Sunday, December 31, 2006

Sawadee bpe mai....

It is 12.01, January 1, 2550, at this very moment in Khon Kaen, Thailand. So, for me, the New Year has begun.

(*Note: This post was written before I knew about the bombings in Bangkok and the cancelation of New Year's celebrations in Bangkok and Chiang Mai. May peace be with my Thai and farang brothers and sisters. Sunti phap.)

My wishes for this coming year:

1) ... that the US will get out of Iraq, bring the soldiers home and work on finding a new way to settle disputes,

2) ... that those who suffered through Katrina will finally get some support from the government,

3) ... that all who need food will have it,

4) ... that all who need shelter will find it,

5) ... that all who need medical care will find it available,

6) ... that all who want an education will receive it,

7) ... that peace will become a priority throughout the world,

8) ... that all children will be safe from exploitation; sexual and commercial

9) ... that all who are lonely will find companionship,

10) . that all will find their souls content, fulfilled and joyous.


Sawadee bpe mai,


Saturday, December 30, 2006


As is probably predictable, I was upset to hear about the execution of Saddam Hussein. As is probably equally predictable, I am opposed to the death penalty in all circumstances, whether it is an international figure or Scott Peterson. It's wrong.

I get that Saddam was a terrible person. I get that Scott Peterson is a horrible person. That doesn't justify lust for revenge. The image of masked hangmen putting a rope around someone's neck and releasing the switch makes me physically ill. My heart sinks into my stomach and I feel the threat of vomit. This is visceral stuff. The fact that these people are "horrible" doesn't provide an excuse for us to collectively respond in kind. Where does it stop? When does the cycle of violence and revenge stop?

It is nearly 2007. It's nearly 2550 in Thailand. As much as I want to trust in the human spirit and our inherent ability to overcome barbarism, something like this happens and that faith slowly swirls down the drain.

Killing people to prove that killing people is wrong. State-sanctioned homicide is still homicide. Dancing in the streets and celebrating anyone's death ~ collective scheudenfruede ~ is perverted and twisted. It is so base that I can't even imagine it. It's a sick horror movie. I expect green pea soup projectiles and spinning heads. At the end, the credits will roll and we'll be reminded that it was only a movie, just a fantasy, intended to generate fear in bored, numb viewers.

We need to grow beyond this.



Friday, December 29, 2006


"These are times in which a genius would wish to live. It is not in the still calm of life, or in the repose of a pacific station, that great characters are formed. ... Great necessities call out great virtues." Abigail Adams

I decided to go a bit further with this based on some of the comments I received. (Thank you for those :) Some very interesting questions were asked and I'm going to respond in no particular order, just addressing what I see as the core issues.

Greed, power-over, competition, selfishness, criminality and materialism all come from fear.

Compassion, benevolence, charity, justice, mindfulness, service and spirituality come from love.

There are probably many more qualities that could be included but those are the ones that come off the top of my head. (If there are important ones I missed, please leave them in a comment and I will edit the post to include them.)

The most important question is "how do we become transformed"?

In the simplest presentation, it would be "we choose it".

The more accurate answer is far more complex.

I believe it will be different for every person, but the linchpin is in how we define ourselves. We are not material beings. We are spiritual beings. I'm not talking about religion. I am talking about spirit. Religion works for many people and it is important to feed the soul but I'm not saying any one spiritual system is better than another. There are many paths to the same destination.

The first step, though, I believe is to identify our role models. For some, it might be Martin Luther King, Gandhi or Buddha. For others, it might be Carl Sagan. And yet others will find meaning in the words of Mohammed, the great rabbis or Jesus Christ. It all depends on what resonates most with any given individual. Most spiritual disciplines adhere to the same basic moral principles. Study these people or belief systems. What did they say? How does it manifest its basic tenets? How did they deal with ethical dilemmas? If a belief system offers absolutes, run like hell.

My spiritual path works for me because it doesn't require me to accept anything on faith alone. In fact, it doesn't even address the existence of a deity. I took a test in college that was supposed to identify one's way of thinking. I scored equally in the areas of science and religion. I'm a "solid intel" kind of gal. Don't give me a bunch of unproveable data and tell me to believe it because you want me to believe it. Don't crap on a biscuit and tell me its a muffin. I respect the scientific process too much. For that reason, I found something that leaves it up to me personally and my conscience to determine matters of faith while providing me with a solid ethical system. I am a person of faith on certain things. I accept on faith that we live multiple lifetimes because it meshes with my understanding of natural law. Everything in nature recycles. I accept on faith that there is something bigger than all of us in the universe. I believe it is natural law. Sometimes for convenience, I call it "God".

Still, ultimately, we are responsible for the choices we make and the ethical/moral decisions we make and how we live. We are co-creators with God, which leads us to the second step.

The second step, and perhaps most important, is to change our lives. It is a matter of identifying faulty thinking and correcting it. Not all of us are capable of that kind of introspection (well, at least I'm not) which is why we need mentors. In my opinion, mentors help give us a foundation that allows the introspection to evolve into something more than navel-gazing. Most of us, left to our own devices, would be like the proverbial dog chasing his tail.

Mindfulness is a full-time job. Respecting others, respecting community, respecting the earth, respecting animals, respecting the food we eat, respecting the water we drink, respecting resources, respecting the energy we put out into the universe is all a part of remaining mindful and making decisions that benefit all, not just individuals.

It can be done in chunks. Like Mehmet Oz says in his new diet book, "Just eliminate 100 calories a day". Choose to be mindful about one thing at a time. Don't try to change everything at once. Like a good diet, take it in rational and liveable steps.

If we all choose to do this, I believe we can change the world. It won't happen overnight or next weekend, but it will happen. As Gil Scott-Heron wrote so many years ago, "the revolution will not be televised." It will come from re-thinking and making different choices in how we live. It will come from recommitting to essential truths. It will happen because of a massive turnaround in the way we view, and live, our lives.



Love and Fear.....

"Our goal is to create a beloved community and this will require qualitative change in our souls as well as a quantitative change in our lives." ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

I've been thinking about this for the past few days. I don't necessarily move on from things overnight and the many "social justice" posts from last month are still floating around in my head.

Typically, I like to look for the root issue. Just as the principle in gardening is that diseased plants need to be culled from the root, I believe the same is true of social issues. There are plenty of examples of problems, many diseased plants, but what are the solutions? And where are the roots?

The backbone is dualism. The offshoot is our relationship to love and fear.

People are hungry because at the root, we believe there is not enough food to go around. If everyone is fed, there won't be enough left for us.

Dualism supports the belief that there is not enough to go around so we have to fight and compete for our share. That manifests in war, power-over and hierarchy.

We believe that sharing our emotional resources with others means that there is less for ourselves. If our significant other spends time with friends or work, that must mean that we will not get our share of that energy. It is a perception of limitation. That brings about alienation and fractured relationships.

Dualism supports the idea that we must be either material beings or spiritual beings. We choose material because it's too scary to let go and trust the cosmos that surround us ~ or each other.

The truth is that we are organized as a society, using obsolete social principles. They are obsolete because they reflect separateness. They reflect fear over love. The culture encourages us to believe creating wealth is the primary goal of human work ~ although it certainly is not. We have forgotten how to treat each other as brothers and sisters, although that is certainly what we are.

