You May Say I’m a Dreamer

The process of sending out query letters has begun. It’s likely going to be a long and frustrating process, but I’m glad it’s started. I read an article that said not to give up until you’ve received 80 ‘no’s. That means I have 78 ‘no’s or 1 ‘yes’ to go before I end the search for an agent.

But that’s not what’s really on my mind tonight. Charlottesville is on my mind. Once again, my heart is broken. It’s broken for so many reasons. I think, just as in the election, the biggest heartbreak comes from my fellow citizens.

 

Nazis.

Nazis were marching in our American streets.

In 2017.

Let that sink in.

And a significant portion of our country, mainly the ones who support Trump and who felt personally offended by the Women’s March, shrugged their shoulders.

The Nazis, and that is what I will call all of them collectively, because essentially that is what they are, came to their march with shields, concealed weapons, helmets, and sticks.

Other people came to protest these disgusting Nazis because they actually remember history, and that their grandfathers, you know, that greatest generation, were partially great because they beat the Nazis.

And then one terrorist plowed into a group of people, changing lives forever, and ending one.

Still, so many shrugged. It was one of those awful liberals who died, so who cares. After the Women’s March, I saw some who I had thought were decent people sharing memes laughing at the idea of running over protestors in the street. Guess they thought it would be funny to see me dead, too. And so you know… I guess in Charlottesville those disgusting leftists just got what was coming to them.

I made the mistake of reading some of the Nazi’s propaganda and listening to one of the speakers from last weekend say Heather Heyer deserved it. They called a woman with a passion for helping others, a “fat, childless slut.” They have publicly spoken about how Trump did not denounce them, and in fact said he loved them. They are ready for the next event, feeling even more certain that they can act with impunity.

And still so many, who claim to have love in their heart, are silent. Nothing but resounding gongs and clanging cymbals.

The world is upside down. Republicans first embraced Putin and Russia, and now seem to be ready to embrace Nazis. Hatred and exclusion is now celebrated, and love and inclusion is mocked. Peacefully protesting is unpatriotic. Violence and murder is barely worth noting, (unless it’s a brown person doing it). Loving your neighbor and wanting them to be well makes you a commie. Spending your time and money to become educated makes you an evil elite, while remaining ignorant is seen as a virtue.

It’s enough to make me not want to ever get out of bed again. Because there is no fix for this. 45 is the symptom of a broken nation, not the problem.

When someone asked G.K. Chesterton “What is wrong with the world,” he wisely answered what each of us should answer to that question.

“I am.”

But luckily for us, it’s the same answer to the question, “What is right with the world.”

“I am.”

I am what’s wrong with this country, and I am also what’s right with it.

And so are you.

I cannot control those who want to divide our country by skin color. I cannot control those who want to divide our country by religion. I cannot control those who think I am less than they are, or that others are less. I cannot control those who hate.

What I can control is myself. I will not hate someone because they have a different shade of skin, culture, religion, or language. I value the variety in the world and see how life improves when you add to it.

What I will do is show love to everyone I come in contact with. It’s what is right about this country, and so I will be that.

When I was a kid, I sneaked into my sisters’ room and went snooping. Under my oldest sister’s mattress was a poem. I thought she had written it, and that she was quite subversive. It was only years later that I discovered John Lennon singing it, and for just a brief moment I thought he was singing my sister’s poem, until I realized, no, she had a copy of his song under her mattress. Doh! The things kids will think.

It has since become my favorite song. I’ll always love John Lennon’s version best, but this one is perfect because Pentatonix is America – gay, straight, bisexual, Latina, black, white, Jewish and Christian. Together – as one – they create so much beauty. Many people might consider my idealism foolish. In fact…

They may say I’m a dreamer.

But I’m not the only one.

I hope someday you’ll join us.

And the world will live as one.

Truly, I hope you will join us.

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The Best and Worst of Times

How many times have I heard the first line of A Tale of Two Cities? I always thought I knew what it meant, but now I feel it in my bones.

For those of us who see the big picture, the last few months have been difficult. It’s been like watching a slow motion train wreck. We see the tracks are laid straight towards a mountainside, and yet everyone on the train is celebrating because they think they’re finally going somewhere. We screamed. We hollered. We jumped up and down and waved our hands, trying to stop the train before it slams into the wall, and for that we were ignored and ridiculed.

