One Year To Live.

“What would it be like if I could accept life–accept this moment–exactly as it is?”
Tara Brach, Radical Acceptance: Embracing Your Life With the Heart of a Buddha

I try to do a daily meditation. Currently, I’m listening to a podcast by Tara Brach where she provides hour long talks and short meditations. If you’re interested in these kinds of things, I would strongly recommend giving her podcast a listen. It’s free and it’s incredible. Click here if you’re interested.

Last week, one of my meditations was titled What Matters Most. She used our mortality to help the listener bring into focus what matters most in our lives. I was a little surprised by what came to mind (which is why I meditate). She asked, if you had one year to live what would you do. She also asked, if you had one month, and then one day.

It was the one year question that brought about an unanticipated answer. Before this meditation, I talked about how I would return to Hawaii and live out my days in paradise. Or, I would travel the world. However, the answer that came up for me, was that I would go home.

For me, home is a relative term. My husband and I have created a wonderfully comfortable and safe home where we are now. I love that it is home to so many people in my life. I haven’t had a structure that represents a home where I grew up for 16 years. But, the answer that came up for me was that I would return to lake town where I grew up. If I had one year to live, I would buy a home on that lake and surround myself with the people I love.

In the end, what matters most to me is quite simple. I want to be near the people and animals I love, I want to be in a place that matters to me, and I want to be near water. It’s funny how that all works out.

We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time. – T. S. Eliot

Live Long And Gossip!

“Harmless gossip with a girlfriend can do wonders for a woman’s mood and a University of Michigan study says they have an answer why: feeling emotionally close to a friend increases levels of the hormone progesterone, helping to boost well-being and reduce anxiety and stress.” – Science 2.0

I once had a friend say, “I’ve never talked about you behind your back” I didn’t disagree with them but I knew they were probably lying. If they weren’t talking about me they were certainly talking about someone else. And, not only is that just fine, it is likely healthy for your other relationships.

There is a difference between gossip and betrayal. If you spend your time sharing information with people that may cause the person you’re gossiping about challenges in their life, that’s not healthy and it’s not okay. I understand that the line between gossip and betrayal can be thin. However, the idea that no one will ever talk about you behind your back is delusional. I do find comfort in knowing that most people don’t really think about me enough to gossip about me. We mostly gossip about people in our sphere of influence (close friends and family) or celebrities. There is really no in-between.

“Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.”- Carl Jung

It can be painful to know that people are gossiping about you but one should remember that what we gossip about says everything about our values and what’s important to us and nothing about the person we are gossiping about. I’ve talked about this before on the blog. For example, someone said to me, “John (not the real name) is always on vacation, when does he work?” and I thought to myself, the person gossiping probably needs a vacation.

If I’m observing your life, I’m going to naturally focus in on the parts that reflect what’s important to me. I will then make comparisons and gossip about where we differ or where I’m jealous of you (it’s always about the person speaking). We make sense of ourselves and our lives by finding where we fit in context of a larger social circle.

Even when it’s hurtful, I know it’s not about me. Like, when people say I’m selfish for not having children, I know that the person speaking is likely feeling one of two ways: 1) they get a lot of satisfaction and joy from having children and/or wanting children 2) they wonder what their life would be like if they didn’t have children. Again, your opinions on me say everything about you.

Sometimes it’s beneficial to the relationship to get some of the feelings out with someone else first. If I hurt your feelings and you vent to your partner about me, it may take some of the edge off when we talk about what happened at a later time. The challenge with this comes when we don’t talk about how I hurt you (I can’t read your mind) and resentments build. It’s best to try and talk about it directly with the person at some point even though it’s hard.

It helps to be confident in who you are and know what’s important to you at this point in your life. This way, if you hear about people gossiping about you, you will be able to see that it’s not about you. Humans love to make things personal and a majority of the time it isn’t. It can be hard to accept my insignificance in the world. Although, I find it quite comforting.

“In small towns, news travels at the speed of boredom.”
Carlos Ruiz Zafón

Just Me And My Worried Thoughts.