As long as this continues, we will see these same problems repeating themselves, generation after generation.

We need to consciously let go of these beliefs. We need to consciously examine ourselves for these beliefs, where we hold them and where we support them. We need to let go of the belief that resources are limited, that there is only just so much to go around, that the earth is not capable of producing enough food, that we are not energetic enough to create housing for everyone, that we are not smart enough to create medical care and education for everyone, that we are separate and must fight so strongly for our own identities, both personal or national, that we bring about war. We need to replace fear with the practice of love.

We have to allow ourselves to be transformed.


"Hatred never ceases by hatred, but by love alone is healed. This is an ancient and eternal law." ~ Buddha

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Still sick...

Isn't that picture charming? Something about it made me laugh so I just had to share it. (Yeah... send the hate mail to the next blog over. :)

This cootie seems to have gone into my lungs so I'll probably be wheezing and coughing for a few more days. The good news is that I got lots of sleep last night and this morning. The dog forced me out of bed at 8.30 or I'd probably still be there.

I've been remembering Thailand ~ my beautiful Khon Kaen ~ this morning ~ or perhaps just logically yearning for the comfort of "home". It makes me cease wondering how much like the rest of the animals we really are. After all, when they're sick they want to go "home", too. They curl up in their "safe place" and sleep.

That is what I will be doing the rest of the day. I'm meeting a friend for a light lunch close by, then I'll come home, watch "African Queen" for the umpteenth time and sleep some more.

Thank you all so much for leaving me well wishes. I appreciate them very much. I miss reading all of your blogs and leaving comments. Perhaps tonight I'll feel up to some "comment-making". After all, that is the greatest fun of all this.

Be well... See you all soon :)



Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Sick call...

I am officially wiped out, sick and don't have the energy to walk across the room. It's just a cold but it is kicking my a$$. There's no energy to write anything today at all. So, it will be a day of TV, books and lots of catnaps.

It is a rare, rare day in the neighborhood. Nothing Thai. No jewelry and I'm wearing old sweatpants with an ugly sweatshirt that says "University of Virginia". It's older than one of my housemates. I'm falling down on the job. And I don't care!

And if anyone tells, I'll deny it. :)

See you all soon. Hope everyone is well.



Monday, December 25, 2006

Gift giving and Thai Culture....

Last night was a busy one here at Chez Chani.

My housemates all had visitors and they were in and out. I stayed out of the way for the most part but did spend some time with them. I like some of them. Why not? :)

We all sat in the livingroom talking back and forth for half an hour or so.

PJ looked at me directly and said, "I want to know about this Thai thing you're doing. How do people give gifts there?"

I explained to her that it's a very casual process. Giving gifts over there is common. People do it for little or no reason, just to say "thanks" or "hello" or "goodbye" or "I just feel like it..." They do it for the sheer enjoyment of it. One of the things I enjoyed when I was there is that it seemed people I met were always giving me little gifts and allowing me to give them little gifts. This is something that was done even in a casual, transient relationship. It's done for fun.

That style of gift-giving fits well with my personality. I love giving gifts but don't like being coerced to do it in any way. It takes the fun out of it. If I was wealthy, I would be one of the gift-giving-est people in the world. I'm always thinking of something someone might like... a book, a special pen set (I know a lot of journal-writers), candy, food items. These are the typical things I get for people.

Another significant difference between Thai gifting customs and American gifting customs is that Thai people do not open the gifts in front of each other. The gift is graciously accepted and put to the side. Life goes on.

V. disappeared into the spare bedroom and I didn't think much of it when he did. He and I don't have the best relationship and I figured he was just bored with the conversation. I chatted on with the others for a few minutes and got up, preparing to come back to my mother-in-law unit and relax into a movie.

V. came out before I could leave with a large box in his hands. I was already standing and beginning to say my good nights. He stopped me and asked me to sit down again. He handed me a large box and said that he knew I didn't care for Christmas, so I should consider it a thank you gift. "Thank you for taking such good care of Mom last year."

I was startled, to say the least, but, following Thai tradition, I thanked him graciously and put it to the side. At that point, I felt awkward about getting up and leaving. I sat quietly, anticipating the right moment.

I really did want to get to that movie! My water was already slowly heating for tea. I'd only gone in there for a quick "hello".

Five or six faces stared at me intently.

"Are you going to open that," D. asked.


"You're not in Thailand yet," she said. "We want you to open it."

Well, it's allowed when requested, even in my chosen culture. I opened it. It was a DVD player.

Again, I thanked everyone graciously, told D. that it was my honor to help her in any way I can and prepared once again to leave. Finally extricating myself from the awkward situation, I came back and watched a movie. I really do believe that was a very kind gesture on their part, to think of me that way, even going so far as to respect my adopted customs.

Sometimes people shine.

Hope all are having a day filled with whatever will bring you the most joy.



Sunday, December 24, 2006

Foggy Day and Long Walks...

I know this will probably sound bizarre and weird (as if anything at this blogspot sounds "normal and average") but I love fog! Maybe it's the mystery of it. Maybe it's the muted tones. Whatever the reason, I love taking long walks, hearing the faint wetness of my footsteps and the quick clicky sound of my dog's feet. The whole world seems so quiet, so approachable, so embracing.

It's a foggy morning here in River City. (Perhaps someone can correct me but if I'm not mistaken, Bangkok is also called "River City".) There are times when the fog gets so thick, we can't see a quarter mile ahead. Those are my favorite fog days for walking. These are times when going to the American River which runs through this city is especially appealing. The fog seems to rise up from the water itself, creating an eery view. It feels like the veil between this world and the spirit world is a bit thinner.

A check of the morning news indicates the malls will still be open today, a marathon day for retail workers who will be at it until 0'Dark Thirty tonight. The parking lots are already full.

And while the crazy shoppers are busy with their pursuits, it's a good time for a walk to a local restaurant for a cup of decaf and an English muffin.

I hope all will have a peaceful day, one that brings you fulfillment of your hopes and dreams, whatever they may be, seasonal or not.

(Yes, P. The picture above is Hong Kong. :)



Saturday, December 23, 2006

Actions and Consequences....

I got up this morning to find this in my comment box:

She had heard me and I was thankful that we had that moment before she left. My brother and sister agree that she paid the price for all of those terrible years we knew her, she paid in ways that even I think were cruel and unusual punishment.

My mother has also paid in ways that are cruel and unusual punishment.

I don't believe she has ever been loved. Her grandchildren don't contact her. She has a relationship with my brother but he sticks around mainly to pick her pocket and take advantage of her good credit rating. When my grandmother passed in 1988, the family (such as it was) fragmented completely. Everyone scattered. Most people have always kept my mother at arm's length and many just abandoned her completely.

My favorite aunt, her sister, lived near Tucson for years and when I was there, I was able to spend a lot of time with her. I remember arriving from the east coast, stopping by her house where she fed me pork chops, a baked potato with sour cream and green beans. I'll never forget that meal because it was not only delicious but it was something a mother would do. It was something my mother would not have done.

