Kindness is Wisdom

 

The warm nights and warmer days seem to have everything on a fast track this summer. June is most often cold and rainy, but not this year. Fans are going night and day. Water temperatures are where they usually are in late July. The algae bloom has started in force. One wonders if fall is going to start in mid-August at this rate.

I would much rather tune in to nature’s news station than that of we humans lately. The lack of compassion and kindness evident in our political and business arenas is heart sickening. Continue reading “Kindness is Wisdom”

Lucky

Most mornings I wake up feeling pretty darn fortunate. Not all mornings, of course, but more often than not.

I’ve always had shelter, food and clothing. I’ve always been surrounded by people whom I love and who love me. I’ve faced very little adversity, loss or personal tragedy.

I’m a white woman in a democratic country. I’m college-educated. I’ve lived in metropolitan and rural areas, both by choice. I’ve traveled across oceans, tasted cuisines around the world, met people from all walks of life. I’ve danced in the desert beneath a complete lunar eclipse and rode white water that nearly killed me, just for the thrill of it. I’ve had time and resources to Create, in myriad different forms and at all different stages of my life. Continue reading “Lucky”

Fishing for Humanity

 

This past weekend I went trout fishing. I caught a bass.

One olive green, bug-eyed small mouth who tacitly reminded me that I’ve been taking this ridiculous and beautiful game far too seriously. She said exactly that as I looked into the placid depths of her dark eyes. I drug her up from 60 feet on a barbless hook as fast as I could reel, and she forgave me instantly. The experience left her shocked, and she lolled about in the ice hole for a time before coming back to her fish senses. Silently, so as not to appear too off my rocker to those fishing with me, I said Thank You and wished her well on her journey home.

I’ve been lolling about in the ice hole too, stunned that all is not as I believed it was. That the game isn’t being played by the limited rules I had once understood. That the false-bottom my Vexilar displayed is a million times more complex than I once thought, though still false.

Life isn’t what it seems.

My bass saw it and accepted it without understanding. But bass don’t have an ego masquerading as a spiritual quest.

Sure, I can continue to write about our quaint gravel roads and the close proximity of wildlife. I can rhapsodize about the birds at the feeder or make melodies of the scampering squirrels and pine martens. I can translate as the wind pushes winter off the trees yet again, or romanticize the solitude and the seekers who find themselves here to unwind.

But what’s happening within me dictates what I see without.

And I see a tiny community in existential crisis, because I am. I see a country totally divided, because I am. I see the vocal majority picking on the quiet minority, because that’s what’s happening with me. The big ugly ego within is demonizing the still quiet voice, because one spells love, truth and the awareness of the other. And we all know it’s not the loud-mouth who’s gonna win in the end.

My fundamental notions of what life is all about have been breaking down for some time, but witnessing what’s going on in the world makes the internal escalation now feel frantic, chaotic.

Is anyone else feeling this? As if something’s gotta give and soon or it’s all just going to collapse?

This morning I awoke from a dream about a waiting room of sorts at a makeshift birth center. I sat in the middle with the organizers, and around the edges of the huge rectangular room were women of every color, creed, shape, size and social status, their pregnant bellies full and prominent. Some were alone. Some had partners. Some reclined on matts on the ground. Others curled in sleep. Some danced the slow sensual dance of creation. Some stood rigid and tight. Some women laughed and sang. Others wept silently.

My four-year old had found her way to my bed again, and as I lay awake unmoving, thinking about my dream, she said loudly in her sleep, “Yep! We are tree frogs.”

I long to be able to see the hearts of the people behind all the social constructs, beyond the religious labels, despite the political leanings. I want to see two people of different belief systems stare each other in the eyes until they can both recognize the humanity in the other. I want to see a big-bellied Muslim women next to a big-bellied Christian woman and all the fear and hatred be put aside in honor of the life they bring into the world.

It feels like that’s what everyone everywhere is fighting for. “Acknowledge my humanity. See my suffering. See me. Love me.”

