • Going to a meeting in an auditorium with three coworkers. I'm in the lead as we enter an aisle of seats.  I walk toward the middle of the aisle, when the coworker says in a demanding tone, "One two three."  She insists that I choose the third seat in, so that the three of us are on the end, and that anyone else who wants to sit in the row has to climb over us.
Now it might seem that the second and third things above are different sides of the same thing, but it's different.  The people who complain say exactly what they want and you offer that exact thing and they refuse it.  They say, "I wish someone would clear the snow out of my driveway," and I say, "I know someone who will do that for you." When I'm not feeling well, I don't say, "I wish someone would tell me their favorite remedy," I say, "I'm tired," and they say, "You should quit your job and move to the country," even though I have taken time off work and spent that time in the country, and felt just as tired when I did, and I have felt fine for months while going to my job and living in the city. 

Things I wish were different:
  • I wish I wasn't tired all the time.
  • I wish I could spend more time with my niece and nephew.  
  • I wish there were people in my life with whom I could express my playful, silly side.
What I'm grateful for:
  • That my job gives me enough money to live in an apartment I like, wear clothes I like, and have a car that works.  
  • That I live in walking distance of my job.  Last night it was snowy.  As I walked home from work, the cars were sliding all around, and I was especially glad to not be in a car.
  • Where I live.  It's not where I planned to end up, and still not necessarily where I plan to stay forever, but for a place where I landed by accident, I got pretty lucky.  

Friday, December 13, 2013

They turn away

I think about sustainable living. I think about building community. I think about how this time of solstice, Christmas, and new year is a time to appreciate what we have and reach out to others in love. I think about doing so many things. Reality does not match aspiration. I am ragged with fatigue and illness. I watch Buffy. In the episode, "I Only Have Eyes for You," a poltergeist keeps re-living a scene. A lovers' quarrel ended in violence in 1955. Now the spirit of James, the one who did the violence, inhabits others, and they act out the same scene. We see the scene acted out twice, as people are suddenly inhabited by the spirits. They re-enact the scene as if they are living it. You can see that they feel the feelings. The third time, it's Buffy's turn. The other ones felt the feelings, but Buffy dials it up a notch. She is not just feeling what James went through. She is also feeling the emotional devastation of what she has been through. Crying from the depth of her heart, she pleads, "A person doesn't just wake up and stop loving someone." It touched me. That's what is real. All this trying to make a better world, that's just trying to be someone I'm not. Who I am is sick. Who I am is alone. I saw it last weekend. A single man, taking note of the three single women in the group, trying to get to know them. Then one showed she was graceful and vivacious, while I was awkward and shy, and he was drawn to her. That has been the story of my life. They turn away from me. They want the vivacious ones.

Culture

What is  my culture? We Americans of English descent are discouraged from embracing our cultural identity.  Any thought in that direction is considered to be racist, supremacist.  We are encouraged to embrace cultural celebrations focused on cultures such as Native American, Latin American, African, African American, Irish, Italian, German, Polish, Ukrainian, and Armenian.  We are pressured to love such things. If we don't love them, we are considered racist.

We are told that as white Americans, one of the things that is wrong with us is that we see the way we are as the norm, rather than as one of many possible cultural expressions.  However, we aren't allowed to think otherwise, as we get called racist if we embrace our own cultural identity.

My sister lives in Brazil, and brought her Brazilian fiance to visit her family and friends in the northeastern United States.  He was eager to learn about our culture.  Do we even know what our culture is?

As we ate oatmeal for breakfast, she explained, "Oatmeal is a traditional New England breakfast.  Some people eat it every day.  It's good for the cold weather because it stays warm in your tummy until lunch."

What foods are associated with my culture?  The things that come to mind are associated with particular occasions or regions, foods like cranberry sauce, baked beans, pumpkin pie, Boston brown bread, and New England clam chowder.  But the things we eat every day, that's what our culture really eats.

Breakfast: cold cereal with milk; toast with butter or jelly; bagel with cream cheese; orange or grapefruit juice; half a grapefruit; eggs; bacon; muffins; coffee.

Lunch: sandwiches with cold cuts, cheese, lettuce, and tomato.

Supper: chicken, beef, fish, potatoes, rice, bread, rolls, pasta, vegetables.

Summer celebrations: barbecue hot dogs and hamburgers; potato chips; potato salad; soda; beer; cookies; brownies; corn on the cob; watermelon.

Fall, winter, and spring celebrations: turkey, gravy, mashed potatoes, peas, squash, cranberry sauce, pie.

Many of these foods are not foods I like to eat.  That's because I'm describing the overall white American culture.  People in that culture do things I don't do, like watch television, go to malls, and play computer games.  I have always lived in this culture.  To some extent, it is my culture.  But I have also always lived in a subculture which is a better match for my preferences.  I'm not sure there's a good name for this subculture.  Many people around me identify as "folkies," but I don't think an interest in folk music is mandatory.  I think "crunchy granola" is a more encompassing term, though it is rather awkward and silly.

This subculture includes interests such as:
  • Folk music and folk dance, especially as a participant.
  • Food: legumes, whole grains, vegetables, fruits, organic, locally grown, not overly processed, not too much sugar.  
  • Beverages: water, juice, tea (herbal and non-herbal), coffee, beer. No soda.
  • Sustainable living, permaculture, organic gardening, Transition movement, renewable energy, composting, bicycling.  
  • Low-tech outdoor recreation such as walking, kayaking, and cross country skiing.
  • Egalitarian ideals.
  • Books, learning, education, science.
  • Atheists, agnostics, humanists, pantheists, pagans, liberal Christians, Quakers, Unitarian Universalists, Jews, and Buddhists.
  • An aversion to large corporations, complex technology, and highly commercialized environments.  No eating at McDonald's or shopping at WalMart.
  • Alternative medicines, herbal remedies.  
My culture identity is a combination of different things.  My roots reach back to England and Ireland, so traditions from those places are a part of my past.  My ancestors came to New England from England in the 1600s and from Ireland in the 1800s, so my culture includes the traditions of New Englanders of Irish and English descent.  I have lived in the northeastern United States all my life, so that is the backdrop for everything I've learned and experienced.  I grew up in the "crunchy granola" subculture I've described, and have chosen to continue to live within this subculture.  

These are my roots, the traditions from which I come.  This is my culture. This is who I am.  These roots are to be honored and celebrated.  That does not mean my culture is better than any other.  It does not mean that people from my culture never did anything bad.  But being a druid means understanding yourself as connected to your land, your history, and your tribe.  

Druid plants and seasonal celebrations

Reading about trees, plants, and herbs in  The Path Through the Forest, I recognized names that often come up in druid-related books, names like vervain, meadowsweet,  mistletoe, oak, and holly.  Mistletoe was mentioned as associated with the winter solstice.  In my head flashed the thought of going to a store to buy some mistletoe for the winter solstice, which will soon be upon us.  That is totally wrong.  The point of druidry is to be in touch with the land.  If I want to include plants in seasonal celebrations, the way to do that is to go outside and see what the plants are doing this time of year.

The plants that are traditionally associated with druidry are those that are native to England.  For my own druidry, the plants sacred to me will be the ones in my landscape, such as sugar maple, Norway maple, red maple, apple, crabapple, white pine, clover, and peppermint.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Connecting and disconnecting


  • A song, "Janie," by Alien Folklife, touches me.  Tears stream down my cheeks.  It's a tale of a girl who always feel she's not good enough.  When she is little, her sister dies.  The mother grieves all her life, and the girl feels inadequate because she can't take away her mother's grief.  I don't know where it comes from for me.  I have no reason for it, but I have that feeling too, that I'm never good enough. 
  • They have social events at work.  I go because I know it's expected of me.  It seems like torture.  With bewilderment, I try to grasp that some people actually want to go.  The same bewilderment I feel that some people like going to the mall.
  • At parties, people say they are going to leave, and then they are just blah blah blah talking for the longest time.  When I leave, I leave.  
  • Outside of work, my group gathered for a meeting as another group's meeting was ending in the same room.  Happy to see the people from the other group, I went over and talked with them.
  • With a different group that I'm a part of, I like the people and they seem to be welcoming to me, and yet, I tend to feel out of place.  It comes out in my body language -- I move klunkily.
  • When I was six, I took ballet lessons.  I moved klunkily.  The teacher wrote a note saying that I should get out and play outside with other kids.  I could run around outside just fine, it was just ballet lessons that made me stiff.  People think I'm not comfortable in my body.  It's not my body that I'm uncomfortable with.  It's the people around me.
  • I had lunch with a friend.  I chatted readily with him.  It left me feeling energized and happy.  
In the song, Janie's mother's grief prevents her from taking delight in Janie.  When someone takes delight in who we are, we blossom.  When we spend too little time around people who are delighted by us, we wither.  All  my life, people have told me that I'm intelligent and wise.  That's not the same as delighting in who I am.  People treat me like an encyclopledia.  People talk to me, but they are just talking to the surface of me.  They make small talk.

