Monday, March 31, 2008

Muriel's Show

Muriel Anderson is a long time attender (or member, I don't really know because we don't differentiate) of Nashville Friends Meeting. She's a fingerpicking style guitar player and she totally rocks. She performed at a house party in a little studio on Music Row last night that I went to. When I got there, only 12 chairs were set up in the room she would be performing in. I knew that of 10 folks from Friends Meeting who were coming and had a good idea that the studio owners had underestimated. Sure enough, by show-time it was standing room only or, more accurately, sitting room only. The concert was to kick off her tour and I reckon she'll be gone for a while.

I've been attending NFM for going on 12 years. Muriel's been going longer than me but I've never really gotten to know her. She's a musician who lives out of suitcases. The handful of Sundays that she is in town, I've never had the opportunity to get to know her in more than the most superficial way. There are several people at meeting who are like that for me; I know them but don't really know them. I think I will make a concerted effort to spend time with a few people over the next year.

Anyway, back to the show: Muriel is a petite blond woman but she plays guitar like fire. The cool think is that she's not flashy just incredibly talented. She's a guitar god to a lot of people. There were as many young musicians there as Quakers and I'm thrilled that all these studly "guns" hang on her every note.

Muriel's percussionist last night was a woman named Kathy (didn't catch her last name). I spoke with her for a moment after the show. She's one of those underachieving types; she said she used to do environmental sciences down in Florida-mainly oil spills-and moved to Nashville to play music but didn't like the competitiveness and is now at divinity school at Vandy working toward being a hospice chaplain. Whew. Slacker. She seems nice. I hope I bump into her sometime soon.

Here's a link to one of the songs she performed last night (this was recorded at another performance).

Friday, March 28, 2008

God Is Love

I awoke with Marvin Gaye's song "God Is Love" running through my head (you can listen to it here):

Oh don't go and talk about my father
God is my friend
Jesus is my friend
He made this world for us to live in,
and gave us everything
And all he asks of us is we give each other love.
Oh ya
Don't go and talk about my father
Cause God is my friend
Jesus is my friend
He loves us whether or not we know it
Just loves us, oh ya
And He'll forgive all our sins
Forgive all our sins
And all He asks of us, is we give each other love.
Oh ya
Love your mother, she bore you
Love your father, he works for you
Love your sister, she's good to you
Love your brother,
your brother
Don't go and talk about my father, He's good to us,
God is my friend
Jesus is my friend
For when we call in Him for mercy, Mercy Father
He'll be merciful, my friend
Oh, yes He will
All he asks of us, I know, is we give each other love,
Oh ya

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Beyond Our Beginnings

Yesterday, I went to hear a panel discussion which opened the "Beyond Our Beginnings: Women Writers from Lower and Working Class Backgrounds" at Vanderbilt. Joy Castro, Karen Salyer McElmurray, Heather Sellers, Dorothy Allison and Minton Sparks participated.

When I saw this listed in Sunday's paper, I was drawn to it. I thought about who I could take with me and emailed my friend Paige, who is a writer and community organizer for Mother's Acting Up. She has a toddler and couldn't make the timing work, so I went by myself.

I'm giving myself props for going. I feel so out of place at events at universities. First of all, most everyone knows most everyone else and I never know anyone and wind up standing around like a wallflower. (I do attempt to make conversation but people are tolerantly polite until the person they're meeting shows up and then I'm forgotten.) Secondly, I feel totally out of my element. I barely made it out of high school and never felt any inclination to pursue any higher formal education (and self-education doesn't count for much in that environment). I've been a stay-at-home mom for most of my adult life. Yeah, now I work for a university in an interesting job which allows me to "pass" for one of them, but I always get "caught" when asked "Oh how interesting. Did you study sociology?"

The funny thing is that this was a group of women who all, in one way or another, probably know very much how I was feeling about passing. They all came from families in which they were the first to "escape" or get beyond their raising, the first to go to college and work in some capacity that wasn't manual labor. If I had had the foundation to establish actual conversation (rather than small talk), I'm sure I could have found much in common with many of them. But an hour's worth of panel discussion does not allow for depth.

