Family Portrait (Part 3)

(Column 45 – Published December 13, 2016 in the Warroad Pioneer)

I sat down to finish the Family Portrait series I started and have found it achingly difficult. Looking in the True mirror is, perhaps, the most difficult thing any of us will ever do. It’s why so few do it. Mine is broken into a million chards and the reflections I see are all different and all something I have painstakingly created. Like a character on a stage, I built Me out of a million little beliefs of who Kellie should be…my should chards. I started writing about one:

I was a “feminist” before I even knew that there was such a thing, and before I understood that the idea of a feminist was so misconstrued and reviled by so many.

Not a fan of labels but not sure how to get around them, it’s taken me many years to come to terms with calling myself a feminist. When I am called one by other people, they are almost always hurling it as an insult. And I always took it as such then.

But now, things are different. On the way to giving something up, first I must believe I own it. And so, right now I own being a feminist.

To use the words of someone I once respected, no, I definitely don’t know my “place” (as he defines it) as a woman and I definitely take women’s rights too far.

And I always will.

I don’t care what anyone’s religion says. Women are meant to lead. And lead we do. Though it’s not the common definition of leadership we’ve grown to abide by in this barbaric civilization. Deny it if you like; most men and some women simply fear the outright recognition of this truth and will dance themselves around it to feel better, safer, less afraid.

Women lead because we survive in the face of a masculine-dominated world that has hidden, owned, beaten, raped, and murdered us for thousands of years.

We lead because given the choice, we will almost always choose non-violence.

We lead because we know that violence gets us nowhere, despite the smirk-worthy country songs that glorify murdering an abuser.

We lead because nurturing is a law of nature and it comes more naturally to us.

We lead because if you look truly at gun violence, domestic abuse, terrorism, drug wars, sanctioned wars, and all other killing and violence in our world, the kind of person 99.9% of these incidents have in common is … men.

Now, this is where a woman-hater would accuse me of being a man-hater. But I’m not. I simply hate violence. To the point that when that person I once respected called me a “lay down and die” kind of human being, I had to agree with him.

I have unlearned how to resist. I have unlearned how to fight. (Much to my detriment and all the other peace-lovers stuck on the broken escalator.)  Maybe I’m not such a good feminist after all.

I grew up going to a church my family helped create and build…the one just west of the Ridge. We called it the Church of the New Covenant at the time, and I remember riding bikes and roller skating on the big cement pad as the volunteers readied it for framing.

I was arriving at an age when I could process some of what was said during the sermons. Sunday School was never for me. Suspending belief for the fantasy-like stories and the rote memorization of Bible verses seemed a chore that taught little more than close-minded obedience. We were taught to be afraid of what might happen if we didn’t choose these beliefs. We were taught that everyone who didn’t choose that same path were Sodom-and-Gamorrah-evil. We were not taught love and compassion and mercy in any large quantity; we were taught to believe or DIE.

But faith for fear’s sake has never sat well with me.

And when I listened well enough to understand how religion differentiates male female, masculine feminine, that was enough for me.

I was nine and I was decidedly a feminist.

That’s how deeply these chards of Self are embedded.

The ache at the core of my being comes from much more than an ego smarting to be right or being a feminist in a man’s world. No, this isn’t an ego suffering. This is a lonely soul longing to remember it all, the connection of everything, the Consciousness that is the only Truth.

I can’t yet paint myself into any portrait, even the cute little family portrait that my ego sees and that I spent two columns writing about. Sure, I could give a little elevator spiel about how my family sees me, how The Angle sees me, and maybe that’s what you want, but what good would that do anyone, the world, me?

The labor pains are starting and it’s a pain as real as any physical pain. I have to drop the million chards of glass I’ve been holding up all these years. And they’re going to cut me to ribbons on their way down. That’s their job. It’s the only way. The big ones I’m holding, the ones I thought were the clearest reflection, such as “I am a feminist,” are going to be the toughest to drop. I fear I’ll bleed out before I can let the rest fall.

But fall they must. Part of waking up is breaking the mirror. And part of waking up is also letting the mirror fall away. I can be afraid all I want, but in baby-birthing, fear only makes the labor pains worse. The same is true in this kind of birth as well. I’m no longer afraid to be a feminist. Now I have to get over my fear of NOT being a feminist, of not defining myself as such, as anything. In a nutshell, it’s facing the fear of No Self.

That is how I will be born to my family.

That is how I will see clearly enough to celebrate my own birth.

(If I lost you in all this, don’t worry. It’ll only get worse before it gets better. I’ll go quite a bit crazier before I go sane. Oh, and there are open seats on this train, by the way.)

“I’m not racist, but…”

Column 40 Published in the November 8 Warroad Pioneer

We had buried my grandpa earlier in the day and though many of us were emotionally spent, we gathered for living-room conversation of light-hearted fare, marriage, babies, the future.

An old family friend and self-made pastor was commanding the floor in his well-intended, often over-bearing comedic way. With my pregnant cousin and her hubby at the center of it, he steered the conversation from jokes about baby names to having all your babies with the same father to “those women down in the Cities who have 14 children with 14 different men” – his words.

Normally I would find a quick exit at that point. Words such as those collide with all my spinal sensory nerves, make my root chakra wince and then I flee.

But grief does funny things to filters, to nerves, to practiced patterns.

The speaker didn’t falter. “I’m not racist,” he continued loudly to the group, “buuuut…” and then, muting his voice with his hand he said glibly out of the corner of his mouth, “…but they’re almost always black.”

Without raising my voice, I quipped, “Anyone who says “I’m not racist, but…’ is most decidedly racist.” This got a laugh from my sister, who nodded her agreement. The pastor hadn’t heard me, nor, in my cowardice, had I intended him to.

