Ignorance is a Selfish Act

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The New York Times printed a feature story the other day about Mexico City’s struggles with water as a result of climate change. Click here for the story.  I have heard frequently from my scientist friends that the last wars will not be fought over oil. They will be fought over water. I have friends in California who can tell you just how awful it is to be without water. For those of us who live in water-abundant places, we can’t imagine having to wash our dishes in the shower or severely limit how much we flush the toilet to conserve the liquid gold that sustains us. We are blissfully ignorant of how blessed we are to run the water while it heats without guilt for wasting it. We have no clue that other people in this world would literally kill to have our waste.

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Meanwhile, other parts of the country like my hometown get buckets and buckets of water dumped on them for days on end. It’s easy to say that droughts aren’t that concerning because there is plenty of water. But, the fact is that those storms are evidence of climate change. Because of the heat, the atmosphere absorbs so much water that eventually it has to dump it in excessive rainfall. California is experiencing it now. Louisiana experienced it last year. And, yet, still many like to think it’s a fluke that it ever happened. Just go to any scientific website, and they’ll tell you what is happening and what is to come. Here’s a simple explanation.

Our denial will be our demise. I am shocked at my generation’s incessant focus on its own immediate needs and consumption to the detriment of the generations that follow. I am saddened that we don’t put a priority on curbing those things that we know are raping our planet and our environment. It was really hard for me in Louisiana to be around the environmental destruction of plants and the oil industry. And I was stunned that these plants would have my friends working for months on end without a day off just to sustain their operations. In all cases, the driver is money. The more we do, the more money we pay you, and the more money the politicians can spend. And, yet, with all of the effort to make money, what I saw was poverty on a grand scale. The state government was poor, struggling to foot the bill for basic services. Where there should be prosperity, there was famine.

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I don’t even begin to know the answer. I know that sustaining meat production in factory farms produces gases that contribute to the damage to our atmosphere. So, I eat grass-fed beef if I eat meat at all. I know that fossil fuels contribute a great deal to the problem, so I drive an energy efficient car and try to make my house as energy-efficient as possible. I wish I could afford solar panels, and maybe one day I can invest. My next car will definitely be even more energy-efficient and take advantage of cleaner fuels. And I vote for people that support the needs of our planet.

I feel physical pain when I hear threats of hobbling the EPA, severely loosening environmental regulations and ignoring our responsibility of climate change. I feel physical pain when I see pictures of polar bears who are losing their habitat while we look the other way. I feel like I’ve been stabbed when yet another blow has been dealt to efforts to sustain our planet. And I feel guilty when I enjoy a sunny, snowless day in February.

I believe that God put us here to be stewards over our environment. And I believe that being a steward means ensuring that the environment continues to prosper for future generations as well as my own. Ignorance is a selfish act. 

Click these links for more information from scientists:

NASA on Climate Change

EPA on Climate Change

 

 

 

 

Channeling My Inner Icelander: Longings

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I spent another day yesterday riding the sugar roller coaster. “Just stop eating it,” you say. “It’s bad for me,” I say. “It’s poison,” say the books that proclaim sugar as the downfall of our health as a country. “It’s an addiction,” say the psychologists and substance abuse counselors. “It keeps you company when you are lonely,” says the addict on my shoulder. “It hugs you when you are scared,” says the devil. “And it’s just so, so sweet,” says my addicted, pleasure-seeking brain. Sugar’s energy sucks the life out of me. Its initial calming effect leads to an unrelenting anxiety. No matter what, I always end up laying awake at night in the middle of a blood sugar crash cursing myself for my dependence.

Today, I vow, will be different. For some people, I assume sugar is not what it is to me. But, for many, I can see that they struggle with the need to eat it for stress relief and comfort. I can see it because it literally shows up on us in anxiety, inflammation and weight gain. As stress levels rise during this time, you can literally see people “puffing up”. I feel helpless in my own spiral. But I know that it is not hopeless. I have been here before.

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Yesterday I read an article in the Atlantic about the stunning success Iceland has had in breaking the cycle of drug and alcohol abuse in its teenage population. When the country became alarmed at the addictive spiral of its youth, the country decided to get to the root of the problem instead of trying to manage symptoms. You can read the article here, but the goal was to teach teenagers to handle stress in proactive ways by working with their bodies’ natural body chemistry. As humans, our body chemistry helps us relieve stress if we “lean in” instead of “numbing out”. Some of get stress relief by increasing our energy and soaking in our endorphins. Others need to slow down to quell anxiety. There is no “one-size-fits-all” approach. Meditation works as well as dancing all night long. It just depends on who you are.