“After all, what is happiness? Love, they tell me. But love doesn’t bring and never has brought happiness. On the contrary, it’s a constant state of anxiety, a battlefield; it’s sleepless nights, asking ourselves all the time if we’re doing the right thing. Real love is composed of ecstasy and agony.”
Paulo Coelho, The Witch Of Portobello

I tend to be a bit of a tortured soul. I spend a lot of time worrying about things (what could go wrong, how to fix this, what to do about that, what are they thinking, why do I care what they are thinking, and on and on). This is a combination of genetics and environment. It’s also never going to change. I’m never going to be a chill person.

Anxiety exists on a spectrum and we need anxiety to survive. For some people it doesn’t work enough and they end up in dangerous situations time and time again. Or, for others, they’re held up in a bunker lined with aluminum foil.

Then, there are those of us in between.

If the anxiety scale goes from one to ten, I hover around an eight and my partner around a two. We experience the world differently. But, being an eight is not wrong and being a two is not right (or vice versa). There are benefits and challenges to both ways of existing in the world.

If I go off the scale, it’s called a panic attack and I have medication to get me back on the scale. I have no shame when it comes to medication. Panic attacks are hard on the body and hard on relationships. I’m willing to do whatever I need to do to be the happiest and healthiest version of myself.

I’ve had people tell me that taking medication is a weakness. I smile and nod at their ignorance around mental health. To be clear, taking care of your health is never a weakness and it is always a strength.

I’ve learned to accept that I’m an eight (and a lot of us hang out up there). There are benefits to being an eight: I’m sensitive to the needs of others, I’m a natural problem solver, I notice little changes, and I’m attentive. There are challenges: I worry a lot, I can be a perfectionist, I solve problems that aren’t problems in an effort to prevent future problems, I struggle to stay in the moment, and I can be reactive.

In sum, try to love who you are, challenges and all. The goal is not to make anxiety go away, we need it to survive and stay safe. The healthier goal is to understand where you hang out on the scale and get a better understanding of how to best manage this in your life. I will never be a two and that’s what makes me who I am. If I hated myself for this, that would be cruel (and futile). And, if you are a two, please never tell me to calm down or that I’m being irrational. Just because I’m an eight does not mean I’m broken and need to be fixed. That would be akin to me telling you that you don’t care enough or that you’re a robot person.

“Don’t worry if people think you’re crazy. You are crazy. You have that kind of intoxicating insanity that lets other people dream outside of the lines and become who they’re destined to be.”
Jennifer Elisabeth, Born Ready: Unleash Your Inner Dream Girl

It’s Not Working And I’m Failing.

“I’m very comfortable being right,” she admitted.
 
“We all are. But sometimes it’s a lonely place.”
Susan Mallery, Sweet Trouble

I’m struggling in an area of my life and I found myself professing to my partner:

“I’m doing this and I’m doing that and I’m running around trying to make this better”

But, what I forgot to add is, I’m doing this and I’m doing that and it’s not working and I feel like I’m failing and I’m scared that if I fail everything will fall apart. More importantly, if I fail, what does that say about my self-worth. Because ultimately, it’s all about my ability to connect with others and not disappoint the people I love.

I think it’s hard for most people to admit that they feel like they’re failing. It’s easier to list all the things I’ve done to make it better. It’s easier (for my ego) to say I’m doing everything I can! It’s hard to hold the “I’m scared I might fail at this and that will mean I’m a failure (and maybe unlovable)” space so we run around like a crazy person or we numb out the feelings.

I don’t sleep well and these thoughts were flooding my mind in the early morning hours. It’s almost like, my ego sleeps, and I am able to access the scared and sad part of me that my ego wakes up and tries to protect with anger and righteous indignation (powerful weapons to drive people away).

It’s hard to admit that I might not be right and that I’m potentially failing at something. But, it’s an honest starting line. Things have a way of working themselves out and I know they will but I’m just not there yet.

And, that’s okay.