He continued his tiresome schtick, but the group had quietly divided its attention. My uncle sitting near me turned and said in an exasperated tone, “I’d like to see ONE person who’s NOT racist.” We were still speaking quietly at the outskirts of the small circle, lounged comfortably on my grandpa’s worn living room furniture. Everything quickly got very uncomfortable.

It was one of those moments I wish I had practiced for; the kind that afterwards I would relive again and again, perfecting the response in my mind.

Before I could spit something out, he turned even more directly to me and asked, “What? You’re not racist?”

Though my first instinct was to blurt a vehement “No!”, I stuttered for a second, processing thoughts of all the current events and the volatile national conversation on race.

I stopped myself from a simple denial.

Absolute truth seemed infinitely more important in that moment than simply defending my moral character.

When words came, there was no righteous strength behind them. “I know I have been guilty of it,” I said slowly, cautiously. “I mean, I’m sure I’ve done things…but, I don’t think I’m better than anyone.”

My uncle turned back to face the group but he nodded to show that he was listening.

“I don’t think I’m better than anyone because of their ethnicity,” I continued quietly, “or because of where they come from.

“And I don’t think I’m better than anyone because of their sexual preference.”

I added that last part hastily after realizing that several other family members were listening, specifically one who had taken to Facebook referencing scripture in an argument against homosexuality and against marriage equality. (Note – this was all taking place in late fall of 2014, about a year after Minnesota became the 12th state to legalize gay marriage.)

In my typical passive-aggressive way of responding, I had quickly unfriended her. Now, this little verbal jab felt like vindication for having spent so much energy confused about who Christians purport to be and my perceptions of their intolerance for the very people to whom Jesus would have ministered.

The not-racist exchange ended there, and I got up pretending to be concerned about what my toddler was doing elsewhere in the house. In the moment, it had felt egotistically good to finally speak a small piece, but there was no feeling of glee or gloat, just an overwhelming sadness that compounded succinctly with the existing grief.

The thing is, these are not “bad” people, the not-racist pastor nor my extended family. They are hard-working, lower-middle class, Bible-believing people who try to lead good lives and are simply a product of their environment, just like me and just like everyone else.

Perceiving their ignorance only strengthens my own. I must forgive and I must ask for forgiveness.

But, I cannot and will not align myself with the likes of their beliefs, the limitations of their religion, nor their political candidates.

A recent funny but telling social media meme goes, “Another way to look at an election is to see who the Nazi’s and Klansmen support, and then maybe look elsewhere.”

Seriously.

November 8th, the day this paper comes out, is my 41st birthday. November 8th marks eight short month of non-drinking for Tony and me. And, November 8th will tell us if a misogynist or a feminist will take the oval office. Yep, it’ll be a big day in my house.

I grew up telling anyone who would listen that I want to be the first woman president of the United States. At the very least, I’m hoping I get to vote for one.

Back to the not-racist pastor, our old family friend … last week, in a subtly-threatening public post written directly to me on a NW Angle non-profit organization’s Facebook page, he called himself a “representative of God” said he had to love his friends’ kids, and told me I needed to get some help. On a photo of a quilt-raffle, no less.

When my flee impulse resided, I had to laugh. What else can you do?

It was the most bizarre outreach I’ve ever encountered. From a man who used to tease and tug on my baby blonde curls, sing funny songs and make me feel so special. Tony, ever the wise diplomat, said simply, “ignore him.” My decision, which clearly proves why I could never get elected to anything, is to write about it in the paper.

I don’t call myself a Christian, but I do learn from the teachings of Jesus Christ.

Dear one, you interpret your Bible and I’ll interpret mine. You vote your beliefs and I’ll vote mine. We are no different, you and I. We both cling to the beliefs of fear, because that is all beliefs are. Every belief, right down to the big one about a God that exists and resides outside of ourselves, takes us further from being Truth Realized and achieving Christ-consciousness.

Clearly, your Jesus would never send messages over a private email server.

And my Jesus? Well, he would never assault women and call names, build walls and deport immigrants, defraud students and mock POWs, make fun of the handicapped and make money owning casinos and strip joints. Jesus wouldn’t sleep with the wives of other men let alone brag it, and he wouldn’t cheat on his wife. In fact, he might stand beside his spouse through a very public, very difficult time of moral failings, not unlike a certain woman candidate who did just that and for which she is now harshly judged.

There are many more comparisons, but the election is over. My breath is wasted.

You don’t believe you’re racist and you do believe you are a representative of God.

I don’t believe I’m not racist. I don’t believe anything. Or at least I’m getting there.

I just Am.

The Knowable and the Unknowable

Column 39 published in the November 1, 2016 issue of the Warroad Pioneer

Angle Schmangle.

Grace Schmace.

I weary of my own proselytizing.

I’m on Week 10 of reading the Bible. The plan skips around a bit, thank goodness; if I had to start at Genesis and plow through to Revelation, I don’t know that I’d make it. I constantly pray for an open heart and an open mind, but the defensive skeptic in me still seems to be the loudest voice.

I ask myself constantly while reading, “What are you afraid of, Kellie?”

I must be afraid of something, because I am certainly judging the Bible and slamming my eyes closed to what it may have to offer. Ever the defender of women, I can easily point at the Old Testament as partial cause and definite perpetuator of the centuries of subjugation, violence towards and utter objectification of womankind.

No wonder we’ve only had the right to vote for 96 years. No wonder the Equal Rights Amendment never passed. No wonder we are only just now seeing a female-led ticket for one of the two major political parties. Women have learned to behave as objects, train our daughters to assimilate gracefully, and viciously punish any sister who dares to embrace their truth, their wildness, their inner she-wolves.

Remembering that all things work together for good is hard in this new beginning, especially as my questions grow on all sides of the Biblical equation.

