Relief

I am not fond of summer.

I love the long evenings and the fireflies, the machinations of clouds as they form elegantly daunting thunderheads, beautiful and threatening at the same time.  I love the plethora of growth for the color and the fine dining right out of the garden.  I love the pace that seems to turn toward laughter and fun rather than groan and grind.  I love the backyard barbecues and the freedom children feel to be their playful selves. Despite my introversion, I love the extroversion of summer.2013-08-22 15.03.20

But I hate the heat. And relentless sun, baking soil and skin without relief.

Heat renders me grouchy, physically swollen, and cowering in the shade–if I must be outdoors at all.  As a water person, I can think of no better time than to be IN water.  The heat fires up all manner of aches, pains, and sluggishness.  My brain slows to a glurp.  I sweat without effort.  I sleep restlessly even in air conditioning because I can feel the heat and humidity leaking through the walls.  Sticky. Icky.  I feel deep, physical malaise for three solid months.  I count the days to Halloween as a distraction and pray for breezes from Canada, the Extreme North of Canada, God please.  How do heavily-furred mammals deal with this stuff?

And then the monarch butterfly, so rare these days, finds the milkweed in my garden, and I know that without summer, small, divine showings such as this would never happen.  The birds go wild flopping around in the bird bath without any care about their use of water.  The lightning bugs/fireflies punctuate summer evenings to the point of strobing; they must multiply in my tree line because the light show is a popcorn-popping-fest without sound.  Only in summer.  These sightings and experiences are my relief.

Relief is what we seek when we are in extremis. The natural world keeps me from complaining too brazenly, because the cycles of the seasons, even in places where temperatures don’t change much, offer gifts in each phase.  To receive the gifts is to make the suffering less.  So I learn that survival is a matter of focus, and thus survival can be pinpointed with moments of light (butterfly finding home), alight (birds bathing boisterously), and delight (popcorn-flashing bug light).

One piece of advice:  don’t pick up a cat in summer when one is sweating.  Sticky. Icky. I attempt to express my appreciation to them for their contributions toward my summer fur coat, but I never sound genuine.  I also never desire to be furry, and I have learned to keep my distance until shedding season passes.  But they are determined to share, generous souls that they are.  Run. Run away.

For those who are relieved that summer is in full-swing, let it be said that I share (some of) your joy.  My relief comes from witnessing the antics of those who love this time.  Thank you for the gift in the midst.

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Discipline

SONY DSC  Discipline is not my middle name.  I like flowing with the go, going with the flow.  A deadline structures me but is not a thing of joy.  I meet deadlines as a point of responsibility, and I do like basic structures to contain my flow, but I want the license to play with those structures.  That’s my leadership style too: giving room for play within the structure – and if the structure doesn’t “give” anymore,  then the structure must change. Play in the structure makes for flexible, liminal living.

Protectionism, walls, polarities, enemy-creating, propping up egos all provide structures in a different way.  Some call it safety.  I call it fearing the fear.  Or denying the fear – same thing.  Discipline that provides structure as a container for work and play is one thing. Discipline that upholds tight circles of like-minded people so that no others or nothing new can get in – or out – is tyranny.  Such tyranny leads to toxicity, which leads to death.   Strange isn’t it, how we fear death and set up the structures that lead us right into it.  Morbidly ironic.  To be more gentle, we fear the other, so we keep the other out with increasingly tight walls and laws in local institutions, churches, synagogues, temples, businesses, and governments.  The tighter we hold to these walls and laws, the more feverish the battering against them at their weakest points, until we find ourselves escalated to the point of no return.

Discipline.  Not my favorite word. I don’t have disciplined rituals, I am bored easily with routine, I don’t even eat meals at disciplined times.  Yet, there is a kind of discipline that I believe is best suited to all human beings, no matter what our styles of interacting with life, work, and relationships:  discipline of thinking through the scenarios.  What happens if I choose this path? What happens if I say these words?  What happens if I don’t?  Can I actually control myself when I’m angry or hurt?  Can I be disciplined enough to be healthy in my emotional and spiritual life by not burying things so that I explode later?  Can I let go of my need to blame so that I’m free?  Can I cut off what I don’t need anymore?  Can I let go of people who are not life-giving altogether?

