The eve of the New Year feels different this year.
We’re standing on the precipice of a deranged, hurtful, hateful, fearful time of existence, wishing that the turn of the calendar will somehow magically allow us all to step into a new world, free of the worries and trials nipping at our heels. The hope that a new vaccine, a new administration, a new awareness, a new number on the end of the date will lead to a year that won’t be a complete and total shit show is riding on our shoulders and settling into our veins, like a bandage to a too-deep wound.
Picture a six inch gash that needs hundreds of stitches, antibiotics, and physical therapy. We’re talking muscle deep. And the change from the 31st to the 1st is the Curious George band aid you got from the elementary school nurse.
I’m not saying this to be a Debbie Downer.
I’m saying this to be cautious (Cautious Kate?) that a socially constructed but otherwise meaningless mark of ‘time’ doesn’t determine a great paradigm and brink-of-destruction shift.
I’m saying this to tell you—if you need that date to start a different way of doing things, then Hu-fucking-zzah to you and get on it, Girl (or Bro?) but don’t think that the minute shift to a new year is going to change the world itself.
That calendar flip won’t do anything until we change.
Until we start giving a damn about other human beings.
Until we start understanding if our environment dies, so do we.
Until we start to understand that science seeks truth and power corrupts.
Until we stand on our own, think for ourselves, and treat everything we touch (physically, mentally and emotionally) with the same care, empathy, and love as we would our own child (or cat if you’re a fur momma) our world will never improve.
I’ve thought often of ending this blog in the past year. Sometimes it feels like it’s all for nothing. One voice shouting into a vast expanse of darkness. One voice raised against so many overpowering facets of corruption. One voice aching for connection.
But I know I’m not the only one. And as long as our collective lights continue to shine, there will never be complete darkness. So I will stand for another year. For another day. For as long as it takes until love overpowers hate, for as long as it takes for humans to wake up to the gift of their existence.
For as long as I draw breath, I’ll write. I’ll shine.
This next year will bring about more poetry as well as a new request for submissions from readers and poets for a second anthology from The Beautiful Stuff. There will probably be some ranting, some raving, and some venting. I can’t help that—and I’m not going to try or even apologize for it.
I’m also planning on running a ‘dime novel’ series that will include some weekly submissions of short stories (a la novella style) ranging from sci-fi/fantasy, to romance, to speculative fiction.
Stay in touch, and I’ll announce submission dates for not only guest blog pieces, poetry, and anthology submissions, but also for “dime novel” contributions.
Until then…keep shining.
If you must make New Year’s resolutions, don’t think about a smaller pair of pants, but how you can make your voice and your power bigger in this world. Don’t think so much about an organized closet, but an organized movement towards social justice.
Let’s aim our sights on living large of heart in this new year.
Listen Kids. We’ve been going hard at it now for the past few months all about writing theory, types of writing, how to write, what to write, and on and on and on and on…
Today is the last Thursday before the election and it has been a crazy past few months. To that end, I would like to offer you a little bit more of the Beautiful portion of The Beautiful Stuff.
There are no exercises to do, no work-in-progress to compare and tweak.
No Bullet Lists
Just a poem or two I wrote while camped out in the Rocky Mountains for a few days, re-evaluating my writing and, in part, my life.
I hope you find repose in the next week or two. I hope you weigh what is good, and just, and right for all of our citizens. I hope you vote with the conscience of someone who cares for their fellow human beings and all of our quality of life. I hope you vote.
When it’s done I hope you can let the last few years of hatred and divisiveness go. Put it down. Reach across the chasm that was created by small-minded men seeking to destroy unity and human decency. Those who grew their power by pitting us against one another.
I hope you can find rest. I hope you can find beauty. I hope you find your voice and you use it to stand up against injustice, stand up for your fellow human beings, and stand together against hatred.
Here it is. Poetry
More Gravel Than Gold
I hope that heaven’s streets,
are more gravel than gold.
That the armaments are granite peaks
and the angels’ song,
I hope that heaven’s throng is more full
of friends than the righteous.
That the memories of Grandma’s hands
will be photos regained in focus.
I hope that heaven is made of home
more porch swing and creek than opulent spire.
That they’re waiting to hear my tires in the driveway
Hello kids. Listen, lately this blog has been heavy handed with the writerly stuff. Let’s face it, a lot is going on in the world and sometimes its nice to focus on something we can control, something we can improve, something we can do.
