Category: Philosophy


There is a solar eclipse tomorrow. It’s kind of a freaky thing. I mean, the trigonometry of it (Technically, syzygy), as complex as it is, is fairly simple when compared to the myths associated with it. And if you understand the trigonometry of it – well, first off, congrats to your teachers, but also, doesn’t it make you feel small? The things we complain and worry about on the day to day seem insignificant when thinking about the paths of planets within our solar system… Our selves not even large enough to be mites in the sight of the Powers of the Universe.

But back to the myths…

Wolves, dragons, dogs, bears, and – in old Vietnamese folklore – even frogs have been blamed as the cause, as they devour the sun for various reasons. Biting some or all of it, depending on the degree of eclipse. There are many cultures who believed that an eclipse was the result of angry gods, and that it could mean apocalypse. Some felt that it was the sun and moon arguing – and the blackness was a reminder for us all to stop quarreling here on Earth. There are scholars that believe the darkness that fell over Jesus’ crucifixion was an eclipse. And many people still continue to see it as a portent for danger. For death. For destruction. For endings. And new beginnings.

And i won’t even go into everything the astrologers have to say about the eclipse.

This event brings with it some serious logistic problems as well. For one, the traffic congestion in the areas that will see totality are expected to be legendary. The roads between here in Chattanooga and Nashville, for example, are expected to be insane as we are in the path. Schools have been closed so that whole families can view this event together. And i’m sure eye doctors are preparing for the worst.

Another logistic nightmare: This will be a real test of our solar power industry. Tho currently, as a country, only about one percent of our commercial power comes from solar energy, there are states who use more. North Carolina, for example, is the third largest solar state, at about three percent, and part of it will fall within the path of the eclipse. The power companies are used to having to accommodate fluctuations in the grid during storms and clouds, but even under cloud cover, we still get solar rays. Monday, for a short period, there will be none. Zip. Zilch. This is going to test their skills.

The first instinct is to think that it’s only two minutes… How bad can it be? But if you were on a respirator and without a backup generator, it would be catastrophic. (To note, hospitals all have backup generators… I was just pointing out that it’s all relative.)

I don’t work in the power industry, but every article i have read says they have been preparing for this, as they realize the outcome will greatly influence the growth or decline of solar power in the commercial marketplace. Can they keep the flow steady, minimal waxing and waning, by pulling from other sources and exporting to extra grids as the sheer number of solar rays drops to zero and then peaks? Bless the men and women who will try. Granted, a lot of it may be moot – like all the prep we did for the turn of the millennium. But maybe not. I guess we will see.

And finally, what does this eclipse mean for us as individuals? For you? For me? Will it be a source of wonder? Awesome, in the truest sense of the word? Will it make you sit later, with your friends and a beer, and discuss our minuteness in the vastness of space? Or will you make merry with it, invoke the old myths, and bang pots and pans to scare off the mythical creatures that are eating our sun? Will you read the astrological predictions, even if just out of curiosity? Will you view those two minutes of darkness as a metaphysical moment of silence? Or are you hoping they will have an effect like a slap for hysteria on this crazy country of ours?

For most of us, the eclipse tomorrow will be a once-in-a-lifetime event. I urge you, my friends, to be safe. And i also hope we all will take a moment to think about all that is going on around us, oblivious of us and yet made of us, and consider what kind of energy we are taking from and giving back to the Infinite Source. From a scientific, religious, or social perspective – I hope we all make the most of it.


*** To ensure safety when viewing the eclipse, please investigate on websites like NASA  or AAC for different ideas on how to do so properly.


Should I Stay or Should I Go

I used to really enjoy my time on social media. I loved seeing everyone’s vacation pictures, funny memes, and dinner recipes. Sure, there was the occasional rant about how much something sucked, or the Facebook equivalent of a chain letter (For those of you too young to remember, these were actual pen-and-ink letters that you had to copy by hand and send to ten of your friends, or Hitler was going to show up at your next birthday party with near-beer and a rabid wombat and ruin everything, and you’d be left to rot in hell forever after)… But on the whole, it was my happy place. After a rough shift at work, i looked forward to seeing a video of a friend’s new grandson, or a screaming goat singing the chorus to the latest Taylor Swift song. It made me forget the stress of the day and laugh a little. It made it much easier not to kick the dog and go to bed angry….

