Speaking Up and Speaking Out

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Image courtesy of: WritersCafe.org

Thanksgiving. A favorite holiday and this year a welcome respite from the cruel vagaries of the world. I had many conversations yesterday, of course. Two stand out because they are the inspiration for this latest post. In an exchange with my oldest son, he asked me if I had been writing lately. When I told him that I have been too overwhelmed by current events, he encouraged me to express myself. Later, after dinner, I was talking with one of our guests and sharing my fears. Wisely, she reminded me that those worries would be released into the universe. Instead, I would need to remain hopeful.  I hope this latest musing is a positive beginning!

When I woke up this morning, I made my usual cup of coffee and then took it back to bed with me. Instead of reading the news like I have done every morning for years, I read a few chapters of a Louise Penney mystery (http://www.louisepenny.com/). Lately, I have straddled the line between the need to stay informed and the increasing anxiety, the nerve racking fear and the crushing depression of national shifts that I cannot stomach. I have been wanting to write posts for weeks now, but I have been afraid that I may slip into overwrought opinions about the presidential campaign, the resulting election, and now its early aftermath. These days, taking any public stand is risky business and an invitation for uncivil discourse and cruel judgement. But this is something I cannot avoid; I feel as if I might burst from lack of self-expression! Admittedly, I want my opinions to be thoughtful. Perhaps this is why I have kept quiet in my posts lately. I feared being less than meditative. Plus, I refuse to be categorized, stereotyped, or labeled as a particular ” kind of woman” when I openly state my feelings or express ideas that may be considered “non-traditional”. But I also refuse to bow to the obscene practice of the monolithic grouping of people. This idea has been publicly played out in order to stoke fear and to provide a false sense of renewed power to those who have felt marginalized and silenced for decades. I believe the cause of this splintering is based in the unrelenting greed of those whose silver spoons are still in their mouths. The ancient practice of Divide and Rule has cultivated a sense of distrust and hostility between and among our citizens in order to lay blame on -take your pick- feminists, black and brown people, immigrants, Muslims, LGBTQ, etc.

Hate, condemnation, suspicion, and negativity are easy paths to follow. They hold the deceitful promises of a return to the “good old days” (to which my stepdaughter once queried: “What do they mean, segregation?”). It is hard for me to fathom a return to a time when laws suppressing the rights of others in any and all forms will become the new normal. I have seen it being chipped away in seemingly harmless ways (i.e. new voting rights laws, women’s health care), and it is up to us to remain vigilant in the face of further future repression.

I believe that our purpose here on earth is to make it a better place to live. To not only raise up and help others, but to also take care of our precious resources in order for future generations to enjoy its unique beauty. We cannot dismiss other people as less worthy because of where they’re from, how they  choose to worship, or whom they choose to love, or because they don’t look like us. It is simply wrong.

They are many people that I have met and know in my life who do not share the same viewpoints as I do. We agree to disagree and can also thoughtfully engage in discussions that help further an understanding of each others’ perspectives.  We may hope to change another’s mind but no one is interested in changing laws that would suppress another citizen’s constitutional rights. Everyone has a story or two to tell that has helped bring them to their own set of beliefs.  These personal tales of tragedy and triumph are essential to listen to and understand if we are to grow together and make the world better and more free for everyone.

I’ll close this piece with the grace I shared at the Thanksgiving table. Many thanks to Mary Luti, UCC Pastor and seminary educator (http://www.ucc.org/devotionals_by_mary_luti) for this gift to my email ‘s inbox yesterday:

for it’s an immeasurable gift to say grace with one eye on your neighbor, to give thanks with joy complicated by concern, to count your blessings while repenting your sins, to know yourself in a muddle, trying to be good. It means you’re awake and not sleeping, alive and not dead. It means God is poking away at you, and you’ve let God in.

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Moving from I to We

Image courtesy of: http://greinyphotos.blogspot.com/

Love, having no geography, knows no boundaries, weight and sink it deep, no matter, it will rise to find the surface. ~Truman Capote

Dear Readers: Please read this post I wrote four years ago before reading my latest essay.

