I Ruin Things

Yesterday, I decided that I will most likely not be doing yoga in the future. While I had always known that this practice had come from another religion I had never really thought deeper into the implications of this fact. Something from within my 40 minute yoga session at home made me question this. So off to google I went. I asked google, “How do Hindu believers feel about western yoga practice?” and so began a regular ritual for me.

A question occurs to me or is asked in a form of media I’m enjoying. Then I ponder for a moment. Then I get more information. The depth of the question and its impact on other aspects of my life determines how far I dig into the research. Generally I click all of the links on the first page of the google results. It’s easier to find consensus this way. After gathering more information I dive down to the root of the problem which involves more thinking and researching, which sometimes leads to more thinking and researching. Research includes: google searches, library trips to pick up books, asking everyone I encounter their feelings about the topic and in some rare cases years of addressing the question deeper through all of these methods.

I have to get to the root and foundation of problems. Something in me has to get to the smallest part. I can’t help myself. This however means I ruin things.

Not necessarily for me, but most certainly for those who are close to me or who encounter me. Through the years I have tried to prevent this, realizing that not everyone wants to look at the foundation of things. Not everyone feels a need to know that they’re sun salutation is intended to greet Surya, the Hindu Sun God. And most people don’t want to address the implications of this or any other bit of information I may find.

I remember sharing with a mentor of mine during college that the Starbucks logo made me think of human trafficking. During my time at college, I had learned about the many kinds of human trafficking, including forced labor. Then later while eating at an amazing place, Fair Trade Café, in downtown Phoenix I learned about fair trade coffee. From then on, I associated things not fair trade with forced labor. This is arguable, but at the very least, things imported and not made fair trade are exploitative at best. Since Starbucks at the time wasn’t (and still isn’t 10 years later) 100% fair trade, the correlation made sense to me. See the pretty lady think of starving farmers in South America. My mentor didn’t really know how to respond. She was proud of me for caring about this issue within social justice, but also felt my correlation was a bit extreme.

My most recent stint of research, yoga practice, led to a heated debate about cultural appropriation that greatly upset a dear friend. Which is in part what inspired this need to look at my practice of intentional living and obsession with the foundation of things through this post.

It is never my intention to upset people with my observations and knowledge. Even if I say, “you don’t have to do this,” they still assume I’m judging them. Something about my conviction in what to do upsets and even intimidates others. I have to wonder if this is because ignorance is more comfortable. If you don’t know something you aren’t obligated to do anything about it, but the instant you know you have a choice. You can choose, knowing the implications of your action, to continue to take that action or you can choose change. Without intending to, I force people to face this.

While I understand the pain and tension caused by knowledge, I’m not certain that avoidance is the answer. As a person who uses avoidance most often as a coping strategy, I know that in the long term avoidance doesn’t work. Avoidance creates a void, a weird space with faux comfort. It’s not true comfort because it only exists without the thing you’re avoiding. In this way it’s kind of a lie.

This is the problem for me. I practice extreme transparency. As my husband says, nothing can be closed in our life. Not our doors or our windows. I don’t even like fences, literal or figurative. So to live a lie just doesn’t work.

All of these things about me combine to make me a ruiner of ignorance. After writing this post I better understand why this is the case and how it impacts others, but I don’t necessarily feel better. I don’t want to be a ruiner, but I suppose due to characteristics within the foundation that guides me this can’t be helped. I could change, but I kind of like the individual characteristics. I kind of like me.

Well if you happen to know me or seek to know me, I guess you’ve been warned.

Finding Beauty in the Tundra

I live in a place. A hard, tough, cantankerous place that prides itself on its heartiness. The landscape can be unforgiving and the people are complicated. My mother jokingly calls it the tundra. For now this is the place where I create. Where I try to bring to life many somethings from nothings.

For me, this continual birth and rebirth is only possible through a diet of awe inspiring beauty.

The town I live in has only one community theatre and no professional theatre companies. There are no art museums. So my regular ways of taking in beauty are limited. I have adjusted my expectations and try very hard to enjoy what the community does have to offer. A dance company that does performances 3 times a year, many art galleries, a symphony with 10 performances throughout the year, many touring shows that come and go and of course the offerings of the university, technical and community college.

