Engaged, Abundant, and Intentionally Full

hi_so_busyI hear quite often in work, in social settings and in my avocations, how busy people are. How are you? Busy. It’s a badge of pride and importance to be “busy.” Busy. Busy bees, working around the hive, always moving, always… doing. I heard once someone say “we should be less ‘human doing’ and more ‘human being.’ I thought they were a little crazy. We’re always humans being, and we’re always humans doing, too. That’s what we do. We just… do. As an adjective, to be busy means “to have a great deal to do.” As a verb, it means to ‘keep occupied.’ The first known use of the word is before the 12C. C.E…. so we know people have been ‘actively doing things’ for some time. Hence, humans have always been busy.

Listen to the word in common English conversation now, and the word tends to be laced with more judgment. Thoreau said, “It is not enough to be busy. So are the ants. The question is: What are we busy about?” The quote is intended to be self-reflective and self-directed. We must ask the question, to what are we applying our time? Is it worthy? Is it constructive for our needs and wants? Does it go to enrich us, feed our families, or improve the greater good? WHY are we busy? It’s easy to be busy: cleaning, cooking, laundry, writing, reading, caring for our families, running people around. Much of the time, we’re so stuck in ruts of “doing” that we forget to ask “why” or “is there a better way?” I find myself continually doing something and then wondering if I really need to be doing this task that task. Is there a different way to do it? Can I make myself less “busy” and more productive? These are two very different things.

“Life is simple, yet we continue to make it complicated.” Confucius was right – we are creatures keeping busy making many things complicated, if not everything. Complication is not creation. It’s just a headache waiting to happen. What do we complicate with “busy?” Our relationships. “How are things?” “Really busy, you know?” These opening salvoes in communications with others beg us to talk about what our activities have been. “Hey, look at me! Look how IMPORTANT I am! I’m busy.” People ask me how have I been, and generally I say good. They might ask what I have been up to, or say “I read your latest blog.” That gives us something to discuss. Sometimes people tell me “wow, you’re really busy,” I think “not so much.” I think about the actual activities to which I apply my time and feel like it’s almost all time well spent. Mostly. I also wonder if some of the time I’ve been spending, like wadded up cash in my pocket, is really being put toward worthwhile things. Have I been a slug? Or have I been working on bettering things? My mind is a busy place.

Relationships get complicated, but how? They get complicated in the swamp of judgment. Not judgment of ourselves – judgment of others. Are our friends busy with work? Busy with “play” or busy with children. Ask yourself right now…, “Do I place more importance on one type of busy than on another?” If you’re honest with yourself, you probably do.  busyguyThere is an implicit bias in North America, particularly the United States, that if you’re busy with children, your life has far more importance than if you do not. American businesses are geared toward relieving parents in times of hardship and our social services and whatnot are far more supportive of parental and childhood needs than of those without children. Think, “mental services” versus “child services.” Reflect and be honest – which do you think is more deserving of financial and labor support?

I do not have children of my own, and most of my friends know this. Most of my acquaintances as well. I have other friends who do not have children and hear some of the same ‘feedback.’ There is an underlying judgment in my brand of “busy” versus the parental brand of “busy.” My busy is not as worthwhile or important as raising children. My busy is not as meaningful when it comes to my time, and in fact, my time is worth less than a parent who has children. This has frustrated me for a very long time because it is disrespectful and demeaning. It is discriminatory in nearly the same way we are dismissive of other genders, races, or religions because they are not “of us.”  Whether we have children by choice or not, the underlying aspects of our US society is that if you’re not propagating the species, you are not as worthy as someone who did. Let’s examine some of the cultural bias that is out there, beyond my own empirical evidence.

An interesting article on the “childless by choice” stance was written by the Daily Beast, on the book, Shallow, Selfish, and Self-Absorbed: Sixteen Writers on the Decision not to Have Kids.  The article, and the book, are an interesting exploration into the psyche of people who have chosen not to have children. The best line of the article is this: “Why is it that so many Americans, no longer content with having their freedom, also seek to dictate what we may think about how they use it? Why must they be coddled and congratulated for every choice?”  Each time we make a judgment about another, what we’re really asking for is someone to validate that my choice, or the choices I have made, are valid and worthwhile. My choice was the right one. Your choice, not so much.