As I rode there on my scooter, I thought about how coming from the background I do has made me a much more creative and engaged person than I probably otherwise would have been. I'm an ideas person. Often, I'm not even aware that I'm supposed to be in a box that others struggle to think outside of. In many ways, I think I see culture from an outsider's perspective, noticing what works well and is good, what things are dysfunctional and which ones are neutral. There are many, many things about our culture, of course, which I've internalized and never considered that I should become aware of and examine, but I think I have more perspective than most folks in our society because of my upbringing and background. I feel grateful, now, for my parent's lifestyle choices during my childhood (most of them, anyway).

The thought that I left with which is still resonating with me is to speak up, tell our stories, speak our truths. All of the women are story-tellers whether via fiction, essay, memoir, spoken word or short story, each of the women on the panel (and most of the audience, I imagine) tells her own story. Someone asked what the repercussion were of writing about family and each panelist said that it was absolutely necessary although very frightening at first, but came to be healing for all those affected by the stories (characters and readers alike). Telling our stories is owning our lives and saying that our voices, our experiences, our lives are as important and valid as those who comprise the dominant culture--and oftentimes much, much more entertaining.

Coming from where I did, I have a unique perspective which enriches the lives of others. I have a loud voice and the strength and creativity to catalyze change for the better in my world. I feel strongly that inviting people from a broad spectrum of society to worship with us at NFM will enrich our spiritual community: They will each bring new ways of seeing the world, helping us move outside of our narrow culturally dictated paradigm (comfort zone). The changes they will bring will not always be easy or comfortable but, if we allow Spirit to open our hearts and guide us through the changes, they will make us a better community.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Food for Thought

I met a dear friend for dinner at a fancy restaurant last night. She thinks I'm funny so I was very funny. We talked about serious things and light things and gossipy things for several hours. It was good to be with her to relax, catch up and let our hair down.

This friend spent many years enmeshed in a very dysfunctional situation. She was able to extricate herself from it fairly recently and seems to be revelling in her new-found liberty. She told me stories about her recent adventures and experiences, none of which I related to but which were often very amusing.

I told her about my life; how I'm very happy and excited about where I am and what's happening spiritually and how I feel like something about myself in relation to my family needs to change but that I don't know what and I don't know how (other than to pray about it). She was kind and supportive.

When I awoke this morning my first impulse was to judge myself kind of negatively for straying so far from my intention to remain centered on God yesterday (see the immediately preceding post) but the more I thought about it, the more I see that it's ok to be me. This friend does not have an awareness of spiritual center. I think, if pushed, she would identify as atheist. We've been friends for a long time through lots and lots of changes. We have a relationship based on shared interests, history, mutual love, respect and admiration. She listened openly as I talked about my growing awareness of God's will for me and how exciting it is for me to learn to be faithful. She told me about how perplexing her new life can be in the midst of the pleasure of her new-found freedom. We told each other things in trust and with love, expecting support and listened without judgment. The last thing in the world I want to be is like born-again christians who get all self-righteous, eschewing sinful others.

Even though I wasn't consciously aware of Spirit, I know that I acted in accord with my understanding of God's will for me.

Friday, March 21, 2008

As I Am Able

Most every morning I stay in bed and pray. Usually, I state my intention to be open to God's will for me, silently saying something like:

"My body,
my spirit,
my mind to God.

As I am able,
all that I am,
I give
to God."
(I sometimes make this a physical prayer by standing and using gestures and movement)

Usually, I pray for God to guide me and use me and I ask God to help me remain centered on what is of God.

And then I leave my room and immediately forget. I'm like one of the unfortunate people with the capacity to remember things for only a couple of minutes. "God, help me to remain focused on you...Hey! What's for breakfast?"

Until I learn to be faithful in the day-to-day, here and now, I can't imagine growing in the Light. I think humility is what it all comes down to, for me. Humility is, like, exactly the opposite my personality and who I am. I'm loud and boisterous and ME! ME! ME! When I do something good I usually want to crow about it, which, of course, is completely counter to humility.

Tilden Edwards, in his book, Living in the Presence, gives a nice description of the Ego of ME! ME! ME! versus the ego of self to be used by God. In the exercise on Daily Examen he writes, "...If you remember a strong, protective holding on to ego self-image, you might pray 'Lord (or God) have mercy,' very simply desiring the attachment to that image to lighten. If on the contrary you notice that ego self-image was only lightly present, functioning as a vehicle of understanding and activity without a character of ultimacy, you can simply smile to God with thanksgiving. Thus you are noticing both the hidden presence of God in the day and your own way of participating in, missing, or resisting that presence."