For instance, I don’t understand how one comes to accept that the God of the Bible condemned to death the unborn children of suspected unfaithful wives (Numbers 5:27) at only the jealous feelings of the husband. And yet today, Christians are fighting an all-out war to declare that life begins at inception and “thou shalt not murder” zygotes, and Big Government needs to enforce as much over all its citizens regardless of faith. How does religion reconcile this? How is it explained away, as so many other things seem to be?

About that and many other topics, I’ve read a hundred articles, listened to dozens of speakers, poured through numerous other books, gone to church every week that I could, and confessed to and asked questions of my Bible study cohorts. Yet I still don’t buy into the explanations of how the one true God can love and yet punish so absolutely, so cruelly. How He can be omnipotent and yet jealous, ego-less and yet require unending sacrifices, merciful and yet so intolerant of a human nature he surely predicted.

I guess I simply can’t yet take it on faith. Or maybe it just takes the stubborn, evolution-believing intellectual types more than 10 weeks to submit, to surrender.

Or maybe, just maybe, I’m not quite grasping that it’s impossible for me to fully grasp God. A tiny sliver of life’s pie represents the things I know that I know. A slightly bigger sliver are the things I know that I don’t know. And all the rest, surely in 95-99% range, is the multitude, infinitude actually, of things I don’t know that I don’t know. God is there. In the holy space of the unknowable. Or at least that’s where our small minds put Him.

Or maybe God isn’t so distant at all. Maybe God is the very make-up of our cells, as science suggests, so infinitely within us that what we’re not grasping, can never grasp is the utter simplicity of His glory.

My naivety is surely cringe-worthy to the long-practiced Christians in the bunch. And I’m ok with that.

I won’t judge you for judging me.

I won’t even judge you for abandoning this column. It hasn’t been easy to be on the inside of all this muckity muck, so I can’t imagine it’s been any kind of fun looking on from the outside.

Back to life at The Angle…

As a new non-drinker, I’ve stayed away from The Angle’s normal social scene. It was out of necessity at first and then became a lack of desire to witness in others the way I was. Now, the staying away has changed into a need for relating to my fellow humans that is deeper, more fulfilling than the false affection bought by a handful of cocktails. A glass of wine has turned into a cup of tea. Putting on the kettle, choosing the flavor, letting it steep in a sentimental little tea pot with matching cups has taken on more meaning and delight for me than uncorking a bottle ever could.

In years past, my little family put hours of creative effort into our Halloween costumes, and this year, we found ourselves with zero desire to dress-up and attend the drinking party. “Let’s put our focus on Iris,” Tony suggested. And that felt right and good.

And so, we’ll be bats. Her idea. Her desire. A family of bats, creatures of the night, embraced by the children of God, made beautiful by the inherent creative power of love.

Just kidding. I won’t theologize our dollar store bat masks. It’s a costume. Nothing more than a tiny sliver of life’s little knowable pie.

My Dream about God and Donald Trump

Column 38 published in the October 25th, 2016 issue of the Warroad Pioneer

I woke early one morning from a dream in which I had given birth to an impossibly small baby who, for a short time, spoke with absolute clarity. In a motherly baby-talk way of sorts, I asked her/him (the gender wasn’t clear nor was it important), “how have you learned to speak so well?” The wee infant smiled kindly and said, “This is Source.”

It was quickly understood that we had a few minutes of connection to ask whatever we wanted. As all the great questions of “above and below” were tumbling through my mind, a man in my group blurted out, “Why Donald Trump? And will he win?”

Loud external noises suddenly interrupted us, but the asker was able to get very close and hear some of what was said. When the noise died away, the child had stopped talking.

“Well?” someone else asked, fearful anticipation in his voice.

“It wasn’t the answer we were hoping to hear,” the asker said, slowly. He mumbled on about the candidate choices.

The dream shifted then into a related scene of panic and chaos, as word of the “prophecy” had spread like wildfire. The country was quickly descending into terror as it was now certain our future was dire. We would approach third-world country status, and great poverty would overtake us.

Images of the wealthy Trump Family Rulers were everywhere in attempts to assure people that they were the saviors and everything would be ok.

Huge portions of the people would flee as refugees, carrying what little they could on their backs.

Right before I woke up I remember feeling a sense of absolute peace, even as I looked around at people scrambling to collect their last vestiges of precious memories and “stuff.” Sadly, most of us were not yet thinking about survival needs.

I knew I was witnessing an epic demonstration of the effects of fear on a sensory-numbed nation. But surprisingly, I felt safe and calm trusting in God’s will—a sensation very new to me—even while knowing that many of us, likely my newborn and myself, would perish. I felt accepting of the fact that at that point in time, there was no going back. This is what now had to happen in order for peace to finally overtake humanity, even though it would be a road of suffering and death to get there.

When I awoke, my daughter was dreaming fearfully and thrashing about. I pulled her close and grabbed my phone to write down the dream.

I thought of the ballot that had just arrived by mail this week.

While it is private matter, I will share that my vote is slated for Hillary Clinton for many, many reasons.

But in the dream, a vote for Donald Trump helps harken the destruction of a comfortable often immoral way of life in order to hasten humanity along the path of peace and connection to Source., i.e., an investment in the belief that great darkness must come before great light.

The dream also examined my own fears and the illusions of safety I hold on to by living in near-isolation here at The Angle. As people were scrambling in fear, I held my tongue about the safe place I knew of for fear that we would be overrun – just as the under-loaded lifeboats did as the Titanic was sinking.

I also got the sense upon waking that we had likely misheard or at least misinterpreted the wee child. The loud noise that interrupted us was a garbage collection truck across the street and surely represented the lengths to which our egos (or the Devil, if you prefer) go to keep us from hearing the truth, the voice of God. Our group was outside and comfortable in a makeshift shelter, so there wasn’t an option of closing a window to the noise. The similarities to the nativity scene become more obvious after the fact, including the group of unknown people who were with me and the downplayed physical birth.)

