Friday, January 20, 2017

The Lesson of a Donald Trump Presidency

I have started many post election missives.  And I write and I get worked up and angry and that is not the place I want to come from and I don't finish them.  I'm really going to try to finish in the spirit that it is intended today.  But that spirit is being lost as events and facts continue to unfold and it's even more disheartening.  What is going on is not about politics as usual whatsoever.

I see and hear the frustration on all sides.  The frustration that led unemployed workers in Erie, PA to vote for Trump out of desperation even though they wished he would stop talking a certain way.  Coal miners need jobs yet they are benefiting from ACA and don't think he will really dismantle it.  (How does one choose which thing to believe of what he says? )  I understand those who want change and there was too much progress to handle.  Two months ago, I was stunned but understood those reasons why he was elected.  But now, it's a different story.  There is Russian involvement and that unfolds each day, and Comey and FBI interference.

There is also no transparency of any sort with the businesses that PEOTUS and his family hold, just his word is given to us.  And Kellyanne Conway says not to listen to his words but know his heart.  The heart who degrades anybody who disagrees with him, openly mocked a disabled reporter and grabs pussy because he can.

In the words of the Kentwood native, Oops, I did it again,  I started going off.  Deep breath. Each time I write it boils down to this, the most important occurrence from Nov 8th was...

Decency died.

Do I have to list the reasons why?  If you are reading this, then not likely.

The list is long and there are new reasons each and every day.

Does he really care about Americans?  Or did he just want to WIN!  Did he want retaliation from Obama humiliating him at the 2011 White House Correspondence dinner?  The lesson that his father taught him was all about winning and not being a loser.

This notion of winning really goes deep with a painful tragedy within his family. His father, Fred, Sr. and Donald repeatedly told his brother, Fred Jr, who was eight years older than Donald, that he was a loser because he did not have that killer instinct for the family business.  Fred wanted to be a pilot, and he did become a pilot but was a real disappointment to those two men.  Fred Jr. drank himself to death by the age of 43.  I'm sure that instilled in Donald even further to be a winner, or what he designates as a winner.   He is still seeking approval from his deceased father and from all of us around him.  That is his low self worth on display.  (It takes one to know one, I spot it because I got it!)

This next fact, explained so much of Trump's behavior to me and in particular, behavior that is so intolerable to me.  Roy Cohn, the deceased mob and McCarthy era lawyer, taught him to lie and keep repeating lies until people think it's the truth.  Even today when there is audio or video footage to the contrary, this seems to make no difference at all.  Student Trump did finally learn a lesson and he learned it really well.  Truth and facts do not matter.  Double down.

He has not stepped up into being more Presidential as I meagerly hoped, that is not who he is.  He has tweeted in retaliation throughout the transition, the business elite have been appointed for cabinet positions some of whom don't even know the job they are being assigned or are terribly unqualified, and there is no untangling himself from his businesses.  The potential for conflict of interest is huge.  The first Trump White House Press Briefing by Sean Spicer included an infomercial for his DC hotel.  

He has historically low poll numbers of any President before he is sworn in at 40%.

I am not alone in thinking this man is not ready for the job.

But he was elected and with unprecedented foreign involvement.  Yet, there is a peaceful transition of power.  And then what will happen next?

I read an article in Psychology Today by Karl Albrecht, PhD that described who Trump will be as a President.  It fits with everything that I've read and watched of who he is.  There won't be meetings or information shared by those with knowledgable of the given area because he doesn't have the patience or attention span for that.  His style of leadership will be a fly by the seat of his pants and a competition of those around him who can get his attention the longest and compete for their interests.

A concern that stands out to me is that when a tragic event like the Sandy Hook massacre occurs, can you imagine PEOTUS comforting the families or the United States as a whole?  His thin skin and ego, is all about himself.  Does he know how to be empathetic?

Is he going to grow up?  Is he going to learn, that not everything is about himself?

Now that I've gotten a little bit out of my system, I will attempt to take a different turn.

