About what matters

Writing about what really matters

Month: November, 2014

Stretch yourself

Stretch

Lately I’ve been noticing that as I get older, a flexible, limber body doesn’t come for free anymore. Last night as I spent time stretching, the subject of the SoulCollage card I made today came to me.

I’m challenging myself to stretch this week in as many different ways as possible–and I hope you’ll join me (and share your experience here in the comments section, if you like). Here are 10 ideas to get us both started …

  1. Make a monetary gift you wouldn’t otherwise have made. A couple of fun ideas are making a Kiva loan, or adopting a child for Christmas through a program such as Salvation Army’s Angel Tree. (Be aware that they have more gift requests to choose from, if those on display don’t appeal to you. I like to dig for low-tech requests like a tea set or doll’s chair … the kinds of things I liked to play with myself back in the day!)
  2. Instead of an e-mail or electronic conversation–nice as those can be–send a beautiful card with a hand-written note to someone you care about. The best e-mail you’ve ever sent has never been given pride of place on anyone’s mantel, but your card probably will be. This year I got a lovely Halloween card from someone who’s sworn off Christmas cards–and it’s on my mantel as I write. Bonus points for needing an extra sheet of paper to finish your note!
  3. Instead of running one more errand–let’s face it, the to-do list is everlasting and will never truly be completed no matter what we do–take time to enjoy something beautiful. Take in a museum show, watch ice skaters (or be one of them!), visit a sculpture garden.
  4. If you see homeless people as you go about your business, keep food in your car to share with those who are looking for it (I keep protein bars in fun flavors), along with an encouraging word.
  5. Be kind to an animal. Stock treats for the neighbor’s cat who likes to say hello, or take your dogs to the dog park. If there’s a stray animal nearby, make sure it has food, take it to the vet (and be sure they check for a microchip!), see about finding it a home or getting it back to the home it already has. Or, if you have room, adopt a dog or cat. If you’ve never done it (or even if you have), it’s a tremendously rewarding experience, and guaranteed to stretch you.
  6. Have a little more in-depth conversation with someone you interact with on a casual basis–your barista, someone on the elevator at work, a neighbor. You never know when a few kind words may change the course of someone’s life. A simple kindness could be among the most impactful things you ever do.
  7. Express something you might normally keep to yourself. Voice a compliment. Thank someone who’s been important in your life. You could write a letter to your alumni magazine, for example, expressing appreciation for your professors and your college experience.
  8. Put an electronic device away–for an hour, the day, the weekend. Remember what life was like before you had a smartphone, a GPS, a TV (OK, maybe I’m the only one who remembers what life was like without TV!), or a laptop. It won’t kill you, I promise!
  9. Do something different. Go crazy–change your drink order or your route home. Try a new restaurant or ethnic cuisine; cook a new dish. Buy a fruit or vegetable you’ve never tasted before. (If you’ve never had a pomelo, they’re in season now, and they are fabulous!) Jump out of an airplane, if you’ve always wanted to.
  10. When you’re just about to say No, if you suspect it’s out of unhelpful fear, say Yes instead.

SoulCollage® cards are for personal use, and are not for sale, barter, or trade.

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Stay the path

This is my SoulCollage card reading from last night … I was feeling a bit jangled after Thanksgiving dinner, which was pleasant, but nonetheless necessarily involved many disparate energies. I thought that a reading might be helpful, and it absolutely was. I was reminded of why this process is so worthwhile.

Compassion

We have compassion for you–have compassion for yourself. You are learning, continually learning. That’s as it should be. That is all.

The writer

Writing is what you are meant to do, and you’re doing it. That is as it should be. That’s all.

Fawn

You will open the gate for others; that’s what you’re doing right now, and doing it well. Be proud of yourself–you are doing just what you should be. You will get better and better–practice makes perfect. But for right now, you’re doing fine–very well. That is all.

Understanding

Here you see the two paths. Don’t be distracted from yours. There’s much that is not the main event–don’t be distracted by that. Stay the path, keep to the path. That is all.

SoulCollage® cards are for personal use, and are not for sale, barter, or trade.

 

Say something

Fawn

Last night, following the Ferguson grand jury’s failure to indict, there was a peaceful protest here, quite close to where I ate lunch today. The protesters started their march at police headquarters, and ended it by marching onto a major highway–and then sitting down. The police appear to have done their job well–closing the highway to ensure the safety of the protesters, and remaining calm. Eight protesters were arrested late in the evening.

Due to my news blackout, I didn’t know about the protest, but as is always the case, when something important happens, I do hear about it. Several of my lunch companions were discussing the protest–all in unfavorable terms. They felt that shutting down a highway–a highway!–was taking things a step too far.

