Friday, November 30, 2007

Mothers and Daughters, Redux

This is a portrait of a woman. One woman. And her impact on another life.

It's about my mother. This morning while reading posts with my coffee I came upon a post that made me stand up and take notice. The writer defined something so central to my mother's and my relationship (when we still had one) that I nearly gaped.

Funny that I couldn't define it before but sometimes when we're too close to something, it's difficult to see it clearly. It becomes blurred and far too long.

Anyway, my mother. Helene.

Helene was always beautiful and she knew it. She was interested in acting and singing which is probably why she was drawn to Los Angeles. She hounded my father relentlessly until he finally left his family, her family and all their joint relatives to head off across the country. Literally. From the east coast to the west. Helene was a very vain and very selfish woman.

Still, she wasn't happy. There was no Lana Turner story in her future, no matter how much she wanted it. She joined all the requisite groups, participated on the periphery of that world as much as possible. Just the same, outside of being hired for one commercial, she never made it big in Hollywood.


Anyway, I was five or six years old then and she must have realized that although her own dreams might not come true, she could make them come true through me. If I didn't show the appropriate interest, that is when the abuse would start. It would be communicated on no uncertain terms that I was a failure and a disappointment. She would leave pictures of the daughters of her friends on the mantle because they were "good girls". Mine was not there. You do the math. Helene was not one to mince words and when she was disappointed, by God, someone was going to pay.

If I, a tomboyish kid, didn't want to go to the Barbizon School and spend time trying on clothes at Mackie's Deb Shoppe, it could only be because I was an inferior creature who didn't understand fully enough what my destiny was to be. I was being belligerent and rebellious. Belligerent or rebellious children did not deserve to be loved.

I was a bookish, nerdy kid who had no interest in those kinds of things. Never a girly-girl. I would rather get lost in biographies and hike in the mountains. Well.. if you consider Bel Air to be "the mountains" but let's not quibble! :)

During the years at home, I withdrew more and more. I found comfort in my books, in the radio, in television. I spent most of my time away of school hiding in my bedroom. I lived for the times when I wouldn't have to appear for a family dinner, preferring to take my food to my room where I could watch TV away from everyone else. During the weekends, I would take long, long walks and then come home to my room.

I didn't want to be anywhere near that woman because of the relentless criticism for every petty, minor infraction. If I held a fork wrong.. or spoke out of turn. If I wasn't dressed right. If my hair wasn't combed correctly.

Silence was always safe. I wanted to be invisible. If I kept everything I thought, believed or wanted to say inside, I would be safe. I learned how to separate from my Self. All these things were happening to someone else, not me.. not the me I protectively wrapped in an unpenetrable bubble. Life took on a feeling of unreality. It was like living in a movie.

The result of that is that it took a very long time to learn to know what I wanted or didn't want. I automatically assumed that my own thoughts were not reliable, that I was not reliable and I should not trust myself. I often trusted the wrong people to guide me. They were people who wanted to use or hurt me.

When I got old enough to move out, I went out into the world totally unprepared. I moved into a small cottage in West Hollywood and while I felt as though I could finally breathe without having to withstand the onslaught of criticism from that woman, I didn't know the first thing about maintaining myself. I made a ton of mistakes, some of them life-altering and very hard to repair. I also discovered alcohol.

I say all of this because in the post I read this morning, the woman/mother writing acknowledged that her children are not extensions of herself. She would never allow herself to feel disappointed because her children might not like or value the same things she does. All I could say is "yay!" and privately I thought "you just saved yourself a lifetime of heartache, not to mention your kids" because the cost of trying to live through someone else is very high for both sides.

We all come to this planet with our own lessons to learn. We (according to my belief) agree to certain situations because that is what our soul requires to grow. I believe I chose my mother because it forced me to separate myself from that, to recognize that my life belongs to me, that I can trust myself, that I have everything I need.

But it was a hard road, harder than it needed to be. I still carry the scars from that mother/daughter relationship, the one where the standards were impossibly high, that I couldn't have measured up because I simply don't have the talents she required of me. The consistent sense of my own inferiority is something that will probably never leave. I've learned to make peace with it.

These days, Helene and I don't have a relationship. That must be part of the agreement we made before we came here to live out this karmic dance. At the same time, it's a very painful road.. for both of us, I'm sure.


Thursday, November 29, 2007

Gays in the Military....

Last night, I sat and watched the Republican YouTube debate. As always with these things, I have an outsider's view and often find myself agreeing with both sides. As someone who in US terms would be described most accurately as a fiscal liberal and a social conservative, there are things said that I agree with wholeheartedly and some things that sound like drivel. And that's on both sides of the political spectrum.

The debate posed about gays in the military offended me horribly, both as a social conservative and a community member. I can't imagine anyone justifying the marginalization of any segment of the population, especially when it's based on false data. In common terms, I call that "propaganda".

One of the candidates stated that he believed the "don't ask/don't tell" policy was correct because most people who join the military are "conservative" and subscribe to "Judeo-Christian values".

That's garbage.

Most of the people who join the military are minorities and poor people. There are campaigns used by the military to draw them in, promises of college funds and benefits. Many people see it as a way out of poverty and that's an entirely valid reason to choose it.

Why not present it that way? Honestly.

When social conservativism becomes nothing more than a tool to marginalize and discriminate against members of the population, whether it be religion or s*xual orientation, it is wrong and loses its credibility. It is a misapplication of the entire concept. Social conservatism is about traditional values which has almost as many definitions as "blue". What are "traditional values"? Whose values?

Do those values really represent a majority of people in the community? I would say not. If traditional values would loosely be defined as "character, commitment and courage", how can it be seen as courageous, good character or a sign of commitment to imply that an entire segment of the population is lacking those things so completely that they should not be permitted to serve?

Not only is that infantilizing, it is bigotry. The implication then is that gay people are unable to understand appropriate behavior, that they can not control their s*xual impulses enough to work in a group with those who are unlike them. It also perpetuates the idea that gay people want to "recruit" straight people as though it is some bizarre competition where those with the most members at the end wins?

I call that "ignorance". It is no more and no less ignorant than creating social policy based on ethnic stereotypes.

What say you?