“We think that the point is to pass the test or overcome the problem, but the truth is that things don’t really get solved. They come together and they fall apart. Then they come together again and fall apart again. It’s just like that. The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen: room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy.”
Pema Chödrön, When Things Fall Apart: Heartfelt Advice for Hard Times

Can You Forgive A Cheater?

“Betrayal is a riddle we want to solve”
Sascha Arango, The Truth and Other Lies

The other night I had a dream that my partner cheated on me. I woke up in a foul mood and a cold shoulder in his direction. When I shared this with a friend, he said I should probably take a break from Beyonce’s Lemonade for a minute. I think he might be right.

It had me thinking, if my partner did cheat on me, what would I do?

I came to the honest conclusion, that if staying in the relationship was still on the table, I would probably do whatever it takes to make it work. I can hear the gasps through the screen. I can also hear those of you that have been through this all to common experience whisper yeah in secret agreement.

Is this a permission slip for my partner to cheat: absolutely not. Believe me, there would be scorched earth for miles in all directions from my rage (I do really need to step away from Lemonade) but I would eventually calm down and make sense of the wreckage.

Forgiving infidelity is incredibly challenging. Trust is like a bank account and when you cheat it’s a lot like filing bankruptcy. The relationship has to start over in the red and it takes time (if ever) to get back in the black. But, it is possible and far more common than people talk about. This is, of course, if both people are willing to work at making the relationship better.

Listen, I am not condoning cheating, lying, or deceit but life is long, if you’re lucky, and a lot of stuff happens in a lifetime. Let me also highlight that I am not referencing serial cheaters and liars. The old adage “once a cheater, always a cheater” is absolutely not true. With that said, past behavior is the best predictor of future behavior, so if your partner has pattern of behavior associated with cheating and lying (they’re the same thing) I would never, ever, encourage staying.

There is a clear difference between a lapse in judgement over the course of a long life and a personality defect. If you don’t know the difference, please go talk to a professional. 

Infidelity is packed with shame so we don’t talk about it, even with our closest friends and family. Most people don’t share the infidelity with anyone for fear that it will change how people will view the offending party and the relationship (because they often want to make it work and they don’t want people to hate them).

There is this misconception that when you partner with someone you somehow own them. This is simply untrue. My partner always has the choice to stay or go. I hope he stays but he doesn’t have to unless he wants to. I would never want him to feel forced to stay or obligated to stay against his wishes.

The more complicated and heartbreaking issue is when someone falls in love with someone outside the relationship. When this happens, reconciliation is rarely possible. In my experience, the physical acts of infidelity are seldom the death blow to the relationship. It is when your partner opens themselves up to an emotional connection that they can’t stop reaching out for the other person. Sexual intimacy is important in a relationship but not as important as love.

Nothing ever is.

“Forgiveness is not an event. It is a series of decisions made over and over again.”
Karen Salmansohn

 

I’m Sorry, I Love You, Thank You

“Dr. Len explained that total responsibility for your life means that everything in your life – simply because it is in your life–is your responsibility. In a literal sense the entire world is your creation.”

I heard a story this week about a Dr. Ihaleakala Hew Len. He is/was a medicine man/psychologist in Hawaii. The story goes, Dr. Len was hired to work in a psychiatric hospital but instead of working directly with the patients he asked to simply read their files. He took each file, read the story, and then mediated for several moments with the person in mind. His mediation practice is termed Hoʻoponopono.

The practice involves bringing the suffering of yourself or someone else to mind and repeating the phrases: I’m sorry, I love you, and Thank you. This practice is intended to bring about a deep sense of love and compassion and with this comes miraculous healing. With each phrase the person is supposed to pause and allow themselves to feel how it feels to extend those feelings to themselves or someone else. Humans are not great at holding their feelings, even the good ones (especially the good ones).

Legend has it, that Dr. Ihaleakala Hew Len healed the entire hospital with this technique. Naturally, most of me struggles with how that could happen. But, I have seen the healing power of unconditional love in my own life. Part of me can’t believe it’s that simple but as I watch the world around me perpetuate anger and hate, I think it just might be that simple. And, it sure doesn’t hurt to try.