Once in a while, someone looks at me and sees a soul within. When it happens, it is like a rare moment of sunlight in a land of darkness.

Why does it happen? What is it about certain people that makes me feel a connection with them? What is it about the vast majority of people that makes me feel out of place?  I think I feel comfortable with people who speak with directness.  I'm comfortable with people who are quirky.  I'm comfortable with people who assume that I have my own wishes, as opposed to people who try to reform me into what they have decided is for my own good.  I seem to connect with men, rarely with women.

I cherish those people who have seen past the encyclopedia that most people treat me as, who have spoken to my soul.  I am thankful for the people who have given room for my playful, silly side to emerge.

It's not what I need to feel whole.  I feel whole in solitude.  But connection with others is where I blossom into joy.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The Keeners

For the past few months, I've been thinking that I would like to read historical fiction.  All my life I've read fantasy, and the main thing that I like about it is that it takes place in a less modern time.  I like the fantasy novels that are mostly about that, that aren't heavy on the magic, dragons, and unicorns.  I've looked around trying to find some good historical fiction, but have not really found it.  There are mysteries and romances but they seem to be focused more on being mysteries or romances.

Last weekend I went to the library and wandered randomly in the fiction section and pulled a book off the shelf.  It was the Keeners by Maura D. Shaw.  It turned out to be the kind of historical novel I was dreaming of.  It is very much rooted in history.  It's not just a story that takes place in the past.  It's a story in which the author did thorough research to find what life was like in two particular places at particular times, and used the story to bring to life the reality of day to day existence in those places and times.  It is a story that told me, "This is what life was like for your ancestors."

I don't have stories from those ancestors.  They were 4-5 generations ago, and they are forgotten.  So we turn to books to learn what our own ancestors went through.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Economic justice

There is something wrong when the workers at McDonald's make so little money that they are eligible for food stamps, while the CEO of McDonald's makes millions.

I buy fair trade coffee from a cashier who gets no vacation time, no sick time, no health insurance, and no retirement plan.  Buying fair trade coffee isn't enough.

I have money in a so called socially responsible fund, which means they don't invest in the military or tobacco.  If you look at the list of where they do invest in, it's stuff I don't want to support. 
 
Our system of capitalism is designed to benefit the shareholders.  I don't want it. I want to purchase things in a system where a producer's focus is serving the customer, and a customer's focus is paying a fair price.  I like the farmer's market.  But there are a lot of things that can't be bought at the farmer's market.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Ancestors

I remember 3 of my great-grandparents.  I don't remember any of my great-great grandparents, though I did meet one when I was an infant.  I had 16 great-great grandparents.  Who were they? Looking into it, I find:

  1. Charles of Blandford
  2. Ellen of Blandford
  3. Merrill of Tolland
  4. Lurancy of Stafford
  5. John of Ireland
  6. Bridget of Ireland
  7. Thomas of East Windsor
  8. Catherine of Rockville 
  9. James, possibly of Indiana County PA
  10. Nancy of Harford
  11. Joseph of Pittsburgh
  12. Elizabeth of Indiana County, PA
  13. Melvin of Winthrop
  14. Lettie of Maine, maybe Fairfield
  15. Fannie of Limerick
  16. George of Hollis
There they are.  Just four generations ago.  It is only thanks to all of them that I exist, and yet I know so little of them.  I've heard stories about a few of them, and I have photos of a few of them, but so much has been forgotten.  They had lives, full of joys and sorrows.  They pursued their dreams.  And, a few generations later, most of their stories are lost.  I've collected and preserved the stories of them that I could find.  I hope to continue to collect and pass on stories of my ancestors, that they not be forgotten.  

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Values I grew up with

This morning, I was reading Druidry and the Ancestors by Nimue Brown, and that got me thinking about examining my past.  The values that surrounded me as I was growing up, that came from my family and from my college, shaped me.  What was I told growing up, and what do I believe now?

From my great-grandfather
  • When he started college, his father told him, "You can send a boy to college, but you cannot make him think."  He resolved to think.  He valued education.
  • A person of knowledge and wisdom does not need to brag.  He maintains a humble demeanor.  People who brag that they know a lot generally don't know much.
  • There's always more to learn.  Keep learning.
  • Travel.  See that there are people who live differently and think differently.
From my mother
  • Cities are bad.
  • Rich people are bad.
  • Don't wear make-up, jewelry, pantyhose, high heels, or any other fancy clothes.
  • Don't use alcohol, caffeine, tobacco, or drugs.
  • Don't eat sugar, processed foods, white flour, etc.
  • Dieting or exercising to lose weight is silly.  If you just live a healthy lifestyle, you won't be fat.
  • Racism used to exist, but now we know that it is wrong.  
  • Family is good.  
  • Compost your garbage.
  • Old clothes can be mended or made into something else.  
  • Live the life you love, not the life that makes you rich.  
  • Marry for love.  It's silly to think about whether or not a prospective husband has a good job.
  • Be true to your values.
  • Bad people exist.  Keep them out of your life.
  • If you are tired, you should rest.  Don't push yourself.
From my father
  • I am a country girl who can use an outhouse and ride in a pick-up truck on dirt roads. 
  • I am at home in the forests of New England, with forest floors covered with boulders and pine needles.  
  • It's good to be eccentric.
From my childhood experience
  • Don't wear dresses because you never know when you might need to climb over a barbed wire fence.
  • Heaven is sitting on big boulders by the ocean.
  • I love cross country skiing.  
From general family and Quaker values
  • Live with integrity.  Tell the truth.  Live your ideals.
  • You should pay for things what they are worth.  It is wrong for a seller to ask for too much, or for a buyer to pay too little.  It is wrong to get things you  haven't earned.  That means gambling, the lottery, stocks, sales, coupons, advertising, and bargaining are wrong.
  • Don't waste money. Only buy what you need.  Don't live in a mansion. Don't hire servants.  Prepare your own food.  Clean your own house.  Don't turn your heat up too high.
  • There are some things people don't want to talk about.  You won't get anywhere if you ask directly, but if you just wait and absorb the clues, gradually you'll get an understanding of it.  
  • There is that of God in everyone.  If someone does something bad, it is because they are hurting. It is your job to see past the bad deeds, and find that of God in everyone.
From college
  • The fact that you were admitted to this college means that you are very smart.
  • Being a housewife is for people who aren't as smart as you.
  • Sexism is rampant, and as a woman, you should be outraged at how oppressed you are.
  • Racism is rampant, and people of color should be outraged at how oppressed they are.
I have conflicts now, between what I'm supposed to believe and what my reality is.

Belief:
Dieting or exercising to lose weight is silly.  If you just live a healthy lifestyle, you won't be fat.

Reality:
That came from my mother's side of the family.  My mother's side of the family is naturally skinny.  My father's side of the family is naturally fat.  My mother's side of the family looked scornfully at my father's mother's efforts to lose weight.  They saw a correlation between weight and effort to lose weight, and somehow got confused about the causal relations there, thinking that being fat was caused by worrying about weight loss, rather than vice versa.  I've inherited my body from my father's side of the family, but my attitudes from my mother's side of the family.

Belief:
Live the life you love, not the life that makes you rich.

Reality:
My mother can say that because her stepfather provides her with a house and her husband provides her with groceries.  The reality is you have to either earn money, or else depend on money someone else has earned.  And people who want to pay you to do things you love don't exactly grow on trees, so sometimes surviving requires doing things you don't love.

