Friday, November 28, 2008

Don't Let Them Take What's Yours.....

Joe, co-CEO of Office Tiger in Chennai, India

I wrote here a bit about having a lot of computer issues over the past week or so. I needed some time to think about one element of it though. To solve the problems, I had to call Earthlink multiple times to get the dial-up established. It's a temporary measure - for more reasons than one.

My call was forwarded, of course, to a call center in Chennai, India. The people were certainly nice and tried to be helpful but that' s not the point of this post.

The point can be summarized in this short sentence: Shame on Earthlink!

The call center is not just a call center. It is Office Tigers which is an American corporation that hires hundreds of young Indian men and women to provide telephone support to American customers.

The first thing that happens to these young people is that they are stripped of their names. Raj and Praya become Spencer and Jessica. It is a condition of employment.

They are not allowed to wear their native clothing. Instead, they have to adopt western business dress. The men wear slacks, white shirts and ties. The women have a bit more latitude but they are still discouraged from wearing saris.

They have "pump 'em up" meetings, pushing American corporate values of efficiency and profit uber alles. Again, attending the meetings is a job requirement.

Being who I am, I can't keep my mouth shut. While talking with one technical support person, I told her that I was aware that she couldn't respond to my comments but to please listen.

I said, "Don't let them take what's yours". I told her that I know India is a beautiful country with a wonderful, deep and rich culture. I asked her to not lose herself in that job. Enough said.

She was silent for perhaps 15 seconds or so. She said, "You are the first American who has ever said that."

I told her about having seen the documentary and that I was very aware of the practices of Office Tigers. I also told her that cultural respect is something important to me.

She helped me solve the problem I was having and we hung up. But I know I made an impression.

I think it's extremely socially irresponsible of Earthlink and other companies that are using a service that strips human beings of their names, their customs and their culture.

Shame on you, Earthlink!

I'm not happy about being an Earthlink customer right now. As soon as I can get something else, I'll dump it like yesterday's garbage.

Maybe it's time to start speaking up about this kind of thing. Most of us are annoyed when we reach a foreign country for customer support and technical services but it goes a bit deeper than that. The people are being treated like chattel. They are being treated like property, as though their sole purpose in existence is to be pleasing to their American overlords.

That's not acceptable in this day and age.

And another thought: Don't Americans need those jobs?

While I don't usually support the idea of boycotts, I do in this case. Earthlink and all the rest of them need to lose their customers until they bring the jobs back to the US ~ and at the very minimum, boycott Office Tiger!


Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Oh my gosh, I'm on dial-up!


Comcast finally came around yesterday and refused to configure my Linksys. Never one to be thwarted, I am using my back-up Earthlink dial-up account. To say it's slow would be the understatement of the century so my posts might be rather bland until I'm up and running again on something faster.

Meanwhile, it's rainy and cold today so I'm cozy in my chair, watching The African Queen for the five-hundredth time! Charlie and Rosie are good company. There's a line-up of movies over the next few days that will definitely keep me under this lap blanket, tea in hand... watching and watching.

These sort of things really delight me, although I'd imagine it would be boring to anyone else. I don't require much to be content these days. Just a good movie, a good book, something decent to eat and occasional company.

In this case, the timing is well - because in addition to being stuck on dial-up, I've got an ear infection to beat all ear infections. It's like being in an abandoned mine. Makes me grateful to not be a canary.

I'll be back in a few days, hopefully with something a bit faster than dial-up and something worth reading. Hope you all have a good holiday - if that's what you're going to be doing. If not, I hope you have a peaceful day.


Monday, November 24, 2008

Not ignoring anyone.....


Sorry I haven't been around to comment this week. My Internet access is really spotty and the technician won't be here from Comcast for a few days.

I'll probably be back Friday. For those who celebrate, I hope you have a good holiday ~ and I look forward to visiting your sites again. :)


Thursday, November 20, 2008

If the economy is putting a crimp in your style....

