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

Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire

lies3For the most part, I have turned off the radio, the TV, the incoming news feeds, etc. With few exceptions, I am limiting the amount of crappy media that is coming into my brain. I open it up for select topics of interest, to keep a finger on the pulse of a schizophrenic U.S.A., such as the Women’s March on Washington. Such as, the amount of visible support or lack there of that this new administration is getting. Continue reading

Policy, Personality, and the Pussy Divide

the-fight-for-womens-suffrage-hAs we wind up this most exciting and titillating election year (said with as much sarcasm as I am able to deliver in WordPress…) I cannot help but focus on the activities and personality that have come out of the mouths of candidates: specifically, Mr. Trump (Warning: Language!) As Trevor Noah said on The Daily Show, it’s not about the language – it’s about admitting to sexual assault. Trump supporters call the people offended by the video as whiners or, as his surrogates have said, “locker room talk.” If we take a step back and look at the facts, it is admission of his support of sexual assault, and an admission of sexual assault. From the DOJ website, we have this definition: “Sexual assault is any type of sexual contact or behavior that occurs without the explicit consent of the recipient. Falling under the definition of sexual assault are sexual activities as forced sexual intercourse, forcible sodomy, child molestation, incest, fondling, and attempted rape.” The facts of the tape are not that he did it – that he talked about doing it and that it was okay with him and for him. In essence, he’s condoning illegal activities.

Any of us who have listened to Mr. Trump in the last 30 years knows this is not surprising. His statements are, at the very least, disrespectful of many segments of American society, and at the worst, hypocritical, demeaning, racist, and divisive. He is laser focused on, it appears, segments of society that either love his personality or hate it. There is no in-between, there is no subtle nature; perhaps there is calculation in this maneuvering but it is unclear to me what the end game is.

I have tried to not listen to the personality. I’ve been seeking policy. And this is where I run into issues. Because OF his personality, I can’t keep straight what the actual policies are. Policy is a course or principle of action adopted or proposed by a government, party, business, or individual.When discussing this with his supporters, I don’t hear many of them really espousing his policies. What are his policies? Is he in lidonald-trump-splitne with his party? Does he have a set of core values that he can articulate clearly and consistently? I’ve heard him say he’s pro-choice. The Republican party generally is not. I’ve heard him say he’s going to be tough on “border” issues. Yet, I don’t know what that means except build a wall and deport all the “Muslims.” Having worked out so well for China and Hadrian, I don’t know what that will accomplish. Kick out all Muslims? How does that translate into a policy? What is the principle behind it? Is it racism? Or is it something else? Yes, seriously – I want to know.

I admit, I was one who supported Obama because I wanted someone in the White House who was articulate, educated, professional, confident, prudent, and could engender agreement. The Republican Congress made short work of the compromise and agreement, but for the most part, I feel like we got what we asked to get. Pushing aside the other candidates for a moment – this, this “election” is something I do not get. Is the pendulum swinging the other way too far? Because this election has brought out such ugliness, perhaps it needed to happen. However, are we really going to let ugliness rule us in totality for at least four more years?

Oddly enough, the retort to questions about policy is “Well, what has Hillary done? Nothing.” Or, it’s countered with a like story about Hillary’s foibles, or oddly enough, Bill’s. I am dumbfounded by the lack of logical arguments, clear rhetoric, or even understandable debate points. I have heard some of the craziest things from the mouths of other human beings in this country that have, frankly, shocked the hell out of me. Is our country REALLY that bad? This is no Bush Vs. Gore or Romney Vs. Obama. Weirdly enough, this is Trump Vs. Trump. Forget all of the personality – maybe even forget the policy – and just stand in wonder of the logic of the people. Or, as one friend calls them, Sheeple.

I do truly believe that women, though, have to make a stand for a candidate and be clear which one is better for our gender. If we can finally get down to true policy, perhaps we can find out. I doubt it. If Trump’s comments are his policy towards women’s equality, rights, and freedoms, then we all have some hard decisions to make. I cannot believe the women of the U.S.A. would be so asleep as to let HIM happen to us. I don’t know – maybe it really will come down to men versus women. I’d like to hope not but there it is.

I’m truly not advocating for or against any single candidate – make up your own damn mind. What I care about is trying to understand the issues that face us as national community and how we can find people to make that better. There are people among us who we know would be good leaders, and they are – in their community. Maybe that is enough. Maybe that’s where it starts. If our top leadership does go backwards, maybe it’s time for the bottom leadership to start pushing us all forward. ballot-box-facebook

My ballot came yesterday and it sits on my dining room table, waiting to be opened. I need to sit down and think through the issues, re-read the information provided, and try to make a judgement based on what I know and what I see we need. I think back to Madison who believed the majority of the American populace would not know how to choose what is right for themselves. Self-governance is a fallacy, in his estimation. I hope I do not prove him right. I hope we all don’t prove him right.