I’m sorry, I love you, Thank you.

Love Loudly – Nathan Miller

Love Loudly

The phones are ringing, but nobody could answer. The other line crying and pleading to hear an answer, a whisper. Souls walking along where other souls once were, silence organized with constant ringtones and text tones echoing in ears, nobody could answer. Nobody was there any more. Names like paper, torn and shredded and somewhat pulpy, needing sorted and pieced together with trembling hands through watering eyes.

Beautiful, beautiful faces of our family, our friends, our lovers past or future, are silent now. No more of flushed damp faces glowing of colors in the lights. No more smiles while eyes closed, moving free to that internal happy memory or place of contentment in pulsing symphonic mindfulness.

Our faces, our hands, drenched dripping in the blood of apathy and propagated hate. Walking we leave a path, breadcrumbs to our pain. A militarized people is a terrorized people, and a terrorized people are a fearful people. To have hope is to have endured hurt, but in order to heal fully voices of those must be heard. How loud can voices be that can no longer speak? Must life conflict with liberty so? Must liberty conflict pursuits of our happiness?

Like endangered species and birds, we’re confined to our sanctuaries. Threatening violence pounding on our doors, clenched fists, knives and ammunition penetrating rattling our wired weak cages. Penetrating rattling our weak bodies.

To my lover, Orlando, I can see you still. I still hear your whispers. I still feel your breath on my neck. May my love for you elevate you. May our love, and ability to love, wrap us all, and begin to heal from this hurt. You may not be able to speak anymore, I will speak for you, with you. We all will speak for and with you, concerted to end your insufferable sorrow, our insufferable sorrow. Love cannot be contained, caged anymore. We need to love loudly. We must love so loud it will deafen hate. We will love so loudly, all will know you, all will be with you, and all will remember you.

Conversation Between Man and God

This Orlando shooting has me feeling a lot of emotions. I volunteered at Pride this weekend to contribute to a community for which I feel deeply connected. I keep reading all these comments about God and I thought when I talk to God it doesn’t sound like that at all. For the record, I don’t hear voices and I’m a Secular Buddhist by practice but I have a deep sense of connection to something greater than myself. I can’t help but look out at the cosmos in awe. Or, look at a beautiful flower, the faces of my nieces and nephews, and my sweet pets and not feel a sense of something beyond words.

How I Make Sense of God

Man: Homosexuality is wrong

God: Do you see that rose over there, I made it, just like I made you. Exactly the way it is supposed to be.

Man: My wife hates me

God: Do you act lovingly and kind to her

Man: I need my guns

God: You need guns because there is not enough love in the world

Man: What is the most courageous thing I can do with my life

God: Act in Love , especially when met with hate or fear

Man: I’m going to Hell

God: Why would I create you to throw you away? Why would I create Hell?

Man: Muslims are going to Hell

God: That can’t be, I created them too

Man: What’s wrong with religion

God: It’s about power and not about love.

Man: But what about, love the sinner hate the sin

God: Why do you insist on hating so much

Man: But the Bible says…

God: The take home message was Love. It’s really a manual on the importance of Love. Especially Part two

Man: But the bible says I have permission to hate/act violently towards people who believe differently than I do.

God: I created the people that feel differently than you do, too, so you can’t hurt them either. You must love them, too.

Man: I don’t believe in the Bible

God: You don’t need to, there are a lot of different versions of the same thing that really just ask you to Love. I didn’t just create Christians.

Man: Why is there so much violence in the world

God: Maybe because people hate themselves (and think it makes them productive) and perpetuate that hate on other people, including children, who then grow up to hate.

Man: I’m not good enough

God: That’s curious? Do you ever look at that tree out there and say that limb is in the wrong place? Is it a perfect tree? No, it’s perfectly imperfect just like you. I made you unique. It’s your gift not your curse.

