What Matters

Paula has been up in New Hampshire since last month. She and campaign workers of all ages have been working in states near and far to them for months. Yes most of them are younger, without homes, jobs and families to take care of while those of us who have those things do what we can. We cross borders to help. For disasters, family gatherings, celebrations of all kinds.

I live in an area of three states where a few steps takes you into another tax rate, school system, set of rules and regulations. When Paula and I moved from Massachusetts, where we were legally married, to Connecticut where we had to do a ceremony with a justice of the peace to get some of the rights we had left behind reinstated, we joked that if we moved to New York, which we abut, we would have to do something else. At the time – six years ago – each state was separate and unequal.

Now they all recognize us. Cross pollination of people and ideas, different ways of being has made it easier to see the humanity in us all. When we cross a barrier we take a step in the unknowable. How will we create change, how will we be changed. I know for my own self that when I went door to door campaigning for Obama last election my life was changed forever. I am not easy with people, shy in a crowd, even shyer at your doorstep. In 2008 all the passion I experienced in my life – the civil rights movement, all the issues of the 60’s, Stonewall, and Equal Rights – came into play. I felt these issues come together in a tsunami of action I could take and believe a difference would be made.

I went door to door with a man I respected as very savvy, very used to the world I was stepping into. At the end of each day he remarked on my effectiveness, my ability to inspire and my compassion. He hardly said a word, he let me lead. Transformation. I don’t think others were as surprised as I was. The fire within me had found a place to go and a voice to give it oxygen. When I was going house to house I felt I was making the difference I was born to. I felt like the story I’d heard of the man on the beach after a storm putting stranded fish back into the ocean. When someone looked at him and the miles of beached fish and said, “you’re not making much of a difference,” and he replied, “I am to this one and this one and this one,” as he picked fish after fish and put them in the water.

I am changed by my actions. By reaching out I got feedback I couldn’t have gotten otherwise. As we get to know each other, we change. As we reach out to touch we are touched. We are not acting without the combined actions of people worldwide who we may never meet but whose light, air and water we share. If there is inequality of opportunity there is no peace among us. Yes, we are different and we don’t have to like what each one of us does or doesn’t do, but we share what we share – this earth, this life, this time – and peace within diversity is our choice. Take yourself out into the world. Stand your ground. Be a friend, love yourself, know you are loved.

Weather/ Climate

Well, it finally happened. We’re talking about the weather. When I was growing up people used to say, “you can always talk about the weather but you can’t do anything about it!” It was a way of exposing our basic need to connect, to say something to each other and, not knowing what else to say or how to connect, we could depend on the weather to give us something to talk about. Talking about the weather today has become controversial, disquieting,  something to avoid, certainly for politicians.

Weather exposes our insecurity as individuals to have control over not just our future but the future of our next generations. Like looking into a void we don’t have a reference for. It feels really far away and we don’t have a dependable cultural mechanism to talk about the future. “Seventh generation” is a model some of us give lip service to but we don’t have a cultural basis for. Are we really thinking of the coming generations when we decide not to fund what we blithely call “infrastructure” – tiresome word – are we really thinking about our great great great great grandchildren when we cast a vote, think a thought that is applicable only to ourself and our immediate need? When we get bent out of shape because the stock market went up or down a few points is that thinking about future generations? That’s weather.

Climate is what we pass on. Climate is like who we are at our soul’s level, weather is how we are today. Weather is the exam I just blew, the fight I just lost or won but our ability to be equanimous – or not – our love and compassion for all creatures, friends, lovers, exes of each category; that’s climate. It’s our climate, who we are and who we’ll be when all we know of ourselves is no longer here now.

Looking into the future is scary for all of us. Who will we be, how will we live, how we will care or be cared for? These are questions we all face unless we have a cultural/emotional community of trust to rely on. The main thrust of science in my lifetime has been to get things under control. We need not experience what is going on outside – we have climate control in our homes, cars, places of work and play. We have insurance and all manner of products to keep us stable in this chaotic world. We’ve got everything we need to be comfortable except knowing how to adapt, to respond to what is here now. We’re learning that. I think we’ll “get it” for the next generations, I think we’ll learn how to adapt – we already know – but we’ll have to act and talk about it while we wait and see.

