Tuesday, April 25, 2017

"How are you?"

I just ran into a friend outside a store, earlier today. She asked me, "How are you? What's new?"

This is a standard greeting. I think the typical response is supposed to be, "I'm doing well. Not much is new. What about you?"

You have probably gathered by now that I rarely offer a standard reply. But why is that?

I was asked this once when I was living in the Findhorn Community. The person asking was physically on her bicycle moving in the opposite direction. I was feeling especially sad/lonely/isolated/homesick. I asked, "Do you really want to know?" because I didn't feel like lying, if I didn't have to. She said, "Yes, I do." She hopped off her bike, so I shared. It was probably a 30-45 minute chat. But I *needed* it. I didn't know how much, until I heard myself talking and sharing. I was thankful she asked and was honestly interested.

I try to assess when "fine" is the desired response (in case someone doesn't have time for me to share deeply), but I also like to take the time to respond sincerely and intimately. How else am I going to connect? To reduce isolation? To know what's honestly going on with myself AND them?

So my friend today asked me what's new and rather than hurry off to my next thing (which was nothing, honestly), I shared intimately. This is not someone I see regularly, but even though I tend to feel self-conscious about sharing after the fact ("Did I share too much? Was that appropriate? Does she even care? Was she offended?"), I more often than not feel some relief about sharing more personally. It's not that she needs to care or be affected in a deep way, either. It's just that I have a choice in how isolated I let myself become. When I don't share, I isolate. It's not about me and taking up space, it's about reaching out and connecting. When people commit suicide or die from an addiction, I think about how many times and instances of isolation it took for that to decision to take hold. And I don't want it to take hold with me.

I also want to be a safe space for others, should they choose to get out of their isolation. When I ask, "How are you?" I truly mean it. Or I'll say, "I can't talk now, but I want to know, so let's make a plan to get together."

I shared my personal thing, then my friend shared her personal thing and what could have been a literal passing each other on the street, turned into connection, a solid moment when we were both able to hang out in the Seattle drizzle and be real in person.

I can't have 4-5 hour convos like I used to. It's just not realistic. And I can't have everyone over for dinner, or write everyone a long letter of intimate thoughts and feelings. I have tried, but it's too hard with my current life. But I can still connect, reach out, be available, and make conscious choices about isolating or not. I can put my value of connection at the top of my priority list.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Earth Day

It's Earth Day today and a sort of birthday for me.
When I was 11 years old (28 years ago!), I went with my Jewish community to plant trees on Martin Luther King Way, in Seattle. It was a "basic tree planting" community gig. I'm not sure I thought much about it...but I never forgot it.

Here was a group of people, lining the street, planting trees in front of homes, adding to the beauty of the city. But it was more. The people in the homes were not the tree planters and they came out to say thank you. The tree planters were all ages, all abilities, and all willing participants. I witnessed that warm feeling when people come together for a common thing. We weren't "saving the earth." We were *just* planting trees, it seemed. It was such a SMALL gesture, I see now.

But it made an ENORMOUS impact on me. That summer I figured out a way to organize an environmental day camp for younger kids. I called places to see if they'd take us on tours of green spaces, we made cool tshirts, birdhouses, learned about recycling, etc.

Then I joined an adult, Jewish, environmental group. I was 11, bringing the average age down only a little. I learned about stuff that was over my head in many ways but the adults were happy to listen to an 11 year old ask questions and inquire about why things are geared only to adults...kids are interested too!

Ever after that, I have been staunch environmentalist. I practice it in different ways, that usually correlate with my ability and willingness at the time. We were car-free for several years, then owned an electric car for a short time. We now drive two cars because of our jobs, but we still carpool and use public transportation as much as we can.

Clothing-wise, I used to buy all sorts of clothes, from sweatshop-using brands (before I knew better) and now my clothes are primarily used because that's easy for me to do and I feel way better. K only gets new clothes if it's a necessity or they are bought for him.

Food-wise, we used to eat primarily raw vegan until I needed to increase my good cholesterol. Now, the pendulum swings away from raw because our lives changed. We grow what we can in the backyard. We can go back to a stricter eating lifestyle any time.

Child-wise, we can be wasteful. Lots of things are designed disposably. And yes, for some (me) cloth diapering is challenging for reasons other than convenience. We do try to scale back on the consumption, when it works for us. Believe me, I tried to be dogmatic about it and it was agonizing.

We still consume and we still use (and sadly, waste) resources, but we're partnering with The Community General Store, in West Seattle, to share bigger purchases with others because we don't use all that we have right now. And we don't need to buy things new. We don't need new toys, or new books. We'd rather share the space and be with people.