Moving from “WE” to “I” 

I am a big fan of the writer Elizabeth Gilbert.The first book of hers I read was the best-selling, Eat, Pray, Love, even though I had heard of her work through other essays and in previous books, particularly The Last American Man. I will confess I have read the former a total of three times -once a year from 2008-2011!  The book came along at just the right time in my life and, although our journey’s were not exactly the same, I could identify with many aspects of the pain and eventual healing Ms. Gilbert had experienced. However, when her next book, Committed came out, I avoided it like the plague! I did not want to think about even entertaining the idea of getting married and I was convinced that if I read it, I would somehow quickly jump back in the game. To affirm this notion, I would routinely drive by a friend’s house (a common route into town) and see her latest man’s truck parked in her driveway. I would physically react each time, unable to fathom even the thought of someone else regularly taking up space on my property or in my bed. I loved my independence; I loved the idea of not having someone to come home to every single day. And even though the boys were settled with me, it never was the same scenario as having a partner in my home.

I watched as other women and men I knew go through separations and divorces. Some became unmoored in their new status. Getting through the day -or dare I say- the year, was just about all they could handle. Others seemed to relish in being single and were perpetually dating, often finding themselves in troubled or serial relationships.(All this in a small town-very surreal.) I was grateful to be both independent and in a relationship that provided me with the safe distance we both needed.

Life continued. I faced the good, the bad and the ugly and grew to cherish the life I was making. The love I had for my now- husband grew stronger despite the distance and we made the most of our reunions together. Always on the same page when it came to our future, neither one of us felt compelled to marry just yet. But our commitment remained steadfast.

An old friend TB once said “Relationships are like sharks, they must keep moving forward or die.” Living separately at a long distance is unsustainable (never mind expensive) if you want to build a life together. For me, that is what marriage means. Yes, it is a legal contract bound by particular laws. There are benefits to a legal union, like being next of kin in health care decisions for your spouse, for example. However, those laws mostly come into play when the marriage is coming undone. For some, it is a religious contract. Depending on how you view faith, those laws can either serve to fully express your union as equals or repress and oppress at least one of you.

I am at a point in my life where I have let go of the false beliefs of needing a “soul-mate” or in thinking that I need a man to “complete” me. The former is a specious sentiment espoused by popular culture. It leads people into thinking that there is only one person in one lifetime that connects with your true self. We need to release that idea. Instead, how about intimacy? And I am not talking about only sex here. I mean the kind where being naked with someone is more metaphorical. It is that place where only you and he (or he and he or she and she) live and talk and breathe. It is a place where it’s nobody’s business but yours. And frankly, my husband and I do not need to complete one another. Yes, we have a life together, but we also have our own selves and our own inner life. If  you know that and respect that about one another, I believe it can be a healthy, supportive and loving relationship. No need to lose the I and replace it with We; it’s possible to have both.

I have Elizabeth Gilbert to thank for this post. Yes, I finally read Committed, but only in the last week! I felt I only could write this after I read her perspective on marriage the second time around. Again, while our journey’s were not the same, I could identify with the struggle in moving toward it once again. Ironically, I was more ready to read it after I got married! I also recommend The Signature of All Things and Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear.  If you want a compelling saga with a strong female lead character (and then some), read the former. For understanding and embracing your creative self, read the latter.  ‘Magic’ was a Christmas gift from Jenn  (and recommended by Emily) who both serve as loving reminders that my writing is worth doing and pursuing.

 

 

 

Freedom of Movement

                                          Image: www.suggestkeyword.com

In my long running career, I have often been asked why I run. Or, are you training for something? ? Do you have goals? The answers have varied depending upon my age. In my teens, I was competitive. Therefore, I was ALWAYS training for races. In my twenties, I was either rebellious (refusing to run) or so injured it was impossible at times to even walk. In my thirties, I ran to get back in shape after my second son was born. In my forties, I was running to stay sane, struggling to function in a disintegrating marriage and an ugly divorce. I reached fifty. Free and forging new paths in my life and setting new goals that included competition once again, though never nearly matching the intensity of my teen years.

When I lived in New England, much of  my running took place in the early hours of the day, often in that space when it seemed darkest, minutes before sunrise. I would rarely see a fellow harrier. I didn’t mind and I always felt and was safe. These days, my route is different. We live on a  city park that abuts a bike and running trail.

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But sometimes I take the short drive to the beach and run with just the sound of the Gulf surf and forgiving sand.

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I run as early as I am able to safely do so. No dark starts here for a lone female. However, there are benefits to these delays. I see many more runners, walkers and cyclists. And the more I’m out on the trail, the more regulars I see. For a small town New England chick, it brings a sense of comfort as I continue to adjust to a more densely populated area.