The dream seemed to be telling me that when we do hear God, if we’re not accustomed to the voice or do not have faith in the good will of what we’re being told to do, our egos will quickly twist anything into fear-gripping reality. God probably just sighs and waits patiently as we take the hard-road yet again. Returning to God, remembering our Truth, connection to Source (whatever you want to call it) is inevitable. God is infinitely patient, kind and loving, especially through the destruction that our own fears set upon us. The destruction does not come from God, and in fact, if you want to get down to brass tacks, we can even choose not to label it as destruction, since the final result will always be Peace in the end.

The dream also reinforced for me the idea that there are many paths to get There, some more “comfortable” than others. Indeed, a check in a ballot box here or there will both lead to God. We don’t get to determine yay or nay. We only get to determine the length of “time” and our perceived suffering along the way.

I’ve never really been one to take the easy way.

I seem to like the lessons that come from looking darkness square in the face and then decidedly choosing the light.

But now, with others to think of beyond just myself, lessons-hard-learned aren’t as appealing. I don’t want to watch my daughter suffer so that I can get anywhere more quickly. Still, our egos will always be attracted to fear, especially now in our shock-and-awe-seeking culture.

Two other interesting facets of the dream …

  1. in the pitch black of my room, I turned my phone on at exactly 4:20am.

One of the lessons I am learning now is that I have given everything I see around me the meaning it holds for me. Nothing has true meaning other than God/Source/the Divine because God is all that Is. God is the only eternal. Everything else is meaningless, despite all of the silly definitions and labels I have applied to things and people and ideas through my conditioning. ALL of that conditioning is fear-based.

4:20 has a subversive meaning in our culture, yet I must take no meaning with me, lest I turn to judgement, guilt, condemnation and thereby further separation from God. I can see that it was again the work of the ego trying to force a divide.

And 2) In our quickening towards fear in the dream, no one stopped to analyze the question asker’s response. When the distracting noise had quieted, he didn’t tell us what the wee babe had answered; he only said, “it wasn’t the answer we were hoping for.” The layers of filters and eons of implied meanings the Truth went through between his conditioned mind and mine played out as one would expect: fear, uncertainty and doubt. i.e., Chaos. I was reminded upon waking of the old saying “the finger that points to the moon is not the moon.” Surely, in our well-intentioned, self-perceived righteousness, we have glorified this or that path based on our own conditioning for far too long.

God has given us everything. Period. Everything we need to be still and realize peace. We are not just God’s adopted children, we are part of God as Christian’s understand that Jesus was. God gave us Jesus, not to lord above us, but to teach us. The job of any good teacher is to impart ALL they know and teach themselves out of a job. Jesus had to live the life of a human since we identify as humans and had to teach that he was also God, since we are also of God. His modeling of a life purely connected to Source was and is our key to Peace, to salvation. Know that we are of God, and it will be so. The fear and all the perceived destruction that accompanies it will fall away into the falseness that it has always been.

But, our egos still have a hold and a tight one at that. We fear being of God because deep-down we believe it will end life as we know it. We are attracted to the dramatic displays of our own sin, our own guilt, our own condemnation and crucifixion. It makes for darn good TV. And most of us haven’t left that teenage mentality that everyone is watching us and everything we do matters, hence the popularity of social media and the brashen displays of our pretend perfect lives or our overly real suffering dramas. Nowadays, it is especially entertaining to point at the guilt of others and condemn and crucify them even more harshly than we would ourselves.

Fear is everything we project onto others and the inanimate objects around us.

Love is what we extend. Love is of ourselves and we are love because we are of God.

When we assign meaning or blame or guilt or anything other than Love, we are projecting fear.

It is our egos at work. Not God. Somewhere along the way, I heard EGO as an acronym for Edging God Out. We’ve gotten really good at doing that in this get-and-take society, in this blood-bath of an election.

I dreamed that I gave birth to a vehicle for Truth, and it made me remember that God has already given me everything. Even Donald Trump.

The Long Division of Fear

Column 37 Published in the October 18th issue of the Warroad Pioneer

My dad saw a moose…a healthy one, here, at The Angle!

That statement, by the way, is The Angle’s version of name-dropping or celebrity-sighting.

But my little mind is on politics, not moose nor life at The Angle. How can I rest in the beauty of our changing seasons or delight in the wildlife on the move when there is a giant orange circus-peanut train wreck on every media outlet known to humankind?

My favorite sister gave me a huge bag of soft, fresh circus peanuts for my birthday one year. I ate Every. Single. One. Sickeningly sweet, ungodly orange and a spongey consistency defying all that is natural, I’ll always hold a cavity-like spot in my heart for them.

Speaking of holes in my heart…the three-year old in my life now routinely asks me to quit singing, tells me whatever we’re doing is BORING, and has taken over command of the car stereo. She is also newly in control of her own wardrobe choices, much to the dismay of the matchy-matchy dictator in me.

But like my long-gone love for high heels, I’ve learned to let the matching OCD go. After all, in the wilderness this time of year, everything gets muddy, and therefore everything matches.

Mud aside, I had planned a long, philosophical column about having compassion for the many millions of folks who live in fear, i.e., the Donald Trump followers of the land. They are my family members, my neighbors, my acquaintances and many more I’ll never meet. I wanted to lecture and cajole, shame and berate, and tell them the story of when I was sexually assaulted in almost exactly the way Donald Trump described.

I wanted to plead with them about reconsidering their made-up minds, whining about how my little girl would have to grow up in a country that elected a president who thinks it okay to grab women by the ***.

And then it hit me….

I’m acting just as fearful as the very people I thought needed compassion. In fact, every single one of us is afraid. And almost if not all of the time, too.