Until last year.

While, before that, there were people who clogged up my newsfeed with conspiracy theories and mean tweets (Excluding, of course, the videos of celebrities reading mean tweets… That stuff’s hysterical!), if i wanted to stay in contact regardless, i could always hide their posts so i didn’t have to see them. But the last election turned far too many of us into partisan, uncompromising, political commentators. I had hoped it would end after the election, but it has, in many instances, gotten worse. From both the left and the right.

Now, i’m not saying people don’t have the right to be angry. And i’m not saying that people don’t have the right to post it. There is no law that says you can’t argue via the internet. And i admit, sometimes people say things, either true or false, that make me look it up and learn more about it. I consider that a good thing. I like to learn.

It’s the meanness that makes me log off.

Which brings me to tell you about my grandmothers. (I know that doesn’t make sense… Stick with me here…)

One of my grandmothers was a petite, quiet, but strong woman, born within the first decade of the 20th century. A good Irish Catholic girl (Yes, they DO exist), she strived to live like a good Christian. Like most of her generation, she had prejudices about color and lack of religion. I doubt she knew anyone who was (admittedly) gay, but she probably would have felt uncomfortable with it. She did not, however, believe in the mistreatment of anyone, regardless. No meanness. No evil thoughts. As a child, whenever i would get frustrated and shout that i HATED (Clams, tie shoes, the miscreant kid down the street…), she would gently, but sternly, say, “You must not hate. You can dislike, but you must NEVER hate. God doesn’t like hate.” And tho i certainly wasn’t a good Irish Catholic girl, i knew she spoke the truth. I knew it was wrong to hate and hurt. I knew that Love was the answer. Even if we don’t care for someone, we were to treat them as we want to be treated. And then pray for them. Never hate them. Hate was what caused people to do mean things. Hate is what caused us to mistreat others. Hate is what hurt people.

Now, my other grandmother was not like that at all. Well, that’s not entirely true. She was strong. But the other stuff? Nope. Not even close. For one thing, she was the center on her high school’s girls’ basketball team… This was right about 1940, so that should tell you a lot about the woman. She wasn’t petite, she wasn’t quiet, and her idea of religion was more about the holiness of a good lobster roll. (And if you fail to see the holiness, you’ve never had a really good lobster roll.) When my other grandmother was heading to mass on Sunday, this one was preparing to settle in and watch the Dolphins play. She could swear like a sailor, and she loved a good bet. But it never mattered who she was betting, or watching the game with, or sitting next to at the bar. Your validity as a Dolphins fan was not questioned if you happened to be from another human category. That never mattered to her. Case in point, i had the pleasure one day of sitting with my grandmother and the remaining women from her basketball team at their regular get-together for coffee. They told me about how difficult it was to find other female teams to play… They would have to travel hours to games… And how angry they would get when they would arrive, and someone would question the fact that their power forward was a black woman. To them, they were a team. Period. That was all that mattered.  And they wouldn’t tolerate mistreatment of their friend, classmate, and teammate, even if that meant refusing to play a game if she wasn’t included.

As i said, these women weren’t perfect. They each had their own social circles, and like others of their generation, didn’t cross the tracks to other neighborhoods very often. (Many generations later, this is still a widespread issue.) But neither of them ever knowingly mistreated someone because of a skin color, religion, political affiliation, whathaveyou. Maybe it was because they were both forced into single motherhood at a time when there were no allowances for that. They knew what it was like to be refused a job simply because you were female and a mother. They knew looks of disapproval for something that was outside their control and had no bearing on their worthiness.  Maybe because of that, they chose to override their socially-nurtured prejudices and try to treat all people with fairness and equity. Your worthiness for trust, to them, was based on your behavior to others and your willingness to work hard. Your worthiness as a human was determined by the fact that you were human. Clear. Simple.

Two women, over a decade apart in age, different social brackets, different religions and interests… Both coming to the conclusion that heart and tenacity are better discriminators than color and creed. This is how i was raised.