 

 

Fidelity/Perseverance

 

Sometimes people ask for fidelity when they want perseverance. It is after all the workhorse of fidelity. It is the truth behind the truth.

Perseverance does not take everything personally. It does measure worth while waiting to see what happens next. In my experience it takes the world and what is said with a grain of salt.

There is something wonderful implied in perseverance. It is faith. Starting at the top – the Me in all of us, is focussed on my own actions, my own goals and the expectation I throw out into the world passes through me first.

Often when we look at our partner’s actions and find they fall short – the question could be, “short of what?” Our expectations, of course, I know that. But I can forget it as well as anyone. I can forget that in a moment of frustration I expected more of someone than I ask of myself. I can forget that I was too fast with my thoughts and turned to words before I understood them myself.

Perseverance is seeing through that. Loving the self and the other no matter what. Letting go of the Count; you did this when, I do so much, I always, you never. That sort of thinking is faithful only to the pivot, the back turned. It’s what we see in the media, it’s what we believe is “cool.”

What’s really cool is being there, hanging in, taking the plunge, staying for the finish. I’m not talking just about two people in relationship. I’m talking about the honesty with which we live our lives. About the face you see in the mirror. Is it a face you can love? Has it been cared for?

Don’t give up (on) yourself – ever. Give yourself a break – always. Keep to your goals and expectations of yourself – always. Start with compassion, end with compassion. Ask yourself if this is what I want. Is this who I want to be, am I where I want to be.

To Strike A Chord

The other night Paula was away and I was hosting my co-editors of a journal, call it literary, but we envision it as a passionate expression of faith in our community. We had met at a local restaurant and came back to our house for coffee and dessert because I was on call for a hotline. One of the things that Paula and I love is the ritual of tea or coffee, the implements for either one. I love that the pots are a different shape. I love containers. The way I used to love wine or beer glasses, a coco mug as opposed to a tea cup, and so on.
While we sat around the table talking about the magazine I made coffee and put out the dessert a friend had made. I asked everyone how would they like their coffee, what strength, sweet or not, foamed milk or (foamed) half and half. They barely looked up and said, “whatever you have is OK.” But I wanted to make something special. They weren’t having any!
So two things come to me today as I write. One, is that I’m so happy to be with Paula. Sometimes after so many years I forget what the “cream” of our togetherness is. Loving a shared experience is central to our life as humans. The eye contact thrown across a room when we meet up with an experience we agree on – or loathe. A remembrance that comes to us simultaneously. When we adopted our daughters I wanted them to each have a friend, more a cohort, an accomplice in this life. The life we were taking them to as well as the life we were asking them to let go of. I wanted them to look at each other in years coming and share a remembrance, a smell, a feeling. Now we’re included in so many of their experiences and they fill our world with theirs.
My literary cohorts and I do too. We came together, winnowed in many meetings that at first a lot of others came to and then it was us, our group. We capitalized it, Our Group. Like “Our Family, Our State, Our Country.” Like pack animals the smell of the den is in our nostrils, we commit to a shared future.
This is the crux of what matters. The skin of the whole, the matrix that holds us together. It’s not that all the groups I belong to love each other, probably not. But they are all part of me and I reside in them. It doesn’t mean I get along completely with any of them but it means I care enough to keep the group above me – or I leave. I’ve done that too. But they are why I’m here – all of them, the ones I’ve left or been kicked out of and the ones I’m in now. They are the weft of my life. They are where I stand and what I stand on as I live day to day.
The dance of the individual in community is varied, the choices are many. And though we are greater as a group the music of the spheres can be initiated by any one of us.

COUNTING

The flowers are getting sparse. The spiders are working overtime, as are the wasps and hornets. Their time is up. They go out with the flowers.
Shortening days, my darker time is coming. Actually it’s been here since June 21st but I didn’t notice – it was summer, light seemed forever. Night came just in time to catch me so I could gather enough energy for another day.