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I actually know what works for me. It’s a combination of meditation, exercise, eating right, real connection with others and reading spiritual material. So, when I got up this morning I made my tea without sweeteners and cracked open Ronald Rolheiser’s book Holy Longing. In the introduction, he talks about this longing that we have inside us as humans that is never really satisfied. This desire drives us. It drives us to seek God. It drives us into an anxious state when we are unoccupied. It drives us into all kinds of addictions and modes of escape. We are always in a state of unrequited desire. We have moments of peace. We never have a lifetime of it.

Twelve step groups say addictions of all kinds are an attempt to fill a God-sized hole with something else. We just keep trying and trying to find comfort but it never works. We need more and more to keep that elusive peaceful feeling. We all have different “solutions” to our anxiety. While I pound sugar to get that “high” I like so much, another engages in angry arguments to help them feel smarter than others. A credit card buys all of the things that comfort others. A momentary comfort is experienced in the numbness of substance-abuse. The credit card bills come due, our relationships unravel from the arguing and substance abuse, and my blood sugar crashes from the sugar. We are always left with the remorse and the emotional fallout. Peace – from those things – is elusive.

Writing helps me reframe my thoughts, and I think I’ll approach today differently. With the awareness that I’m feeling a God-sized hole right now for a variety of reasons, I’ll fill it with time with Him and engage in my spiritual practices. I’ll abstain from sugar and let the withdrawal take me. I’ll find a way to connect with others tonight and express my true feelings. I’ll eat something healthy for breakfast and do a yoga nidra… BEFORE reading the news. For today, I’ll pretend I’m an Icelander and deal with the root of the problem.

 

12 Weeks: Reflections on a Spring-Like Evening

 

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I got biceps!

I just completed my 12 week Virtual Boot Camp. My personal trainer Jessica knows the power of reflection. Just because exercise is physical in nature doesn’t mean that it only impacts our physical bodies. In order to commit to a program of exercise, we have to make daily changes in our lives. And when we make changes in our lives, we can’t help but learn about ourselves. Our tendency is to do whatever we want in the moment. But, when we commit to anything that changes our behavior and follow through on that commitment, we have to face a variety of issues that sabotage us. Jess knows this, and she asked us to reflect on the 12 weeks that we just completed.

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I started that program because I was floundering. It was right before Thanksgiving. I was still in the middle of adapting to the move, winter was settling in, and I was depressed over the outcome of the election. My desire to exercise was there, but the enjoyment of it was not. My energy level was down, and I was eating crap because I didn’t feel like shopping. I was stuck in a day-to-day survival mode. Planning ahead seemed like an arduous task.

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I reached out to Jessica because I knew I had to do something, and she suggested this. It was within my budget, and it was 12 weeks long – long enough to get me through the holidays. And the program consisted of three 30-minute strength workouts a week. I could even do them at home. I felt that was totally doable, and when I mentioned it on Facebook, two of my friends decided they needed something, too. We formed a Facebook group, and we were off.

Honestly, I had to drag myself through the exercise for most of the 12 weeks. I started seeing results about halfway through and that got me really motivated. I think I didn’t really believe that I would see dramatic results in 90 minutes a week. But, when I started seeing my abs get some definition, and my biceps bulging, I got a little more motivated. My main motivation was to get in a good habit of strength-training regularly and to do something that I didn’t hate doing. After all, now that the 12 weeks are over, my exercise commitment is not over. This is a lifelong, ever-evolving thing.

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Tonight was an absolutely beautiful evening in St. Joe. It was in the mid-50s, and there was very little wind. I grabbed Ashok, and we went downtown to walk. Throngs of people were out running, walking their dogs and enjoying the surprisingly spring-like weather. The lake was calm, and there were remnants of ice bergs floating near the shore. A kayaker paddled near the mouth of the river, and ducks floated quietly nearby. How quickly things can change in a few days … how drastically things can change in 12 weeks.

12 weeks ago I was 5 pounds heavier. 12 weeks ago I was floundering. 12 weeks ago the Christmas lights on the bluff had not even been strung…. our new organization was still but a dream … winter was just beginning with a massive pile of lake effect snow. The snow that was melting today was freezing into an unbreakable solid shore.