We are the same, and yet we spend every ounce of our egoic energy working to define and differentiate our Selves and then even more to defend the righteousness of our differences. But, we are an idea, nothing more. The way we’ve got it all constructed, these crazy lives surrounded by meaningless crap in this crazy constructed world. It’s all just ideas, reinforced rather messily with more made-up ideas that seem as real as every dream does while we’re in it, unawake and unaware that we are dreaming. Every single one of us is screaming through our night terrors that “My ideas matter. My stuff matters. I matter.”

But we – as we see ourselves and as we want others to see us – are just ideas. And we WILL wake up, because that is the law of dreams. We can’t choose to stay in the dream because it doesn’t exist.

What we really are is those babies about to be born in that big room of creation. We are undefined and perfect. We are loved without knowing it or knowing we need it. We are the same as the baby born next to us whose skin tone is totally different. We are the same whether our grandmother prayed in a mosque or a temple or a wide-open meadow. We are the same whether it was a woman or a man who held our mother’s hand as we came into the world. We ARE the same.

Beware of those who tell you you are different. Beware of those who tell you you are better. Beware of those who tell you to defend you. They are afraid. They are lost in their night terrors and they want you to join them in hopes that they will feel less alone and less afraid.

Don’t.

Unless you are awake and can gently guide them back to here and now and help them awaken to see it was all a dream, don’t go down to meet them.

Rise up and dream of love, if you must dream at all. If they insist on falling back asleep, coax them into dreams of tree frogs and trout, I mean bass. Or better, rise up holding their hand and show them the dreams of humanity standing together. Seeing each other. Loving each other. Show them that every good thing is possible, even finding meaning in the eyes of an olive green small mouth bass that was supposed to be a lake trout.

(Published in the Feb 28 Warroad Pioneer)

On Corporal Punishment

(Column 50 – published in the Feb 14th Warroad Pioneer)

Life is heavy at times. Like the weight of the rain on top of our snow base, thickening a crust that can hold the fox and a four-year old but not the sharp-hooved deer and a Muck-booted mama.

I have emerged from my self-imposed social hibernation with short trips here and there. Sledding, skating, fishing. A weekend Kenora visit along the winding ice road.

We even scheduled a date, as many couples do, leaving the little human with the grandparents for an evening. It was pleasant to sit quietly over dinner, talking only with the man I choose to love about topics that make us smile. There was no struggle to find non-phone distractions keeping a new four year-old occupied and in her seat.

At The Angle and near-abouts, we allow her the freedom to roam and visit with strangers. Social interaction is a commodity in this lonely road’s-end home, but she is unafraid and inquisitive, and people are beautiful and interesting. Her forming sense of identity is still innocent enough to readily share what she knows of herself with them. It is a gift she can give truly, sincerely.

I hope she will always give.

So many of us go so far away from that as we age. What we call life seems mostly about “getting” and “keeping.”  Me. Mine. My family’s. My country’s. The more successful we are in “getting,” the more revered we think we are. The more “getting” we achieve, through whatever means, the more justified we feel in labeling those who have more barriers to “getting” as lazy and freeloaders. Some who are born “having” are granted the elevation the rest of us earn through hard work. They, in their unearned “wisdom,” are boosted by the people whose heads they stand on, and they climb more quickly because they started further up where the rungs are closer together.  It is comforting to put our salvation in their hands, yet it is hard to see from way down here that their hands are, in fact, NOT held open to those below them. No, their hands are white-knuckled around each rung as onward, upward they climb to see what else they can “get.”

It is understandable how we came to be this way – this selfish putting-first of everything pertaining to me and mine, this closed-eye faith in those who did a better job of “getting” and “keeping” than we. In a word: fear. I wrote in my last column that fear, in and of itself, is very simple. Just as darkness is the absence of light, fear is the absence of love.

Simple in definition, perhaps, but complex in its manifestations. As a parent, I hold many fears about my child’s future. So much seems beyond my control. In reality, what matters most is completely within my power to transform.