Better to write about the rain gauge.

Or the squirrel that drowned in the kiddie pool I am long overdue in cleaning out.

Or the gnome home we built near the road in hopes that people would interact with it, and finally they are.

Or the wolves and bob cat and bear and rabbits and deer and wood chucks and the majestic golden eagles I’ve been seeing lately.

Or the excellent crappie spots my favorite fishing guide has shown me.

But those are all distractions from the lesson at hand, which feels like another big one for me, and yep, here it is: What we perceive in others, we strengthen in ourselves.

I’ve been pointing the finger at Fear for some time now but without truly seeing my own fears.

One night when I was awake “wrestling,” as I’ve been a lot lately – six hefty books, a journal and my phone for research on my lap – I wrote down the baseline fears I found myself clinging to:

  1. Harming or “ruining” Iris (my 3-year old daughter)
  2. Not producing that which I am supposed to
  3. Never “knowing”
  4. Losing Tony

I share these only to show value in looking inward. If I’m seeing a fearful world out there, it’s because I’m holding on to fear in my heart in some form. For insane reasons, I must have thought fear would be a better motivator, a better change agent. I had put my faith in fear instead of in love. To me, this is epitomized in believing in the Devil. Our belief in his evil is the only nourishment he needs. Fear wants to survive, and like a malignant cell, it does what it has to do, grasping at anything to keep our belief in it alive.

My fear that I would harm my daughter’s free-spirit, self-esteem, and connection to Source is the very thing that kept me trying to be her dictator, which, of course, has only served to push her away into disconnection and independence.

My fear that I won’t create what I was put on this earth to create keeps me from getting started. It keeps me believing that nothing I do is good-enough, especially for the “grand expression” of whatever my life’s gift is supposed to be.

My fear of never “knowing” is what keeps me in perpetual Seeking mode, instead of resting into the stillness of peace that already resides within.

My fear of losing the man I’ve chosen to love turns my focus away from Giving to him and tailspins me into worrying about what I’m Getting from him.

A Course in Miracles teaches that anything that engenders fear is divisive. It divides us from our fellow humans and it divides us from God.

In the political arena, politicians who preach fear, i.e., “our country is going down the tubes and I alone am here to save it…” are not uniting us, they are dividing us and very damagingly so.

We can’t rest in the peace of God while we are divided, while we are hating Donald Trump, or hating anything, for that matter. The Bible says that God hates that which is contrary to love, but either I’m misreading it or frankly, I just don’t buy it. If God is One, God can’t know or hate that which is other than Him, because otherness, contrariness can’t exist in Oneness. Hate stems from fear, and God knows no fear. Fear was made up in our minds to keep us separate from God.

But whoa Nellie, let’s not go there just quite yet. I’m still new to the Bible and I probably shouldn’t preach what I’m wrestling about.

Hey, look! A moose!

To wrap up this not-so-round-about rant, I was afraid of Donald Trump winning, but I’m not anymore. Not because it seems less and less likely, but because I can choose to reside in peace. I can choose love over fear.

Whatever happens in the election, whatever happens regarding my four baseline fears I shared with you, I know that everything will work out perfectly. Fear may seem powerful because it leads to strong reactions, but it is in fact the ultimate weakness. Nothing built on fear can last.

Including presidential campaigns.

And circus peanuts.

 

(Photo by Lauren Garfinkle via her EdibleGovernment Project and Creative Commons content.)