I said, Well, it sounds peaceful–was that the case? And they admitted it was, but continued to shake their heads over the highway–the highway! I began to wonder if highways were sacred in some way I had never realized …

Then one woman said, I just don’t get it. What happened in Ferguson had nothing to do with them.

Say what?!

I said, Well, I get it. There’s a huge amount of fear out there, on the part of cops and other people, and black people are ending up dead because of it. That’s just not cool.

And, of course, what’s also just not cool is that over and over, it seems to be consequence-free.

“It has nothing to do with them” is something I’ve heard before from her. It seems she has not yet taken the opportunity to learn that we are all connected–that what hurts one of us hurts all of us. She doesn’t understand why, for example, someone who has no children would be concerned about a children’s issue to the point of being genuinely upset. So I wasn’t surprised to hear this again.

But from my perspective (and I’m sure I’m not alone), if you’re black, it takes about a millisecond to make the connection: Michael Brown could’ve been my son. My grandson. My brother. Or me.

And if you’re not black, it doesn’t take a great leap of imagination to realize, If I were black, Michael Brown could’ve been my son. My grandson. My brother. Or me. And … why is it again that in 2014, 151 years after the Emancipation Proclamation, the color of a person’s skin (a temporary condition, as souls have no color) continues to be so important that it can mean the difference between life and death?

For the record, any peaceful protest of injustice, hatred, loss of life, and fear is alright by me. Please, shut down a highway. Do it early, do it often. Do whatever it takes to get people’s attention.

As you go about your business in my country or any country, as you hear people expressing fear of the (supposed) other, hatred, prejudice, harsh judgment, or indifference to suffering–and they will–I hope you’ll say something. It doesn’t have to be perfect. What I said today wasn’t perfect, but I’m glad I said something anyway. I do think it helps to speak from love rather than anger. I believe it helps to say something.

Imagine if hate were always challenged. If lack of empathy were always met with compassion. If misunderstanding were always countered with thoughtfulness. If those labeled “other” were always relabeled “one of us.”

All of that is possible–if you say something. When we say something.

This post is illustrated with my SoulCollage card of my throat chakra totem (a fawn), Opening the gate.

New born

Newborn

We kiss, and love takes flight …

We are vulnerable, as though we were just born–

yet we are wise.

There are many layers to what we will experience together–

all is not yet revealed.

At moments, we feel like fish out of water,

But often also free and joyful,

Ready to burst into song.

We are young–

even if we’re not–

because this is the beginning.

We’re springing up, blooming–

creating beauty and grace.

Those who’ve read this blog for awhile may notice that this is the first original poem I’ve ever posted. I wrote it last month at the SoulCollage gathering I attended. The exercise was to briefly read 15 cards (since I forgot my deck, I borrowed 14 of the Facilitator’s cards, and used the one I’d just made), and weave the resulting snippets into a poem. I was surprised to find that the first card I drew (seemingly at random) was made from an image on the cover of one of the magazines I’d brought with me to share the last time I attended the gathering. The first line of my poem comes from this card, and the last from the new card I made that day. Since I of course returned the cards when I finished, I wanted to make a card with a similar theme as the poem to have in my deck. The card you see is the result … I made it yesterday when I got together with a couple of other SoulCollagers. (Thanks for the image of the lambs, Kathy!)

Since this post has been linked from the SoulCollage Facebook page (thanks, Sue!), just wanted to add the additional detail that the exercise we did was First Impressions–A Free Flowing SoulCollage Reading created by Barb Horn. Stephanie Warfield facilitated the Open Studio and lent me her cards (thanks, Stephanie).

How to make a difference II

Not a loan

The opposite of rich is not poor; it’s free. The more weighed down we are, the harder it is for us to move when the Spirit says move. When were encumbered by baggage such as credit-card debt, we are unable to follow the Spirit’s lead. –Reverend Lynice Pinkard

Taking on debt indentures you to do future work in order to pay for past purchases. –Cynthia Eells

And ye shall hallow the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof: it shall be a jubilee unto you; and ye shall return every man unto his possession, and ye shall return every man unto his family. … Ye shall not therefore oppress one another … –Leviticus 25: 10, 17

At the end of every seven years thou shalt make a release. And this is the manner of the release: Every creditor that lendeth ought unto his neighbor shall release it; he shall not exact it of his neighbour, or of his brother … –Deuteronomy 15:1-2

As soon as I read about the Rolling Jubilee project–I think it was in Yes! magazine‘s poverty issue–I knew I wanted to be part of it. Rolling Jubilee, an offshoot of Occupy Wall Street, buys “bad” debt that’s in collections and is being sold for pennies on the dollar–and then they forgive it, cancel it, no strings attached. Or, as the Strike Debt folks like to say, they abolish it.