The right had to make up garbage to fear about Obama – He’s a secret Muslim from Kenya who is going to bring sharia law to the US, take our guns, create death panels to kill our parents, and build FEMA camps to put all his enemies in. Despite us being the creative types, liberals didn’t have to imagine any fears of 45. He laid out his vision for this country, which included taking away people’s health care with no idea how to replace it, banning people for the accident of their place of birth and religion, and if not banning them, then making them register so that when the country needs to deal with them, they know just where to find them. He at one point wanted to punish women who have faced a difficult decision about a pregnancy, and made the choice HE thinks is wrong, because we women should all be subjected to what HE thinks. He thinks the environment is only there to be raped and profited from by big business. And he wants to turn us into a nation with Narcissistic Personality Disorder, a country that only thinks of itself and doesn’t care if we destroy other economies as long as we WIN! He has vowed to bring back torture, a policy that has never provided any actionable intelligence, but has created many, many enemies and endangered our troops. And as a cherry on top of the cake, he thinks nuclear weapons should be used if we have them.

He is a walking, talking, dystopian nightmare.

The damage these policies will do is immense and doesn’t take into account the damage that will be done by the policies of those pulling his strings. Those around him have learned it’s easy to control little donny… praise him and he’ll think you’re brilliant and listen to all your ideas. Criticize him and you’re going to be ridiculed, abused, and discarded. So, you want to privatize programs Americans have paid in to, and deserve to draw from… Paul Ryan just whispers sweet nothings in his ear, and voila… they’re working on plans to do away with the social safety net, despite 45’s promise to leave it alone. Easy peasy. He’s a puppet whose strings are pulled so easily.

We are becoming isolated in the world. Allies are not sharing intelligence. Trade deals are evaporating and becoming more difficult. If he continues on this path, we could face sanctions. Let’s hope it doesn’t go far enough that some other country decides we need regime change.

The despair is palpable among those who still believe in the promise of America – that all men (and women) are created equal and have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Not just those who look alike, think alike, love alike, and pray alike. All! Instead we’ve watched him dismantle the policies that protect our people and the environment. There are Nazis in the White House forming policy. I’ve tried to reach out for common understanding with the other side and the response seems to be, “We won, you lost. We’re right, you’re wrong. We don’t care about understanding.” So much for uniting the country. 45 is beginning to appear mentally unstable, and we’ve given that man the nuclear codes. I’ve heard silver-haired Americans say, “I’ve never been scared for my country like this before” and they lived through WWII. It feels like the worst of times.

Yet, despite this, it also the best of times. The Women’s March kicked it off. There is power in connection. There is power in unity. There is power in love. We who marched were drawn by the connection, unity, and love, then left completely empowered. We found our voice together. We found our purpose together. The sniping by the right couldn’t even take a dent out of it, probably because their criticisms were so off-base, and also because it was easy to see a tinge of exclusion and jealousy in their words. It’s okay. They enjoy their somewhat equal status because women like us marched for them, also with the criticism of conservative women of the time. Their granddaughters will thank us.

And our show of resistance led to the defiance of National Park employees, as well as other federal employees. Watching the rebellion grow was inspiring! It gave me hope like nothing else. The tyrant can sit in his high tower and issue all the decrees he wants, but if nobody follows them, he is nothing but a silly gas bag.

His most odious act so far, choosing to refuse the entry of refugees and others on National Holocaust Remembrance Day (but only from Muslim countries where he doesn’t do business) felt like a directive coming straight from Bannon and the alt-right(Nazis). It felt like a gut punch. And then we, the people, mobilized. The connections we’ve made allowed protests to spontaneously break out across the country in airport after airport. Americans of every color, size, and religious belief, stood side by side in defense of Iraqi translators, visiting relatives, and refugees who had spent two years being vetted, and were finally on the verge of safety.  The ACLU became our voice in the courts and stopped that atrocity for now.

The worst of times have woken us up to rediscover our connection to each other. It’s hammered in the lesson that democracy is not a spectator sport. We can’t just sit back and let politicians handle things. Without any leadership, we are bypassing the parties and finding each other and our power. We are talking. We are formulating plans. We are on the move. We are united. We are one. It is the best of times.

