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The Double Meaning behind the blog title 'Dream Follower:'
First, for 14 years I was a ballroom & social dance instructor, and have studied both leading and following. I feel that learning to follow is full of nuance and is often misunderstood. I made it one of my personal goals to become a really excellent follow on the dance floor, and will probably talk a lot about the art of following - both in and out of the context of dance.

Second, I am a huge fan of author Michael Ende, probably best known for The Neverending Story. The book is incredible, and the first film captured some of the essence. (Please don't watch the other two films...I urge you to read the book though!) Anyway, at least twice in my life I have been caught in a storm of my own indecision, and my inner Moon Princess yelled to my inner Bastian...'Why don't you do what you dream?' I tear up even now as I write this little blurb. The tension between being practical, keeping my feet on the ground and my head out of the clouds (at the risk of compromising my inner vibrancy, true self, and who knows what else)...and reaching for my true dreams (at the risk of losing everything) is still a very real struggle. In fact, one of those struggles lead to my 14 years of teaching dance, so we can see which voice won the battle that fateful day when I was staring at the want-ad...

And so I strive to be two kinds of Dream Followers in my life. One has to do with connecting with others, and the other has to do with connecting with my inner Moon Princess and the world of possibility that opens when I do...

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Congressman Swalwell Town Hall Notes

These are my notes after attending my first ever Town Hall meeting, held by Congressman Eric Swalwell:

I appreciated Congressman Swalwell's opening statements, giving texture and depth to my perception of him both as an individual human (a lone democrat in his family, apparently his wife and her whole family [from Indiana if I'm remembering correctly] are republican. he has two brothers and other family members who are part of the police force, and he was the first or his was the first generation in his family to attend college. he served for 7 years as a prosecuting attorney which has informed some of his opinions with regard to undocumented immigrants and their inability to or reluctance to report on crimes against their own person, and also the possibility they will be deported before being allowed to testify against those who have robbed them, for example.) I personally came away from the meeting feeling he is a compassionate, reasoned, well-spoken, compassionate individual committed to many of the things that happen to align with my own beliefs and priorities, but also extremely respectful of and willing to hear out constituents with concerns that reflect a more diverse population [for Alameda County this means inclusion of DT supporters and their concerns as well, which I feel he demonstrated a willingness to hear and represent today, in spite of one very vocal and rude outlier who seemed to mainly be there to ruffle feathers] I took note of many of the topics that were raised during the Town Hall, and made particular note of anything he pledged to particularly fight or oppose. 

In no particular order: He is opposed to the gutting of Dodd-Frank, because he saw his own parents struggle to finally be able to buy a house when he was 14 and he is currently a renter himself, and he specifically mentioned not wanting interest rates on loans to sky-rocket or fluctuate unfairly. He is vehemently opposed to the proposed voucher system and the push to privatize social security, but rather would like to see social security reflect the rising cost of living. (He did not make clear how he would accomplish that, just that he feels it should be supported.) 

He opposes wars being conducted in foreign lands under false pretense, and wants to prioritize diplomacy in our dealings with foreign affairs. He mentioned being in favor of universal background checks, while also stating that recreational shooting at the range or for hunting, or even in general gun ownership is protected but that there is no reason for civilians to own military style assault weapons. 

He is in favor of taking outside money out of politics, and now I'm jumping out of order, because the topic of the possibility of Russian involvement came up later, but he came out very strongly and said we need to set up an independent group to examine that possibility because it should concern each of us (Republican or Democrat) that it might even have been *possible* and we need to examine and introduce legislation to prevent any foreign influence on our democracy going forward.  

One gentleman asked regarding one of the ways we can work with a DT administration with respect to infrastructure specifically for southern Alameda County, and Mr. Swalwell shared his intention to prioritize the BART to Livermore.  He went on to expand on this later stating he will work with his Republican counterpart in Tracy to that end. 

Next someone inquired about the confirmation of Merrick Garland and he cited there is a precedent to even allow an appointment for a period of one year. [This was also close on the heels of another question regarding bi-partisanship not only with regard to infrastructure but that he needs to represent even the 27% of Alameda County that did not vote HRC, which is a fair requirement and he seems up to the task, to me at least.] 

He is against the privatization of student loan debt, and cited that the generation behind the IT boom Silicon Valley, bio tech in San Diego and aero-space in LA were ones that graduated college debt-free, and he seems to believe that investing from our own high schools all the way through college and making a debt-free public college education possible could yield another such boom of innovation. The next person brought up her concerns with regard to elder care, and he said it is up to between $8 and 12K per month for in home elder care or assisted living facilities (I nearly dropped my teeth - mom take good care of yourself!) and his response to that was that he felt that medicare could and should be expanded to cover those necessities. 