Yes, there are times i find myself jumping to conclusions about people based on an accent,  bumper sticker, or hygiene habits. At those times, i forcibly remind myself that i could be them in another circumstance, or vice versa. And i remind myself that a lot of what i am might horrify them, too. And that puts us on an even playing field. I still might make the wrong judgement in the end, but at least it’s an honest mistake and not a thoughtless one.

So as i cruise my social media tonight, as i weed thru the Trumpsters hating on the immigrants, and the Dems hating on the Right, and everyone hating on the Muslims… I will try to remember that they probably have some valid points. That they have a right to express their anger, even if others don’t agree or sympathize. That they may not know or care that all i want to find on my home page tonight is a story about bikers helping kids or a video of guinea pigs talking about pumpkin spice. That they don’t realize how bitter they sound. I will try to remember because i don’t want to get caught up in the hatred. It’s so easy to get caught up in the hatred. And God/Goddess/Universe doesn’t like it when i hate.

I know, because my grandmothers told me so.

They also taught me that, in the face of hate, sometimes all you can do is refuse to play the game.

Stuck In the Middle With Me

Last week on Facebook, my oldest weedling made a post lamenting “I’m in that awkward stage where I’m not skinny enough to be called a ‘beach body’ but I’m not fat enough to be labeled as ‘bravely body positive’.” People laughed and got a kick out of it. Problem is, she wasn’t kidding. At brunch this morning, she admitted that this really bothers her. And i get it. I really do. Being “in between” holds no allure for anyone, but especially not for a blue sheep.

At 50 years old, i am smack dab middle age (Or a little past it, most likely, given my life expectancy.) I am too old to be young, and too young to be old. I am in decent health, still learning, still growing, still wanting. I’m not ready to be “old” yet. Sitting in a group of my chronological peers, i feel like i was given a one-time pass to the grown-ups’ table. Like i’m neither aged enough, nor wise enough, to really belong there. But if i try to hang with the young movers and shakers, i feel like a rusted out Volkswagon Thing in a sea of shiny new Jeeps.  I see me as woefully out of place. I suspect they see me as “Mom”. Or, more likely,  “Mom off her meds”. Anyway, the point is, it’s no fun to be stuck in between – No familial group and no extreme to reach for.

And it’s not just the age thing. Physically, i do plenty well for my age, but not well enough to be remarkable. I live well-beyond any need for subsidy, but not enough to be debt free. Not spicy enough to be hot, nor bland enough to be comfort food. Not odd enough to be truly unique, nor boring enough to be average. I’m neither stunning, nor a train wreck. Neither genius, nor idiot. Neither beast, nor fowl, nor good red herring.

I’m just me.

And like my daughter, i, too, am bothered by the fact that i am not extraordinarily something.

I do realize that there is no sin in this. I mean, by definition, you can’t have superlatives without the masses to compare them to.  And i see, even if she doesn’t, that my daughter is extraordinary, even if it isn’t in the way she lusts after. She is beautiful and creative and big-hearted and talented and larger than life. And tho it may not give her something to boast about in a politically correct way, i hope it makes her truly feel her worth during the quiet moments of thought. And, i suppose, i have my own virtues as well, even if they aren’t always the ones i wish i had. (Please, God, can i look like a young Elizabeth Taylor for just one day???? Please??????) From a philosophical standpoint, even among the differently colored sheep, there are stages of tone and brightness. Who is to say that the Chartreuse sheep is any less spectacular than the Kelly green one? Is the lighter green better than the darker? The subdued green better than the bold? Really, is any hue of green less awesome than the other?

Well, i personally don’t care much for Olive, but that doesn’t mean someone else doesn’t love it.

In the crayon box of life, there are times when one of the yellows will get stuck in the blue section and seem all out of place. We know it belongs with the rest of the yellows. We pick it up and move it. Easy peasy.  The indecisive agony comes when you are forced to confront the teal. Is it blue or green? Which end of the spectrum? Where does it fit? And are we able to find a place for it before we give up, screw it, and jam it in with the reds?

Come to think of it, that’s not a bad idea. Then it will really  stand out.

Because no one wants to be just plain old red either.