At our march, one speaker acknowledged that we were able to march that day because we stood on the shoulders of those who came before us. We called out their names in remembrance of their sacrifices. Standing there, I realized it was my turn to provide a place for future generations of women to stand. Our shoulders are needed. We have some very dark days ahead. The struggle is hardly won, but we know we will win because as MLK said, the arc of the moral universe is long, but it inevitably bends toward justice. There will be losses and casualties ahead, yet I see hope. And rebellions are built on hope.

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Filled with Hate

Lately I’ve been noticing a trend. Here’s how it goes.

Alice: I like pizza.
Bob: I don’t like pizza, the cheese is too greasy, and they never get the crust right.
Alice: Why are you so filled with hate?

I’m sure you’ve noticed it too. Lately, when anyone disagrees with anyone else online, the response usually takes some form of telling them they are filled with hate. It’s the new way to shut someone down, and paint yourself as a loving, wonderful human being because you recognized their hate.

I read liberal sites and commenters all say, “Just like a Republican, full of hate.” Then I’ll read a conservative site and the commenters all say, “Just like a Democrat, full of hate.”

Here’s the definition of hate: strong or intense dislike

That’s it.

Guess what folks, people are allowed to like or dislike anything they want, even intensely. It’s America and there nothing wrong with liking or disliking something, at least for a few more months. It’s not surprising that Democrats and Republicans strongly dislike the other party’s ideas, otherwise we’d just have one party.

A friend hates the taste of onions. I LOVE onions. Still, not once have I accused her of being filled with hate.

I have friends who support Donald Trump. I don’t understand how. I don’t understand why. I simply don’t understand how they can’t see the racist, bigoted, thin-skinned, misogynistic, sociopathic, narcissistic bully that I and so many others see. I don’t understand how they can’t see him using the same playbook that Hitler and other authoritarian leaders have used. However, having said all that, I know them. They are not filled with hate. Misled, yes, in my opinion. Filled with hate, no.

I know women who are strong, independent women who are sick and tired of living under men’s rules, so they live by their own. They have been called man-haters, but they are not filled with hate towards men. Distrust, maybe. Hate, no. They love themselves enough to want the best for themselves. Nothing hateful about that.

Now, if you hate all men, or all women, or all blacks, or all whites, or all Mexicans, or all cops, or all Jews, or all Muslims, or all Christians, or all liberals, or all conservatives, or all gays, or all of anything, then yes, you are filled with hate. If you only know what you don’t like, and never talk about what you do like, then you are filled with hate.

It’s not just a harmless online trend. Accusing others of hate is a tactic that is creating an even bigger divide in the country. The person making the accusation stops listening, because why should they listen to someone so filled with hate. The other person not knowing how to deal with the irrationality of being called hateful, doesn’t want to continue the conversation either, or it devolves into really nasty name-calling. Nobody learns anything.

It’s like the political post where someone goes on a rant, calling people of the other party disgusting names like Libtard or Rethuglican. When I see a rant like that, I want to respond, “Oh thank you. Now that you’ve called me an offensive name, assumed I’m uneducated, uninformed, stupid, and lazy, NOW I’m on your side. Oh, what a relief.” The sad truth is, if we sat down face to face to have a meal together, we would probably have a lovely time. Online, it’s so much easier to hurt others when you don’t have to deal with the consequences.

Until we start talking and listening to each other, instead of trying to find new ways to shut each other down with the ultimate slam, this country is headed for a cliff. Frankly, I think we’re already there and sliding off the edge.

I hate that.

But I’m not filled with hate.

 

 

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The Rules of Grief

Recently I made a quick trip to South Dakota to attend my best friend’s father’s funeral. I lost my father 13 years ago, and as could be expected, this has brought many of those memories and feelings to the surface. At Christmas I visited his grave and was shocked that the minute I stepped out of the car, tears started flowing like he had died that day. Grief never truly dies down, we just learn to live with it like background noise.

My friend is learning some of the same things I learned 13 years ago. If you’ve never lost someone close, you are simply not prepared for how grief works and it brings shocks and surprised with each moment. There is confusion over how to react, and what the rules are. Here is the rule I learned from losing my dad.

