shifting sands

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Books were a major element in the story of my childhood/young adulthood. And many of those books crossed my path because of my mother.

One of these, Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahansa Yogananda, became profoundly significant to me. Beyond the look into a world that is so incredibly foreign, it was a book of possible magic. It was also a glimpse of a non-western religion, which fascinated me, and I was equally fascinated by the realization that there were people in my every day life that defined themselves as Buddhist rather than Christian, Jewish, or pagan.

My mother was one of those people.

She had a statue of Babaji, the deathless avatar, in her home, and I think that out of all of her belongings, it is this humble figure that I associate the most with her.  It’s not that we discussed Babaji, or Yogananda, or even the book very much, if at all.  Our spiritual discussions were much more about Ramtha and Shirley MacLaine.  Still, she gave me a copy of Autobiography, and it’s one of my ‘comfort-food’ books, always possessing a spot on my bookshelves even when most of my library lives in boxes.

Recently, I discovered there was a documentary about Yogananada on Netflix.  The name of the film is Awake, and the trailer is at the top of this post.  I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the list of people I know that have watched Awake, and know about Yogananda.  When my mother brought up the film in a conversation, though, it was not the conversation I expected to have with her.

“Have you read the book?” she asked.

I was floored.

“…Yes.  You bought me a copy,” I reminded her.

She had no recollection of that memory.

I accepted, a long time ago, that there’s a long list of experiences my mother has forgotten over the years.  She’s told me repeatedly that I have an amazing memory – and I do; I still remember living in Florida when I was 3 or 4 – and that she doesn’t remember varied parts of our history.

But to not remember this was a shock.

Perhaps it is as simple as we all hold varied things to varying levels of importance.  It’s certainly true that I’ve had people tell me, “You said something kind to me once and it meant the world to me,” and I don’t remember that exchange.

Once Upon a Time, having our histories not mesh would have thrown me into a tailspin of confusion and unsureness about what to believe, who to believe, what stories to trust, because for a good chunk of my formative years, my mother was my fellow traveler along the path to enlightenment.  She was my touchstone to sanity.  Which is not to say I put her on a pedestal; I simply depended on her emotionally in a way that I’ve not seen mirrored in other mother/daughter relationships.

But.  Things change.

Relationships change.

A few years ago, I found myself in Yuma.  “JZ Knight lives over there,” my friend Sherry informed me with a nod of her head.  It felt odd, to be in that place and not be there with the person that bought me the white book.  I wonder now if, had I called my mother, if she would have remembered that shared history, or would it be another question of oh, have you read that book?

I can’t capture in words how weird this all feels, how odd to realize that my spiritual path has been solitary for longer than I realized, how startling it is to discover that the relationship I thought I had wasn’t as profound as I thought.

So. This is the state of me, on shifting sand.

I am sadder than I want to admit.

“Sorrow prepares you for joy. It violently sweeps everything out of your house, so that new joy can find space to enter. It shakes the yellow leaves from the bough of your heart, so that fresh, green leaves can grow in their place. It pulls up the rotten roots, so that new roots hidden beneath have room to grow. Whatever sorrow shakes from your heart, far better things will take their place.”
Jalaluddin Rumi

 

 

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the not-a-friend friend

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Two things have floated past my Facebook feed today that have inspired enough thoughts to justify a blog post.  The first reminded me of a friendship I took a long time ending but, in the end, his confession many years ago that he did not in fact defend me in my absence was the beginning of the end.

10600616_729315847173351_5772921761439119439_n(Because yes, I think this stuff matters.  A lot.  Speak your truth,  man. And in this case, don’t tell me someone slandered me and then tell me, “But I didn’t correct them.”  No excuse.)

And then there was this post shared by my friend Luna, in which the author talks about the benefits of having a friend that’s not really your friend and about what you can learn from that relationship.  In particular, this quote stood out:

Between putting me down, questioning everything I did, and spreading lies about me behind my back, I realized that you weren’t actually my friend. You were just another person who was stuck in their insecurities, who needed to put others down to keep yourself up. You were more focused on yourself and your own problems than on our friendship. That’s not the kind of friend I want in my life. While I was blinded to this side of you because you were a new shiny friend for a couple months, I finally realized we had no friendship. Initially, this realization saddened me, but, in the end, I’m better off without you.