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Answer as though you are not afraid....

This morning, I was searching around through various blogs and came upon Frida's site. She encourages everyone to answer 35 questions that were originally published in Vanity Fair.

I am always reluctant to answer these kinds of questions. It seems as though they presuppose certain answers. Those answers are not typically my answers. I'm always concerned that my answers will accentuate my eccentricity which is difficult for some people to deal with. They want and expect me to be more mainstream, more predictable, more "normal".

Lately, I've been coming to understand that I will never be a "normal" person. I will always be offbeat and unpredictable. The things I value and love are different than what most people who surround me value and love.

And that's okay.

I'd encourage everyone to answer these questions, too, and peel back a layer. Answer as though you are not afraid of what others will think.

1. What is your idea of perfect happiness?

Being surrounded by geographic beauty. Being surrounded by people who know how to love. Peace. A world without competition, power-brokering and self-centeredness. I look forward to a world one day where differences will be embraced and celebrated.

2. What is your greatest fear?

Being abandoned and completely alone. I remember too vividly what that was like and it is the stuff of nightmares.

3. Which living person do you most admire?

Thich Nhat Hahn. The reason for that is that he is able to present universal truths that transcend religious views and cultural semantics. Everyone can relate to his message.

4. What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?


5. What is the trait you most deplore in others?


6. What do you consider the most overrated virtue?

"Hard working". Hitler was hard-working. It says nothing about integrity or kindness. "Cheerfulness" for the same reason.

7. On what occasion do you lie?

When the truth would be cruel or demeaning to another.

8. What do you dislike most about your appearance?

I'm too heavy. It's not that I care what anyone else thinks about my weight but I am not happy with it. (Working on it. :)

9. What is your greatest regret?

I don't think regret is useful. It's a mental trick we play on ourselves but it is truly useless.

10. What or who is the greatest love of your life?

I don't think I have found that yet. Additionally, I have such a hard time weighing and measuring these things. At the moment I am loving someone or something, it is intense and complete.

11. Which talent would you most like to have?

The ability to write a book ~ a good book.

12. What is your current state of mind?

Currently, I am being plagued by a low-level dysthymia.

13. If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

I would be a more joyful person.

14. What do you consider your greatest achievement?

Surviving and coming out the other side of a very difficult and vacant past without turning to bitterness or meanness as a means of coping. Sobriety. It would have been so easy to stay drunk.

15. If you were to die and come back as a person or thing, what do you think it would be?

I believe I would come back as a monk. Seriously. I really am a rather monastic person now by nature. Most of the things "of the world" are not of much interest to me.

16. What is your most treasured possession?

The journals of a very wise former friend who is now on the Other Side.

17. What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?

No longer recognizing the inherent good in other people or myself.

18. Where would you like to live?

Northern Thailand.

19. What is your most marked characteristic?

Stubbornness, eccentricity, persistence, a willingness to stand up for the things I believe most strongly. Compassion and empathy drive those qualities. I truly care about other human beings and animals. On the negative side, I can be very single-minded and rather judgemental.

20. Who are your favorite writers?

There are simply too many to narrow it down to a few.

21. Who is your favorite hero of fiction?

Anne of Green Gables. She was so wonderfully good-natured and resilient. She was joyful.

22. Who are your heroes in real life?

Of course, my first would be Ajahn S who was able to dig through all the crap in my life and point me in the right direction. I am alive today because of him. He has truly been my "angel". The remainder of my heroes include all of those who are overcomers.

23. What is it that you most dislike?

Meanness, self-centeredness, pettiness, competitiveness

24. What is your motto?

“Be the change you want to see in the world”

25. Favorite Journey?

Walking along a certain path in Khon Kaen with Ajahn S.

26. What do you value most in your friends?

Kindness, commitment, passion, reliability

27. Which words or phrases do you must overuse?

I can't think of any offhand.

28. Which historical figure do you most identify with?

Joan of Arc. Okay. Go ahead and laugh. :)

29. What is your greatest extravagance?

Books, clothes

30. If you could change one thing about your family, what would it be?

That they would learn some of life's more critical lessons and choose to be more loving people.

31. What is your favorite occupation?


32. What is the quality you most like in a woman?


33. What is the quality you most like in a man?


34. How would you like to die?

In my sleep.. in Thailand

35. If you could chose what to come back as, what would it be?

A person. I would like to come back as a person who can offer more to the world than I can in this incarnation.


Please let me know if you decide to answer these questions. I'd love to read your answers.

Others who have answered the questions:

Home in Kabul

Rickshaw Diaries

Guilty With An Explanation

Living Next Door To Alice


Madness, Madness I Say


Sunday, November 25, 2007

Synchronicity is the root of coincidence....

This week for Sacred Life Sunday, I decided to write about the whole concept of synchronicity.

This past weekend, I made a decision that needed to be made a long time ago but inertia got the better of me. I am going to be moving from here sooner rather than later.

A lot of things plagued me about this decision. First, and the primary thing, is that I am a control freak. Risk is not my friend. Leaving things to chance is not something I am comfortable with at all. I like things planned and calculated for risk and having a Plan B for every situation keeps me in my comfort zone. I also play absolute hell with my rather weird sense of ethics. Things came to mind like "what if she dies alone because I abandoned her?" I battled a lot with trying to create a balance between what might be an entirely selfish decision with what on some levels is strictly healthy self-preservation.

While meditating in the garden, I began acknowledging the six directions, the winged and four-legged creatures, the water, the sky, the rocks, and all living things ... something I practiced and continue to practice since my time in Thailand. The fact that yesterday was a significant Thai holiday during which people honor water had me in that frame of mind anyway. I talked out loud to these spirits as I pulled weeds and removed dead blooms from many bushes and plants. Sometimes I stopped to play a dedication on my penny whistle. This is probably as close as I get to what might be considered conventional prayer.

Prayer works best when it is not for anything in particular. It just opens a dialogue. But that doesn't matter, not really, as a message from God, the Gods or however you define That Which Is Bigger Than All Of Us is usually incomprehensible or passed over and not noticed — not immediately anyway.

Yet as the day went along I began to notice the answers to my concerns in the form of a phone call and a visit from someone I know will help the person I am concerned about after I leave.

