A Minority Victory

(Column 41 – Published November 15th in the Warroad Pioneer)

It has been a tough week to stay positive. Trumpers everywhere are telling us to quit whining and to accept defeat with grace and dignity – in less kind words, of course, and just as they would have if Hillary had won, no doubt.

It was a cruel election season, and though the election is over the cruelty isn’t. It’s as if Trump’s indecency has given anyone who wants it the permission to be just as awful.

An acquaintance found out I was for Hillary and told me because of all the Trump flags and signage he had assumed “The Angle was safe” from the likes of me. A brother called me stupid for voting for her and said he was “pissed-off that I didn’t think like him.” A brother-in-law unleashed a whole smelly stream of vitriol on my Facebook page and when I asked him to take his negativity elsewhere, he flat out refused. He was the first person I unfriended. A sister texted me a propaganda video entitled The Clinton Pedophile Satanic Network with a cover photo of a presumably dead woman smeared in entrails and floating in a tub of blood. A sister-in-law posted dozens of cruel and hateful memes about Hillary Clinton and her supporters – as if there were still voting going on. She was the second person I unfriended.

These are all from what I would have called good, hard-working Christian folk. Golden Rule, much?

Being white, I haven’t been subjected to one of the hundreds of acts of blatant racism and violence happening around the country in the wake of the election.

It is not a good time to be anything other than white, Christian and conservative in this country.

So, fall in line, folks. Support our new president, Dems. Quit whining, bitches. Pull up your big girl britches and get back to work, sweetheart.

But I can’t.

And I won’t.

My little Hillary yard sign remains. Not because I think she should be president, but because I want everyone to know that I proudly did not vote for what is about to ensue in this country. And because I’m going to hold everyone who voted for him accountable.

You need to make sure that he “will create jobs like no one else.” You need to make sure that he provides something “better” than the Affordable Care Act. You need to make sure he makes life better for inner city blacks, where he assumes they all live. You need to make certain he fulfills all of his positive campaign promises. Were there any? Oh yeah, he’s going to bring the production of Oreos back to the States. That’s a good one. Let’s make sure we are making all of our sugary, fatty poisons right here in our own promised land.

If you wanted the wall and for Hillary to be locked up, sorry to disappoint you, but he’s already capitulated on those – just good campaign tactics, no doubt. They made for good rally chants, at the least.

After the election, I listened again to the book “The Four Agreements” by don Miguel Ruiz on my long and lonely daily drive to town. It’s a quick read and an even quicker listen; I highly recommend it for anyone wanting to live with integrity. It helped me remember to have hope in humanity, even the indecent ones, even the cruel ones.

Column 41.png

We are diseased, we humans. Sick in the head. We have all made a million little agreements about how to be and how to act. And, all our resulting beliefs stem from a fear that we will be judged for not meeting those millions of agreements. In truth, we are sleeping behind a functioning façade. But we can wake up, and I intend to.

The Four Agreements are:

  1. Be Impeccable with your Word

Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the Word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your Word in the direction of truth and love.

  1. Don’t Take Anything Personally

Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.

  1. Don’t Make Assumptions

Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want. Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness and drama. With just this one agreement, you can completely transform your life.

  1. Always Do Your Best

Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick. Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse, and regret.

(The above summaries are not my own and I wasn’t able to find proper attribution as they are on numerous sites exactly as written.)

I break these agreements all the time, but with awareness I always come back to them and continue to grow in love and integrity. In a first draft of this column, I had outlined them using Trump as an example of what not to do, but that was not being impeccable with my word. I had to scrap it. I start over all the time.

Trumpers, you squeaked by in a minority victory. More people in this country voted for Hillary than for Trump. Please treat us with respect and dignity. You have extremists in your ranks, as do we. Let’s not judge the whole by the few.

If you voted for Trump, you now have a tremendous responsibility to hold him accountable, as we all do. I wish we could hope for a more presidential man, a man who would live by The Four Agreements, as if he’d magically change from campaign trail to Oval Office. But part of his appeal is “what you see is what you get.” He himself declared that he is very unpredictable, so that’s what we’ll deal with for the next four years. And believe you me, it’s only gonna be four years.

This too shall pass.

(Note: In print, the Pioneer substituted “horrifically graphic” for the phrase “presumably dead woman smeared in entrails and floating in a tub of blood.” They also edited out the profanity from “Quit whining, bitches.”)

“I’m not racist,but…” I Am

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.