There are friendships, relationships, that never really leave you.  For better, and for worse, that connection is so entangled in your brain that even when the person is gone, their ghost never leaves you.  I’ve known people that get mentally and emotionally stuck in that ghost-relationship, rehashing the grievances, the hurt, the memorized path of how things went wrong, that they can recite the history at a moment’s notice and never move past the pain.

These are among my least favourite ‘discussions’ to have, because it’s not a discussion, there’s no resolution or healing, there’s just mental gear grinding.

The quote above reminds me of one of those people.  She’s someone I wish I could send that quote to, because that’s exactly why our friendship ended 10+ years ago and I didn’t have the words then to express the why to her then.

We were friends from 4th grade until well into our adulthood – or so I thought.  Unlike the first friendship I mention in this blog, it didn’t take me years to figure out I was better off not knowing this person.  No, sadly, our relationship started to end when I learned that she was describing me to others as ‘a waste of human flesh,’ and, when called on it, replied, “I’m sorry you head that.”  This discovery led to others, other negative descriptors that was in direct contrast to what she said to my face.

I’ve been sad about the way things went for a long time.  In part, I’m sad because I know she still hurts from the ending of our ‘friendship’ and because I know we have mutual friends wishing we could make amends.

But ya know?  I read that quote, and I thought, ‘Yes.  This.’

The people in my life today are people I trust, completely and utterly.

…I find myself wanting to say more about that, but I don’t think I need to.

People like C and L have taught me what I expect, what I need, out of a friendship.  What I want to give to a friendship.  And today, I may have just finally hit a point where I can be thankful for that lesson instead of sorry for the loss.

 

 

easy ways to do good

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Over on Facebook, I keep seeing ideas shared on easy ways to help out the homeless that you pass on the street, so as we move into the winter months, I thought it might be useful to compile the ideas I’ve seen into a blog post.

  • Meal Bags – The following incredibly simple idea comes from Thomas Willeford.  (Photo credit is his.)foodThese cans of food can be purchased for about $1/each on sale, and are examples of things that can be made into self-contained easily carried-and-opened meals that don’t necessarily need to be cooked.  Add prepackaged take-out packs of forks/spoons/napkins and a bottle of water, and store them in bags in your car to be distributed as needed.  Total cost per bag is roughly under $2.
  • Fill-A-Bag  purseYou can obviously get creative with this idea.  Add in snacks, gift cards, socks, gloves, combs…the possibilities are endless.  Or if you have other types of bags, customize one for the guys.  These items can be so easily found in the trial size section of a grocery or drug store – or, if you’re staying at a hotel and you don’t use the soaps and shampoos in your room, take them with you for these packages!
  • Suspended Coffees – Being a lover of coffee, I love this idea…although it can easily extend to meal times, not just coffee.  There is a network of cafes around the world where you can prebuy a coffee (or a cup of soup, or whatever you’d like), and ask the barista to ‘suspend’ the purchase.  When someone in need comes in and asks for a suspended coffee, they get this item.  It’s truly a random act of kindness and you can do it knowing that your money is going directly to a person in need, not to someone’s salary or overhead. (You can learn more about how this idea came to be here.)
  • Restaurant Leftovers – This is a no-brainer, especially if you pass people in need on your way into the restaurant.  Should you not finish your dinner?  Depending on what’s left over, get it put into a take-out dish and give it to someone.  Does your meal come with something you’re not going to eat, like soup?  Get it and give it away. (My friends and I have gone so far as to order an extra appetizer, or sandwich, or meal – especially easy if you’re getting fast food – and give that away.)  Note:  We were all working at a museum for minimum wage, so please don’t think that this is something for wealthy people to do.  Anyone can do it.
  • The Bloggess and Her James Garfield Miracle – Once a year, Jenny Lawson puts up a post that allows people that want to help others to network with people that can use some help.  If you don’t read The Bloggess, please do click on that link and see what it looks like when a community of people come together out of a desire to help strangers have a better holiday season.  (It’s pretty amazing.  It’s also officially over for 2015, BUT the links for the wish lists are still active, so if you’d like to go buy a holiday present for a kid, go take a look.)