The pieces fell together as I realized how I can execute the move without either getting into debt or having it cause a great deal of upset. It was as clear as if it had been given to me on a step-by-step list.

I know I will be able to leave here with a free heart, knowing that I am not leaving anything behind that will create harm. It still amazes me that we can give up some control and trust the flow. This has been my most difficult lesson. I needed this obvious synchronicity to drive the point home, to put me at peace with my choice. It is very reassuring to know that I can make some decisions on my own behalf, because they benefit me, and still know that I will not be leaving a trail of harm behind.


Just a reminder: If you would like to participate in Accentuate the Positive for December, please forward your post (or someone else's) to thailandchani at earthlink by the last day of November.
The objective of the link list is to offer a series of posts that emphasize good news whether it is your personal good news or something happening in your community. It is just a good reminder of the good that surrounds us.


Friday, November 23, 2007

Horse Manure!

I'll let this picture give visual aid to my opinion of "Black Friday".

When I woke up early this morning, I turned on radio news. In bed, warm and cozy, I listened to the reports of people who stayed out in the cold all night long but talked animatedly about the bargains they would receive as a reward.

It reminded me of tailgating. The party atmosphere. They sat along the wall of the store, portable heaters blasting, wrapped in blankets, waiting for friends or family who would bring them coffee and hot food. They excitedly talked about the purchases they anticipated.

The thing I found so utterly disgusting is that particular mall is about half a mile from a homeless camp.

Bet they weren't sitting in a line, all smiles, warming their hands, drinking coffee while the vision of expensive electronic goods danced in their heads.

Some things just make me sick.


Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Let the music speak for us....


First a note to those who celebrate: I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving. To those who don't, I hope you have a peaceful, untroubled day.


This week's Roundtable is a discussion of music, life themes and the music that touches us most. (By the way, Julie, here's some Kajagoogoo.)

And two of my favorites from the 80s: Marillion and Tears for Fears :)

I'm also including this post in Wellness Wednesday because, after all, we all know that music helps make us better. While I'm too lazy to do the research, I know this is true.

It's been said that music tames the savage beast and I believe that to be completely true.

The music that has always spoken to me is the soft, the gentle, the folkish ~ the songs that speak for me, say things that matter when I don't have the words.

It can range from Jackson Browne's "Lives in the Balance" to Janis Ian's "At Seventeen". Music helped me process the things I saw around me when I was much younger, before I had my own voice. It helped me put it into words.

When Simon and Garfunkel sang "Sound of Silence", I felt as though those two men had reached inside me, read my mind, dove into the crevices and said what I couldn't say, particularly when I was so young and felt like no one in the world could possibly understand me. Adolescent angst was something near and dear to me.

I really did see myself as a tortured soul, another Jack Kerouac. And perhaps I was. It's a legitimate identity for many people.

Music helped us find each other, those of us who were on the sidelines, those of us who were alienated, those of us who never quite got caught up in the typical adolescent concerns. We discovered our commonalities and each other by listening to these songs that define so much of who we were as individuals and collectively. At least for those of us who grew up in the 50s, there were many topics we were not to discuss. Yet the "stuff" wilted and molded under the rugs. We learned at a young age that certain things were not to be said in polite company. The songs spoke for us.

And in the naked light I saw
Ten thousand people maybe more
People talking without speaking
People hearing without listening
People writing songs that voices never shared
No one dared
Disturb the sound of silence

Music pulled the rugs up and exposed the underbelly of a way of life that was supposed to be a fairy tale and was really not so much a nightmare a blissful banality. This one by Malvina Reynolds comes to mind:

Little boxes on the hillside, Little boxes made of tickytacky
Little boxes on the hillside, little boxes all the same
There's a green one and a pink one and a blue one and a yellow one
And they're all made out of ticky tacky and they all look just the same.

And the people in the houses all went to the university
Where they were put in boxes and they came out all the same,
And there's doctors and there's lawyers, and business executives
And they're all made out of ticky tacky and they all look just the same.

And they all play on the golf course and drink their martinis dry,
And they all have pretty children and the children go to school
And the children go to summer camp and then to the university
Where they are put in boxes and they come out all the same.

And the boys go into business and marry and raise a family
In boxes made of ticky tacky and they all look just the same.

The nightmares came later. Phil Ochs spoke to the beginning of the end. In NYC, when a woman was brutally murdered on the street and no one responded, he wrote this song "A Small Circle of Friends".

Look outside the window, there's a woman being grabbed
They've dragged her to the bushes and now she's being stabbed
Maybe we should call the cops and try to stop the pain
But Monopoly is so much fun, I'd hate to blow the game
And I'm sure it wouldn't interest anybody
Outside of a small circle of friends.

Riding down the highway, yes, my back is getting stiff
Thirteen cars are piled up, they're hanging on a cliff.
Maybe we should pull them back with our towing chain
But we gotta move and we might get sued and it looks like it's gonna rain
And I'm sure it wouldn't interest anybody
Outside of a small circle of friends.

Sweating in the ghetto with the colored and the poor
The rats have joined the babies who are sleeping on the floor
Now wouldn't it be a riot if they really blew their tops?
But they got too much already and besides we got the cops
And I'm sure it wouldn't interest anybody
Outside of a small circle of friends.

Oh there's a dirty paper using sex to make a sale
The Supreme Court was so upset, they sent him off to jail.
Maybe we should help the fiend and take away his fine.
But we're busy reading Playboy and the Sunday New York Times
And I'm sure it wouldn't interest anybody
Outside of a small circle of friends

Smoking marijuana is more fun than drinking beer,
But a friend of ours was captured and they gave him thirty years
Maybe we should raise our voices, ask somebody why
But demonstrations are a drag, besides we're much too high
And I'm sure it wouldn't interest anybody
Outside of a small circle of friends

Oh look outside the window, there's a woman being grabbed
They've dragged her to the bushes and now she's being stabbed
Maybe we should call the cops and try to stop the pain
But Monopoly is so much fun, I'd hate to blow the game
And I'm sure it wouldn't interest anybody
Outside of a small circle of friends

Down in Santiago where they took away our mines
We cut off all their money so they robbed the storehouse blind
Now maybe we should ask some questions, maybe shed a tear
But I bet you a copper penny, it cannot happen here
And I'm sure it wouldn't interest anybody
Outside of a small circle of friends

Each generation has its songs, the ones that take us back, remind us of the social changes that took place when we were most open to thinking, pondering and experiencing.