Belief:
There is that of God in everyone.  If someone does something bad, it is because they are hurting. It is your job to see past the bad deeds, and find that of God in everyone.

Reality:
There are a lot of people I just don't like.  And though I may know that bad deeds come from hurt, I don't personally have the strength to withstand the bad deeds, so I choose to withdraw, rather than to find a way to love the person.

Belief:
Don't use alcohol, caffeine, tobacco, or drugs.

Reality:
I still don't use alcohol, drugs, or tobacco, but I'm dependent on caffeine.  

Belief:
Don't waste money. Only buy what you need.  Don't live in a mansion. Don't hire servants.  Prepare your own food.  Clean your own house.  Don't turn your heat up too high.

Reality:
I'm tired. I hate housework.  Sometimes I eat out.  Sometimes I buy prepared foods that only have to be heated up at home.  I've started turning up the heat high enough so that when I'm wearing three layers, I'm not too cold.  

What do I believe now? What I believe now was influenced by family and my childhood, but also by all all that I have learned and experienced since then.  So, my life up to the current moment has brought me to these conclusions:
  • Live sustainably.  Live in a way such that the earth will be able to sustain humans indefinitely.  It's not only for the future though.  For your own spiritual health, it's not good to live a life of greed and consumption.  That does not mean you should live a life of deprivation either.  It means that you should be mindful of your choices.  Before you throw something away, think about whether it could still be used for soemthing.  Before you buy something, think about whether you really need it, and whether you could make something instead of buying it.  Appreciate your comforts -- the warmth of sunlight, the taste of an apple, the sound of music.  
  • You should pay for things what they are worth.  It is wrong for a seller to ask for too much, or for a buyer to pay too little.  It is wrong to get things you  haven't earned.  That means gambling, the lottery, stocks, sales, coupons, advertising, and bargaining are wrong.
  • A person of knowledge and wisdom does not need to brag.  Listen to those who speak their truths quietly.  Do not try to inflate yourself in the way your dress, the titles you use, or the way you describe your skills and experience.
  • Learning is a journey that never ends.  Seek to continue to grow in knowledge, wisdom, and compassion.  Be wary of being too smug in your beliefs.  At the same time, your current beliefs are the best you can do for now.  Be true to them.  
  • You can't change other people.  Try to create the life you believe in.  Work with others who have compatible visions, because we can achieve little in isolation. 
  • Treat others with respect.  If you can't tolerate them, walk away rather than put them down.  
  • In particular, children should be listened to and their wishes should be respected.  No, not their wishes to eat lots of candy, but if they don't want to be held or kissed, respect that.
  • Give people space.  If they don't want to talk about something, don't press them.  You can be close to someone without knowing everything about them.  
  • Expect to be treated with respect and kindness. Be tolerant when a person who is generally good to you slips up, but walk away from anyone who consistently fails to treat you with respect and kindness. 
  • Shop locally.  Whether it's vegetables or music, appreciate that which is created by hand in your own community, and avoid that which is produced by giant corporations.  
  • Avoid television, video games, movies, and computers. Instead, experience life in person.  Go outside.  Dance.  Sing.  Make things.  Play.  Listen to people.  
  • Avoid processed foods.  Eat organic foods.  Eat whole grains, legumes, fruits, and vegetables.  If you choose to eat meat, be mindful of how the animals you eat  lived.
  • Be physically active, but not by using machines in a gym.  Get outside.  Dance.  Build things.
  • Enjoy arts and crafts.  Create your own, and appreciate what others have created.  My preferences are music and dance, but other preferences are just as valuable, such as poetry, drawing, storytelling, sewing, pottery, etc.
  • Spend time with the people you cherish.  Never forget that you cherish them, and let it show in how you treat them.  
  • Choose clothes that are comfortable and practical.  Don't dress to make yourself look prestigious.  But, choose clothes whose beauty you enjoy.
  • Don't use alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs.  That is, sometimes medical drugs may be needed, but think carefully before using them.  

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Wasting brainpower and money

I got a catalog in the mail from Hammacher Schlemmer.  It makes me mad that people waste brainpower investing these things, and waste money buying these things.  Things like:

$29.95 remote controlled tarantula
$379.95 twenty foot tall inflatable cat
$49.95 shower curtain with built-in speakers and pocket for iPad
$3,000 acoustic immersion pod
$58,000 golf cart hovercraft

We should be spending our brainpower and money on figuring how we can create a world where no one goes hungry, where everyone is treated with respect and kindness, and where we use the earth's resources in a way such that the earth will be able to sustain humans and other life for many millenia.

Why do people think it's a good idea to invent, buy, and sell such things? Is it that people whose emotional and material needs were not met when they were growing up think that this stuff is the way to fill the emptiness?  Is it that people who grew up in privilege can't see how many needs are unfulfilled, so they waste time on junk instead of on stuff that is really needed? How can we raise children with the knowledge, wisdom, and compassion to set better priorities?  Many people do. There is still more to be done.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Moonshadow

Five and a half hours after sunset I stepped out on my balcony.  In the backyard below, everything was clearly visible -- the cars in the driveway, the shadow.  On the grass, I could see the shadows of the trees and the house.  Shadows at night? Yes, the moon is so bright tonight it casts shadows.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Books: Julie Berry and Rae Carson

Last night I read The Amaranth Enchantment by Julie Berry.  I think I may  have read it some years ago as well.  I was not impressed.  It seems so un-original.  It's a Cinderella tale.  Sure it has some characters and plot twists which don't exist in the original story, but still, it just seems so formulaic.  When I read a book like that, I think maybe I've just been reading YA fantasy too long, and I'm tired of  the genre.  But last weekend, I read The Girl of Fire and Thorns and The Crown of Embers by Rae Carson.  They were so much better than Julie Berry's book.  And now the final book of the trilogy, The Bitter Kingdom,  has arrived from inter-library loan.  The first two books had issues of history and religion lurking in the background.  I expect these issues will be brought to the fore in the final book.  Depending on how it is handled, that could make it the best book in the trilogy.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Frisbee

I used to love frolicking outdoors with friends and family -- rolling down the hill, climbing trees, rolling in a pile of autumn leaves, playing frisbee.  But things have changed.  I live with fatigue.  I've put on weight. My knees hurt.    My clothes don't allow freedom of movement.  My clothes aren't suited for rolling around in the grass.  The kids I played with grew up. The friends I frolicked with have left me. Humans have rejected  me.  The only time I am free to fully express my joyfulness is when no one is watching, dancing around my living room.

Just over two months ago, I was at a picnic.  There were a lot of young men in their 20's.  They swam in the lake, played frisbee, and found assorted other ways to have fun.

There was a smaller group of middle aged ladies.  Like all the other middle aged ladies, I was wearing sandals with pants that ended just below my knees.  Like all the other middle aged ladies, I took off my sandals and waded in the lake, just in the shallow water, that came up to below where my pants ended.
I'm an old lady now.  I had no desire to frolic with the young people. I don't belong with them.

Two weeks ago, my brother, sister, and brother-in-law were tossing a frisbee.  I slipped off my sandals and joined them.  Every time the frisbee was thrown to me, I missed it.  Every time I threw to another person, it did not get close enough to them for them to be able to catch it.

But you know what? That was the case for everyone.  Hardly anyone was catching it.  One person throws it, the second person runs to pick it up off the ground, and the second person throws it to the third.

Not like gym class where no one wants me on their team because I am so bad.

This was just fun.  People enjoying time to be outdoors and be together.

I wish I had more opportunities for such moments.

We're not all good organizers

Most human endeavors require cooperation from others.   Organizing things with other people takes skill.  Not everyone has those skills.  I have some of the skills, but not all.  I can coordinate a project within a well-managed organization, but I cannot create a well-managed organization.

Sometimes there are things we want to do that can only be done with the cooperation of others.  Sometimes we don't have the skill to organize others.  Sometimes, there is no skilled organizer organizing in that area.

At one time, my employer was a well-organized institution.  Now they are no longer well-organized.  Two of the organizations I'm  involved in outside my job lack good leadership.  I do what I can, but it's not enough.  I'm not enough of a good organizer to bring together enough people and get them to perform well enough.

So what do we do if we want to do something, but there's no good leadership for it?  Working with less than perfect leadership is something we all have to deal with.  That too is a skill.

