6 million million miles

any true flame has a flicker

if it’s floating rock you can tell quicker

an unwavering light

that you see in the night

is a planet, but that’s not the kicker.

 

when you’re giving the night sky a stare

wrap your mind around this, if you dare;

if it’s not a cigar

but a faraway star

it may be a fire that’s not even there!

 

dsc09580
the best i could get without a tripod

the warmth of a cold nose

dsc00045

nov. 17: what is the hardest lesson you’ve learned from having pets?

i think the obvious answer is that our pets teach us about life and death, impermanence. you know, the small stuff. so yes, those lessons are heart-breakingly hard to learn. i have shared my whole memorable life with an amazing cast of furry four-legged characters, each in their time bringing their own unique personality and special brand of loving into my heart. teaching me that nothing, even the best things, can last forever on this earth. and it has been awful to say goodbye, to their whole-butt-wagging tails, backflips off the porch for dinner, mystery silver poops and empty bowls of hershey kisses (oh. right.), endless chases around the dining room table, licks right in the open freaking mouth, and warm loving eyes. yet while we physically say goodbye, the memories remain. and that’s something wonderful. and so, we open the door and do it again.

but the lesson i want to talk about is a different one. one that for me might be even harder, because it requires love in spite of… whereas death highlights love because of, and this is so much easier when all the “in spite of” disappears. maybe in this way death can help us frame this other lesson in a way that makes it slightly easier to digest. getting to the point, that lesson is that you Will, absolutely without a doubt, horrifically and devastatingly, Fail, those you love the most.

you won’t mean to do it. you never do. why would you ever intentionally epically disappoint someone you love beyond measure? you wouldn’t. but it’s going to happen. a moment will come when something about who you are just can’t accommodate. when selfishness or carelessness or simply the other side of a difficult choice will win out. when you break a promise. when you just make an honest mistake. and on the other side of that moment will be that someone who you as an imperfect person failed to love perfectly. and when that someone is a furry four-legged someone, chances are when you rush back to them in regret and pain and sorrow and apology, they will just be so happy that you’re back that nothing else will matter. and that will break your heart a second time, because you’ll feel like you don’t deserve it.

so you’ll say, i’ll never ever do that again. you say it to them. you say it to yourself.

but you will.

to me this is one of life’s hardest lessons. we will sometimes let ourselves and those we love down, hugely and despite our best efforts not to. we will be hurt, and hurt others, and we will promise never again. but again will come. how can we forgive ourselves for something we will inevitably keep doing? a lot of times it feels like we can’t. and we can get stuck in a dark vortex of even hating ourselves for it. but this is not the way out. the way out is through. expecting that we won’t fail at perfect love, when we are imperfect people, is not realistic. we need to learn this, accept it, forgive it. but we maybe we can’t completely. and why not?

because the love is so real. maybe what we need to do instead is learn that this hard lesson is a product of the deepest love. because it wouldn’t feel so bad if it didn’t matter so much. maybe what we need to do instead is extend that grace to those who fail or disappoint us. wag our whole butts when they come back in pain, because we understand. maybe what we need to do instead is recognize that our best is good enough. because when we’re gone, all the in spite of disappears, and only the because of remains. when we’re gone, our silver poop will be fondly remembered, and not the empty bowl.

it’s going to space, could you give it a second?

ah, louis ck cracks me up. and, as with most comedians, he often does it by holding a funhouse mirror up to a shared societal experience. one where you laugh because you know those people who do that, or maybe you Are those people who do that. and it’s good medicine to laugh at ourselves sometimes.

in this particular bit i’m referring to, louis is making fun of people who don’t appreciate technology for the amazing miracle that it is. those who say it’s somehow not good enough, when figuratively or sometimes literally, yesterday we didn’t even know it existed. he uses the examples of cell phones and airplanes; two things that are distinctly relevant to me today, which is why i chose to write on this topic.

early-mobile-phones

right now i’m sitting in terminal 5 in london’s heathrow airport. my laptop is connected to airport wifi that Remembered Me, and plugged into the 5th outlet i tried after it wouldn’t charge on any of the others. thankfully i charged it before i left, and could send off my urgent “i’m alive” email to family (before i discovered the working outlet with the help of 3 friendly strangers) – family who didn’t get a message from me on my cell phone, via an international text messaging service (!!), because the screen has literally separated from the body of the phone and is hanging on by… well, i’m not sure by what. ah, technology.