He is in favor of overturning Citizens United. He is in favor of bringing back the Voting Rights Act (I was not aware it had been compromised, but he shared a horrific story I have not had the chance to fact check yet citing a Texas polling place was put inside a country club, and if you were not a member you could not go in and cast your ballot -- I'm still recovering from that concept even being possible in 2016...). 

Someone asked if there is any way to combat false news and misinformation, but if he answered my mind did not capture the solution. Someone mentioned the potential (multitude of) conflicts of interest our President Elect has, and his response included a mention of the phone call to Taiwan, and he also said he would like to introduce legislation to *require* the release of tax returns from any presidential candidate. [again, I was not aware it had been a show of good faith up until now, and am still appalled that he has not done so...] 

Someone mentioned California seceding from the union, which he dismissed, saying we should fight to make it a more perfect union, and engage in the democratic process. Someone asked also about becoming a sanctuary state, and he made his stance known several times during his initial address as well as in his responses: any person who wants to be here, live the American dream, work hard, contribute to society, and be willing to sign up to fight for this great nation (he mentioned an immigrant who signed up for the military) is welcome in his mind, but any criminal with any skin color from here or as an immigrant should have their rights limited [which I'm not sure I understood correctly, and might disagree with him if I did understand him correctly] and be sent to jail or back to their country of origin. 

There were several self-proclaimed DT supporters, one of whom brought up that she pays $50K per year in taxes and is law-abiding, and her concern was that there was a double standard, allowing "illegal" immigrants to be here breaking the law while she is law-abiding, and we afford them as immigrants the freedoms and they are not paying taxed and this seems unfair to her. He made a worthwhile distinction, explaining that he prefers to call them undocumented because though many of them are undocumented they are not technically an "illegal immigrant" until or unless they have been deported and then they return. 

There was a brave Muslim woman who stood up and shared about her program, called Meet a Muslim, and she said she has lived here peacefully 34 years but within the last 6 months during one of these "Meet a Muslim" meetings was told by the person that he wanted to slit her throat, and she asked about safety and his response was measured, and one of the 3 times we were moved as a group (partially) to give a standing ovation was when he thanked her for having the courage and though saddened by the need for this program he thanked her for creating the program. 

Just under the wire, we got to question number 25 and she asked about climate change and he made a commitment that by 2050 we as a state should be 50% renewable energies. 

Which reminds me when he was asked earlier about jobs, he said we should be sure not to abandon those whose livelihood is linked with outdated technologies, or coal, or oil - that we should invest in educating them so they can be the ones to build the next better faster machines, the ones who can service them. 

I'm also reminded of the gentleman who changed career paths at age 39 to become a teacher and because of a CA program that amounts to not being able to keep his SS from previous jobs held, would otherwise be required to teach 30 years (until age 69) in order to receive his full pension, rather than being able to retire at an earlier age - and the congressman said point blank that was wrong...I'm sure I'm leaving out a ton of things, and though I've added a smattering of commentary I am intentionally leaving out the bits with the contentiousness because it was relatively short-lived and distracting and not productive, and it was important to see it, and see the effect, and also see how it was handled - with grace and humility in my opinion - by the congressman. I apologize this is so long thanks for reading.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

A Challenging Thought Experiment...bear with me, while I struggle through this...

Some minorities have the luxury of being able to commiserate publicly, while any attempt to unify by my ilk is met with raised eyebrows, news media coverage we never asked for and all the condemnation you might expect from a lynch mob or a firing squad.

Some minorities are met with bleeding hearts and open arms.

Some minorities write poetry, and are encouraged to find their voices, raise their spirits, and heaven forbid anyone threaten their freedom of speech.

But there are some thoughts you are not even allowed to whisper, except in vetted company.  Some jokes will even cost you your job.  Some ideas are so taboo you will be publicly vilified, mentally crucified, humiliated online, paraded and sullied and impossible to hire.

So there is deep-rooted anger, envy, rage, sadness, isolation for some minorities that cannot be assuaged or addressed or comforted...or even publicly allied...until recently...and even now it is unsafe to hold certain opinions or say certain things...

But now we have a very large, very public shield to hide behind.  And some of the members of this shield say and think things that are worse than what I think or say.  I can feel superior, since I would never mock a disabled person, while feeling a stealthy relief, and a quiet gathering hope that there are many more of us than I ever hoped or dreamed.  I see more than 60 million people voted with me, and I will never know if any of them agree with my specific brand of thoughts, or the taboo things our family taught me to keep away from "mixed" company.  (Pun intended.)