I do think that with this election, there has been a positive.  He has galvanized those who disagree with him in solidarity!  The marches of women and others demonstrating are going to be amazing. His words, "Nasty Woman" were a rallying call. There is activism out the wazoo to let Senators and Representatives know what their constituents want.  There was a huge response to Republicans trying to gut an ethics panel at the beginning of the month.  I have taken to several different means to communicate with my representatives.  These people in government work for us and we are not going to let them forgot that.

I have to speak up and that is not comfortable for me at all.

But in the words of Pastor Martin Niemöller: I saw these words this summer in Boston at a Holocaust memorial.

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

My hope and prayer is that Trump can continue to be an agent of change, just not for what his intentions are, whatever they are.  I have to pray for this man and for those who surround him.  This is a tall order.   I can easily pray for life, liberty and the pursuit of justice for all people of the United States.  All people including those of different skin colors and races, different religions, women, those with disabilities and of different sexual orientations, all of us.  We are all brothers and sisters.  We are all in this together. A divine power created us all.  Now to actually send positive thoughts to someone whom I have seen no decency in? That is how I have to grow.

I pray that as he takes on the awesome responsibility of this job, it transforms him.  One can hope.

The only way that I know to move forward is to love.   I have to love and care for those around me, including myself.   Even though decency died, I have to love those whom I disagree with politically and move forward.  I have to dig really, really deep.  Because that lack of decency is born out of fear.  Fear of not having a job again, fear of the color of the United States changing, fear of a woman leader, and fear of change.  And the opposite of fear is love.  I have to dig really deep to live in peace that all will be well.  This is the ultimate teacher.  Love big even though it is not being demonstrated by the man in the Presidency.

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

Sending love out.  I will walk my dogs now.  I will work on my budget. I will clean and do laundry and tonight,  I will pick up my kids from school, I will go to my Spiritual Formation conference and listen to the topic of Holy Listening. That is the perfect antidote for today.


Monday, January 16, 2017

I Have Enrolled in Seminary

Not really, but sort of.

I am enrolled in a 2 year paraprofessional certification for Spiritual Formation Leadership.  What is that, you ask?  I'm not sure really, but it requires furthering my relationship with the Divine within and going out of my comfort zone.  So here I am.

It is a joint venture between the Ministry of Spiritual Formation of my church, First United Methodist in Baton Rouge and Garrett Evangelical Theological Seminary in Illinois. I'm not sure how I ended up here (oh yes I do), but here I am.

I wrote that a few weeks back and reading again now, I just noticed that the words "Here I Am" were at the end of both of the above paragraphs.  That happens to be one of my very favorite hymns.  It make me want to sing and cry all at the same time.  No coincidence that I wrote those words.  It gives me goose bumps every time.

I am going to determine that this certification is a good thing.  It is comprised of several conferences over 2 years.  And the most important part is taking on different spiritual practices on a near daily basis: keeping a prayer journal, Centering prayer, audio listenings, book reports,  developing a rule of life, Lectio divina,  and small group meetings.

Oh my gosh.  That's a lot and since grad school, I've never been very disciplined in reading activities.  Can I be disciplined?  I have been very intentional in my thought processes and changing those that don't work for me. Guess what?  That is the spiritual practice of Self-Examination.  (Check that practice off the list!!  One down!!)

My spiritual homework is pushing me to do practices that make me feel uncomfortable and are painful.  I am healing the past and... thought processes that did not bring me closer to God.   These new practices, although awkward and challenging, open me up even further to the divine within.  I wasn't ready to read the words or hear the words or speak the exercises before me until now.   Some healing had to take place to make me ready to take in, here it   And love always is the answer.   But love comes not in the form that I expect, so I have come to expect the unexpected. (But of course still some yearning in the ways that I think it should be)

I had put off starting many of the above described homework assignments.   A deadline loomed and I dug in.  It finally hit me why I delayed sitting down to tackle the materials.  This work is emotional.  My fundamentalist baggage is deep.  Whatever I learned when I was younger did not bring me to know how much God loves me.  I read within the first sentence of a chapter on Self Examination: ...God is the searcher of every human heart.

That brought tears to my eyes. Wow.  Eight words did me in. I'm in that every human heart and I believe it. God is seeking me out every day, all day, with a ceaseless love.  (I just have to pay attention and let go of my expectations!)  This is a stark contrast to how I felt about God before.  I felt God was out there (hand as far away from the body as it can get and tilted upward because you know that's where heaven is)  and relentlessly judging me.  I failed in the judgement that I thought was going on each and every time.  What a difference to know a higher power is always there with LOVE, a ceaseless love not judgement.