Newsweek reported in 2013 that our ability to choose to have children is bad for the country as a whole, our country’s future, and thus we were being selfish for not breeding for a better future. It was, is, our civic duty. childlessLet’s look at some other ideas. In 2015, most children (more than 72%) exited foster care with a permanent connection to a family. Thank god we have more children to fill the homes of foster care parents, who might otherwise be childless. Over 135,000 children are adopted each year, with thousands more waiting to find loving homes. Of non-stepparent adoptions, about 59 percent are from the child welfare (or foster) system, 26 percent are from other countries, and 15 percent are voluntarily relinquished American babies. If we didn’t keep having more children, those ranks would diminish, and we couldn’t have that. My sarcasm has a purpose, I assure you.

No one questions why someone had children. Perhaps they should. Have we not seen enough bad situations where parents are not well-equipped to raise the next generation of human beings? Having children is sometimes more than a simple choice, to be dismissed as thoughtless, selfish, and greedy. There is an overwhelming sense of having to justify yourself -parent or not- that is exhausting. This is true with every decision we make in life and when we judge others: how can we know the motivations, needs, desires, or restrictions placed on another’s life. How can we make a judgment about how they spend their lifetimes? How can be the judge of their “busy?”

I have been accused of judging people’s “busy.” I have heard people say, “she can’t judge my life. she doesn’t have children.” For the most part, this is a misinterpretation. Having been judged often enough for not having children, I am keenly aware of the need to not judge back. Small_bee-honeycombRounding this out, the misinterpretation comes when I am frustrated with people who use the excuse of “I’m too busy with my children. And if you had children, you’d be too busy to do what you do.” It’s the last part that is misrepresented. I accept busy-ness. I do not accept “you have more time because you don’t have children.” We all get 24 hours in the day – there are no exceptions that that law of nature. I do not accept that I am “less” busy because I don’t spend my time fostering the next generation. How we all choose to spend the freedom and time that this country affords us is just that – our choice. Everyone is busy. Everyone is dedicated to something, creating something, involved in something. While you might have chosen children, I chose a different path, for some very specific reasons. I might not feel the need to share those reasons. You might not feel the need to share the reasons for having children. Either way, it’s okay. We need to recognize that we are both busy and that we dedicate our time to our individual, worthwhile pursuits – and keep judgments to one’s self.

We spend so much time judging how other people have dedicated their lives that we might just miss our own in the process.

Knowing oneself is the ultimate goal. The end game. Knowing others is icing, and we could argue whether or not we really know others. Know thyself means that we don’t overcommit, we don’t promise what we can’t deliver, we know our own limitations and can work toward them. Too busy? Complaining? Maybe it’s time to reset your boundaries; after all, you’re the one that set them to begin with. Own your life and don’t let the “busy-ness” own you.

Judge if you will… but it’s time for a nap.

~TDD

sunset

-TDD

 

 

 

 

 

 

Darker Thoughts

Let’s take a moment to review history, shall we?

Hitler-Hindenberg-Tannenberg-1933The violence in Germany exploded after years of being fueled by hate-mongering government officials and military leaders, as well as those who had the ear of Herr Hitler. Watching this video on the History website, one cannot be unmoved by similarities: http://www.history.com/topics/kristallnacht/videos/rise-of-the-nazis. Are the conditions the same, with extreme poverty and unemployment? No. But, if you take an apathetic educated class of people, who do not oppose these seemingly small incidents, you get the same effect.

What happened, four years later? Yes, it took four years for Hitler to be in power before this…

On November 9 to November 10, 1938, in an incident known as “Kristallnacht”, Nazis in Germany torched synagogues, vandalized Jewish homes, schools and businesses and killed close to 100 Jews. In the aftermath of Kristallnacht, also called the “Night of Broken Glass,” some 30,000 Jewish men were arrested and sent to Nazi concentration camps. German Jews had been subjected to repressive policies since 1933, when Nazi Party leader Adolf Hitler (1889-1945) became chancellor of Germany. However, prior to Kristallnacht, these Nazi policies had been primarily nonviolent. After Kristallnacht, conditions for German Jews grew increasingly worse. (http://www.history.com/topics/kristallnacht)

fascismOn May 27, 1941, President Roosevelt conveyed a radio address to the nation, citing an “Unlimited National Emergency.” This emergency was brought about by acts of aggression by the Nazi Party within Europe. Prior to this, more than a year, the Nazis and Hitler had invaded Denmark and Norway (April 1940.) FDR knew that the Nazi Party was hell bent on global domination and that we needed to act to protect the world because, in his words, it was in our best interests to do so. Waiting to act until the Nazis were on our shores would be tantamount to suicide. He begged isolationists to crack the shell, get involved, and above all things, care.