I can pretend in public, because the closet I am in protects me in such important ways, and the necessity of my closet has been bitterly woven in with our beliefs to fortify our anger and our hatred of whichever "others" have the public privilege, and government programs, and protections.

This secret can and must stay secret, unless we have established safety.  There are signals and code words, secret handshakes or phrases.  We are united online in new ways you cannot imagine, and now we have been validated.

We cannot seek refuge, so screw immigrants and refugees.  We cannot gather together in public, in protest, even peacefully, without being labeled a hate crime.  So we find each other, and we let off steam through private e-mails, private messages, secret groups, in person get-togethers.  We see hypocrisy all around us, and we are the unsung, unprotected, most misunderstood minority.

[I weep, because a part of me instantly celebrated when the West Virginian, Pamela Ramsey Taylor, and the Mayor, Beverly Whaling, both wound up losing their jobs or resigning after a tasteless racist joke exchange on Facebook.  In the aftermath, I tumbled through a series of mental gymnastics.  Ms Taylor and Ms Whaling were absolutely out of line, and now I begin my horrific gymnastics.  How would I feel if I had to resign after making a horrible joke about DT?  Did the punishment match the crime?  What sort of limitations are there on freedom of speech?  I disagree with their joke and banter, and I have every right to voice my concerns...but don't they also have the right to make their opinions known?  It is illegal to shout "Fire" in a crowded movie theater if there is not a fire, because it presents a public safety hazard, and would diminish the effectiveness of such an alarm in case of actual emergencies.  That is pretty straightforward.  I don't think anyone is protesting the limitations on freedom of speech in that case.  But if we want to rise above the times of internment camps, and McCarthy-ism, how can we create a safe space for the people to express themselves without fear of losing their jobs?  I want to make it Crystal Clear that I am not advocating for racism, sexism, xenophobia, anti-semitism, or anti-LGBTQ, or any other hateful speech.  This thought experiment is my attempt to imagine what it might feel like to hold certain beliefs - maybe because of a religious belief for example, and be blocked from safely saying those beliefs publicly.  I am still processing these thoughts and finding it very challenging.  There seems to be a swath of undefined territory between the "Fire" in a theater version of speech restriction, and the freedom we take for granted.  In that gray territory are statements that are considered politically incorrect, outright lies, and opinions that are highly charged.  I know people that are adamantly pro-choice, and people that are adamantly pro-life, and they can have a passionate debate, discussion, or choose to avoid the topic...but there is no shame in expressing either opinion.  One of the things that has happened during this opening of the floodgates is that it has come to light that there have been quite a few people who feel their opinion is unsafe to express, and this suppression has broken wide open, for better or for worse, and now we have to face it, learn from it, evolve.  (Best case scenario.)  I have learned more in the last 2 and a half weeks about pockets of privilege than I ever realized and it has been eye-opening, but this one...the one that I am trying to find empathy for above...has been the most challenging one to even consider.  Maybe it's because I am Jewish, and I find it extremely difficult to imagine anyone associated with neo-nazi/white nationalism as a fellow brother or sister in pain, hiding in plain sight, spending the last 60 years huddling in secret.  I do not want to call for empathy.  But my soul requires I consider it, because we must stop calling to squash entire races of "others" based on religion or skin color or sexual orientation or anything else.  And calling for Unity means considering this minority painful as it might be.]

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Why I'm with her

I think my grandmother might have wanted Bernie to be our nominee, he aligns with so many core-values I know she holds so very dear.  A lot of us still do love him and what he stands for.  But if we can't have Bernie as our nominee, I know that she would have been fiercely in Hillary's corner.  And now, for the first time publicly, so am I. 

She is certainly flawed, no doubt about it.  Maybe she comes across school-marmy to some, or triggers mom-thoughts in others.  Maybe she's not relate-able enough.  Maybe she is kind of boring, or a stickler.  Maybe she smiles too wide, or not enough.  Maybe she tries too hard, or not hard enough.  A woman being scrutinized for showing too little emotion (cold-hearted b*tch) or too much (hormonal and hysterical) emotion.

Sound familiar?  Being measured not on our content but on our delivery is so frustrating, I wrote a whole blog about it.  In case you missed it, here's a link: Just a Little Uptalk(?) with a Side of Vocal Fryyyyy

And all the avoidance of the topic of gender, all the while hinting and strumming the patriarchy.  We haven't asked ourselves out loud in a long time, but the question of a woman's place in society, a woman's strengths and weaknesses, a woman's temperament, a woman's judgment is hovering around the outskirts of this whole campaign like some kind of toddler asking why who won't be silenced by "because that's how it's always been." 