Crossing the Special Road

Column 36 Published in the October 4th, 2016 issue of the Warroad Pioneer
 It has always felt special to live at The Angle. Special to live out in the woods by choice. Special to have left the mainstream and followed a tributary “up” into this flat-mountain wilderness. Special to have chosen a lifestyle defined by hard work that doesn’t include an office chair and a commute amongst a literal million other dread-filled commuters. (‘Cuz I’ve been there, done that, and subsisting as a number in a giant system does NOT feel special. Believe me.)
It feels special to drive these winding roads, dodging early fall’s caterpillars, sunning snakes and night-blinded skunk carcasses that claim this season as the best one to suddenly need to cross the road.
It feels special to chuckle at the Big Foot crossing sign and wish for its truth with an innocence that remembers anything is possible.
But…I’ve recently learned an important secret. A secret about Big Foot, gravel roads, me, and everything:
I’m not special.
I wasn’t in the big city, and I’m not now.
The Angle isn’t special either – even though I’ve spent the last 35 columns trying to convince myself and everyone else that it is.
This thing I do? Writing about where I live and how I live my life here? Nope, not special either.
It is here and beyond that exists the population of people that even the conservative Republican media identifies as deeply discontented, “those who feel left behind by a changed economy and shifting demographics.”
This misunderstood group of people—I feel different from them, but I’m not, so I’ll lump myself in with them—who eschew government handouts in favor of hard-wrought independence, see ourselves as “above the below and below the upper,” and are likely feeling less and less special these days. Our reality, a self-created caste system of sorts, was all nicely ordered to our liking and now…well…it’s apparent that we’re not really “above the below” anymore.
Our country doesn’t celebrate us anymore. And it’s pretty much impossible to live the “American dream” of yesteryear, where everyone stood a decent chance of living comfortably and maybe even getting rich if you worked hard enough. Generation after generation of working until our skin split hasn’t gotten us anywhere, so long as we’re measuring “anywhere” in terms of fame and fortune.
And that’s probably where the current ire comes from. It used to at least be Something to make a living with your hands, off your own sweat, working longer than sun-up to sun-down at whatever job needed doing, fixing whatever broke along the way, all to feed and shelter a family you were teaching to appreciate the same values.
Life felt purposeful, special when you worked hard in hopes of not having to work so hard.
But hope, as a capitalist concept, has most definitely faded.
This could quickly turn into a political discussion, but that’s not my goal. And that would be far beyond any productive point anyway. This is not about our next leader. This is not about immigrants or refugees or the disenfranchised finally having a voice and a national stage, much to the dismay of all those who have stayed within their own defined moral centers.
No, this is about spirit, about soul, about separation from God and the transformation it’s gonna take to remember the Truth.
As I wrestle my way down this very bumpy path towards Truth, I must next tackle my insatiable need to feel special and come to know how truly damaging it is to myself and everyone around me.
Call me callous, but I have no plans to try to reassure these amazing neighbors and friends that they’re special. Cuz they’re not. We must wake up to the fact that none of us are special. I know this bucks at everything we’ve been taught our entire lives, everything we continue to teach our children, everything the holy books teach about their “chosen” people, everything new age spiritual self-help tells us to make us feel better about our meager lives … but, it’s just not true.
Here’s what I’m learning about “specialness.”
Being special creates a definitive (sometimes subtle, sometimes overt) feeling of superiority. For example, a large percentage of us believe that one country is superior to another and thereby so are its people and thereby so are its peoples’ beliefs, values, civic systems, and so on and so forth. We start to feel justified in small attacks and then bigger and bigger attacks until we are in outright war. See the history of the world.
On a personal level, our ego’s need to feel special puts us in a position of automatic comparison and then judgement and then justified “attack” on that which is beneath us. It creates a lack of trust in everyone and everything but ourselves. We have substituted our own specialness for our ability to love our fellow humans. It is only the special who can have enemies, as A Course in Miracles teaches.
Being special cannot bring peace or joy of any kind because it is the absence of love. And since only love can point to the Truth, if we want to wake up, we must accept that we are NOT special.
Sure, I want to see my beautiful little three-year old daughter as a special light above all the others in this world. I want to look at this chosen home, The Angle, and declare it special, better than other places, and in fact, I smugly have done just that in past writings. I want to think of myself as something different than the average Jane.
But I want peace more.
Those are desires of the ego. I would be a slave to that specialness and its maintenance for the rest of my life. A Course in Miracles teaches that the special ones are asleep, surrounded by freedom, peace and joy they cannot see. “They are lost in dreams of specialness.”
Right now, I don’t know how to keep writing about The Angle without the belief that it’s special. But, I have a feeling and a hope that its true beauty will open up to me because in not making it special in my mind, I will finally be able to see it for what it really is. From the caterpillar’s transformational journey to the reeking skunk carcass, perhaps the whole world will open up in The Angle.
Big Foot and God, included.

The Why, the What, and the Wait

Column 35 Published in the September 20, 2016 issue of the Warroad Pioneer

I was sweeping out the garage when our kitty, Gypsy, meowed something unintelligible in Cat, waking me from my absent-minded reverie. “Come on, little one,” I told her. “I want to show you something.” Suddenly and randomly inspired to visit the fort Iris and I are building, I dropped the broom and walked straight into the woods.

All of my spiritual study lately has me much more in tune with what many religions call the “Holy Spirit,” even though a few of the more rigorous practices believe I shouldn’t yet have access to it, not having taking their prescribed steps towards salvation. In all my earthiness, I’ve often interpreted “spirit” over the years as simple intuition, and now, with a bit more awareness in the mix, heeding its call has taken on almost a game-like quality.

Dropping most everything to do what feels Loving and True takes tremendous fortitude, of which I usually have very little. But I’m becoming more trusting, curious, and playful. And, surprise, the Universe is responding. So, when something told me to go for a walk in the woods with my cat – a definite first – I listened.

Halfway to the fort, amidst rotting twigs and wet moss, was a still-blind baby squirrel chirping weakly and fumbling about. My cat and I walked right to it, and a second before she could pounce I cupped it in my hands protectively and looked skyward for the nest. Waiting quietly for many minutes, I half-hoped the parent squirrel would return and start scolding me. But somehow I knew I was supposed to find this little one.

The baby was defensive and scared, but with only soft claws and two tiny bottom teeth just barely breaking through its gums, it couldn’t yet scratch or bite. It was flea- and mite-covered, which I would later read means the mother has been gone for days. It likely bumbled its way out of the nest in response to hunger. Talk about fortitude and a blind leap of faith – rather than lay curled up, growing colder and starving next to its siblings, out it went into a world it couldn’t even fathom. I checked back many times over the next few days hoping to find others from the invisible nest but never did.

My own little one and I set about taking care of it as best we could. She quickly named it Herbie, and I shortly thereafter deduced it was female. Warming it, slowly rehydrating it and painstakingly de-lousing it, we bathed it gently with soft cloths trying to simulate a mother’s tongue, which even cleans away their urine and waste after each feeding while they’re this little. We bought a bag of pet infant formula on our next trip to town and started feeding it slowly. Eventually, little Herbie would grasp the medicine dropper with both tiny paws and drink desperately before losing her latch. One morning, she had an eye open. That afternoon, the other one opened as well. The cuteness factor multiplied exponentially, but we purposely didn’t spend a lot of time with her. She needed low stimulation, lots of rest and nourishing warmth. We were not growing a pet, and we knew it.

That Sunday afternoon, my Uncle John died.

As soon as we could, we took the trip down the quick gravel road to be with my mom. Thinking about his wife and two teenagers brought me to tears many times, but as You do, I did my best to explain to a three-year old what had happened and that her grandma and great-grandparents might be quiet and sad.

“Why?” slipped into my mind inadvertently several times, and in her little voice, Iris wondered it as well. Uncle John had been retired not even two years. His children were in huge transitional phases in life, his wife as steady and their faith as solid as ever. He was kind and good and worked hard for what he loved. It was hard not to suffer over the Why?

Byron Katie teaches that the only possible answer to “Why?” is “Because.”