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When I decide that I want to do something, I have to face the pain of following through with that in the moment. A commitment doesn’t just happen. It takes screaming through an exercise that hurts. It takes starting over the next day after I don’t do what I needed to do. It takes support and encouragement. It takes reminding myself constantly of WHY I’m trying to do this. And it takes faith that even though I don’t see results in the moment, it will show results in the end. 12 weeks will come and go regardless. But if I want something different at the end, I have to do something different every day.

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12 weeks is a quarter of a year. Even though I muscled through a lot of the boot camp, the last 4-5 weeks felt different. I got more motivated about eating right. I started feeling better. I started feeling a desire to start running. I committed to a regular yoga practice, and I started preparing my meals ahead of time. I believe that when we make positive changes, our bodies change. Our cells turn over rapidly, and I am literally not the same person that I was 12 weeks ago. My energy is different, and when you change your energy, you change your life.

Now, I just have to decide what I want my life to look like … feel likebe like ….at the end of the next 12 weeks. That will inform my agenda for tomorrow.

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Whatever Happened to Kindness?

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The other morning I got up to do yoga. My yoga space has a small window that looks out into the street. It’s on the third floor, so I get a bird’s eye view of the area. I was standing in Tadasana, and I saw what I first thought was a dog. I realized in horror that it was a deer. It was walking down the sidewalk in my neighborhood headed toward the street. What is happening to our animals? And why doesn’t anybody care?

I feel really sad this morning. It’s the first morning I’ve woken up in tears in a long time. I thought of the deer walking through my neighborhood. Tucked in my bed with my animals, I thought of the animals on our planet. In all of the hiking I’ve done in the last few years, the animals seem to be gone. There are few birds twittering. A sighting of an animal is now a complete rarity. Sure, in Louisiana there was evidence of wild hogs, and I see squirrels here. But where are the animals that I used to see with some regularity?

I texted one of my friends in Memphis yesterday. She admitted that she was worried about herself because she is so depressed and crying all the time over the state of the planet and, in particular, the political scene. She’s even thinking of seeing a counselor to help her deal with it. Another one said her anxiety is at an all-time high, and she doesn’t know what to do about it. All of my closest friends are struggling with fear about the state of the world, and I am, too. My only advice is to grieve the loss of what we think it should be.

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I feel this huge sense of loss that people really don’t care about human rights, the wilderness, animals and – most of all – kindness. Somehow we have lost the desire to be kind. Maybe that desire was never there, and I was just oblivious. That’s the major reason I got off Facebook. I don’t like the disrespect and meanness that is surfacing. I can’t stand to look at it. I never could watch violent movies, and I feel like our society has turned into one. It hurts, and when I say it hurts and saddens me, I get insulted by insensitive people who see kindness and sweetness as a weakness.

I’m further confused that this behavior is somehow getting lumped in with Christianity. Christ is so different than that. He held people accountable, but his overwhelming teaching was about love and kindness to others. And it seems so ironic that this “majority” wants everybody to become Christian, but this need to politicize their agenda turns people off the Christian religion. I just don’t believe that cramming a belief system down people’s throats does anything for attraction.

Words like sadness and kindness and compassion are treated with disdain. Fear and anger have become synonymous with strength and power. Name-calling and bullying are encouraged, and arguing is now a favored form of entertainment. For empaths like me – and there are many of us – words like torture and bans and power and gag orders hit our bodies with the effect of violence. And nobody cares.

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Our political system has become reality television. For 8 years, we watched as one party dug their heels in like 2-year-olds and wouldn’t play even though this country badly needed their assistance to pass policy that would sit with everybody. The scene now looks like a bunch of incompetents who don’t know how to do anything but grab power for themselves. Who is caring for our constitution? As long as we can have our guns, we don’t need the First Amendment anymore. We’ll just shoot the dissenters. If the law doesn’t suit us, we just change it so we can slam our policy in place. Power is the new black. Billionaires are the new public servants. And kindness and respect have been deemed useless.

I don’t know what’s going to become of us as a society. I am very fearful of what is going to become of our animals and fellow creatures that are struggling to survive. I am worried about the carelessness with which we regard our planet. I am totally confused about our culture’s willingness to mock and set aside the poor and the disabled. I am saddened with the way people are discarded or treated with disgust because they have different beliefs and viewpoints. The losses I’m feeling right now are overwhelming.