and what brought me here? an airplane. over 10 hours in the air, on a massive two level “airbus.” this stuff was once the material of sci-fi and now i just climb aboard, eat my “chicken or beef,” watch a movie or two, sleep in seemingly endless 20 minute intervals, and i’m here. in another country, another time zone, another continent. we had a little turbulence but we actually landed 7 minutes Ahead of schedule. i mean, that’s freaking amazing. yet i hate this trip more and more every time i do it. i don’t like flying. despite evidence to the contrary via my career choices i like consecutive hours of sleep. and i like eating immediately identifiable food products. but you know what i like more than all of that? spending time with the people i love.

1903-flight-wright-airplane

so, in gearing up for thanksgiving, i just want to take this moment to say thank you. thank you, martin cooper. thank you, wilber and orville wright. thank you, genuises who make my life what it is by connecting me with those who are essential to my happiness but who don’t all live in the same place (because, booooring). by allowing my world to be so wonderfully big, yet offering moments when it doesn’t have to feel that way. i am a truly lucky woman and we are truly lucky creatures. who can imagine what we’ll be able to complain about tomorrow?

#tbt

nov. 1: when you’re having a bad day with your mental health, what do you do to help yourself?

this was the first november 2016 blogher prompt, which i skipped entirely in favor of sharing my own thoughts. but i am circling back around to it because there’s something hidden in here that i think is important; finding strength amid a perception of weakness.

we all have “bad days with our mental health.” every single human, categorized in the dsm or not, has a depressed day now and then. or an event that triggers anxiety. or difficulty enforcing boundaries in a relationship. the list goes on. difficult mental health days are not owned only by those we would diagnose as mentally ill. of course, this shows two things. 1) to have these days is normal (within limits), and 2) it’s not that they happen, but how you respond that ultimately counts. developing strategies for not only surviving but thriving through the inevitability of these tough days is the basis of a lot of therapy and motivational speaking. and not all healthy coping strategies come naturally. often they need to be taught, always practiced, and constantly worked on.

but let’s say you’re past that point. you know it’s normal to have a bad day and you know you get to choose how you’ll respond. well what if your response is also seen as weakness? certain behaviors, like anything in excess (drinking, gambling, eating, etc), are obviously problems because they can affect your health or financial security. these behaviors can also lead to addiction, which is another problem in and of itself. society regularly portrays addicts as weak, perhaps due to a desire to believe that if you are strong enough, you can cope with your bad mental health days however you want without putting yourself at risk for addiction. for being “one of those people.” this perception is dangerous because it often prevents people from seeking help when they know they need it. perhaps an addiction was triggered by poor initial choices, but often these people were managing their bad mental health days and weren’t ever taught or able to practice more successful coping strategies. but this is another topic entirely.

help

for me, my coping strategy is also often seen as weakness, though it’s not as often hung out on the cross as a failure of character. actually i myself struggle at times with how to perceive my handling of bad mental health days. because the truth is, i need other people.

when i am having a bad mental health day, i help myself with friends, family, even sometimes just any kind of social contact. this may be seen as an extroverted tendency, and we all know the world is extrovert friendly. but more often it’s seen as a lack of self-sufficiency. i need other people to help me re-frame. i need them to hold me accountable. i need them to remind me of my value. i need them to remind me not to sweat the small stuff. i need them to listen, so i feel wanted, and to share their own experiences and ask my advice, so i feel needed. i need them to call me out when i’m being an idiot. i need them to motivate me when i am not strong enough to motivate myself. and this is how i feel like the world, and sometimes i too, feel like this dependency is weakness.

but my opinion about this has changed, and i’ll tell you why. because i am no stronger or weaker than anyone else on my own. but with other people, my strength is unlimited. here is an example from my own life. 4 years ago i was running the baltimore half marathon. during training i over-did it, and ended up with exertional compartment syndrome in my legs. i had to stop running for almost a month before the race. other people told me i probably wouldn’t be able to finish. here is the first way in which other people helped me. i love to prove someone wrong about me (for the better, of course) 🙂 so i told myself i dang well would finish, even if i walked the whole way. on the day of the race i told myself i would pace well and i would walk when i needed to, but i would get to the finish line. so i started at a nice jog. and i kept going. and i kept going. i kept it up longer than i had in any training run, floating on the positive energy of the people around me. but of course after a while i was feeling fatigued. my legs were doing well, but i was just tired. i gave myself a visual landmark at the bottom of the next hill and said when i got there, i would walk. but before i did, i saw a man with a below knee amputation having already completed the loop in front of me coming Up that very hill. holy crap. my legs aren’t hurting, so there is NO way i am walking yet. and you know what? i was able to motivate and inspire myself with the strength of other people through the entire race. and i ran slow as heck, but i didn’t walk once. and i made it across the finish line. all thanks to other people.