I began this blog with a rant that just sprung out of the general feeling of hopelessness, anger, frustration and worry. For my family, my community, my country. I began on a three paragraph spewing about inequality and why the government and richest among us love to stoke the fires of divisiveness. I began, this early morning, festering outwardly what I’ve been festering inwardly for the last three an a half years.
Because our country has turned to a festering shit pile that’s hard to ignore. But we all know it. We all see ourselves behaving like hateful, ignorant assholes, but…everyone’s doing it so it makes it ok? See? Witness how easy it is for me to fall back into the loop that keeps me up at night, gives me anxiety, and makes me plan to move off the grid and become a hermit.
But today is about reprieve. A break. A rest.
Something different is called for. And so, to take a side road from writing (while not diving into the sewage that our current state of affairs has become), I want to talk about song lyrics.
Specifically, those lyrics from songs that stick into the sides of our hearts. That spur inspiration in our brains. That connect us as human beings. Surely you’ve got a few rambling around in your neurons. I’m going to give you a few here, and links to the songs.
Your exercise this week is to listen to some of your favorites and something new. Think about the words and how they correspond with your own experiences.
Writing is not as powerful if, at some point, the reader (or listener) doesn’t sit back and say to themselves ‘man, I’ve been there’.
Your job, in essence is to find a way to connect to a complete stranger by letting their words affect you.
Here you go:
I heard this one earlier in the week and it had been years. As I’ve aged, it’s struck different and more meaningful emotions in me.
“Once upon a time there was an ocean But now it’s a mountain range Something unstoppable set into motion Nothing is different, but everything’s changed
It’s a dead end job, and you gets tired of sittin’ And it’s like a nicotine habit you’re always thinking about quittin’ I think about quittin’ every day of the week When I look out my window it’s brown and it’s bleak
Outta here How am I gonna get outta here? I’m thinking outta here When am I gonna get outta here? And when will I cash in my lottery ticket And bury my past with my burdens and strife? I want to shake every limb in the garden of Eden And make every love the love of my life
I figure that once upon a time I was an ocean But now I’m a mountain range Something unstoppable set into motion Nothing is different, but everything’s changed
Found a room in the heart of the city, down by the bridge Hot plate and TV and beer in the fridge But I’m easy, I’m open, that’s my gift I can flow with the traffic, I can drift with the drift Home again? Naw, never going home again Think about home again? I never think about homeBut then comes a letter from home The handwriting’s fragile and strange Something unstoppable set into motion Nothing is different, but everything’s changed
The light through the stained glass was cobalt and red And the frayed cuffs and collars were mended by haloes of golden thread The choir sang, “Once Upon A Time There Was An Ocean” And all the old hymns and family names came fluttering down as leaves of emotion
As nothing is different, but everything’s changed”
This man is brilliant, in voice and lyric. There’s something dark and gritty in him that brings out the underbelly of love:
“Love ain’t nothing more than black magic You better want what you wish for It might happen I drank your poison Fell under your spell Love is hell and nothing more than black magic
Love is like a bag of drugs it blows out both your knees Innocence gets tangled when you hang it on a string Both our eyes were foggy glass, too high to ever see The devil’s sleight of hand, twisting fate with ancient ink”
This song…is on my alarm in the morning…Because what we have is what we are and where we’ve been has gotten us this far.
“Every tree has got a root And every girl forbidden fruit and got her demons And the path I chose to go, a different girl so long ago I had my reasons
And she’s in my head so loud, screaming “Shouldn’t you be proud of what you came from? Oh, you’ve been crippled and you’ve walked on You’ve been shut up and you talked, so let’s talk some more”
Where is the hand for me to reach? Where is the moral I’ll ever teach myself? In all the black, in all the grief, I am redeemed
And its ripping at my heart Because Im dodging all the darts and on a slow train And then Ill wear it til it tatters And it shatters on the floor in instant replay
Oh, were all rotten and were pure And were just looking for the cure that feels like spring snow And all we have is who we are and where we’ve been got us this far, so let me go”
This woman’s voice and writing is so empowering. I recommend listening to this one while you’re out walking, or running, or moving. It’s a heart-helper.