Tuck and Roll

My Easter cactus is blooming. Flowers always make me smile, but this cactus, even more so. I inherited it from my grandmother when she passed, who inhereited from my mother when she passed. I don’t know where Ma got it. Knowing my mother, it could have been a gift, or she could have won it in a game of cribbage. Who knows? But in any case, this plant has to be more than 35 years old. My aunt and sister each have identical siblings to mine. Mine flowers more because i live farther south, but all three produce and continue to thrive.  I think most of us tend to think of plants as transient things, but this plant (well, the three plants really) is a part of our family. And a long-term one at that. Given that such cacti are rumored to live for over 100 years in some cases, i expect we will all get more lives out of them. Perhaps i will even pass them down to my own weedlings some day.

Also on my radar this week is the “Giraffe Cam” at the Animal Adventure Park in Harpursville, New York. Myself and a ridiculous number of others have been watching for weeks now for a baby giraffe to be born.  Giraffes have a 13 to 15 month gestation period – Daunting for humans – But considering a giraffe only lives about 25 years, i’d imagine it’s even more so to them. Also noteworthy is the fact that giraffes are single moms… The father plays very little into the rearing of the offspring. So motherhood is basically a bit of a bum wrap for giraffes, between the excruciatingly long pregnancy and the solitary rearing. But i’ve never heard a giraffe complain.

Bill Paxton died last week. In his honor, i rewatched Tombstone.  There’s a great quote by his character, Morgan Earp, in the movie:  “Look at all the stars. You look up and you think, ‘God made all this and He remembered to make a little speck like me.’ It’s kind of flattering, really.” Flattering, indeed. So many wonders in this universe, so many magnificent creatures, plants, geological formations… And in the midst of it all sits each one of us.

There are days when i am grateful that God/Goddess/Universe was inclined to make such complicated creatures such as humans. Biologically, mentally, and spiritually complicated. And fragile. We’ve neither the endurance of plants nor the resilience of most other creatures. As Montgomery Scott once said, “The more you over think the plumbing, the easier it is to stop up the drain.” So while i admire the exacting nature the Universe had when She created us as beings, there are days when i wonder if She thinks She should have stopped at the duck-billed platypus. Quit while She was ahead, so to speak. Because now She has a creature who has gotten too big for its own britches.

We fight amongst ourselves. We are terribly selfish. And we treat all other life as inferior. Obviously, this isn’t true of all individuals. The people i know are all good-hearted. But as a group, we don’t flower. Nor do we wait patiently thru more than a year’s gestation for ANYTHING. That puts us behind both my Easter cactus and the giraffe of New York.

Granted, neither my cactus nor the giraffe are painting Picassos or writing symphonies, so it’s not like they’re ahead on every level. I suck at making pie crust, but i definitely make it better than the giraffe does. (And if you think pie crust isn’t a work of art, i’d argue that you never had a good one.)

So where am i going with all this? I have no idea. It’s more that i am coming to internalize that humans are no greater a creation than any of the Universe’s others. It is only when we become caretaker of each other, and of all the other creations, that we truly achieve any sort of right to the pedestal we put humans on. And lately, as a species, we haven’t been doing the best job of it. But we can do better. I have faith.

So, as the saying goes, the first step off that pedestal is going to be a bitch. We had better be prepared to tuck and roll! And maybe, if we work really hard, we can earn our way back up.

Puppet, Pauper, Pirate, Poet

This week, someone whom i respect told me that i was a “complete, mature woman.” I wouldn’t have been more stunned if someone had told me i had a superpower.  I’m loud, inappropriate, unapologetic, and prone to fits of anger and selfishness.  There are days when i’m both isolationist and terribly needy. And i can be emotionally overwhelmed by a video of baby goats. “I, myself, am made entirely of flaws, stitched together with good intentions.” In short, i’m a mess.

Don’t get me wrong, i know i am more grown up than some, and certainly more grown up than i have ever been before… On a scale from Lindsay Lohan to Helen Mirren, i’d be optimistic to say i’m a Drew Barrymore or Ellen DeGeneres.  And like them, i  try to be funny and kind. I don’t always succeed. But i suppose even Helen Mirren has days when she wakes with a zit on her chin and a bee in her bonnet and tells someone to fuck off for no reason at all.