I understand that if God to were to call me, really call me to my life's purpose, I'd charge full-steam ahead. I'd leap in and through and MAKE IT HAPPEN (whatever IT were). I'd follow the letter of God's plan without paying a lot of attention to the spirit of it. I'd have God in mind for the outcome but wouldn't be so aware of God in the details. Hmmm...Who was it who said, "God is in the details"?

So, today I pray for humility. I pray for awareness of God using the me-ness of me as a vehicle of understanding and activity. I ask God to help me remain aware of God in each moment as clearly as I am right now. I can't seem to do this on my own so I pray for God to help me.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Classism Class

I was a weekend FAP(Friendly Adult Presence) at the Southern Appalachian Young Friends (SAYF) retreat this weekend here in Nashville. A nice time was had by all, if not a lot of sleep. SAYFers came from Beria, Chapel Hill, Atlanta, and Knoxville. The Chapel Hill folks drove 11 hours to get here and the Atlanta folks got stuck in traffic and sat on the interstate for over two hours on their way, so people arrived quite late. It took a long time before the young people were sufficiently calm enough to be quiet and I wasn't able to fall asleep until 3:30 or so (to the sounds of someone playing the piano and a couple of people drumming along on the floor).

Dick had all the "night shepherds" lined up but one had to cancel due to a death in her family. Hammy would have taken her place but Zed and Carmac got sick. Dick would have done it but I insisted that I would (Dick's just getting over the flu. He's a stubborn man). Kit was the other night shepherd for that time slot (12-3:30). The kids didn't settle down until after 1:00 so we didn't have too much checking to do and, as this is a really fantastic group of young people, no problems.

Kit and I were able to sit and talk about our spiritual formation groups and other things. We talked a lot about classism and lack of diversity in our meeting. I told her that I feel really called to bring more Light to this in NFM. She agrees and is open to exploring. We were talking about when we could do it and both bemoaned the fact that we only have adult ed twice a month and it's usually very hodge-podge in it subject matter and often scheduled months in advance. Currently, meeting for worship is 10:30-11:30 with adult ed or other activity after. I suggested that we could have an on-going discussion group/class/worship sharing on the subject of classism/racism/diversity for an hour before meeting for worship. She suggested that maybe this would be good to try during the summer months. I think there are at least one or two others in GIL who will be interested in pursuing this topic in greater depth. We have our GIL large group meeting this evening so I shall introduce the idea and see how it flies.

Here are some ideas I have for this class:
-a worship-sharing about our earliest memories of class or economic differences.
-in class, each person writes a 1-2 page biography about his or her class/socio-economic history. The next week, we hand the biographies out at random and read them aloud and share reactions, observations and comments.
-Talk about our individual experiences of feeling like an outsider in NFM: When, why and how? When do we feel included? What were first impressions? What was/is welcoming?
-Book discussion "White Like Me" by Tim Wise.
-"What are you hiding" worship sharing about things we are/think/do that we feel would not "sit well" with NFM and thus, keep hidden.
-"What Privileges" exercise from Jeanne's blog.

I led an adult ed about this topic a month or so ago. It went OK. I didn't feel too great about it because I don't think I was focused enough to make it a good discussion. I had so many ideas I wanted to hit and activities I wanted to lead that I was really scattered. We wound up talking mostly about how welcoming our meeting is to newcomers and how we might be perceived to others who know nothing about us. This topic is too big for just one hour one time. I feel this should be an on-going discussion to help us become and remain aware of who we are and who we want to be as a community.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Speaking and Listening for God's Will

The latest Pendle Hill pamphlet I've received in the mail is by Mariellen Gilpin called "God's Healing Grace: Reflections on a Journey with Mental and Spiritual Illness". In it, the author shares her experiences with mental illness and how she learned to deal with it through the Grace of God, the support and help of her spiritual community and a very committed, ongoing committee of care. This pamphlet is challenging to me in my understanding of various aspects of mental illness. The author describes having demons live in her. I was raised in a Christian fundamentalist household in which it was accepted that there have been/could be demons. They were always "of Satan" and against God. When I began reading this pamphlet, my knee-jerk reaction was to distance myself from accepting at her word the author's experiences and her descriptions. Using the word demon sounded to me against modern understandings. As I read, I tried to keep an open mind and found myself accepting that the author was using a word to describe the voices and hallucinations that, perhaps, I wouldn't choose but that needed naming and were appropriate from the author's perspective and experience. Things must have a name in order to be described and she chose the name that worked for her.