They focus on debt that has been incurred for basic services like medical care and education. (Most student loan debt is inaccessible to the Rolling Jubilee due to the federal government’s role, but the project has acquired private student debt.) The kinds of things that could be considered–but in the US often are not–basic human rights.

I know what a good feeling it is to retire debt. I’ve been working for several years to abolish my own debt, and starting next month, major chunks of it will be gone–paid the old-fashioned way, I might add–I haven’t gotten creative, in case you’re wondering! Early next year, I’ll owe money only on my house–and the end of my mortgage debt, though not immediate, is in sight as well. I am thrilled, so the thought of bringing freedom from debt to other people who may have despaired of ever having it, is really nothing short of awesome. I unequivocally love the idea.

According to Rolling Jubilee’s website, one in seven people in this country is currently being pursued by a debt collector. I’m comfortable calling it harassment. Just last week, after weeks and weeks of robo-calls for Hyacinth [my last name], a human finally called and I was able to put a stop to it. I’ve also gotten calls for Helen [my last name], and a number of other people who are not me and have never been members of my household. I certainly feel harassed, and it’s not even my debt.

Critics of the Rolling Jubilee have said that its approach doesn’t reduce the debt burden because it’s “bad debt” being discharged. This seems to me a banker’s view, not a people’s view, of the matter. It seems clear to me that those who owe the debt are unable to pay it–but the harassment of the attempts to collect that debt, and the felt burden of that debt, are no less real than if the debt were “good debt”–and probably both are increased.

To date, the Rolling Jubilee has discharged over $18.5 million in debt at a cost of a little over $700,000. They state that “all proceeds go directly to buying and canceling people’s debt.”

Now no doubt many people associated with the Strike Debt and Occupy movements have ideas a bit more radical than my own. I’m fine with that … I think a few radical ideas will be useful in moving our country away from the current tyranny of the 1%. And I love the idea of creating freedom from debt.

The term jubilee comes from the Bible, and as I wrote this, I wanted to refresh my memory on the details. I remembered a cycle of 7 years, and a complete cycle of 7 x 7 (49) years plus the 50th or jubilee year, when all debt is forgiven and all indentured servants go free.

Perhaps part of the reason I couldn’t quite remember the details (my family read the Bible through each year for much of my childhood) is that, like the Creation story, there are multiple different versions of the jubilee rules–one in Leviticus, one in Deuteronomy. Deuteronomy presents just the 7-year cycle, with the release happening in the fixed seventh year (the Sabbath year). Leviticus presents the 50-year jubilee cycle I remembered.

I was disturbed to see that it wasn’t quite all debt forgiven, all indentured servants and their children going free (and not empty-handed, either), and all land returning to its original owner. The Old Testament writings draw a distinction between the debt your ‘brother’ owes you, or your ‘brother’ being in servitude to you, and the same being true of a ‘sojourner,’ ‘stranger,’ or ‘heathen.’ According to these laws, such others could be held in servitude or indebtedness in perpetuity. Jesus took care to correct this error with his parable of The Good Samaritan, which makes it clear that all humankind are our neighbors, our brothers.

Isn’t that just the problem … those who wish to enslave us by having us forever in their debt don’t see us as their brothers, their neighbors, their landsmen, but as entities or objects to be used in their own enrichment. I think one of the beautiful things about the Rolling Jubilee debt buys is that they are blocks of debt, the individual debtors completely anonymous and unknown until after the buy is complete. Some of them no doubt would be recognizable to me as ‘brothers’ in Old Testament terms … people who share my ethnicity. And yet there is no doubt that every one of them is my neighbor.

If you’d like to contribute, you can do so here. (The original How to make a difference is here.)

Open the doors of your heart

Doors

Open the doors of your heart.

The moment I heard this during meditation this past week, I knew it would be the theme of my next SoulCollage card.

Today I started looking through the many door images I’ve collected, pulling a few, but nothing really resonating yet. I realized I needed a background image, and that’s when I found these beautiful vintage elevator doors. This one resonated.

“Those are some serious doors,” I thought. Indeed they are. Certain kinds of upbringings come with inevitable consequences of one kind or another, in my view. I’ve written before about releasing bitterness; this image confronted me with another consequence: guardedness.

I know that the time has come to throw those doors open for good. I truly don’t need them anymore.

Putting the house in order

kitchen

This week, I’ve been putting my house in order–but not, of course, in an end-of-life way, though I do sense that a new phase of my life is coming. Usually, when I feel this urge to organize and improve my surroundings, or do some serious clutter clearing, it’s because something wants to be birthed or realized in my life. I suppose it’s really a nesting instinct.