“The way you smile When you believe in it, in your future It’s different, it’s different
Now we moving forward, ever backwards Never forward, ever backwards, never And when the going gets rough and life gets tough Don’t forget to breathe
I love it here ‘Cause I don’t have to explain to them Why I’m valuable, that I’m magical And back home they tear Tear my soul apart Love my broken heart I don’t know where to start
The way you smile when you believe in it, in your future It’s different”
I could go on ALL DAY. But I’ll only give you two more.
This has been a favorite of mine for a long time. It feels like a whole journey through life and the one lesson at the end you wished you’d known sooner. And this video, I believe, was compiled by some amateur videographers. It’s brilliant. It feels like what my soul would do, if it were untethered from fear.
“Hello, my old heart How have you been? Are you still there inside my chest? I’ve been so worried, you’ve been so still Barely beating at all
Oh, oh, don’t leave me here alone Don’t tell me that we’ve grown For having loved a little while Oh, oh, I don’t wanna be alone I wanna find a home And I wanna share it with you
Hello, my old heart It’s been so long Since I’ve given you away And every day, I add another stone To the walls I built around you To keep you safe
Oh, oh, don’t leave me here alone Don’t tell me that we’ve grown For having loved a little while Oh, oh, I don’t wanna be alone I wanna find a home And I wanna share it with you
Hello, my old heart How have you been? How is it being locked away? Don’t you worry, in there, you’re safe And it’s true, you’ll never beat But you’ll never break
Nothing lasts forever Some things aren’t meant to be But you’ll never find the answers Until you set your old heart free Until you set your old heart free”
If you haven’t been listening to them so far it’s cool. But, PLEASE LISTEN TO THIS ONE. PLEASE WATCH THIS ONE. In today’s hurtful environment, we all need to be reminded that every man is a son to a daughter. Every woman is a daughter to a father. We should always treat each other as if we are gifts, in need of love and understanding. It should be forefront in every heart and mind.
“What I’ve learnt from the ocean Hard to dance and rejoice in the motion Let the sun have its moment The moon will come What I’ve learnt from a soldier Every man is a son to a daughter And we only remember When we see the blood
Don’t grow up on me Keep that backstroke in your Afro Don’t you grow up on me Slow up homie Don’t you grow up on me Keep it OG sipping slowly Don’t you grow up on me Slow up homie
Don’t you show off on me Don’t you grow up on me Show off on me
What I’ve learnt from a traveler There’s no road that can lead to nirvana There’s a world to discover But home is love
What I’ve learnt from a mirror Look too hard and you’ll find you a stranger Love is just a decision The choice is yours”
All right, writers. The choice is yours, how you do this day. Are you an ocean or a mountain range? All you’ve gone through has led you to where you are today. And while love is like a bag of drugs that blows out both your knees, you’ll never find the answers until you set your old heart free. I hope you move forwards, ever. Backwards, never. And know that love is just a decision; the choice is yours. I hope you choose love.
In the midst of a nation undergoing painful and necessary growth, I’m happy to have you joining me here today.
If you follow my writings and my blog, you know where I stand on the issue and I want to take a moment to urge every white person in this country to re-examine their own lives, understand the privileges they have, and really start opening your hearts, minds, and ears to listen to People of Color.
Keep your mouths shut and listen.
It isn’t about you. It isn’t about your guilt, it isn’t about how it makes YOU feel. It isn’t about arguing your way out of the discomfort. It’s about anyone and everyone who has had to limit themselves out of fear, who was held back or down because of the color of their skin. Listen, work to understand and ask what you can do to be the most effective in fighting alongside them. Let’s start working towards a country and nation where we are all free to walk down the street, drive our cars, go out for ice cream, go out for a jog without being pursued, punished, incarcerated or killed.
Now, in line with that, I wanted to talk about a program that I had planned to start this summer with a beautiful human and social organizer, Queen (you may remember the piece on her son Dontré. If you haven’t read it, please do: “Weapons Used Against Me”)
Queen and I had envisioned a free writing workshop for disadvantaged youth and others in the community who’s voices were constantly being silenced or marginalized. The idea was to encourage and teach them how to find their true voice (outside of influence), to tell their story, in their truth and have a safe place to do so. A place where it wasn’t about the moderator’s discomfort, or what could or could not be said. A place for them to find power in their own purpose. Then, how to take those words and get them noticed. How to be heard in a world that is too used to turning away when something makes it uncomfortable. I had hopes of finding publishers for their work, and if nothing else sponsoring publishing of their work myself with all proceeds going back to the participants.