Maybe she is boring.  And steady.  Willing to take calculated risks, such as the (from his perspective anyway) low-blow about DT looking for tax loop-holes, which so famously provoked his "such a nasty woman" comment, which has fired up - finally (and hopefully not too late) - a *lot* of women.  I did not watch the Benghazi hearings, but I understand they went on for many, many (11+) hours.  I did sit through 2.5 out of 3 of the Presidential Debates. 

Maybe she will compromise on something that makes me very unhappy sometime in the future during her term.  Maybe she will continue hemorrhaging money into our military, rather than education, veterans, social services programs, or building a stop-gap so that Obamacare does not increase the premiums as much as is being predicted.  I would hate that, for sure...but I don't think our newsrooms would be able to keep up with the daily back-pedaling or weekly gaffs and scandals.  DT has bragged about being predatory/inappropriate with women and taking advantage of his celebrity status.  Whether you believe he was egged on or not, no one forced him to say the words, and no one forced him to feel this way toward beautiful women...oh was their beauty, right?  He had no control their beauty - it's like a magnet...

My paranoid mind is thinking the predictions about increasing premiums for Obamacare were released at a suspiciously pivotal time in our election cycle - was it to create fear and influence the voters to choose DT?  Of course the audio of DT's unfortunate bragging about violating women's personal boundaries also was released at a pretty strategic time to influence voters to choose HRC.  So this paranoid mind of mine begins to wonder what is at stake and who stands to benefit and who is pulling the strings, whipping the media's nose this way and that?  Have we all seen Wag The Dog, a brilliant political satire?  If not I highly recommend it.  But who is producing this shit-show?

At the end of the day, I am a lot of things, but I am also a woman.  I went to a highly-intellectual college where I tried every day not to allow my gender to be a factor...but it was a factor more days than I care to admit.  It was a factor when the young men around me would debate each other and dismiss my question or contribution to the discussion, or ignore me altogether.  It was a factor when my emotions made my voice shake with passion and conviction but my peers heard that shaking as weakness.  It was a factor when I started to slowly swallow my own voice, and hope someone else would say my thoughts.  And not just in college, because there have been times in my career as a manager that I had to get creative in order to get results.  I found a male counterpart to speak to a male staff-member because at the end of the day I didn't need to be perceived as powerful, I needed to get a job done.  I had to be willing to be underestimated, undermined and side-lined sometimes, and swallow my pride to get a result.  I am still learning to control how my face shows my emotion, and electing to navigate waters that don't require me to fake a stone face.

By the way, I cannot imagine DT ever had to swallow his pride to get results.  Just saying.  And maybe some of you are voting for him because you believe his show of strength will get results...and maybe they would get short term reactions/responses because he is basically a bully.  But I also think he would burn too many bridges, and stuff it to too many foreign dignitaries and we would be left cleaning up the mess in 4 years...if it can even be repaired.  No.  I cannot allow for that possibility.  The risks are simply too high.  We need someone more moderate.

I have never been married, but I have been cheated on, and maybe a part of me resents the fact that she didn't choose to leave Bill during or after the harrowing humiliation and public proceedings of the mid-'90's.  Maybe I thought staying was a choice that showed some kind of weakness in her, or that she in some way sanctioned his behavior by not divorcing him, or separating from him.  On the other hand, maybe staying takes more strength of character than leaving does.  Maybe staying gave their marriage a new dynamic.  It is not my place to judge, really.  But in a way we are being asked to judge who might be best at leading this country, and aside from policy their lives are also sort of on trial.  But why oh why is her marriage on trial while he has had three marriages, two of which began as affairs??  Is it still high school where if a boy is promiscuous he is some kind of stud-muffin and a girl who gives it up is a slut? 

I know that any political figure will have gaffs, and need a spin room.  But electing a reality superstar like DT whose sole purpose seems to be to stay in the headlines as much as possible (for better or worse) would be a COLOSSAL MISTAKE.  He has demonstrated to us in the last year that he does not have self-control.  He does not keep his cool under pressure, and he takes pride in being unscripted, but the things that come out of his face unscripted are nearly always offensive to someone.  He has not demonstrated a willingness to admit wrong-doing or wrong-saying, has no desire to compromise because he is only interested in winning, or screwing his opponent.  And he certainly does not have a shred of humility.  He is the classic abuser, in the sense that he tells you what to expect and also tells you you're gonna like it, and then delivers, and then if you object he starts calling you weak or sensitive or whiny and suggests you're over-reacting.