I've been curious to actually ask this question, whether the economy will alter anyone's Christmas plans. Since I don't participate, it's become a matter of curiosity.

In some deep dark crevice of my constantly pondering mind, I can't help but think the economy may be a good thing. People will have to come up with other ideas for their celebrations ~ something beyond buying "stuff" and creating debt.

If you had absolutely no money, how would you do it differently? How would you explain to your kids?


Coming to Peace....

“You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.” - Buddha

... and perhaps increased understanding...

Thanks for all the great comments on my last post. I've had a few days to think about them and have come to a few conclusions.

(I have deleted part of this post that basically expresses a lot of mean-spirited opinions about another person. That is not really what I want to project into the world so removing it is the only thing that feels right. I've left the parts that pertain to me - my feelings and experience. It's simply not my place to take someone else's inventory on this site. I apologize for being so mindless.)

At the risk of sounding selfish, I have been giving from an empty well for a long time. My primary concern right now is to fill that up. I am coming out of a very long drought that has left me parched and thirsty. My life force is low. My companionship needs are not being met and I spend far more time alone than I think is healthy. Not to say I don't enjoy my alone time ~ but there's a point where it becomes unhealthy. The truth is that I'm not getting any younger, either ~ and I have my own issues to address.

That means I can't be around this house as much as I have been. I've signed up for volunteer work and have signed up for a Tai Chi class on the weekends. There are activities at one of the wats and I have to get all my "stuff" organized so that I can move easily. Right now, my energy has to be focused on creating my own social network and my own life.

I will always continue to give to others when and where it is appropriate and am given the opportunity to do so but I am not going to sacrifice my own well being for someone who is incapable of reciprocity.

Not score-keeping. Reciprocity. They're not the same.


Monday, November 17, 2008

Keep on using me until you use me up....

Do you usually find that it takes some sort of major event to make you realize that you've been used?

I haven't written much about this here but I've been having housemate troubles. I've rented the mother-in-law unit in this house for quite a few years and during that time, the owner of the house has begun aging rapidly.

I've always openly helped her as I believe that is what my faith and culture demand of me.

She's always had a somewhat colonialist attitude. Usually, I can blow that kind of thing off. Someone else's attitudes really aren't my issue and as long as they're not overt about it or rub my nose in it, I'll ignore it. Dust on my shoulder, as the song says.

Recently some things came to light that have led me to realize that I am going to have to move out of here soon or I'll be gobbled up.

If you can imagine someone being unable to be happy for me when something goes well, that is what I'm dealing with. A mutual friend informed me of this ~ that she is resentful of my good fortune lately. In her mind, that means I am no longer as available to her as I have been in the past because now I am expanding my life to include other people and other activities.

Something shifts inside of me when I realize a person is capable of being so selfish that she can't be happy for me. Lately, I'm having a very difficult time even looking at her. Every conversation is a strain. The very presence of her is so repugnant that I feel nausea.

My spirit of helpfulness ~ which is intrinsic to who I am ~ has been temporarily put in Protective Custody. This event has caused me to withdraw deep inside and resist any attempt on anyone's part to claim any dependence on me for anything. It doesn't feel very good because that's not who I am.

I just know I feel disgusted. I feel violated. Right now, I can't see the good in her at all. My mind is simply incapable of processing that kind of selfishness.

I'm not angry. Surprisingly. With a temper like mine. This is something that goes beyond anger. When I see her now, it is like looking at some alien lifeform. It's rather frightening that she seems not quite human.

Right now, I am not feeling compassion. I am not choosing love. I am not choosing forgiveness.

Right now ~ in this moment ~ I just want her to stay the hell away from me. I don't want that kind of spiritual filth in my energy field.