If there's something we want to do, but not enough people with good organization skills who are interested, do we still try to do it? Or do we join a different organization which is better organized?  It all depends on the situation.

Our spirit emerges when we are loved

At the restaurant, I sat across from my sister.  Beside my sister was her soon-to-be husband.  She was here, on vacation, surrounded by people who love her.  She was carefree. Confident.  Goofy. Vivacious.  I saw her, and I thought: that's what men admire.  That's what I'm not.  I'm not comfortable in my skin. I'm an awkward lump.

Men look at her, and they are entranced.  They feel like, "Too bad she is already taken.  Poor me, I don't have any chance to get a good one."  They look at me, and they are like, "Not want I want.  Too reserved.  Too awkward."

Little do they know, if they didn't dismiss me, if they took the time to listen to me and cherish me, they would see my spirit emerge.

They sit there moping about their misfortune, that all the good ones have been taken.  What they don't understand is that those men who have someone, they didn't sit there moping.  They treat other people as persons of value.

I'm  not envious of my sister for having someone.  I enjoy both freedom and companionship.  The only mistake I may have made is in cherishing people who did not cherish me.  And yet, I don't really regret it.  It's not wrong to cherish someone.

Stuck in the real world

Yesterday. Saturday.  No scheduled events.  Time to catch up on resting and chores.

I had company two weeks ago.  Two people staying for five days.  I arranged furniture differently for their visit.  Yesterday, I finally had time to put it bag.  Dragging mattresses and box springs about the house.  Moving things here and there.  Did three loads of laundry: one was my regular laundry, the other two were sheets and towels from my guests. When I do laundry, that means carrying a bag of laundry down stairs to the laundromat, walking back up the stairs to wait at home, then walking downstairs to go back to the laundromat, carrying the bag of wet laundry back up the stairs, and then climbing on a chair to reach the place where I hang to wet laundry.  Or for loads that go in the dryer, there's the additional trip down and up the stairs to put move the clothes from washer to dryer.

My knees have been hurting me for the past two weeks.  Every trip on the stairs hurts them.  Every time I climb up on the chair to hang the laundry hurts them.

Once I got to the laundromat before the clothes were ready.  I did not want to sit down, because lowering myself into the chair would hurt my knees, and getting up from the chair would hurt my knees.  But I was so tired.  I chose to sit.

I had more laundry to do, but I decided three loads was all I could take.  I was feeling light-headed and shaky.  Would eating something help?

One more thing to do before I could go to bed for the rest of the day.  I went out in the car.  Should I be driving when I was feeling so light-headed and shaky? I went to the library and got two books to pass the time while resting.  And I got a sandwich for lunch.

When I got home, it was maybe around 2:30pm, and I felt it was well past time to retire for the day.  I got in bed with my two  library books.  I did get up several times thereafter for food and the bathroom, but I was no longer aspiring to get anything done.

I finished the first book around 9:30pm, an ideal bedtime for me.  But the story continues in the second book, so I kept on reading.

I finish reading about 1:45am.  I turn out the light and try to sleep.  Still awake at 2:45, I get up and go to the computer.  I catch up on Facebook, and return to bed at 3:20am.  Finally I sleep.

The books were The Girl of Fire and Thorns and The Crown of Embers by Rae Carson.  The story is spread over three books.  My library only has two.  So they have left me hanging, not able to finish the story.

It is a story of empowerment.  In the second book, the main character does what she needs to do in order to be strong, to protect her people.  But in the end of the second book she takes control of her life.  She says, I'm no longer going to do the things I have to do in order to succeed.  I'm going to do the things I know are right instead.  Even if it means losing my power, I'm going to be true to myself.  And in being willing to let go of power, she at last has power, the power to be true to herself.

The way she seizes her own life is what I long to do, but how can I? I can't quit my job, because I know no other way to live.  In reality, there's no one true path that we can courageously choose.  In the real world, I can barely do laundry and feed myself.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

A lofty moment, then back to earth

I lay back in my chaise chair listening to "Dearest Lord" by the Beggar Folk.  Soaring harmonies. Lofty.  My body tingled with holiness.

I came back to reality.  I was wearing my pajamas.  A fleece top I used to wear in public has become so stained that now I only wear it as pajamas.  All around me, clutter.

On one hand, it's nice that I can soar to lofty spirituality amidst the mess.  On the other hand, I have long wanted to make my house more of a spiritual haven.

I guess I just have to accept my finiteness.  I aspire to many more things than I have time for.  For the most part, I think I might the right choices about how to spend my time.  I think I can be at peace with what I do and don't do.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Druidry and the Ancestors

I am reading Druidry and the Ancestors by Nimue Brown.  It's a great book.  It's readable, not too long, not too dense, and yet in another sense, it is dense.  I mean, it seems light in terms of the ease with which one can read it, but at the same time, it is so richly thick with intelligence.

I'm eager to read it all, and yet each nugget deserves time for pondering.  What I've decided to do is read it all the way through, giving rein to my eagerness.  Then once I've satisfied my urge to see what more she has to say, I can read it more slowly next time.  I can read just a few pages, and meditate on them.  I'm not yet done with my first time through, but I'm more than halfway there.  I'm on page 151 of 231.

Nimue has so much knowledge, and such an ability to synthesize that knowledge, and then to write it all in a way that makes her deep insights seem simple and obvious.

The title tells you what the book is about, but then when you read the book, you realize that the topic encompasses far more than you ever imagined.  It's about how we understand our past, and making choices about what from our past to take with us into the future.  "Our past" encompasses our family history, as well as the history of humanity and the planet.

At many points, there are things that remind me of some viewpoint I heard in the past that I knew I disagreed with, but I was not able to understood what was wrong with it with complete clarity and depth.  Nimue provides that clarity and depth.  I feel like next time I am faced with people who don't understand my viewpoint, I want to just hand them this book and say, "Here, this is it.  This explains everything about how I view the world."  Of course, that's not realistic -- when people don't understand me, I need to personally engage with them.  It's just a fantasy, that if only everyone would read this book, they would understand me.  Of course they wouldn't, because they would read the book through their own eyes, not through my eyes.

One thing I like is the way she talks about the history of druidry.  She's very realistic about historical fact, about the fact that we hardly know anything about druids, and that so much of what we associate with druidry is a mythology that people have made up over the years.  But she embraces mythology for its own sake.  I've always found it strange the way some modern druids think the only way to be genuine is to focus on the actual Iron Age druids, and ignore everything that was made up after.  What I find even stranger is when Reconstructionists seem to believe that Revivalists are foolishly believing that the stuff that was made up after is actually historical fact.  It's as if Reconstructionists think, "Druidry is about revering the way of the Iron Age druids.  Revivalists revere stuff that was made up later.  Therefore, Revivalists believe that the stuff that was made up later is historical fact about Iron Age druids, because the only reason a druid would revere something would be if they believed it was true of the Iron Age druids."  I also find it strange the way some Revivalists do try to believe that the Revival stuff is actually true of Iron Age druids.  Nimue expresses so clearly that a) the Revival stuff is not fact about Iron Age druids, and b) that's okay. It's mythology, and we can embrace it as such.

Another example of something I've long believed that Nimue explains better than I ever could: Once a pantheist commented that it seems that humanity is evolving toward pantheism.  This seemed wrong to me.  It seems to me that pantheists, atheists, and Christians all believe that their beliefs are the most enlightened state, and they feel sorry for the people who live without the benefit of that enlightenment.  It also seemed to me that she was speaking from a small knowledge of history.  It seemed that she was mostly thinking of how the United States used to be more widely Christian, and now more people seem to be turning away from Christianity.  It seemed to me that she was not thinking of the wider world.

One thing that Nimue brings to consideration of this comment once made by a pantheist is her consideration of the different ways people look at history.  Some people look at history and see that we  are progressing toward a more enlightened state.  Others think that our society is in decay, moving farther and farther away from the good old days.  Another way of looking at it is that there is no direction at all, it's just a bunch of people doing things and seeing how they work out.

I've always liked that.  I like reading things that describe the different outlooks people have had, and how those outlooks have varied across times and cultures.  It's as if my worldview is a planet, and seeing nothing beyond my planet, I believe that my planet is the whole world.  Then I learn there are galaxies, and realize that my worldview is just one of many.  I probably won't change my worldview, but it expands me enormously to see my worldview from the perspective of where it fits among many others.