here is another example that is not (yet) from my own life, but that i have been blessed enough to witness over 200 times. and that is women giving birth. for starters, women at baseline are just strong as hell. i mean really. every single time, c/s, vaginal, epidural or not, i am blown away by the strength and grace i see women exhibit when they become mothers. it’s quite literally awesome. but here’s what’s even awesomeR. women use the strength of those around them to become even stronger. their husbands, partners, family members, midwives, doulas, and i personally believe the feminine spirit of the universe. they pull in the strength of their whole team like some kind of amazing transformer, and they become capable of things they said themselves they could not do on their own. they show mental and physical control that is almost super human. it’s true. i have seen it with my own eyes.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/43-photos-that-show-the-incredible-strength-it-takes-to-give-birth_us_57c5c011e4b0664f13cad046

in less than 1/4 of these photos is the woman shown “alone,” and even in those photos she is not alone because she has life inside her that gives her strength.

so what’s the take home message here? mainly, don’t judge yourself so harshly. “we’re all just walking each other home” (ram dass), trying to get by in this sometimes crazy world. but if we keep our minds open to learning better ways to cope, our eyes open to seeing the truth of our own amazing strength, and our hearts open to the strength others can lend us when we’re running low… we will come to realize that the power of the human spirit is truly limitless.

memory lane

 

memory_lane

 

moments ago i was aware of it all.

aware with the kind of attention you give when you’re lost but not on the clock.

aware of the architecture of the houses and the condition of the lawns,

of the smooth texture of the swiss blue topaz sky

marked only by a single cloud, shaped like a man’s head

with his mouth agape, screaming small black birds in migration.

i could see them as they passed through his esophagus and poured

out into the sky. words he could never take back.

i put on the turn signal and paused, hearing the sharp pulse of the indicator,

glanced left at the street sign, wondering how long i might be stuck going one way,

and turned sharply the blind corner.

 

it happened so fast my body had no time to brace against the impact.

in an instant every sense was lost but the force of the hit straight to bone,

the rapid expansion and contraction of muscles trying to keep order.

the glass of every window gone, all four doors blown from the frame,

the vehicle that brought me here now unrecognizable but to henry moore.

memory is like an octopus whose arms, when detached, can still bring food to the mouth.

it needs only a vehicle to bring us, crashing in forced reintegration,

here. to the parking lot where we said goodbye.

 

above, a single black bird escapes the screaming man’s fading lips.

 

 

maxresdefault

 

tuesdays with morgan, 3

this tuesday’s post will be full of cliche, but hey, sometimes things are cliche for a reason 🙂 to balance it out, i’ve used only my own original photos 🙂

.the fifth tuesday we talk about family.

family gives you a sense of “spiritual security,” says morrie schwartz. the first definition of the word spiritual is in fact to describe things that relate to the human spirit as opposed to material or physical things, rather than the religious definition that many might consider first. this is interesting to me, because often in the christian religion the family structure is used to describe the most sacred of relationships. the mother mary, god our father, treat every man as your brother, and so on. this probably points to why having a sense of family, and thus spiritual security, is so essential for our well being.

that family, of course, does not have to be made by blood; the bonds of love create all kinds of families. (for healthy families to continue, in fact, progeny cannot be made between those already related by blood.) consider referring to your colleagues as your “work family.” you wouldn’t describe them this way if you didn’t feel extremely close and bonded to them, if you didn’t feel that support was given and received in return.

dsc08269sometimes it isn’t what’s happening inside but what’s happening outside that bonds us together. as they say, “nothing unites like an outside enemy.” i have seen this be the case in american politics recently, where the bond can clearly extend beyond shared views to a security and support system that some feel they aren’t finding in their own homes. (thank you to psn.) for some it’s enough just to feel part of something bigger than yourself. but for whatever reasons we each can offer that we are bonded to the groups we define as family, it remains the place you turn when your spirit feels most vulnerable. family is what keeps you rooted to the ground, able to stand strong in the wind, the origin and the destination of the greatest love there is.