Grief has no rules

Despite this one rule, there are still things to keep in mind when you, or someone you love, is in grief.

Every person grieves differently. Some hold it in. Some let it out. Some lash out. Some retreat into a shell of themselves. Some will move through the intense pain quickly and move back into life almost immediately. Some go for months or years, slow to let the loss go.

There is no right or wrong way to grieve. Grief is a combination of who you are, your relationship with the person who is gone, the circumstances in which they died, and your beliefs about life and death. Don’t judge yourself because you aren’t grieving the way others grieve, or get angry that someone else is doing it wrong. It is what it is, and to quote one of my favorite quotes from Tootsie, “I’m going to feel this way until I don’t feel this way anymore.”

Which brings me to the next thing to remember as you grieve – you are going to feel every emotion possible, one right after another. I think most who’ve never been through it assume someone who is grieving is sad for a long time, and then eventually they aren’t as sad anymore. Instead, a person who is grieving finds that one moment they are devastated. Then they feel they’ve worked through it and life is going no to be okay, and then in the next moment they are angry that the person left, and then moments later they are back to acceptance, then back to denial, then sadness, etc. Those 7 steps of grief never flow smoothly from one to another. You are all over the place like a tap-dancer on stairs. Don’t ever let yourself fall into the trap that you have closure, and have worked through the grief. It’s always waiting…

In amongst all the steps of grief, you are also going to experience joy, silliness, and laughter. This is almost immediately followed by guilt. How dare you have a moment of joy when someone you love is dead?!?! However, this too is completely natural and very human. We all have coping mechanisms and humor is one of them. A good screenwriter will sprinkle humor throughout a thriller, a drama, or even a bloody horror movie. The human mind needs moments of levity to break up horrible things, it’s just the way we are wired. Besides, the person you lost also loved you, and just as you wouldn’t want them to be sad, they wouldn’t want you to be sad. Grasp onto those light moments and let them carry you through the dark moments. Laugh with friends and loved ones, and celebrate the good memories you share.

Also, be forgiving – both to others and to yourself. When I lost my dad I kept thinking, “I don’t know what to do, I’ve never lost my dad before.” None of you have likely ever coped with the loss you are all experiencing. Things will come out of your mouth you will wish you could take back. You won’t feel certain as to what to do or say. It’s safe to say those around you feel the same way. Forgive mistakes quickly. Let it go and love those close to you.

There are probably other things to remember, but that is what came to mind during the trip. Hang on during a wild ride, don’t judge, share joy without guilt, and forgive quickly.miss someone

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Let it Begin With Me

The holidays are stressful. No doubt about it. Money flowing out. Time running short. Obligatory gatherings to attend. Food to be made. Charities asking for donations. Dealing with others who explode with stress. Crowds. Rushing. Traffic. On top of that is the pressure to appear full of holiday spirit or be labelled a Scrooge. It’s enough to make anyone want to utter a few choice swear words, crawl in a hole, and perhaps emerge about the time Punxsutawney Phil comes out. Bah humbug.

Whille I’m generally less stressed than I have been other years, I can also feel the gathering holiday storm. The general atmosphere in the country isn’t helping my mood. The ignorance, fear, hatred, and racism that is bubbling to the surface of this nation is alarming. Has it been there all along? I know I’m exacerbating my horror by reading comments of online articles, but is it better to not be aware of what my fellow citizens are thinking?

Last week, Brian D. McLaren posted an open letter addressing guns and Christianity. He spoke with the voice of Christianity that I remembered as a child. You know, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God.” (Matthew 5:9) And just 30 verses later, “But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.” Or another 5 verses after that, “You have heard that it was said, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR and hate your enemy.’ 44“But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven;”

This is the Christianity I was raised with and the article gave me hope… until I made the mistake of reading the comments. With few exceptions, there was nothing but anger returned to the author. Luke 22:36 was the most quoted verse, “He said to them, “But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one.” All I can say is, “Oy vey.”

Years ago a niece asked me for help with a debate on the death penalty. One piece of advice I gave was not to use the Bible to argue her position, because people can warp and twist the Bible to find just about any meaning they want within its pages. That is exactly what has been done with this one verse – the only one in the entire book they can find to defend their position, I might add. There is not one serious scholar who has read the original text and put it within context of the story who would say that Jesus is advocating for violent defense of oneself.