My former black and white thinking on God (and life) takes time to dismantle.  Now, I desperately need to hear the notion of original love not original sin.  We were born of love, as love.  It takes time to take this in.  People and religions make up rules and dogma instead of doing the hard work of allowing love in.

So I am in seminary, sort of. I wouldn't have ever thought that was true.  I just was invited to take this step and it made sense to follow it.   I am pushing myself once again, uncomfortably into new territory.  This is growth, though.  I cannot grow and evolve standing still or sitting and cowering in the corner as I was accustomed to.  I am dragging myself slowly bit by bit but I know without a doubt I'm on the right path.

Monday, January 2, 2017

New Years Day 2017 - What Does It Mean?

It's a new year!  What does that mean?  What has changed? The ground is still saturated from the rains that lasted all day on New Year's Eve and yesterday. The sun is still not out today and more rain is falling.  So here we are.  A brand spanking new year.  What does it mean?

We rang in the new year quietly.  We had a delicious dinner visiting with George's sister and family from out of town and they headed back to their hotel several hours before midnight.

Riley watched Dick Clark's Rockin' Eve on her own.  Mallory really wanted to stay up so the rest of us watched "Miracles from Heaven" waiting for midnight.  In true fashion, I did fall asleep and make them watch the ending again.  But at 11:55pm, Riley joined us on the couch making our core four celebration and we rang in the New Year together in central standard time.   The ball had already dropped in New York but they dropped a Fleur de Lis live in New Orleans and by 12:02am, we were heading to bed.  Check please!

I'll have to say the first two days of the new year feels sort of empty because it is just the same as the last day of 2016.  It seems as though there is an expectation that is should be brand spanking new!    It is a new year, month, and day and opportunity for a new slate yet the dishes, Legos and laundry are still sitting there waiting.   I gave up resolutions years ago as those don't work.  But what I have learned is that intention is the way to go for me.

Intention has worked for me and I'm not really sure how or why I started I just knew things needed to change.  For one thing, there has to be a very passionate desire to change something.  Intention has been my steely focus on a daily basis on my thoughts (and healing!)  I was very resolute. I haven't been this resolute about anything before.   I didn't start out to be intentional, it just happened along the way... First, I had to become aware that I had negative thoughts that needing changing.  As I woke up to that voice in my head with the runny dialogue I discovered the the story I told myself was "I can't" all the freaking time.  Not a good thing.

After practice, practice, practice, when a negative thought popped in, I take note.  And slowly, I dismantle them.  I ask the critical question, "Is this true?"  Really true?   I used intentionality every day, to change this.  Therapy woke me up but that was just the beginning.  I self taught with many teachers that I listened to, watched videos and read.   Along with intentions, I learned I needed to be in the moment.  Persons like Eckhart Tolle, Gary Zukav, Michael Singer and Byron Katie.  Anyone who taught about mindfulness.  There's so much to this process of becoming awakened.  More later.

(Jesus' taught this too - the renewing of the mind but that blog will come later.)

This past year, I did not write nearly as much, only 20 blogs, compared to 50-60 in previous years.  I had profound thoughts that came into my mind, but they didn't come through me.    Politics anyone?    I have felt blocked and hindered.  I feel like something is passing me by.  It is not a good thing at all.   I have an intention this year to write and blog more.  I need to process my life this way.  I do not feel like I'm in the flow and may energy is sagging not tuning in to my authenticity.  The older I get, I need to listen to my intuition and do what I know works for me.  Shutting out the assault of politics to my senses is going to be one way to help me stay intentional.   Sitting down for my Spiritual Formation homework is another.  It centers me fairly quickly.  

For me, this new year means zeroing in on intention again.   The intention of listening to my intuition and the God nudges that come in my thoughts.  And putting those down even if they are not perfectly stated.  Now that I have spent quite some time clearing some of the negative ones, the light is coming in.  Alright, 2017 here we go!