Most fear is taught. Studies have shown that 90% of all parents inflict physical pain as a way to teach right behavior from wrong. Fear certainly serves a useful purpose in keeping us safe from lions and tigers and bears for example, but in the case of corporal punishment, our moral decisions are then built on the fear of physical pain. As we grow, it is natural for us to go into self-protection mode when anything uncomfortable confronts us.

Me. Mine. Protect.

From the minutest example of a parent spanking a child to the grandest scale of a dictator’s deadly regime, fear of physical pain is a biological weapon used to enforce obedience.

Unquestioning subservience over time becomes blind glorification of the ties that bind.

As a result, there are billions of child-adults who logically choose Me/Mine over what is morally right. We run away from perceived fear instead of walking towards it shining our lights to examine its nothingness.  We hold close what we believe won’t hurt us. We make enemies out of the slightest possibility of pain.

Me. Mine. Get. Keep. Push. Punish. Protect. Disconnect. Demonize.

Jesus, the Buddha, Mohammad would never have struck a child, no matter what the crime. Why do we think it’s okay that we parent in a manner different from how God loves us? God doesn’t isolate us in time-outs either.

My Bible study group argued once that God in fact does punish us BECAUSE he loves us, and that is supposedly what parents spanking their children is all about. I disagree with every ounce of my being. We may perceive the consequences of our wrong actions as punishment, but the two are very different things. Consequences are natural, organic. They are our mistakes correcting themselves, our free will teaching us to be still and listen to the voice of God.

Punishment is the hell humans put each other through when we’ve stopped listening to God.

Yes, I have spanked and slapped hands in my ill-formed, ever-evolving parenting approach, but it was certainly not out of love. No punishment is born of love. Punishment is the result of plain and simple fear that the child will become the manifestation of the behavior we have judged as wrong. Spanking a child for failing to pick up toys is about our fear of them becoming irresponsible and slovenly, but more importantly, it’s about our fear of losing totalitarian control in our home, in our lives. “She didn’t listen to me, so I punished her” actually means “I am afraid of not being fully in control of what I consider ‘mine’ and of perceived disrespect towards that which I consider “me.”

So, yes, it is understandable, but it’s not OK. Spanking gets results in the short term, but I’m not raising my child short term. “I was spanked, and I turned out okay,” I might say, defensively. But did I really? Look at all the fears I hold, desperately, tightly, as if they were my Beloved.

In the game of Love – and make no mistake, that is the only game there is – none of it makes any sense. We have grown to physical adulthood and yet our spiritual maturity has been left in the smiling eyes of the four year-olds we once were.

Give, said Jesus.

Give mercy, said Mohammad.

First, practice generosity, said the Buddha.

That is the way to freedom.

Freedom is what I want, and it’s what I want for my child. Spankings and punishment become stillness and connection. Me and Mine becomes Us and Ours. Man-made borders become ribbons connecting the beauty of humanity.

We walk awkwardly through the snow. Her chatter balances my silence. I give.

Life is the crashing through the crust time and time again and yet crawling on. Because that is how I grow. That is how I gather strength and endurance for the tests ahead. For the toppling of the ladder. For forgiveness of the head-steppers. For unclenching their fear-filled fists so that we may join hands. As children would.

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.)

A Family Portrait (Part 2)

Published Dec 6 in the Warroad Pioneer – Column 43~*~

A group of men walked through the front door.  “WHO is that?” I thought to myself. He had dark hair and was of medium build, and though there were four of them, all good looking in their own right, I saw only him.

It was my parents’ annual Christmas dance and potluck dinner, and I had designated myself the greeter and coat taker. Home for the holidays meant two weeks off from a meeting-heavy, computer-centric job, an hour-long commute each way, and the beautiful chaos of Seattle’s 4-million-strong greater metropolitan area.

These Minnesota men in their heavy winter boots, snowmobile jackets, and two-day old whiskers carrying their own cooler of beer were like a Copenhagen-laced breath of Real winter air.

I walked up to Tony, held out my hand and said, “Hi. I’m Kellie.”