I've often thought historians should pay a lot more attention to music since it typically chronicles a culture more effectively than any academic tome. It journals what's important in the day to day lives of ordinary people, what a people have been through, where we're all going.


Monday, November 19, 2007

Courage and faith.....

I've seen a few posts about courage lately and it got me to thinking about that topic.

I see courageous people every day although they may not be the courageous people of novels and movies. They may not be able to run into burning buildings and save lives and they may not jump out of airplanes but they are courageous.

It's hard to come up with an operational definition for courage. Maybe it's something we know when we see it but can't conjure it up and put it in a neatly defined box.

I know that I am not a courageous person. There are times when it appalls me how little courage I have ~ by my own definition.

Would I run into a burning building to save someone?


That's not choice. It's human obligation.

Would I jump out of an airplane?

If properly trained, yes, I probably would.

But courage, I suspect, is more in the realm of the everyday. It depends on a willingness to suspend emotional safety. The physical is so much easier because we can train for that. There are coaches and teachers who are more than willing to pass that knowledge along.

One of my greatest weaknesses is an inability to step into the unknown enough to really test my own faith. Sitting in the safety of my own home, it's easy to have faith. It's easy to believe in the inherent goodness of all, the benevolence of others and a deity.

When it comes to the rough and tumbleness of the outside world, it's something I've never handled well. I've completely chickened out, even to a point of creating an ability to detach that is unhealthy. I know my limitations and the things I would not be able to handle.

I don't have what it takes to raise a child or walk someone through something so devastating that my mind can only comprehend it in small chunks. I don't have what it takes to be a single mother, struggling to feed her kids. I don't have what it takes to ever face the kind of bone-breaking poverty that some face on a day to day basis. I'm not the sort of person who would be resourceful in that situation. My past method of coping with truly hard stuff has been to run. I'm a Master Runner. When it comes to running from difficult emotional situations, I would easily win the International Marathon.

While I've certainly had my tests, thankfully the two I mentioned have not been among them. My tests have always involved having to create from scratch rather than to cope with something that already exists. I haven't done a smash-up job in the creating department, either.

This is one way I've allowed myself to be entirely spiritually lazy. I've allowed myself to live a very insulated life, one that holds safety, not wonder and amazement. I've lived on a diet of bland food, in a manner of speaking.

I believe next year's spiritual challenge has been presented ~ in the form of a blog post read in the dark morning hours.

I must be more courageous. I can not be of service to anyone when I am perpetually wandering aimlessly down the Yellow Brick Road like the cowardly lion, hoping a wizard will give me courage.

I'll do my best.

What do you think about courage? What gives you courage?


Sunday, November 18, 2007

Sacred Life Sunday... Books

Since I have been lost all weekend in a book, one that transports me to another place in time to get a glimpse of people I'd never have any way of knowing, who have ideas that are foreign to my way of thought, I decided that it is a book that is making my life sacred at the moment.

"Sacred" might seem like an overstatement. Most would think of a sacred book as being the Bible, The Dhammapada, The Q'uran, the Gita or some other book that specifically delineates or instructs a way of life. One might think a book that is life-changing would be viewed as "sacred".

But all books are life-changing.

They are the great equalizer. They allow us exposure to new ideas, new places, other cultures, other ways of life, people we'd never know otherwise and probably people we wouldn't want to know. They force us to examine things we might not examine otherwise. They promote values or lack of values. They reflect periods of history we'd never know otherwise.

Books are available to everyone. Whether you spend half your monthly income at Border's the way I do or whether you borrow from the library, books are available. You can go anywhere you choose, any time of the day you choose and you can learn anything you choose.

It is knowledge that provides us with choice. And choice is sacred.

So this week, I choose books.


Saturday, November 17, 2007

Inconsequential Saturday....

This is where I write about any old dross that happens to pop into my head at the moment, most of it from the past week.

First off, I am currently reading "The Pillars of the Earth". I can not put this book down. I am reading it in the bathroom, on the treadmill, in front of the TV, in the garden. My hand is cramped from holding it. That is how good it is. Seriously, I recommend it. It's long. Nearly 1000 pages but each page is so richly written that it reminds me of Taylor Caldwell. You feel very present in the world Ken Follett has woven.

Ordinarily I don't jump on bandwagons, particularly the Oprah bandwagon. In my own defense, I bought the book two days before she announced it as her pick. It was prominently displayed at the bookstore and I had no idea it would be Oprah's Book Club Selection.

That said.... :)

Thanks for the responses about my vanity dilemma. Yes, these things are a dilemma for me. I'm a purist in most senses of that. As a friend of mine once said, if I was a Christian, I would be a fundamentalist Christian. I'm very aware of that tendency in my own thinking. If we don't truly live something, how can we claim to believe it?

I'm also on the ascetic side. Pleasure is hard for me. Not because I believe it gains me any particular merit but because somewhere in the hardwiring of my brain, I've connected pleasure for pleasure's sake with Bad Things. So when I believe I might be using the clothing for the wrong reason, it makes me question my own motives.

The clothing is to remind me where my home is, where my soul is at most peace. Doing something that, something so physical and obvious, keeps my mind focused.

But I can see where it's certainly acceptable for others to find pleasure in it. And I want to accept that graciously.

I read a post that disturbed me this week. Let's just say it was entrepreneurism gone wacky. It is only one example of the lowering of taste and class in a culture that seems to be in freefall. Marketing for the sake of marketing, not because it improves the world or our place in it, but simply because it can be marketed without any particular backlash. People have become desensitized.

And a part of me wants to get up on the soapbox and encourage people to mindfully consume, to choose purchases carefully and look not only at the object itself but where the object fits into a larger construct. That part of me is winning at the moment.

Someone once told me that everything we do is a political statement. Not political in the horse race sense of that, but political in the sense that we are supporting certain values, certain ethics and a way of life by the way we choose to consume and what we choose to consume.