Nimue's book is about how we build upon what went before.  For her, one of the people who went before is Ronald Hutton.  Like me, she has read his work and has been impressed by it.  In a sense, we could not be where we are today without him.  I  mean, he compiled such vast amounts of knowledge that were part of laying the groundwork for the ideas -- the ideas that have lived inarticulately within me, and which Nimue has been able to express so well.

Ronald Hutton is just one example.  Where any person is at today is a result of the past work of millions of people, stretching into the past for millenia.  It's something we don't often think about, but Nimue's book reminds  us.

Druidry and the Ancestors expresses a great deal about what it means to be a druid, and what it means to be human.  This is a book which I want to read, reread, and meditate upon.  This is a book that will inform my understanding as I read other druid books.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

When to follow your instinct, and when to listen to other views

As I have mentioned in many posts, I'm upset with people who tell me what I should do.  Perhaps the reason it bothers me is because I always feel I should give them the benefit of the doubt, should consider their view.  I don't believe in dismissing people's views.  If I could dismiss their views, maybe I would not be so mad at them, and would not feel like they were holding me back.  What I mean by holding me back is that I take time away from the path that I know is right in order to give consideration to what other people say.

On the other hand, it wouldn't be right to forge ahead on my own beliefs alone, and shut out any input from others.  The beliefs of any one person are limited.  When we let in the views of others, we can expand our understanding, and be a little less wrong.

It's a fine line, knowing when to let in the views of others, and when to proceed with what you believe to be right.  As in my previous post, it's the kind of thing that you can spend your whole life trying to get right.

Questions to last a lifetime

When I was a teenager, I had it all figured out.  I thought of things in the abstract, and in the abstract, they were easier to solve.  Seems simple to say

  • Let people do whatever they want as long as they don't hurt anyone.  Stop people from hurting others.
  • Don't work so hard to earn money that you become cynical and stop being joyful and playful.
  • Look to research to see what works to solve social problems, and then go out and fix the problems.
Now these things are not so simple.  It seems to me that a person could spend a lifetime struggling with such issues.  What seems simple in the abstract is far more complex in the implementation.

Strangely happy

I find myself feeling content today.

I was downtown for 5 hours today, at the farmer's market and nearby stores.  At the market, I had breakfast, got groceries, and spent some time tabling for a community group I'm involved in.  I liked being part of the community.

And then I went home, and I liked having quiet time at home to do whatever I wanted, to not have to be running around going places.  I compiled photos and compiled a playlist for my radio show.  I like compiling stuff, listening to beautiful music, and looking at beautiful photos.

There was a festival tonight, with fireworks.  I wanted to go, but it would have been too much. This year I didn't go to our county fair either.  I didn't go to the July 4th festival and fireworks that I usually go to.  I only went kayaking once.  In the past, missing those things would have upset me.  I think growing older means accepting that you can't do everything, living within your energy level, and savoring that which you do, rather than aspiring to do everything.  In the past, I have pushed myself to do things I wanted to do, and I learned from experience that they're not enjoyable if I'm tired and sick while I'm doing them.  If I'm feeling tired and sick, as I was today, I will find more enjoyment in compiling playlists than I will in going to festivals.

Mission statement

This is not really new, I think about and write about this sort of thing all the time, but I was thinking about how to define my mission statement.  Here I am in middle age, realizing that life is slipping by, and if there is something that I wanted to do while I was on this earth, I had better get to it.  Right now it seems like my mission is:

To eliminate poverty and violence by building communities in which people continually strive to grow in:
  • treating others with respect, compassion, and kindness
  • integrity
  • knowledge, wisdom, and critical thinking
  • sustainable living
  • joy and playfulness

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

What I'd rather know about sociopaths

In a recent post, I alluded to an article on a web site about how to tell if you are dating a sociopath.  That part is not hard.  I mean, I don't try to judge who is or is not a sociopath, but I know something unhealthy when I experience it.  I know that when I have that feeling of nothing I can do is good enough in the eyes of that person, that that is a person to walk away from.

But I have two other questions.  Sometimes it's not so simple to eliminate someone from your life.  Maybe they are connected to your job or to your family.  So my first question is how to cope if you've got one in your life.

My second question is am I a sociopath? Some people would say that some of the traits apply to me, such as:

  • Lack of empathy
  • Staying calm in dangerous situation
  • Having few friends
  • Never wrong, blames others
  • Intense eye contact

On the other hand, some traits don't apply to me at all, such as:

  • Charm and charisma
  • Big ego
  • Thrill seeking
  • Recklessness
  • Illegal behavior
  • Lying
Or if I'm not a sociopath, what about someone who is? I know people who exhibit some of these traits who sincerely want to be a good person.

A friend once told me that he believes most really annoying people desperately yearn to not be annoying people.  They hate the rejection, but they just can't act another way.  He was talking more of people with no superficial social skills, while a sociopath would have superficial social skills, but I think the same concept applies. 

What if someone really wanted to be a good person, but they just had a personality that was hurtful to other people?  

And how much do we even know how much we hurt other people? If people are afraid of us, they may try to hide it.  

If someone thought they were a sociopath, they might try to go to psychotherapy for help.  But they might find it was no help, and they might quit after a while.

So I don't know who is a sociopath and who is not a sociopath, but what I want to know is:
  1. How do I cope when people behave poorly toward me?
  2. How can I make sure I don't behave poorly toward other people?
Those questions are intertwined, because the question is, when do I accept people for who they are, and when do I stand up for myself?  How do I say "stop treating me that way" without putting the person down?  

What hurt people want

When people feel hurt, what they want is someone to validate their hurt, to say they understand.  They tell the story of their hurt, in the hopes of getting affirmation.

Let's use some fictional names just for clarity, so I don't keep writing about "the hurt person" and "the person the hurt person is talking to."  Let's say Cheryl is upset, feeling that Laura hurt her.  Cheryl tells Laura why she is upset.  She wants Laura to validate her hurt.  But that's the last thing Laura wants to do.  Laura feels that if she lets Cheryl's feelings be legitimate, that will be the equivalent of saying, "Yes, I did a bad thing. I am a jerk." It hurts Laura to feel like a jerk, so she wards off that possibility.  She counterattacks, telling Cheryl she  has no right to feel hurt.

So then Cheryl complains to Diane about how Laura hurt her.  Diane may say, "You shouldn't let things bother you so much," or she may explain to Cheryl what Cheryl ought to say to Laura.

But if either Laura or Diane would just say something to Cheryl like, "I'm sorry. I can see why you're upset," it would do wonders to heal Cheryl's hurt.

Yes, this is something I feel strongly about personally, as I'm upset with people telling me what to do and how to feel.  But it's also something I see all around me, hurt people taking out their stories, telling their stories over and over, in search of affirmation.

So, if someone is hurt, just listen and affirm their feelings.  And, if someone is angry, the reason they are angry is probably because they are hurt, so if someone is angry, just listen and affirm their feelings.

Media and independent business

Recently people have complained that the media was paying more attention to a scantily clad celebrity than to the situation in Syria.  What media? I get my news from public radio -- both via the radio and via web sites.  It all seems very sensible.

I don't watch TV at all, and don't listen to commercial radio, but I do sometimes see advertisements on web sites, and I also see web sites of profit-oriented media, which include not only advertisements, but stories designed to attract profit, stories about a celebrity's sex life, or tips on how to tell if you are dating a sociopath.

Even though I mostly shield myself from it, I realize that junk in the media is very widespread.  I'm grateful that we still have alternatives like public radio and Yes Magazine.  We need to support these alternatives so that they will continue to be there for us.

In my community, we also have a farmer's market and an independent bookstore.  Our food co-op went out of business, but a neighboring city has a good one.  Not everyone has these things.  When my mother asked me stepfather if there were any independent bookstores in the area where they live, he said, "You mean like Barnes and Noble?"  Some people don't even know what an independent bookstore is because they haven't seen one.

Let's not take these things for granted.  Let's support the things we value, so they don't disappear.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Asperger's

When my friend was telling me the rumor that the group leadership wanted the new guy out, he commented, "Maybe he has Asperger's.  Maybe they are discriminating against him."