Wednesday, December 28, 2016

I Think I Can Be A Dramatic Actress

It was the day after Christmas and I needed a cry.   The feelings just sit on my chest and I can tell the energy needs to pass through.  There is so much buildup for Christmas in so many different ways.  The pressure of the season to have the "most wonderful time of the year" amidst decorating, present buying, party attending, card distribution, AND celebrating the reason for the season along with getting together with relatives.  And then it's over, just like that.

I have had to lower my expectations.

In the car the last week or so, I heard the band Alabama, singing "Angels Among Us" and I immediately started a full out ugly cry within seconds of hearing the chorus.  So this morning while the kids were still sleeping, or so I thought, I played a video to bring the feeling sitting on my chest out.  As soon as I hear the children's chorus, the tears start falling.  It's so cathartic and so needed.  My youngest walked in, sat by me, asked what was going on and I said that I missed GaGa.  She tenderly sat next to me, put her arm around me and watched the video with me, and I told her it's okay to cry.  I absolutely love that we have this moment.  She is learning that all emotions are okay.  And then we carried on with the rest of our day.

I think I have the skills to be a dramatic actress now.  (he he)  I see what actors have to tap into- to bring it, to bring that palpable depth of emotion.  It is not easy whatsoever.  And it's that vulnerability that draws the audience in.  It is some of the hardest work I have ever done to sit with the most exquisite discomfort and allow it to flow.  It has taken years of practice because I emotionally shut down after the postpartum depression I had.   And actors do this for a living.  They purposely bring up this painful stuff.  I have read and listened to actors talking about their processes and it is fascinating and therapeutic.

This is also where numbing can take place if you think the pain of whatever it is too much.  For myself and so many, numbing is the answer because it's excruciating to be with that pain.  I still numb some and it may always be part of my repertoire yet I have other coping skills now.  One of them is writing and for so many years I have been doing so in blog form and this year has not been a good year for that.  I have felt stuck and I have to do something about it.  I have begun to do handwrite in a journal and it is a much different practice than typing it on a computer.  It takes time to learn to do that practice.

This year, I went through a major shift with a person in my life.  It reached a point where I had to let go of ever connecting at the level that I so very deeply desired.  I had to let go of expectations on my part that would never be fulfilled and I was devastated.   I grieved and realized that I spent a lot of energy on something that was not producing.  It was time to move on and free up energy and see what else is out there to connect with that I'm not imagining.  Letting go can make room for something bigger?  I live with such great intention on many areas but this area tripped me up so much.   I need to stop and evaluate what is working and what is not and move on.

I have to lower my expectations for some people, places and things and move on to new areas and adventures.

Although I understand the acting technique, I don't think I will be taking any head shots or taking a Playmakers theater class anytime soon.  I don't think it is where my heart lies.   I can tap into sadness, anger and joy pretty easily.  I need a little more work with joy I think.  But I will continue to enjoy the arts as much as I always have.   There is a reason the Oscars are my favorite time of year.  It is the reason that I LOVE going to the movies.  It is the reason songs can move me to tears or happiness within seconds.   The movies I'm drawn to are the ones all about humans and their emotional entanglements.  This is who I am.


Ode To The Bravery of Carrie Fisher (not necessarily Princess Leia)

Can 2016 get any worse?  There was a joke about hiding Betty White away.  So many entertainers have died, Prince and George Michael are gone.  I really didn't know David Bowie but I liked what he had to say as a person. But I really loved what Carrie Fisher had to say.   And now she is gone and she was only 60!  I'm forty-eight and that gives me pause.  What if I never say or do what I was meant to because I am too scared of what people will think.

The author, Anne Lamott said this...
Oh my God, what if you wake up some day, and you’re 65, or 75, and you never got your memoir or novel written; or you didn’t go swimming in warm pools and oceans all those years because your thighs were jiggly and you had a nice big comfortable tummy; or you were just so strung out on perfectionism and people-pleasing that you forgot to have a big juicy creative life, of imagination and radical silliness and staring off into space like when you were a kid? It’s going to break your heart. Don’t let this happen. Repent just means to change direction—and NOT to be said by someone who is waggling their forefinger at you. Repentance is a blessing. Pick a new direction, one you wouldn’t mind ending up at, and aim for that. Shoot the moon.