I don’t want to be on a soapbox this morning. I just want to ease this huge gaping hole of pain. I’m tired of being called names because I want to see a world filled with kindness. I want to live my life in compassion helping others realize their dreams. I want to enjoy nature and make a decent living. I don’t want to be rich. I don’t want to take advantage of other people. I want to leave the world a better place than I found it. I crave safety for everyone. And I’m afraid that dream – just like democracy – is just a fantasy imagined by fools.

 

 

 

People Tell You Who They Are

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Yesterday on a social media site a young woman posted a question to her “followers”. She had gotten back together with a boyfriend after she had lost some weight. She wasn’t at her ultimate goal, but she was on her way. She was enjoying being back in his arms, but he got honest with her about the reason he broke up with her in the first place. He told her he couldn’t deal with her weight problem. She wanted to know if she should overlook this since she was losing weight AND she really thought they got along together on so many other fronts.

One of the things that has most surprised me about dating is that people really do tell you who they are. They will especially tell you who they are when you are first getting to know them. I’ve had guys tell me they were “pricks”, emotionally unavailable and workaholics as if this was some moniker that would cause a woman to be drawn to them. Or maybe with the problems they have, they were trying to push me away. It’s hard to know what’s in someone’s head, but I know that they very clearly tell you who they are.

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After I divorced and was in counseling, I decided to go back and read my journals. In my mind, we’d had a good stretch and then it gradually turned really bad. I found a different story entirely from the strokes of my own hand. The picture I painted of the man that I eventually married was the exact image of the man I came to know. But a different woman excused every message that was inherent in that image. I was stunned to see how I took ownership for his sarcastic insults. “Maybe I need to be more forgiving and less sensitive,” I’d write. I laughed when my words excused his inability to be concerned about my needs and feelings because he’d had a rough past. And I felt really sad when I penned comments about how I needed to eat my feelings in order to make this relationship work. He not only told me who he was, he showed me in spades. Love is most certainly blind.

These days I listen to what people say about themselves. We have this tendency to “correct” people’s stated assumptions because it makes us feel like they are being hard on themselves. “I don’t take care of myself” is met with “YES! You do!” followed by a litany of things that we see them doing for self-care. It would be better to listen to them and realize that in some area of their lives they may not take care of themselves. I like to ask for more information. They may be itching to talk about it. I don’t want to shut them down.

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The inauguration speech yesterday told us what our new President thinks of America. I laughed when I read it. It’s not the America I see at all, and his speech says more about him than it does the actual state of the country. Just read one fact-checking article to discover the truth. I know that he’s telling us who he is. And he’s been telling us all along. I’ve been listening, and I’ll continue to listen. But I’m also listening to the America I know and love. She is speaking loud and clear that we may be flawed, but we are a great country that has all along been making great strides in making it a great country for all citizens. I can’t go back to the woman who ignores the very real message when a person tells me who they are. And I pray that this country can’t go back to where we came either.

A counselor once told me that I have a responsibility to tell people who I am. They shouldn’t have to guess. I had never thought of it that way. I wanted them to look for it. I wanted them to see through my silence and my hurt feelings to understand how I felt. I wanted them to make room for me instead of realizing that I had to make room for myself. I was a stewing angry victim. This was a thought pattern that kept me stuck in every relationship and interaction that had any meaning in my life. I did not develop the courage to stand up and say who I was. Hell, at some point, I don’t think I even knew who I was. How could I say it? Telling people who I am is a great gift for me and for my relationships. It saves us all time and energy. And it helps me own my power.

“Thank him for telling you who he is and move on,” I responded to the social media post. It is a gift to know now rather than live with it later.

Grappling with my Shortcomings

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I am grappling with my propensity for judgment. I’d like to say that I’m open-minded – and I am. But I also have a tendency to judge that is causing me to reflect painfully on my shortcomings. Thankfully, I’m in good company. You judge people, too.

