Angry

I am angry.

I am enraged that a survivor’s voice was mocked. I am angry that Dr. Ford was called “a credible witness” because of her composure. Had she testified with the same display of fury as Kavanaugh those who sought to discredit her trauma would have pounced on her behavior as that of an irrational, hysterical woman. 

I’m livid at the hypocrisy of McConnell who wouldn’t hold a vote on Merrick Garland because we were too close to an election but forced a vote on such a controversial candidate six weeks away from the midterms. I’m terrified at what this means for women, for LGBTQ communities, for the environment, for immigrants for the separation of powers, for the world my son will inherit.

I’m angry because I fiercely believe in choice – choice on what to do with one’s own body whether that be pregnancy or gender reassignment; choice to marry whomever one pleases and live wherever one wants; and of not having to choose between bread or medicine. 

I am angry because the events of the past few weeks (months, years) are in sharp contrast with the values I hold dear. If my viewpoint were other than it is, I would be overjoyed at this moment instead of stressed out and having a weird, mild shingles outbreak behind my left scapula. Behind my heart. 

Listening to the music of Tori Amos and shaking with fear and rage and the weariness that came from crying over Collin’s announcement to vote yes, I stopped at a red light on my way to pick Cole up from school and engaged in a most basic spiritual practice. I looked up at the trees and the sky. Both were still there. Steady, ancient, comforting. So often they remind me that my life is small and short and the troubles I feel today will pass. And more, that most of the things I worry about don’t come true. 

Most. 

The poets say our trees stand in silent witness to our human drama. But the silence is a lie. There is new understanding that trees talk. They warn each other of disease and take measures to protect themselves. And like us humans washing our hands to prevent the flu, it doesn’t always work. They get sick, they wither, they die. The idea that trees are mere witnesses to our drama is also a lie. They give up their bodies for our homes, our paper, our furniture, our fuel. They purify our air and give shade and shelter animals with whom we also share a kinship. We need them. And they need us. We give them our very breath. Each letting go for us is a drawing in for them. Each surrender a harvest. 

If we could hear the trees speak in human language what would they say about the rancor in our world today? How would they express anger, joy, compassion, rage? Would they be allowed to use hot words and actions the way Kavanaugh did at the hearings, or would they have to take the more conventionally acceptable route of feminine anger expressed in tears only to be dismissed as too sensitive and emotional? 

“We have a lot of women that are extremely happy — a tremendous number — because they’re thinking of their sons, they’re thinking of their husbands and their brothers and their uncles and others and women are, I think, extremely happy,” Trump said.*

He’s right about one thing, I am thinking of my son. What kind of ethos will he inherit? How do I help him navigate the landscape of manhood when I have no experience in the area? How do I ensure that he will have the strength to resist a culture of toxic masculinity that he will be exposed to just as surely as my niece will learn about mean girls and the virgin/whore dichotomy? How do I make sure my sweet boy is one of the men who cover a girl passed out on the couch with a blanket instead of his body?

How do I teach my son about rage?

Perhaps I am to be like the trees. To stand steadfast in the messiness. To breathe in his experience and exhale my profound love. To demonstrate compassion. To teach him to call his representatives even when it seems hopeless. To offer refuge and blanketing shade. And when the time comes, to show him what it means to burn. 


* https://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2018/10/08/tremendous_victory_trump_celebrates_kavanaugh_win_138285.html

Photo by Matt Howard on Unsplash

Harvest

Dear Friends,

Welcome to the season of harvest and release. As I meditate on the dynamic tension between these two energies it occurs to me that while I’m accustomed to the practice of letting go, I’m not that good at harvest because I tend to focus on how my labors don’t bear the fruit I imagine they should. Which is a terrible attitude to take toward life. 

Cole and I end each day with “gratefuls” but perhaps I should take them a step further. Perhaps I could celebrate the harvest by living into the questions: What have I done in my life for which I am proud? What dreams have I fought for and nurtured instead of let wither under the harsh conditions of the world? A few things come to mind.

  1. I wrote a book. And equally, I’m still writing. 
  2. I left a toxic marriage and maintain an amicable, business like relationship with my ex.  
  3. I’ve studied and practiced and taught yoga. And equally, I’m still doing those things.
  4. I have a beautiful, sweet, kind, funny, inquisitive child with whom I get to share my days. And who always points to me and says, “You” when we do our gratefuls. I know he’s being lazy so I press him to be a little more imaginative. Then he comes up with things like “my nosy nose.” 
  5. I traveled to New Mexico and hiked up a mountain.

It feels showy and uncomfortable to write these down. Self-criticism is so much easier than self-celebration. The later feels irresponsible and gross. If I’m not in criticism, I say to myself, I’m in complacency. But the irony is that when I’m too critical I become paralyzed by my perceived inadequacy. When I’m in healthy self-reflection I am better able to act. 

In these first few days and weeks of Autumn as the squashes and apples and golden hued trees abound, I will accept the invitation to harvest. I’ll make it my word or breath prayer. Maybe I’ll buy some kitschy harvest decor at Michael’s as a reminder. I’ll ask for night dreams and waking awareness of how harvest exists in my life. I’ll do a focused journey meditation. I’ll look for it in sacred texts. 

I extend the same invitation to you. What have you done in your life for which you are proud? What dreams have you nurtured? Let’s gather together and celebrate the harvest. There’s time enough to let it go. 

Love,
Melinda

Photo by Fischer Twins on Unsplash

The Race

I commit to a lifetime of ongoing conversion and transformation, recognizing that I am always on a journey with both gifts and limitations.