My aunt M. was an interesting person. Fiercely independent, alcoholic, smoked like the proverbial chimney and is one of those rare women of her time who had her own mind, her own opinions and she lived her own life in a quiet kind of way. She loved dogs and books. She lived in jeans and t-shirts. She worked odd jobs, everything from waitress to factory working. She was never wealthy. (Certainly not by my mother's Beverly Hills standards anyway.) Her husband died some years before and she never remarried, had no interest in men whatsoever. When we got together, we would go to thrift stores, hunting down bargains. We would talk about the news and events in our lives from the past. Sometimes we laughed and talked about nothing at all. We cooked together.

Although I didn't get to spend much time with her, I knew that is what most mother/daughter relationships were like and I was able to experience it for that short period of time. We didn't have her long enough. She died from emphysema in 1999. She was 80-something. Even with her problems and idiosynchrasies, she lived a good and fulfilling life.

My mother, on the other hand, has lived a very cold life. My father, her ex-husband, made enough money in the real estate market to keep her in the lifestyle she believed herself entitled to live. She had the trappings ~ but there is no warmth in her life. For whatever reason, she never considered that to be important. She looked down on those who had less than she did materially. I recall a friend I had as a teenager. G.. lived south of Wilshire Blvd (gasp!) and my mother dropped me off one Saturday to spend the day with her. She stood in my friend's parent's livingroom, looking all the while as though she was smelling something rotten, and said, "Oh, (Chani)! These people have nothing," and stopped just short of forbidding me to continue my friendship with G.

My friend G had a loving, caring family. All of them stuck by each other and loved one another. Living with my mother, while the environment might have been pretty, was like living in the refrigerator.

But they had "nothing".

Now my mother has "nothing".

Actions do have consequences. Our values have consequences. For my mother, unfortunately, there will be no last minute reconciliations, no mending of hearts. She will die unloved, just as she lives unloved.

And that is cruel and unusual punishment.



Friday, December 22, 2006

Mothers and Daughters.....

Sometimes it seems in the blogging world that particular topics come up in abundance in a concetrated period of time. Over the past week, there have been a few posts about mothers and daughters. Mad Hat, in a recent post, talked about grieving her mother's death.

It got me to thinking about my ill-fated relationship with my mother, one we recently tried to reconcile and failed miserably, and I wondered how it will feel when she passes. She is 75 years old this year so it is possible that it won't be that far off.

I really do not like grown people who carry on about having been abused as children. It's something that seems kind of "stuck", rather unhealthy to voluntarily assume the identity of "victim". I do not choose to be a "victim".

So, for that reason, I do not like to say that I was abused as a child. I will say it this way instead:

My mother was an abuser.

She did not abuse me with physical force. She was not a drug addict or alcoholic. She didn't scream and yell or call me filthy names. She just sucked the soul out of me instead.

She was extremely critical, narcissistic and the price for a relationship with her is to meet her expectations with complete compliance, never disagreeing or, heaven forbid, not being the person she wanted me to be. She wanted something I could never be. Typical of children in that position, I bent and shaped myself into what I thought she wanted ~ and it was still never, ever, good enough.

Not too long ago, in a spirit of reconciliation, I tried to begin a new relationship with her, understanding that it would never be fulfilling. It would never be a warm, loving mother/daughter relationship but I still believed we could find some common ground and have, if nothing else, a friendship.

It didn't work out. We both tried in our own ways and ultimately discovered that the "old stuff", the sick dynamics that defined our relationship when I was young, came back full force. Even a ten-year-plus estrangement couldn't break the pattern. My mother gives new meaning to the old phrase, "give 'em an inch and they'll take a mile." The phone calls I made to her became increasingly abusive and I made the decision that a relationship with her would not be possible. If I want to remain healthy at all, I can not have a relationship with such a toxic person.

Our final conversation was particularly contentious with her reafffirming once again what a disappointment and embarrassment I have been to her. She said, "and, furthermore, those goddamn clothes are ridiculous and make you look like an idiot. Why don't you just straighten up and get a job?" While that statement may seem rather benign on the surface, it is power-packed with a whole bunch of old stuff, the primary message being "you are not perfect and if you want a relationship with me, you'd better be what I want you to be. I only accept the best.. and I define what 'best' is... and you just don't meet the requirements" She absolutely can not accept that I will never be anything other than what I am, a wounded, imperfect human being, trying to find my way ~ just like everyone else. The second problem with the statement is that she did not respect me as an adult, a middle-aged, mature woman who owes her no explanations for the decisions I make in my life. My mother has always had a significant issue with boundaries. She doesn't have any. Her statement said it all..

In that moment, I realized there would be no reconciliation. I said, "Well, one lesson learned again. The more things change, the more you stay the same. I can't have a relationship with you. I'm sorry. I wish you well." I hung up. It is probably the last conversation she and I will ever have in this lifetime.

Grieving comes in many forms and someone doesn't have to die for the grief to begin. It's hard to say what I cried for more that day. Maybe it was for what might have been or the utter finality of knowing such a primary relationship would be non-existent in my life. I even cried for her. She is mean-spirited and bitter. She has no friends. She pities herself constantly for the life she believes she deserved and never got. She is a very unhappy, empty person. She is entirely without compassion for other human beings. I truly do wish her well though. I wish her peace. And when it comes time for her to go, I wish her a peaceful passage. But I can not be a part of her life.

And, yes, that causes me grief. For the reasons mentioned above and for the damage we all do to each other when we don't acknowledge the damage that's taken place in our own lives. It is very hard at my age to admit that I was an abused child. An adult child of abusers. One of those. It sounds so damn trendy, the latest bandwagon and fodder for endless TV talk shows. I hid it for 40 years. It was like the dust under the rug, the ghost in the closet, the shame I hid from others. But eventually those ghosts start rattling around in the closet, and the carpet wears thin, exposing the dust. I have carried that shame for 40 years ~ and I'm done. Grieving allows us to let go. It allows us to put some perspective on experiences and relationships. Hopefully, it teaches us how to build new ones.

In that respect, I will grieve my mother when she dies, just as I grieve the death of the relationship we could have had while she's alive.



Thursday, December 21, 2006

On being a human being, not a human doing....

This is a copy of an email I sent to a friend last night. He suggested I post it here. Apparently, it spoke to him and he believes it might speak to others as well. I hope it does. :)


"I am not doing enough." This old belief plagued me all my entire life too and still does on occasion. It was terribly hard for me to grasp and internalize the concept that it was ok to be who and how I really am, even though how I naturally am is not what I was taught to be.

Well, I am finally understanding and embracing that I simply am not like a great majority of other people, values-wise or by nature. I was born a dreamer. I am an artist, a creative soul with a lot of non-mainstream values. I love solitude. I don't need a lot of people close up, only a few good friends. I feel trapped by the pressures to conform to any societal "norm" set for me. I don't know how I stayed in the work force for thirty years. (Yes, I do, too. I allowed myself to become so ground down, so dead inside, that I became suicidally depressed and wanted to take my life.)

And I spent far too much energy being angry at myself because I couldn't march to the common drum beats. More than being just angry, I condemned myself for not being able to be content with being like others. Had lots of help, too, from so called "professionals" whose sole purpose was to patch me up for the gerbil wheel and send me on my way as a properly socialized person with goals like everyone else's.

I'll dare to suggest it is worth taking a long look at this. How sick is it to be pissed off at ourselves ... for simply being the kind of person we naturally are?