Man: I made a huge mistake

God: Love yourself instead of beating yourself up. Beating yourself up only makes you tired and hateful. If you love yourself, you will be less likely to make that mistake again. It’s magic. Also, if you are loving towards yourself you will be much more loving with others. What’s inside spills out.

Man: What happens after we die

God: Something else

Man: Why do bad things happen to good people

God: I’m sorry but that answer comes later. The universe is a complicated place.

Love.

The Real Problem With Hillary – Bryan Worthington

The real problem with Hillary

I’m with her. I am a Hillary Clinton supporter. And as strongly as I feel about my support for her, and as much as she has been winning primaries and caucuses (and the nomination from the Democratic party), it seems her support is largely silent. You see it, but not on the scale of Bernie Sanders or Donald Trump.

Why is that?

We on the left, have never been so eager to swallow up the rhetoric from Republican candidates. We will disregard and fight against everything Donald Trump has to say on race, or religion, or just plain old hate speech, but we echo what he has to say about Hillary Clinton.

Why is that?

Hillary Clinton is a crooked, power hungry liar.

Is she? http://www.politifact.com/personalities/hillary-clinton/

No one has ever said Barack Obama was power hungry. He went from state senator to U.S. senator to the President in ten years. You have to be a little hungry for that to happen, right? Is that a bad trait? Hillary has been working in politics for nearly fifty years. A community that didn’t want her. She wanted it, and she found ways to stay in the game, to stay relevant, while routinely being shut out. Usually, we call that grit and we admire that kind of determination, but not with her.

Why is that?

Hillary started her career fighting against racism and fighting for women and children. These are usually things we admire in a candidate, but not her.

Why?

You only want to vote for her because she’s a woman.

 Yeah, well… maybe? I don’t know that that is a terrible reason. Someone who will fight for women’s rights is probably a good thing. It was amazing for children of color to be able to see the most powerful person in the world looked like them. They weren’t as marginalized as they were the day before. It will mean something to young girls growing up and women who do not feel empowered to see a woman leading the free world.

Look, I am not telling you to support her, I am not telling you to not support Bernie, but I am asking you to look at your rhetoric and critically think about the things you say about her. Where is it coming from? Why don’t you liker her? Do you really agree with Donald Trump?

“Look, if we’ve had 44 men in a row be president and maybe if we had 44 women in a row, it might just, maybe even this out” – Greg Proops

My Tattoos Are Trashy.

“Show me a man with a tattoo and I’ll show you a man with an interesting past.”
Jack London

One night, almost ten years ago, by best friend and I were dancing our hearts out. He was visiting me not long after I moved away and he proposed we get matching tattoos. I thought we were making drunk plans and I agreed. The next morning I woke to him looking up places we could go to get a tattoo in area. Next thing I knew, I was getting my first tattoo. It’s a purple flower on my foot. It matches the purple flower on his foot. In the middle of the flower are our initials.

On my shoulder is the word love. Anyone that knows me knows that love is everything to me. Love is my religion. This tattoo matches the one on my aunt’s wrist and it matches the one on my grandmother’s chest. My grandmother’s love tattoo is placed where she lost a breast to cancer decades ago. It is our tribe stamp. Do you want to know how tattoos look when you get older? Well, my grandmother got her first tattoo in her seventies and it looks pretty boss so I’m confident I’ll be just fine.

Also on my shoulder are crossing arrows. This tattoo matches my husband and three of our closest friends. It symbolizes our friendship and connection. I placed it over the love tattoo because at the intersection of my relationships is love.

I’m preparing for my next tattoo. I’ve been eyeballing Banksy’s Girl With The Red Balloon. This tattoo will be just for me and it represents eternal hope.

Maybe before you judge someone’s body art as trashy you could consider that what people put on their bodies has some significance to them. Even a bad tattoo or a tattoo someone regrets has a story.

“I am a canvas of my experiences, my story is etched in lines and shading, and you can read it on my arms, my legs, my shoulders, and my stomach.”
Kat Von D

Love.