-TDD

I am Ignorance Teaching Herself

RacismI’m lost. I am feeling as if I am, on the one hand, very thick and dense and clueless, and on the other hand, knowing I am ignorant as hell and in need of a very deep and intense education. I know that this post is going to possibly inflame emotions even more. I’m not trying to do that. I’m trying to light a candle and to understand. I’m trying to figure my way though.

I’m talking about racism. I’m talking about race, about black men being gunned down in the streets by white men (police or otherwise), about profiling hispanic men and women in routine traffic stops to deport them, and about senseless ignorance running rampant. I’m talking about the horror I see every day in the news, as a white woman, and feel powerless to change.

But, I am not powerless, am I? I am ignorant; there is some possibility I can never know how ignorant I really am – simply because I am white. I don’t believe I’ve buried my head in the sand but I haven’t exactly stood up and put my body between ignorant violence / hate and anyone of color, either. I have read history of all sorts: American, British, black, white, Hispanic, indigenous peoples of all kinds. Growing up in California, you learn to speak psuedo-spanish and learn where the Spanish names of your towns come from. There was a time I believed, as a child, I must have been of Hispanic descent simply because I was born in California. You live in a true mixture of culture, color, and identity. I learned from families of all races and nations around me. In some ways, you think the entire world is colorful, like California or New York City.

What you don’t learn as a child, or at least when I was a child, was the cruel conditions that both Native Americans and Mexicans have had to endure to bolster our economy in California. I learned all of this much later, as a very ignorant adult. You don’t see and understand the Southern California and San Jose gang violence until you understand how racism has created a great deal of the underlying issues in the state. When you grow up in the idyllic suburbia, you don’t hear racial slurs and see frightened faces walking down streets at night. You are spoon-fed what the city-state wants you to know and you effectively learn nothing about what it is like to grow up black, brown, red, yellow, or any shade in between. You have no idea about the white-bread news you’ve been getting and how it is so far from the reality that some people live day to day. You grow up ignorant and are shocked when the world smacks you in the face with its ugly, racist self.

Growing up ignorant is no excuse and I have spent years correcting that. I have learned to seek out the less-heard history of minorities and women, to better understand how we racism-today-holding-us-back-from-moving-forward-power-point-5-638became the way we are. I’ve taken classes, read books, listened to speakers, and talked with friends who are not white. I’m still feeling my way through all of this. I hear from all sides that I should not be insulting and say “I don’t see color.” It’s demeaning to say I’m an ally of a movement, and it’s shameful that white mothers say “I’m teaching my children to see beyond color.” Intellectually, I understand that it means that I am discounting a racial history when I say that. I am ignoring someone’s racial culture and the events that lead up to this cruel moment in time. It means I am not seeing the past and ignoring the present.

I then turn my brain to the idea that I have to remember everyone’s history because everyone, with the exception of the white male, has been through “something.” Jews, Blacks, Mexicans, Women, Muslims, Christians (Yes, even them) have been through some sort of past trauma and are still going through trauma, hatred, and inexcusable violence. Misogyny stirs in the hearts of even the most visible political candidates and celebrities. Racial and Gender profiling are rampant – politically and in our law enforcement. I am not ignorant to that. I am not ignorant to the fact that slavery is “recent” memory (and not simply gone as we want to believe…), that Jim Crow is alive and well and living in prisons, and that the horror stories that people tell, of living in fear and seclusion for just the color of their skin are real. Of course they are real. All of the blood of black men on the sidewalks, shed by white men, proves it. There is no denying it. It’s not global warming people; it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure this out.

What am I not getting? I’m not getting how treating everyone equally is wrong, or insulting. What I want to understand is that when I say “I don’t see color,” I’m not saying I don’t see your blackness or redness or gayness or browness; what I’m saying is that I want to treat you like a human being that deserves love, kindness, freedom to do what you want. You deserve my open mind, my laughter, my tears, my thoughts, my compassion, my trust, my forgiveness, and my attention. I know that others do not and I acknowledge that. I will fight for it if I see it happen in front of me, in print, and when I can. I will fight, as I would for any human being that is being oppressed. I will ask, what can I do? Not assume that I know what needs to be done. I would do that for anyone – regardless of color, creed, gender, sexual orientation, or religion. And that is what I don’t understand – how, if I do this, it’s insulting. What am I missing? Maybe the difference is personal one to one interaction versus cultural interaction. Maybe my problem is to think that these simple words will overcome an entire cultural problem.

