Thursday, November 24, 2016

GIVING THANKS LIST

I recently was reminded of the importance of a daily gratitude practice.  I used to keep a Gratitude Journal back when it was recommended by Oprah and I always did as Oprah directed.  But as those things do, it fell by the wayside.  It may be time to start again.

I've had a hard time feeling grateful this month.  First of all I've had a cold and lingering cough for over a month that is just about to take me under.  Of course the election result actually did take me under for about two weeks, as I dealt with the raw gut punch of that reality every morning upon awakening.  I emerged from my coma of grief and disbelief almost a week ago to find myself moving toward determination and activism, if not optimism.  Last Saturday it felt like the fog was lifting -- or maybe I'd just stopped taking codeine cough syrup during the day.  Whatever.  I felt I could actually function again without spending part of every day in tears and despair.

So, on this Thanksgiving Day I give thanks:

1.)  I am incredibly grateful for the wise, witty, determined example of those who are walking this path of political outrage and determination with me:  Pantsuit Nation and Pantsuit Nation Washington Chapter are a constant source of online inspiration and support; dozens of columnists have written eloquently about the election -- the whys and what nows -- in ways that increase my understanding and serve as motivation and a reality check; personal friends have come together in community to share and support each other.  I hosted a group of women friends a week ago -- six of us sitting in my living room expressing outrage, fear, and grief, but leaving with a sense of not being alone and that we can stand and rise again; our Tribe of friends gathered at our house last Saturday for a similar time of sharing, then focused on what we are grateful for, which served to shift energy away from despair to hope; my FB family and friends who share and comment and offer counsel and support.  Say what you will about social media, it has its good points.  I'm thankful for this:  http://www.onbeing.org/blog/parker-palmer-start-close-in/9057

2.)  Aside from the cataclysm of the election, this morning I write in this damp dawn, watching the rivulets of rain on the window and am grateful for this earth that sustains us, for the food I'll eat today that came from this earth and for all of those planters, growers, harvesters, transporters, marketers...everyone it took to create a feast at my table.  I'm thankful for the life of the turkey we will eat and hope that 'free range' allowed it at least a little more movement in its brief life.

3.)  I'm thankful for my lovely home, which we use to seek refuge, to welcome friends, to gather in family; for the electricity that illuminates my desk; for the clean clear water that made my coffee; for the warm radiators that are heating my house on this cool, damp morning; for my stove and refrigerator and all the conveniences I have that make my life easier.  I'm thankful for my car that allows me freedom of movement and facilitates adventures and connections near and far.

4.)  I am thankful for my teachers -- those who broaden my intellectual horizons; those who know the ways of the body and how to keep it healthy and strong; those who hold my emotional upsets gently and give me tools for going on and teach me to radically accept myself and have some self-compassion; those who show me my true Self through meditation, yoga, and Kirtan.

5.)  I'm thankful for friends -- for those who know me and love me anyway, who have my back and offer wise counsel, astute challenge, and ready celebration.  I hope I'm as good a friend to them.

6.)  I'm thankful for my extended family -- sisters-in-law, nieces, nephew and their families -- reminding me that I am not alone in the world as the only surviving member of my original family.  Life goes on and family endures.

7.)  I'm thankful for the family I've created; incredibly, indescribably thankful for my family.  Hub my mate for 48 years, since our first date, and 44 years married; what would my life be without him in it?  My sons who will never, ever know the depth of my love for them because it is unfathomable.  For my daughter-in-law who is an example to me every day of quiet grace, determination, and humor.  For Son Two's girlfriend who brings him such happiness and who has joined our family with kindness and good humor.  For my granddaughters who are only the most beautiful, courageous, brightest stars in the galaxy.  I look at them and hold them with such joy, such hopes for their future, such confidence they will make the world a better place as they grow into their power and presence in the world.  They are my legacy and if I can influence them even a tiny bit with my passion for life and good works, I will feel my life justified.