I said, "Well I figured he did."

There's an attribute some people have that you can see right away, and for many years I had no name for it, but now it seems to be called Asperger's.

What it is is a directness, a lack of small talk, that makes me comfortable with a person.  Normally I'm not comfortable with people.

Not everyone with Asperger's syndrome has this directness.  I know people with Asperger's who make small talk and beat around the bush.

Is Asperger's real? Actually they have un-invented it -- now officially we just have autism spectrum.  But we had Asperger's for a while, and it was really popular, and still is really popular.  I wonder if it is over-diagnosed.  I know people who have been diagnosed with it who are oddballs, but to me don't seem to fit the criteria for Asperger's.  Of course I understand that people with Asperger's are very different from each other.

Sometimes it seems everyone I know has Asperger's.  Some have the diagnosis.  Others believe they may have Asperger's, but haven't been officially diagnosed.  Others haven't told me if they've ever thought about it, but I see something in them that makes me think of it.

In part, it's because the place I work draws a disproportionate number of people with Asperger's.  But I think it's also me.  I think I gravitate toward people with Asperger's.  As I said, there's a certain directness that some people with Asperger's have that makes me feel comfortable.

That raises the question, do I have Asperger's? Whenever I read the criteria, I can only conclude that I don't.  Yes I'm an introverted, awkward oddball, but I just don't fit the description of Asperger's.

Some people with Asperger's may fear that it makes them unlike-able.  It doesn't.  I don't automatically like everyone with Asperger's of course, but in generally, I would say Asperger's increases the likelihood that I will like someone.

I guess the main thing is the directness.  I like people with directness, and many but not all people with Asperger's have directness.

So, to anyone out there who thinks no one will like you because you are too weird, who tries to pass for normal in order to make people like you, bear in mind, some people like weird people.

And that's what I need to bear in mind too.  Because I too often feel that no one will like me as I am, so I have to try to pass for normal.

Well, it's not only that.  The reason I try to pass for normal is because if I admit to having any problem, people lecture me on how to solve my problem, and I can't stand that.

Honesty

I met someone new today and I really liked him.  I liked that he was so direct.

He is trying to become a member of an organization that I'm a part of.

I met him at a meeting, and at that meeting a policy was announced.  The policy would preclude him from joining.

Later, I heard a rumor.  I heard that the leadership of our group didn't like this guy and another who wanted to join.  They went to the governing body above them and asked the governing body above them to decree this policy.

They wanted to keep these two individuals out of the organization.  They hid that fact by pretending that:
  • It was a policy matter, nothing against the individuals.
  • It was out of the control of group leadership, and against the will of the leadership, and came from the governing body above.
I like him because he's direct.  I respect him because he is direct.  

I do  not respect the way the group leadership for this.  It's hard to say no to someone.  But if it's your choice to say no to someone, take responsibility for it.  You don't want to be the bad guy, but you are the bad guy.  Own up to it.  You have the authority to choose.  Own your choices.

I hate it when people do that to me.  If they would just say no, then I could move on, but instead they go all vague and squirmy.  

Squirmy people suck.

Nimue Brown wrote two blog posts recently about behaving honorably.  I think this is about being honorable. Being honorable means owning your choices.



Scribbles

I have never been good at hands-on or practical things.  I don't draw, sing, play a  musical instrument, fix cars, fix houses, garden, or crochet.  But in the privacy of my own home, I don't have to be good.  In the privacy of my own home, I can dance, sing, play ukulele, and draw.  Today, feeling beaten physically and emotionally, I needed some healing activity, so I made some scribbles.  It is so good to just follow my instinct, to not have to fit an expectation.


Thursday, August 29, 2013

Treasure

When I was a kid
Stories told of buried treasure
Gold, jewels
That's not what treasure is

Treasure is
People who value what I have to offer
People who let me help them
People who make time for me
Because they want me to be part of their lives

Treasure is
People who delight in my company
Who enjoy me as I am
Rather than trying to help and advise  me
Into who they think I ought to be

And treasure is
The serenity and freedom of solitude
Time outdoors in beautiful weather
The touch of the breeze
The company of trees
Gazing at the water

Treasure is music
Treasure is dance

Treasure is freedom from poverty
From violence and oppression
From pollution and poisons

Treasure is not something that can be possessed
We make choices about how to spend our time
And what to turn away from
We can choose whether to walk away from treasure
Or embrace it

But we can't hold onto it
Can't make it stay forever and always
Treasure is fleeting
Treasure is a gift
Treasure it when it comes
Let it go when it goes
Another treasure will come again

Saturday, August 24, 2013

A day to turn strengthen roots

There was a party today.  A summer barbecue with some people I like.  I had been planning to go every since the party was announced about a month ago.  I did not go.

The past week was the busiest week of the year at my job. Usually I work around 40 hours a week.  This week I worked about 60.  My weekends have been full.  I went on two trips in July and two trips in June.

I have been living in the branches, in activity, in the stimulating external world.

Time to deepen the roots, so that my branches will have a strong foundation, so my branches won't be easily toppled.

Today was spent in the quiet of home.  Today was spent sorting through some of the clutter strewn about my house.

Bit by bit, turning chaos toward tranquility.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Summer slips away

Summer slips away.  I have spent so little time doing the things I like to do in summer.

So little time sitting on my balcony.
So little time hanging my laundry up to dry outside, so it smells good.
So little time wandering among the leafy green trees.
So little time rollerblading.
So little time at outdoor concerts.
So little time in a boat.
So little time by the shore.  Shore of lake, river, ocean, whatever I can find.
So little time feeling the soft grass upon my bare feet.
So little time having lunch on the hill.

Instead, it rained. Instead, it was so hot that I felt like crying whenever I stepped out of air conditioning.  Instead, I went on trips. Instead I went to parties.  Instead, I was painfully exhausted.

The trips and parties were good.  I chose to do them.  But there is only so much that can fit in one summer.


There's tired, and there's beyond tired

There's tired, and there's beyond tired.

Tired is when you do something and then afterwards it feels good to rest.

Beyond tired is when you are so tired it hurts.

Beyond tired is when you are so tired you just want to curl up in a ball and whimper.

Beyond tired is when it hurts so much that it's hard to sleep.

Beyond tired is when despair hits.

No one is there for me. No one will ever like me because I'm too much of a misfit.  I have nothing to offer the world.  No one wants to be with me. No one wants to help me.

These are the despondent feelings that come upon me when I am beyond tired.

"You're just depressed.  You should get out more."

No, it was getting out more that made me beyond tired, and being beyond tired that made me despondent.

I escape into fiction, trying to anesthetize myself until I'm able to sleep.


Saturday, August 3, 2013

Instruction manual, version 2

As you can see from all the griping in my recent posts, lately I have been upset about people who tell me what I should do and how I should feel.  I recalled that four years ago, someone said there should be an instruction manual for how to get along with me, so I wrote one in my blog.  I looked back at it today, and found that what I wrote then is pretty much the same thing I would say now. I find that reassuring, that there's some consistency in who I am, that what I have been feeling lately is not just some strange whim.

Looking back at the instruction manual though, I wanted to make some edits.  I did make some tweaks to my post from four years ago, but then I found that I wanted to make more substantial edits.  Therefore, I decided to leave the four year old post with just the few tweaks, and to re-write it now.

Now I am focusing on shortening it, and focusing especially on how I want to be treated.  The previous version had a chunk about what brings me joy.  That too is something to be focused on, and that too is something that has remained pretty consistent for years.  However, at this particular moment, I want to zero in on the parts about how I want to be treated and how I want to relate to others.