Sunday, November 16, 2008

Sacred Life Sunday

He who experiences the unity of life sees his own Self in all beings, and all beings in his own Self, and looks on everything with an impartial eye. - Buddha

Staying focused on the good things we have to offer the world makes a big difference. And then offering them makes an even bigger difference. I'm not sold on the whole "self empowerment" movement because that brings us off-balance as much as going the other way... but thinking of ourselves positively (the same way we would any other friend) and then putting those good things into action is truly "kreng jai" (kindness).

Ego is like a security blanket. Sooner or late, we grow out of our need for it.


Friday, November 14, 2008

One of the things I committed to doing once I became mobile again is to get involved in things outside my own home and immediate environment.

I've been driving around like a whirling dervish, trying various things that interest me, volunteer opportunities and ~ well ~ just anything that sparks me at the moment.

Last Saturday, I went out to another local wat (yes, more wat drama) because they offer language classes that I'd like to take.

I don't think I have ever encountered a less welcoming group of people, all of whom stood around in their small groups, not interacting with each other in any way. By nature, I'm not a socially aggressive person and wandered here and there, trying to find a comfortable opening. They were having their usual Saturday morning feed. While the food smelled great, I had no interest in having any.

The reason is that it didn't seem possible to penetrate those cliques. (Maybe next time, I'll take a bunch of Tupperware, buy it and bring it home.) Seriously though, I don't think even one person made the effort to say "hello", "sawadee", "who the devil are you" or "kiss my a... ".

Typically, I do better with groups that have a common focus ~ such as reading groups, classes of some sort or a common activity. It seems much easier that way. The socializing can come after getting to know each other when there is already a commonality established.

I left that place feeling almost shell-shocked. I'm not accustomed to blatant rudeness and am usually received well, wherever I choose to go. I might not be adopted into the family or included in anyone's will ~ but I'm generally treated kindly and with courtesy.

So I'm looking at the idea of giving it one more try tomorrow morning, just to see if perhaps it was a bad day ~ or there was something going on that I don't know about. It would be easy to just write them off as a snobbish little community, satisfied among themselves but that might be a bit premature.

I'd be interested in hearing your views on this.... not what I should do so much as what you would do. How do you handle situations like that? Burst in like you own the place, back off, write them off or keep trying....


Thursday, November 13, 2008


It's always interesting when several people blog about the same topics unprompted. What's even more interesting is when it ends up being something I was thinking about anyway.

I started to comment at this site and realized my comment would be too long. (Don't you all secretly love it when someone nearly writes an entire post in your comments section?)

There are probably many reasons why someone adopts a belief system or a religion. For me, I did it because I felt rudderless without it.

I came to this incarnation with a sense of alienation. The world felt Kafkaesque. It's a difficult thing to explain in any concrete way that would be easily understood by other people. It's not that I was 4 years old and could say "I feel alienated" but there was a hollowness there that revealed itself in many ways. Frankly, I couldn't understand why I was here and wasn't sure I particularly wanted to be. In the end, it seems to be one of those "you won't understand if you haven't been there" feelings.

Over the years, I tried a lot of things to become rooted. When I was old enough, I was very political and was a powerhouse at a podium, arguing for my cause du jour. I had a big mouth and wasn't afraid to use it. At the same time, that lingering alienation was always just below the surface, threatening to pull me into the abyss. Before that, younger, I was just a common wanderer, an ideological nomad.

It's not that I would be a "bad" person without a fundamental, guiding belief system. I'd just be ineffectual.

None of the belief systems I tried eliminated that empty feeling and I've tried most of them. There would always be something that didn't fit. I couldn't pretend for very long.

The belief system I currently hold fits in every way ~ for me. I'm not going to say what it is intentionally because I'm not selling belief systems here. Most who have read for a while know what it is anyway. If you don't know and want to know, ask me. I'll tell you.

What works for me this time is that it is a belief system that offers structure but also leaves a lot of room for self-determination and thought. It involves a lot of choice. It doesn't address issues of a supreme being. That is up to the individual to work out for him- or herself. It provides an ethical base but doesn't tell anyone how to believe/vote/practice when it comes to any particular issue. That is also up to the individual to choose how to apply the principles. There's a comfortable level of ritual and interestingly, none of the holidays can be politicized.