It's silly to think we can dogmatically be one way forever. Even No Impact Man couldn't stay No Impact forever...but that's not the point. The point was to examine conscious choice and decide intentionally what was needed vs. wanted.

I share all of this because it's not about being one way forever. But we can examine the choices we have made and then re-examine them again later, to see if we still want to be doing that. We have a big home now, but we're looking to design a smaller, most sustainable home in the future.

On Earth Day, I don't just celebrate the Earth, I celebrate the beginning of my conscious relationship with the Earth. I don't just practice environmentalism because I'm told the world is falling apart. I am actively partnering with the Earth. I can't live in Seattle like I did in the Findhorn Community. That takes a level of commitment that would likely be easier in a different location and within a different culture (I have tried, it is HARD to live like I did there, without living in an intentional community). But I know I will go back there often, and for longer stints to do it more.

The Earth might benefit more from us partnering with it, rather than trying to save it. It's powerful, it will eject us when it needs to. But we can partner. We can listen. We can act, even in small ways. It does make an impact.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

"Tell me something uplifting"

A friend of mine at work sat down at the lunch table, where we all eat together, and said, "Tell me something uplifting. I'm worried about the immigrants in this country."

I waited to see what my progressive, political, super-informed co-workers had to say. Several folks weren't able to come up with anything. It's a tough time that's just beginning and people are worried.

I thought about whether to share a personal story or not, because I was worried it wouldn't apply. But because I didn't want my friend to keep going down the depressing spiral, I decided I would share.

"Before I worked here, I was unemployed. I was 'living' with my husband on one small income, with a mortgage and an almost 2 year old. We were literally eating beans and rice (thankfully my husband is a very creative cook) and we'd rotate which bill got paid each month.

I knew if I didn't pull my community closer to me, I would plummet into a deep despair and I wasn't sure how I'd get out. So that's what I did. I emailed a few close friends and said, 'Look, we need you right now. We're going to start inviting ourselves to dinner and showing empty-handed at potlucks because we don't have enough at the moment, but we don't want to isolate.'

And my friends were awesome. They said, 'Of course.'

So we spent MORE time with them, we found ways to creatively hang out for free, we invited people over to our house for a potluck, even though we didn't have much, and the place filled with delicious food, laughter, and togetherness. Eventually, I did get a job, but what could've been a tragedy, turned into a way to get closer. And we did."

My friend said that actually DID help her feel less despair. And another co-worker said that she was thankful I had shared my story.

I share it now here to remind us that we have a choice in conflict...we can pull apart and isolate, or we can get closer, warm by each other's fires, and share. For some of us, it might be hard to reach out, and I have been there. I had to practice making phone calls. It took me a while to stop wishing it would go to voicemail. But it just takes practice. One call/dinner at a time. Find one person or family that you can practice getting closer to. Pick one day a month to invite someone(s) over. Start somewhere and we can lift ourselves (and each other) up.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Mama, Let's Go and March

My family and I marched yesterday in one of the biggest marches Seattle has ever seen. An estimated 140,000 people came out with signs, pink pussy(cat) hats, and supportive energy (a few folks showed up to "trump" on us, but were drowned out, of course). We were a part of herstory and it was enlightening.

This morning, seeing all the social media pictures from practically everyone I know marching yesterday was even more encouraging. Time, energy and choice were put into going out to the Womxn's March. I loved it. K loved it. Josh loved it.

And I think it bolstered us as a people. As a part of the nation that stands strong in its support of progressive values. We looked around and saw ourselves in each other. That's what's supposed to happen. We do it in protest many times, but for me, the community energy is why I do it. To be alive in the flow of love, acceptance, resistance (to hate and fear) and togetherness.

I've protested a lot in my life. This felt much easier, much more normalized, much more about a way of being, not just a statement against something. It was many statements FOR things. Awesome stuff. And I saw a sign that said, "Thank you Trump for bringing us together" (or something like that). And I thought about that and y'know it's true. It got 140,000 people out to walk together.

Another personal anecdote I wanted to share is this:
Josh and I had a REALLY rough year in the beginning of 2014. Rough enough to create some big darkness inside me about self-worth and purpose. That's never good. But also during that financially, emotionally, spiritually challenging time, we were more engaged with our community than we had been many years prior. We asked for more help. We were more humble. We gave what we could. We received with grace. We reached out, we stayed out of isolation as much as possible. We learned what was important to us, what made us thrive when we were struggling. We held on to what we were grateful for and put more time and effort into appreciating it.
So it will be for us when shit hits the fan for however long T-bag is in office.
Join me if you wish, or some up with your own way of moving from surviving to thriving. We CAN do this. We've all done this before (maybe not on such a grand scale, but we have). Stay strong.


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