And there’s a terrific variety of fleet footers out there as well. All doing their part to stay in shape, work on their goals and maybe even achieve a little peace of mind. One of my favorite groups to observe is the FAB 50 women who run on Saturday mornings. All shapes, sizes and ages out there working really hard while clearly enjoying the camaraderie. Whenever I see them, I am always brought back to the times when the sport was closed off to women. (Heck, I remember when many sports were non-existent for women!)  I know and understand the history behind the fight to participate in and create sports for girls and women and I appreciate the battles won, even more so as I get older. If it weren’t for the efforts of those unnamed many, none of us would be enjoying the right to discover and uncover parts of ourselves that we never knew existed.

Image: 9gag.com

It would be easy for me to write a political opinion or cite the landmark court cases and laws that allow me and other females to throw on our running shoes and shorts, enter races and compete against men, each other and ourselves. Simply put, this right to participate happened as a result of long struggles and hard won legal battles that in some instances seem to have little to do with running. But every single one of them is connected to each other and the present day independence from which women and girls continue to benefit.

Running gives a woman positive bodily integrity.  The sheer act of it is an example of how women should not be controlled by restrictive laws or narrow thinking that seeks to put us in our place or shames us into choices that someone else is making for us and our lives. Running restores broken spirits. Running returns control of one’s own life to the person it matters to the most-HERSELF.

So why do I run? I run to stay EMPOWERED. My goals? To remain a FREE and SELF-DETERMINED WOMAN. And what am I training for? MY LIFE.

This post has been churning for a while. The final push came after listening to Terry Gross’s Fresh Air interview with Gloria Steinem (ww.npr.org/2015/10/31/453029648/fresh-air-weekend-gloria-steinem-the-witches-carrie-brownstein), a heroine of mine since I was a teenage girl in the 1970’s. 

Gatherings, Gratitude, Guidance and Gumption

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Photo courtesy of D. Jacavanco (jacavancostudios.com/blog)

I’m writing this piece looking out at my new back forty; a verdant park is now my backyard instead of the long expanse of grass and thick woodlands. The journey to my new life is at once complete and just beginning. We were married in late June on the beach with the roar of the Atlantic and soft tunes of a love song in a circle of friends and family.

 The day was picture perfect-the bluest of skies, the warmest of suns and greenest of grasses. The party was held outside in the backyard, a culminating celebration and the best way to say goodbye to my house and land that survived loss and was revived by love.

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The boys had moved to a beautiful apartment on the other side of town earlier that month. We had time to adjust to being apart before my own big move a thousand miles away. Although I had been in the house alone before, it was never so empty. I had trouble sleeping, not out of fear but in the sense of knowing it was permanent. It was difficult to work with all the emotional upheaval that comes with making five life changes at once. I was saying good-bye to everything.

I went for one last big hike in the mountains with my youngest during that time- a necessary reprieve from the planning of the wedding and packing whatever I needed to bring.

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I said good-bye to my therapist- a woman who provided me with strength and courage  for a decade and helped me get back myself.

So, two days after the wedding, we hit the road with everything I had- and all that I needed- packed in the car. Books, clothes, photos, paintings and two cases of wine arrived safely  three and a half days later.

And, two weeks after the wedding, my house was sold. My husband and I are  at last making our own home together. At times, I feel like a stranger in a strange land. The climate is different-and I am not just talking about the humidity! I will leave the details of my observations for future posts; they are stories unto themselves.

Until then, stay tuned!

Small Matters

Hi Folks! This is a post that I wrote when my blog was in its infancy stage- 4 months in. Per request, my soul sister, Emily asked that I re-post it. That’s the necklace she made in the photo! She is a talented metal worker and silver smith AND she is making the bands for my wedding in June! So fabulous to see how life has changed for the better. Enjoy the story!

Building A Life Of Hope

Remember there’s no such thing as a small act of kindness. Every act creates a ripple with no logical end. ~ Scott Adams

Last week’s severe storm in my region had me thinking about the importance of small things in our daily lives. I was lucky to have been spared the worst of the disaster having lost power for just three days and not sustaining any property damage short of fallen branches.  I missed my morning coffee that I brew in the pre-dawn hours and sip while getting ready for my day. Luckily, I live close enough to a Starbucks which opens at 5 am. What a treat! I drove there in the early morning darkness in my jammies and hoodie and savored each sip. I missed drying my hair but I was getting my haircut on day two anyway. My hairdresser does such a great job that my hair…

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The Road to Completion

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The moon was lightly veiled in a frosty mist, hanging low in the western sky. I turn right on the road that serves as a low ridge for a sunrise view. The day was just barely breathing, trying to add its muted glow to this dead zero day. I am encased in Gortex, winter proofed and multilayered. Surprisingly mobile and agile despite being sealed and wrapped from head to toe. It takes mere minutes for my eyelashes and bangs to create miniscule icicles, the results of my warm breath meeting the crackling cold air. I’m reminded that my nostrils have hair, as they,too, stiffen in the chill.