8.)  I am thankful for my health -- physical, emotional, and spiritual -- all of which allows me to sit in this place of grateful humility this morning with the hope that I'll be here throughout another unfolding year, with its joys and challenges, knowing every day will be a day for which to be grateful.

At least, that's the view from here...©


Sunday, November 20, 2016

I SMELL A RAT


I take it as a good sign that Hub caught and killed the rat that had gotten into our garage recently.  We live on a wooded ravine and occasionally a mouse or two will find a way into the house in the winter. I'm not a screamer but it is a bit startling to see one scurry across the kitchen floor.  We generally can dispense with them in short order with a well placed trap.

But a rat is a whole different order of rodent.  I do not like rats. I had started to avoid the garage, filled with dread that I might see it and have to interact with it and also filled with anger that the thing was making me afraid in my own house.  We set traps for it that were ignored, or bait stolen with the trap undisturbed.  There seemed to be no stopping it.  We were on the verge of calling in the experts when last week I heard Hub in the garage amidst a racket of crashing and banging around and a gleeful shout of "Got him!"  I guess Hub had seen the thing sticking its nose out of its hiding place on the shelf, where it had eaten though several cartons of chicken stock -- what a mess!

As an aside, I'd like to offer a testament to my love for Son Two, demonstrated by my willingness to allow him to bring a "pet rat" home from the elementary school Science Fair back in the day.  Another student had raised a rat from infancy and Son Two thought this would be a brilliant and entertaining enterprise as well!  The kid had several babies to share, so we took one.  This was not a snowy white, pink-nosed "cute" rat.  It was a typical brown rat like you see hanging around dark alleys.  (His dad likely caught a couple in their garage!)  We put it in a big glass cage with a cushion of wood shavings, a wheel for exercise, a little bowl of water and food of some sort (Rat Chow?)  Occasionally we'd take it out and hold it but my breath would become rapid and shallow and my skin would crawl.  We never bonded and of course Son Two soon lost interest in the whole project. I was left to care for it.  If we'd had Google back then I'd have been looking up "life expectancy for rats".  Ours lived about two years, until a tumor of some kind prevented it from moving around the cage.  Being a compassionate soul, I made Hub take it to the vet to be euthanized. The vet laughed, "That's a first!"  They charged him ten bucks and got a good story out of it.

The rat in our garage didn't get a humane injection send off.  I understand now that a shovel to the head works just as well and as quickly. I'm glad the rat is gone.

Which reminds me of politics.  I am emerging from my fog of grief and rage.  I'm still not pleased about what has gotten into the White House, but my fear and dread are starting to be tempered by the laying of traps.  The ACLU took out a full page ad in the NY Times this week promising to fight every possible human rights violation.  President Obama has said, as a private citizen,  he will speak out against actions counter to American values.  Democrats and Independents are ready to step into the fray in Congress and in State Houses.  Many people are voicing a renewed (or brand new) commitment to civic engagement, politics, and activism.  We may have to follow the droppings left behind by the growing number of miscreants overrunning our government to root them out of their nests, but I am growing more confident we can persevere and perhaps control the damage they might create by their insistence on gnawing through the Constitution.

Science Fair lesson learned:  Never invite a rat into your home.  The one who initially wanted it will discover it's not all its cracked up to be and the one who hated it from the beginning will be left to deal with it.  I recommend a nice glass cage where it can be contained on the inside looking out.

At least, that's the view from here...©

  










Sunday, November 13, 2016

POST-APOCOLYPSE LANDSCAPE

So.  I guess it wasn't a nightmare we will awaken from any time soon.  Many of us are still in this phase of the journey as depicted in Edvard Munch's "The Scream".   It is said Munch meant it as an inwardly heard "scream of nature".  Well, nature should be screaming along with us, given the beliefs and policies of the President-Elect and his assumed Cabinet members about climate change.  (A digression:  I recommend the National Geographic documentary, "Before the Flood".  Beautifully photographed and full of easy to digest science info, if you believe in such things.)