One of the most disheartening and revealing comments came from someone who said something like, “This author isn’t living in the real world. When the terrorists come for his family, he’ll wish he had a gun.” I see. I didn’t realize that Christ’s message wasn’t for the real world. I actually was foolish enough to think that’s exactly what his message was for – A radical message of peace and love for a chaotic and violent world.

The message I’m getting from the conservative wing of modern American Christianity is – follow Christ and his teachings until it conflicts with the “real” world, then follow your fear. What kind of faith is that? To them, nothing is more important than physical self-preservation even though this also goes against Matthew 10:28 – “Don’t be afraid of those who want to kill your body; they cannot touch your soul.” It seems to me, people who feel assured of the rewards of heaven, would be willing to lay down their lives to live their beliefs, rather than put that reward at risk by betraying them.

When I was a kid, our pastor told us a modern parable: In the middle of church, two masked men came in with rifles and held the congregation hostage. They demanded that all those who were born-again Christians line up at the front of the church, and everybody else should leave. About 3/4 of the people left, and once they were gone, the gunmen took off their masks, put down their guns, and said, “Okay, brothers and sisters, now let’s worship for real.” They were weeding out the true believers from the pew-sitters by finding those who were willing to lay down their lives for their beliefs. Those people had found a peace that passes all understanding. They had faith in something greater than their physical lives. They were living the radical message of Jesus.

One of my favorite Christmas songs is “Let There be Peace on Earth.” It follows that wish with personal responsibility, “and let it begin with me.” It’s not, “let it begin with my enemies surrendering,” or “let it begin with the death of terrorists,” or “let it begin after I kill those who threaten me.”

No, it’s “let it begin with me.”

In this season celebrating peace, the only wish I have is that people begin to take to heart the lyrics they’re singing. Since I can’t change them, I’ll take my own advice – I choose peace.

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Happy Unholy Days

Wading into religious controversy is a foolish thing to do, and not good for building blog readership. I guess I am a fool.

Just like the Christmas decorations being put out earlier and earlier, the supposed war on Christmas is starting earlier and earlier. Ironic, isn’t it? This year’s target is Starbucks for having the audacity to choose a simple red cup for the holiday season. Oh my! How diabolical! This ruins everything! I mean, taking the reindeer, snowmen, and snowflakes off from last year’s cup is such a slap in the face to Christians everywhere. Right?

An oft repeated phrase is, “Today’s Republican party is not my father’s Republican party.” Well, there’s a new one to add to that list. Today’s Christian church is not my father’s Christian church. The evangicals have hijacked it, along with the Republican party. There are plenty of very good Christian people trying very hard to live the example of Christ, but just like moderate Muslims, their voice is often drowned out by the attention seeking evangelicals.

Remember when Bing Crosby sang, “Happy Holiday” and nobody batted an eye? Today they would be boycotting Bing, which perhaps they should have done all those years ago, but for completely different reasons. And the movie “Holiday Inn”… well, until Irving Berlin changed it to “Christmas Inn” no evangelical would have dared pay the price of entry to see it.

I know it’s an uncomfortable truth for evangelicals, but not everyone on the planet is a Christian and not everyone celebrates Christmas. If you do, and you want to say Merry Christmas to everyone, go for it. And if you’re Jewish and want to wish everyone a Happy Hanukkah, go for it. And if you are someone who wants to include all people in your greeting and simply say, Happy Holy Day (where holiday comes from) then say to your heart’s content. A kind greeting to a fellow human being should be our top priority, in whatever form it takes.

One of the arguments from the man who started the Starbucks kerfuffle is that today’s overly PC world, Starbucks is trying to hard not to offend people, which he thinks is dumb. BUT, by doing that they’re offending Christians, which he links to persecution. Okay, so offending others… fine. Offending Christians… persecution. Everyone thinks that the thing they’re offended by should be changed, but when someone else is offended, they should just get over it. Um… yeah… that’s just stupid. Sorry if I’ve offended you. Not. His response that Christians should go to Starbucks, but they should open carry weapons… yeah, because that’s what Christmas and Christ is all about. Weaponry. Sorry, I’ll take the red cup as my Christmas symbol over a weapon designed to kill.