I mean, she’s only human, right?

Anyway, i don’t know what it means to be “complete” and “mature”.

Wait, i take that back.

I don’t know what it means to be “mature”, but i do know what it means to be “complete”. Or, rather, i know who i want to be before my journey of life is over. That, to me, is “complete”. And i know i am not there yet.

I admit to a bit of pride in the fact that i at least know where i am headed. I have met far too many who don’t. They know what they want to be, but not who they want to be. Having been many “what”s in my life, it seems to me that the “who” is much more important. After all, it’s the one thing you’re stuck with in between “what”s. And it’s what leaves the lasting impression.

It’s true that i could be remembered for being a mother, a wife (Ok, a few wives…), a coworker, a teacher, a goofball, an annoyance…. Whole bunches of nouns that are objective labels i carry. But it’s the other stuff, the subjective stuff, that i want to be remembered for. I want my legacy to be humor, fairness, altruism, empathy, wisdom, grace…. Maybe grace is a stretch. Ok, grace is definitely a stretch. But i really believe that, if i live long enough, i can accumulate some of the others.

Because here’s the thing… God/Goddess/Universe is concerned with the “who”, not the “what”. Praying for a new car never works. We know this. But pray to be a better person, and she will put experiences in your path that will bring it about. She knows who i want to be, who i’m trying to be. And she must find it a worthy goal, because She is helping me get there bit by bit. I may not like Her teaching methods sometimes, but i do like where i’m headed.

I hope, before my journey is over, i get there.

So, no. I don’t consider myself a “mature, complete woman”. Yet. But i don’t discount the possibility that i will get there someday. That i will achieve that goal. Well, at least the “complete” part. I’m not sure about the “maturity part”… And i’m not sure i want to.

I don’t really know what “maturity” is, but it sounds boring as hell.



I Wanna Be a Starfish

We learned it in some of our first science classes as kids… If a starfish loses a leg, it can regrow a new one. Lizards can grow new tails. Some worms and the often-spoken-about-but-rarely-seen sea cucumber, if you cut them into pieces, each piece becomes a new animal. Regeneration after amputation. Amazing stuff. Scientists have been studying forever in an attempt to put this information to medical use. There have been some successes, but there are still things that, once removed, never return. But not for lack of trying.

As humans, we regenerate constantly. Skin, hair, nails. blood… All constantly regrowing and replenishing themselves. The bigger body parts that we can’t regrow yet, those we can replace with transplants and prosthetics.  In one way or another, they heal. In a similar vein, the loss of face and erosion of confidence from the occasional foot-in-mouth, undone zipper, or escaped flatulence… That kind of wound to our metaphysical limbs will heal in short order. And usually with only the slightest scar.

But there are times in life where circumstances, events, or the words or actions of others cut the limb of our soul clean off. Our spirit legs taken clean out from under us, we lose propulsion and become stuck… dead in the water. Most of the time, if we wait it out, whatever aspect of our soul was cut, it will regrow. It is painful. It is difficult. But it is worth it. The regeneration process, for all its visceral discomfort, is quite simple: God/Goddess/Universe provides the first cells by surrounding us with opportunities for growth. The food of encouragement comes along and we are on our way to repair. Even if the push is small and we start out at a slow pace, we will move again. The post-amputation stumps of spirit, of confidence, of clarity… Even if the injury was near fatal at the start… Those things will eventually regrow given time.

Unless we fight it.

If we have a limb cut from us, be it the limb of trust, of motivation, of love; and we don’t want it back… Well, we will forever be crippled by the loss.

It’s not usually that we enjoy being bereft of whatever virtue was taken from us. Most of the time, the barrier is fear. Fear that if we got it back, it would only be taken again. Over and over. An endless cycle of loss and torment. And for many of us, when we think we have finally come to terms with it and are ready to move on, the phantom pains of the amputated spirit remind us of what could happen, and the little green bud drops off. We are tail-less once again.

Sometimes, that fear is a healthy thing. Sometimes, by delaying the regrowth, we strengthen the rest of our constitution. Helpful when, in fact, our fears come true, and our regrown hope is cut from us again… We are better able to handle the time without it. But if we delay the growing of the new optimism for too long, we grow accustomed to living without it. We forget how much we need it. Because unlike an actual arm or leg, as was said in Scent of a Woman, “… There is nothing like… an amputated spirit; there is no prosthetic for that.”