In 1956, the American Nazi party was created. Over the years, it has changed its name and is now the New Order. Remember that the name of this party is the  “National Socialist Party” – something that feels very left-of-center. A variety of divisions within the group have caused it to decline and now, far more conservative, white supremacist, hate-based groups have risen to the fore – The KKK, Aryan Nation, The Order, New Order, and White Patriot Party have filled the vacuum the German Nazi party have left behind. I write this here because it’s important to note that the term “Nazi” isn’t necessarily applicable to the kind of violence that we are seeing in our nation today. White supremacists have picked up the iconography of the National Socialists and made it their own.

On November 4, 1988, President Ronald Reagan made the following Statement, on the 50th Anniversary of Kristallnacht:

Fifty years ago, on the night of November 9-10, 1938, German Nazis committed a nationwide pogrom against Jewish people. By the next morning, scores of Jews were dead, hundreds were injured, and many synagogues, shops, and homes lay in ruins. This vicious attack became known around the globe as “Kristallnacht“—”crystal night” or “the night of broken glass” from the mute evidence of shattered window glass it left in so many streets. Half a century later, we mourn every victim of this pogrom and we rededicate ourselves to preventing repetitions of such brutality anywhere and everywhere.

The world had been ignoring many warning signs in Germany and elsewhere of increasing anti-Semitism, disregard for human rights, and eugenically motivated assaults on individual dignity and worth. Kristallnacht surely should have alerted everyone that time had run out—that the “peace in our time” proclaimed hopefully by British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain only a few weeks before was not to be. It took World War II to eliminate the Nazi threat to humanity and to our most sacred values.

WAR & CONFLICT BOOK ERA:  WORLD WAR II/PERSONALITIESKristallnacht was the opening salvo in violence across Europe and really was an orchestrated attempt to fan the flames of chaos and domination. Americans entered the war only once our personal interests were attacked, mainly because most Americans could not fathom how a war in Europe, the rise of hate-based ideologies, and fascism could affect the cozy American shores. Indeed, even FDR called these people “smug” and full of “smugness.”

And what do we have today? Do we have a similar nation of people who are smug and confident that “Nazism” could never happen in America? In a recent post on Facebook, God posted a picture with this caption: “You don’t get to be a Nazi and a proud American. We literally fought a war about this. The whole world was involved.” People who hate are counting on the ones who don’t to wave the banner of free speech and the First Amendment and give them their “right” to speak and protest and rally. They, and every American, have the right to do so. Thank god. However, should those same people be allowed to actively inflame the other side by carrying guns, equating their right to speak to not letting others speak? Carrying a gun to a rally you are protesting is inviting killing. It is begging for it. In the end, it wasn’t even a gun that killed – it was a man with a car and raging hate in his head.

CVAOne death. It’s hard to believe it was only one death. Yet, one death is all it took for Kristallnacht to happen.

In the fall of 1938, Herschel Grynszpan (1921-45), a 17-year-old ethnically Polish Jew who had been living in France for several years, learned that the Nazis had exiled his parents to Poland from Hanover, Germany, where Herschel had been born and his family had lived for years. As retaliation, on November 7, 1938, the agitated teenager shot Ernst vom Rath (1909-38), a German diplomat in Paris. Rath died two days later from his wounds, and Hitler attended his funeral. Joseph Goebbels (1897-1945), the Nazi minister for public enlightenment and propaganda, immediately seized on the assassination to rile Hitler’s supporters into an anti-Semitic frenzy.

If you do not believe that Steve Bannon has not already looked at this incident as an opportunity, you are most likely mistaken. In the book, “The Devil’s Bargain: Steve Bannon, Donald Trump, and the Storming of the Presidency” and in more than a few public interviews, this type of situation is an opportunity for chaos and upheaval. It is an opportunity to turn the world on its collective ass and upend the way the government works. He, in turn, has a President who is not exactly devoid of hate. A few of his quotes:

“When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending the best. They’re not sending you, they’re sending people that have lots of problems and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bring crime. They’re rapists… And some, I assume, are good people.”