Making judgments hurts. It hurts the person being judged. It hurts me. It hurts the whole human race because we are all connected. What I find most sad about this year’s election is it brought to the surface many of the judgments we make about each other. I guess the perk is we get to see all of our glorious ugliness now. The Emperor is wearing no clothes. This is us. What was hidden at family dinner tables and behind HR policies at work is now written on billboards. We don’t really like each other, and I think you are stupid. You think I’m a libtard (Yes, I’ve read your Facebook posts). We are all assholes, and it’s painfully evident right now. And, quite honestly, we are a nation in pain because of our judgments. And I, for one, need to look at my part.

I went to a meditation this week, and in the middle of moving all of the other garbage out of the way in my brain, it came through loud and clear that I’m a jerk. Yes, I’m sweet and intuitive and care about human rights, but I have a propensity – when given the opportunity – to be a jerk. I have hurt people. I am probably hurting someone right now. If you hurt me in any way, I have this knee-jerk reaction to make you pay. It’s childish, and it hurts both of us, but that’s my dirty little secret. And don’t start judging me because if you are honest with yourself, you do it, too.

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You spot it. You’ve got it. These are some painful words that have an unbelievable amount of truth to them. I know, I know. You are not a sheep, and you don’t believe everything you read on the internet. But, if you have judged people for that, there is some truth that it pisses you off because at your very core you are gullible and – get this – you are a sheep that doesn’t know everything either. You have felt at the mercy of a system and a world that doesn’t give you straight facts, and you are afraid you could be wrong. Hurts, doesn’t it? “NO WAY!”  you scream to no one in particular. And maybe you do take great pains to not have a wool coat and to check your facts. But you know deep inside you have the propensity to be what you despise. And THAT’s what ticks you off. It’s not me. It’s what inside you that disgusts you. But it’s so much easier to hate me, isn’t it? Even if it hurts both of us.

I have wounds from past relationships. I’ve been emotionally and verbally abused. Those gaping raw spots in my psyche cause me to build walls when I feel that energy around me. I can’t tolerate Facebook, and I have difficulty even talking to some people. I don’t want to go there again. I don’t want to be a victim and feel that pain. But I know that I had a part in those relationships. I didn’t know how to deal effectively with that situation, and I participated in it. Now I have tools to deal with those kinds of people but I’m not real sure of myself. There is a part of me inside that is still terrified if I let you near me, you will rip my heart out again. So, what do I do? I cut you out first. I build my wall. And nobody pays more for it than me.

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I feel like I’m protecting myself, but I’m not. I’m just hurting myself in a different way. The wall gets thicker, and I get less connected. And if I really think about the “you spot it you got it” rationale, the reason it ticks me off so much that you talk to me that way is that you built a wall, too. Your wall is a wall of words that makes me less human so that my very being doesn’t call into question who you are. If you are railing at me, you can’t look at yourself. So, you build your wall, and I build mine. We judge and we seeth and we bleed from the inside. We both lose, and neither of us learns anything. Everybody pays.

I wish I could end this blog saying I’ve resolved this, but I haven’t. I’m grappling with my judgment. I’m bleeding from your judgment of me. I’m afraid of a world that is building walls faster than we are mending hearts. The word that keeps coming up for me is compassion. So I am grappling with how to be compassionate when I am scared of getting hurt. I sort of feel safe behind my wall. I’m struggling with how to be compassionate with myself for my own shortcomings. I want to be compassionate with you because I want you to be compassionate with me. I know that neither of us is anywhere near perfect.

It is an intrinsic human trait, and a deep responsibility, I think, to be an organ and a blade. But, learning to forgive ourselves and others because we have not chosen wisely is what makes us most human.

~~ Nayyirah Waheed, Poet

 

 

 

 

 

“Welcome Aboard,” The Conductor Said

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Some of my friends do not understand why I would ever come live in a place with a northern winter. I get a lot of flack from them when I post pics of this beautiful Michigan season on Facebook. I’m sitting here looking out my window at the snowy scene at the first glimpse of daylight. Frost etchings in the corners of my windows make the most delicate frame for the winter scene.

Why am I here … at this time … and in this place … AGAIN?? I’ve asked myself the question numerous times – each time for different reasons. Sometimes it’s in angst from the effort of moving. Other times the pain of loneliness begs to know why as I struggle to get connected. And just as often, it’s asked in a sense of anticipation and wonder. Why am I here? 

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I moved when I was younger out of a sense of adventure laced with some sort of searching urgency. I was looking for something. I’ve described midlife as a time of waking up for me, and, in this time, this relocation business has reframed to something else entirely. I’ve learned over the years – and the lessons – that everything happens for a reason. The urgency for answers has gone, and I find myself relaxing into the questions.