Then COVID came along and sort of blew it all to hell. But, I’m in contact with Queen and will find a way, in the next coming months, to bring the workshop back to the table. Because writing things down matters. Because putting emotion, thought, and personal truth down in words on paper immortalizes the truth of you and your place in time. And the more voices we listen to, the bigger the truth we find.
Today’s exercise is about finding your voice. And that can be scary as hell. We humans can harbor some pretty dark shit in our souls. We hold on to traumas like moths in a closet that we’re afraid to let out. But they slowly eat away at everything we own. We shrug and say “It’s okay, it’s no big deal how I feel, how I felt, how I survived…”
Humans, it is a big deal. It matters and you matter. So write it down.
Write down what you’re feeling about today’s social climate. About your own feelings about racism, what you notice in yourself at the bridging of the topic, what you wish for, what you hate about yourself, what you love. What can you change? What will you change?
I will keep you updated on the progress of the class and how you can participate, contribute, or spread the world to people who may need this kind of therapeutic and power-restoring practice.
Normally I’d say “Happy Writing” but today I’ll leave you with this.
“Let us be kind and compassionate to remove the sadness of the world.”
This is a brief blog today. I’ve got a lot on my plate this week and I have to boil down the process. First, thank you for sticking with me through the new changes and I hope some of you are enjoying the writing exercises on Thursday.
In the next few months I’ll be walking a tight wire, wobbling side to side in the effort to stay balanced and I am committed to making sure my writing is still something I carry with me, despite the extra weight it sometimes brings.
So today, in honor of some of my new obligations and the every-moment-filled reality I’m currently living in, I wanted to drop a gentle reminder.
This world we live in is unbalanced and filled with sadness. Each one of us carries a weight that no one else can completely understand.
Each one of us is on a tightwire.
Sometimes it’s razor thin and sharp. Sometimes it’s wide and steady.
But the drop is all the same.
I urge you, in whatever cycle of the wobble you’re in, to remember three things:
Breath. In, Deep and full. To the very tops of your lungs, plus one sip. Exhale, heavy and slow, to the very bottom of your belly. At least three times, three times a day.
Go out of your way to be kind to others. It costs nothing, not even much of your time in its truest simplicity. But it can mean the difference between that razor edge and solid footing for someone else.
Be kind to yourself. Not one of us is perfect, and we’re not meant to be. Give yourself grace, to wobble, to tumble, to rest and retry.
On Thursday I’m going to start the blog off with some fantastic first lines from contributors as well as my own. I hope you, and your badass kind self, can join me.
Oh…and about that Poetry Anthology…Thursday. I promise, something on Thursday (she said, wobbly and arms outstretched).
John Lennon’s quote is the basis for my Tuesday soapbox.
Listen, I do write about writing. I do want to inspire your creativity and help you along with your craft. It’s integral to my purpose in life.
But part of inspiring creativity means reminding you of the massive computer sitting atop your shoulders and why we should neverforget to use it.
This week I’ve been researching statistics, studies, and references for an article (probably a book one day) on the staggering racial disparity present in our privatized prison systems, in particular, how it affects young black men in our communities and the short and long-term damage it causes to their families as well as to our society as a whole.
So you know… a real fluff piece.
The problem with scrubbing off a bit of dirt from the surface of something like this is that you expose a teeming cesspool of disease and horror beneath. And once you look into that darkness, falling ever-deeper into that rabbit hole of associated cultural setbacks, systemic traps, and loopholes for those in power, you CAN NEVER NOT KNOW.
You’ve opened your eyes.
You swallowed the red pill.
You know the truth and life becomes difficult.
(Well, if you’re a human being with a heart and a decent-sized sense of empathy, and compassion, life becomes difficult.)
Suddenly, with your eyes open, you see it everywhere.
You see it in the unarmed black woman body-slammed by an officer twice her size, when she wasn’t even fighting back. You see it in the teenagers of color who are convicted of crimes while their white counterparts go free. You see it in the wary HOA’s that lodge baseless complaints against a family because the color of their skin makes the neighbors ‘nervous’, and cause entire families to lose their homes.
I’m not talking about 1955 Alabama here… I’m talking today, here. In our city. In our community.
And I’m ashamed of us, and I’m shaky, and I’m pissed off.