Remember playing with that one kid who insisted all the toys were theirs and if they didn’t get their way all the time they threw a tantrum? I think they all grew up to be evangelicals.

Next year I think Starbucks should choose a Hanukkah blue cup. I highly doubt the Jewish community would complain that the words “Happy Hanukkah” weren’t printed on the cup. There would be an attitude of gratitude that their Holy Day was acknowledged and celebrated.

A faith’s best witness is the behavior of it’s followers. In a season that is supposed to celebrate peace, love, salvation, and compassion, if you’re upset about how someone chooses to greet others, or how multi-national companies attempt to include everyone in the joy and celebration, perhaps the reason for the season hasn’t gone very deep into your heart.

 

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OMG, did you hear about…

Such a common phrase. We hear it, and immediately we’re all ears. What juicy gossip is about to be shared? How exciting!

Gossip. We all do it. In fact, that’s the excuse used when someone is busted for gossiping. “Well, everyone does it. What’s the big deal?”

Recently I’ve been contemplating gossip and the role of reality TV in the habit. Back before DVRs, when TV was watched mostly live, reality shows provided an excellent outlet for gossip. We could sit around at work and talk about these ridiculous people and their ridiculous behavior. We could hash out what they did, what we think they should have done, and what we imagine we would have done, without consequences. It was as if there was an invisible contract. They were paid a lot of money, and now we get to gossip about them.

However, once people began recording to watch later, those conversations came to an end. You might excitedly start out with, “Hey, did you hear about what X did on X?” and someone would immediately stick their fingers in their ears and say, “La la la la! I haven’t watched it yet.” “Safe gossiping” all but came to an end. Suddenly we were looking at these people we work with and realized we no longer had much to talk about. After all, we were all there because we had a common job, not because we had common interests. So what did we do? If your workplace was like my last one, we fell into gossipping about each other. Reality shows did relieve workplace gossip for awhile, but it eventually made it so much easier to tolerate. It’s what we knew how to do. It’s what we had in common.

To the gossipper, it seems so innocuous. Actually, it’s better than that. It seems great. You’ve got an audience eating up every word. You’re the star. You’re showing how “in” you are by showing how “out” they are. Even the listeners feel better about themselves because after all, they are not being talked about. They’re included in the “can you believe this” group, which means the gossiper thinks they’re cool. And then, if they can add a bit of gossip themself, they become the star and the “in” person.

The incentives to gossip are plentiful and we all fall into the trap. I was as guilty as the next person for all the reasons listed above. There was a sense of power when I was the person who had information to share. I felt safe as long as I was included in the gossipping, because that meant they weren’t talking about me… until I left the room and they were. It was then that I understood the damage we were doing to each other. I stopped taking part, which left me completley out of the circle. I sat back and watched my coworkers cannibalize each other. Everyone would be in the room laughing and getting along, one person would leave, and suddenly the gossip would start about them. Then when they walked back in the room, the conversation turned light and fluffy again. It doesn’t take many brain cells to realize that you might be safe in the circle for the moment, but the minute you left, you would be fodder for their entertainment.

In that situation, trust evaporates. It doesn’t feel safe to say or do anything. You look at every person wondering what they’ve been saying about you and what they will say about you. In some cases, what they are saying gets back to you, and then… friendships die. When no one even tries to verify the truth, and immediately accept the gossip as gospel, the wounds go even deeper. They didn’t even question it? Really? That’s how little they think of me? As it says in Proverbs 16:28 “A perverse man spreads strife, And a slanderer separates intimate friends.”

How many times have we seen a news reporter, who is trained to ask “what, when, why, where, and how” as well as research the facts, get it wrong. They don’t consider an angle or understand all the motivations in the situation. Then we hear the whole story and suddenly we think, “Oh, now that makes sense!” Coworkers and friends don’t do that kind of work in their information gathering, yet people assume they’ve got all the facts. For instance: “Did you hear he blew through his mother’s inheritance in a year? How stupid could he be.” Then you find out the person spent the money to help a sick friend, and rather than being stupid, the man was a saint. The gossipper generally doesn’t have all the facts, but we like to believe they do, so we can judge someone else and feel superior.