I don’t remember his touch or his introduction or even how we started talking, but I do remember finding my way back to his side throughout the evening. I asked him several times to dance, but he declined, and I settled for conversation and mixed drinks.

His group stayed late and we talked into the small hours about everything and nothing. A day later, he called my parents’ home and asked me out on a date – ice fishing. He picked me up on a snowmobile, a fast one, and I pretended I wasn’t scared when we reached illegal speeds of nearly 80 MPH. It wasn’t my first time ice-fishing by any means, but it was the first time fishing with a man who wasn’t my brother. I don’t recall anything we talked about, but I do distinctly remember the many comfortable silences.

And I remember catching fish! And him cleaning them right there and cooking us an early dinner on the ice.

I would find many reasons to come back home over the next 20 months, and each time he showed me more unknown facets of The Angle. I’d been visiting my grandparents and their quaint Prothero’s Post Resort all my life, but that tiny west end with the creeks, the inlet, the school and the church were all I knew.

Tony showed me a completely new side of this place: its lifestyle of harsh survival, hard-work and crazy, good-time adventures, so many new people, the island resorts and bars, Canadian fishing, snowmobiling beyond the inlet and Bear River, not to mention the quiet beauty of a wilderness that beckoned to my very soul.

Ten months in and still dating 1,700-miles long-distance, I proposed to him in the boat as he drove me northward on Lake of the Woods one perfect September afternoon. He had found me a fully off-grid cabin on its own island for a week-long just-me solitude retreat. “Let’s get married,” I said above the noise of the outboard. “Right NOW?” he asked, looking aghast. I jumped up and put my arms around his neck. “Yeah! Let’s spend the rest of our lives doing our damnedest to make each other happy.” He laughed and squeezed me in a one-armed hug. Nothing more was ever said about it.

After 21 months, neither of us could take the distance anymore. He drove to Seattle and moved me home. We didn’t have a place of our own or even any direction or a plan. But we wanted to be together.

We were both heavy drinkers then, and that made for trouble and ridiculous fun at the same time. While we were drinking, choosing sobriety seemed like an impossible task.

So we stopped.

And each day from then on, we choose to not drink.

And eventually, it became an easy change once we finally realized that’s what it would take if we wanted any chance at a future for Us, for our little family. We’d separated for over ten months in 2015, both dating other people and doing our best to move on. But the feelings didn’t fade, and when it mattered, he fought to save Us.

For me, something just clicked. I realized I’d never fully committed, never fully chosen him, never elevated him and Us above my needs.

High on the clear-headedness of sobriety for the first time in a long, long time, it became so pleasantly easy to put our love and our family first. But for the drinking, he already knew how to do that.  And now, he shows me how to love in a million tiny ways every day.

We’re in our forties. We’re unmarried and are still renters – basically failing at two societal measures of success that drive my ego crazy. But, if it matters and when the time is right, it will happen as it’s supposed to. The worries that used to plague me and result in the shaming pressure I would put on him have dropped away.

The fears of being judged in this tiny community have turned into a forgiving acceptance that people will judge based on who they are, not who we are.

Tony doesn’t seem to have worries or fears like that, and every day he teaches me patient devotion to What Is. Despite his scorn of non-motorized boats, he knows exactly how to float merrily down the stream. He let go of the tiller a long time ago. I’m the one who always steers right into the rapids.

Sometimes, even though I know this life IS but a dream, I don’t want to wake up. I don’t want to loosen my hold on the attachments my ego has created. The dream has become beautiful and comfortable, and who knew I could have so much fun sober?

But going back to sleep isn’t really an option once you’ve started the process of waking up. And all those attachments my ego desperately grasps are what will pull me under when the boat capsizes in the rapids I choose to ride.

But there will be Tony, throwing me a lifeline from the shallows. Smiling. Cherishing my efforts. And calling me Beautiful, as he has every single day since that first one.

“WHO is that?” I asked once. Now I know.

And that is how Tony was born to our family.

(Part 3 – click here)

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.”)