This is knowledge to be accepted and embraced. Never mind what the rest of the western hemisphere thinks about it! This is not a place set up to nurture truly creative people. In fact, it almost seems designed to starve out those who do not conform.

There are many angry people and many are frustrated creatives like you and me. We just have to find each other and hang on to each other. We have to nurture each other when others won't. We have to encourage each other when others won't. We have to embrace each other when others won't.

It took me a long time to discover that the freedom of sheer creativity, unleashed and not dulled by unfulfilling conformity is sweeter that any high I ever got from drugs or booze. It is unadulerated and pure. It comes from that clear well deep down inside an artist's soul. It is the stream that feeds all of who we are. AS we are. As we were meant to be and meant to live these different lives of ours.

It means risk. It means we are unlikely to ever be a) rich, b) famous, or c) well respected, sought-after members of this market-centric society. We may spend more time in the "desert" than most. It means living consciously instead of on auto-pilot.

But it also means we are more likely to discover what Maslow really meant by that peak experience of self actualization. That painting, or piece of writing or sculpture created in that "other world" where everything is always perfect, where everything makes sense. Now that is freedom!

The more we allow ourselves to be who we are, the better life will get regardless of external circumstances, events or outcomes.

Peace to all ~


Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Recognizing the Wisewomen....

Last night, I got to thinking about how we recognize our elders. First, I had to define "elder".

The primary characteristic is wisdom. The secondary characteristic would be a balanced view and understanding of the life cycle. The third would be compassion and kindness. It would be very hard for me to consider someone my "elder" who doesn't consistently exhibit these characteristics.

Most of the cultures I've studied view an elder as being one who has lived the longest. That doesn't seem right somehow. Age doesn't guarantee wisdom, balance, compassion or kindness. I am older physically but am a rather young soul in many ways.

My two elders are years apart in age. One is 67 and the other is 39. I consider both of these women to be my elders, my mentors, because of the way they live, the way they think and the way they believe.

The 39 year old woman, Dalaja, came into my life three years ago. We met in the oddest way. I was working at a wretchedly horrible job, the one that led to my ultimate choice to pursue disability. Dalaja was a big part of that decision.

She is an amazing woman. She is intelligent, beautiful and one of the most balanced people I've ever met. She radiates depth and wisdom. Somehow, she manages to get along in the world with fluidity. She is an old soul who has been here many times before. Nothing much ruffles her. She is from India and has studied with masters there on several occasions during her travels. Her parents moved here. She was not a part of that decision. She acknowledged that she would have been happy to stay in India.

I remember one day sitting in the cafeteria of this workplace with her and she began reading my palm. She said, "you have a big choice to make. You can die very soon or you can change your life." She provided details sufficient to convince me she knew what she was talking about. She wasn't playing parlor games. She used that framework to give me some important information that she was getting psychically. And Dalaja is psychic. Not the Psychic Friends Network variety or the New Age fluff bunny kind. She's the real thing. She uses palms the way I use numerology. It's just a prop.

At some point, we had a conversation about elders and age. She was telling me that in India, I would be her "auntie" since I am a generation older than she is. I told her that I didn't feel much like her "auntie" because in my estimation she has more life experience, more wisdom and more knowledge. "You are my elder," I told her, "no matter how old I am physically." She looked at me for a few minutes, thought hard and finally agreed. She is. She is an older soul. So, we decided that in Indian terms, we were sisters.

All of this to say that I believe elders present themselves in many ways, in all shapes and forms. Most of the world's cultures put too much emphasis on age alone. I believe they come to us on some level we can't articulate and we recognize them.

Who do you recognize as your elders?



Tuesday, December 19, 2006

A wonderful discovery!

I got the most unbelievably wonderful reference this morning from my Internet pal, Sevenwinds.

I did not know this existed. Truly. I didn't.

But it is just unbelievably and so perfectly timely. I try to avoid yammering on and on about being lonely for Thailand, about wanting to be there. It has been intense lately. More intense than usual. Pain in the gut intense. I'm pretty good at sucking it up and dealing with reality ~ but there are times when it truly aches.

There is not a sizeable Thai community in Sacramento. There is a rather large one in Los Angeles but it would take a lot to get me to move back there. I might. It's not off the table but it's not an ideal solution, by any means. I left a lot of baggage in LaLaLand.

So, along comes this bit of information. (Thank God/Goddess/Buddha/Vishnu/Allah for bloggers!)

He wrote a post about Wat Mongkolratanaram, a Buddhist temple, in Berkeley, not all that far from me, where there is a lively, active Thai community. Each Sunday, they have a feast of Thai food and plenty of company. It is a Thaiphile's Disneyland! As we speak, I have a call in to them, waiting to get more information from a live human being.

Initially, my thought was that I would go in the spring. By then, my eye will be (presumably) healed after surgery and I'll be behind the wheel again. As it would happen, there is a car rental place *not 1/4 of a mile from my house*. No car hassles, no eye hassles, no problem. You know, that would be the Ideal Situation.

I'm thinking a few weeks from now would be better, if harder. I'll take a bus. I'll walk. I'll ride a bicycle. (If I have a heart attack, hey, I'll go happy :) I'll hitch a ride. (Yeahm, right!) Still, the point is that I need to get there sooner than spring.

My soul needs to be fed. My spirit needs the uplift ~ and why wait until Spring to do what I need to do sooner? This may be just the resource that will keep me sane until my final departure date. Even if I only go once a month, at least it is a place to be renewed, refreshed and restored.

I can't thank you enough, Sevenwinds. You have no idea how timely this is, how it has lifted my spirits, just knowing this is available.

It seems to be how the universe works, as long as we step out of our own muck enough to see it.

(Thanks for the responses to the previous two posts. They were really more informational than anything. Sometimes I just need to explain things to the people who read here. Still, I do appreciate the nice thoughts and the concern. )



Why there is no holiday content here....

**Note** I split this off from last night's entry. The previous entry was too long. If you have the time, please take a look at the shortened version though. Thanks. :) ~C.


Some may have noticed that there is no holiday content here. I'm going to write about why that is, why I made the decision to not "go along with the program" and write stuff about it because others might want to read it.

I can not be authentic and write about something I truly don't like ~ and pretend I do. Around this time every year, I do everything possible to escape from the saturation, from the absolute onslaught of holiday sentimentality. Most of the time, I can achieve a level of indifference that keeps me sane.

Christmas has never been a good season for me. It has never been the Norman Rockwell, all hail, well met, season of good will. Instead, it was usually a painful reminder of my alienation. I am not charismatic. I am not the sort of person who is on other people's Christmas card list. I've never been the type who was included in gatherings. As I've said before, it is not a result of being disliked or anything like that. It is simply the way my life has developed. If it had suddenly changed, I wouldn't have known to deal with it anyway. I'm not good at that stuff. My job is to reach acceptance and to handle it with grace and grit.

Believe it or not, I've come to that point of acceptance. My gut no longer crunches up in pain because I might alone one more year, although it certainly used to be that way ~ back in the day when I didn't have the knowledge or experience to realize that my misfit-ism wasn't my "fault". I just landed in the wrong place. This is karma, I believe. It is a lesson to be learned. I am not bitter, nor even particularly upset about it. Certainly not any more. Nor am I fishing. The last thing that interests me is sympathy. I'm okay. However, I draw the line at having it crammed down my throat or having anyone (including me) level expectations that I can not or will not meet.