When I was first contacted about this job, I pulled the Eagle card. It is the first card in my Medicine Card deck, and it represents a strong connection to the Great Spirit. Eagle medicine urges me to look at things from the eagle’s perspective, a perspective much broader than a human perspective. My friend Ann reminds me of this when things get tough. Sometimes I’m happy to be reminded. Other times I ask, “But why, dear God, am I here?”

Loneliness is my greatest teacher. Being an extrovert, I have a high sensitivity to loneliness, but I also have this really strong need for solitude. Achieving a balance is critical for my well-being. I’ve gotten so much better at understanding my needs, but when events like a relocation happen in my life, the challenge increases.

This bench was at the top of a dune at Grand Mere State Park, and this was the view!

I had some energy work done with my friend Lexlee the other night because I was feeling lonely and low after the holidays. During my session, she said the Eagle came to her. It was a reminder of my purpose here, and she reiterated the assurance that ‘Every step has a reason.’ I pulled a card the next morning to see how I could “step into” Eagle energy because right now it seems a bit unreachable. Wolf appeared to me and reminded me that I am a teacher. And right in the middle of the reading for the card, wolf medicine urges me to “seek out lonely places that will allow you to see your teacher within. In the aloneness of a power place, devoid of other humans, you may find the true you.”

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I still don’t know the answer to “Why Am I Here?” I may never know the answer. But I do know that there is a reason I am here. I have learned that God does not send me anywhere for a job. He sends me to places because I need to be in a specific place with a certain group of people at a certain time. I imagine myself boarding this Southwest Michigan passenger train at this moment in time,  and none of us really knows where we are going or why we are aboard. We could be riding together for a long time or a short distance, but when I think of how this all came about there is no doubt that I landed here on the wings of eagles. So, I’m just trying to step into my own best self and contribute what I think is mine to give.

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Last week I hiked in Grand Mere State Park. Like Warren Dunes, it is a beautiful place with woods and enormous sand dunes overlooking that jewel Lake Michigan. I stood on the top of a dune and looked around. “Why am I here?” I said aloud. Without even knowing that I would later that evening brush wings with eagle, I felt her presence. The view was incredible, and I was literally on top of my world. The sting of loneliness ebbed beneath the surface of my heart, but the magic of this transition held me captive emotionally. “You know why you are here,” eagle answered back as she descended upon me playfully. My soul resonated with the knowing that this is a spiritual journey that led me to the top of a dune in a very cold place alive with a warm and inviting spirit.

“Welcome Aboard,” the conductor said. “Enjoy your ride.”

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Winter Moments

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It’s cold everywhere today. My Memphis friends are checking in with snow photos from a long snowy day at home. A friend from Baton Rouge called me to laughingly inform me it was 38 degrees, and Louisiana was officially shutting down. My old boss texted me a photo of an icy drive home in North Louisiana. All evidence says that winter is settling in even in the deep south.

As for me, I shoveled snow twice today although my snow removal person told me we didn’t have enough snow for him to worry about. I informed him that I was Southern and wouldn’t know how much snow was enough to shovel. He told me that this snow was powdery and nice, but if it’s a wet snow, I’d need to have it shoveled. “It all depends on the type of snow,” he said. I reminded him again that I was Southern, and I wouldn’t know the difference in types of snow. He left with an assurance that I would figure it out, and that he would help me when it gets too bad to get out of my driveway. And he wouldn’t even let me pay him.

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This morning I had to be at work for 6:30, so I drove to work in complete darkness. But it was so beautiful out. The roads were completely covered in snow as the plows had not gotten cranked up yet. The bridge over the St. Joseph River was icy and snowy, and it all looked like a perfect winter wonderland. Christmas lights still burn up here because … well… it still looks like Christmas. As I left the edge of town and hit the country road leading to Whirlpool’s campus, it got darker. The snow was blowing sideways in the wind, and I felt myself start to smile this really big grin.

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I slowed down for the Whirlpool parking lot which was almost completely empty except for a car that had been left overnight and one or two others from my team. The parking lot was not cleared, so my tires squeaked on the freshly fallen layer of snow. I parked under the lights and jumped out of the car. With the delight of a child at 6:20 in the morning, I took some pictures of my workplace lit up in the snow. I looked around and realized that no picture could capture the moment in this snowstorm. The scene was only mine to see.