My first years here however I depended on the art I enjoyed on vacation to feed me. One amazing night at the theatre kept me feed for a year and a half. That was until on my trip to Washington DC I realized I had been starving.

Since then I have tried desperately to seek out beauty: Online resources, traveling to other cities only a few hours away, anything to keep from starving.

Over the holidays, I was lucky enough to visit The Getty Museum in Los Angeles. A vast and wide sense of awe and joy filled me as I walked from one amazing painting to the next. Exquisite beauty was free and there for me. It was easy and enjoyable. I instantly felt renewed and full.

Coming back to the tundra is always filled with some sadness. Returning after experiencing a week of bliss and joy and beauty in LA and San Diego that sadness was larger and more present than before.

I think this is because here in the tundra beauty doesn’t reveal herself to you so easily. She is much more coy on the plains. She whispers and taunts you and tests you. She demands to be sought after.

It is this game of hide and seek that I find so exhausting. I don’t want to play, but then again maybe beauty on the tundra is trying to teach me something.

My experience in California was heightened. I didn’t take for granted any of my experiences at the various art museums or on the beaches. Not for one second was I distracted by my phone or any random thought. I was fully present.

I have to wonder if beauty always wants to be sought after. If the chase, the seeking makes the finding more enjoyable. Also beauty could just be a jerk and/or I’m not hearty enough for her. For now I’ll chose the more romantic notion.

If beauty wants to sought after I will seek her. And since I will be searching I will be that much more likely to find and see the beauty within this tundra of mine.

Loving Grandpa Trump

A few week’s ago a thought ran through my head. What if Donald Trump were my grandfather? Not right now, but in the future after he became president and most likely began the second American civil war and started a holocaust.

A cartoon version of different conversations between me and Grandpa Trump flooded my mind. Adoring him at age 6, beginning to question him at 10, starting to hate him at 13, running away at age 15 unable to accept the reality of who my grandfather was.

Being a biracial human, I know that my grandparents were only forced to truly look at their own racism when it was too close to home. My Papa, who I love with everything I have, shared with me recently that he was horribly racist toward white people in his youth and child rearing years. Growing up a black man in a segregated small town in east Texas I can understand why. He said it was only later in life and through his faith in God that he realized this was wrong. “It’s wrong to hate,” he said.

Knowing this I want for Donald to have a beautiful biracial grand-daughter. I want for him to face the reality of his words and consequences of his actions.

More and more I see that all bullies are scared, insecure humans trying to hurt you before you can hurt them or seeking to fill a void within themselves through the pain and suffering of others. It would be great if Donald were just evil. Then I wouldn’t feel disgusted with myself and guilty when part of me, a part that I have tried to get rid of, wishes for a lone sniper bullet to find him.

The truth as always is more complicated and nuanced. Donald is a man. A man who didn’t create the rampant racism within our country. Who didn’t fill the air with hatred toward the other. Or make it acceptable for men to objectify and violate women. While he is profiting greatly off of these things, he didn’t create them. We the American people did.

We refused to get uncomfortable. Refused to call out our friends and family when they said something offensive or morally wrong. Refused to stand up for countless victims of sexual assault and domestic violence. Refused to sit at the table and have the hard conversations. Instead, we happily only listen to people who agree with our worldview. We yell and demean anyone who dare think differently than us.

So, what now?

I’m scared. I’m afraid that I might have to leave the country to prevent becoming a statistic in a history book many years from now. I’m horrified for my nieces and nephews.

But…I don’t think hating Donald is going to fix anything. And even if he died peacefully in his sleep tomorrow we would still be a country where being a non-white human means a different existence. And where having breasts and a vagina means violence or the threat of violence is just part of your life.

Regardless of what happens 13 days from now, I hope that we as a country can start looking in the mirror and start being uncomfortable. I hope that we can choose peace and love, because I’m not certain hate is going to win the minds of Donald Trump supporters. Maybe if we can speak to them in love and ask them to imagine how their world might change if they had a child or grandchild who looked like a Trayvon Martin or a Daisy Coleman things might change.

I’d happily be adopted by any Donald Trump supporter willing to hear me and comfort me in this time of great uncertainty and fear. If that’s what it takes for my fellow Americans to see me as someone worth listening to, I’m game.