Still, this is not a particularly good time for me, either. And I won't pretend it is. There's a lot of unhealed pain from the past. It's just no longer paralyzing ~ and I don't choose to be reminded of it. I would offer my queendom for a one-way ticket to Khon Kaen, Thailand but it's not time yet. So if I seem a bit absent ~ or you notice that I am not leaving comments on holiday-related posts ~ please forgive me for being a bit self-protective right now. Everything will be back to normal in ten days or so.

Enough said.

Peace all ~ :)


Monday, December 18, 2006

Miscellany, Grace and Grit

The whole blogging world is fascinating! It is, for many of us, a way of finding a voice we didn't have in the past. Imagine ten or fifteen years ago even thinking we would put all of our private thoughts and experiences out on the Internet and that people all over the world would read. It would have gotten you a dose of Haldol and a three-day visit to the local psychiatric unit with a fairly serious diagnosis. It's an interesting social experiment. I wonder if we can go beyond the typical social dynamic and really create something with it. I believe we can.

I am new to this and don't know the "rules" yet. especially the unspoken ones. Of course, I've never been good at unspoken rules. We all write for different reasons. Some write for an intended readership. Others are random. For me, this isn't all that different than what I used to do for the newspaper. It's generally fairly topical, sometimes personal, sometimes political, sometimes religious. When I used to write for the newspaper, I had to come up with a different topic each week. My success or failure was determined by the number of letters to the editor received. Letters to the editor meant people were reading ~ hence, buying newspapers. I was encouraged to be controversial and sassy. It was a fairly good match since that's my nature. I'm a born iconoclast. Still, occasionally I'd get lazy. I'd pound something out in an hour on my old Atari computer and call it good. Then would come the dreaded call from The Editor... Himself.

My column ran on Wednesdays. It was a good spot. Himself would call on Monday and say, "You'd better kick it up a notch, Chani. Your numbers are getting low." He didn't threaten or intimidate me but I was able to read between the lines. If I wanted to keep my position, I'd better write things that would draw readers. That was my job.

I'd wrack my brain, trying to think of something to write about. I'd pour over the newspapers and magazines, watch the news shows, listen to talk radio. I had to find something new and different and say it in a way that would draw people, make them want to hear it. My highest-rated columns were vociferous attacks on the Religious Right. Well, I've kind of grown out of that now and understand that everyone has his or her own path to follow. Attack journalism no longer appeals to me. Points are made more gently these days. While the attention was kind of an ego boost and I liked getting invitations to radio talk shows ~ even the Geraldo show once ~ we all grow up and things change. We change.

I was never a "niche" columnist. No reader would know, week to week, what I might write about.

I'm saying all of this for a reason. Honestly, I write this for you, readers who pass through. I want it to be interesting. Occasionally, maybe even a little contentious or challenging. Not in the sense that we will argue but if you make me think... or I make you think.... this blog's purpose is being met.

All of this is to say one thing rather emphatically: If it seems I'm getting lazy... or boring... or if it seems I am prattling on about something just a bit too long, let me know! Send me a note backchannel or leave a comment. I will listen! If there is something you want me to write about, especially when it comes to the Thailand stuff, or if something I've written sounds misinformed ... tell me. I will do my best. I like the idea of dialogue.


I wanted to mention something new ~ a project called "Indie Bloggers". (It's on my sidebar.) The purpose of Indie-Bloggers is to bring writers together, particularly those without a given demographic theme to their writing. There is all sorts of original content, from political to personal. It is an experimental community intended to draw disparate communities together that may not connect otherwise. It reminds me of some of the Internet experiments of days long ago ~ done with email lists or forums. I hope many of you will visit and join up. (Especially you, Gobody... and Sevenwinds, you, too!)




"Three things" list...

I was actually "tagged" by Susan, the author of the Guilty With An Explanation blog. No one was more surprised than me!

1. Three things that scare me:

~Abandonment and homelessness.
~Any political/social system that uses force to serve its own ends
~Dying of a long, drawn-out illness

2. Three people who make me laugh:

~PG Wodehouse
~Roseanne (Sorry. Not my more sophisticated side LOL)
~Maureen Dowd

3. Three things I love:

~Freedom to make choices
~Friends and community

4. Three things I hate:

~Deception and betrayal
~Predatory capitalism

5. Three things I don't understand:

~Quantum physics
~Racism and the rest of the -isms. While I get it intellectually, it doesn't make emotional or spiritual sense
~Competitive social dynamics

6. Three things on my desk:

~Landline phone
~Computer peripherals
~A steaming cup of green tea

7. Three things I'm doing right now:

~Watching the news
~Working on an exercise program
~Answering these questions

8. Three things I want to do before I die:

~Get to Thailand
~Write a book
~Grow spiritually

9. Three things I can do:

~Think ~ in fact, too much... to a point where turning my brain off is an attractive idea :)

10. Three things I can't do:

~Work in a corporate environment. It literally kills my spirit and makes me physically ill.
~Be mean, critical and indifferent
~Allow my behavior to be inconsistent with my values

11. Three things you should listen to:

~Wise people
~Beautiful music
~The sounds of nature

12. Three things you should never listen to:

~ Critical negativity that has no purpose. Griping and senseless bitching. Gossip
~Anything that truly upsets the spirit and doesn't lead to growth

13. Three things I'd like to learn:

~Sensible nutrition
~To be a better writer and a better person

14. Three favorite foods:

~A good old-fashioned cheeseburger

15. Three beverages I drink regularly:

~Diet Coke
~Green tea

16. Three shows I watched as a kid:

~Dr Kildare
~American Bandstand
~Howdy Doody (when I was very, very small! LOL)

Thanks for tagging me, Susan. I had to answer. I certainly don't want to see your blog self-destruct. LOL I know I am supposed to "tag" someone else but I am not comfortable doing that ~ so I'd rather "tag" anyone who chooses to be "tagged".




If you like to laugh, wander over to Treppenwitz and listen to the recording on today's post of "Oh, Holy Crap." As many may have gathered, I'm not exactly a Christmasy kind of gal.. .but let me say this: I laughed so hard, I nearly fell on the floor!

Sunday, December 17, 2006

One more ride on the carousel....

It's back to dieting. It was horrifying to step on the scale and find two more pounds staring back at me. My wrap pants (which I live in) aren't wrapping quite as well.

The whole dieting thing is a major turn-off. I love food. There. I said it. I love good, steaming hot, gooey, greasy, sugary food. I like Chinese food, Thai food, American food, French food, Mexican food and junk food. Sweets are up there at the top of the list, along with diet Coke by the riversful. I love cooking food, smelling it and eating it equally. And anyone who gets between me and my Doritos takes her life in her hands.

So. I've made my point. Food is my friend.

It doesn't help when two of my housemates are both extraordinary cooks. D. is great in the kitchen, especially when it comes to cakes, pies, cookies, brownies and assorted other things that are not on the Chani-list. V. is Emeril's twin. When he is .. well ... sober... he is also a very good cook. When he's tired, he orders pizza.