I feel like if I were the mother of dragons…I might pull a Season 8 Episode 5 and burn it all down to rebuild from the ashes.
The problem is too big.
That’s what we’re told right?
You can’t fight the system! It’s so much bigger than us. We don’t have the power. The government controls it. The rich control it. The churches, the states, the universities, the public schools, the whole of American culture…
But if you will remember…
The computer on top of your shoulders. The big 10 pounder. The one that processes thoughts and emotions, chemicals and body regulation, the one that creates poetry, writes novels, formulates complex plot and character design.
That’s not nothing.
That’s a powerful weapon in the hands of an informed public. And the way I see it, once we open our eyes, it’s our duty to shake as many egg pods as possible, peel back some eyelids and make the world pay attention.
Two open eyes becomes four. Becomes eight. Becomes sixteen. Becomes hundreds…
The Beautiful Stuff has everything to do with facilitating the best version of humanity we can muster. The most compassionate, fair, and just human we can be. And when we are faced with a hard and ugly cesspool, teeming beneath a society built on the death and destruction of so many lives, we can no longer live easy.
So neither should the powers that be.
My eyes are open and I will do my damndest to keep those that benefit from the broken and ugly system from covering them up.
We may not have the money. We may not have the loopholes and congressmen in our pockets. We may not have law degrees, or time, or the power of influence on large groups of people.
But we have our words. We have our minds. We have our actions and, I hope, enough anger to bypass our fear. Pay attention and acknowledge that this is a problem. Shine a fucking light on it so the rest of the world can’t ignore it anymore.
Find that spark in your chest. That pinprick of light that knows every human deserves to be safe, to be heard, to be healthy and fed, and treated with respect. Find a way to make it grow. Let it lead you to do what you can to change the inequality of the world around you.
You can always do something. Little. Big. It doesn’t matter the size of the action but the heart you put into it.
One water droplet may not have much impact, but a rainstorm can change the landscape.
Go out there. Be bold. Be heard. Stand up for each other.
In the karate school where I volunteer the word of the month is courtesy. It’s not a new concept in martial arts. Courtesy and respect are two of the most fundamental principles of the art. Respect for each other, respect for the rules, respect for the art and for the generations that came before us. Courtesy to our sparring partners, our instructors, and people in general.
The basics of courtesy often start with the ‘magical words’:
I forgive you
These words are like leaves and branches of language that convey the deeper roots of courtesy and respect. Simple polite words that are just the beginning of a much bigger lesson wherein we acknowledge the validity of other humans as equal and important by showing them kindness, compassion, and empathy; the cornerstones of living a beautiful life.
By this time in your lives you have probably all been taught about the “Magical Words”. Magical because they can open doors, springboard friendships, heal broken ties, and encourage smiles.
The typical phrases your parents and grandparents tried to instill greased the wheels of everyday interactions but also taught you something much more.
By saying “Please” we are acknowledging that we need help, and that we aren’t afraid to ask for it.
By saying “Thank you” we acknowledging that the action of giving requires another’s time and effort and we understand the amount (small or large) of sacrifice involved and are grateful for it.
By saying “You’re Welcome” we acknowledge that the favor was done willingly and we are happy to help where we can. This can leave a lasting warmth between people that perpetuates reciprocity and trust.
By saying “I’m sorry” we acknowledge that our actions or words have harmed someone else. That we have done damage, either intentionally or not, and now regret the pain we’ve caused. Showing regret shows that we are empathetic to what the other person has gone through on our account.
I’m saving the hardest one for last.
By saying “I forgive you”, I acknowledge that you hurt me and I am choosing to let it go.
Forgiveness goes beyond common courtesy. Forgiveness is next level stuff, and it’s the hardest thing we’ll ever have to learn when it comes to compassion and empathy.
Pain serves as a powerful teacher. It reminds us to not make some mistakes over and over again. And when we are hurt we want to hang on to it, for the stupid reason that we don’t want it happening again.
But that’s the thing. We hang on to it.
And by remembering we relive, and by reliving, we stay hurt, we stay angry, and the pain is done to us over and over again, not by the original perpetrator but by our own insistence to keep it close to our hearts. That’s how we build walls against compassion and empathy to others.
So here’s what I offer instead:
By saying I forgive you, we are also showing courtesy and respect to ourselves. We are choosing to acknowledge the “I’m sorry” (even if there isn’t one) by letting go of the harm so we can keep our hearts open for something better than pain to fill it with.