I believe this is true. Nothing exists in a bubble. While it is far from me to interfere in the holidays that are coming up for most of the people who read here (not for me, thankfully), I would ask that. Directly. Please. Be careful. Choose carefully.

Your choices matter.

Okay. Enough dross for one day.


Thursday, November 15, 2007

And on a lighter note....

Okay. Here's where I ask for opinions. :)

This morning I had to take my housemate over to the Surgery Center. She had foot surgery. That meant getting up at 5.30 AM, getting me ready, waking her up, getting her there by 6.30 AM. That in itself was the easiest part.

I hope this doesn't sound too vain, but I actually spent time getting dressed, all my Thai finery. Somehow, it made me feel better, not so tired. Besides, well, it's just what I do.

While she had surgery, I walked over to Safeway to pick up a few groceries and take a walk around the area.

Then I went back to the lobby and read a book for a few hours until they told me I could drive her home.

During that three-hour period, I got five compliments on my clothes.

Two at Safeway and three at the Surgery Center.

I really took it in and might have smiled too wide when I said "thank you" and the smile probably lasted too long.

I am not a prideful person in any regard and really try to avoid allowing my ego to get in the way of my common sense. Yet at the same time, I so appreciated those compliments. They made me feel good.

So I drank them in.

Do you think that's prideful of me ~ or vain?

Just wondering. That's not why I do the clothes but it certainly does encourage me. :)


Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Queen of the New Beginning

A winters day
In a deep and dark december;
I am alone,
Gazing from my window to the streets below
On a freshly fallen silent shroud of snow.
I am a rock,
I am an island.

Julie's roundtable this week is one I nearly skipped.

It's one of those areas where I am likely to be misunderstood, where I won't "fit in" with the "norm" (which doesn't seem like such a bad thing most of the time) and it's an area where many who read this site might not be able to relate.

It's a chance I'll take. I'm also including this in Wellness Wednesday because the topic is pertinent to both forums.

I am the Queen of the New Beginning. Since becoming an adult, I have lost everything and rebuilt three times. I've walked out on entire households three times. I would have done it a fourth time if it hadn't been for the simultaneous running out of money and visa time.

Ive built walls,
A fortress deep and mighty,
That none may penetrate.
I have no need of friendship; friendship causes pain.
Its laughter and its loving I disdain.
I am a rock,
I am an island.

The grass was always greener over the hill. There was something waiting and the puzzle was mine to solve. To find it. There was always a clue to be followed and discovered. And I had no qualms about bailing on everything. Jobs, potential communities, households of "stuff", the last of which was a small apartment filled with antiques.

I didn't care much because I didn't feel any connection. Nothing got in and nothing got out. I was confined in a small bubble of my own creation. The bubble protected me from a world I could neither understand nor love. It was a dual battle of running from the wild boulders coming down the hill and the Sisyphian process of rolling them back up.

I have my books
And my poetry to protect me;
I am shielded in my armor,
Hiding in my room, safe within my womb.
I touch no one and no one touches me.
I am a rock,
I am an island.

I was miserable in my own skin and couldn't believe that a 20-year-old, a 30-year-old and then a 40-year-old could just be waiting to die. I lived for dying. I drank a lot. My spiritual beliefs didn't allow for suicide... so I waited. My karma was to wait. That's what I decided. One day, I'd be released from the mortal coil and go home.

I don't have any warm and fuzzy stories for you, guys. Not of that life before. Not even one. And I'm not going to make them up, just to make this easier to read.

Dont talk of love,
Ive heard the words before;
Its sleeping in my memory.
I wont disturb the slumber of feelings that have died.
I am a rock,
I am an island.

Loss didn't mean anything to me because loss was as natural as breathing. Nothing stayed. Nothing was permanent. Nothing lasted.

And a rock feels no pain;
And an island never cries.

Loss was something people experienced who didn't understand that basic fact. They just made up the sentimental stories. I didn't believe them. They were liars and it's just something they were taught to say.

When I was nearly 50 years old, I took a vacation. A friend of mine who had decided to take the ex-pat route encouraged me to come visit him. I wasn't too excited about the idea but he talked me into it. Michael lived in Thailand.

Many of you know the story from there.

Sometimes a taste of honey is worse than none at all. Sometimes it's just what we need. I have a full-fledged family in Thailand. They may not be blood family but blood doesn't count for much anyway. It's connection that matters. It's stepping outside the little bubble we build around ourselves to let someone in. And I have fully let these people in.

Trust is the hardest thing of all and it is what took the longest. During the time I lived with them, I watched vigilantly for inconsistencies in what they'd say and what they'd do. I found it hard to believe that when they said they expect me to come back, that they really meant it. After a while, I finally believed them. I am not an easy person to convince. After months and months of weekly phone calls and yellow slips in my post office box, I finally came to realize they did mean it. I was part of the family. It wasn't fast or instant. But it is very real.

I'm totally against the admonition in recovery circles that "pulling a geographic" is wrong. Sometimes we really do have to find that one place where we truly belong and where we are part of the fabric of life.

It's difficult for me to imagine losing my Thai family because I don't think it's possible.

The things I've gained from them, the ideas, the beliefs, the consistency, the trust.. and, yes, even the love is something that can never be taken away from me. Every one of them could die tomorrow and I'd still carry that with me. It's a part of me.

I have a picture on my nightstand. It was taken one afternoon when there were many people visiting. We are all standing under the house (the house is on stilts). A motley group of folks suffering the heat. I am standing among them, holding one of the children. He is nuzzling my neck and I look at peace. We are all at peace. We are one.

I'm just one of the group. And if someone had told me that I'd go from blue-eyed blonde from Southern California to a blue-eyed village girl from northern Thailand, I would have laughed. I would have had a bitter laugh and poured another drink.


Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Trouble brewin'

Okay. I just have to let off a little steam.

This morning I spent a while searching out new blogs, following long and winding trails of other people's blogrolls. Click here. Click there.

Read lots of good stuff!

One woman was posting about how she felt when her comments plummeted. Well, I've certainly been there and knew how she felt so I wrote a long, considered, kind comment, telling her basically to check all the practical stuff first. Page load. Ask a question in her post that would encourage people to share their thoughts. Et cetera. Blah blah. All told, I thought it was fairly nice and an opportunity to share a lot of the same things people shared with me when I would begin to melt down about the same thing.