I do not expect that anyone will ever take this instruction manual in hand and try to abide by it.  I write it for me, because if I can clarify for myself what it is that I want, maybe it will help me to better manage my relationships with others.
  1. Don't tell me to cheer up, or that I should not be upset about something.  If something bothers me, respect the fact that it bothers me.
  2. Don't tell me what to do. Conveying some useful facts can be acceptable at times, but don't tell me that I'd be happier if I spent more time doing a particular thing. Your advice on how to reform myself is not what will help me blossom. Instead:
  3. You help me blossom just by listening to me and believing in me. When you point out my strengths, that helps those strengths to blossom.
  4. Value what I have to offer.  Let me help you.  Partner with me to help others.
  5. I know my flaws. When you accept me for who I am, you give me space to work on correcting them. When you criticize me, I flare up on the defensive, which does not leave me room to grow.
  6. I might not know all my flaws, or all the ways that I might hurt you, so if I do something that bothers you, just inform me that it bothers you and trust me that I'll try to fix it, rather than yelling at me for doing it.
  7. Any subtle hint that I did something wrong or that you don't like me I'm likely to pick up on even if it's subtle.
  8. Although I want you to be kind when criticizing and rejecting, in general, it is better to be direct and open, even if it is clumsy.  I don't like smooth and charming. I don't like when you beat around the bush.  
  9. Listen.  For me it's a waste of time to talk to people who are not interested in listening to me.  
  10. Be responsive to how other people feel. Back off when you bother someone.
  11. Although it's true that it's disrespectful to talk endlessly about topics that don't interest me, or to tell me things that will hurt me, on the other hand, keep in mind that I am flattered when you choose share your thoughts, feelings, and interests with me, even though they might not be the same things I would be interested in. I want to know who you are, even though that includes parts that are different from me.  When you choose not to share something with me, you are shutting me out of a part of you.
  12. At the same time, I do respect that there are some things that you don't want to talk about.  As I get to know you, I'll make note of the topics you don't like to talk about, and I'll stay away from them.
  13. If you want to know what I think about something, ask.
  14. If I don't agree with you, that does not mean that my understanding or intelligence is lacking.  
  15. If you tell me I should do something (read a certain book, engage in a certain activity) that may decrease my interest in doing it, because I want to make my own choices. However if you tell me that you like something, that may increase my interest in it.
  16. Don't talk about what morons other people are. It's okay to talk about how much they annoy you, because that's about your own feelings.
  17. The measure of a person is their compassion, respect, and integrity. I don't measure you by your lifestyle, habits, quirks, prestige, etc.
  18. Don't think that you are better than other people. Don't think you deserve a high salary because you worked so hard to get where you are.
  19. Live a life of conscience, and understand that I also live a life of conscience, even though our consciences may lead us down different paths. Strive to be the best person you can be, and support me as I strive to be the best person I can be.
  20. If I invite you to do something and you don't want to do it, just say no.  Don't clutch at straws in a desperate attempt to find an excuse.  When you clutch at straws, what I hear is that you're lying to me, and that you are desperately trying to evade me.  
  21. If you are done being friends with me, then go.  I deserve to be with people who cherish and respect me.  If you keep hanging around for fear I'll be devastated by your departure, stop being so full of yourself and just go.  It may be helpful to tell me in a tactful way that you are departing, so that I can adjust my expectations accordingly.

How to help people

How do you help people?

Plan A

  1. Explain to them what they should do to fix their problems.
  2. Explain to them that they should not be upset but instead should be grateful for all that they have.
Plan B
  1. Listen.
  2. Enjoy their company.
  3. Ask how you can help.
  4. Offer to do tasks  that burden them.
  5. Appreciate what they have to offer.

Based on they way people behave, it seems that most people think that Plan A is the correct way to help people. I would prefer that people would follow Plan B.  To me, Plan A should be titled not "How to Help" but "How to Hurt."  However, when you try to explain to people that you prefer not to be on the receiving end of Plan A, they become indignant and outraged, saying, "I was only trying to help."  If I don't appreciate being on the receiving end of Plan A, they view me as ungrateful.  

Humans have wills of their own

Imagine if objects were out of your control. Playing chess, you put a piece down, but it slides to another square.  Cleaning house, you empty the dustpan into the wastebasket, but the next day, you find the dust has climbed out and traipsed about the house.  Cooking dinner, you find that the peppers you chopped to add to the onion have jumped into the cookie dough instead.

We expect objects not to move around of their own volition.  Apparently, some people have extended this attitude to other people.  The parent who gives his adult son advice which the son does not follow complains to me, "He never changes."

Indeed, he doesn't change because he is himself.  He is not going to become a chess piece moved by his father's will.

Many of the people I see who are miserable seem to have a sense of frustration and impotence over the fact that they are not in control of other people's behavior.

I feel that frustration because I can't stop people from telling me what I should do and how I should feel.  At least all I want to control is how they treat me.  I don't want to control what they do with their own lives.

There's an administrator where I work whose method of operating is to yell at people and force them to say, "I was wrong, I'll do better next time" before he will grant the approval that needs to be granted.  He does that especially when it's clear that the mistake was his.

To me, that is impotence.  He is incapable of working collaboratively with people.

A group of people all with individual volitions may choose to come together and choreagraph a dance in which all their individual volitions come together into making something larger than themselves.

He does not have the ability to do that, so he resorts to trying to control people like they are chess pieces.

Anyone who tries to control people like they are chess pieces is setting himself up for frustration and failure.  You can work with others, or you can work alone, but you cannot expect others to be without wills of their own.

Refuge from yapping

If I could do magic, I would stop all those people yapping at me, telling me what to do, how to feel, demanding my attention.

Well, not all the time.  If someone feels they need to say something to me, they can have their chance.

It will be like office hours.  One hour a day allotted for those who need to yap at me.  Rest of the time, zip it.

I go home.  My refuge. Peace. No more people yapping at me.

I can do magic after all.  I made a place where no one can yap at me.  I am creator of my peace.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Doing things for ourselves

Yesterday when I was listening to the radio, a quote from the story Detroit Neighborhoods Take Matters into Their Own Hands  caught my attention: "People will say, well, they are never picking up my garbage, or they don't board up the houses, or they came and boarded up some houses. And so our question is: Well, who are the they? And that has changed, that they have to become us."

It seems to me that more and more, our lives are made by "them," not by "us."  We have people to raise plants and animals that become our food, to do the processing to turn the plants and animals into food, to make our clothes, to make our trash disappear, to provide electricity and heat, to build our houses.  When someone else is doing the work, it's easy to be critical of them for not doing it perfectly.  When we try to do something  ourselves, we realize that it's actually not so easy.

Chestnut

Latest tidbit from Lives of the Trees: Chestnuts have protein like other nuts, but they also have starch, which makes them more filling than other nuts.  "Before wheat was common and potatoes came to Europe, chestnut bread kept many poor people alive."

My grandmother has talked about people surviving the Depression by eating food they found in the woods.  Could we do that now? Many of us don't live near the woods.  Many of us wouldn't know what to eat if they did go to the woods.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Looking back to simpler times

A few days ago I read that Native Americans saw the world as a whole, land and sky and so forth, all as one.  It struck me that I've read the same thing about Celtic peoples.  Actually, what I read recently about Native Americans mentioned that the view is common among hunter gatherer peoples.

It seems to me that we all have hunter gatherer ancestors, it's just a matter of how long ago.  For Native Americans, I think things changed about 400 years ago with the coming of the Europeans.  For the British, I think things changed about 2,000 years ago with the coming of the Romans.

Now it seems there is such a cultural difference between the Native Americans and those of us of European ancestry.  But those of us of European ancestry come from a people who were once like the Native Americans too, it's just longer ago.

It seems to be part of human  nature to fantasize about times past.  Some look to hunter gatherer times.  Some look to medieval times.  Some look to Victorian times.  We romanticize the past, we don't think about the hardships that people endured in the past.

Looking to stories about the past is part of understanding who we are.  When we think about the past in this way, we may not be thinking in an entirely historically accurate way, but what we are doing is being inspired by the values that we choose to guide us as we seek the path to the future.

Druids are present in the material world

Today in the mail I received a book I had ordered, Druidry and Meditation by Nimue Brown.  She's such a good writer, so readable.  It's hard work to write things in a way that they seem easy to understand.  There's a nicely written introduction about how you can't learn druidry from a book, you have to do druidry, so why write a book about druidry?  The answer is that books are like maps or instruction manuals.  They can help you as you find your own way.

The introduction is two pages, and then on page 3 she writes
Druidry is not a religion that seeks to transcend physical experience.  Our spirituality is rooted in nature and nourished by experience.  We seek connection, relationship and inspiration....Druidry embraces physicality and honors our tangible selves."
That was page 3, and that was as far as I got reading, because then I had to go write it here in my blog.  It captures so well why I'm a druid and not a Buddhist.