“Our great African-American President hasn’t exactly had a positive impact on the thugs who are so happily and openly destroying Baltimore.”

“If I were running ‘The View’, I’d fire Rosie O’Donnell. I mean, I’d look at her right in that fat, ugly face of hers, I’d say ‘Rosie, you’re fired.”

devil'sbargainAnd we have a public who still supports this president or is, at least, tired and wanting to tune him out. It’s tiring to deal with children. Think… “The Omen.” Perhaps this child isn’t being a cranky 2-year-old on his own, perhaps he has help, encouragement even. Perhaps he has a master manipulator at his side, in his head, driving him to do crazy things because he’s truly weak. I am not a conspiracy theorist. Far from it. I’m skeptical more times than not. The rise of fear-mongering and staggering displays of outright violence have shaken my skepticism.

So, please, let’s do a summation:

  • A President who is indifferent at best and hateful at worst to wide swaths of people, including women, blacks, immigrants, and Mexicans, who lacks conviction to follow through on policies and is not well loved by global leaders;
  • Supported and encouraged, driven by an aide who wants to see the entire world burn in a fire of chaos; a man dismissed by many Washington insiders and administration officials as “unclean, uncouth, and lacking any sense of the world around him;”
  • A fairly apathetic American public who believes “this can’t happen to us, we’re too smart|diverse|educated|rich for the Holocaust to happen here.”

Trump is not Hitler. Trump is Hindenburg.

I am not happy with the American Public. I want in my soul to hide, to get away, to just go away from the hatred. And that is just what these people are counting on. Which pisses me off even more.

Let me reach down, pick up that gauntlet, dust it off, and cram it down their throats.

~TDD

A Moment, Sir

I just sat at the kitchen table, finishing up a lovely boneless pork chop and mixed veggie stir fry, and told my husband I feel four and a half months pregnant. I feel like I’m slogging through the last few weeks, dragging my tired mind and body toward working on building a new house, flush with all the possibilities, and yet, it’s too fast. No, it’s too slow. Work is crazy. Work is good. Work is crazy good and frustrating. When the people with vicious motives are allowed to run rampant, it’s a cross between being so busy your eyes spin and so mad, your ulcers flare. No, no ulcers here – just the worn sense of loyalty to someone who has been very good to me and is being unfairly treated because he spoke up. There are some truly crazy people out there and yes, you and I work with them. The saving grace is that I’m 1000 miles away now and not subject to the day to day “sturm und drang” of it all. You have to wonder how people stay in business when “buttheads,” as my CEO said once, are allowed to stay. Luckily, my world is not overflowing with them. Here, I have cats and wireless headsets, and the washer and dryer to keep me company. It’s far more pleasant that gossip. And hate. And hubris.

But, I digress.

194168-Illustration-from-The-Sorrows-of-Werther-by-Johann-Wolfgang-Goethe-Posters

Back to my pregnancy. Anyone who knows me knows there is a world of improbability in that statement. This has to go to building a house. This is the third house I’ve built, if you don’t include a complete renovation in an 1889 Victorian Cow Farm house. I do count that beast. I have loved every one of them. There’s part of me, at this stage of the build, that is very antsy for me to have my part – that’s the interior design. I have to wait – for walls, roof, electrical, drywall, and flooring. Then, I get to play. But, in this preliminary time, gestation if you will, I have to wait. I get to scan plans and magazines and design studios feverishly, waiting for my turn at the work. Yet, these rough ins are just as important if not more so than finishing. I know this. I find a good foundation more important than anything. And Doyle, well, Doyle has surpassed his own expectations and risen to be very good at shepherding the process. He really has given it his all and I am so proud of what he’s done. There’s always some challenge with a build, here and there. You minimize the expenses and go with the solid work. The people we’ve chosen have been outstanding. Doyle is fortunate enough to be able to work every day near the build so if something comes up, he can be there. We slaved over the plans to make it right, and then over the choices of builders. All in all, we’ve done well so far. We’re probably about 1/2 way through, and hence, the four and a half months.

pendulum-1

I imagine mothers, at 4 1/2 months pregnant, thinking, I’m only 1/2 way through – no more morning sickness, probably, munchies, excitedly thinking of names, gender, rooms to nest. There’s the dread of the last month, feeling like it’s so close, you want it over and yet, terrified that something will go wrong. Finally, the day arrives and you push through the pain and anguish, the fear and the doubts and here it is – a beautiful creation that you’ve given the world. We’ve released our creation to the world and for however long destiny or fate decrees, it is ours to share and then ours to provide to those who remain. A legacy of some time for future generations. I am convinced it is what humans were born to do – create things.