I stopped having dinner with my housemates several months ago because I am doomed to a diet of little more than water and Thai noodles with veggies. This is so very, very sad... but one gets to the point where looking at blubber in the mirror is just plain distasteful. And this isn't vanity speaking. The cultural expectation to look like Twiggy doesn't even hit my radar screen. It's health that is the issue. There's no point in getting into specifics about how much I have to lose. I'm not obese but I am heavyset. The number I have to lose is in the mid-double-digits. However, I'm not kidding myself. "Long, tall and thin" will never happen. My British heritage bites me in more ways than one. I'm short (5'3"), stocky and thick-boned. I look more like Queen Elizabeth than Princess Diana.

Damn DNA! :)

Anyway, I've tried SparkPeople. The diet offered by that site must have been developed at Auschwitz. No one can eat so little! And there was no Thai food.

I've tried Weight Watchers. The support is good and their ideas are sensible but counting points just doesn't work for me. The exercise does work. I've actually discovered quite a lot of enjoyment in exercise.

So ... I'm on my own for now.

From here on, I'm sticking to a Thai diet. (How often do you see a fat Asian person?) A little bit of meat, vegetables and rice three times a day. Fruit between meals. That's it. No more. No less. Multivitamins and water. The only thing I will not give up is my Diet Coke.

If this weight doesn't come off, maybe I can go have it sucked out!

Anyone have some good ideas for weight loss?


~Too-Fat Chani

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Book TV and Education....

Khon Kaen University

One of my favorite activities on the weekends is to turn on Book TV, get a cup of something hot and watch the authors discuss their books. It is like sitting in a college classroom, hearing a talk by someone knowledgeable on a particular topic.

I loved school. Not primary school, not middle school and not high school. I liked none of those because the emphasis was not on learning. It was on socialization. And being a part of that was wretchedly uncomfortable and painful.

But, oh ghod, how I loved college! With enthusiasm and passion, I took classes on nearly any topic that even remotely interested me. The process of studying and discovery was a pleasure rather than a duty.

I'm a glutton for knowledge. Narrowing that down to one or two fields of study was very difficult. I had a major but it was just an excuse to stay on campus. I really wanted to take everything, a little bit of this and a little bit of that! In true dilettante fashion, nothing was off-limits. Asking me to declare a major and choose just one thing was like asking me to wear shoes that are too small.

Many people in the last few years of middle age look back and think "what should I have done differently?" This isn't the navel-gazing of the soul ~ but more a practical examination of how our intellectual pieces fit together, how we make choices and create an external identity.

There are two paths I could have gone, quite happily.

I would have made an awesome nurse. Taking care of people and learning about health-related things is a delicious fascination. Not being an innovator, nor a trailblazer, my place would have been as a floor nurse, comforting and caring for people who are ill. It would have been fulfilling and satisfying ~ and right up my natural alley.

My other choice would have been to become a professor of Cultural Anthropology with a secondary focus on historical context. There is no doubt that I would have traveled and written long, pedantic tomes on the topic. Learning about other cultures and how they become an integral part of personal and national identity is something that has fascinated me since the brain cells started firing. I chose my culture very deliberately and for some very specific reasons ~ ones I've not even begun to discuss in this venue. (I do believe we can choose culture ~ but a big part of that is the willingness to adapt to it, not picking and choosing in smorgasbord fashion. It is all integral. Culture doesn't develope compartmentally. :)

Anyway, Book TV takes me back to the academic world for a few hours each weekend. It is an opportunity to learn something new or get further clarification on something old. The topics covered are on history, psychology, comparative religion and current events. All the work featured is non-fiction. There is an opportunity to learn about the lives of influential people from many cultures and countries, religions, backgrounds and political persuasions. It is a truly satisfying way to spend time.

If you would like to check it out, it is usually on C-SPAN. It may be C-SPAN II in some areas. Give it a try!



Friday, December 15, 2006

Thai Me Up~!

If someone in this area hears that I have become a victim of homicide, tell the police my housemates did it.

For the past several months, I have been learning Thai... not very well, I might add. My post-50 brain doesn't pick up new languages like it did when I was 20. That means I have to make a lot of effort and spend a lot of time with it. While I go around the house performing various mundane chores ~ laundry, cooking, surface cleaning, dusting, taking out the trash ~ I have headphones on with Thai tapes in my Walkman. (The CD version is too awkward to carry around.) I repeat endlessly after the instructor, hoping it will take root in that little corner of my brain reserved for very unusual, tonal Asian languages. That means they are exposed to endless recitations of Thai phrases and grammar exercises.

My tongue and mouth eventually adapt to that way of speaking. Consequently, I speak English with a Thai accent for an hour after I stop my daily lesson.

"Joo won goobpok chos?"

I'm beginning to get the "evil eye" from them when I answer a question sounding like I've been possessed by malevolent, overly-talkative spirit from Bangkok.

Maybe I should be kind to them and take some thaim off.



The Pursuit of Happy-ness....

Of late, there have been endless reviews of "The Pursuit of Happyness", starring Will Smith and his son. I'm sure everyone here has seen the commercials so I won't reiterate the story here.

There are a few things I'd like to say, though.

The first one is that I will not be seeing this movie. The entire premise is offensive.

Here are a few reasons why:

The movie promotes the idea that material success is the highest value, that it will deliver happiness. It does not. The movie does absolutely nothing to promote the values of loyalty to others, charity, generosity or lessons learned through adversity that would make most of us more compassionate toward others. We never find out if Smith's character (based on a real guy.... one whom I hope to never meet) experiences spiritual growth.

It downplays the struggles of real homeless people who deal with multiple hurdles that have nothing to do with attitude or perseverance. Homeless people can not find a job because they don't have an address or a phone. They often don't have the resources for personal grooming. They often have disabilities that need to be addressed by the social services system. It is not enough to say a homeless person should just cowboy up and change their thinking. The if you really want it, you can have it mentality is shallow and unrealistic. The entire message downplays the class and race issues in this country with simplistic platitudes. It promotes the notion that only those with resources truly have the right to increased resources. How many homeless people could really walk into a Wall Street stock brokerage and get a job?

It promotes predatory individualism. At one point in the film, Smith says to his son, "Don't let anyone tell you, you can't do something... not even me." The message is that personal dreams and desire trump everything else, that we have no obligation to others or society at large. The only thing that matter is that we are individually "happy". If someone gets in the way, stomp 'em down.

The Horatio Alger theme runs through many American movies in one form or another. This one is just a bit more blatant and heavy-handed in its presentation. I give it five stars on the Mindless Propaganda Scale.

Peace to all ~


Thursday, December 14, 2006

Women and virtual community....

I wanted to follow up a bit more on yesterday's post about community, prompted by Jen at One Plus Two who writes:

"But I do know I long for a sacred place - where women come together, to debate, to heal, to grieve, to flow. A place where our truest selves can be put forth and honored like the incredible gifts they are. Where our idiosyncracies can be discussed and cherished. Where many women love my child....

And while I long for that place, I find tremendous joy in the blog world, the place where I have more honest exchanges with others than I often have in person...."

Is this possible in the virtual world, as it is in our immediate lives?

Aaaah. With a bit of reservation, I would say "possible".

I came on the Internet in 1991 when my ex-husband and I bought a phone modem, the old kind that required us to put the mouthpiece of the phone into a cup and dial in to the Delphi service. At that time, the Internet was primarily for academics and geeks who exchanged data and information on forums. There was very little personal communication. That atmosphere didn't last long.