I feel like I am lacking something key, some light, some enlightenment and then I will understand and find a voice. I am lost when I cannot communicate clearly and this… this issue… Racism and Discrimination… it needs, requires, demands clear and thoughtful communication.

I will continue to educate myself. I do not expect anyone who is fighting racial injustices to teach me. If I teach myself, I will own the light bulb that goes off. I will continue to stand up for the wrongs I see happen and ask, what can I do? I do not expect to sit idly by and let others do the heavy lifting. I will listen. And today, I will listen hard. Today, when yet another black man has been shot by a white police officer, in front of his girlfriend and a child, is not the day to have a dialogue about helping. Maybe. Maybe not. We have to mourn the dead and the stupidity before we can find the strength to combat it.

Right now, I am simply sad for the entire human race.

-TDD

Desperately Tired, My Unconscious Friend

desperation-640x426I know you have this feeling, too. I know you have it because everyone has it. Everyone talks about it. You’re tired. I’m tired. I get up in the morning tired. I have spent the last three days on planes, in meetings, working a regular job, supporting the avocations and institutions I care about, doing daily personal tasks like money management and reading emails, trying to plan my future and take steps to make progress, struggling to have fun, and then crashing into bed asleep. For five hours. Only to get up and do it all over again. Yes. I’m tired.

Then I traipse off to do it again and my phone rings. Someone who thinks I have wronged them dramatically screams at me on the phone. Another person decides something is wrong, horrid, and truly evil. They spend an exhaustive about of time trying to convince me to just say “You’re right,” through brow-beating me with words and the conviction of their supremacy in such matters. I am left shaking from the screamer and bruised from the bully. Oppressor to ruffian in a single swift slap. I want to crawl up in a small place, with some soft pillows and ear plugs and shut out the world. I find myself crashing into bed, asleep before the pillow is warm. Only to get up and have it done to me all over again. Yes. I am tired.

I find myself bewildered by the people who can’t shut up and think about how their reactions affect others. I and you and we… we are all buffeted by the ideals of society, culture, these people that surround us. I am pulled in myriad directions by the Frustrated Ones, at their least whim, explaining how their world, which because I’m in it is now MY world, should be. How their world should feel. How it should look. Their comfort is what is most important. It is now the most critical thing on my agenda for that day. Or week. Or lifetime. Or should be. Yes, I know I am not alone. You who crush may feel crushed. Glass walls shatter in an instant of disposable frustration. It is short-lived strife in their world, the ones who inflict. It may even keep them up at night. It’s only, simply that their tired is offensive. Not defensive. It must be hard to hold the reigns of so many human realities in your hands. Chafing, you know. It troubles the weary brow.

What mystery sits inside them that wishes them to conform my world to their needs? I do not mind giving to need, with whatever talents I have to give, whatever need there may be. I have struggled to learn not to complain about things – I am in control after all. I have struggled to pin my woes onto my own self, not others – I am in control after all. I have the right to say no, to say yes, to lay boundaries. Like a reformed ex-smoker, I get militant when others stumble into my view and then want me to pay homage to their own addictions. I worked hard to get rid of my garbage. I don’t need to take on more. Really. Thank you. Door number 2 is waiting for you. Over there.

Screen-201105-1It’s when my boundaries get overwritten in black Sharpie marker (tinged with the scent of napalm), much like the borders of Ukraine, that I get lost in glorious resentment. Like that country, I feel I so tired that I have no clear direction. My moral compass spins… Part of me wishes to take my smart bombs and grenades and rip my offenders to shreds. Part of me wishes to sit down, calmly, and discuss the situation to find a diplomatic solutions. Part of me just wants my cats. Like that sad, besieged country, I sometimes want America Dad to come and fight my battle or Germany Mom to make it all okay with a hug. I want all the militant Egoists to go away, to go back into their dark holes and…just. leave. me. alone. Yes. Really tired.

Yet, I know I can’t do that. I have to buck up and be an example. I have to work hard to find that calm locus, that place of peace, inside, that can turn the chaos into some sort of order. I need to find the time to say no. To find sleep. To move on. To fix my variances. To build strength. To seek beauty.

Someone said to me, recently, that anything that seems like it’s the most difficult to do is the thing that just needs to get done the most. That is, you have a hard thing to do? Well, being that good human being means getting it done.  That is integrity. That is goodness. So, I will continue to fight and to find and to lay boundaries and to defend. I will lay down the will to support my personal gain and I will take the steps necessary to “make it work” – Thank you, Tim Gunn. I will push my ego aside and say, “Help me see your point of view. I submit to your fiery damnation.” Why? Because the selfish part of me also wants to be a better person. Letting go of me gets me there. And ultimately, that is my goal. You, nasty screamer and arrogant, emphatic dissonant voice – yes, you – I thank you for the opportunities you afford me. In the end, understanding your personal vendettas is my path to redemption. Taking on your force of ego, I become… better. Is that akin to eating the heart of your enemy? Perhaps I will feast quietly on the blood of your fury and in the end, I will be the stronger one. I take some solacement in that. This can be lonely, tried redemption.