The comment was lost.


Because I couldn't get past the g** d*** captcha program! The pale grey on an even paler grey, obscured letters with lines through them, too many letters, upper case and lower case, on and on.

I had to give up and she never got the benefit of all your wisdom, that which was passed along to me.

I'm pissed off!

Look, let me put it on the table:

Unless you are,, Ariana Huffington, Barbara Ehrenreich or one of the really big bloggers, you're probably not going to get anything beyond the occasion hyperlinked spam comment that directs you to a teeth whitening website.

That's just the reality of it.

So why have something like that? Why make it more difficult to communicate?

Please, please, please! Have mercy on those of us who are dyslexic, those of us with poor eyesight and those of us who have no agenda beyond simply wanting to communicate with you.

Get rid of it. Please!

(huff puff. My rant is over and no one's house blew down)



Monday, November 12, 2007

Look Out for the Bogeyman!

Well, gee.

I seem to catch every bug that comes around! Actually, I was sickest Friday, Saturday and Sunday but I'm still a little bit on the wrong end of the sick continuum.

I'm not so sick that I don't feel like doing anything but too sick to do anything. After a short walk today, I ended up back in bed sleeping the afternoon away. As soon as CSI Miami is over, I'll be crawling in the sack again and will probably sleep through the night.

While this has been going on, I decided to read a mindless Nelson DeMille novel. No spiritual growth here, folks! It's been terrorists, government conspiracies and retired NYPD Detective John Corey saves the day.

Mindless. Mindless crap and propaganda but sometimes it's a relief to escape. It's so simple.

In the book called "WildFire" a bunch of rich white guys plot to nuke two US cities so they can justify a nuclear response to the Middle East. They plot and plan, choosing each city strategically based entirely on the impact to the economy. The goal is to set this up so that the US will have dominion over all the oil in the middle east.

It's worth noting of course that such a plan would never work since all the oil would be destroyed by the radiation. Am I the only one who remembers Chernobyl?

Oh well. It's fun. When my eyes get too tired, I listen to the conspiracy theories on Coast to Coast AM. Last night, they had a woman on who talked about a conspiracy to destroy the US economy so that they can introduce a new currency that will be used in Europe, Canada, Mexico and the US. This is supposed to occur in February. She assured us that it will be quite simple to learn the new currency. No need to worry.

Mark your calendars. :) The New World Order will be here.

Being sick can be rather enlightening. Gee, who knew there were so many plots going on? Amazing!


Sunday, November 11, 2007

Sacred Life Sunday: The Bicycle

I have decided to buy a bicycle.

One of my desires is to relate to my body differently, to understand it and to "befriend it".

All my life I've felt rather disconnected from it, as though it is something to be carted around unwillingly, a hindrance, something I didn't like very much.

I abused it a lot. Smoking, drinking, eating too much, never exercising it, not getting it medical attention when it needed it, ignoring it as much as possible.

It was rebellion against the idea that I am my body, that my physical appearance should be any factor in how I am received in the world.

The idea of such shallowness made me so sick that I rather frantically rebelled against it ~ to the point of abuse.

Talk about allowing me to be controlled by repugnant cultural values! Yikes!

Several months ago, I began exercising and found I actually enjoy it. Shortly thereafter, I began doing light yoga. It finally occurred to me that I don't need to treat my body as my enemy, that it needed to be integrated into the overall "me".

The body/mind dichotomy is something we all need to grow beyond at some point. By buying a bicycle and riding it, I believe it will help me get over that ~ not to mention improving my health.

Of course the first few times I fall on my ass, I might change my tune.

We'll see.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Five really good things.....

Name five really good things. Right now.

~ The soft cloudy morning

~ The taste of fresh coffee

~ The feel of the lap blanket over my legs as I sit here

~ Reading a mindless cheesy Nelson DeMille novel

~ Hot toast with honey

Okay. Go ahead! Think of five good things off the top of your head and post them or leave a comment.

Shamelessly snarfed from Kelly's blog.


Friday, November 09, 2007

Passing through the gates...

..when we finally know we are dying, and all other sentient beings are dying with us, we start to have a burning, almost heartbreaking sense of the fragility and preciousness of each moment and each being, and from this can grow a deep, clear, limitless compassion for all beings.
- Sugyal Rinpoche

Last night, I was watching a show on PBS that impressed me a great deal. It was about medical research, how scientists explore the various parts of our bodies, how they age and how they eventually die.

In this particular segment, they discussed Alzheimer's Disease and how they figure that it may be only five years until they can reconcile that disease, make it only a chronic condition rather than fatal and can slow down the progress. While they might not be able to reverse it, they might be able to keep it from progressing any further from the point of diagnosis.

I was spellbound. They explained that a large reason for this progress in medical research is because of those who donate their bodies after death to science. They can often examine the corpses before all the cells have died. There is still quite a bit of activity going on in our bodies, even after we have technically died.

When a body has been donated, they can be kept on life support until the research institution can collect the body.

When one gets to my age, we start thinking about these things a bit more seriously. The women in my family are rather long-living but I do have health conditions that could take me out early. My spiritual beliefs are strong enough that I have a fair sense of what will occur after I leave the mortal coil. If I'm wrong, I'm wrong and won't be able to do much about that. What I do know is that I believe strongly our souls go somewhere else and do something else.

So what do we do with what we leave behind? What do we do with our bodies?

The whole concept of funerals seems perverse to me. Completely perverse and ego-based. I could never consent to such a thing. It imposes unnecessary expense on those I leave behind and is an individual focus that I would find very uncomfortable.

I joke with people who know me well that I will come back and haunt them if they do such a thing. That rattling around that they can't quite place? It'll be me.

And I can be really annoying! :)

One of the things I know is that I want to end my life with meaning, just as I want to live it with meaning. Leaving my body to science is so consistent with who I am and what I stand for that I am currently investigating how to make sure that desire is documented.

I'm not interested in "selling" this idea. I'm not about that and won't do it. All I'd ask is to give it a passing thought, to consider all the people who might be helped by the medical research that is provided by just one body.