Would we want our story represented like that… only sharing the negative and not looking at all the facts – or someone not taking into account all the motivations that led to the behavior? Of course not, so we need to stop doing it to each other. Gossip is an infection that does nothing but destroy. Since we spend so much time at work talking with coworkers, there will always be some discussion about each other. Sometimes there are issues that need to be discussed and sorted out. How do we avoid the pitfalls of gossip? How do we know when we’ve left the realm of discussing work and entered into the destructive habit of gossip? In an article worth reading titled “The Danger of Workplace Gossip,” Mary Abbajay states, “If the discussion is hurtful or damaging or negative, then yes, it is gossip… …If the story is told with negativity and without good will, then it’s gossip.”

Next time you start talking about someone, there are 3 simple questions to ask youself before you speak – Is it true? Is it necessary? Is it kind? If the answer to any of those is “no,” keep it to yourself. I’m working on that, but still have a long way to go. It’s a tough standard to live up to, but our workplaces and friendships would be better off for the attempt.

 

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Wherever You are is Perfect

All the advice on building a loyal audience to my blog is to make regular posts. I’m failing at this. Like most people, I don’t like failing. However, being kind to myself is taking precedent over achieving many of my goals.

Historically, I have not been particularly kind to myself. Most of us aren’t. We say things to ourselves that we would never tolerate being said to others. We know how those words create deep wounds and step in to defend others, but then we cut ourselves to the bone. It’s a disease we need to work on curing.

When I first moved to Missouri, I was in an almost manic phase. I had a vision of a perfect life. I didn’t want to fall into old habits. I wanted to pursue social connections and not become isolated. I wanted to find people with whom I fit. I wanted to eat right. I wanted to exercise. I wanted to lose weight. I wanted to write daily. I wanted to meditate. I wanted to keep negative thoughts at bay. I wanted to solve every problem I’d ever had. AND I wanted to relax into my new slow-paced, stress-free life.

Ha! It was like I short-circuited. Since I hadn’t reached my goals, it felt as if what was true today, would be true forever. It hadn’t worked instantly, so it would never work! (face palm)

When I realized I was rushing into things and trying to make it all work at once, I actually learned from my mistakes and stopped stressing so much. I allowed things to unfold at a natural pace, and stopped worrying about where I should be. Shockingly, that has done the trick.  I actually did solve all my problems at once, and have been able to relax into a new slow-paced, stress-reduced (not free) life.

You see, once I stopped beating myself up for not being perfect and recognizing that life is a process, the social connections were far easier to make. When someone is telling you you’re a permanent failure, it’s hard to believe you’re likeable. Then I joined a group class at work, where I not only exercise, but get to do it with fun, supportive people. That ticks off the boxes, making connections, exercising, and losing weight. The more I work out, the less eating garbage appeals. I’ve started to meditate again. I’m not doing it daily, but I’m doing it more days than I was. I’m definitely reaping the rewards of that. As I slow down and focus more on being present, joy comes flooding back into daily activities. Even turning on the faucet can be miraculous if you’re in the right mindset.

So, what’s been learned? Acceptance. That, wherever you are is perfect. It has to be. It’s where you are.  If you want to be someplace else, then take a step in that direction. It still won’t be exactly where you want to be, but it will be perfect for you, because where you are now is one step closer than where you were. That’s the only way to get there. One perfectly imperfect step at a time.

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Relax and Exhale

The grief of losing a coworker is still creating ripples across our lives. Grief comes in waves, leaving you feeling fine one moment, and devastated the next. It also comes in layers. Just when you think you’re moving forward, a new reality of the loss wraps itself around you and squeezes the breath out of you. We are all still adjusting to this new reality. It’s going to take a while.

Recently a friend posted this to Facebook.

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It summed up recent expereinces so perfectly. At first, life in L.A. was amazing. Then it was awful (for a loooong time). Then when I left  and came to Missouri, it was suddenly amazing. Then losing a coworker was awful. However, between each of those amazing and awful cycles, there was a lot of ordinary and mundane. I don’t do ordinary and mundane so well. I start to feel a little depressed. I begin to question, is this all there is? Week after week, getting up, brushing my teeth, going to work, coming home, watching TV, brushing my teeth again, and going to bed. Day, after day, after day with some occassional fun thrown it. Is this really life?

