Sunday, August 31, 2014

Mistakes, Martyrdom, and Me

For the audio version of this post, scroll to the bottom. 

I’m sure this will come as a big shock, but I’m hard on myself. I can’t seem to let go of previous mistakes. On Wednesday, I didn’t turn right fast enough. I kept waiting for the far left lane to be clear so I could merge into it and thus avoid having to change lanes quickly later on. The car behind me did not like this, honked at me, and exclaimed, “You’re not turning left!” I’ve been thinking about it ever since.

I feel uncomfortable because 1.) a stranger honked and yelled at me and 2.) he was probably right. I probably could have turned right much sooner than I did. I want strangers to like me. I’m bothered by brief interactions with others because I don’t get to hash things out with them, there’s no chance to explain or justify. The person is left with only one impression and that makes me uncomfortable.

I saw this image and couldn't resist! I'm an INFJ and it's so true!

On my best days, I approach mistakes as opportunities, as learning experiences. I remind myself I can’t know everything in advance and the only one who expects me to do everything perfectly every time is me. Oh perfectionism, how I’d like to do without thee.

Another reason I’m uncomfortable with brief interactions with strangers is I want to be able to control outcomes and reactions. I want to be able to predict how somebody will respond and it’s impossible to do that with strangers, and even people I know, really. Trying to do things so that I get the reaction I desire out of someone else is called manipulation, or perhaps people pleasing. At the moment, people pleasing and perfectionism have morphed into martyrdom. I don’t want to displease others so I’m willing to suffer at my own expense.

There is nothing noble about this. Sacrifice is a tenet of my spiritual practices, but there’s a difference between sacrificing out of love for another, or love for a country, and sacrificing so people like me. When I start to allow myself to sacrifice so much that I suffer, I turn myself into a martyr, a role no one asked me to play. I allow other people’s needs and wishes to become more important than mine and that’s not acceptable. If I don’t take care of myself, neither will anyone else.

My needs are just as important as someone else’s. Not more important, not less important, equally important. When I turn into a people-pleasing martyr, I’m saying to myself and to the other person, “I don’t matter, my needs don’t matter.” You know what? They do. Especially if I’m paying for them. I have every right to send food back at a restaurant. I have every right to ask my neighbors to turn down their music at night. The answer may be “No,” but I still have a right to ask. And as I’ve seen time and time again, even when the answer is “No,” my higher power still takes care of me in interesting and creative ways I could never have imagined.

I dream of a world where we strike the right balance between sacrifice and selfishness. A world where we don’t needlessly suffer on someone else’s behalf. A world where we stand up for ourselves, remembering we have to be our own heroes. A world where we do our best to take care of ourselves and when that’s not possible, we remember higher power has it covered.

Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Stewards of the Earth (with audio)

For the audio version of the post, scroll to the bottom.

When I look around at what’s going in on the world I feel powerless and depressed. I have to keep reminding myself things are not always what they seem, that I have more power than I think I do, but it’s incredibly difficult. I want other people to tell me happy, optimistic things, but I’m realizing (yet again) I have to do that for myself.

Yesterday, I saw pictorial evidence about how severe the drought in California is. I’m posting two of the pictures below:

enterprise bridge
Here the Enterprise Bridge spans the Lake Oroville in Butte County, California in July 2011.

enterprise bridge
Here, the Enterprise Bridge spans the same reservoir in 2014. (Source)

Whoa. You guys those pictures are scary. This is usually where I would tell you to stop watering your lawn or to turn off the faucet when you brush your teeth, but only about 4 percent of California’s water footprint is individual, personal use. According to a 2012 Pacific Institute report, 93 percent of California’s water use goes to agriculture. When I say “agriculture” I don’t mean lettuce. I’m talking about meat. OneGreenPlanet.Org wrote an article about this and cited studies from Cornell and other places that found it takes 100 times more water to produce one pound of animal protein than one pound of grain protein.

I really hate talking about food choices because I was teased so mercilessly for being a vegetarian as a child. And I have an eating disorder so I’m really uncomfortable talking about food. However, having said that, if you are as scared looking at those drought pictures as I am, perhaps it’s time to get uncomfortable. According to the
Environmental Working Group, if everyone in the U.S. ate no meat or cheese just one day a week, it would be like not driving 91 billion miles – or taking 7.6 million cars off the road.

Of course political action is also necessary, but cutting down meat consumption is something we as individuals have control over right now. And if you want to contribute even more, there’s a
petition you can sign that urges the California legislature to reject any attempt to weaken, water down, or delay implementation of California's best climate change law. If you live in New York, or plan to be in New York City in September, there’s a People’s Climate March to demand that world leaders aim high, and create the solutions we need to combat the climate crisis.

The things that give me hope about the environmental state of the world are that things like the People’s Climate March are happening, that some cities have banned plastic bags, and that the awareness about eating better has taken off. It’s a small thing, but I’ve also started blogging for where I and other women are writing about the small things we’re doing to save money and promote a more sustainable lifestyle.

This morning I woke up with the song “
Ooh child things are gonna get easier” stuck in my head. Maybe it’s the universe’s way of telling me things will get brighter but only if you and I take the necessary action steps.

I dream of a world where we understand we are all stewards of the Earth and it’s our job to take care of it and each other. A world where we do our best to use resources as responsibly as possible. A world where we understand our choices do indeed affect the climate.

Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Taken Care of in Advance

For the audio version of this post, scroll to the bottom.

I’ve been sharing this with people and it seems to touch them so I’m sharing it with you too.