I hear the Donald might get his own channel on television...and that would be perfect.  People can choose to tune in and watch All Trump all the time, let him rant and rave and rally on the telly.  Like the evangelicals, he'll probably have quite the following and they'll probably even open their wallets for him, and fund him.  Let them make a program where they address him as President Trump and he can afford to build his own little pretend Oval Office and be like a little critic jabbing at all the mistakes being made by the actual current administration.  He could get rich doing more of that for a very specific audience of neo-nazis, KKK members, and other white-supremacists.  Let them have their outlet, they clearly need one.  Let them voice their intolerance to each other.  Let it end there, safely, in a make-believe TV-land...there could even be a children's show called Mr. Trump's Neighborhood.  (I shudder to think, but let them have their slice of the universe...just leave the rest of us alone.)

Hillary is imperfect, as we all are.  And she is not pretending to be otherwise.  She does not claim infallibility, or make so many promises of greatness or winning.  She is not as exciting to watch, perhaps.  But I think we've had enough excitement.  She is capable, and she is steady, and I believe she will win this race, and more than that - I believe she will guide this nation through some treacherous waters, while keeping a few important priorities straight, not the least (nor the most) of which is Roe v Wade.

And though I do not know HRC any more than I know DT, I see in her a breadth and depth of experience and character.  I see in her self-control.  I see her ability to keep her cool under pressure.  I see in her the ability to rise above conflict.  I see in her the impulse and desire to reach across the aisle and compromise - to find common ground.   She has demonstrated a willingness to learn and evolve, a willingness to admit wrong-doing or wrong-saying (famously recently the basket of deplorables comment, which she has apologized for) and the steely determination to soldier on through the thick and thin.  She has the ability and humility to shoulder the awesome responsibility of being this great nation's leader.  And I'm with her - 100%.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Donald Trump: The Accidental Gadfly

My own political leanings aside, I have to encourage all my readers to look up Plato's Apology.  (I am linking to a browser version rather than a PDF, but you can find several available by searching, and I am not vouching for this particular translation.  Full disclosure, it is long, but worth reading...) Before sitting down to write this, I had several interesting conversations which made me think back to college days when we read and discussed Plato.  We had on our campus a college paper lovingly named after one of Socrates' most famous nicknames: The Gadfly.  For any who are unfamiliar with this name, it is both a literal flying bug that is a nuisance, and in intellectual circles represents a willingness to be disliked - a willingness to play devil's advocate - a willingness to go against the majority.

Here is the relevant quote by Socrates: "For if you kill me you will not easily find another like me, who, if I may use such a ludicrous figure of speech, am a sort of gadfly, given to the state by the God; and the state is like a great and noble steed who is tardy in his motions owing to his very size, and requires to be stirred into life. I am that gadfly which God has given the state and all day long and in all places am always fastening upon you, arousing and persuading and reproaching you. And as you will not easily find another like me, I would advise you to spare me. I dare say that you may feel irritated at being suddenly awakened when you are caught napping; and you may think that if you were to strike me dead, as Anytus advises, which you easily might, then you would sleep on for the remainder of your lives, unless God in his care of you gives you another gadfly."

I told one friend on the phone that Mr. Trump might be a gadfly to us all right now.  I caught myself off-guard loosely comparing this unpredictable man to Socrates - a man characterized as having both humility and wisdom.  So I started re-reading Plato's Apology, and I was immediately struck by the similarity of some of the language to that of our unlikely candidate for president.  The name Apology is a bit misleading by modern terms.  In ancient times, Apologia meant "reasoned defense," and that is appropriate since it is an account of Socrates' defense at the trial which ultimately resulted in his death sentence.

I don't intend a side-by-side comparison, I certainly don't think of Trump as an intellectual, and there is no way of knowing whether any of the similarities are even intentional, or if they are merely coincidental.  On the one hand it's hard to imagine there is a calculated agenda or plan, but on the other hand it is also dangerous to underestimate the man, as our recent history has proven.  One small and unimportant similarity is that they are both 70 years old.  Another is that Socrates talks off the cuff, not implementing rhetoric that would have been customary.  And yet another is that he claims to have many enemies because of his truth-telling.  (Telling it like it is since 399 BC!)

Now, I have some friends who have talked about unfriending Trump supporters from their social networks and I implore you do not limit your news feed in this way!  We must reach past the distasteful memes and articles and quotes into dialogue.  The danger of removing all those who disagree with us from our social circle (either virtual or literal) is real.  One danger is a false sense of security, feeling all the world agrees when it fiercely does not.