Sounds mushy. Meh. It’s true. Cope.

For me this house in particular denotes freedom. I have worked thirty plus years to fulfill this dream: a house that I have built where I can live comfortably, that has my mark on it, that is all that I’ve saved and worked for, and ultimately, means I can be free from the “sturm und drang.” It is freedom in the sense that I can begin my real path in life, whatever my real work is. The house excites my sense of style, creativity, and design. It fulfills my desires for beauty and an open, inviting home to share with the loved ones in my life. It is freedom from, yes, say it, the every day, the corporate, the mind-numbing what-everyone-else-does. Of these houses that I’ve built and loved, this one feels truly ours. It is what we’ve built together – his engineering and form, my design and feel. We compliment each other well, when he lets me have what I want. Seriously, this is some strong mojo here, building this together. It really does feel like a true partnership of ideas. And damn, it’s big. This house means something.

For all the speed of this whole build, now, I want to savor the journey. I want to feel pregnant with design ideas and thoughts, visions of how it goes together, how it feels to entertain, what the lighting illuminates, what dances on the ceilings, how it sounds and smells, during the build and after. I walked through the basement last weekend and it smelled like… a house build. It’s the only way to describe it – fresh cement, wood chips and worn bent nails across the floor, mud puddles and dirty foot prints, tracking the smell of slightly decaying tree debris. There is that smell that a house build has, an aromatherapy of desire and anticipation that tingles. Tantalizes. Begs for an Atlas Moving Truck. And maybe just a little Sherwin Williams and Pottery Barn.

patienceFor now, patience is at my bedside pillow, a comfort on the warm nights of waiting. That virtue sits beside the stack of design magazines and catalogs, next to a day-old ice tea and an alarm clock that reminds me the work never really ends. With some perseverance, it can become true Work. Yes, this house is freedom, of a very personal kind. I want the moment to last only so long as it needs to, before the memory becomes dust. I want the shackles to fall and the darkness to become light. I want crooked things straight, the path laid out before me. A moment, sir, to savor the wind and the rain and the rushing torrent, before I can be free to grow in the sun. On a beautiful lanai overlooking a fresh, lushly forested mountain. In the house that Kris and Doyle built.

Briefly, On Aging

“Never do I return home with the character I had when I left; always there is something I had settled before that is now stirred up again, something I had gotten rid of that has returned. …our minds are recovering from a long illness; contact with the many is harmful to us. Every single person urges some fault upon us, or imparts one to us, or contaminates us without our even realizing it.” – Seneca

 


Maya Angelou, 86

I rarely think of myself as an “age.” When someone asks me how old I am, I generally have to calculate it. My age doesn’t come readily to my mind. I take the year, subtract my birth year, and there you have it. Not so hard but it amuses me. I, along with every other person I’ve met, feels that they are not their physical age. Inside, in our guts, we all feel our youth.

Even funnier is when our gut does not comply. No, in this case I mean our actual gut. It is more sensitive to what we eat or don’t eat. Drinking to excess hurts more. Our joints hurt in the hot or cold, it’s tougher to want to move, to think, to do just about anything. Entropy is fatal, I know that, and yet… it has taken up residence nearby. I don’t like that. My mind still feels as if it’s seventeen, ready to have my body stay up all night or do a cartwheel. Yeah. Not so much. Our minds are youthful gymnasts where our bodies belie the truth of our age. My father, at 84, is fond of saying ‘these Golden Years are not so golden.”