The thing that spoke loudest to me was the author's on-going committee of care. She met every few weeks with two members of her Meeting's ministry and oversight committee and a Celtic shaman who was not Quaker but who "valued silence and deeply listened for God's guidance". The committee also prayed for her every night.

I have a dear friend, J, who suffers from bi-polar disorder. She functions well most of the time with the help of mood stabilizing drugs and supportive friends and family. Currently, though, she is experiencing some issues with a control-based eating disorder (anorexia). I talked to a f/Friend who heads the Tennessee chapter of NAMI to get a recommendation for a therapist. Then I called J. I gave her the information and listened to what she could tell me about where she is. We talked about what she needs and what is happening with her. After a time, I told her about what I learned from this pamphlet. This friend is not Quaker; she identifies as Wiccan with Pagan leanings (but she does agree with and respects much of what she understands about Quakerism). I explained to her what I understand about the author's committee of care and how it might work. I told her that I think it would be absolutely imperative that it be spiritually based and that all the members would have to share a unifying belief or understanding of the Divine in order for the group to transcend individual egos and listen with open hearts and minds. I spoke slowly, searching for the right words and as I talked I felt overcome by the quaking of God speaking through me. I also told her about my experience of holding her in the Light during meeting last week and having the recurring image of me physically holding her up in God's light. I let her know that I love her and am available to her in whatever way she needs and that I will continue to hold her in my prayers.

I've never felt Spirit come through me outside of meeting for worship like that before. I am grateful for the lesson. I am always sharing ideas and resources with people, giving them information that will link them with others or materials or organizations that will support what they need. Usually, I do this to help them because I care about them but it's still done from my ego. When I spoke with J, I spoke carefully, choosing my words with love and even hesitation. I think the space between the words and the love in that space allowed Spirit to enter me. What a profound gift. Slow down and listen.

Tomorrow evening, Caroline and I will be leading our large Growing In the Light group meeting. The topic is obedience, which I chose almost a year ago when we were planning the monthly meetings. We're going to use a couple of the spiritual exercises from Tilden Edwards' book, "Living in the Presence", one a daily examen and the other called Discerning Action. This is what the opening paragraph about discerning action, "Discernment of what is seemingly consonant with God's will in regard to a particular significant action being contemplated normally is a process, not a single step..."

I am lead to understand that learning to slow down and allow silence when I speak is learning to be obedient to God's will for me. I think that's why I blog. When I write, I think about what I am trying to express and am usually slow and deliberate, allowing more room for contemplation and Spirit-led inspiration than I ever experience when speaking. My conversation with J has given me the insight into my potential for speaking, as well.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Giving and Advocating

Proverbs 31:6-9

"Give beer to those who are perishing,
wine to those who are in anguish;
let them drink and forget their poverty
and remember their misery no more.

Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves,
for the rights of all who are destitute.
Speak up and judge fairly;
defend the rights of the poor and needy."

For a long time I've tried to follow Jesus' command in Luke 6:30-"Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back." I walk all over downtown frequently. Homeless people or panhandlers often approach asking for money. I used to always give money but then I read a blogpost by the Homeless Guy, Kevin Barbeaux, about how disruptive it is for the other folks when people to show up at a shelter drunk or otherwise impaired. He suggested that people not give money to panhandlers so they can't buy alcohol which causes problems for others. Usually, when I'm out with my kids, I've got a bunch of snacks with me and often, I've got surplus bus change cards, so sometimes I give those to people who ask me for something. I used to carry fast food gift certificates but I keep forgetting to buy more, so I haven't done that in a while.