But… can you, Master of everyone’s Universe, maybe, just take a moment before you suck in a breath to scream or argue? Can you step back, remove your “self” from the equation and then see if the sum equals the parts? Can you just, for a brief time, sit down, take off your shoes, and put on mine? Walk to the end of the week and back and see if it still feels right, taking it all out on someone else. See if it still feels right burying others in a load of garbage and excrement. See if, at the end of that long week walking, you might also say… “Yes. I’m tired.”

–TDD

The Question

The question comes this time of year, like the clockwork tick of midnight. “What do you want for Christmas?” Every year, family and friends always ask one another what is the most precious thing they would like to receive? Each year, my answers come harder, weightier, like some kind of labored breathing. It’s tough to swallow and answer. It’s difficult to find a voice and each year, one more year, I find silence and a shrug is easy.

Why? Because just a week ago, we celebrated our gratitude for those things that we have, the things which grace our lives and make it whole. It is the feeling of falling leaves, a tide turning, and new light on the horizon. Why is hard? Because I have everything I could need or want. I have health and happiness. I have moments of joy and laughter, I have sadness and struggle. My life is rich beyond measure, and I am grateful for the beautiful ocean, the warm sun, the cold wind, the soft bed, the cats who adore my food provisions. So much of my life is blessed, how could I possibly want more?

So, the question comes to me and I am quiet. In my head, I answer this way:

“What do I want for Christmas? I want to have the sun make me smile on a spring morning. I want you, whoever you are, to be happy for a brief Tree Lights in Winterperiod every day. Give me the gift of your happiness, of your smile. When I am low, give me a hug and a smile. Giggle for no other reason than it feels good. Celebrate your freedom and your joy. If you get mad at someone, laugh it off. Teach me to do the same. Every once in a while, put a dollar in the hand of someone who needs it. Buy someone a sandwich and give it to them, maybe an orange juice, too. If someone falls, help them up and don’t just stare at them. When you wake up in the morning, feel good that you are whole and alive. Smile at your partner. Smile back at me. If the world comes crashing down, help me start picking it up a block at a time. I will help you do the same. Sit with me and watch a sun set. Call me for coffee when you want to talk or when you just want to sit. Let’s read a book together. Over coffee, on Friday mornings, let’s solve all the world’s problems, then meet again the next Friday to do it all over again. Teach me to make good espresso. Show me how to eat something I’ve never eaten before. Travel with me, somewhere, any where. Make me a card or an ornament out of salt dough. Hang the one I make you on your tree. Smell the roses, the bread, the coffee, and the pine trees. Taste the ocean and listen to a sea shell. Lay on the grass beside me and tell me what the clouds look like to you. Critique my writing, my photography, my art – with a loving hand and clarity of vision.

Buy a cow for a hungry family in another part of the world. Adopt a child in Sierra Leone. Fund a food drive, gather coats, and take care of cats at the shelter. Or dogs. Give gift bags to the homeless, toys for the children, and blankets to the local shelter. Volunteer to feed the hungry or soothe the afflicted. Tutor. Teach. Educate. Volunteer at the Library. Read to children. Teach them to read to each other.

Love someone. Love yourself. Love each other. Hug your cat, your dog, and your friend. Laugh at my jokes and teach me to laugh at yours. Remind me that this life is for living, not working. Take me by the hand and show me how to enjoy a cookie, a walk in the woods, or a moonlight swim. Bring me into your world, for a brief moment, and come with me into mine. Listen. Console. Hug. Touch. Walk barefoot. Catch rain in your hand. Do these things for me, for you. Do these things for the world. Make Christmas be a living 365 day celebration of life and love and joy and energy and knowledge and caring. Make Hanukkah light the world every single day. Color the world Kwanzaa and Diwali each moment. Live your creed every single day. Don’t talk to me about it. Don’t preach or write or anything. Just be the you who you were meant to be and be with me because I am who I am. Nothing more. Nothing less. Everything amazing.

Ice Light

For my friends, my family – this is what you can get me. Take all that material energy and really be part of my life and help me be part of yours. Help me be a better person because with you in my life and living with me in it, I can’t help but be that better person. You are all amazing. Let’s be amazing together.”

Yes, Virginia, I do answer it this way. I really, really mean it. It is really, really what I wish for. Now and for the rest of my life. In this season of renewal and rebirth, I look forward to the new year and all our time together.

-TDD