The answer to that – yes it is. That restlessness, that desire to create distance from the miracle of the ordinary, tells me I’m no longer in the moment. Rather than become restless for something else, I need to enjoy those moments as much needed breaks from the upcoming awful and amazing. Because, as amazing as the last few months have been, they cannot be sustained. Eventually the shiny dulls. Thankfully the periods of awful are also usually brief. If you’re lucky, you spend most of your life in the ordinary. Wouldn’t it be a shame to miss out on most of your life?

For me, meditation is the answer to this dilemma. Making a committment to be still, focusing on nothing but the ordinary act of breathing in and out, makes it completely clear how rarely we are present. The mind is full of thoughts it seems to generate itself… thoughts that, upon examination, can be tied to either running away from awful, or chasing amazing – two states that simply can’t be sustained. With practice, those thoughts can be stilled, and the heartbreaking, soul-healing, amazing, awful, ordinary life reveals its beauty – The quiet moment of trust when a kitten curls up on your chest and purrs. When crickets sing you to sleep. When a stranger holds your gaze on the street and breaks that barrier between souls. When a cooking casserole fills your home with a salivating aroma. When a coworker tells a story that makes you laugh so hard you can’t breathe.

What breathatking beauty ordinary life can hold. Relax and exhale, and try not to miss a moment of it.

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Death, Grief, and Rejoicing

Today, millions of words will be written about the collective loss we all experienced on 9/11. Friends, spouses, brothers, sisters, cousins, friends, parents… all ripped from the people who loved them. We lost our feeling of safety, discovering that oceans and friendly nations could not protect us. In our rage, we lost our way, lashing out at people we could get to, instead of the people who harmed us. We lost some of the lofty ideals our nation stands for, simply because of our fear and pain. There was so much more than 3000 lives lost on this day 14 years ago.

I often wondered if the loss each individual felt was eased by the fact that the nation shared their loss. To anyone who has suffered the death of someone close, it’s confusing that life just keeps humming along. People laugh. They fall in love. They go out to dinner. Inside, the grieving want to shout at the world to stop. The person they loved is gone, and it’s not right that people act as if nothing has changed. But, with 9/11 the world did stop. Almost everyone across the planet grieved in the days following the attacks. Did that help? Or only make the pain worse? And what of those families who had the misfortune to have loved ones die near the 9/11 date? Was it made worse by the fact that everyone was grieving the victims of the day, but grief for their loved one was largely ignored.

Today, some of those confused feelings are my own. Much like 9/11, yesterday was a beautiful, sunny day. The first hint of how the day would go was when we realized a client was waiting and her instructor was nowhere to be found. It’s easy at first to assume it’s a missed alarm, or a family emergency, or something benign. But as the hours ticked by, and phone calls and texts went unanswered fear began to grow. The morning was spent searching online and in our records for contacts that could help. Our work family mobilized, each taking on a role to find our missing member. Despite our fears, there was still a sense of shock and overhwelming disbelief when she was found, likely taken from us by an unknown medical condition. 40 years old. A life only half lived.

Today most people are focused on the lost potential of 14 years ago. Today my community is focused on the lost potential of yesterday. There is a sense of disconnect from the rest of the world.

When thinking about what I wanted to say today, I still feel at a loss. There are no great words of wisdom to share. It is too soon for lessons learned, other than the much repeated phrases that life is short, and the knowledge you should never leave kind words unsaid or kind actions undone. There is no understanding of why a very fit woman got 10 years less than obese me has had. There is guilt in not reaching out to connect more. There is also comfort in seeing that our work family really is a family. We came together with support and love, making sure we were all okay.

One thing did occur to me as I chased sleep last night. Death also gives us the opportunity to rejoice. Pain reminds us that we still live. We still have a chance to say those kind words to those who are here. We still have a chance to reach out with love and caring to those around us who need those gifts. We still have a chance to become the kind of person we want to be. It pains our hearts to be without the people we care about. We can take that pain and lash out and cause damage as our country did on 9/11, or we can use that pain to rejoice at the fact that we have been given yet another day to experience the joys, pains, loves, losses, beauty and ugliness of life. Those we have lost would tell us we should do the later.

As you grieve today, what will you do with your grief? Make a good choice and rejoice that you have it to make.

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