But sometimes I don't have any of those things on me and all I have to give are cash. Usually, when I have the time, I'll stop and talk with the person asking and try to make a connection. I'll give them whatever I feel I can justify-sometimes just a little change because I'm broke and need my money for the next bus home and sometimes it'll be a few dollars, lunch money or the cost of a cup of chai (figuring that if I can indulge myself I should also share with someone else). I prefer to not have someone tell me some story about needing bus fare to get his family to Madison or about how his wallet was stolen or this or that but I know that many people do need a story about where their money is going before they'll give; I assume that probably half the time I give money it'll go to alcohol. And after reading Kevin's post about how disruptive alcohol is in homeless shelters, I began feeling bad about giving cash.

But then I read the article "Living with Beggars" by Anna Redsand in the July 2006 issue of Friends Journal in which she quotes the above verses in Proverbs. I don't know how it is that I never noticed those verses before. (oh, I do know how. Proverbs 31:6-9 immediately precedes the passages about "the wife of noble character" which was shoved down my throat by my mother, various sunday school teachers and a bunch of youth ministers throughout my adolescence. I'm pretty sure that, for many years, if I heard the word "proverbs" my eyes glazed over and my mind took me to my "happy place" a world away from "she is worth far more than rubies".) So, wow. The Bible is telling me to give booze to people who are in distress and impoverished so they can forget their poverty and misery. But then it follows with the command to "speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute...defend the rights of the poor and needy." What that is saying to me is that I should do what I can to alleviate suffering-whatever it takes-but I must take responsibility for that suffering when I do so. I have to take it on myself to stand up for those who can't stand up for themselves because they are in anguish. It's not enough to give money to a panhandler or to buy his lunch for him; I must also advocate for him in the larger world. Neither is it enough to do advocacy work while ignoring the day-to-day suffering of individuals. Both must be done together, which makes sense.

I'm going to have to sit with this for a while to see how it fits me and where I am and where I need to be. I'm not sure how to find the balance called for here in the my life, at this time. To me, doing advocacy is committing to something. I don't have time to join anything else or serve on any other things, but maybe there's something I else I can be doing to advocate? I will try to open my heart and mind to possibilities and pray for guidance.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

My Own Hero's Journey: Motherhood (fighting culture)

I often bemoan the "lowest common denominator" mentality of my family. I feel I spend my life compromising and lowering my standards to get along with my husband and sons. I don't know if it's a male/female thing but I have a strong dislike of video games and they all love them. And, because the oldest one is almost 17, he can play games and watch movies that are not appropriate for younger children but often, the 13 year old and even sometimes the 5 year old wind up seeing them anyway. I was so careful, when Declan was young, to shelter him from harmful media and junk. But I had to work and my parents watched him and he watched network TV at their house and before I knew it, he was well-versed in "Power Rangers". And then we started homeschooling and he was younger than the other kids and didn't know how to make friends and they were all collecting "Pokemon" cards and so I bought him his first set. It's been a downward spiral of giving in to popular culture since then. Carmac has been exposed to waaaay more media and much more mature viewing than Declan or Zed ever were until Declan hit 12 or 13. It's so hard to shelter the youngest who has older siblings.

Oftentimes I think about how I would like to be challenged to be a better person by my family. I feel like I have these aspirations to a more wholesome life and to living in a more spiritually centered way but that I always have to compromise myself and my beliefs to keep some amount of peace in our home. This morning, as my husband (doing his best "Andy Griffith" impersonation) talked with one of our sons about his apparent "malingering", I thought of parenting as a hero's journey. This is the spiritual path. This is the path I am on; the only one for me. My challenge is to take this life and make it a spiritually centered one. I am the one who has to find the Light in the darkness of first person shooter games (not allowed in our house but sometimes snuck in anyway) and Swedish "death" metal (music). My job is to be aware of the fact that I am the hero in this journey and I have to find the high road. I am here to prepare my children for their own journeys.
(this is by artist Ryan Dunlavey: )

Monday, March 10, 2008

More about God

I had the honor of attending my dear friend Sylvia's daughter Danika's arangetram, which is a dance recital/rite of passage from classical dance tradition in India. Danika has been studying dance for 10 years and her arangetram is her "coming out" as a dancer. Words cannot describe the beauty, grace and elegance of Danika's dancing. Accompanied by four musicians and a vocalist, Danika performed for two and a half hours, telling stories through poses, gestures and facial expression. I was moved to be invited to be there.