Now the gathering is done by all the Beings whose nests must serve as pantries. The birds and deer have to get by with what’s left on the bushes and trees – which is why I’m happy to see so many apples and pears out of my reach.

There are some things I can’t fathom the use for. I’m as glad to see these as the pears I cannot reach. Not fathoming something, not knowing means I can keep going. Means I can delve and play, follow a line, an arc, a mood. There’ll be more of that now. More for me to deeply witness because there’s less to see.

TODAY’S POEM

Today’s Poem

When I’m reminded of being alive,
Like taking a big breath,
It can be scary.

It can be so strong.
This morning it was a letter
From a man I don’t know.

He’s my “friend” on Facebook
And I know him well.
In the letter he said he was writing

Because in all his internet writing before
He said he didn’t express himself.
He said he told us what

He didn’t tell himself.
He left stuff out like
How he felt about what he

Does. He said all this good stuff but,
Left out his divorce and meeting a
Wonderful woman

Now she’s here – there
Moving in. Sharing a life.
And he wants us to know.

Is it just men who can do that?
I have another (man) friend,
His story is similar.

A woman turned their insides
Out.
What can a woman do?

Pam White
August 5th 2011

April Is Poetry Month

How many of you have listened to William Butler Yeats? Actually heard his voice? It’s so cool – he’s old, you can tell, but it’s him and that’s enough for me.

1-01 The Song Of The Old Mother

Yeats is in the sky too. He was an idol, a mentor, a mind I loved to attempt to grasp when I was in high school. I got to research and write about him when I was in college. That’s such a great time, a lucky time when you can delve into what you love. I used to love the library, holding all the books in my hands. I love technology. I love Google. Waking up at any hour and typing in whatever I can remember of a poem or person or anything and up it comes with ideas and commentary from all over the world. I love living here now. I love getting ideas from all over. Thank you all for being here.

What do you Google? What do you buy?

In preparation to help people solve their most pressing problems and help them with their most sought after concerns I googled “what do most people search on Google” I got a smallish list of famous people and astrological quests.

It was clear to me there was nothing I could help with in those categories. So I searched deeper. Slightly different but similar issues came up. I thought, “aha, people are not looking for answers to what is bothering them, they want distractions – and, yes, help with the future!

Realizing I was on my own I abandoned Google and went to titles of books. Jackpot! People Google distractions but they buy solutions! I’m in the game!

If anyone knows how to quantify the amount of hours spent getting help vs. hanging out online, I’d love to know. I have the feeling people are swift in getting their help and spend the rest of their hours online playing games or getting quotations to impress us.

How many CSI re-runs do you watch before you get enlightened? Yes, that’s a joke! Don’t give me a number!

But my point is that we are anesthetizing ourselves with crime shows and reality TV and loosing our voice doing it. Yes, our voice. The one you speak your Truth with, the one you answer your mate, your friends, your boss. They know what you say. Do you?

When your “true self” is wrapped up in the reality of others’, when you know more about Bree or Michael or someone on Lost than you know about your child, spouse or parent, well, you might be a little lost. I just went to the Lost site and found that six million, five hundred eleven thousand, six hundred seventy-three people have gone to the site and “liked” it. Wow! They’re lost!

There is, luckily, another way to spend our time. Let’s begin with appreciation. Appreciation is the highest achievement of the human soul. How often do you engage it? How often do you express your “like” for something – that’s not on facebook? How often do you tell the “ordinary” people in your life how extraordinary they are? How often, instead of reaching for that cookie, do you reach for yourself – take a breath, meditate, have some alone time, some “with” time with the one you love. Oh, did you say, “I love you.” That’s always a good thing to do.

Love and Marriage

The other day I was sitting in my living room having a wonderful cup of coffee I had just made and suddenly I felt myself be twenty years old, listening to a song about love and yearning. I remember very well what I was yearning for. It had nothing to do with my past, nothing in my past was yearning material. It had to do with my future. I was yearning for my future.