We're all in this together. I can't think of anything with quite as much meaning as this would be, making use of the shell we leave behind as our souls soar to the next plane of existence.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Blog Blast for Peace: If not now, when?

When we talk about peace, it is easy to wax poetic about creating a peaceful planet where we all live together in harmony. We can talk endlessly about the ideals. We can talk endlessly about Buddha and Christ, Mohammed and Maimonedes and their visions for a peaceful future. We can talk all we want about how we want peace.

Peace isn't theoretical. Peace isn't a roundtable topic. It's a choice. It's a way of life.

There are times when it is appropriate to point the fingers where they belong and identify it with clarity. I'm a believer in the old axiom "sunshine is the best disinfectant."

So, let's lay it out:

When business interests, corporate profit and money matters more than human beings, we will have war.

When it is more important that you get to choose red shoes over blue shoes while others in the world starve, we will have war.

When it is more important that you can choose those shoes than the exploitation of labor in third world countries, we will have war.

When belief in national superiority becomes more important than our common humanity, we will have war.

When geopolitical advantage is more important than feeding the children, we will have war.

When individual market freedom means more than community, we will have war.

When men matter more than women, we will have war.

When you believe that you can be free when others are not, we will have war.

When poverty is viewed as a character issue rather than a social failure, we will have war.

When I believe I matter more than you, I will wage war.

When you believe you are more important than me, you will wage war.

Be the peace you want to see in the world.

That is the only answer.

Wellness Wednesday: Dance With Me...

I have sent you my invitation,
the note inscribed on the palm of my hand by the fire of living.
Don't jump up and shout "Yes! This is what I want! Let's do it!"
Just stand up quietly and dance with me.

Show me how you follow your deepest desires,
spiraling down into the ache within the ache,
and I will show you how I reach inward and open outward
to feel the kiss of the Mystery, sweet lips on my own, every day.

Don't tell me you want to hold the whole world in your heart.
Show me how you turn away from making another wrong
without abandoning yourself when you are hurt and afraid of being unloved.

Tell me a story of who you are,
and see who I am in the stories I am living.
And together we will remember that each of us always has a choice.

Don't tell me how wonderful things will be.... some day
Show me you can risk being completely at peace,
truly okay with the way things are right now in this moment,
and again in the next and the next and the next...

I have heard enough warrior stories of heroic daring.
Tell me how you crumble when you hit the wall,
the place you cannot go beyond by the strength of your own will.
What carries you to the other side of the wall,
to the fragile beauty of your own humanness?

And after we have shown each other how we have set and kept the clear, healthy boundaries that help us live side by side with each other, let us risk remembering that we never stop silently loving those we once loved out loud.

Take me to the places on the earth that teach you how to dance,
the places where you can risk letting the world break your heart,
and I will take you to the places where the earth
beneath my feet and the stars overhead make my heart whole again and again.

Show me how you take care of business without letting business define who you are.
When the children are fed but still the voices within and around us shout
that soul's desires have too high a price,
let us remind each other that it is never about the money.

Show me how you offer to your people and the world
the stories and the songs you want our children's children to remember,
and I will show you how I struggle,
not to change the world but to love it.

Sit beside me in the long moments of shared solitude,
knowing both our absolute aloneness and our undeniable belonging.
Dance with me in the silence and in the sound of small daily words,
holding neither against me at the end of the day.

And when the sound of all the declarations of our sincerest
intentions has died away on the winds,
dance with me in the infinite pause before the next great inhale
of the breath that is breathing us all into being,
not filling the emptiness from the outside or from within.

Don't say "Yes!'
Just take my hand and dance with me.

Oriah Mountain Dreamer

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Hitting the Wall

"Forgiveness is the name of love practiced among those who love poorly. The hard truth is that all of us love poorly. We need to forgive and be forgiven every day, every hour - unceasingly. This is the great work of love among the fellowship of the weak that is the human family." -Henri Nouwen

Sometimes I forget that I can be safe. That is especially true when I am afraid of being left behind, afraid of being unloved, afraid of being abandoned. It's those times when I take seriously the idea of compassion ~ even for me. My claws can dig deep, especially when I am afraid.

And in that, I have often hurt other people. I haven't been willing to let go when the time is right. I haven't been able to truly wish them well.

Then I have to remind myself about the expansiveness of who we all are ~ an expansiveness that makes us capable of compassion when we thought it was impossible.

I'm learning that lesson right now as I got some news yesterday from my doctor that I would have preferred to not hear. Due to the actions of others, I have an illness that will never leave. I can't get rid of it. Can't will it away. Can't pretend it doesn't exist. It does and it affects my ability to connect to others in a meaningful way, in a way that comes naturally to most. "It's permanent but it's treatable," he said.

I spent the evening in a slow burn, wanting to exact revenge on those who perpetrated this damage.

Then in the dead quiet of night, I came to understand that I can not expect to be forgiven if I do not forgive, if I do not honor the woundedness that caused the abuse that changed the hardwiring in my brain.

When I think of the people who did this, when I hear other stories of those who have survived childhood abuse, I choose to see in meditation - the perpetrators and me - held by the heart that is larger than all of us ~ and at the same time, a part of us.

I can't help but see on some level that they were both children once, too. They both had hopes and fears. That way it becomes possible to somehow connect us, to make me understand a bit more.

While there are certainly degrees of hurt, I'm not sure there are differences in kind. What hope do I have of being held in that same large heart if I close mine to those who hurt me ~ but continue in my own human way to hurt others by hanging on so tight that it's difficult to let people go when they need to go?

If only it were so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart? - Alexander Solzhenitsyn

Monday, November 05, 2007

No Mo' SloPaLo


Well, given that I have been informed that my page load can be a bit obnoxious, I moved all of my blogrolls to a different site. If you click on the link "Chani's Blog Rolls" where the long blog roll used to live, you will be taken to a separate blog page which has the javascript logs and my personal blog roll.

Just in case you are not on it... and you know you are supposed to be.. please let me know. Do say something because my memory isn't all it could be, particularly my short term memory, so I'd appreciate very much if you speak up. I want you to be there if you should be. If you come here regularly, you should be. That's the operational standard. :)

Please give me feedback about the page load. If it's still difficult, maybe I can remove some more of the javascript.