Those are disciplines well-worth working through, thinking through, living through…and I’m willing to do the work.  I know that if a majority of humanity does this work, the tides will shift, the walls will not be needed in the way we pursue them now, the diplomatic conversations will be different, the state of planet will improve.  Holier-than-thou-ness will slow down from the fundamentalist right and the fundamentalist left.  We will tend to our own gardens and lend a hand when others ask for it, rather than trying to correct everyone else’s approach, technique, or seed choices.

That kind of discipline is worth the work.  Are you in?  Tell me, I need the discipline of seeking solidarity in this walk!  Are you in?

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Honor

IMG_7894   Honor.  A word that most often appears in the military these days, or when someone receives an award for outstanding performance.  “Honor” as a noun has become the object with which one has been singled out, or “honored.”  Graduating with honors.  Serving with valor and honor. Then there is the verb:  we honor those who  perform great acts or show superior results.

I have been thinking about the adjective.  Honorable.  Honorable character, honorable behavior, honorable intent.  There is no award for these things in and of themselves.  Yet, they are essential for society to work well.

When I moved back to the U.S.  three decades ago after living a number of years in Scotland, I was jolted heavily on many fronts regarding U.S. dominant culture: politics, how relationships work, how language is used, the level of competition, the crassness of jokes that aren’t really jokes, lack of manners, lack of concern for the stranger, the fear-laced self-aggrandizement.  For almost three years, I hated my return into what seemed such a foreign environment, even though I knew it was the right choice to do so at that time.  I missed the Scottish ethic I had learned in my living environment there–putting others first, the built-in hospitality that was part of life, free showing of vulnerability when the context warranted it, the sense of being adopted so readily, communitas, the spirit of people who had lived through generations of political persecution as a country with guts and determination to be free, and so on.

These thoughts have arisen again three decades later.  And with them comes the ongoing reflection about what I miss and what I want to see evolve again here in the U.S.   “Honorable” is an old-fashioned word to many U.S. persons, at least in the dominant culture. I want that word to feature again.  I believe that the frequent use of the word “authentic” in our society now is replacing the concept of “honor,” and I also think “honor” is bigger than authenticity. Honor-ability includes a life-intention and becomes a deep foundation for character.

I watch our politics of winning by insult and overpowering others by false news or violence.  I watch how people treat each other daily.  I see children gunning down children and adults.  I see and participate in women saying “Me Too!” and being dismissed or ridiculed still.  I see the isolation of so many people who have become lost because there is little sense of community unless one “passes” an unspoken test of fitting in to a clique. Sometimes the sadness becomes overwhelming.

What of honor?  Honor holds the intention of always acting in ways that raise others up.  Honor does not compete for the spotlight.  Honorable living is quiet, steady, trustworthy, grounded.  Honorable behavior stays differentiated in the maelstrom of change.  Honor holds accountable, but does not blame.  Blame serves no real purpose; accountability has its place. Honorable character takes hits for others, acknowledges mistakes, feels real feelings, and learns where the friends and enemies are.  But it does not spread untruths or keep silence for self-promotion.  It bears in mind the greater good, and tries to play its part to the best of its ability, actively and humanely, with integrity.  It does not dismiss other ideas.  It does not give into small ego drives.  It does not betray intentionally, ever.

I miss honorable living as a cultural ethic.  That’s what I really miss.  When I catch a glimpse here and there in my own spaces and places, I am so grateful.  To notice it calls me to be my best self.  So I know this: honor, even in despair, never gives up.

Never give up.  Never give up honor.

 

 

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Cancer

SONY DSC I can’t think of a time when I’ve known so many people who have some type of cancer.  It seems like everywhere I turn, I hear the story of another who is battling for life or preparing for death.  There is an ocean of it, wave after wave of voices saying “The ‘c’-word is now part of me.”

I understand why there are so many marathons and bicycling fundraisers for cancer research.  We’re trying to stay ahead of this ugly, devastating disease. Treatment works for some, not others.  It’s kind of a crap shoot with a life at stake. I look at statistics, and then compare with other statistics like heart disease, Alzheimer’s, the list goes on, and find myself falling down a very deep, very dark hole.  But not as deep and dark as those who are living with these realities. And therein lies the pain.  If I could crawl in that hole with the one already there, I would.  Just to be alongside for the life-and-death-re/life ride.  But I can’t.  There is a huge separation between those with the experience and those who would do just about anything to take it away from them.  Until the acceptance creeps in, in one of those grief-cycle stages gnawing away at everyone.