The arangetram was held in the Hindu Temple, Sri Ganesha. I've never been in a Hindu temple before, although I'd be curious. The priest performed a ceremony with Danika and her parents at the alter before the dance began. I think it was done in Sanskrit so I have no idea what it was about other than probably blessing Danika and allowing her to give thanks (that's only a guess).

It was interesting to be in a Hindu temple after writing about the lack of icons and symbols for God in my spiritual life. As I understand it, Hindus worship God/Brahman who manifests through many Deities/Manifestations. I think it's like God manifesting through Jesus and the Holy Ghost in the trinity. As I wrote in my last post, I relate to Jesus and, through Jesus, come to God.

I have difficulty getting past what I was taught about idols to be able to open myself to expand my very narrow concept of God by learning about the ways others come to understand or know God. I also have a real dislike of anthropomorphising God. God is not human. I am human. I am made in God's image but I do not believe that I am all that God is. I can find God in creation and worship God through God's creation. I do not worship nature; I worship God through nature. I do not worship a fellow human but I can find God in others and come closer to God by opening myself to that truth ("that of God").

"There's a Light that is shining in the heart of a man,
It's the Light that was shining when the world first began.
It's the Light that is shining in the Turk and the Jew,
And the Light that is shining, Friend, in me and in you."

God is that Light. God can be called Spirit, One, Creator or Love. I can perceive God as the Holy Mother/Father or as Wisdom/Sophia or as the gentle healer and angry teacher Jesus. God is what unites us and gives us the spark of life.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Knowing God through Jesus

Yesterday was my birthday. I took my mom, Zed and Carmac out to lunch at a Greek Orthodox cafe, Cafe Alektor. I'd gone there about a year ago and had seen a pendent with an image of Christ that stayed in my head all this time. I really didn't think it would still be there a year later but I figured we'd go for lunch and I'd at least look. It was there for me and so I bought myself a birthday gift. I also got a small icon pendent of Mary Magdalene.

(as an aside-either the pendent shrunk a bunch or my eyesight has gotten a lot worse in the past year; I walked all over the shop trying to find enough light to see the image clearly. Yipes!)

I've been struggling with my understanding of God. I need to allow myself to open in my perceptions of what God is. I grew up Baptist and am now Quaker: No icons, images, idols; no saints or avatars of the Divine outside the trinity. The church I grew up in had a large, simple wooden cross (flanked by the "Christian" flag and Old Glory) and that was it by way of symbols. Nashville Friends Meeting sometimes has flowers and, very occasionally, a candle. To me, God is something extremely personal. Yes, the still, small Voice. The Light. But what else?

When I was a child, up to the point of rejecting any belief in the church of my childhood, I imagined God to be like an elementary school principal: kind and benevolent in a distant way; busy with important work until I messed up and got sent to the "office". As an adult I discovered God within me, sustaining and guiding me. The closest I can come to describing God is to say that I believe that we, each person who was ever born, were each made in God's image and God encompasses and is comprised of us but so much, much greater; that God is so Great that God can be whatever loving thing we each need to perceive God to be (this fits well with my understanding of the community of God being the "body of Christ"). But again, what does that mean to me?

The symbol for God that I remember most often from my childhood I reject: Heavenly Father (how many pre-meal blessings did I hear begin with that one?). I don't have a problem with Heavenly Parent, or Creator, or Mother/Father but I can't abide by the patriarchal idea of God the Father. I don't care for Lord, either; it smacks too much of feudalism. Holy Ghost I'm fine with-I liken it to Spirit-but, to me, it is vague and undefined.

Jesus, being an Avatar (or incarnation) of God, is better. Again, I've rejected a lot of the ways of relating to Jesus that I learned in my church of origin, but I accept Jesus-the Jesus I know by reading the Bible (not church teachings. Check out this hilarious spoof political video "paid for by 'Conservative Christians against the teachings of Christ"). Jesus the teacher, healer, peacemaker, friend and champion of the weakest members of society-women, the poor, sinners, and the sinned against- is why I am a Christian and Jesus is how I best understand God and God's love, at this point in my life.

Could be my eyesight, but when I first saw this little icon, my impression was of Jesus sitting in the lotus position with his hands in mudras and an halo around his head. It's an Eastern Orthodox icon, so of course, that's not how Jesus is being depicted, but that's how I choose to see it: Jesus as guide to transcending ego to truly living in God/enlightenment.