(It thrills me that repent means to change direction and she mentions that's it's not wagging a finger in someone's face.  It's a blessing not a judgment.  I've never had that wonderful connotation of that word and I've started to rewire the definition in my head.)

Back to Carrie Fisher.  I know I watched Star Wars long ago but that is not what stuck with me about her.  The movie Postcards from The Edge stuck so I read the book.  And then I read Surrender the Pink and Wishful Drinking.  I just added The Princess Diarist to my hold's list on Overdrive.   Yesterday, I watched the "Wishful Drinking" special again On Demand.  The diagram of her family was hilarious.

It must have been in the 2008 book, Wishful Drinking, what she said about living with bi-polar:   "At times, being bipolar can be an all-consuming challenge, requiring a lot of stamina and even more courage, so if you're living with this illness and functioning at all, it's something to be proud of, not ashamed of.  They should issue medals along with the steady stream of medication."

That resonated with me so deeply and clinched me as a fan.  I suffered terribly with Postpartum depression and anxiety after my first child.  It was the hardest thing I have ever gone through.  I felt so very alone and there were so many days, weeks,  and sometimes just a moment felt like a struggle.  Making it through an hour was sometimes way too much to comprehend.   I was so alone and felt so hopeless with a helpless infant who needed me, just me.  It was the lowest of lows and the anxiety and the crying were endless.  (Mine and Riley's!)  It took me months to understand that I needed to take an anti-depressant to get back on track.  And it took at least a year to begin to feel like myself again.  The hiccup was that the first night I took an anti-depressant, it lit me up even higher with anxiety than I already was experiencing.   I didn't sleep a wink and I thought that they were going to have to lock me away because I couldn't sleep nor could I function anymore.  I can recall the terror of that period instantly and that night permanently and forever scarred me.  In hindsight, I  should have taken an anti-anxiety along with the anti-depressant until my body adjusted to the anti-depressant.   That bout with PPD changed my life and started me on the journey I am now on.

I can't imagine living with a daily struggle of bipolar that is so merciless that leads to electric-shock therapy.  But you have to do what you have to do.  One can overcome so many odds.

When I read that passage in Wishful Drinking, I thought, oh my gosh, yes!  Instead of looking down on people with mental illness, they really should be applauded because it can be an ongoing, daily, sometimes hourly struggle.  And Carrie Fisher said this out loud!!  Wow!  Bravo!  Through the pages of a book, it made me feel not so alone for what I had gone through.  Sometimes, a connection can be made by reading a book, and now it can be online.

I will miss her wit and her courage and seeing her dog, Gary. I will miss that she stood up for herself and body image for many of us when they shamed her for not looking like her 19 year old self in a bikini.  Carrie wrote about the despair of mental illness but also made it funny.  Princess Leia was a formidable opponent, but it is Carrie Fisher who was the bravest bad ass to me.   Someone who speaks up for those who have no voice.   RIP Carrie Fisher.  You are gone too soon.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Annie Ruined the Carpet and I Despised Her

Annie was our family's first dog.  It was quite the experience when we adopted her in 2012.  She peed on the carpet in our spare room and in Mallory's room repeatedly and I despised her.  I truly, truly despised her and didn't see what having a dog was about at all.  George and I would have disagreements about how to handle the situation, that were worse than disagreeing about parenting.  I think for me because it was a freaking dog and we didn't have to have her or this stress in the first place.  I will admit that I would resent Mallory who wanted the dog in the first place.    I remember Annie trying to run away and I thought, GO!  (Though, she had a chip and would eventually be returned to us.)  It was very ugly in the beginning.  And in hindsight, it was all about boundaries.  I had to learn to have some...with a dog.  I had to learn boundaries with her and it was a great indicator of how to do it with humans as well.

Annie is not an affectionate kind of dog either unlike Brinkley who is a true unconditional loving dog.   Annie has her own way, but I'm learning to respect her for who she is because she can be freaking funny when she is falling asleep.  Brinkley will follow me into the closet when I'm having an ugly cry.  He doesn't lick my face but he sits with me.  What other creature will do that?  Annie, on the other hand,  only pays attention to you when you have the promise of food, or when she is frightened of the weather or the cats.  The rest of the time, she is asleep and loudly snoring.  She is
who she is.