We cannot afford to surround ourselves with the comfort of only like-minded individuals.  This goes for Conservative and Liberal and Green and Independent parties alike.  We must talk to one another if we are ever going to find solutions to problems.  If nothing else we can all agree there are problems.  As uncomfortable as it is, it is healthy to entertain opposing views, and search for common ground.

I am finding myself ultimately challenged.  How is a person who preaches tolerance most intolerant?  When confronted with an intolerant person!  If I cannot tolerate intolerance, then am I a hypocrite?   I may struggle to tolerate certain belief systems.  But if I reject those belief systems and the people who hold them I am no better than those I judge to be intolerant.  So it is easy and virtuous (some might argue) to extend sympathy to refugees.  And at the same time I am disgusted by the thought that I might share my country with people who believe in white supremacy, or any number of other hate groups.  It is a physical revulsion I feel towards a person or group of people that might be Nazi sympathizers.  And yet part of what makes our country amazing is that one group is not superior to another, so I cannot advocate for expelling white supremacists in the same breath as I advocate for allowing well-vetted refugees into our country.  (At least not without calling myself a hypocrite.)

And as broken and imperfect as our legal system is, I appreciate that an accused person is innocent until proven guilty.  I want to live in a country that has freedom of speech, and the bile in my throat rises as I attempt to state maybe that includes hate-speech...?  We certainly need to continue to have freedom of the press.  I want to live in a country that won't lock up our journalists for reporting the truth, even if that truth is unflattering to our other imperfect candidate, Hillary Clinton.

But planned or unplanned, we cannot deny the result.  There is something irresistible, we cannot ignore Trump or his words (whether we agree or disagree) and so many of us are whipped into a frenzy of either agreement or disagreement.  Either way his controversial nature and devil-may-care delivery demands a response - so visceral.  If nothing else he has become a catalyst for erupting thoughts, and many who have been silent before are finding themselves compelled to speak up.  And that is a good thing.

It is messy, America.  But maybe we needed an atrocious series of unfathomable quotes to come from a popular (!?) culture icon to shake us awake, and make us bubble it all to the surface.  All kinds of previously unmentionable commentary has found a reason to shout - some I find abhorrent, but all needed to find the light of day.   In that way we owe a deep debt of gratitude to Donald Trump, our very own accidental gadfly.  At the end of the day if these discussions and conversations have the opportunity to enrich our point of view, increase our curiosity, allow for educational cross-pollination then it could be an enormous benefit.  Conversely if it merely validates and galvanizes racist sexist neo-nazi or KKK beliefs then we might be in a scary place - but even if that is the case, AT LEAST WE KNOW ABOUT IT NOW.  Let the healing begin.  Who knew there were so many oppressed white supremacists, sexists, and racists just hiding their voices?  I happen to disagree and feel threatened by some of their particular rhetoric, but if I "cleanse" my friend-lists and social media of all Trump supporters I am sticking my head in the sand...and maybe I would be guilty of a social media version of the very thing I'd like to condemn hate groups for - intolerance.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Which Lady Do You See?

There she is...but who do you see?
Do you see them both, or only one? 
Or one at a time...?
The young lass with her fur coat, and a feather in her hat, or the old lady with the head scarf and the sad eyes?
Or do you, like me, go back and forth seeing them each in turn?

The mind is a tricky place this way, needing definition, needing clarity, only being able to see one perspective or the other in any given moment.  And the image is black and white, clear and simple, and in truth it is neither one nor the other - yet at the same time it is also both at once! 

Whether our minds can perceive the whole is another discussion altogether.  Our mind rushes to organize things into categories or as belonging to one thing or another.  The mind is restless until it can assign meaning, place blame, create order out of chaos.  The mind will assign order where there isn't any (like seeing shapes in clouds), and define things so it can make sense of the world again, and be at peace.  Sometimes that skill is useful, like with language, math and directions.  Sometimes that skill is even beautiful, like with poetry, song, music in general, and even observing regularity and symmetry in nature. 

And yet there are times when the compulsion becomes limiting, and are we aware when that is the case?  Can we remain vigilant so that our mind does not confine a lovely image which contains multiplicity to either one truth or the other?  Are we able to expand beyond either image in itself and see how the artist must have been able to see?  The artist with each pen stroke held in their hand the possibility for both images to be seen.  With sure decision, carving the line of both the old lady's nose and the soft chin of her younger counterpart.  The equivalent in language might be a pun.  Perhaps it is also a bit like a magic trick.  And if we can pull our minds back far enough, and appreciate the outcome(s!), then we also have a chance to expand our minds.

We can grow into "yes and also this other thing."  Rather than "this, but not that."  They are both there all the time.  They are both true.  And also neither of them are there at all, it is clever pen markings on a sheet of paper.  Yet it provokes me.  I hope it provokes you too.