I think I was always meant to live in my current space for a short period of time. When I first moved in my mom came down to help me get settled (bless her). We went to every big box store and thrift store around searching for things I would need to make my space more comfortable. Stuff like a standing lamp. We searched everywhere and couldn’t find one. In fact, the closest we came was a lamp at Goodwill that after the employee plugged it in, sparked and gave him an electric shock.

paper lantern
Instead of a standing lamp I'm making do with a paper lantern, which was already in my closet. Another instance of being taken care of in advance!
I think higher power created a block so I wouldn’t invest in my living space, in this case monetarily. I think I was prevented from finding the more expensive things I needed for this spot in particular because I was never meant to be here long.

When things don’t go my way I rail against the universe, stew in frustration, and think the whole world is against me. I’m seeing, yet again, that perhaps when things don’t go my way, it’s because they’re not supposed to. That actually, even I’m not supposed to go that way. That’s not to say moving in here was a mistake – it wasn’t – but clearly, this is a short-term fling.

Some things require hard work and patience, but I’m starting to see when there’s one road block after another, when the universe keeps putting up signs that say, “Stop. Don’t go this way,” maybe it’s because it’s better for me to not go that way! That not all obstacles are meant to be overcome. That some obstacles are the universe’s way of taking care of me.

I’m focusing on housing in this post, but I think the concept applies to other things too – jobs, relationships, opportunities. Maybe when there’s one obstacle after another after another, higher power is saying, “Turn around.” And maybe when we’re not allowed to invest financially or emotionally it’s because it’s better if we don’t. I can only imagine how angry and bitter I would feel if my landlady blew up at me and asked me to move out after I spent a lot of money fixing my place up and unpacked everything. At the moment, some of my stuff is still in boxes and there are no pictures on the walls. Not to mention, I saved almost all of my moving boxes so obviously on some level I knew this was coming. And even though I don’t enjoy this turn of events, I can still sit back and see how I’m taken care of in advance.

I dream of a world where we understand some obstacles are for our benefit. A world where we realize not every obstacle is meant to be overcome. A world where we understand sometimes things don’t work out and it’s for our own good. A world where we see we’re taken care of in advance.

Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Love, Love, Love. The End

A band I like, the Downer Party, has a lyric from "Cities" that says, "How can it be that we live with those we love in different cities?" How apt for my experiences of the past week. I'm flying back from the East Coast where I attended a friend's wedding. It was so lovely -- the wedding and the visit.

The bride and groom! How could I not use this picture? I mean really.
The bride and groom! How could I not use this picture? I mean really. 

It had been at least a year, sometimes years, plural, since I saw some of my friends. We chatted as if no time had passed, falling into familiarity like driving the daily route to work. Despite distance, despite not talking for ages, the love is there, much like I wrote about in "Love from afar."

And now I'm going back to normal life, which sucks. It seems no matter where I am, I'm going to miss somebody because my loved ones don't live together in a big hippie commune. I wish I was one of those "smile because it happened" instead of "cry because it's over" people, but I'm not. I cry. I lament. I ache. But ever the practical person, I'm reminded there's nothing I can actually do to change all this. And perhaps the feeling of love is what's most important.

Maybe like I wrote about a few weeks ago, the emotions are more important than the particulars. Maybe it doesn't matter so much that we live in different time zones, that we don't speak often, that we don't know the ins and outs of each other's daily lives. perhaps what's most important is the love between us that quite often transcends time and space.

Is it easier to love people who live close by? Of course, but that's not always possible. Maybe in this day and age of being far flung, I have to content myself with knowing that I love. That love is all there is. That as I reference in the title of this post: "Love, love, love. The end."

I dream of a world where we love more. A world where we realize love is what's most important, not how often we see each other or how frequently we talk. A world where we take in Tennyson's sentiment, "It is better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all."

Another world is not only possible, it's probable.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Maybe it's Already Here

The other day I was thinking about how it's been a dream of mine to travel and write. I am supremely envious of travel bloggers because I want to go to Hawaii! And Croatia! And swim with dolphins! I want to do cool things and get paid for it! And then I realized I already get paid to travel and write -- just not in the way I wanted.

Like I wrote last week, I've moved 32 times in 29 years. In a way, I do get paid to travel and write. At this very moment I'm staying with friends in Baltimore and tomorrow I will wake up and work like I normally do. I work from home so all that's required is internet access. You guys, I get paid to write and I travel. I SHOULD HAVE BEEN MORE SPECIFIC WITH MY DREAM.

The end scene of "Under the Tuscan Sun" is one of my favorites and so appropriate for this post.

I bring this up because maybe I already have the things I want so much. I've been craving a steady home, but in some ways I already have it. There's a retreat site in Missouri that I've gone to every year since I was three weeks old up until I was 25. It's the only stable place I've ever had because, well, I've moved 32 times. I've lamented my paltry dating life, but clearly I date homes so that already exists.

I think about that scene at the end of Under the Tuscan Sun where it's pointed out to Diane Lane's character that she has a family in her house, and a wedding, and someone to cook for. The family was her best friend and her best friend’s baby, the wedding was for a neighbor, and the people to cook for were the contractors on her house. Maybe in some ways all the things I want are already here and it's my job to open my eyes more. To see how my needs and wants are already getting fulfilled.

When I'm complaining about something to my recovery mentor I often say, "It will be OK." She responds back to me, "It is OK." Not in the future, now. I'm starting to see this is true. I want more money and I'm probably going to the retreat site in Missouri for a few months to recuperate -- boom, more money. I want more love in my life? Not only am I staying with dear friends right now, but I'm getting snuggles from their pets. Everything I want is already here, getting fulfilled in unexpected ways. It's sweet to notice that, to see how I'm already taken care of now, not in the future, but in the present.

I dream of a world where we can all identify how the things we want are already present for us. A world where we're grateful for all that we have and all that we're receiving. A world where we open our eyes more to see the unexpected ways the universe grants our wishes. A world where we see maybe it's already here.

Another world is not only possible, it's probable.