“love each other or perish.” -w.h.auden

.the eleventh tuesday we talk about marriage.

while blood undeniably binds you, so does marriage. your married partner is thus the most important family you choose. in marriage, says morrie, “you get tested. you find out who you are, who the other person is, and how you accommodate or don’t.” he feels there are four crucial components to success in this relationship: respect, compromise, openness, and shared values. the biggest of those values being “the belief in the importance of your marriage.” well in my 2.5 months of expert opinion, i think he hit this nail on the head.

dsc07819in fairness, any long term relationship is hard. but dang, marriage is hard. i’ll offer the oft repeated “anyone who says otherwise is lying,” because, they are. of course it’s also wonderful. it’s amazing to feel that sense of spiritual security in another person who you have promised to work with for life. someone who you believe will do their best to maintain those four crucial components, and who will support you in doing the same.

family isn’t always easy. marriage isn’t always easy. but as long as we find it easy to love each other, even if not always easy to like each other, we will figure it out. and a key component to loving no matter what, is…

.the twelfth tuesday we talk about forgiveness.

“forgive yourself before you die. then forgive others” (morrie). this too, isn’t always easy. actually if this one were easy, family and marriage would probably be a lot easier, too. but, like all difficult tasks, it’s worth it. forgiving does not mean that the wrong was ok. it does not mean forgetting, for then we wouldn’t take the lesson with us so that we can do better next time. but forgiving does allow us to let go of the pain and anger and resentment that only keep ourselves trapped. “resentment is like drinking poison and hoping it will kill your enemies” (nelson mandela). our happiness is our duty, and it’s hard to be happy with poison in your blood.

dsc05462bryant mcgill said “there is no love without forgiveness and there is no forgiveness without love.” it takes practice. but the better we become at one, the better we become at the other. in a spiritually secure place, like in the loving bonds of family and marriage, we can work to perfect it. and when we know we’re putting in the work, with respect, compromise, openness, and in line with our values, we make room to live our greatest possible life.

a little good magic

“words are, in my not-so-humble opinion, our most inexhaustible source of magic. capable of both inflicting injury, and remedying it.” – albus dumbledore

words are powerful. i have always believed this, and being a person who really enjoys reading and writing, i have always kinda liked it, too. reading and writing bring me happiness, and making someone happy is a good kind of power. a healing power. glinda the good witch power. the kind where you say the words “there’s no place like home,” click your heels together, and realize the power was within you all along.

d9e3ca05a4e59d62f7a692e346c58b48

but this past week i have been thinking about their other kind of power. the dark and hurtful power. the kind that paints whole groups of people in sweeping generalizations, or wipes out the validity of their experiences and feelings in phrases printed on dime a dozen memes. words that inflict injury without reason or sometimes even realization, that make no effort to understand their terrible magic.

i think this is the trickiest thing about words; that those who use them don’t even know how powerful they can be. nor how powerful not using them can be.

to be clear, i am not talking about one or the other side of the political aisle. i am talking about both sides. primarily i am talking to trump supporters and hillary supporters, but also to those who voted third party, and to those who didn’t vote at all (the category with the largest subscription this year). unless we all learn to somehow communicate with each other, your positive words fall on deaf ears and your negative words injure our democracy.

america held a free and fair election on november 8th. in my opinion, it ended in total f-ery. this is the “fault” of everyone, and it is everyone’s responsibility to try our best to attenuate the injury. to start, we have to think about our words. think (is it True, Helpful, Inspiring, Necessary, and Kind?) about what we are saying and why we are saying it. think about what we aren’t saying and why we aren’t saying it. in the age of social media, our words or our silence can mean just as much as our actions or inaction. let’s think about that as we go forward. we all have the choice of who we want to be, of which kind of magic we want in our world.

fe1f0dd5c144a7296264cbba392dc87e

(addendum: speak up when you see injustice! point it out if your own party isn’t representing you! ask for help understanding a dissenting opinion! but healing actions are also great, so please don’t stop at a facebook post… protest peacefully! step in if it’s safe to protect those who need protection! sign petitions! donate to the organizations that need it now more than ever! prove that love trumps hate, don’t just shout it at those you believe to be hateful.)