And to those who are truly sorry, who offer up their apology from a place of genuine desire to make right a wrong, we give a gift that is priceless with our forgiveness. We acknowledge to them that we are human too.
All of these phrases can be used without thinking. They are often just little idioms of our nature; thrown around without realizing we do it.
But this week I’m challenging you to think about them, consciously. Understand them before you say them and mean them when you do. It will make a difference. It may only be a difference in your own mind, but that’s where the power of those words really comes from anyway.
So, please…do something kind and courteous to yourself and others today. You’re welcome for the reminder. Thank you for reading this blog; it means the world to me that you do. I’m sorry if I tend to wander in thought and subject from time to time. But I forgive myself and the creative process that demands a little haphazard chaos in the order of life.
Sometimes opportunity knocks on the door…sometimes it knocks the door down.
Gentle readers, this week I’ve been filling my life up with a few new opportunities though time is sparse and energy is waning.
Times like these often make me question my ever-lovin’ sanity.
I know that we’re all busy. I know that we’re all overworked, and underpaid, and hanging on to the ledge by our fingernails. But sometimes…
Sometimes a light breaks out of the storm clouds above you and shines on a seemingly small and inconsequential moment. Everything else around it falls away… And you just know that this is something worth exploring.
This, a diamond in the rough.
When that kind of light shines in your life, the reason you tend to drop everything else is that what you’re looking at isn’t just an opportunity; it’s something more.
It’s food for your soul. In a world where we’ve been starving our spirit for lack of genuine sustenance, these moments and opportunities strike a stark contrast.
And we have to re-learn what we so often forget; that the soul will not be dissuaded.
Despite that fact, sometimes we fight the idea. We shy away. It’s too brilliant, it’s too bright; it could burn us or illuminate all of our own shortcomings. It will be too much work and presents a slippery a slope.
It could be our downfall.
It’s the sun and we, Icarus.
T’was ambition that killed Caesar… and all that jazz.
But what if this light is something so much bigger than you and your human fears of failure? And what if it’s not just an opportunity for you but for a better world, a small piece at a time? What if it’s a hand to someone who’s been too long forgotten. What if this dangerous journey, hard-pressed and gritty, means more than just your own happiness?
What if it’s a chance to use your voice to change the world?
Well then, you chase that light. You open that goddamn door.
You don’t hesitate, you don’t reconsider. You fling it open and feed your soul.
Times in this country are pretty fucking dark. I’m not even kidding, ya’ll.
We’re spiraling down the bowl of a very large toilet. Hate, hurt, injustice, anger, suicide, depression, gloom…it’s all a shadowy mass, constantly pressing in.
I’m asking…nay, tell you—chase the light. Find a way to be of some use…not for the perpetuation of hate and hurt but for the healing of our country, our world, and our place in history.
How do you want your grandchildren…your great grandchildren to remember your actions in this time? Will they remember your hatred? Will they look back to see disgusting and disrespectful behavior towards your fellow human beings?
If that’s your idea of legacy, you can go kick rocks, kid…I don’t want your kind in my playground.
It is no longer enough to sit idly by and just do no harm. It is time to actively participate in doing good. In lifting the downtrodden, and striking out against those who keep us all underfoot.
So go out there, find your brilliant light, your opportunity to make a difference, and throw yourself into the fire of it. Feed your soul.
I’d created some pretty flashy, quiet-inspired, philosophical posts last weekend on retreat. They’re beautiful but I’m leaving them in the bank because today I want to repost something that I’d blogged about years ago that is timely and still rings true.
Have a safe and happy holiday. Be with the ones you love. And if you can’t; love the ones you’re with.
Making Do and Giving Thanks
One of my earliest memories was of waiting in a dark and crowded hall while my mother picked out ‘groceries’ from piles of white and black generic boxes. I didn’t understand at the time that the blocks of Velveeta-like cheese, powdered milk, and bags of rice were part of assistance programs that kept us from going hungry when the insecurity of the uranium mine had left us teetering on the edge of destitution.
My father is, and always has been, a hard worker. He took whatever job he could to support us, but in the unstable energy economy of 1980’s Wyoming there was always a fear behind my parent’s eyes. My mom was a teacher on and off and she stayed home with her three wild and creative kids. Anyone who’s a mother knows that each child is a full time job just in themselves, with no hazard pay given and no time off. She was a genius at making ends meet, and squeezing out the most of everything we had, including our time together.