There are multiple traditions, so it's possible to find one that "fits". The beliefs are fundamental but how they're applied is an individual decision. The standards of behavior are basically the same as all the other major world religions. Be a decent person. Be a compassionate person. Love other people and try to do no harm.

I'm a firm believer, perhaps because of my own experience, that a rudderless existence is probably one of the hardest incarnations. Those of us who come with a blank slate and have to choose everything for ourselves have to work really hard to find the right thing, to root ourselves somewhere, nurture the growth and wait to see if it blooms.

Some people claim that any kind of religion or spirituality is for people who, as my ex-husband used to say, "can't think for themselves."

Well, I can definitely think for myself. And sometimes get into a lot of trouble with all those undirected and unfocused thoughts.

I don't think religion or spirituality is for those who can't think. In fact, I think it is for people who are willing to think. It's for people who want to give some form and substance to their thoughts. It's a direction. It's a mooring.

I don't claim to know what's right for others ~ but I do know what's right for me.

Why do you believe, if you do?


Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Waging Peace: Proposition 8

We cannot change the past, but we can change our attitude toward it. Uproot guilt and plant forgiveness. Tear out arrogance and seed humility. Exchange love for hate --- thereby, making the present comfortable and the future promising. - Maya Angelou

This morning I've been doing some blog-surfing and have been reading some disturbing things.

It seems the afterglow of unity may be wearing off.

Since Election Day, there have been demonstrations here locally in response to the passing of Proposition 8. That's a good thing. That's educational. That is providing an opportunity for the public to hear some of the facts and considerations they may not have heard during the height of the campaign.

There has also been violence and the vandalism of Mormon temples in various cities in California. There has been a lot of anger and disparaging remarks made in the blog world about those who voted for the proposition.

It's hard to imagine how people who had been supporting the idea of unity among all Americans could behave this way because the unity might be marred by those who believe differently.

Maybe a critical point is to understand that many of the people who voted for it are ignorant (in the dictionary definition of that word - not a substitute for "stupid") of all the facts. Perhaps they are at a different level of evolution. They are still responding from fear.

How is hating those people going to dissolve the hate they expressed by supporting the "othering" of an entire segment of the population?

I'm only asking that people seriously consider this. It's easy to sit down and write vitriol. I've done it a few times, too. It's easy to try to "get even" with those whose thinking we find repugnant. It's easy to demonize an entire group of people, such as the Mormons, because that makes them different than us. It makes them not one of us. It turns them into a target for discrimination.

But that's the low road. Responding to hate with hate is equally repugnant. And it compounds and compounds until there's nothing else left.

Part of Barack Obama's message, as far as I'm concerned, was all about High Road thinking and unifying actions. It's about choosing our responses mindfully, looking at the larger picture and making a decision that will unify rather than separate.

The best way to change thinking (in my opinion) is by example. Be the change we want to see.

Maybe a key question to ask when deciding how to choose a response is "is this going to improve our community or further divide it?"

Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one getting burned.



Sunday, November 09, 2008

Sacred Life Sunday: You Say You Want An Evolution....

This morning was very pleasant. Simply pleasant. I went to the park for a long walk, MP3 player securely in my ears, listening to New Age music.

I was lost to the world. However, I did notice that people were a bit more upbeat, smiled a bit easier and said "good morning" a bit more freely.

Naturally, I think it's the Obama Effect.

Everyone seems a bit more hopeful.

Have you noticed this?


Friday, November 07, 2008

An issue of mindful speech....

There's been an issue of mindful speech lately that I need to speak up about.

Now that change is in the air and there is a desire to balance inequities, I'd like to suggest a change of terminology which will lead to a change in perception.

I've heard many speeches over the past few days about "helping those less fortunate" and "the lesser among us".

This makes me grit my teeth.