I’m pretty sure – even though it feels crazy to me now – that young girls and women are taught to yearn for a future. A future they may or may not get. I didn’t get mine, but it was more from my tastes changing than sitting here writing this and feeling unfulfilled.

Every Wednesday in my school – it went from kindergarten to twelfth grade and in the auditorium/chapel the first row on the right as you walked in were the fourth-graders(K – 3 not allowed), the grades went up to the last row and then down to the first row on the left side where the seniors sat. I make that point because that meant the whole school of girls, 500 of us, got the same message week after week, year upon year.

Our headmaster would ask us how many were going to college – most of our hands went up. He would exclaim the benefits of college: it was where the young men would be and the better qualified we were to go to the best schools, the better marriages we would make and the more happiness we would have.

Year by year as I went up the rows of seats and down again I would find out there were easy two-year colleges situated not far from the so-called better men’s colleges. These had secret mottos like, “a ring by spring or your money back.” You think I’m kidding. I’m not. We were serious, our futures depended on it.

There was no way out. That was it. Marriage and happiness. Frank Sinatra was singing, “Love and marriage…. go together like a horse and carriage.” So when I got married, I would be happy. It was in all the Disney movies, too, it still is. So there I was remembering twenty and yes, I was married. The happiness bird hadn’t landed yet.

My husband had settled into a routine of “we’re married, you do it, whatever “it” is, and we both have to go to bed early, forget sex, and be responsible. Responsible for what? I didn’t ask, I was not the questioning kind. Authority spoke, I listened and either ignored, acted or rebelled. Those were the choices I saw. When my husband and I had lived together, we had shared doing dishes, the bed never got made and we went to sleep and got up in time to go to classes or work or do whatever we were doing. This imposed schedule of up at six and to bed at nine was incomprehensible to me.

Back at my school, not so very long ago in my life, everything had a point. Our headmaster knew everything and the teachers made sure his dicta ran smoothly. We were all bent to the same shape. Every year each rising senior class would vote on their school ring. Each year the senior class voted for the same ring. When it came our turn I thought it would be a good idea to change. I found another design. I showed it to the rest of the class. I showed it to the leadership of the class and got them to think it was a good idea.

We voted on the ring. We voted for the new style. I felt triumphant. I had changed a hundred years of rings. I had persuaded my class, at the time the largest graduating class, to be different. I was ecstatic.

Well you know I wouldn’t be writing this if my plan had succeeded. I won the battle but it had sparked a war. Our Latin teacher, who had changed my grades whenever I had gotten higher than a C in any of my classes, called another vote. We were gathered into a room, told about the value of consistency, of history, our place in it, how gratifying it is to be part of a larger whole, how unattractive it is to be different, how unacceptable.

Another vote was held. Pieces of paper in a box – just as before. The box taken to the headmaster’s office. We waiting in our classroom. And when they came back they were happy to announce the old style had been chosen. We were back in the fold. History could go on and we with it.

Yes, she changed my grades. I didn’t know this until a few years later when I happened to speak with two of my teachers and I lamented working so hard to get my grades up and getting the grades but it not being reflected on my transcript. They were not completely shocked to hear and said yes, they had given me grades reflecting my work and Miss Stevens had changed them. They both knew other instances. Other girls like me not really part of the school “picture.”

I’m pretty sure the headmaster became my template for authority. And I’m also sure that I put my husband in the role. And he came up way short. We were both playing to roles more unconscious than conscious. There’s a lot of research now showing that as children we take in our surroundings and believe in them way before we understand what anything means. We get our concepts of fairness and duty in the world without choosing them. The messages are clear before we have any clarity about what we are doing, whose rules are we following.

This applies to us our whole lives. We choose with our history firmly grasped but not understood. We base our choices of jobs, spouse, partners in business, cars, food, on what was our norm. That includes what we love and hate, what we resent or think is essential.