While it is true that we can live without an arm or a leg, or even a prosthetic for one; living without a part of your spirit is a different matter entirely.

So if you have found yourself, like i have, fighting the regrowth of something you lost, be it trust or faith or love… Try to give in. Try to give up the fear. It won’t be easy. We’ll probably lose a few tail buds in the process. And there is still a chance that, once regrown, it will get chopped again. And there will be pain. And we will have to face the fear again. And it will suck. But practice makes perfect, right? We will learn and grow and move on again. We have to. We can live without limbs. But a life without trust, or faith, or love, is really no life at all.




Girl Power

When i was a kid, if i had handed an alien my U.S. History book as an insight to our country, they would have thought nearly everyone of importance was a white male.  From Columbus and his male crew meeting the (male) chief of the local tribe, to Captain John Smith, to President George Washington (And every president up til this decade)…  3/4 of the book was white men. Yes, we learned about Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Eleanor Roosevelt. We learned about George Washington Carver and Martin Luther King Jr. We learned about Harriet Tubman and Rosa Parks. We learned about Pocahontas and Sacagawea. But that was about it. The only person i remember being called out as specifically Jewish was Einstein. And if there were people of any other ethnic persuasions, i don’t remember any time being spent on them. Sad, really.

Granted, some of it is due to the fact that, until fairly recently, generally speaking, white men held the seats of power. The status quo was a European Christian male as the leader of… well.. pretty much everything. But times, they are a’changing. Every day this country becomes more diverse. And as a result, more groups are getting a chance to partake in the type of history that gets documented in textbooks. I mean, we all have always been a part of history… Just not the part that gets into the popular public record. But even that is starting to come around.

I went to see Hidden Figures  yesterday. To my surprise and delight, my son was eager to see it as well. If you somehow haven’t seen the trailers, it is the story of the “human computers”, specifically, a group of black women, who were responsible for the calculations used to get men into space. Now, i have made it a point to study women’s history for nearly 30 years, but i can honestly say that i didn’t know anything about these women until a few years back when  my daughter and i had the pleasure of hearing Dr Mae Jemison speak, and she talked about some of the women who came before her at NASA. One of the things she said about those women, women like herself, has stuck with me – They were black, they were female, and they were “nerds”; so they had three strikes against them when it came to public impressions. Thankfully, Dr. Jemison’s parents never bought into that. They encouraged her, even knowing how difficult the path would be. Becoming an astonaut is hard for anyone. But at that time, for a black woman, even more so. She did it anyway. And now it is easily conceivable for a woman, of any ethnicity, to go to space.

We need to put women like these into the history books. Important, significant women of all types to help further the aspirations of our weedlings. Lets make it easier for them to spend less time reading about the Kardashians, and more time reading about  Madame C.J. Walker, Wilma Mankiller, Maya Lin, the Notorious RBG (Ruth Bader Ginsberg, to those not in-the-know). And lesser known, but still historically significant women like Deborah Samson, Ann E. Dunwoody, Dr Helen Rodríguez Trías,  and Dr. Rebecca Lee Crumpler. By including women like these, we show that it is possible for ALL girls, and by extension, ALL children, to grow to become people of historical significance.

Lets face it, folks, it wasn’t that long ago when independent women were burned at the stake as witches. When black women were thought to be little more than oxen. When intelligent women were thought to be anomalies. When conventionally unattractive women were considered to be hopeless. And on and on. And heaven help you if you had more than one of those strikes against you.

Yes, i am fully aware that i am soap-boxing. But this is important to me.

Also of note, we need to make sure that we don’t go overboard and infringe upon those who take paths society deems “backwards”. The woman who chooses to be a stay-at-home mom is important, not because of some misogynistic fluff, but because she CHOSE to be that in the face of small-minded feminists who don’t see the value in it. The woman who becomes a Catholic nun or Buddhist monk is important not because she is sheltered from the world, but because she CHOSE to dedicate her life to something she cared deeply about in spite of others finding it old-fashioned. The young woman who attends an all-girls’ school, or an all-black school, or any separatist institution is doing so BY HER OWN CHOICE, and that makes it significant. Even if it is something that others might feel is a step back. In this context, a free choice is a step forward, even if the result is not one that seems progressive to the masses.

