Weekly Photo Challenge: Spare Me!

“…Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of these, the least of my Brethren, ye have done it unto Me.” Here’s an opportunity for some deep questions: Who are “the least”? Who are “Brethren”? How do you treat them? And who is “Me”? There can be many answers to these questions, and they all help us to understand what is meant by kindness and mercy. At this stage in my life, I am trying to expand my concepts of Brethren and Me, to be more inclusive, more at One with all kinds of beings. Here are some of my new friends: 


Spare

Weekly Photo Challenge: Victory

“Victory” is a word that makes me rather uncomfortable.  It brings to mind a dualism that causes suffering.  In other words, if there’s a victor, there must be a loser.  I feel sad when someone is put in that role.  I do not like competition.  I do not like war.  I do not like capitalism.  And I do not like losing or feeling “less than”.  So often, winners are unkind, insensitive and arrogant.  I was the fourth daughter in my family of origin, and I probably felt like “the loser” in lots of ways as a child: redundant, younger, dumber, less skilled.  It doesn’t feel good to be on that side of the scale.  I prefer to imagine a way that everyone can win, that we can all share and get what we need regardless of how much or how little we are able to contribute.  I used to tell my own 4 children, “Fair doesn’t mean everyone gets the same thing.  Fair means everyone gets what they need.”  May all beings be happy.  May we all feel that we can get what we need.  I am hoping for a kinder Victory for my country, for my children, for myself.

victory 2 victory
Victory

A Cup of Kindness

New Year's 2013Today is my mother’s birthday.  She is 79.  She is one of the most positive, enthusiastic, intelligent, and wise women I have ever known.  She continues to inspire me.  A week ago, she moved from her home of 36 years into an apartment at The Meadows, the assisted living facility where my sister and I worked as college students and where my father died in 2010.  She is having an absolute ball collecting stories from the residents, entertaining dinner companions, playing the piano in the chapel and lobby, and making connections within her collage of life.  She says that her Bucket List has been reduced to a Shot Glass List, and she’s grateful and content with all that she has enjoyed.  She told me that she doesn’t ‘make’ New Year’s Resolutions, she allows them to ‘surface’.  She shared that the phrase that is surfacing for her this year is “Live peace; take joy”.  That conversation made me think of what is surfacing for me.  What is surfacing is Shame.  And I’m resolved to do something about it.

I have been thinking about shame for some time.  Listening to Brene Brown’s TED talks on vulnerability and shame has brought about some introspective reflection on my history and patterns.  I was raised by a very authoritarian father, a devout and dogmatic Christian.  He was an intellectual, and my mother very candidly told me last night that although he could understand rationally that our behaviors and social constructs must evolve and change and that they weren’t based in any ultimate reality, he didn’t know how to navigate the emotions involved, and so he would fearfully nail those down into a ‘safe’ corner to protect himself.   What he then communicated to me, his daughter, was that we are all fallen creatures, sinners whose nature it is to be not good enough, and that we couldn’t be trusted, so to be saved, we must follow a carefully prescribed path and check ourselves frequently for deviation.   Our wills are suspect; God’s will is perfect.  My deepest desire was to please my father and to be loved by him, so I became a very compliant child.  And I bought the idea that whatever I wanted was probably not good, or good enough, and that I would fail to be good most of the time.  My best hope was to be obedient, and so I did that to the best of my ability.  I became accomplished in being obedient.  As I grew up and my father became less central in my daily life, I transferred that obedience to God, the Church, my husband.  Finally, after my husband died, I think I took that authority and transferred it to myself, but I ended up carrying out the same message.  Now, I tell MYSELF that I am not good, or good enough, and am likely to fail to be good most of the time.  In other words, I have taken over my dad’s role in shaming myself.

Needless to say, this is not freeing me to take risks, be vulnerable, be creative, be self-determinant or self-reliant.  Instead, it is keeping me in ‘customer service’ when Steve is itching to make me a full partner in a home business (or series of them) so that we can be self-employed and embody the values and lifestyle that WE find important.  How do I make the changes necessary to gain this freedom?  First, I have to stop telling myself that I can’t.  Or shouldn’t.   I have to stop shaming myself.  I have to become aware of the times when I do it, and I have to let go of them.  Like the bubbles surfacing in my champagne.  POP!  “So, here comes that shaming bubble.  I don’t have to analyze it, give it power, or trace it back to someone to blame.  I will just notice it, watch it pop and let it be gone.”  That’s my resolution for this coming year.  Take a cup of kindness, and stop shaming yourself, Priscilla!  Then move on.

I am also posting my blog summary for 2013 today.  I want to give big cyber hugs to my Bestest Blogger Buddies – Helen, Stuart, Jamie, Naomi and Elena.  Thank you for supporting this vulnerable venture and helping me trust myself to create something.  (Something ‘worthy’?  Something ‘good enough’?  STOP.  You don’t need to judge it.  Create something.  And just leave it at that.)

And here’s a sample of what I’ve created on this blog this year.  If you’re new and see something you like, please browse around!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Nostalgic

Oh, boy.  It’s a dangerous thing to invite a widow and empty-nester to post a blog on the theme Nostalgic!  Contemplating the past can lead to maudlin stretches and lots of used Kleenex, even if I don’t have a glass or two of wine first.  I don’t think that would be at all edifying to the blogging community, so I’m going to try hard to steer away from that.  I hope to write and show something that is true about a time that has come and gone. 