Friday, October 21, 2016

The Floodgates Have Opened

I would like to give sincere thanks to this wretched election cycle for bringing to light so many of the topics that have lain dormant, roiling beneath the surface, begging to be addressed.

We have not reached any conclusions or solutions, and for those of us who have been on any healing process (whether small or large, physical, emotional or mental) we know that it can get worse before it gets better.  Old wounds are being ripped open again, plenty of our citizens are aching on both sides of the proverbial aisle.  I'll share some of my thoughts here, but I'm not offering solutions either, really.  I am (mysteriously, somehow) optimistic that once we all have a chance to feel heard, we can find some common ground - even though -

Anger abounds, recriminations, accusations, and fear-mongering seem rampant.

And in the middle of all the wailing and gnashing of teeth hope flowers innocently in me.  In my core, at the center of my being, I am grateful that we are facing these difficult conversations, and facing our shame, facing our hatred.

We each host all the feelings of betrayal, of black lives and of blue lives, the disdain for immigrants, and the gratitude for the courage our ancestors showed immigrating themselves, the disgust and shame and guilt and rage for ever having such a thing as rape, such a thing as abortion, or such a thing as machine guns in the hands of mentally unstable people, in the hands of children, in the hands of terrorists.  And the disgust and shame and guilt and rage for having allowed men of certain privilege off with a slap on the wrist, or forcing women with unwanted pregnancy to travel hundreds of miles or carry the child to term or pay $25,000, or not having responded with legislation in the wake of Sandy Hook, or Fort Hood, or Colombine, or Newtown, or San Bernardino, or Isla Vista, or why is this list so long and seemingly never-ending when we have the ability as a people to limit access to the tools for mowing down dozens of people in a matter of minutes --- not just the ability, the responsibility.

I lost the thread for a minute there...a sea of unshed tears, of hopelessness and frustration with a deadlock-stalemate-checkmate which would be alright if so many lives were not lost in this fight over power, over money, over legislation.  I do support our right to bear arms.  If those arms aren't semi-automatic killing machines.  No one is coming to confiscate the hunting rifles, at least I'm not...I think we've suffered enough tragic losses to introduce better regulation, longer waiting periods, and maybe having certain priors should disqualify a person from buying certain kinds of fire power...And more regulations equals more jobs...

And wherever we turn our gaze, the floodgates of opinions and facts and emotion have opened, and people are sharing their pain, their hearts, their minds.

Black Lives Matter, Blue Lives Matter, and I see the shining hope bursting out of the deepest darkest abyss, a female black police officer shouting her outrage in a video on social media and being seen and validated and heard and supported.  This world of false dichotomies, the suckers choice of pretend fences, as if there is a simple right or wrong, or a clear path or solution.

And refugees are merely an idea to most of us.  I have made many friends through the dance community, and even dated a handful of men from Mexico or Guatemala.  Maybe you can imagine being separated from your family, but this is different.  Living in fear of being deported.  Living here and knowing if you went home to visit you would not be able to come back across without risking your life.  Sending money home.  And then finding out your brother was killed in a car accident, and you haven't been home in 7 years, and you can't go home to bury him.  It's still only an idea to me, but it is an idea that breaks my heart.  And you hope you can be hired to do work that will pay you, without cheating you because who can you turn to if the boss doesn't pay you what they promised?  And what kind of a boss will hire an illegal immigrant, other than one who knows they can pay them less than any other kind of worker?  What a land of opportunity!  How can I want to close our borders when most of our American population is descended from immigrants ourselves?  Hypocrites.  And yet, my heart hardens and my blood runs cold at the thought of living daily as they do in Israel, and Syria, and Pakistan -- hugging their loved ones not knowing if it will be their bus that a suicide bomber boards that day.  I am uncomfortable with that level of paranoia, and so far have been blessedly shielded from that constant true terror.  But somehow my body understands the threat as real, and I cannot help but wonder and worry. 

And the amazing courage of a member of the LDS faith sharing on facebook about her late-term (but necessary) abortion.  Sometimes the worst choice is upon you, and at that moment you need the love and support of your doctor, your family, and your community.   Federal and state governments do not get to weigh in, do not enter the equation.  She humbled me with telling her truth, in spite (or maybe because of) the ideals she is raised with.  Thank you for stepping into the light with this gut-wrenching and tragic personal loss.  Along with at least a half a dozen more who felt compelled to share their painful stories in response to the presidential debate.  Women who might otherwise have hidden in the shadows, giving comfort to countless other women who did not know they were not alone, and that they are not murderers when faced with their own death or the unsustainable lives of their unborn angels.  Silence is tempting, and comfortable, but these brave souls stepped into the light to comfort others, educate others, and change the narrative.