Later that year, I was given internet access at work. I worked in the Information Technology Dept at a large company and the whole idea of having access was new. At that time, we used newsgroups. Everything from alt.culture.iceland to alt.s*x.b*ndage was at our fingertips. These all became lively, often contentious, forums where opinions overrode academia. It was exciting to sit in the middle of the night in a data center at Hewlett-Packard and talk to a guy in Iceland almost instantaneously. Things were still painfully polite then... although that didn't last long. As it became clear that the Internet was the wild, wild west, it was easy to see people acting out whatever issues they had in public. They could curse others, They would express opinions that would not have been acceptable in polite company and that was the Internet's pre-adolescent phase.

As the medium developed further, we had mailing lists. Majordomo software allowed large groups of people to discuss anything in a semi-private setting via e-mail. It was a very pleasant way to find others of like mind and exchange regular email. We used "Elm" and "Pine" as email clients. There were no graphical interfaces.

Then came the world wide web, yahoogroups, more mailing lists, forums, personal "home pages" and, finally. blogs. GUI continued to develope and anyone, not just geeks, had access to mass communication.

In watching this over the years, I've concluded that very similar dynamics occur in cyberspace as in any voluntary community. It went through a honeymoon phase, an adolescent phase, a maturing process and now is a combination of all, depending on the individual user. The technology was available but the quality of interaction still depended on each individual and how she chose to behave on-line.

One of my best friends is a woman I met on-line. Ultimately, we met personally and have maintained a friendship since 1996. She is "family", probably one of the few people I trust unconditionally. She is the person who holds my medical proxy. However, I think this is unusual.

In 1998, I witnessed one of the most vicious catfights in my personal history on-line among a group of women who gathered ostensibly to create a "women's community on-line". Going back to my earlier statement about people working out their "issues" in a nearly-anonymous venue comes to mind. These women were truly among some of the most vicious human beings I have ever observed. Like a pack of cur dogs, they turned on one woman and tore her up.


Because they could.

The entire event was like a train wreck. It was disgusting and difficult to watch ~ and I also couldn't not observe. The relative anonymity and lack of accountability on-line allowed these women to act out their basest instincts and behaviors without any risk of consequences.

It didn't ruin the internet for me... or the ideal of women's community. If that was the case, I wouldn't be paying Comcast an ungodly amount of money every month, not to mention what I pay to Earthlink. I'm here for the foreseeable future. But still, it did show me what is possible, just as my friendship with S**** showed me what is possible.

Trust ~ real trust ~ is formed through knowledge of another person in all settings. It is based on knowledge of a person's values and how she lives them. How does it manifest in her life on a daily basis, especially when external life sucks?

We can admire someone's writing, her ideas, her maturity, her wisdom, her *being* on the Internet. We can form a community of likeminded others who exchange ideas and thoughts. It is a venue where we can air out issues and get input from those wiser and more knowledgeable than ourselves. We can offer encouragement and comfort to someone who needs it. We can educate each other.

We can not be "friends" in the truest sense of that. How can I be your friend ~ but be unable to cook for you when you are sick... or hold your hand at a scary doctor's appointment... or babysit your child when you need time away.... or loan you money to get by for the next few weeks? How can I be your friend when I can not truly offer more of me than pixels on a screen?

That doesn't mean we can't be honestly concerned about one another. I have internet contacts in whom I am wholly invested. I care what happens for these people... and that caring doesn't go away just because the screensaver comes on.

Still, as Jen writes, we are able to exchange wisdom and knowledge, empathy and compassion. Sometimes we are able to offer some life-changing nugget to someone who is ready to hear it.

That is an element of community-building... an important element.. but it will never be a substitute for the "real thing".




Comment about "comments": I understand that some people have been unable to leave comments here due to a glitch in the Blogger software and the beta/non-beta dogfight. It seems to be a chronic rather than temporary issue. On this blog at least (which is beta), comments can be left anonymously or by signing in as "Other". They are not moderated. I hope that will work. I really miss some of you who used to leave your nuggets of wisdom to ponder.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Finding community amidst strangers.....

Jen at One Plus Two wrote this morning about building community, how to form community and I left an extraordinarily long comment because this is something worth examining ~ and I have over a lifetime.

I remember two of my methods that failed repeatedly:

1) One was to find the progressive community. (Enemy of my enemy is my friend.) As long as we were working on a project together, contact was generous. As soon as the election, the cause, the issue, the whatever was complete/resolved, the community disappeared. The phone stopped ringing and the invitations stopped. So... like a lost puppy, I would wander around the alleyways, looking for my next cause or my next project, hoping each time that there would be some sort of permanent community connection.

2) I've always met my significant others through personals ads. Being a quiet, shy-natured person who can not function in a high-powered or competitive environment made it difficult to find potential mates. And... I met my ex-husband that way and we were married three months later. After all, those guys advertising would probably be shy guys, right? Just like C. (Here's where I fall on the floor, laughing.) Most of the men my age who advertise in personals columns are middle-aged adolescents whose wives or girlfriends finally dumped them because they got fed up with their crap.

But still, these are two methods I used for more than twenty years. Like a vinyl record with a skip, I just kept repeating, over and over. And would be shocked and disappointed when the methods failed once again. Each time they failed, I was less inclined to try ~ and ultimately ended up in the previously mentioned "desert".

During that time in the desert, I got a pretty clear sense of who I am. I learned that I am not a trailblazer. I am a follower. Not a mindless one, but a follower. I am sensitive, artistic and very, very intense emotionally. I am peculiar. I'm not conversationally smooth. I'm eccentric. I have the social skills of a toddler. I don't care about most of the things that many others base their lives on. Power, influence, acquisition, materialism or produce-and-consume just bore me stupid. Objectively, I would never fit into dominant culture and if I kept trying, it would only lead to more depression, discouragement and, finally, despair. And I'd remain just as f***ing lonely as I'd been for all those years before.

I began to explore eastern and New Age religions in Tucson. I found some commonality of belief. The principles and beliefs made sense to me without having to shove my being into boxes that didn't fit. Every time I tried to include myself in a western religious community, it would be okay for a while but inevitably parts of me would start falling out the sides. The community would disappear because I couldn't or wouldn't meet their expectations. Even the New Age community came and went because I found the phoney cheeriness of it shallow and unfulfilling. I just couldn't drink that Kool Aid.

Buddhism was a different issue. Its inherent understanding of the nature of life and its cycles made perfect logical sense and I gobbled it up. I'm not here to peddle religion so I'll leave it at that. It was, however, the foundation of my fledgling community. It is where I would find my first acceptance by likeminded others.

Finally, I went to Thailand. That is where all the pieces came together. That is where the many pieces of a very scattered jigsaw puzzle formed a picture. I do have community now, albeit small. Even though every person I meet within the Thai/Asian community isn't an individual fit, there is a common belief and ethical system at the root that creates community.

This culture has a back-assward method of establishing community. That is to build a bridge between two autonomous individuals who are assumed to be separate. So we have job-interview style conversations where we dig and search for similarity. Even more frustrating is the obsession with "clicking". We want the "magic". Hey ho, there ain't no "magic". The way we relate to and treat each other is a chosen behavior.

My method now is to assume connection until it is shown that it doesn't exist but the community remains because of foundational belief and cultural similarity. It does not assume separateness. It assumes oneness.