Obviously, there are LOTS of ways you can help people out…from saying yes at the register when someone asks you to donate a dollar or two to a cause, to chipping in on online fundraisers.  I like these ideas because they’re personal. You are in control of the focus of the help.  And most of them are so, so, EASY to do!

…Thanks for reading this.  Now go be awesome. 🙂

10 minutes of your life

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“Do you like spirits, mommy?  Even fuzzy ones?”

Many years ago, I was at a party thrown by, and attended by, varied people from a Philadelphia BBS. (This would be internet-before-the-world-wide-web, when we connected via modems and messaging systems,   when 2400 baud was still pretty common and 9600 was incredibly fast and why are you laughing?? Get off my lawn!)

Ahem.

So.  There was this party where people were bringing in videos of things most of us had never seen.  It’s where I first saw “Bambi VS Godzilla” and “Bring Me the Head of Charlie Brown,” as well as several of the Warner Bros. cartoons that are too politically incorrect to be shown anymore (although you can find them easily enough on YouTube).

And then someone walked in with an animated film – Japanimation, to give you an idea of how far back this story goes –  that needed a bit of explanation.  “This isn’t in English,” he said. “I have no idea what it’s really about.  But it’s awesome and you have to watch it.”

The title of this movie?  “My Neighbor Totoro.”

It was in Japanese with no subtitles, and it was…bewildering.  And amazing.

A few years later, I saw this movie for rent and told my mom we had to get it.

“What’s it about?”

“I have NO IDEA.  But you’ll love it.”

And she did, of course.  Because it’s amazing.  Really, it’s the perfect bit of anime for me, with its soot sprites and bizarre cats and nature spirits.

Based on all of this, you’d think that I’d love anime.

I don’t.

I seriously have zero interest in the genre, outside of the work of Hayao Miyazaki.

But that’s not to say I won’t give it a chance.  I think it’s one of the personality traits I find most frustrating in other people, the inability to give something new a chance, to give it 10 minutes of your life and see if it’s worth 10 minutes more.  (This is a concept my friend Gwendolyne introduced to me, and it’s brilliant.)  I’m not always good about this practice, myself; but I know that when I am, those are 10 minutes of understanding/experience/compassion that enrich my life, and so really, I can’t recommend the idea highly enough.

…And part of me still kinda wants to snuggle a totoro.

 

…except for stupid cockroaches…

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“Tell me something nice?” I asked Bones the other night.

I ask him that a lot, when I’m feeling sad or insecure.  He never questions why I’m asking.  He just answers.

“I think you are the kindest, most thoughtful person I’ve ever met.”

I kissed him, said thank you, and snuggled up close, wishing I could see the me he describes.

I have been thinking a lot about Chris, and Ant, and so many other people.  People that I think are amazing and kind and thoughtful and patient.  People like my friend Heidi, who has this way of showing me that there’s always a little more compassion to find when looking at a situation.  And I’ve been considering how I talk about stories.  I catch myself not being kind or patient; I catch myself being demanding, expecting a lot, being easily frustrated by things rather than taking the higher road.  I complain and point out a mistake that I could just as easily fix and stay quiet about, knowing that I’m just as likely to make a similar error.  More often than I want to admit, I am not the best helper at home, finding it easier to work on cross stitch than to get up and help Bones with something he’s working on.

I know, I know.  We’re all only human, right?  We all get frustrated and impatient and annoyed and discouraged and stressed and…

I really want to do better.

I want to be the person my husband says I am.

You and me, Opus.  Let’s go do better.

 

 

 

stitching out stigma

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In the mid 1990s, I started having severe panic attacks.  It’s tempting to think of that as the first time anxiety kicked my ass, but looking back at my childhood, I strongly suspect this would be a very naive assumption on my part.  Still, it wasn’t until my early 20s that I discovered what it’s like to be out of control of one’s body and brain, hyperventilating until my lips turned blue and all I could think was, ‘It would be so easy to stop breathing.’  I learned that my version of ‘fight or flight’ was to try to leap out of cars to escape whatever trigger had set off my most recent fit of panic.  At its very worst, I was having panic attacks several times a week and exhibiting symptoms akin to MS.