And maybe if those of us opposed to Donald being our president could adopt the people in our lives supporting him as our parents or grandparents or sisters or brothers we can find a way to an America where everyone is truly free and safe and can pursue peace and happiness.

Maybe…

That’s what I’m hoping for.

I love my messy house

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My favorite room in my home.

Today for the first time ever in my life, I felt a pure sense of love and happiness for my home. As a former military brat, my family moved around a lot when I was growing up. I would come up with grand design plans for each space. I believed that a space, the four walls, would tell you how they wanted to be designed if you would just listen. I never finished one idea completely. I would run out of time and then it was off to the next place.

Now I live in a two bedroom apartment with my husband. We have been here for three years. Slowly blending all of our stuff; his Bobba Fett figurines with my knick-knacks, all of our books and furniture. It’s not done yet. The spare bedroom is still covered with boxes we need to talk about. All of my items for large art projects I have yet to start and his boxes that I haven’t peered into. But, it’s our house.

For me, home is people. A city can change, but for the most part that sense of home in my experience comes from the people I love occupying the particular space they’re in. I wouldn’t say that a place has ever really felt like home. Places feel familiar of course and memories provide the warm feeling of nostalgia. Cities have heartbeats and I can remember the time when I walked to the beat of a city’s heart. Until this morning however, I have never felt that sense of home people talk about.

Moving around a lot has provided me with a different sense of roots. I have a bag of seeds and plant them along my travels. Gardens to visit across the land and tend to if I choose.

This morning something shifted. I have been reading this book, A Creative Companion by Sark. It encourages me to put things up on my walls. To feed my creative and whimsical side by claiming the space around me with loving reminders or powerful wisdom. While the focus of the book is to embrace your creativity I feel what it’s really trying to do is help you embrace yourself. To love yourself. To love where you are. To spread that love around to others.

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I wouldn’t say that I’m there yet. If I‘m brutally honest I don’t love myself, not unabashedly, not without doubts and caveats. I am working on it though. Everyday I’m trying to learn to love me just as I am.

Today felt like a first step. I love my messy, cluttered, comfy, fun house. It is a safe space where I can be me. Be a goofy, silly human or a sad human or a lazy human. If I can accept my four walls, the space I occupy often, then maybe I can begin to accept me. That’s my hope at least.

So if you’re still reading this I suggest one thing for you today. Take a moment and sit in your favorite room in your house. Look around as though you are at a museum. Do you like what you see? Could you love what you see? If no, grab pen and paper and make something you like and tape it to the wall. It’s one small step, but maybe it will lead to love and acceptance of more than your house.

The Selfish Seduction of Stasis

Recently I have had one desire deep and true. I have wanted for everything to stop, stasis. Sitting in my kitchen sorting mail I opened yet another invitation for a wedding. In frustration, I threw down the invitation and loudly proclaimed to the room and my husband sitting working on his D & D campaign not really listening to me, “I want everyone to stop! Stop having babies. Stop graduating. Stop getting married. Just stop.”

I meant it.

Then my uncle died a few weeks later and I was reminded that the world doesn’t care. The world as a whole macro-sized village does not care about the death of one person, it doesn’t stop and won’t stop for anyone. I learned long ago this hard truth.

Please don’t misunderstand me, I know that people care, tiny micro-sized people within the village of the world care, but generally the attention of those people is fickle and short.

So when my uncle died, I kept moving with everything that had to keep moving. It may be different in other industries, but in the theatre the old adage, “The show must go on.” is just a loose translation of the world doesn’t care.

And even though I knew this truth: that the world doesn’t care, my desire for stasis only deepened. More and more I wanted all things to stop. At an event two days before my uncle’s funeral I was sharing my desire with a perfect stranger who said simply, “Stasis is an illusion.”

The 8 year old sci-fi nerd in me wanted to scream, “But in the future it won’t be. Star Trek tells me so!” I didn’t say that and tried not to let the statement bother me. I didn’t care if stasis was an illusion or a lie or impossible. Stasis is so deeply what I wanted. That is all that mattered.