I understand this intellectually and do my best to practice it, but then I forget and find myself demanding to know WHY from my three-year old about some perceived grievance, some mess she made, some instructions she didn’t follow. I demand to know Why of my man, my partner about some past decision that still hurts my heart. Is it my irrational need to blame? My unfounded belief that I deserve a different or better reality? My ego’s need to subtly attack or feel “special?”

Asking why about death is especially painful. It keeps you there, focused on death. Separated from life. From love.

Truly, the only answer to Why is Because. Yes, I can always point to the events leading up to a specific circumstance as the cause, even getting scientific if need be, but still, that doesn’t explain Why. Ultimately, things are the way they are because They Just Are. It is what it is. I am what I am. You are what you are. Reality doesn’t cause my suffering. It’s my wanting reality to be other than what it is that causes suffering.

A Course in Miracles teaches that the only proper question in all of humanity or at least the only one that will have more than one answer is “What is it for?” All other questions come from our ego’s unquenchable need for more and its thinly veiled attraction to fear.

But, what is it for?

In many cases, we won’t know the true answer until years pass, lifetimes even.

We spent until late afternoon with our grandparents, sharing stories and tears, apple pie and mostly quiet, together-time gently talking about things that mattered not.

When we came home, after far too many hours for an infant of any species, I found the baby squirrel cold and barely moving. While still damp from the morning cloth bath we awkwardly administered, she must have crawled out of our hastily assembled nest and fallen asleep from a full belly on the bare cardboard. I did what mothers do and took her to my bare skin.

I went to sleep that night with a tiny rodent on my chest.

She pawed and nuzzled weakly from time to time, but when I woke hours later, she was dead. I don’t know if I smothered her in trying to get her warm, or if she’d gotten pneumonia from fluid in her lungs – our initial feedings were less than graceful – or if the guestimate mixture of rehydration liquid and pet formula had seized her digestive system. Who knows?

But I wept. I had tried and I had hoped to do something that felt Loving and True. And it felt like I failed.

Of course the emotion wasn’t just for Herbie the squirrel. I wept for Grandpa Dale and Grandma Grace, losing a son at an age when life isn’t getting any easier. I wept for my mom, losing a sibling she had grown so close to in the last few years. I wept for cousins Brandon and Brianna, who would face so many new adventures and challenges without one of their two most important people in all of life. And oh, I wept for Kay, just into the slow-down and be-together-time with her husband of 26 years. It all felt so fiercely sad.

What is it for?

What is it for?

Maybe we won’t know for ages, maybe until our last breaths.

But the squirrel’s death, I knew what that was for as soon as Iris woke up. I told her that Herbie had died in the night. She was quiet and solemn; a few dramatic tears forced their way up, as if it were expected of her.

And then she said softly, looking at the squirrel she held in her small hands, “Grandma’s brother died.”

“That’s right, honey,” I whispered into her hair.

And when the Why didn’t come for either of us, I held on to her and I held on to the “Because” that was whispering itself in my head. I held on to the last images I have of my uncle, smiling as he worked on a driftwood lamp with his family hovered ‘round.

I held on to that love, that truth and togetherness, and knew that That is what it is all for. Lessons come hard in this life of suffering, but when I put the Why? away and ask What is it for?, the answer is always given. Even if we have to wait.

“Don’t write about politics or religion,” they said

Column 34 Published in the September 6th issue of the Warroad Pioneer

Weeks come and go like the passing of a summer’s breeze. Tucked away in the happy hermitage of my Angle home, it’s challenging at times to remember what, if any, value the words I string together hold for anyone else.

Inspiration is everywhere, as a wise Warroad Pioneer editor once told me, and yet the questions remain in my ego’s mind: who cares? What is it all for? What does it matter what lessons any of us suffer through, what demons we wrestle on the quest for Truth?

Is everyone else on this same quest, I wonder. Are we born knowing Truth and then slowly forget as we are brutally “civilized” in whatever fashion our cultures dictate? Or are we born wicked and sinful – our inheritance – as the Bible’s Old Testament suggests?

I lean towards the former, of course. Any belief that fosters love over fear easily gets my vote.

If there is one truth I have come to accept over the past many years of searching and studying, it is that no one group of people or set of beliefs holds a monopoly on the Truth. Regardless of how fervently any religion defends their righteousness or for how many hundreds of years they have been doing so, it doesn’t change the fact that all of us have access to the Truth, to salvation, to the love of the divine. The opposite belief is the root of all wars, both individual and global. It has led to suffering and strife across all groups of people around the entire globe. And therefore, it cannot be Truth.

Only love can point to Truth.

I recognize this is not a popular belief to hold in the Midwest’s Bible Belt, nor here at The Angle where our only spiritual center is a happy little non-denominational, Bible-believing church. Many of us have been raised to believe that only our religion holds the key to salvation, and we can all point to our strict interpretations of certain passages from the religious books as “proof.”

Yet it is this imperialism that fosters intolerance, discrimination and outright violence – as it has done for centuries. Certainly Jesus didn’t teach exclusivity. His way was “the way” of forgiveness, “the truth” of inclusive love and “the life” of compassion.

I wonder if Jesus would have taught tolerance of intolerance…for that has been one of my hardest lessons: holding space and compassion for all those who fervently believe the rest of us are going to Hell in a hand basket because we don’t subscribe to their beliefs.

Certainly there is beauty and truth to behold in all faiths. And that is my pursuit now – learning all. I am fortunate in that the pace of life at The Angle allows me to both look for my life and for the Truth that all life holds.

I am also fortunate here at The Angle, because a small group of Bible-believing women put up with my “otherness” in their usually cozy Bible study. Yep, I am studying the Bible. We’ll read the whole darn thing in one short year and I’m on week 3.