I learned that therapists – at least back then – were not inclined to believe one’s self-diagnosis of an anxiety disorder.  I argued with my therapist until he finally went over a list of symptoms and reluctantly admitted that I was probably right…so hey, do you want medication for that?

I said no thank you and I figured out ways to live with this inner tension.  It’s like having a particularly harsh inner barometer.  You don’t dare let yourself get too stressed out, because if you do? Bam, you start shaking and you can’t breathe.

I’ve spent years at this point getting this under control.  For the most part, it manifest in small ways now, like night terrors; or, if I delay in answering an email or responding to a voice mail, the steadily increasing levels of anxiety about that make it very difficult to ever respond.  (When The Bloggess talks about her repeated decision to just open a new email account because she can’t deal with what she’s not responded to?  I can see why that would be tempting!)

There’s so much stigma about depression and anxiety.  People have criticized me for being at all open/public about my struggles, saying that if they were hiring managers, they would never hire me.  I’ve lost friendships because, at my worst, people have found it hard to watch that struggle and not be able to help.

Still, I’m open about it because I think it’s important to talk about these things.  The Bloggess does it brilliantly.  So does Wil Wheaton.  And their posts have helped me, and so I hope that I might help others as I learn to help myself.

Enter Stitching Out Stigma.

A woman in the UK, Natalie,  came up with the idea of a quilt project made up of cross stitch and embroidery squares created by people dealing with varied mental illnesses.  Due to Facebook, Twitter and varied articles in varied magazines and newspapers, that ambitious thought extended to people internationally, and it was through that network of articles that I heard about the quilt last summer.

Most of the participants are in and around the UK, but I really wanted to be a part of this project…in part, I wanted to do it as a nod to the Bloggess, whose words have helped me so much.  So I decided to use the quote she, and Wil, and so many others use on Twitter..

 

depression lies

The design isn’t exactly what I envisioned, and if I ever actually mapped things out before I started stitching, it would have worked out better, but…la, there it is!  I sent it off to England and I waited nervously to hear if it arrived safely or not.

…It did. 🙂  It’s one of around 45 squares that have been sent in for the project, and some of the squares have been on exhibit at varied events over the past few months..

Gabalfa Mental Health Clinic – May 15, 2015

sos 1

Newport Mind Mental Health Event – October 9, 2015, South Wales

(Because not every square had arrived yet, the quilt wasn’t being assembled, so squares were placed into a notebook along with their accompanying stories.)

This month, the quilt is starting to be assembled, and the variety and beauty of what’s been contributed just astounds me.  A gallery of the completed squares can be found here, but I’m going to post a bunch of assembly pictures because I’m so full of wow over it. (It looks like the team sewing the quilt together is going to get some news coverage,too.) The goal is to have this finished by January 2016, to be put on display in a new purpose built Mental Health Unit in Wales.

 

 

 

but what’s my motivation?

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Last year during our haunt build, our electrical wizard pinged Bones and asked if he could help with a video project.  This resulted in a pause in building while Bones went through our makeup supplies, transformed himself into a disagreeable older gentleman, and Became! A! Star!

…Sorta.

dustin old

Dane and his team – Team Ventura, so you know it’s awesome – participate in Public Media Network‘s contest, Cinema 2880 Film Festival, in which participants have 48 hours to create a short film that must contain certain elements or words.  Team Ventura does a great job, and I’m always wicked impressed by what they can get done in such a short amount of time.  (Last  year’s video is here.  It took first place in Facebook Viewers Choice.)

This year, they needed a grim reaper, and they were planning to film that scene in the same location where we were having our haunted event, so..meant to be!

My desire to take photos was discouraged by the crew.

20151125-172955.jpg

Bones…er, Death… was, as always, a professional.

Shooting happened pretty fast (48 hours includes all the editing/production time, and the team had varied filming locations).  The final result may be found here…this year, Team Venture took First Place in Facebook Viewers Choice again – yay! – and third place at the festival.  🙂