It was on a walk with my husband that I was able to verbalize what I was coming to understand and couldn’t ignore. The perfect stranger was right. If I could make everything stop, make all things stop growing and moving. If I could make the grass stop growing, and the birds stop chirping, and all things still; it wouldn’t matter. The world would keep rotating anyway. And even if I was able to achieve what I wanted; where would the worms live if the grass stopped growing? How would the birds be able to make new birds without their mating calls? What would prevent all things on this planet from flying off without gravity?

Stasis is a lovely lie. A dream of how to preserve life. A desire for it to matter to everyone else as much as it matters to me that my uncle breathes no more.

I wish this weren’t true. I wish it was possible to stop or even slow down, but even if I did. Even if I slowed down that wouldn’t make everyone else stop. And I guess this is the true lesson to learn from Star Trek stasis pods or Rip Van Winkle’s deep sleep or Ripley’s drift through space.

Although you can take yourself out of the world and create a false sense of stasis, when you return everything else will have kept moving. You then get the task of trying to catch up.

So while, stasis looks really good it is only a mirage and even if it were possible it would end the world for everyone. I guess that means we all get to suffer sometimes. And hopefully you have a bunch of tiny micro-sized people from the macro-sized village of the world who have long attention spans and aren’t easily distracted.

My Optimistic Who

For about the past six months or so I have been deeply questioning my faith. Entering into a new phase in my journey with God. This shift has caused my world view and overall life perspective to shift. I found myself becoming more pessimistic. Then asking questions about the nature of pessimism and optimism.

Lately there has been a picture in my head. The picture of my optimism. She looks a bit like Cindy Lou Who from The Grinch Stole Christmas. In my mind, she is surrounded by a protective circle of clear bright light. All around her though is darkness threatening to snuff out her life and light. This fragile image is what represents my optimism. It is something to be protected. Something to hold on to.

On a daily basis, there are at least 10 things I come across that could send me into the darkness never to be seen again.

I feel things. I don’t understand how anyone who has heard the wails of mothers gently holding the bodies of their dead children in Syria doesn’t end up in the fetal position on the floor. It is only the little who in my mind that helps me to try to see hope. To give the benefit of the doubt to people. People who themselves don’t hesitate to be their worst selves in front of me. To share freely with me the darkness and ugly within them.

In addition to this, I am not one who looks away or tries to hide from the darkness. I am the dumb brave individual standing and staring into the darkness. As tentacles reach out from the dark I say “Hi” and try to make friends with this odd creature. Where others run, I stand and question. I try to understand even to the detriment of my self. I guess you could say that I lack a sense of self preservation. The running joke I have with my husband is that he has to have enough self-preservation for the both of us.

Today as I did yoga and thought about the affirmation for today “I awaken,” I finished the sentence in an interested way. “I awaken my optimistic who.” In my mind, I think she lives in my hips. An odd visual I know, but that is where she exists. She protects my womb and supports my center and breath, my power. She helps me to feel sexy and dance and move through this world.

With this simple observation I realized that my optimism wasn’t dead or being covered by the darkness. She was just sleeping and I had to awaken her. I had to consciously seek her out. And when I did that her light would shine so bright that darkness could never overwhelm her.

If this was the case for me maybe that is the case of others. Maybe their optimism looks more like a bear and is located in their head and so when it sleeps it rests for such a long time you would think it was in a permanent coma and was never going to wake up. Maybe these people consider pulling the plug on their optimistic bear. What would it take to convince them to not take this action?

My husband often says that we are just in a swing toward apocalyptic themes in our thinking and culture today and eventually we will swing back toward utopia. That utopia will come again to fill our minds, hearts and dreams. I’m not very patient.

The thought of having to wait sucks. Don’t get me wrong I love all of the apocalyptic stuff. Maybe a little too much. I love the movies and the comics. But. There is a but for me. I want the light.

My longing for optimism is like the longing people who experience winter feel. You spend months bundled up. Then the sun comes back. When you get to feel the sun on your skin you have to smile because it feels good. You know that soon the birds will come back and the flowers will bloom and there will be spring and there will be summer. There is hope.

I want hope. I want light. For this world and those who are surrounded by darkness. For them I want light.