I find that at times, our minds can get a little lost, too. I have learned a whole lifetime of Elizabeth Warren, 67language of self-talk and most of it is not good. There are soundtracks that I’ve forgotten about, repeated phrases that are said in my head, at a whisper, that I’ve just learned to accept. The vernacular gets tiring at times but still, I fall back to it when it’s comfortable. I hate it. I know it’s wrong, I know I don’t want it there…but…yeah. I get stuck in my mind quite often, generally in a feedback loop of negativity and failure. It’s entirely self-directed. There are times, though, when I also get frustrated with my fellow humans. Kids who play really loud thumping music, wear their pants around their knees, or are crass and rude in public. I try to laugh it off, think, “this is what my parents said, too” and then I think that I am adopting the rigor mortus of aging. My mind and habits and ways of being are crystallizing. Apart from the inevitable pains of deteriorating flesh, this horrifies me most of all.

Now, to be fair, I never really did like some of those things, even thirty years ago. Thumping bass music has always given me a headache and kept me up at nights. People who are rude and embarrassing in public have always made me want to run away. Some of that is just who I am. I do my best not to judge and I am aware that I do have my own likes and dislikes. I work hard to keep my personal affectations personal. I think what I’m most annoyed about is that people in our country seem fit to impose their own likes, needs, wants, bad days, dreams, complaints, and problems onto others. It is as if there has become a shared responsibility for individual emotional need. Egotists and narcissists. I don’t think that’s something that has sprung up because of my age; I think it is a symptom of the age and the culmination of our social experiences in the digital world. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” seems like such a quaint notion. I feel so old to even wish for that state of social interaction.

Ruth Bader Ginsberg, 84I, personally, tend to like the weird. I like the people who wear plaid and polka-dots over their cartoon-festooned flannel pants. I have had my hair purple and red, orange. I am convinced that the only people who make good coffee in cafes have more than three piercings and four tattoos. I like to challenge the status quo, and myself, probably more often than is healthy for my career or friendships. And yet, the relationships that I have garnered over the years also celebrate the weird and off-beat. I am variety girl. This is why the idea of crystallized thought forms is so horrific. I can’t settle. I never seem to buy the same shower gel twice. I hope I never do. I want to experience all the smells.

A few years ago, I was head over heals for Crossfit. I loved and still love the variety of Oprah Winfrey, 63physical challenges. I had a wonderful coach, Saul, who is an example to all of us who have spent our careers in the Information Age. He lived, and ultimately escaped, it to move into the Crossfit arena. Saddled with poor posture and a computer attached to our fingers and wrists, we who were born in the computer age have suffered for this digital art. We’re aging differently in America because of it. When I started doing Crossfit, Saul worked with me to help me understand how to adapt a computer-wrecked body to do the physical work of Crossfit. It wasn’t easy. I think, though, that the most important lesson I learned from that time at Crossfit and with Saul was that if you think you can do it, you can do a little more, and that the only constraint to keeping you from a goal is your mind. There comes a time when you hear the feedback loop of “I can’t do it,” and you just say screw it, and you get it done. You push through the mind block and the pain is gone. You can do it. What you feared would happen, failure, doesn’t because you just chose to do what needed to be done. I can’t do it becomes I did it. There is that moment, that quintessential moment, when your ego (fear) gets out of the way and you really remember that you can do anything you set your mind to do. I’ll never forget the first moment that happened, on the rowing machine and ready to puke, when I realized that the “I” that is Kris is my only set of chains. I can do what I set my mind upon.

Of course, without wings, I’ll never fly, but that is another challenge entirely.

 

Tao Porchon Lynch, 96And, let’s be honest: walking with a broken leg or some other injury like it precludes this mind over matter thing. What I’m talking about is that niggling little feeling you get when you are ready to get up from a chair and think, oh, what if my knee gives out, or my back hurts and I can’t walk further. This is your mind controling your boundaries not the actual state of your body. And, when it comes down to it, this is my point: when we succumb to the mind telling us we can’t, then we age. That is aging. This is why variety girl may always be variety girl; the idea of letting my mind ‘settle’ equates to aging, to getting old, to stagnation and ultimately, to decay. I hate the feedback loop of negativity and when I do recognize it, I kick it to the curb. Like my knees, I have to overcome the idea that my choices in life, my thought processes, and my decisions have to be ‘settled.’ I’m doing what I can now to preserve my mind and keep it nimble. If this means always pushing myself into new activities, and failures, so be it.