My daughters have never felt fettered by notions of what women are “supposed to do”. At least i don’t think they have. I hope they haven’t. I’ve tried to instill in them the belief that society’s notions are not a code that needs to be followed. I try to be the same with my son, as he, too, will find gates and fences that will try to block his path along the way. Teaching our weedlings that there are endless possibilities in life is most important… And should be followed closely by the teaching that “endless” does not mean “easy”. The norms we frequently have to buck against require effort to overcome. Swimming against the tide, literally or figuratively, is much more labor intensive than going with the flow. It is not for everyone.

And that’s ok. We don’t all have to be trailblazers. It takes all kinds of women, of people, to make the world the wonder that it is. Being a “regular Joe” (Or Josephine) is nothing shameful. The important thing is not the life you choose, but that YOU choose it. Yourself. Freely. Knowing that any choice was allowable. President or Preacher. Entertainer or Inventor. Mayor or Mother. Any choice you make freely with the conviction of your own heart is a good choice. But the only way we know that is to read and learn about those who came before us. The choices they made, the goals they set, and what it took to realize them.

These women, they were remarkable.

And so are we.


Miss Jane’s Nobility

“You think i’m crazy, don’t ya, talking to this tree? Old sister oak. This oak tree been here as long as this place been here, and I ain’t ashamed to tell you I talk to it.And I ain’t crazy, either. It ain’t necessarily craziness to talk to the rivers and the trees…. But an old oak like this one here, that’s been here all these years, it knows more than you’ll ever know. It ain’t craziness, son. It’s just the nobility you respect.”  ~ From The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman by Ernest J Gaines.

I have a “thing” for trees. I have pictures and paintings of them around my home. Leaf themed accessories. Fabrics with branches on my windows. An LED lit branch tree that stays up pretty much year round. And nearly all of my body ink is tree centered. I am drawn to trees, deciduous ones especially. The way they grow and age, marking the seasons, and surviving all manner of onslaught. They inspire me.

I know the Buddhists say to be like water, flowing gently, but intently, around obstacles. But if i were to claim a likeness to a force of nature, it would, without a doubt, be a tree.

I’ve seen many seasons. I’ve been stripped of my leaves by wind, and had branches torn from me by gusts, but it never stopped me from keeping on climbing to the sky.  I’ve had limbs arch and twist rather than give way to obstacles. I’ve been burnt and survived, tho the rings on my insides show the trauma. I’ve been chopped down, but sprouted again from my roots.  I’ve had seasons where my leaves were full of color and splendor, and seasons where my branches were bare, brittle, and coated in ice. But i am still here. And like Miss Jane’s oak, i hold some wisdom, or at least stories, from all i’ve been thru to get where i am.

So i guess it isn’t crazy that people talk to me. Like really talk. Not of the fluff of cocktail parties, but important things: Life, death, experience, beliefs. Maybe they can tell by the lichen and scars on my bark that i will understand. That i’ve been there before and survived. Or maybe because they know an old tree holds so many secrets that it’s a harbor for anything that needs safety. I don’t know. I only know that i am blessed to be a sounding board.

Granted, i’ve many more years to go before i can even approach the wisdom of an old oak. By tree standards, i’m merely a sapling. And tho i have grown some good, strong roots of my own, i, in turn, seek out the ones older and wiser. Again, i am blessed, because i have so many in my life. So many noble, beautiful topiaries. Sleek and graceful weeping willows. Elegant cypress draped in Spanish moss. Colorful and fragrant maples. My life is a grove where the canopy envelops me in its loving arms, sheltering me from the worst of life’s storms. And under my own limbs, seedlings grow into their own solidity and grandeur.  And in time, God/Goddess/Universe willing, i will be part of the canopy.

I don’t believe in coincidence. The influence of the Power That Is was definitely in residence when my parents named me Holly. Bright berries and glossy leaves in the throes of winter that belie the sharp and painful edges. It offers birds and other small animals shelter and protection from storms. It can also poison them.