Life is characterized by impermanence.  Our kids don’t stay little; our loved ones don’t stay alive forever.  What we live is present moments.  If we try to hang on to them and make them more permanent or attach our happiness to them, we are in for a world of frustration.  As we get farther away from present moments, it’s hard to remember what they were really like.  We lose perspective.  That wonderful family outing…did I yell at the kids that day?  I don’t remember.  I probably lost patience at least once.  Did my kids remember that?  How did they feel?  How did they heal?  Or is it all, as my mother often puts it, ‘a merciful blur’? 

Brookfield Zoo dolphin show, August 1991.  Jim (RIP), Emily, Josh, Becca and Susan (bride to be in 3 weeks!).

Brookfield Zoo dolphin show, August 1991. Jim (RIP), Emily, Josh, Becca and Susan (bride to be in 3 weeks!).

In my current life, I see a lot of families on outings with their children, since I work at two different family museums.  Families interact in all sorts of ways.  I try to look at them with compassion and tolerance remembering what I can about how challenging it is to raise 4 kids at one time.  The important thing is to BE KIND in the present moment.  With your kids or someone else’s.  If the world is to be a good place to live, it’s important that all 7 billion of us humans remember to BE KIND.  And this is not a glib solution.  If you think deeply about being kind, you’ll see that it is a profound power in the universe.   BE KIND to your fellow humans.  BE KIND to every living thing.  BE KIND to yourself first, and feel what that is like.  It is peace.  It is well-being and health.  It is life.  Don’t settle for feeling nostalgic about a time when you felt the world was a kinder place to live.  Make it a kinder place to live this very moment by acting kindly!

How to Be Awesome

I’m transitioning to another phase in life.  My job as an interpreter at Old World Wisconsin is ending for the season.  Working for minimum wage at a living history museum was one of the most awesome choices I’ve ever made.  I decided to spend my time doing something that I found interesting and valuable instead of compromising my satisfaction to make a bigger paycheck.  However, I want to do better.  I want to do something even more significant and important with my time and energy, something more socially responsible, more environmentally responsible, more philosophically moral.  I don’t know what that will turn out to be… yet.  A blogger friend posted this Oprah quote and got me thinking: “Luck is when preparation meets opportunity.”  (Thanks, Susan from skedazzles!)  I want to prepare myself for my next awesome choice and make sure that I am open and aware of opportunities.  Something will undoubtedly fall into my lap.  As I was talking to Steve about this, we were actually living an example.  Here’s what happened…

Driving home from the grocery store, I noticed a black Labrador trotting down the street toward the park without an owner in sight.  After I’d unpacked the groceries and made lunch, I heard a woman calling outside.  I went out to ask if she was looking for a black dog.  She was, and I told her where I’d seen it.  About a half hour later, Steve and I went out to take a walk.  The woman was still looking for the dog; she told us that it belonged to her niece who lives around the corner from us at a house with a “For Sale by Owner” sign.   So we went walking in the direction of the park.  We heard someone calling a dog down by the river and learned that another couple was looking for a German shepherd named Corky.  We told them that there was also a lab named Drake on the loose.  We resumed our walk.  A little while later, it started raining, and we headed back toward home.  We saw Corky’s folks turning their van into an adjacent park across the street.  They called to us and told us they’d found the lab down by the bridge.  They hadn’t found Corky yet, though.  When we got to the bridge, there was Drake, secured to a post by a leash, presumably donated by Corky’s folks.  So we untied him and walked him home.  By then, it was pouring.  About a block from home, a car was driving slowly down the street.  I guessed it was the woman looking for Drake.  She was incredibly excited and pleased to see us leading the dog homeward.  Her niece was at work on her first day back from maternity leave and had asked her aunt to let the dog out at lunch.  Now I imagine this young mother, worried about leaving her dog and baby and going back to work.  I’m soaking wet, but loading the dog into auntie’s car, I felt awesome.  I had been out in my neighborhood, just paying attention to my surroundings, and was able to help someone out.  I wasn’t trying very hard at all, but I was open to events as they unfolded.  It was a very satisfactory afternoon.

Borrowed Beauty

Today I have been impressed by the beauty and grace of others.   I sometimes think that is intimidating, but more and more I am learning to appreciate and celebrate what I notice without turning in judgment upon myself.  I admire the woman who gave me a “Thank You” gift for taking her shift at work.  This gift was hand-crafted, creative, personal, AND included chocolate!  Plus, it was totally unexpected, as she had already thanked me in a note the day I agreed to work for her.  This woman took the day off to go to her granddaughter’s school for Grandparents’ Day.  She is also an expert woodchopper, using the twitter and froe like a man half her age.  I told her that I struggle with that chore and frequently get stuck on the knot holes.  This is what she tucked into the little bag of chocolates for me:


I admire my next door neighbor’s garden and appreciate that she shares that beauty with the entire village.   I love the look of her irises, like bridesmaids dancing in the wind.

So, today I just wanted to take these graceful, thoughtful, beautiful gifts and pass them on.  I appreciate all the other bloggers out there who share their best on a regular basis.  Perhaps we can be a more graceful species after all.