Some people say, “I’ve lived a good life, no regrets, it’s just shorter than I thought it would be.”  Some people say, “Bring it on, I’m going to win against this bastard.”  Others say, “How can this happen to me? I have too much to live for, too much to do!”  Still others, “I have no words.  It just hurts.”  There is no standard response.  And those of us who are not physical healers and who are currently cancer-free, stand by, bearing witness as best we can, wrong-footing it often, and trying to avoid horrendous platitudes that we never thought we would say or even think.

Like with all tragedy, the question comes – what is the purpose of this? Why does it even exist?  Non-smoking, healthy-eating, exercising people get cancer just like others who get blamed for the smoking, eating, not-exercising repercussions. Cancer is indiscriminate despite the risk-factor statistics.

All I know is to bless with healing light, pray for the passage to be smooth as possible whenever it arrives, and believe that there will be relief either here or over there – and then stand back and stand by as each person does her internal work in the midst of her c-world.

We all have to do that work, that reconciling ourselves to our lives.  It’s the untimely urgency that is the difference.

I have no words now.  It just hurts.

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Life as Deep Dive

ThSONY DSCere are more house decorations out this year for the holiday season than I remember.  There also seems to be less hope than I remember.  I think the barrage of stories in the news keeps us angsty and/or depressed.  Injustices are worsening or at least coming to light in a more ferocious way. They shouldn’t be ignored. Of course, there are still random acts of kindness visible here and there and I’m glad for them; they are reminders that we are capable of more than grouchiness, reactivity, and yes, undue violence.  But I acknowledge that 2017 was a difficult year and some of the worst came out in all of us, personally, locally, and nationally.  It gets tough when our grumpiness turns into attack-mode to alleviate frustration; my hope is that 2018 will bring a little more self-reflection, including my own, and desire for kindness.  I suppose that means that our national and perhaps local mental illness has to be dealt with, likely from the ground-up.  In the meantime, in the waning days of 2017, I wish everyone these ways of being:

Rather than creating resolutions, name intentions for kindness.

Rather than dwell on the negative, work for the positive breakthrough.

Rather than being entrenched, adopt a wayfaring stance.

Rather than having to be right, assume a learning posture.

Rather than fighting despair, create a moment of hope for someone else.

Rather than focusing on one’s own misery, look at the beauty around us.

Rather than live in fear, live boldly with expectation.

Rather than skim the surface, dive deeply.

Know that you are loved.  Pass it on.

Pass it on.

And on.

Blessings, Dear Ones.  May 2018 be different.  May it begin with me.

And you.

Together.

 

 

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F-words: Fight, Flight, Freeze

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I recently attended a women’s writing group that addressed the #MeToo movement.  Most of the 30-or-so women present brought stories. Some remained silent.  Some were there simply to provide support.  One woman claimed that nothing had ever happened to her and she thought herself particularly lucky.

When it came to my turn to read what I had written, I found that I was the only one in the room who had done (light) social analysis rather than personal story.  I’m not keen on personal story in a public sphere where I know very few people, no matter how much confidentiality is promised.  But social analysis?  Absolutely.  Why? Because if we don’t see our story in the big picture, then we remain isolated and mostly fearful or stuck in anger.  Movements can’t change the world unless there is some sense of the “largeness” of the problem.

I began my reading with the three “F” words above – flight, fight, or freeze.  All women and many men know these words viscerally.  Children know these words well too.  Non-dominant persons, male and female, know them intimately, daily. There is much to be said about the majority of the population living with these words.  MAJORITY.

Big names (male) are now being fired from jobs for harassment and rape because women are learning the scope of the rape culture in a huge way, so they are feeling empowered to speak up.  But I know the backlash will come.  It always does. We will need to be ready.

Let me limit this entry to #MeToo for brevity purposes here.   This is what I wrote, in part,  for that writing group event:

It is stunning to me that I can’t name one woman who doesn’t have a Me Too story. The ones who deny it – well, I have some suspicions about denial or inability to see what is really going on. 

There is no female in this country who is not exposed to images, stereotypes, or threat of violence. I would contend that is true in the vast majority of the world based on the second class status of women everywhere, even in countries ruled by women.

The grooming starts early.  Cosmetics because we’re inherently ugly without them, according to a trillion-dollar industry.  Clothes, because they can make or break a woman’s image, according to a trillion-dollar industry.  Behaviors, because women should be servants, according to a patriarchal set of values starting at age zero.  And those who dare to be different are the objects of backlash or silenced.