Some previous instances have involved the acquisition of a major piece of furniture to be used for storage–a linen press, a sideboard. I clearly remember seing my Prohibition-era Art Deco sideboard at the antiques shop and getting an adrenaline rush because it was, though I hadn’t known it until that moment, exactly what I wanted. I still love its beautiful curves, chevron and fruit carving, exterior and interior nickel fittings, and clean, restored silver drawer. The little liquor cabinet hidden in one side isn’t particularly useful, but adds to its charm.

I gathered dinnerware, glass, silver, and cloth and paper napkins from all over the house, and arranged them neatly in its drawers and on its shelves. I enjoy little more than organizing something well; I find this kind of thing deeply satisfying for reasons I can’t fully explain.

This week there was no new sideboard or linen press, but there was a new dishwasher–delivered and installed at last. I was loading it for its maiden voyage while my plumber was still here, and he observed that I was wasting no time. After more than a month without a working dishwasher, I’ve never been so excited about using one. This is also the first time I’ve ever had a new one. I believe in using things up and wearing them out, and that certainly happened with my 32-year-old former dishwasher, which came with my house. I can remember–and perhaps you can too–when almond was the ‘it’ color! (No one can deny that it was a huge improvement over the avocado green and harvest gold of my childhood–colors I recognized as truly hideous even at the time.)

I ordered the new dishwasher in a color meant to tone with my restored Kelvinator refrigerator called pastel turquoise. The manufacturer inadvertently added a metallic finish to the paint, which resulted in a silvery green. They said they’d make and send a new front panel in the color I ordered, but meanwhile I am thrilled to have a functioning dishwasher once again.

I’ve been hand-washing the dishes, flatware, glasses, mugs, pots, and pans I needed to have a functioning kitchen, but since I collect dinnerware and kitchenalia, I have extras of almost everything–and thus I had a backlog of dishes to do. As of this morning, I’m caught up with running the dishwasher, and my kitchen cabinets are satisfyingly full of tall stacks of plates, bowls, and the refrigerator dishes I collect and use (food keeps better in these old-fashioned containers than it does in plastic).

The electricians have been here this week as well–only painters and carpenters were missing, though they would have been welcome too! They replaced a bad pull chain over the kitchen sink, as well as various outlets that had been missed on prior visits. Best of all, they took care of a scary-looking (and live, I found out) hank of wiring and electrical tape at the back of one of my kitchen cabinets. I think it’s all that’s left of a former wall oven. The young electrician expertly (and impressively–I’ve seen experienced electricians make a mess of similar jobs) sawed a small hole in the back of the cabinet, recessed the wiring in a box, and covered the whole thing with a plate. A small thing, but quite gratifying to have something annoying so well addressed.

I also went and bought additional clear shoe boxes this week, as somehow I’d managed to accumulate more shoes than I had boxes. All are now properly housed. I also brought home another mini filing cabinet, twin to the one I already have, for those filing categories it couldn’t accommodate. I’m labeling the drawers as I remember missing categories. I also used my discount card (the large women’s shelters here raise funds in the fall by selling discount cards that can be used at many retailers for 10 days) to buy the new skillet I’ve been needing–Le Creuset this time as I have other pieces from them I love–and some Equal Exchange fair-trade coffee to give at Christmas.

I replaced batteries in two clocks that were running slow (bad feng shui, I know) with new lithium ones that should last for years. And my plumber replaced the curved shower curtain rod that came with the house, which had bent, with a new one fashioned from thick copper piping–very industrial chic. I couldn’t rest till I went out and bought a new fabric shower curtain liner to go with it. The plumbers also made an impromptu improvement to the flooring in the laundry room, which I truly appreciated.

The dishwasher being installed provided me with the opportunity to pull everything out from the kitchen sink cabinets, which I tend to do only when the kitchen plumbing needs attention. I cleaned, culled, and organized there, and also cleaned the dishwasher enclosure, which I suppose hadn’t seen the light of day in 32 years. Completing these and other cleaning tasks, I didn’t use quite every cleaning rag in my arsenal, but I did come close.

My new dishwasher, with its solid metal door and superior insulation, is exponentially quieter than the old one, and with its Energy Star rating, probably equally more energy-efficient. Interestingly, though, my old dishwasher cleaned just as well. While I generally like to keep my home relatively low-tech (no TV, no stereo, etc.), dishwashers will always be beautiful and essential technology to me.

Now that I’ve cleared the decks, and am well on my way to getting my house in order, I can’t wait to see what’s next.

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