So.. if I knew then what I know now, would I have experienced "the desert"? No. Probably not. I don't think so. And it seems the two essential elements are geography and self-knowledge. No, we can not grow orchids in the desert. Orchids need fertile soil. They need water. We need to find the right soil where we can grow and blossom.

Peace to all ~ and may we all have the comfort of community ...


Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Enemy of my enemy is my friend...

I've been giving some more thought to various forms of community building and the title phrase describes how community was formed in my world, prior to *TBC.

There was something thirstily delicious about having a common enemy, whether it was political, spiritual or intellectual, that bonded us to each other. The only trouble with that method is that as soon as the enemy disappears, so does the community.

Yesterday, I was listening to CNN and Tom DeLay came on to say that he has started a blog. The purpose of the blog is to "compete" with other blogs, to gain more readers, to gain more influence, than some of the political blogs that already exist.

"Why" was my natural question. Why does it have to be "better" or "more powerful"? Why can't it be informative and provide people with something to think about, some new information, something worthwhile, simply because its worthwhile. No further objective.

Prior to *TBC, I wasn't exactly competitive... but I was always looking for signs of acceptance. It was an ego thing. Neither is particularly healthy and diminished my ability to simply be... to enjoy... to love others simply.

Expressing our internal spiritual life or growth in and with external actions has a great deal of importance. I don't need to set up dichotomies that separate. I prefer the Shinto 3-lobed tomoe and its symbolism to the dual yin-yang, completely different than the either/or interpretations in western culture. My perspective is more on how I can integrate all of the parts into a life, self, way of expressing and living that integrity.

It got me to think about what I'm doing here. Do I do this for readers? You betcha. Do I do it for interaction? You betcha. Do I notice when a topic isn't drawing many readers? You betcha. I do this for interaction. Do I do it for ego? No. I have no need to "write for myself". I have a journal for that. I have a brain with a reasonable amount of RAM. It stores a fair amount of information, although certainly not as much as it did ten or fifteen years ago.

Finally though, two things stand out for me as worthy of respect in any venue, including this one. One is a person's capacity for compassion. Second on that list would be anyone whose words and actions match up.

As a storyteller, I know that words can portray any sort of illusion. But anyone who can speak, and we see those words portrayed in their actions, is I believe deserving of respect.

I think the two however have to work together.

So I had to set a boundary or two on this. Will I compromise what I write here for readers? Yes. In this respect only: If it seems that I prattle on about something that is of interest to no one, I will stop writing on that topic. Am I willing to be someone else to attract readers? Hell, no!

The day this becomes a "competition" with anyone, for any reason, it will be time to stop. There is no need to contribute to the popularity contest mentality, to be "better than" or "more powerful". The day it becomes apparent that I no longer have a viable readership, I will give thanks to all who passed through and stop. The reason at that point would be because my voice would no longer have relevance ~ or better stated perhaps would be that the ideas I express no longer have relevance in this setting. If I exhaust the pool of ideas, it's time to stop. If I am no longer provoking thought, laughter or interest, it's time to turn off the lights and go home.

I speak my truth. And I hope that's good enough.

Peace to all ~


(*TBC - Thai By Choice)

Monday, December 11, 2006

Creating a village....

Well, gosh! After half an hour of arguing with Blogger about uploading a photo and getting the cursor back to the template, I've forgotten entirely what I wanted to post about! I'm beginning to kind of enjoy my morning tussle with the service. Can't upload photos in Internet Explorer but can in Firefox. Can not type text into Firefox but can in Internet Explorer. Then comes the tango with the spacing and paragraphs. Gee, I don't know whether to laugh or throw my computer out the window!

Jai yen yen! Jai yen yen! Calm heart! Calm heart!

It's hard when I feel like taking a mallet to this whole thing! :)

Anyway, last night I began giving some thought to how we create community. This is more complicated than just "meeting other people and doing something." It is a process that begins from the inside and manifests outward. For those of us who were planted in the wrong garden, that can take some examination. Since I didn't discover "my" community until I was post-50 years old, there are some very distinct challenges. In many ways, I'm like a feral cat who has been taken in by kind strangers who give me a safe place to sleep, food and nurturing. There are times when I have to be very careful to not "scratch" these kind people as a result of my own past experiences. One of the primary blocks I find to community-building is .... me. My preconceived notions about people, my expectations and my past.

Around 8PM last night, I heard from my Target friend again. He asked if I was done being angry with him.


"Yeahm. You sounded really mad."

I was surprised to hear him say that because I didn't feel angry. I felt disappointed.

It took a while but the time comes when we do have to look at other people's perceptions and evaluate the correctness of them. Big gifts can be disguised in sentences. Listening is how we receive. No one is "right" all the time. Not even me. (That's a joke... )

P. and I continued our conversation and it was enlightening, to say the least.

He was right and I was wrong.

I was responding to him with my "old stuff". My feral stuff. My claws came out and I scratched. In my attempts to create community over the years, I've been disappointed so many times that I've come to expect it. And that's how I respond. At the first sign of potential rejection, I buck up and get ready for flight. Like the proverbial puppy that's been kicked too many times, I run as soon as it looks like it might possibly happen again. It's a small wonder that anyone can put up with this. Good grief! The friends I have are going to heaven for sure! Ghod bless 'em all! I'm just an extremely fortunate woman. There are people who see value in me, even when my behavior doesn't justify it.

This is something I've tried to fix over the years. I've tried therapy, New Age thought, NLP, affirmations and every other thing that might break the programming. Now it occurs to me that I owe it to others to break the pattern and begin to give them some credit for decency. In reality, there are very few people who intentionally harm others. Sometimes that's the real key to change. It stops being about us ~ and starts being about others.

And from now on, I will make the conscious effort to remember that. I don't want to be a prisoner of old patterns, old ways of thinking, especially those that no longer serve anyone.

P. and I continued our conversation for two hours. (!! Two hours on the phone is a long, long time!) We found so many things we have in common. Our political views are similar, our values are similar, our general worldviews are similar.

And to think... I almost missed out on a wonderful new friend because of old fears.

It's criminal.

He says he has the solution for me. (I was just as honest with him as I have been here this morning. In fact, I gave him the URL to the blog.) He wants me to go with him to some events, specifically Asian events. He says "you'll fit right in." I laughed and said, "yeahm. My whole oversized British self, eh?"

"Oh, crap," he said, "you're more Asian than I am!" (Interesting coming from a guy with a Cantonese accent so thick that can be sliced with a knife!)

But.. he's probably right. Sometimes we have to go in search of community that fits our shape and size. My evolution to *TBC (Thai By Choice) has opened doors that were never open before. That's something I want to explore a bit more in a general sense. There are so many people who can not find community. We live in a culture that idolizes self-sufficiency and independence. Truthfully, no one is completely self-sufficient, nor are we all that independent. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over, expecting different results. Yet we continue doing it.

So.. thanks to all who know me and have put up with this rather distasteful aspect of my being. Thanks for the times you coaxed the scared little puppy out of the hole in the wall.. and accepted me anyway. I commit to you.. and to me.. that I will fix this.

Thanks, P. You said what I needed to hear. I owe you a lunch.

May all beings be free from the tyranny of my expectations.

Peace all ~