Let me be very clear about something ~ and you are hearing it from the horse's mouth, so to speak.

As most of you know, I live on an amount of money that is below the federal poverty level.

Poverty, yes. In strict economic terms. There is nothing "poor" about me ~ not intellectually, emotionally, physically or spiritually.

There is absolutely nothing "unfortunate" about me. And I'm sure as hell not the "lesser among us".

And I'm sick and tired of being referred to that way. It's offensive. And demeaning. And condescending.

There's a tendency to "other" us, to make us something "less than" in both use of language and perception. If you believe this perception exists for any other reason than to allow some people to feel "better than", think again. It's subtle.

We care about the same things. We just don't have a lot of money.

We enjoy a good book, a good conversation, a good joke, companionship ~ just like everyone else. We just don't have a lot of money.

We love, we dislike, we are happy, sad, exhilarated, frustrated, excited or angry, just like everyone else. We just don't have a lot of money.

We are not downtrodden, unfortunate, less than, pitiable or pathetic. Not any more than anyone else. We just don't have a lot of money. Eliminate those expressions from the national discourse.

If there is true dedication to change the way we perceive each other and the way we are going to evolve as a society toward inclusiveness and compassion, let's start with that perception, that use of language. Let's start with the way we talk about each other.

If perception is reality, as Whitehead would have us believe, we are creating that reality with language that denigrates an entire segment of the population.


Wednesday, November 05, 2008

So where do we go from here....

...and what in the world will we find to blog about?

Seriously though, now that the initial glow is beginning to fade and we all realize that Barack Obama is not the Second Coming of Christ, the real work is ahead of us.

Just a few thoughts: As someone who is closer to the end than the beginning, I spent some time remembering the things we've been through in the past 40 years. We lived through the Civil Rights Movement, the murder of a president and a senator, Kent State, the Vietnam War, the Cold War ... all the things I mentioned yesterday.

I can't help but believe the seeds we planted in those days are sprouting now. Not blooming yet. Sprouting. They're going to grow, those seeds, and it will hopefully grow into a beautiful blooming tree, one that will help shade us from some of the cynicism and hopelessness that has become so much of the national character.

That began in the 80s, by my memory. The national ethos was all about greed, acquisition and power. It was a backlash against the ethos of the 60s. While many people think of George Michael and Pat Benetar, I remember the unwarranted invasion of Grenada and the taunting of the Soviet Union by Ronald Reagan that more than once brought us to the brink of nuclear conflict. I remember that gay people were just beginning to crack open the closet. I remember union busting and human values being translated into corporate values. Women no longer left the home for the workplace by choice. It became an expectation. Kids were left in day care while the mothers adopted the very male values of power and competition. Hedonism was the call word of the day.

Hate became socially sanctioned in those days. It was no longer okay to be racially prejudiced against African-Americans and other Black people so other prejudices took its place. Gay people, Hispanic people and Vietnamese people were at the top of the list. As that lost acceptability, it turned to body size and social position. The harshness of judgment seeped into the commentary of the day. It was just a bit more cloaked and subtle.

The 80s were hardly all about bleached blond hair, layered clothes and drug dealers on speed dial.

It is largely that foundation that we are working with now. Somehow we have to find a comfortable balance between the extremes of the 60s and the extremes of the 80s and 90s. Cultures frequently overcompensate and go from one extreme to the other before coming back to a middle ground.

Now we have the chance to find that balance and create a society in which equality isn't an ideal on paper - but a living reality. We have the opportunity to accept diversity in a way that's not merely politically correct tolerance but true and substantial acceptance. Beyond that, we can learn to embrace them and learn to work with them for the benefit of all people.

It won't be easy because belief systems are usually the hardest to change. There's a lot of emotion and identity wrapped up in our belief systems. It will require a level of vigilance that few of us are accustomed to adopting. It means challenging ourselves to get into alignment with this new stage of social evolution. The magnitude of these changes can't be overstated.