Judy Chicago, Artist, 77

Women have the extra baggage of hormonal changes as we age, coupled with the ideas of how we’re portrayed and valued (or not) as we age. Our roles as women shift from beauty icon to mother to crone in American society. Yet, women over the age of fifty aren’t what they used to be. My mother, at 50, struggled with an identity and self worth. She was sickly and rarely got out of the house. Today, I’ve seen 80 year-old women bodybuilders, skiers, gymnasts, dancers, artists, photographers, and singers. The paradigm of aging for everyone but especially women is changing. Women no longer see themselves as dried up husks, finished with childbearing and rearing and set out to pasture to care for the aging members of family and ultimately becoming that aged old crone. Older women are vibrant people capable of bringing real depth and art to society, to be role models and champions of aging well, gracefully, with energy and life. The one thing our generation has brought to America is the idea that getting old doesn’t mean wooden rockers. It means hair-band rockers.

 

disruptorIt’s work, this getting older thing. It takes paying attention to your body and your mind in ways that you didn’t think necessary before. It means moisturizer. It means one glass of wine, not one bottle. It means taking care to push mental boundaries and never get stuck, and at the same time revel in what you have learned. Appreciate yourself but never settle. The brilliant moment is when that epiphany happens: the mind is the only prison we really have and that achievement can be had at any age if we really want it. We don’t need anyone to toss us the keys to get out, either. We can walk right over to the wall and get them ourselves.

-TDD


 

“Spend your time with those who will improve you; extend a welcome to those you can improve. The effect is reciprocal, for people learn while teaching.” – Seneca

Chapter 2: Rocks and their Shaping

Turn towards the road that leads to the courage of the sunrise,
Leave behind your tears, Rainbow
Let the mist dry slowly as you lift your heart
from darkness to the Eastern blessing

From there the Night Wing will drag you on
And Sorrows may weaken your legs,
Remember the smile of the Jester’s Court,
And turn inward toward the King

A playing card may fall on the path
And the carrion eater may circle,
Turn at the water’s edge if blind
and find the doorway in front of you

There is no gold at Rainbow’s end
That fairy tale is gone,
Reach with your hand toward the mirrored sand
Your treasure is the sight which cannot see

-The Sunrise


Iris woke with the sun just creeping up over the tight grassy rise in the road. After a week of steep, slow climbs, her ankles hurt and her back burned. The chill sound of cool water running brought her alert. She was thirsty, and had to pee. She crawled out of the warm sleeping bag and scrambled through the mucky leaves and dirt toward the small stream’s edge. The smell of rotting underbrush drifted upward on the morning mist.

trailThe quiet was overwhelming, especially after the past months of war. The Movement had left its mark, on hearts, minds, and eardrums. Iris almost begged for a raucous gunfight. Her nerves were shattered, she knew it. The sound of the water was pale and weak, but she knew it was necessary. She laid out on the flat ground beside the stream and buried her face in the cool, thin water. Icy. She pulled her head up quickly. The idea of being snuck-up on was very fresh. She took a long drink and rose to pee. A twig snapped on the other side of the stream and she froze, half crouching. An animal out of her element.

She saw movement, brown and slow. She didn’t realize she was holding her breath until her chest began to hurt. The grasses shifted and a small bear wobbled towards the rushing water. Iris did not move, despite the now-apparent lack of danger. Something made her stay put, watching.

The bear was very small and she had never seen a living one. Pictures in books were…inadequate. It’s thick fur swayed as it wobbled toward the water. It tentatively stuck its black snout into the water and lapped up small swallows. Iris, fascinated at a living creature, not human, nearly her size, wanted to creep closer. She put her hands in front of her to pull herself forward when she heard a twig snap, again, to her right. She froze.

Ten yards away, a much, much larger bear lumbered toward the stream. A short whimper followed by a fierce bark erupted from the larger bear. The small bear looked up from the water and whimpered as well. It tentatively put paws into the river but the bank fell off steeply. It floundered for a few seconds before pulling itself up back onto the ground. The larger bear growled again, a rumbling type of bark, and started to lumber toward Iris.