So if you happened across my blog and took time to read this post, thank you and I have a challenge for you. Take some time today and think about your optimism. Where does it live? When was the last time you tried to awaken it or feed it? Give your optimism some time today. Maybe then we can begin to change the tide of our culture and return to a time utopia and light. Here’s hoping.

Unrequited Like

I live in North Dakota. I am not white or a farmer or of Nordic heritage. This week I realized something. I like it here. It’s cold, the people are xenophobic, I have had more health problems here than any place I have ever lived (I am a former military brat). All this, but I like it here. Then why I am sad and bitter and frustrated? The simple truth is North Dakota doesn’t like me.

I haven’t been in serious like with something/someone with no reciprocation since middle school so it took me awhile to realize what was going on. I can’t ignore the tell tell signs anymore though. When I ask North Dakota how it’s doing it just says “Fine” and scurries away to avoid further conversation. I don’t get invited to any of North Dakota’s party’s; they are reserved for Norwegians and Lutherans or Catholics. Even the land is trying to kill me slowly. I am in my late twenties and my knees ache from the cold.

It sucks knowing the place where I currently live truly doesn’t like me and won’t anytime soon. Feeling this I can’t imagine how people from here feel. I have encountered a few who are different: feminist, brown, atheist, childless by choice. These people stuck out like a beacon of hope. For a while, I thought well there are a few others who stick out like me, maybe it’ll be ok. Sadly that is not the case. If you are different here the waterfall of sameness will slowly try to erode away the pieces of you that aren’t like them. Slowly and painfully you lose your will and desire to try to change this place. Why try for people and a place that doesn’t appreciate your work and will fight you every step of the way?

If these wonderful people who are different are lucky they will get out. I have realized that is the only option. It makes me sad. We could have been great North Dakota. Sadly it was not meant to be, but just like the unrequited crushes I had in middle school this pain too shall pass.

The Importance of Journaling

While on vacation, I took a moment to read some early entries in my current journal. I have been journaling pretty consistently since I was about 13. During college I started titling my journals. It was my way of naming the current chapter of my life. Then usually around the time I was about to run out of pages in my journal a new one would leap out to me at a book store or I would receive one as a gift. The next chapter of my life was ready to start.

For the past two or so years I have been using an old journal. One of the first ones that I started writing in when I started journaling. It was a gift from my Aunt that has guided questions in it. What is the weather today? News about family and friends? Current activities? What brightened your day? What have you done to brighten someone else’s day? Then a general section to account things going on in your life. At some point when I was fourteen I abandoned the journal.

As a writer, people often gift me journals so I have a pretty large collection of them waiting to have their pages covered in my words. When I picked this one up again to start writing in it I guess I was looking for the comfort of guided questions.

Looking at old entries from my 13 year old self the memories flooded back. Old friends, first crushes. The voice was so different than my current one. It was interesting looking back and seeing repeating themes and desires. Seeing how I have changed and not changed.

Then my husband and I went to visit the interpretive center where we were staying. We took our vacation at Ft. Stevenson State Park. It was our lucky day because the center was open late in the season due to a festival going on in the town nearby. The lovely old man at the gift shop said he was willing to take us through the small two room building and share with us some facts about the fort.

One of the facts struck a chord with me. He said that the General of the Fort had kept a journal. It was from this that they were able to gain an idea of what life was like for the soldiers. The man from the gift shop was able to share funny anecdotes about the soldiers and fort life based on the General’s journal. For example, through the journal they learned that many soldiers were put in the fort jail often. They were a rowdy bunch not just blank faces in an old photo.

All of this has made me realize how important it is to journal. To keep a record of your life. You never know how important that journal may be later. The perspective you can gain about yourself and about the changing world in general.

While social media has made it easier to keep an account of your life there is something false about this account. How many people report factually to their 500+ stranger friends about the comings and goings of their life? Social media has made each person a celebrity.

So this makes journaling all the more important. A journal is a space just for you and those you choose to share it with. There is no reason to lie to yourself about what is going on. No reason to try to paint things better than they are so that you will get more likes or comments. The blank page of a journal is a free space where you can share how you feel and what you truly think without having someone tear you down for it.