Monday, July 22, 2013

How to help people

I regularly read Nimue Brown's blog Druid Life, but today I came across a post by her on The Pagan and the Pen from October 2010.  In Help!, she touches on one of the things that always bothers me, the way people claiming to want to help actually makes things worse.  She gives some guidelines on how to help in an actual helpful way.  Now if only everyone would follow those guidelines.

Bamboo

The latest from Lives of the Trees by Diana Wells:

  • "Bamboo is evergreen and very pliant, so it bends rather than breaking in winter storms.  This was considered by the Chinese to be exemplary of true gentlemanly behavior."
  • "a group of third-century Chinese poets called themselves the Seven Sages of the Bamboo Grove.  One of them took care to be accompanied always by his servant carrying a shovel, so if he happened to die suddenly, he could be buried at once -- in the bamboo grove.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Treatment of prisoners

In "My Guantanamo Hunger Strike Hell," Shaker Aamer describes the conditions he experiences as a Guantanamo detainee.  Some excerpts:
They started by taking my medical things. I had an extra blanket to lessen my rheumatism, but that was soon gone. My backbrace went at the same time. The pressure socks I had to keep the build-up of water down did not last long. Then they came for my toothbrush. Next, my sheet was taken, along with my shoes. My legal documents vanished soon after, leaving me only my kids’ drawings on the wall. They were the last to go. And now I am left alone. Since 8am Monday, April 15, I have had nothing, not even my flip-flops....some 22-stone soldier puts his knees on my back while the others pin my arms and legs to the floor, and they leave me a plastic bottle. You’re allowed only one bottle at a time, as having two is somehow a threat to US national security. That means from morning until night, I have nothing to drink unless I conserve it carefully.  
I just don't understand how it is that we allow this to happen.  I don't understand how they can take my money (they call it taxes) and use my money to fund this.

I don't understand why people think this is a good thing to do.  I mean, if a person does something to harm others, we put that person in prison.  I understand that we might want to put them in a prison as a way of keeping others safe.  But once prison takes the person out of society, how does it help anything to do violence to them? Is our goal to teach them to hate us? Is our goal to teach them that violence is the only way to gain power?  Wouldn't you think our goal would be that after they get out of prison, they not hurt people? And wouldn't you think that the way to bring that about would be to give them respect, kindness, and knowledge?

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Corn Flakes

I've got a box of corn flakes from Nature's Path.  The package boasts that they are organic, non-GMO, and gluten-free.  That sounds well enough.  Then I read the details.  According to the package:
"GMO" stands for "Genetically Modified Organisms."  Doesn't sound too tasty, does it? The Non-GMO Project agrees, and their verification assures you that the food you're buyin is made in the kitchen -- not in a lab.
That's dumb.  Basically the case they are making for why you should choose non-GMO food is that the name GMO does not sound good?!

Then they say the food is made in a kitchen, not in a lab.  Now what is a kitchen? Well you plant the crops, grow them, harvest them.  Then once they are grown, in the kitchen is where you mash things up, mix them together, cook them, etc.  If you make food, that's one step in the process.  If you are a company selling cereal in a store, your kitchen is probably an industrial kitchen.  But if you do any sort of processing, any mixing or cooking of ingredients, rather than just selling raw ingredients, then that means you prepare the food in the kitchen.  The fact that you do so has no bearing on whether the ingredients you use are from genetically modified plants.

It makes me want to never buy from Nature's Path again.

And it ties in to what I keep seeing -- a world based on rhetoric, not truth.  A world in which people seek profit and seek to create a positive image of themselves, rather than seeking to make something of good quality.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Prevention

Today NPR had a story called "How Oregon is getting 'frequent fliers' out of the ER."  Basically, the idea is that if someone visits the emergency room often, a social worker will take that person's case and help the patient with some underlying needs.  In the example given, the patient was homeless. The social worker bought him shoes, a pillow, and a sleeping bag, and then eventually got him into housing.

There's an attitude in this country which would cause people to say, "The hospital shouldn't be buying people shoes.  If you spend money on anything but medical care, you are mis-using your funds."

But the care the social worker gives reduces the number of times the patients visit the emergency room.  The net result is that the hospital spends less money.

This ties in with my recent post "Violence prevention."  In my post "Stewardship," I raised the question of where do I want to focus my efforts.  Which specific aspects of caring for my community and the earth are my unique calling?  It seems to me that my calling has to do with prevention, with building something positive, with reducing the need for things like emergency room visits and prisons.


Stewardship

My neighbor likes hydrangeas.  She has a lot of them in her yard.  When I walk by, I admire them.

As I walked by this morning, I thought, "If I had a yard, maybe I would plant a lot of hydrangeas too."

I recalled that the color of the hydrangea depends on the pH of the soil.  Would I put things in the soil to adjust the pH? No, that would be too much work.

I inadvertently have 6 house plants.  I didn't particularly want them, but they came to me in various ways.  Some I actually did buy, for particular reasons.  Others were given to me.  I don't want to be bothered with giving them plant food, re-potting them, whatever it is you are supposed to do with plants.  I water them, and  they have survived many years with watering as the only care I give them.

In my life it seems like I am trying to do a hundred things.  I don't have time to worry about soil pH.  I see interesting articles on the internet, but if they are long, I don't have time to read the whole thing.  I have piles of books I want to read. I don't have time to read them all.  And so, I give each thing as little attention as I can.  I eat the foods that require that least effort to prepare.  There are so many things that are important to me.  If I rush, maybe I can attend to all of them.

That's not the way to tend to anything.  Have you seen someone who truly tends to something? Someone who cares for a garden, cares for their children, cares for their marriage, cares for their elderly parent? Have you seen someone who pays attention to the details, who thinks about what they're doing?

As a druid, it's my responsibility to care for the earth and for my community.

I can buy local, organic food and carry it home in my re-usable bags.  Get my brownie points for being environmentally correct, and get on with the hundred other things  I want to do.

That's not what it means to be a steward of the earth.  A steward of the earth tends the earth with care.

I can't do a hundred things.  I need to choose.  What do I personally want to do? I can't do everything that is needed to fix my community.  Luckily, other people in my community are also contributing in their own ways.    They each contribute in their own unique way.  Which is my unique way? Instead of giving peripheral attention to a hundred things, doing a shoddy job on a hundred things, is there something to which I can make a commitment? Something I can really tend, something I can dedicate myself to trying to create and care for?

Monday, July 8, 2013

In the labyrinth

Yesterday on the radio on Selected Shorts I heard part of "Ziggurat" by Stephen O'Connor.  In the story, the minotaur and the new girl go round and round in the labyrinth, but there is no way out.  It struck me that the story is what my life is like.

Afterwards, there was a brief interview with the author, and that's what the author said too.  He said the story is about how now matter how we try, we can't escape our situation, or who we are.

When the story starts, the new girl is playing a computer game.  Later when the minotaur asks her about the game, she says, “Basically, they’re all disappointment games. Except this one. This one’s about ambition. You’re supposed to build the Tower of Babel before God knocks it down. But that usually ends up being a disappointment game, too.”

What the minotaur does is he encounters people and eats them.  He encounters them going about their lives, but it doesn't  matter what they are doing, because he eats them anyhow.  "None of the things they yearned for would come to pass. All their beliefs about destiny and justice, all their rituals, injunctions, inhibitions and plain-as-the-nose-on-your-face truths: trash, irrelevant, wrong. Their gooses were cooked—royally—and always had been."

Then today I was listening TED Radio Hour, and the story was "How Do You Get People to Pay For Music."  Amanda Palmer was a street musician.  The way it worked is she played music, and trusted that people would give her money.  So when she became a star, it seemed natural to her to do it the same way.  She lets people download her music for free, but she asks them to donate money.  When she travels to give concerts, she asks people if she and her band can stay at their house. She love connecting with her audience.  She says it's about trusting that people will be there for her.

I don't trust.  I guess that's why people aren't there for me.  My experience is that humans either turn their back on me, or else they tell me how they think I ought to live, what I ought to do.

Amanda Palmer lives outside the labyrinth. She lives in a world I'd like to live in.  But I can't get out of the labyrinth.