It’s important to uncover your truth, your self. Listen to the unexpressed values you hold. “following your bliss” only works if you know who you are and are willing to take the risks associated with that knowledge. It does not mean to do what you want. It does not mean to do what you think is right or what someone tells you to do. It means to seriously get to know yourself, see yourself and have the courage to stand up for yourself, take responsibility for what you want, what you care about. That’s when you become your best friend, that’s when you can be trusted, when your compassion includes yourself.

I’m going to make another cup of coffee – different this time – and remember who I really am.  What about you?


Do something unexpected, even maybe uncomfortable, often!

The Other Day I Was Singing


The other day I was walking with our dogs in the field alongside our house. I had just watched “About A Boy” for the second or third time and the song “Killing Me Softly” was not leaving my mind. Seriously not leaving. As in the only thing I could hear.

So, I often sing with the dogs, they are the only ones who will hear me without comment. They sometimes perk their ears and look at me if I do some chanting, but a song slips right by them, they are intent on the pace or the smells.

So when I burst into song they didn’t skip a beat. Noses to the ground we kept a leisurely pace and as I got into the second stanza I realized the field was full of dogs. All the dogs I’ve ever walked came to me, all the dogs who have ever sung with me or gone about their business to my song were there.

Zoe and Misha, Dae and Esme, Luna (who always sang with me) and Gordita all romped beside me. Of course on the leashes were Guinnie (Guinivere) and Cho and Jules with Liam(Jack Russell) running like a little motoring thing all round.

And I thought, “The song brought them!” Then I wondered how could I sing so much, how could I have them here all the time. So human of me, so quick to cling and strive!

In a moment I knew it was not the song, but my resonance with the song. My Beingness was full with the song. My Being was not doing anything else. My Being was song. And when that happens, when we are in tune, in sync, in the zone, that’s when we allow what we know, what we want, what we dream to come to us. When we become who we are, then the magic gets in step with us.

If we have a tuning fork set to C and we vibrate it, C will happen. If we have a dream, a feeling, a desire that is set to our truth, it will happen. If we don’t let it all out, if we are afraid of its power, over us, over others  – that’s a projection, because how would we know?

So much of what we do is set to the tune of an outside scale. So much of what we learn is played to music that isn’t quite right for us. It is my belief that we surround ourselves with animals because they are who they are. The hamster isn’t anything but, same for the horse, dog, cat – we’d probably all say “particularly cats!”

We do our best to see that they have species specific and age appropriate living and dietary arrangements. Even in this economy the pet stores are better off than the banks. In my experience we give our pets the benefits we can’t/won’t give ourselves. What would it take for you to look at yourself, feel who you are and what your dreams are and just take a step toward that dream? Do you think you take an extra bite of something, a sweet, bread, T.V.? To get through the anxiety of that truth you just told yourself. Is your idea of what you want so big it feels untenable? Do you stick “I can’t do that without upsetting everything?’ on your dreams?

I’ve rescued greyhounds for twenty years, I watch the new ones come in and look at the stairs. Then they either avoid them (until we teach them) or they look at me and think I want them to do it so they try to go up the whole flight at once. It takes some time for them to chunk the task down and go up or down one or two at a time. This is important for us too. How often do we think we have to “do it all?’ How often do we get accolades for how much we do, for how much we take care of? We are programmed for Doing. We are also programmed for Being. We can access both and we’re smart enough to play with the difference.

Give your song a sing, a chance. See how many steps can be taken to your dream. Chunk them down, patience is precious, patience is gold. Give yourself the time and space to be full with your accomplishments. Every day find the ten or twenty things you love, you cherish. Every day find the ten or twenty things you want to do, want to have done when you look back. Look back, see what you’ve done. See if keeping your desk or kitchen neat is in the best service of you and your unique talents. Find the nut of you. You are the only one you are. No body thinks, looks, acts like you, has your genius. Don’t expect anyone to be you or guess you or think you. And, please, don’t expect anybody to live you. You’re the boss of this one, you’re the only one who can do It!

Give in to your nature. Be yourself. Trust. Your Self is waiting for you. Be the Self worth waiting for!