Thanks. :)


Sunday, November 04, 2007

NoMo NaBloPoMo.....


Sorry to say... it simply hasn't worked for me.

No one is seeing my posts because I'm stuck in Google Reader and Google Reader holds my posts for over seven hours. I've tried to get technical help from Google and I get no response. Apparently very few people visit this site independently and it feels like a ghost town.

So... I'm going to decline NaBloPoMo and just go back to posting when I feel like it. I'm still going to stick to the positivity theme but this turn of events is not making me feel positive. It's making me feel horrible. This is supposed to be a satisfying hobby. It's supposed to make me feel a sense of community, not another source of aggravation. I just feel desolate. And I feel pressured because posts are backing up. I would rather write one good post and leave it up for a few days than struggle with this damn technology and timing that feels more a hindrance than helpful. I don't want to cater to Google Reader or Technorati.

I'm not disappearing ... but I am going back to not posting on Saturday and Monday. Since I've committed to Sacred Life Sunday, I will continue doing that.


Sacred Life Sunday: Simplicity

"I have lived long enough to learn how much there is I can really do without... He is nearest to God who needs the fewest things." -Socrates

I am in the process of clearing out a lot of "stuff" I've gathered over the past six years. Each week, I fill up the recycle can and put it out on the curb. I've had so many ads under "free stuff" on Craigslist that people are beginning to recognize them. All of this in preparation for another move early next year. I am on a waiting list for subsidized senior housing in Berkeley. When a one-bedroom apartment becomes available, I won't have a lot of notice.

Since the early 90s, I have always traveled light and for some unknown reason have never had trouble walking away from households full. The first time I did it was 1993 and the second time, I left it all behind when I had to leave the east coast suddenly. I have a very transitory relationship with "stuff". I enjoy it while I have it.. but leaving it behind doesn't bother me.

At the same time, I do have some things, some memorabilia and other objects that are meaningful to me. For some reason, I've carried around Victorian lampshades I made by hand in the late 80s through various moves. I missed them while I was in Thailand and made a few there. They are at Ajahn S's house.

I have books that mean something to me. Usually they are books that have spoken to me on such a deep level that I can't part with them because they are my "reference" books. They set my thinking straight. Other books, I am giving away. Occasionally, I will post about a book here and anyone who wants it just needs to send me an address. I'll mail it to you. First come, first serve. Being someone who reads on average of 2 books a week, this offer will not be infrequent.

There's a small box of jewelry. Beautiful pieces I've bought at pawn shops and yard sales all over this country and in other countries. It doesn't have all that much monetary value (as if I care) and they're beautiful. I can always count on a compliment when it comes to my rings.

Basically, all of this can fit into two footlockers. And one of the foot lockers is for my clothes.
All of my clothes (aside from the obvious frequently replaced things) are from Thailand. They are unique and I will be taking all of them with me. There are a few electronics, obviously, such as the computer, my tabletop electronics (radios, scanner, blah blah), cooking utensils and so on. When it comes time to go, I'll walk down the street, rent an SUV for the day and move all of this myself.

So.. what does this have to do with Sacred Life?


When we have a real sense that everything is transitory, that we need to be "in the stream" with these changes, we are able to reach the sacred. Sacred is freedom and choice. Sacred is the freedom to be at one with that which connects us all. Sacred is being open to the changes that give our lives room for the experiences we need to grow and increase meaning.

How can we do that when we are overly attached to "stuff"?

Well. At least that is how it looks from here. :)


Saturday, November 03, 2007


If we all tried to make other people’s paths easy, our own feet would have a smooth even place to walk on. (Myrtle Reed)

A generous heart, kind speech, and a life of service and compassion are the things which renew humanity. (Buddha)

Without the human community one single human being cannot survive. (The Dali Lama)

Never look down on anybody unless you're helping them up. (Jesse Jackson)

It means a great deal to those who are oppressed to know that they are not alone. And never let anyone tell you that what you are doing is insignificant. (Desmond Tutu)

An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity. (Martin Luther King, Jr)

Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God. - Matthew 5:9

Friday, November 02, 2007

NaBloPoMo and Positivity....

I've decided to stay with the positivity theme throughout the month of November and through NaBloPoMo. (Try typing that fast! Dare ya! :)

Elizabeth Gilbert, in her now well-known book Eat Pray and Love, suggests that each day we ask ourselves the following questions and write it down:

1) "What do I really, really, really want?"

2) "This was the happiest moment of my day........ "

3) Change your mantra. (Be careful what you say. Words are things. They have power.)

Ordinarily, I would write this off as New Age claptrap but the truth is that I see the relevance of it. For the past 13 months here, I've done a reasonable job (I think) of being a cultural dissident. I've dissected US culture and western culture on a fairly consistent basis and have explained why I chose the cultue I chose.

'Nuff already!

Any influence I may have had has already been had. Influence I haven't had won't be had.

Time to move on.

So.. at least for now, no US culture, no US politics, no discussion of the very deep flaws I see at the root of both.

It's no longer my business. What happens in the US is no longer my business. The flaws in the culture are no longer my concern.

I've decided to focus on wellness and on the sacred. In most cases, these will be things that may only be sacred to me ~ but I'm willing to take the risk of seeming selfish. Those who know me know that is not true.

I'm just sick of being depressed.

So... I hope you will all continue to come by for a dose of something good, something uplifting, something wholesome.

I will do my best to discontinue kvetching at this site unless I truly have something to kvetch about. Ninety-nine percent of the time, I truly don't.

Today's questions:

1) I really, really, really want meaningful communication, here and in my private life. I really, really, really want to see the gentler part of my life. I want to focus on the good things I have, even here.

2) The happiest moment of today was spent ordering a collapsible treadmill so that I can use it in my small living space. With the weather changing, I don't want to miss out on my walks.

3) The mantra I am changing today: I will never have a warm, caring and supportive community until I move to Thailand.

Replaced with: I will have it here. I will be missed when I move. I am no longer a social pariah or outcast. I will draw people to me who are willing to give and receive friendship.

So... what are your answers? :)