Everyone is reacting in their own ways to the election outcome.  It's only been 5 days and it feels like 5 years of disbelief and grief to me; I'm sort of paralyzed in sadness.  Others have found their fervor for activism and are ready to do battle with all the wrongs he plans to visit upon people who are different or disagree with him.   Good for them!  I'll bring the snacks.

Of course those who voted for him (or didn't vote for President at all, which amounts to the same thing) are happy as clams.  They've been given the "un-PC" go-ahead to act out their worst selves.  Or they have been given hope for a "shake up" that they think will get their jobs back and put money in the bank again or keep those "other" people who are not like "us" out of the country.   They get to feel the self-righteous ardor of those who were willing to sacrifice the good for the perfect.  (Hello Bernie and 3rd Party voters.)  They have all put their faith in a selfish narcissist, a billionaire (if you believe him, but who knows since he won't release any information on his finances) unprepared for leading our country, with only sketchy policies and plans jotted down to "fix it".

Of course what they also got was the pleasure of putting that Bitch in her place.  Don't get me started. Can't even go there yet.

I am incredibly weary.  I am in full-blown grief.  I recognize it.  Been here.  All the stages swirl around except I'm not able to get too far past denial and anger quite yet.  Or tears.  Good god, what  has our country become?  The world is laughing and/or appalled and very worried.   Hillary supporters are stunned and take cold comfort in the fact that she won the popular vote.  More people voted for her than for him; more wanted her as our President. I do take comfort in that.  The Electoral College's intention to save the masses from themselves by not allowing the populace to directly vote for an unsuitable President went off the rails.  Again.

Yesterday I took the drastic measure of signing out of Facebook for the foreseeable future.  I was overwhelming myself and others with the non-stop newsfeed of posts of both outrage and support for those of us who are broken.

It felt good for awhile to connect into communities of people, like Pantsuit Nation, a true phenomenon of Facebook -- a FB group formed by a woman in Maine intended to be a safe place for Hillary supporters to "gather" and share uplifting hopeful stories and encourage each other to action on her behalf.  In only two weeks, by Election Day, it had garnered 2,000,000 members (only allowed in through someone already a member -- word of mouth).  The posts were so hopeful and joyful.   Since Election Day it has grown to over 3,000,000 members, as people find solace and calls to action there.

But soon I became obsessed with seeking out articles and posts that would help me find meaning and uplift and passing them on in 'share' posts.  My sons told me it was over the top; Hub told me I was too constantly online; I know I was quoting "Facebook" as if it was a real thing and not just a bunch of pixels.  A friend and I had a disagreement about how the DNC vs. Bernie Sanders played into this outcome; another told me to back off because she was in such pain and overwhelm she couldn't take it anymore.  Even my good intentions to help those hurting, and to build community together, was having the opposite effect.

I'll admit that only 16 hours into no FB I'm twitching a little bit,  which is likely an indication of the depth of my addiction.  I feel very isolated and alone this morning.  My "FB Tribe" is out there without me, sharing and supporting.  And I don't know the latest this and that cool or abhorrent thing happening in this aftermath.  Well, have another cup of coffee and take a deep breath.

It's come to this:  Last night I was so depressed I was barely functional.  I fell asleep on the sofa for a couple hours, but when I went to bed I was wide awake.  I came back downstairs at 11:30 and sat in the dark.  I decided to meditate and did a series of guided meditations until the wee hours.  I got hungry and made my favorite healthy treat -- blueberries, vanilla yogurt, walnuts, and cinnamon.  But the berries were too tart, so I added a teaspoon of sugar.  The yogurt was too sour, so I shot a dollop of whipped cream over the top.   I already had a bad taste in my mouth...I had to find a way to sweeten my existence even if only in a small bowl of comfort.  I finally fell asleep on the sofa at 3:30, up at 6:45.

It's just like that now.