If nothing else, the entire process should provide interesting blog fodder. We'll all have new thoughts over the next several months as we begin to see the changes.

I'll look forward to reading them.

So what are your thoughts?


Tuesday, November 04, 2008

President Obama...

President Barack Obama

I have lived long enough to see several major historic events. I watched the country fall apart and begin to heal when JFK was murdered. I watched the Civil Rights Movement. I watched the first human being land on the moon. I've watched political assassinations, the war in Vietnam, Kent State, the horror of the Cold War years. I have watched a culture begin to dig itself out of the quagmire of heartless bigotry.

Never, ever, did I think I would live long enough to see a Black progressive elected president.

He did it! He did it with integrity, honor, truthfulness and a commitment to a higher ideal.

Congratulations, President Obama!

The world feels like a safer place.


Monday, November 03, 2008

The Hungry Ghost....

" If you want to know the past, to know what has caused you, look at yourself in the PRESENT, for that is the past's effect. If you want to know your future, then look at yourself in the PRESENT, for that is the cause of your future."

Majjhima Nikaya

Yesterday, I alluded to some lessons that have been coming my way.

Last year at this time, I was planning a trip to Thailand so that I could spend my birthday there. It was expensive. The credit card bill is still arriving every month and the balance is still high.

I'm not going this year. This year, I'm going to do something new and focus on something new.

When I mentioned the important lessons I've been learning from the Lao people, one of the lessons stood out in particular and I had to face a part of me that I don't much like.

For a lot of years, I've allowed myself to become steeped in bitterness. It shows mostly in my occasionally caustic tongue and my bad temper.

The framework I've used for dealing with this is one of the best I could have chosen for me. It won't work for everyone and some people wouldn't like it or don't care about it. I picked the framework of Thai culture because I like structure. It provides that. It provides community. It provides ritual and meaning. It feeds me like nothing else ever has. I can like me when it cloaks me.

When we find something like that, it can take a long, long time to get past the point where we're strictly soaking it in, taking its balm, feeling its comfort. That's what I've been doing.

Now it's time to stop.

That is what I'm learning from the Lao people here. They are showing me in action some things that I've only known intellectually from a purely selfish perspective. It was feeding me. It was taking care of me. It was provided structure and meaning to me.

But what was I doing for others?

In spending time with the people I know now, I see an unfailing and humble generosity. They don't look for reward or acknowledgement. They just keep giving because it's such an intrinsic part of their way of life. In the case of the woman who loaned me money for the car, I've seen someone who is a whirlwind of action. She is always helping other people. In the several months I've known her, I don't think I've ever seen a selfish act on her part. It's always about other people. She's extroverted, can work a room, can raise funds and create enthusiasm. She's a leader. She is a respected leader in the Lao community.

The more time I spend with her, the more I realize it's time for me to stop taking. It's time for me to be more like her.

I'm not condemning myself for the past. When I found the culture I live now, I was a lost, hungry, empty shell of a human being. The damage was profound. I needed to be affirmed. I had nothing to give. We all have those times in our lives and I totally get that. In order to be a balanced person, we all need our Hungry Ghost times, too.

But.... it's time to grow up.

One of those things for me is understanding, fully, that everything doesn't have to be a black and white choice. I'm going over to sign up for some volunteer work. On Thanksgiving, I will be feeding hungry people, lonely people, at a dinner sponsored by a local Catholic church.

I'm stretching myself because ordinarily I wouldn't acknowledge Thanksgiving because it doesn't matter to me. It's not one of my holidays.

So, what? It matters to a bunch of people who will show up that afternoon for companionship, food, friendship and perhaps some affirmation. This is a small way I can give back what's been given to me by a bunch of people who certainly never had to take me in, comfort me, befriend me and enrich my life in a way I didn't know is possible.

Need doesn't discriminate. Some things need to be black and white. You support Obama or you support McCain. You support a conservative agenda or a progressive one. You support Proposition 8 or you don't. You have to pick a side.

