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Each of us has our own unique GPS system... Truth-telling is the most thorough navigation tool.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

How Come Nobody Ever Says Anything?

I was in a spinning class again. I'd stayed out of the classes for about five months when a teacher was particularly snarky about the volume control. I'd put my hands up to my ears, motioning that the noise level was too loud. Her reply? "I don't read sign language." Twenty minutes later, I walked out.

But after five months of missing the kind of sweaty workout that is particularly good for my soul, I found the head spinning person at the gym and talked to her about the noise level. She assured me it's not that I'm getting too old or "unhip" to spin. She was out tonight and the 'sub' might have had the switch set to the legal limit, but was raising the volume on her iPod and then screaming above it.

I said something. I moved over to a bike farther from the speaker. While spinning my mind was remembering a recent condo meeting. A renter in the building had been so rude to the renters below him that my favorite couple moved out last Saturday. During the meeting in which the owners of those two condos were trying to get to the bottom of all the emails back and forth, the neighbor who had called me at 1:30 in the morning to ask if I heard the noise downstairs was afraid to complain as I'd heard her complain numerous times in the past 100 days.

The owner who'd lost her renters called me the next day and said, "I'm so glad you were at that meeting. If you hadn't been there, I don't think anyone would have said a word." She hinted that perhaps it was a racial issue. "Maybe everyone was afraid of offending the person in question," she said in her squeaky voice.

I don't know what it is. We complain about things under our breath but rarely take it a step farther to confront the situation head on and try to make it better. If we're rebuffed once, as my neighbor had been by the person in question, we often feel intimidated to speak out again.

Sweating away on the quieter side of the room, getting completely into my ride, I started remembering the concept I'd learned in a Political Psychology class at UC Berkeley. Pluralistic Ignorance. Person A thinks that Person B doesn't care. So Person A acts as if they don't care. Person B reading Person A also thinks they don't care, so they act aloof and uncaring as well. The truth may be that both A & B care very much, but pride or ego or saving face causes behavior that protects self instead of fostering communication or connection.

When the class was over, I was heading over to my bag near the speaker to get my stuff when a pretty brunette spoke to get my attention. "I'm right there with you on the noise issue. It's actually unbearable much of the time." She was a young, perky South African and she spoke with that wonderful accent. "If you bring it up to the head teacher, I'll stand right behind you because I totally agree with you."

I was really glad she'd shared her opinion with me. It showed me two things...
  1. I'm not too un-hip.
  2. By saying my truth it made it safe for another to do so.
As First Lady Michelle Obama said in her address to the graduating seniors of Washington Math and Science Technology Public Charter High School today:

"When you set foot on the soil of whatever campus that has admitted you, understand that you are responsible for your own experiences. So what I want you to do is own your voice. Own it. Don't be intimidated by your new surroundings. Remember, everyone else is in the same position that you're in. Be an engaged and active participant in all of your classes. Never, ever sit in silence, ever. That first day, raise your hand, use your voice, ask a question. Don't be afraid to be wrong, don't be afraid to sound unclear, because understand this is the only way you'll learn." http://twurl.nl/llzxh5

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The Moment is Now

As a reticent child, I always tested the water before jumping in. As a young girl, I'd purposefully alter my looks in some way in order not to compete with other girls for boys. As a Berkeley undergrad I chose political science because I thought I'd have to write more papers for the English literature department. It's not that I take the easy way out. I don't.

My life has been one sacrifice after another. There is much I’ve been willing to give up in order to live my dream; children in order to give birth to books, relationship in order to seek and understand solitude, money in order to focus on what is truly valuable-sustainable-connect worthy. It would have been much simpler to lower my ideals, to set my sights on something easier, more mainstream. I couldn't do that.

It might have been more “fun” to take the Best Dressed award instead of Most Friendliest or Most Likely to Succeed http://www.huffingtonpost.com/lisa-guest/what-is-an-authentic-ante_b_178296.html. It is much harder to be a good friend than to decipher what the latest fashion is or how to achieve a look instead of show off a label.

Much more difficult to determine what is truly successful... and to go for that no matter the cost. It would have been so much easier to cut off parts of myself in order to fit into the corporate structure. But I couldn’t do it for long. It would have been so much easier to break the glass ceiling without the inconvenient emotional part already amputated. But I couldn’t focus on achieving when I had to leave so much of myself at home.

Instead, I came into each moment with too much emotion. Many labeled me "too sensitive." Early on I was told, "You think too much." It's not like I could stop. Like Madonna, I've always had a strong masculine energy swirling around my center core. Instead of moving out into the world to conquer it, I moved inside to understand what was there.

When I started this blog I assumed I could just deposit here pieces I wrote two years ago. Yet, since I've placed a few blogs I've realized that I must share what is happening now, important now, what is real now...

Life is moving so quickly. They (who?) say that more is changing technologically, energetically, and historically now and in the coming four years than ever before. What might have taken a decade to process in another century can now be experienced and expressed in a heartbeat.

I've always thought I had to be perfect before sharing my wares. Yet, I've never believed in perfection nor tried to achieve it in my everyday life. I've remained silent instead of voicing opinions if I didn't have valid alternative solutions. I've denied myself in a myriad of ways. Brilliance I produced prior on the page overlooked for too many years when memories of certain experiences left me with an ache or a hole or a wish unfulfilled. I left it on the private page and kept moving forward. Privately I’d tried to process, but I didn’t really know then how to move through a trauma drama.