At least, that's the view from here...©

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

ELECTION NIGHT SHOCK

It wasn't supposed to turn out like this.  I believe my successful mindfulness therapeutic practice of the past few months has over-compensated for my old anxiety/depression worry-wart default system.  I never once considered Hillary Clinton would lose.  Even when I made myself imagine it, I'd almost laugh and say, "Are you kidding?  No.  He could never be the president."  Except she lost and he is.

As a result, I and those I love and respect are in mourning today.  Stunned, shocked, frightened, angry, and sad, sad, sad -- for us, for our country, for our future.

Everyone is deconstructing.  What went wrong?  How could every single poll have been so far off the mark?  Who voted for him?  Who didn't vote for her?  How in the God's great world does someone as vile and angry and hateful as him become the President of the United States of America in the 21st Century?

I can posit my own answers and quote the experts.  It doesn't really matter.  For me what matters is feeling this grief to the depths of my being for as long as I have to in order to cleanse myself of the deep wounding of this experience so I can move on.

I posted this on FB early this morning:

A lesson I haven't learned yet has come 'round again. Do not attach to outcome. Do not put faith in institutions, or people's ability to reach for the highest good. This is not the country I have loved. The depth of my anger and sadness is limitless in this moment. I cannot hear, see, say, or feel anything positive right now. It all sounds like another bullshit way to try to trick me into caring again. Not yet. Gonna see how small and insular I can make my life. My sphere of influence is minuscule anyway. Our country just made a dark, hateful choice. I am broken.  

Later I wrote a much abbreviated but similar comment on someone else's FB page.  This was a comment I got:  "Donna, if you no longer love our country then please move.  I'm sick and tired of all the negativity, hate, finger-pointing, etc.  It needs to stop....."

She goes on to tell me how much she hates President Obama but she "sucked it up" and supported him for 8 years and I/we should do the same with the new president....or else, I guess.  Of course I clicked on her profile -- lots of Christian stuff.  OK, no comment.  Wait. One comment -- Christian compassion anyone?  Also, no appreciation for irony:  sick of negativity, hate, and finger-pointing?  Hello Mr. President-Elect!

Her easy remedy for removing me from her sphere by shoving me out of my country actually amused and motivated me.  I got off the sofa, out from under my blanket, dried my tears and sought Hub out to share this exchange.  I actually laughed.  I've been told to leave before -- at a time when I was working on a local political issue with which many in the community disagreed.  I got hate calls.  Often telling me to move to Russia, but that was in the 80's.  I guess our new president is chummy with Russia these days.  Anyway, getting their adversaries to leave is their go-to diatribe.

So that's how my day has gone.  What feels broken to me is my faith in humanity and the notion that people will ultimately do good.  Also gone for now: My love of politics.  My sense of hope.  My joyful exuberance over the process itself.

Late this afternoon I posted this on FB:

I'm trying. I've talked, meditated, written, yelled, sobbed for hours. I watched Hillary's speech and then Barack's, with Kumbayah playing in the backgournd. I read a zillion articles about the hows and whys and what to do about its. 
One theme among my friends and others is that Love Wins. Love will prevail. We must all join together in love, open our hearts to love, be the love. Blah, blah, blah. Not there yet. Not feeling the love. 
Do I understand those who felt ignored and disenfranchised by the powerful and the elite? Do I understand the depth of their shame and pain and anger? Yes,because I grew up in a Midwestern rural blue collar manufacturing town surrounded by cornfields. 

And because I'm a woman. I have some experience with disenfranchisement, another example of it happening last night when a supremely horrific man defeated a supremely qualified woman for the presidency. 

I get that some wellspring of anger fueled the white vote; I don't get (and never will) the willful decision to ignore (or worse, embrace) his dangerous, disgusting behaviors and beliefs, his total vacancy of any policy that would address the complex needs of workers or the world, in order to inflict this man on all of us. Maybe once I can get a handle on that, love will find a way.
But for now, still broken-hearted.
At least, that's the view from here...©