I’ve felt it many times since I’ve been here. Standing on top of the dunes at Grand Mere or Warren Dunes State Park, driving through corn fields in late summer, freezing at the end of the pier by the St. Joe lighthouse in a vicious wind…. the raw beauty of it all ignites something inside of me that makes me feel quite young again. Even while I’m out shoveling snow in the darkness with my dog running around rolling in the snow I feel this sense of adventure… a knowing that this life is short, and this moment – all moments – are fleeting.

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Tonight I bundled up – 13 degrees and dropping – and took Ashok for a walk. I finally found some little booties that work, and she looked so cute plodding around in them. I was wrapped up in my down parka, $75 technical gloves that still don’t keep my fingers warm and my snow boots. We trudged across snowbanks and shoveled walks. The snow was coming down hard and fast, and the Christmas lights twinkled an assortment of colors.

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I let Ashok loose in a field of snow, and she raced in circles, rolling in the snow every few seconds. She ran back toward me and gazed at me in a downward-facing dog position. She was completely covered in snow. Her black fur made a shadowy outline around her eyes. For a moment, I really regretted that I didn’t bring a camera. I giggled because she looked so funny. And, just like this morning, I realized that some moments are not meant to be captured. They are only meant to be lived.

Enjoy winter, my friends – whether you have it for a day or for a season, it’s meant for inward reflection and downtime. Fix a hot chocolate and cuddle up with a loved one. Tomorrow, this moment will be history.

You Do You, Boo

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My friend Betsy replied to my post last night about my underlying sadness. I was struggling to put words to my feelings, but she sort of hit it dead on.

“I think the underlying sadness is this feeling that we expected something different at this point in our lives. Almost like it’s not supposed to be this hard or this lonely. That we fight so hard to get to the good moments that once they come we cling to them as they are so fragile and as they slip away that undercurrent is waiting to drag us down. But we fight to stay above it…. fight to find our way back to those fleeting moments of pure happiness and contentment. When I have them, I stop, stand completely still, and just take a deep breath. Breathing in the relief that comes with it. Breathing it up to bottle for later when the sadness threatens again. ”

~~ Betsy

This is the dilemma of midlife, right? It is one of the most amazing times I’ve ever experienced with its knowing and non-stop questions and insights. Sometimes I think when I hit 45, I slammed into a wall and woke up.

I really have worked hard to stay awake. I did my therapy and recovery work to take care of my addictions and compulsions that drove me like a driverless bus throughout my early life. I learned what works for me spiritually, and I’ve made big efforts to set boundaries around evil in my life so that I can focus on what is light and good. I’ve simplified, and I try to spend my time enjoying myself and the world around me. And I’ve made major strides in developing connecting and loving relationships with lots of safe people. And, I have to say that my life is good. I’m more content than I’ve ever been. I know how to “do me”.

When I was moving up here, I called my sister, and I was discussing my fears about moving and my angst about whether or not I was doing the right thing. I feel so out of step with most of the world because I’ve lived my life differently. I have no husband, no children, and I focus on a different agenda than our mainstream culture. And here I was – at 55 – moving again for a new job in a frozen tundra. I was worried I was too different and what if I look back at some future date and realize that I’ve done this whole thing wrong. “But that’s not you, Sharon,” she said, stopping my anxious rant in its tracks. “You have to do you, Boo,” she added.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized two things. The world as we know it is one big dysfunctional game. And I don’t want to play it anymore. This one spin around the world is way too important to me to play meaningless games. I don’t want to play political games at work. I don’t want to play passive-aggressive games in relationships. I don’t even much like to play board games although I’m starting to realize it’s a great way to connect with people. I’m working really hard to get out of the game-playing, manipulative culture. But it’s not easy. The world is fast asleep on its own driverless bus, and it’s not my job to wake it up.

It can be disorienting at times to feel like I’m peering through the looking glass. Thankfully, I have lots of awake friends who listen and help keep me on track. Like my sister, they are aware of their internal compass. They are aware that living life mindfully is a choice that is not easy to navigate. They understand that loss is a natural thing, and we have tools that help move us through it rather than denying its existence. And like my friend Betsy, they treasure the fleeting moments of contentment and serenity.