Instead of honoring my process, accepting my emotions, understanding that what I feel is a blessing and not a curse, I judged myself as others had judged me; too this or too that. Instead of just being profoundly me. It's just me in this moment, processing this emotion. As if being me, alive and breathing in this moment, isn't enough to be grateful about.

I have a dear friend who is struggling. Who isn’t these days? He has the soul of an artist and can produce paintings, sketches and collages that anyone would want on their wall. Yet, he’s cut off so much of himself in order to be a partner in an architectural firm. With the economy STILL in shambles, he’s had to fire most of his staff. He worries about his job, and subsequently, his loft bought at the peak of the bubble. It is affecting his health. He is not alone. Millions in cities around this country are in his position.

So what’s my valid solution? I don’t have one. I just pray he and the many others, who have such special gifts to give to the world, might use this time to focus said gifts to express these feelings that are instead now causing havoc in the body.

I’ll leave you for now with this. For years I sought answers. In the Jewish tradition, why were men expected to study and women were only allowed in the bedroom and the kitchen.

Finally one Rabbi gave me an answer I could accept. He said, “Women are already connected to God. Women can reproduce. Men cannot. Men must study how to connect with the divine.”
If it is true that men move forward physically and mentally, and women move forward emotionally and mentally…. And that’s why it’s been easier for men to jettison said emotions and why women have struggled when having to do so… Maybe the answer is to honor our feelings once and for all.
Honor how sad it is that a major American auto firm is biting the dust and how that will affect so many souls in the process… but channel that sadness into action, into choices that will improve our future. Choices like Michael Moore suggested today on his Huffington Post Blog: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/michael-moore/goodbye-gm_b_209603.html.

We all must sacrifice to get to the promised land of peace. What can you give up today?

Changing Our Minds, Speaking Up For The Truth!

In May 18th's New York Times, Maureen Dowd talks about Cheney and torture.

"I used to agree with President Obama, that it was better to keep moving and focus on our myriad problems than wallow in the darkness of the past. But now I want a full accounting. I want to know every awful act committed in the name of self-defense and patriotism."

This, after now determining that water boarding wasn't used to protect Americans, but to justify invading Iraq.

I don't want soldiers over there to experience any more danger as a result of our moral cleansing of the beastly criminal record -- legacy from #43... but I was taught that the truth would set us free.

As a kid, I was taught that when I lied, I'd be punished. If I told the truth, I might be reprimanded for being careless but I wouldn't get spanked for lying. I'd broken my grandmother's velvet headband and denied I did it. I got walloped, not for breaking the headband, but for lying about it.

I'm always kind of hesitant to make waves. Once at Romoland Horse Camp the counselors took us to a spot up against a hill where we had to walk our horse into a small six-foot space in between two hedges and turn around. All the other campers did so quickly. When it came my turn, my horse (I forget her name but it started with an R) walked into the tight spot and just stood there. I tried to urge her on. She started to paw the water that was beneath me... I kicked her sides and got her turned around and out of the bind. The counselors laughingly said, "Do that again Lisa and see if you can get R in and out more smoothly."

I tried again and this time R really started pawing the water. Nothing I did seemed to get her to move. My anxiety started to lift but it really exploded when all of a sudden yellow jackets that had been in the water R was pawing, started swarming around me, seemingly hundreds of them that my horse had now disturbed and antagonized.

Somehow I extricated myself and R again only to watch the counselors laugh their asses off. They thought it was hysterical. They knew R liked to do this and because R was my horse for that two week period, I was the one tortured by the humorous annual experience.

Did I report the incident to the old lady who owned the camp? No. Did I ask to call my parents and get me out of there. No. Did I trust those counselors the rest of my time there? No. Was this torture? Yes. Did it hurt anyone? Could have...

My 8th grade Chinese Algebra teacher once locked us in our classroom, closed all the windows and turned on the heat. This was the last week of school. It was June. It was already a hot day. When we started to complain that it wasn't fair, Mrs. W said "Life isn't fair. Get used to it."

Was that torture? Yep. Was she brought down by it? Nope. Did we learn anything from our discomfort? Not really...

If life is indeed about learning... If life is indeed about healing... If those of us who are here to do those two things believe in peace and make steps to seek and find peace, our mental alignment and calibration will simultaneously lift those in the business of greed that continue to escalate the differences and the violence. It comes down to power... use and abuse of power.

In retrospect, reporting both incidences in my early life, might have saved other unknowing campers/students from similar scary experiences. Was it fair or nice or necessary to threaten safety and cause discomfort? Did these counselors and this teacher get something out of abusing others? In the moment they did. But was it right? I bet they don't remember their behavior but many of us kids did. Had we reported their misconduct, they might be remembering it too and thinking before doing it again.

My therapist wanted me to write a blog about torture weeks ago. I resisted. I'm not an abuse specialist. She is. She said, "We heal by owning and acknowledging our mistakes." The more we hide, the more we have reason to hide and the more such treacherous thinking causes missteps and wrongful living. By saying, "This is what I did. I blew it and this was why. I'll try to do better", Then all involved can move forward into greater health.

Some think we'll lose face by admitting our sins. I think we just might regain it. We beat ourselves up, we sabotage our self or abuse family members when we harbor uncomfortable unspoken truths. What happens inside our own tribe is a microcosm for world politics. By fessing up in our own circle, we make it possible to heal that which is broken and wounded. By walking away, the wounds fester, eventually needing amputation. What's worse, a moment of discomfort in order to clean the wound and make possible, a healing. Or the continual lies that strip us of our souls and make us continue to abuse and therefore punish. What is your take?

Btw, apparently Ms Dowd lifted quotes from someone else...




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