Friday, March 7, 2008


I'm 43 today. It's a gloomy day, weather-wise. I don't mind growing older and usually make elaborate plans to celebrate my birthday but it's Friday and Hammy and I are both working and tomorrow, Zed is having friends over to belatedly celebrate his birthday (which was the 17th of February and we were all sick with the flu), so I won't be enjoying my birthday the way I usually do. This year, my birthday is just another day, which I sort of feel disappointed about. I usually love to celebrate being on Earth another year.

My monthly cycle started Wednesday evening. My cycle is becoming erratic, again. Prior to becoming pregnant with Carmac, my cycles would be anywhere from 30 days to 90 days in length. After his birth, for the past 4 1/2 years, they've been on the short side: 25-30ish days. This month, it was long again. I don't keep really good track but I think it was about 10 days or so longer; long enough that I started panicking about being pregnant again.

The fear of being pregnant is a strange knee-jerk reaction. Hammy and I have had very little opportunity for quality "alone" time since before I went to Chicago and he has had a vasectomy! You'd think I would logically conclude that my hormones are changing in my body. But I've had five pregnancies, only one of which was planned (two ended in miscarriage). When I perceive that my period is late, I immediately panic and live in fear, imagining "what if?".

Yesterday, I rode my scooter to work. Riding, especially for work, takes a lot of concentration and organization as I have to be aware of all my work equipment, the scooter, traffic, helmet hair, etc. Being (excuse the phrase) "on the rag" also takes a lot of my awareness (you women know what I mean). Combining the two was a serious distraction. Usually when I ride I feel powerful. Yesterday, I just felt scattered and out of sorts. I found myself looking forward to menopause.

I love being pregnant. I love being a fertile woman. But I know that time is passed for me. I'm much too young to be a crone but right now I feel I'm in a sort of hormonal limbo called peri-menopause. So, I'm 43 and looking forward to growing older rather than looking back to what I'm loosing. I'm not meaning to hurry time but I do look toward a time when my body becomes a little less disruptive and complicating to me.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

different drummer blues

Why? Oh why am I forced by my own nature to always, but always, color outside the lines? Why does my own drummer have such a syncopated beat? Why can't I just do like everybody else? Why must I always do things differently? I'm tired of always having to work so hard to do what most people never give a thought to.

Yeah, I'm committed to living my life as long as I am able without a car. I feel called to make this a part of my testimony and feel right about this decision. But geez, I'm tired; my ankle hurts, my muscles are sore and my knees and hips ache from the miles I walked yesterday (and I'll be taking the kids to homeschooling this afternoon so we'll be walking and riding the bus again in a couple of hours). I left my house at 9:30 yesterday to work, walked miles in the rain (schlepping my work/computer bag and my winter coat with me because the temperature was supposed to drop) to a couple of my cases and returned home at 2:30 in order to grab Zed and Carmac and run back to the bus stop to go to aikido.

Homebirth, cloth diapers, extended breastfeeding, family bed, homeschooling, recycling, living frugally and simply, trying to avoid too much media, trying to help my children be aware of the bombardment of marketing, governmental propaganda and cultural norms which are useless or even harmful. And now living without a car. I'm always swimming upstream. I'm always struggling against the flow. My calls to live an examined life usually result in a considerable amounts of sacrifice and discomfort-physical, financial, emotional sacrifice and discomfort. Usually I have righteous indignation to fuel me but I feel tapped out, dry; exhausted (pity my poor husband who only has his love for me to sustain him).

It happened as I struggled through the rain with my very heavy computer bag down a cobble-stone street in my clogs (after having twisted my ankle as I moved quickly to avoid getting hit by a car on my street). Generally, rainy, cold, unpleasant weather doesn't bother me too much (except heat-I really do not like it too hot). As a matter of fact, I often take a kind of perverse pleasure in inclement weather, priding myself on my ability to not mind it. But yesterday was too much. I'm in the rain, struggling with the wind and my umbrella and I just thought: "WHY? Why do I put myself through this kind of discomfort and inconvenience? Why can't I just be normal? Why can't I just be like everybody else and not think so hard and work so hard and make everything a challenge for myself and against our culture at large?!"

I just don't know right now.

I need to hear something to sustain me. I need inspiration; a message of encouragement. I need to be affirmed for these crazy, stupid choices I make to live right.