At the same time, I’m studying A Course in Miracles, the principles of Buddhism and the wisdom of the ancient Toltecs, all interspersed with factual readings in contemporary science. I have not studied Aboriginal Spirituality, Islam or Hinduism in any depth, but those will be next on the great list.

My soul’s hope is that I will accept Truth in all its different forms and come to know peace. My ego’s hope is that I’ll open my eyes and the eyes of others to move beyond our limiting beliefs in order that our judgement of others will cease.

Peace most obviously cannot be ours while we judge others. A Course in Miracles teaches that the last judgement is actually “a final healing rather than a meting out of punishment.”

I like to picture all of us waiting beyond the veil of judgement, watching with love as the last one of us opens his eyes to a judgement he made of some other person or some situation or some poor inanimate object. When the false thoughts of that last judgement fall into nothingness, we will all finally see together the Truth of our beautiful reality and how it has had its loving arms wrapped around us this whole time whether we felt them or not.

Regardless of where we put our faith, we must believe that all things work together for good. And in fact, every single major religion and spirituality teaches this tenant. If we believe the opposite, fear will win. Peace will never be ours. And as such, until all of the world’s religions make peace with each other and work together for good, the world will never know peace. Another simple truth.

And so…here at The Angle, this tiny little forgotten pocket, there wrestles one child of God with all of the great questions of our time in search of Truth.

The truth in the fragile dust-covered wild flower blossom along our gravel roads. The truth in the wily smile of a three-year old when she answers common sense with perfectly wonderful nonsense. The truth in a commitment to a man, a family, sobriety, and this community. The truth in a metaphysical quest for open-hearted learning about forgiveness, inclusive love and compassion.

Come along for the ride. It’s sure to involve politics too.

The Task at Hand

 

Column 31 Published in the July 5,2016 issue of the Warroad Pioneer

Well hello there, July. Welcome, and we’ll take you, biting black flies and all.

June, the moody mistress that she was, blessed us with an abundance of variety. Steady? No, not she. She took us from whipping winds and bone chilling wet to sweltering heat that sat heavy and dense like a used towel left to dry in a heap.

A recent June day, I remarked to no one in particular in my otherwise unoccupied vehicle, “You know it’s a Windy day when there are miniature white caps on the standing water in the farmers’ fields.”

I love the long drive into town passing the many fields in their different states of dress and undress. The neighboring farmers are the buffer as we move from our densely wooded community to the progressively more open and populated, albeit still sparsely, outskirts of these rural towns. The hearts of their downtown areas and the bustle of their local commerce is a welcome change to the remote day-to-day life that is The Angle’s.

Our tourism economy here at The Angle gives the impression of busy-ness everywhere you look, and indeed we are a hard-working community. But there’s also a hint of loneliness that hangs in the air just as it does on the busiest city streets.

Peculiar to our species, no doubt, we are seeking. We are aching. Wondering. We get so consumed with taking care of our own egoic pursuits that we often fail to make the heart connections that are so vital to our growth, our happiness.

The tabloid of my life at The Angle: the off and on relationship, the ragged, yet wholehearted endeavors to find my place in our misfit community, the craving and searching for soulful, authentic connections, it all continually points me back to learning about love, forgiveness and God.

A Course in Miracles continues to be an almost daily guide for me. It has reminded me yet again that ANYTHING, if it’s not Love, is fear. If a thought doesn’t bring joy, then it is riding on fear, however deeply hidden. Stress equals fear equals illusion equals false, no matter how fiercely I believe in it. If a thought brings anything other than an abiding joy, it is not of God, not of reality. What a bonanza that knowledge is! I write it again and again solely so that I may continue to learn it. We’ve created all these illusions ourselves, and I can finally see that breaking down the fear-based illusions is my life’s work.

There is a certain peace that has settled in now that I no longer have to strive to learn unconditional love. It seemed such an impossible task even mere months ago. I would fail and fail again at every test, judging this, fearing that.

In fact, “unconditional love” is redundant. If it’s not unconditional, it’s not Love. Fear can create love-like feelings, but it takes only a careful look and I’ll see the cracks in the foundation.

Love is our true nature, and we’ll return to it regardless of our earthly wanderings, our raging Get and Keep egos, our ramshackle life stories created largely on fear.

Recognizing what fear has built in my life is my task now. Perhaps that is why my journey led me here, back to Minnesota, to The Angle, so that I may lead a simpler life closer to family and closer to the land.

It would seem there are less trappings here and that living more wholesomely would be a boon. Oh, but Egos are tricky beasts. They will latch on to anything, wrap their fear tentacles around it and create stress under the guise of achievement. Mine has built the illusion of “so much to do” that at times, I can barely breathe.

I was a steady drinker for two decades of my life because my ego had run rampant. Escaping felt like part of surviving, but in fact it only slowed my recognition. I see now that addictions are so prevalent in our culture because we are so mind-identified. Alcoholism has a nasty social stigma, for sure, but if I’ve learned anything over the past many years, it’s that addiction is addiction is addiction.

Guilt seems like a noble cloak to wear in the aftermath of addiction, but it’s not. Guilt comes from fear.

There are many who would argue to the death that what they fear is indeed real. Fear seems real to us because we believe in it and we believe in it because we created it.

I don’t want a life lived in defense of what I’m afraid of. I want a life broken open to Love. Raw and real. Graceful in it’s slow reveal, like the pregnant fields on my drive to town. Like the beauty in my three-year-old’s sly smile as she learns new and better hide-and-seek spots. Like the subdued glory of the pink and white lady slippers that pepper the ditches along our rural highways for just these few shorts weeks this time of year.

I want to see it all. Especially my fears. Bring it on, July.

 

 

(Alas, my lady slipper photo was too blurry. The above photo was pulled from Flickr via the MSFT bank of online photos using the Common Creative content licensing. I don’t know the person’s name to give them credit, unfortunately. So beautiful.)