Boundaries.  Anger is a sign that your boundaries aren't being respected or that you need to set some up!!  And it's not easy work and there is much practice, practice, practice.

The picture to the left is from the book, "The Artist's Way."  As you can see it spoke to me.  Anger is not about the other person or dog!!!  It's about going inward and not acting out, but acting upon, making a change, unless you like to stay angry?  I was very angry at Annie with all the ruining of the carpet but I needed to think out of the box.  I had never had a dog, an old "set in her ways" dog at that and had no idea how to have an inside dog.  We had put her in a crate early on and she yelped.  So we backed down and didn't do that anymore.  In hindsight, that was the very thing we needed to do.  And use treats.  Treats are the bomb!  She may have yelped at the crate but she would have acclimated.  When we adopted Brinkley over a year later with urinating problems still going on,  we had bigger issues of biting, etc so we finally got a dog trainer in our lives.  I needed outside assistance to help us think out the box.  We eventually made our way around to crating Annie at night.  I don't even remember if she disliked it, but she now goes into the "sleeping box" as George calls it.   I know George thought it was harsh to put her in there and separate her from us.  He is such the softie.  But that has been the trick as well as taking her outside in the morning  and at other times of the day with the treat and demanding she "go potty."  This training takes time and practice.

Learning this big lesson that went on for more than a year with a dog, has been such the example of how to deal with people as well.  Thinking outside the box, not being entrenched in one way of doing things, letting go of expectations, and getting outside assistance if needed. Old dogs and I mean me   can learn new tricks.

And, so often, I am so thankful that my old soul Mallory, incessantly begged for a dog, not once but twice.  These four leggeds are members of our family.  I totally understand dog people now.  It took a while but I finally do.  And not all dogs are the same, just like children.

Monday, September 26, 2016

The First Debate is Here...Working On My Messaging

Here we are...the first debate is tonight.  I have so many strong feelings.

My younger daughter told me this weekend, they talked about politics in math last week.  Okay.   I asked if she told them I was voting for Hilary, because I knew she would spill the beans but that is okay with me.  It has taken a long time to sit in my truth.   We have had discussions in the house... very spirited discussions on my part but I answer her questions as evenly as I can ( in my passionate way.)

She said I told them you hate Donald Trump.


Okay, I have to work on my messaging.

I said I don't hate Donald Trump.  I do not agree with ANYTHING he has to say and yet he is a child of God just like everyone else.  (I don't want to hate anyone.) And although I passionately disagree with EVERYTHING that comes out of his mouth, I don't hate him.

It should say "we're"
(Or do I?)

(Face cringed)

The fact that Donald Trump bothers me as much as he does, psychologically/behaviorally means I'm still moving away from my former views (and truthfully fear - he promotes fear (or himself) every time he speaks and it's still my soft spot.)   Look at the title of this website.   It takes time to shift from Fear to Love.  I initially moved into the red territory when I became of voting age because that is what was all around me.   But slowly over the years, I claimed who and what I believe as a woman, a Southerner, and a child of God, me.

I had to detangle religion and politics.   And I do, more so every day.  And I identify as a Democrat.

I read a lot but don't watch a lot of TV coverage because I do get worked up about it.  I have to let it go, so I can sleep at night and live peaceably and productively during the day.  But I am fascinated by politics.  I loved my Political Science classes at LSU.   I have more work to do, learning to agree to disagree and George can attest to that.  Spirited discussions...

Back to my chat with Mallory.  She listed off most everyone whom Trump has offended and his potential policies that are hurtful to large groups of people, religions etc. etc.  I was surprised that she named as many as she did.  Those are the facts, and the truth.  I do want to present both sides so that she can make up her own mind, but there has never been a candidate so untested, unprepared and unchecked by the media and without the temperance to be the leader of the free world.

I don't know if Mallory believes that I don't hate him, but it's a work in progress to live into my truth.  I will work on my messaging.  I will try to bring the passion down a notch or two.

I will work on being more even keeled because that is where I want to be.  More LOVE. Less fear.