As we head into the second month of the new year I encourage to you to take a moment and journal. You never know how important your words may be later to future generations. Or even just for you.

Can We Just Be More Openhearted?

This past week as my news feed was filled with people talking about the Starbucks red cup controversy I rolled my eyes and avoided Facebook. I am sick of being a punching bag.

Fair warning, I am Christian who is about to vent a little and talk a lot about the idea of identity bashing. So if you don’t care to hear those opinions please move on. I don’t care to be your punching bag.

When I say I am a punching bag I mean that it feels like currently it is just fine to Christian bash. To say that Christians just need to change their beliefs or their way of life or insinuate that they are dumb or stupid or out of touch with reality or hateful or…I could go on but I’ll stop there. I am not saying that those words don’t apply to some who are also Christian. What I am saying is I’m sick of people using wide and vast generalizations and assuming that I as a Christian should just know that it doesn’t apply to me or that I shouldn’t take it so personally.

Any identity is personal. If you identify as a ginger and you are proud of that and happy with that and happy with that part of yourself it is personal. When someone says something not nice about all gingers it is difficult not to take it personally. Does that mean you should get really defensive and yell a lot? No. It also doesn’t mean people should take away your voice just because they don’t want their views challenged. Continue reading

You Are Not Allowed to Tell Me How to Feel

I am awake. I just had a nightmare about weird zombie government experiments. Sitting in bed trying to slow my heart rate I run through my day. It was a good day. Great time at work, finished a first draft with my writing partner, skyped with my dad. Why was I having this nightmare? The walk.

Last night, my husband and I took a walk. My dad told me about the father of my step-brothers. This man recently had to have part of his foot removed because of diabetes. I have been meaning to take better care of my body. So, hearing this story motivated me to take a late evening walk with my husband.

It was a good walk. You could see the stars and no one else was really out because we live in a community of mostly families and it was late. Most of these families were probably putting their kids to sleep. As we were finishing our loop a big truck drove by and when it was right next to us it honked its horn.

This sent both my husband and I into panic mode. Get home. Get home. We both sped up our pace and walked as quickly as we could. My husband reassured me that the truck wasn’t turning around and that it was ok. I felt a little better, but we both kept walking quickly.

Before I continue you should know that I am a non-white person and my husband is a white person.

Luckily for my husband and me the car didn’t turn around. This did however change our conversation. I mentioned that the other day I was walking to our car and noticed that our downstairs neighbor had a confederate flag blanket in their window. This blanket had not been in the window before that day. When I saw it I quickened my pace and tried not to think of it. After the honking thing, though, I told my husband.

Was this why they had never really warmed to us? Friends of theirs just moved into the apartment below us. What are their feelings toward an inter-racial couple? If I am being truly honest I mainly worry about their feelings toward me. In the eyes of people who hate, I am the problem; my husband would be fine if he wasn’t married to me, he’s white.

As we continued to walk, my husband mentioned an article in response to statements made by Rush Limbaugh in September about Ohio State University’s new policy regarding consent before having sex. He didn’t remember where he had read this article, but he liked what the person who wrote it had to say in response to Limbaugh’s comments. This person simply stated that you are not allowed to tell other people how to feel.

This instantly rang true with me, not relating to my identity as a woman but to my identity as a person of color. I told my husband that it would be nice if when I got into a conversation with a white person about race they just realized this simple fact from the article. Even if they truly do believe that racism is a construct and I just overreact to things, it would be nice if before making it about them and their own insecurities they could acknowledge something about me and my experience.

It would be really nice if they could acknowledge that for me every day I wake up; I am being judged by the world. That although the driver of that truck may not have been concerned with me, a person of color, holding my husband’s hand, for about a block and a half I was scared.

I was so scared that my subconscious tried to work it out with a dream about horrible zombie government experiments. If you have stuck with me this far I thank you.

After having a scary dream and waking up to realize that there is something scarier in real life, there is little you can do. I chose in this moment to try to help others understand what I feel sometimes. Even if it is just in my and my husband’s heads; we feel it. We felt it on the dark street corner when that car honked. We feel it when people look at us just a little bit strangely.

It would be nice if just once rather than tell us to feel differently people would first acknowledge that we feel those things. While this does happen on occasion it is too rarely.