That’s the rant part.  The other part is the deep hurt.  Cat calls from men who think they are complimenting us.  In fact, deep down, they know they are victimizing us because we are objects of desire, not subjects of interest.  Threats from men who haven’t worked out their own power problems.  Micro-aggressions from men who can’t quite live with women and can’t quite live without us. 

And the problem is, we are groomed, then victimized, and then some of us decide to say, NO.  No more.  And if we do not have a critical mass, we are isolated and assaulted: there, the problem has been done away with again.  Of course, some male populations are also in this category, as are transgender people. 

Here’s what I know.  Fight, Flight, or Freeze are F-words.  And so is Feminism.  I know the micro-aggressions won’t stop in my lifetime, I know the stories I could tell are always with me.  I have experienced shame that is not of my making, I have been demoted for standing up for myself and for what is right, I have the scar tissue every woman knows about – perhaps lighter than some, heavier than others.

But these scars, though I carry them, do not define me.  Men do not define me.  Rape culture does not define me. I am survivor, not victim, even if the attempts at victimization continue.  That’s their problem.  My problem is to make sure that I don’t self-hate because they hate.  And to make sure that other girls and women don’t either.  My task is to name the alternatives over and over.  To help compassionate men get the strength and courage to confront their brothers just as much as I have to.

For the sake of the girls. For the sake of the women.

No more negative F-words, you know the words. 

Except Feminism.  Because only the attitude of liberation and expansiveness that claims women as human beings will set us all free.

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Meandering Soup

IMG_7160For those human beings who are well-organized, and have all things planned, in place, with particular outcomes established, I’m sorry.  I function that way relatively capably on the job because it is required of me. I almost always meet deadlines, fill out the forms, file the reports, show up because I said I would, and support those who work with me.

Why am I sorry? Because I can’t find my creative space in that world; I’m not innately fed by such structure.  I wish I were like so many of you.  Truly I do.  My life would be less messy, less uncertain, and generally easier to manage.  For example, I’m writing a novel without an outline.  I make soup when I am hungry for soup rather than needing to use up leftovers.  I clean the house when dust becomes a living entity and threatens to kill me and my animals (a seasonal option rather than a weekly routine).   Note: I used to clean houses to pay for graduate school (sparkling, I assure you – and I am PICKY about what clean looks like), so  I can appropriate such a world when necessary.

On the other hand, complete chaos is attractive only for a short, rather tiny, time. When my  study at home reaches the point when piles of writing and art projects dominate all floor space, I go a little nuts.  Nothing creative is going to happen in THAT space either.  So the cleaning/clearing begins, to a fault.  The habitually organized would be proud.  Look at that! Everything has a designated place! The pens are aligned by ROYGBIV color! The laptop is exactly in the middle of the desk!  Notebooks are categorized by subject! Books are aligned by author!

It is very difficult to be hyper-reactive to oneself.  I call it self-whiplash.  It takes a lot of time to live like this.  It can be a muddled meandering mess.

Hence: Is it time to make soup?  Oh yeah!  Anything to avoid the ricochet between mess and order.  Middle ground. Soup takes lots of (orderly) things, reorders them into a new (and tasty) thing, swimming randomly in a liquid (messy) base.  Soup.  Yummy garlicky soup.  Creative order with a very general outcome, imagined at the beginning of the process, but changed during it as bits and pieces of this-and-that find their way into the monstrous pot.  No two vats of soup are the same.  Mistakes are made, lessons learned, all remembered for the future. No! Orange juice does not work with beef stock…unless…?

So satisfying, learning the soup craft by experiment: meandering in an orderly way without confines of “should.” Pure freedom without groundless insanity.

I suppose that’s why this blog is called “Liminal Space.”  Moving between an overly-ordered and a chaotically-jumbled life-space is my rhythm.  Chaos is necessary for the creative start-up, then a semblance of order for the implementation.  Looking at what is available and imaging a whole new way with those ingredients, without having the end result completely figured out, keeps soup/life agile, fun, and adventuresome.  Employers may not like this approach – strategic planning is the name of the game.  Me? I would rather build scenarios (potentials) every time.

How do you make soup?  What’s the most important process for you?  Are you okay in liminal space or do you hang out on an end of the spectrum?  Or do you rush between to avoid the middle?

It’s all good.  It’s all soup.  Do remember the garlic though.  Essential.

 

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