Their amazing resilience still brings tears to my eyes, especially as a parent myself. Because, back then, I never knew we lacked for anything.
We were always fed. We were always clothed. We had a roof over our heads and wild game in the freezer. We made do. When lay offs hit, they squeezed the most out of what we had and made do. When dad went back to college for a second degree in teaching, we lived in a small house in Laramie and made do. When Christmas came around and three kids rushed to the living room, there was always something there to be thankful for.
I didn’t have cable as a kid; I had books. I didn’t have a TV in my room; I had the library less than two blocks away. It didn’t matter that we couldn’t afford vacations to far off places because I could go there in my mind. Pages were like my wings, rocketing me towards new and fantastic horizons. My parents couldn’t give me designer clothes or name brand shoes. They gave me Jean M. Auel, Jack London, L.M. Montgomery, Louis L’Amour, Piers Anthony, and Jane Austen. They gave me hours and days of uninterrupted reading time. I still remember mom peeking in on me, sprawled out in bed, pouring over a book, completely lost to the world around me, asking if I needed anything.
Looking back now, and knowing what I do about how much it costs to raise a child (nonetheless three), I really couldn’t have asked for more.
We made more than just meals from small staples. We made worlds out of our love and support of one another. My parents gave us the belief in where our minds could take us. And we made do.
The best part of Thanksgiving, is the giving. If you find that you have an abundance, I urge you to consider donating to some of the fine folks listed below.
Remember; Money is like manure, it doesn’t do a lick of good until you spread it around and encourage things to grow.
It’s a whirlwind of lies and vitriol out there right now, am I right? Social media sites spreading memes about the other party, the dangers of our world, the arrogance and wrongness of the side ‘opposite us’.
There’s something about fighting with someone online that can whip us up into an adrenaline laced mania. Maybe it’s the anonymity. Maybe it’s the conviction we have in our own righteousness, the hard line we draw against any challenge to our perceptions.
And when you try to disengage you are still frowned upon. If you don’t stand up for what you believe, you’re in danger of being part of the problem. That is true to some extent. But there’s something to be said for the deep-breath pause that begs us to consider if the argument we’re forming is going to change any minds or just throw gasoline on the fire.
All of this made me think of the world, and what we contribute. What we give to it.
So often we give our opinion, we give our hatred, we give our disapproval and judgments. We give our anger and our raised voices. So we give. But we give things that hurt our humanity, often, without making worthwhile differences.
I’m not judging. It feels good to vent.
It also feels good to do heroin, I’m told. Doesn’t mean it’s a good thing for us to do.
See what I’m getting at?
How about, just for today, you and I think about what we can give to the world that will lighten the dark?
Can you give your time?
Can you give an open mind and a willing ear?
Can you give forgiveness that you’ve been holding back?
Give to your charity. Give full un-technology distracted attention to your children. Give your boss a break. Give your smile, even when you haven’t been able to in a while.
Sometimes, I think we feel if we give these things (our love, compassion, forgiveness, time, etc.) then we will have none left for ourselves.
But just like the worry that comes with a second child, (how could we possibly love another as much, when we love the first so ardently?) we quickly learn that love doesn’t subtract or divide.
The more you forgive…the more forgiveness you will want to give (you’ll find the lightening of your heart is such sweet reward).
The more you love…the more you want to love.
The more you listen…the more you learn…the more you learn, the more compassion you give…and the more you feel it in and for yourself.
And you spread light, you lighten sadness, and lightening of sadness drives away the haze of hatred that’s settled over us all.
You may not get it back 100% of the time, that’s ok…because that’s not the reason we give.
We give because we can.
We share our light to push the darkness back from one other.
If it comes back, it fills our cup to do it again.
So this isn’t a rocket-science, grand-idea blog today.
This is a remember blog.
Remember, human. You are a force to be reckoned with with both great and terrible results. You’ve a light inside. And you can guard it with closed arms and gnashing teeth, suffocating its power inside for yourself alone. Or you can open your arms to the dark, and let your light spill across the vastness.
The night is dark and full of terrors. But we’re pretty terrifying too. Beautifully terrifying.
And the darkness won’t ever leave if we do not light it up.