I only know my experience of midlife, and I think this time is truly magical. I love having more comfort with who I am. I treasure the awareness that I can choose when to engage and when to step away. Making a choice is empowering. It’s cool to have all of these life experiences that I can use to understand who I am and what makes me tick. My history is a treasure chest of trinkets – some broken or corroded and some completely intact – for reflection and study. My emotions no longer ebb and flow on a hormonal cycle, and I can more easily see how they relate to my experience. The urgency of youth has been replaced with a more grounded urgency to live my life authentically. This time in life is so rich.

I did expect something different at this time in my life. But I think if I had created what I expected, I might still be comfortable sleeping. I can never know for sure, but I think that somehow, unwittingly and against all odds, I became who I was born to be. It’s not anywhere near perfect, but I think it’s perfect for me.

The Raw, Frozen Shelf of Sadness

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I had lunch with a friend today. We both admitted we were feeling an undercurrent of sadness. My underlying low energy keeps me on the verge of bursting into tears. But, then I exercise or go for a walk or go to bed, and I’m fine. I think it’s the holidays and the expectations and newness of the landscape here. It could also be eating too much sugar which tends to spiral me into a low as well. I don’t know what it is. But, whatever it is, it’s there, bubbling beneath the surface in a slow, spiky ebb.

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Yesterday, I took a hike at Saugatuck Dunes State Park. Once again, I was surprised at the number of people out hiking in the snow. One of the guys from the Meetup group in Grand Rapids met me, and we headed through the woods ending up on the beach beside Lake Michigan.

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Because of the waves and the surf, Lake Michigan doesn’t freeze in a solid piece of ice. The waves wash over each other, and tiny droplets freeze slowly. The freezing starts in the shallowest spots and builds until there is a very deep and wide ice “shelf” leading out to the lake. It has been warming up for several days, so I was surprised to see so much ice yesterday. The “shelf” which resembles a large iceberg covered in snow ran about 40 yards into the lake for as far as I could see on the lakefront. We even climbed up a large dune and took in a great view on down the shore. It was so beautiful and raw. Unless we had hiked that trail, we would have never gotten that vantage point. Such is the reward of hiking.

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Today, the sun came out, and the temperature rose enough to melt almost all of the snow around my house and down the street. Last night when Ashok went out, she had to wade through snow. This morning at 5:30 AM, she was walking on grass. She looked confused as she’s spent several weeks with no view of the ground. I felt sad that it was melted, but it was nice to feel the sun on my back and wear only a sweater when we took our daily walk. For the first time in awhile, I could wear tennis shoes, and we could walk on the sidewalks clear of snow and ice. It was easier, but it sure wasn’t as pretty.

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This reaction that water has to the Northern winter is so interesting to see. The ice and snow are tangible evidence that the temperature is rising or falling, and the form of it all is dependent on the winds that blow it around. And as quickly as it forms, it can just as quickly dissipate. It provides an ever-evolving landscape in the backdrop of my life.

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I really wanted to walk out on that ice shelf yesterday, but with the warmer temperatures, it was way too risky. You can’t see it in the pictures, but the “cliff” side of the ice on the water was probably 4 – 5 feet thick. I wanted to walk to the edge and look down into the water. Near the shore, the ice, snow, sand and water sculpted these beautiful patterns that were constantly evolving as the temperatures dipped and rose. Frozen boulders of sand and snow lined the bank. Ashok drank from the water in one spot and was surprised when she licked ice in another because she could see the water running freely below.

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My sadness feels a little like that today. It is sort of running gently underneath the surface. I don’t really feel a need to express it, but I don’t want to hold it in either. So, it trickles for a moment – surfacing before it ducks back under my emotional shell. I could pick at it or stick a stick through it, but I think I’ll wait. Maybe the writing will melt the ice, and I can freely touch its cold embrace.

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It helped to talk to Nancy today. There’s really nothing to do about sadness. At this point in our lives it is inescapable at times. Looking back provides context, and looking forward provides hope. But in the present we feel the formations caused by the collision of outside elements with our inner makeup and wounds. Sometimes it’s tastefully drinkable. Other times our emotion trickles gently under the surface with no reason to escape. Some days its rawness can be downright stormy. My heart searches for the beauty in all of it. For in every moment, the only truth is that “this, too, shall pass.” It would be a shame to miss a moment of it.

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