Shit, shit, shit… what was she going to do. If she got up, she was going to be chased. If she stayed there, she was far too close to get away. Luckily, the smaller bear moved up river toward the larger bear. The larger bear, Iris called it Momma Bear in her head, stopped moving toward Iris and sloshed into the river. She waddled across the water toward the small bear, and finally landed on the other side. Iris watched the smaller bear roll up to its mother, rub against her legs and grab for her neck. Momma was having none of it. She swatted the smaller animal and started to move up the bank. The little one followed, and within a few minutes, they were out of sight.

Iris rolled over and let out a long breath she hadn’t been aware she was holding. Shit, she thought. I need to be more careful. Iris rolled up and moved back to her camp to pack up for the day’s next hike.

By her estimation, she was still about twenty-five miles from the first place mentioned in the poem – Eastern blessing. It had been so long since she had been here, she felt as if her mind were filling in things that might not have been true. Forests were thicker, the river wider, shifting. As she rolled up her bag and worked shoes and socks back into the backpack, she hoped it was right. She was a little irritated at Anrav for putting directions into a poem. Yes, it was fun to unravel it and yes, she understood why he did it. Damn it, though, how was she really sure she was in the right place. She only had so much protection and the world was becoming a far wilder place. Two more days, max, and she’d be at the first sanctuary. At least, she hoped, it was still the sanctuary she remembered.

Ostera’s Grove. It was one of the places Anrav first met her, to talk about the past, the present and the future.

Winter was coming on stronger, and Iris could feel the snow ahead. The chill, crisp air filling a blue sky was deceiving. She could not see the full western sky yet, as the trees rose and feel behind her, obstructing. If she was right, it would only be one or two more days until the snows started, and she needed to be at the Grove before then. She was shocked how long it had taken her to get to this point. Days of walking in her earlier life would have brought her to the Grove in a week. She was behind. She was out of shape. Guerilla warfare in the streets of a city is no substitute for the endurance of hiking. Iris pulled on the wool coat and slipped the backpack over her shoulder. Damn it. She forgot the water. She dropped the pack to the ground again and unhooked the canteen. The walked down to the river again and laid flat to fill the canteen. The water began to glint and flicker in the on-coming sunrise and she stared at the transient jewels for minutes as the can filled. Shaking her head, she broke the trance. She needed to get going.

bigtrees_fallShe heard the earth move before it actually shifted. Laying on the ground, the sound snapped and grumbled as the bank began to rumble and shift. Startled, Iris looked around at the trees that began to sway together. The ground seemed to undulate, like a large wave, and her eyesight became skewed as the earth shifted. The earthquake went on for some time, longer than she remembered them happening. She looked around for things that might fall on her but luckily, she was in an open space. Rocks on the other bank crumbled and streamed down the low rise and into the water. In a moment, the sound stilled and the earth halted its dance. She took a few breaths and listened. The silence was enormous. Iris breathed. It was over.

The sky to the north erupted in bright white light, even in the brilliant sunrise. As Iris rose, the shock wave of a roaring explosion knocked her back down. She lifted her head and looked toward the north. A plume of grey and white smoke, a cloud rising from the ground, billowed toward the sky. Shit. What now? She racked her brain for what could possibly be this removed from the world and still explode. Her breath caught as she remembered.

Granite Station Missile Silo.


 

(Be)Longing

finger-pointing-criticism.jpegOf the 367 books I am reading right now, one is standing out. It’s called The Art of Non-Conformity by Chris Guillebeau.  What’s always interesting to me is the dialogue that goes on in my head when I read one of these types of books. Some people call them “self-help” – I deplore that word. It smacks of being unable or unwilling to work with the world to achieve what you want|need, and thus must turn to some sort of guru for the answer. I also deplore gurus, but that’s another story. I actually like these books very much because it gives me insight into Someone Else’s journey. It’s like I’m collecting a series of events that led to ideas that I could not have, because I didn’t live those events. The ideas I have come to me through different channels and experiences. I love these books because, like any good travel book, they give me insights into the mental surroundings that created them.

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Complacency

Are you comfortable? Are you warm, well-fed, dry, have enough to drink? Warm showers? Bathroom indoors? Excellent. This isn’t judgement. You, like me, are a benefactor of decades and centuries of prosperity, war, genocide, environmental support and ruin, negotiations, smart men and women, and incredibly ignorant men and women. Our life here in the United States is far more fortunate than most of the world. And for all this fortune and well-being, shouldn’t we be an example? A role model, if you will?

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