~ Christine Valters Paintner, Monk Manifesto

Rex Stout, author of the Nero Wolf mystery series, was a genius. Once a word was down on paper he never changed it. For one who perhaps expects too much of herself the impossibility of such an ideal is laughable. And liberating. 

Recognizing something is impossible is just as freeing as recognizing something is possible. 

A year ago the idea of running a mile seemed impossible. But my stress level was so high last December I found myself eagerly doing intervals on a treadmill. I thought it would take me months to be able to run a mile. It only took a few weeks.

“Soon you’ll be getting a 5K team together,” said Michelette. 

I scoffed at the idea of a 5K. But then, sure enough I found myself thinking about it. Maybe . . . just maybe. 

Knowing I’d never put in the work without a tangible timetable, I signed up for the Carying Place Labor Day Race for Home. For two months I ran two to three times a week going as far as I could in a twenty-five minute time period. But I couldn’t do a full mile without stopping. What was possible on a treadmill where my pace was regulated and the air easy on the lungs just wasn’t happening outside. So I googled “couch to 5K”, found a 5 week program designed by an Olympic track coach, and began again.  

Three times a week I pushed myself through the intervals. By the end of July I felt discouraged. Most days I could sort of make it a mile without stopping. Sometimes I could do 1.5. With the race a mere month away, I knew I wasn’t going to make it to 3.1 continuous miles. 

I commit to a lifetime of ongoing conversion and transformation, recognizing that I am always on a journey with both gifts and limitations.

Conversion is one of the vows taken by Benedictine monks and oblates. I’ve read about it as a principle of daily improvement; of trying and failing and beginning again; and a willingness to be surprised by God. Conversion is a liberating principle. St. Benedict never asked for perfection. He demanded ardent commitment yet remained realistic about the frailties of being human. 

Quite without realizing it, in training for the 5K I embarked on a journey of conversion that tested my comfort zone and forced me to find the gifts in my limitation and my capabilities. Which is to say, I got to practice adjusting my expectations. My new goal was simply to complete the 5K even if I had to walk. 

Having never done this before, I didn’t quite know what to expect. I pictured a bunch of lean athletes in fancy gear running like gazelles, and little old me in my cheap cotton trying not to fall too far behind. Thank God I was wrong! 

Over five hundred and fifty diverse people ran and walked the course: some were solo, some in groups; there were moms and dads pushing strollers; old men, young men; old women, young women, and one in a Wonder Woman costume. Some had designer athletic wear, most didn’t. Only a fraction of the runners looked like the low body fat versions in my stereotyped imagination.

With all the positive energy and excitement of the crowd the first mile was easier than any mile I’d run before. The later half of the second mile was a challenge, but I kept pace with a woman from church and met my spontaneous goal of two continuous miles. On the third and final mile I kept up with two gentlemen in the their seventies who were doing run/walk intervals like me. This made me so happy. 

Recognizing something is impossible is just as freeing as recognizing something is possible. 

If I had held tight to my original goal of 3.1 continuous miles I would have failed, cried tears of disappointment, and been stuck in my bitter narrative that nothing ever happens the way I want it to.  Instead I lived my commitment to conversion. I celebrated the gift of being able to run at all, honored my current limitations, and crossed the finish line crying tears of joy.  

I’ll never write like Rex Stout and I’m good with that. After a modest rest I’ll get back to running and try again at a Thanksgiving Day Turkey Trot. And if I’m not able to do it, or frankly no longer interested in doing it, that’s ok. What matters is not that I keep a commitment to 3.1 continuous miles, but to conversion; to transformation and to the recognition that this journey is always filled with gifts and limitations.  

 

Here We Go Again

The light just changed. Did you see it?

I noticed the shift at 5:10pm on Thursday, August 23rd.  The evening sun, no longer a red flush of summer, now sets in colors more akin to rose and gold. This oh-so-subtle alteration that comes in mid-August is accompanied by the potential for my mood to tank—which is why I pay such close attention. So when I stepped out of the office and looked up at the glint between the leaves, my first thought was, “Oh shit. Here we go again.” 

This week has been difficult. The only consistent block of time I can carve to write is at 5am, which is tricky. My body does best when it sleeps until 6. So even though I’m adding in work that fulfills a part of my soul’s deep longing, my physical and spiritual reserves feel depleted. I’m skimming the surface of life. 

Which has been true for awhile. 

In response to my acute awareness of depletion, I made small adjustments. I requested dream wisdom and spirit animals started showing up, bringing along messages of trust. I noticed the trees again and their ripe summer foliage. I cut Friday’s run short because I was tired and wanted to walk, and savor a crisp morning. And I gifted myself with a luxurious asana practice—something that has also suffered as a result of trying to write at 5am. 

I also noticed an insidious emotional habit that has nothing to do with depression and everything to do with grasping. Becoming aware of that, accepting that, and then miraculously having the trigger removed from my life has been terrifically freeing. 

But here’s what I know. The trigger will return. It will come in a different package but it will come back. Like the cycle of seasons. Like the change in the light. Like the busyness that causes me to live on the surface of life. 

And that’s ok because life is a labyrinth not a point to point race. The center remains and I move in and around it. One path tends to mirror another I’ve traveled before. If I’ve been paying attention I start to notice the helpful and not helpful tendencies I carry along the way. And if I’m really paying attention, I can let go of some of the less helpful tendencies not by forcing them out, but by loving them along the way. 

When I remember that I am loved—by God, by my family, by my friends—no matter how many bad habits I am living, no matter how mercurial and painful my moods, no matter how many cycles I am repeating, I can step into the waning August light and say, “Here we go again. Now, let’s dive in.”

Photo by Tiffany Combs on Unsplash

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