And more women finding the courage to come forward and share #whywomendontreport, and the eye-opening stories that might give people pause rather than further shaming the great fictitious gender divide.   The writers blogging about all the things women face on a daily basis and are expected to accept.  Actually, no, there is no expectation...expectation assumes that it was on a list or on anyone's radar...but so much is so deeply buried in the subtext and underpinnings of "how things are" or "how the world works" that not only is it not an expectation, it's barely even been identified.  So well hidden, many (men and women alike) might even from within its very framework question its existence.  Non-binary gender identity may be what saves our human race.  Transgendered men and women may soon be called upon to bear witness and be our mediators in this battle that has been boiling beneath the surface for hundreds of years...because only someone who has lived life in both hormonal states can tell us what the common ground can be.

The honest authentic human stories people are finding the courage to share are ugly, repulsive, heart-wrenching, volatile, triggering...and what can be born out of this wreckage might just be empathy.  Bring out the worst, let it boil over, let the world feel seen and heard...

Perhaps the brave souls will continue to come forward as they have been doing lately more and more, sharing their personal struggles and overlapping loyalties.  We need, now more than ever, to come together in hurt, and in healing...and take action to weave our narratives into a new configuration.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Kinds of Currency

There are many kinds of currency, and it reflected in our language in obvious ways sometimes, but not always.

First, the most obvious which is of course actual money. We spend it, invest it, save it, waste it, gamble it (win, lose), loan it, borrow it, earn it, crave it, and sometimes some people even steal it.

Next most obvious is time.  "Let's spend time together."  "That is such a waste of time."

And then:  "Pay attention!" "Attention deficit disorder"

So how much do we monitor our attention budget?  Do we need to have one?  And if so, how do we prioritize?

We can be out of time, out of energy, out of we also run out of attention?  Are there things that sap our resources while we are unconscious?  Would we spend those resources differently if we were 'paying attention' to them?

A little over a year ago, I shifted my time/attention budget dramatically in the area of social media.  It was an important and healthy shift for me, reclaiming both my time and energy/attention.  It means that I no longer post on walls for birthday greetings.  (I used to log in each day partially to stay abreast of such goings on.) Now, if I send a greeting it is a private message, but in many cases I feel pretty sure people don't miss me.  In some cases I'll appreciate the reminder to call or text someone, but if someone misses me they can reach me and the wall post is such a tiny gesture, and some folks have even taken to shortening it to say hbd, so as the latest slang says: (which is probably obsolete by now) whatevs.
And then I took an extended break from social media of all kinds.  That was also good for me.

When I first started blogging, I had similar obsessive checking habits, and adrenaline responses when numbers changed on the statistics, or seeing which country was looking...okay, okay, I still get a big endorphin hit from all those things, just like when there are likes, shares, comments, etc...But knowing it's a drug has empowered me to keep it in perspective in some important ways.

Do I still spend time on social media?  Yup.  Is it an addiction?  Definitely.  Do the pros outweigh the cons?  For now, for me, yes.  I have my spending habits under control.

But on this topic, on a related note, are some of us addicted to attention?  Do we behave or misbehave in an attempt to get attention?  As a recovering people-pleaser, I can attest that praise is indeed another form of currency.  Some folks are on the other side of the same coin, craving attention in their case yields misconduct, which yields the 'reward' of punishment, yelling, time-out, or some other version of attention.  So is there a solution?  If you are a parent reading this, I'm afraid I don't have much useful advice.  Maybe notice trends, and then when your child expects a certain response go the other way?  I'm not sure.  Kids are so tuned in.  But also we 'pay' people compliments (a form of praise) which is further evidence of it being a kind of currency.

Now our language takes a funny turn when calling someone morally bankrupt.  We all sort of know what that means, and maybe we picture Harold from the Music Man selling snake oil to the good (gullible, desperate) people.  Or someone can be spiritually bankrupt as well.  Does that imply that morality or spirituality can be spent, saved, invested?  The way we invest time or energy into something?  Are those two things (morality/spirituality) even quantifiable?

When we've had an emotional day, we say we're spent, which I think refers primarily to energy levels, but does it go deeper?

And if these things are all a form of currency, how do we balance our checkbooks?  Is it most important to keep our attention greed in line, not have a deficit in our morality, or be owing on some mortgage in our neglected spiritual house?  How do we measure our overall dependence on these things, and how can we become accountable for our own balance?