And sometimes you just have to give without conditions. It doesn't matter who is on the receiving end. It only matters that we give.

That's what I've learned and now that I'm mobile, I will devote the next year to consciously seeking out opportunities to spread that generosity around.

(Note on election night: I hope people will stop by. I'm going to post commentary and returns. It will be a [sort of] live blogging throughout the evening. The polls on the east coast close at 4.00 PM our time. Let's share some Thai food and discussion back and forth. :)


Sunday, November 02, 2008

Sacred Life Sunday: Coming Through the Rain....

Thanks to all of you for your wonderful comments on my last post. Thanks for assuring me that it wasn't "stupid" to open up in such a personal way. You might not believe this ~ but I do pay attention to what you say. :)

This past month hasn't been a great one and suffice it to say that I came close to losing hope a few times. As you can imagine, there's not much life force without hope.

I'm not a score keeper in the traditional sense ~ but in my private life, I notice who is around when times get rough and who is not. I had some rude awakenings.

The same people are around all the time. As I've mentioned here, most of my fledgling community has been formed among the Lao people in my area. They are wonderful, warm, loving and generous people and I'm honored to know them and get to know them better. They have a comforting practicality along with a generous spirit that warms me. All the time. They have taught me some very valuable lessons, too, which I'll probably write about here in the fairly near future.

One of them came through for me in a very important way on Friday. It involved a sudden long drive to another city and a hurried transaction but this is something that didn't have to take place by current cultural standards. But it did.

A friend from the Lao community bought me a car.

Yes. A car.

They ain't cheap!

Naturally, I am going to pay her back as we agreed. That amount of money shouldn't be a gift from a working person who struggles like everyone else. We discussed it and agreed on pay-back terms. At the same time, there's something else I want to talk about that has nothing to do with the car specifically. I didn't nearly lose hope because of a silly car. I'm not that shallow. I lost hope because I was coming to believe there was no hope for ever getting past the separation and the nature of the social contract here which is "you're on your own". If you sink, so sorry, it's a terrible thing but that's just how it goes. Perhaps this will make me look weak in Western eyes ~ but it's too brutal for me. I'm not a cowboy sort of girl. I need the safety net of community. Without that, my life is totally and completely meaningless. The hard, cold truth is that I don't want to be here if life has to be that way.

M and her community have a very practical approach. Basically it is "I have it right now and you don't. I'll share it with you. When I need it, you'll share it with me."

That's a very sound social contract and one that makes all of us comfortable. The unspoken rule in this, of course, is "you'd better come through when it's your turn."

I think it would serve everyone well to adopt M's and her community's way of life. Imagine what it would be like if we helped each other in these simple ways. All of our lives would be so much better. This might sound facile on the surface but if you go a few layers deeper, you'll see that it's really not. It's the substance and core of life. The coming together, the sharing, the good and the bad, just the vicissitudes of life.

Over this past month and those few times I nearly lost hope, I remembered what a dark place that is. I've been there before in 2004 and consider myself lucky to have come out of it at all without following my father's footsteps.

Because that's the brutal truth of it. I wanted to die. I felt alone, abandoned and irrelevant.

I'm not given to melodrama. This is serious. Perhaps it's an exhortation of sorts because I know who could have helped and didn't. And I know we could all be doing better, including me. I know who couldn't and wanted to. And I know who did. The latter two are the ones who keep me going, who keep me rising out of bed each day and trying to exist with as much integrity and honor as possible, no matter how the outside world might look.

It's renewed my desire to give to others again, to be more generous with my own resources and to remain rooted into what I believe is the purpose of our material existence. I was beginning to pull back because it seemed that I was the only one who cared in that way. Thank God I didn't allow that callus to form. I got closer than I like to admit.

Something unrelated: Anyone have any plans for Election Night? I've decided to go get a big combination platter of Thai food and visit with a few people on the phone that evening to compare thoughts on the incoming results.