Getting out the door for a walk or run in this long winter requires a different kind of dedication. Smart preparation the night before, added time in the morning to layer up and a sheer determination to just do it. Forget physical ability. If your head’s not in it, go back to bed!

I would like to think that my obsession with fresh air and morning movement helps me be less fearful, allows me to grow an extra skin layer of grit and toughness, maybe even a kind of boldness, a clarity for the day ahead.

I am immersing myself in this season mostly because I know it really is my last in this climate. I’d still be out there anyway but I feel more purposeful now. Time is roaring past me; the days seem to spin into one another. They fold and unfold in ways that put me in the dual role of observer of and participant in each moment.

Would I have this same outlook if I were not departing? I cannot answer that question fully. Would you dear readers feel the same?

Maybe we all need to be right in the midst of the microseconds of our life. Maybe we need to embrace the Grace, the Holiness and the Wholeness, the Light and the Dark, the Here and the Now.

 

There is no path to happiness, happiness is the path

~ Buddha

 

A New Take on Being a Bold Woman

Credit: www.pinterest.com

(with Thanks to Emily who sent it to me!)

I love new perspectives and interpretations on ancient stories. Specifically the ones you may hear in a house of worship. Two Sundays ago we heard the story of the three kings and their visit to Bethlehem. These astrologers believed in the messages from the heavens and the story goes that they followed one particular star all the way to the birthplace of Jesus. Their journey was loosely reenacted during a portion of the service with the ‘kings’ passing paper stars out to us. Each of these had a word on the back  and were selected at random; we didn’t know what we got until after we picked a star. Our task was to keep this word with us for the rest of the year and look for moments when we may need it or even use it.

My word was ‘boldness’.  For those who know and love me it’s a word that suits me and one that may not stretch or make me uncomfortable in any way (like a pastor receiving  the word “faith”).  I am a woman who is never afraid to stand up for herself-the strong feminine and feminist figure forthright in the face of unfairness and injustice. Yep. That’s me!

So this word, this word. What am I to do with it?  How will I use it in a new way? Am I already doing it?

Since the publication and reblog of my post On Being a Bold Woman, I decided to contemplate and maybe redefine (at least for me) what it means to be bold. Now, I know the year is young but it doesn’t hurt to at least begin to examine alternate avenues of how it can help me as I move forward into a new life in June.

Shortly after receiving this word, Steve (a fellow parishioner) stated that he felt that it took great courage to up and move myself to a whole new place especially after spending my entire life in this region (now that would be nearly 54 years!). Yeah, yeah. True. True. I am heart and soul a New England girl.  Give me hills, mountains nearby, the brisk Atlantic waters and the big white church in the center of town. A place where practically everyone knows your name. There is a lot to be said for that feeling. I will miss all of it.

 But there comes a time in your life where you have to shake things up. Make a change just for yourself. Small town life can be stifling at times. And things happen where you could feel like a stranger in your own neighborhood. Signals for a change for sure.

Moreover, I spent years needing to be outwardly bold -what with standing up to my ex-husband who attempted to leave me destitute and without shelter. Who, at every turn neglected his financial and emotional responsibilities as a father. Yeah, yeah he is a broken man but he needs to help himself now. No longer my problem. I purposefully carved out a new life for myself and my sons throughout it all. It was not easy and at times truly sucked. But here we are!! The life that was created simply planted the seeds for new growth for each of us.

Maybe this new boldness is a sleeping giant. The big steps may not need to be taken quite yet. In the meantime, perhaps I can rest. Conserve my energy as I prepare to venture into the next wild phase of my life ( oh yes, I do expect it to be!).  In so doing, perhaps I can reshape my definition of a bold woman. In fact, I have already begun.

Ready?

A bold woman does the best she can.

A bold woman asks for help.  She knows not EVERYTHING can be done alone.

A bold woman keeps it simple. She does not create or allow for drama in her life.

A bold woman lets things unfold. She is wise enough not to maintain control all the time.

A bold woman rids herself of unnecessary things. She creates wide open spaces and room to breath.

A bold woman does not engage in negative thinking.  She knows it weighs her down.

A bold woman keeps moving forward even when obstacles are placed in her path. She stays strong.

A bold woman stays present. She knows each moment is precious and rich with positive potential.

A bold woman always offers up to the Universe her highest wishes for the best possible outcome. In doing so, she dreams BIG!

 

So dear readers, what do you think?