I guess that means that, tho i may contain some wisdom, i also contain some things that, ummm,  aren’t  helpful. True for us all, i suppose.  Even the mightiest oak has a branch or two that probably need to be pruned. Or that’s what i tell myself, anyway. Better that than to think i’m the only tree in the arbor with dead wood. Or thorned leaves. Or poison berries. That would hardly make me a future member of the canopy.

… And that would be sad because, after all the seasons and storms and fires and woodpeckers i’ve survived, it would suck royally to not benefit somehow from the scars.

So here i grow, getting stronger with season, roots getting deeper with each storm. Waiting for the ones who come to talk. They aren’t crazy. It’s the nobility they respect.

Worth and Nakedness

I am a big fan of photography books. Especially those over-sized, glossy paged, portrait type coffee table books that weigh a ton and where the photographer somehow projects both the outside and the inside of the subject. And i have many of them. Too many, probably. But one of my favorites is a gathering of photos by Timothy Greenfield-Sanders. A book of diptychs. On the left side of the page, a well known porn star in their usual street clothes. On the right, in the same pose, the same porn star undressed and made up for filming. TG-S is an amazing photographer. He captures the thoughts and emotions going on behind the eyes. And in the case of this particular book, in nearly every single spread, he captures something that makes disturbing sense. With maybe two exceptions, every subject is visibly more comfortable in the naked photos.

When i first bought the book, the startling reversal of the usual level of comfort, clothed and not, took me a second to wrap my head around. Even knowing that these people make their living naked, it seemed invasive to stare at their bare selves. But it seemed even more intrusive to stare at their obvious discomfort when captured in clothing. The looks on their faces resembling  cats forced to wear Halloween costumes. The awkwardness and antsiness is palpable. And to those of us who make a living with clothes on, it seems strange, and even a little sad.

Why do i bring this up today?

I was side-swiped by a reminder last night that i’m a bit of a Classist. I am distrusting and uncomfortable around people with money and social standing. And while most people associate Classism with the oppression of poor people, it also comes into play in reverse. Some of us who grew up “without” never quite adapt to life “with”.  Even if we have worked hard and earned the right to cross that social barrier, we will forever feel foreign when we get there. Some of it comes from formative years questioning our worth in a society that values wealth. The rest of it lays with the simple human need for familiarity. And just like no knowledge of kale being a superfood makes it any more palatable, no understanding that “worth” and “value” have little to do with money or titles makes it any easier to talk to the master when you feel like the house elf.

Don’t get me wrong, you can dress me up in gilt and pancake, and i will perform like i was born to be at the ball. I will talk and dance and socialize like i am Rita Hayworth’s red-headed step-child.  But it is just a performance. I might as well be playing a giant praying mantis for all the common i have with the character. It feels absurd. Dishonest. And definitely not like my best stage work.

To tell the truth,  my inability to step confidently in that world annoys me.

I try my best to treat everyone as an equal. I strive to treat all with love and respect. I evangelize the need for equality amongst humanity. But i myself feel like a fake when i call my higher-titled coworkers by their first name. And if they speak familiarly with me, i assume there is some need or reason that will turn out to be a play on me and bite me in the ass. It’s just stupid. These patterns in my head. Stupid. I know they are the same types of neural patterns that once caused me to keep getting married… The repetition becoming a bad habit. But where marriage had visible, undeniable implications, a faulty mindset often doesn’t. And it is harder to correct something that doesn’t eventually slap you in the face with a price.

Just like the porn stars and their comfortable nakedness, we grow to accept these bad habits, these self-imposed labels of beastliness, as familiar friends, even tho they are the kind of friends who ditch you at the bar for the first cute guy that walks thru the door, leaving you half drunk and without a ride.

With friends like that, we become our own enemy.

I suppose the solution is the old “Fake it til you make it” thing. Force yourself to behave like you belong on both sides of the tracks, and eventually you will believe it. Retrain those neural pathways to take healthier routes. Accept that the equality you favor for others also applies to yourself. Take stock of your own worth. Reassess your own hierarchy. Learn to be comfortable in the clothing you deserve to wear, lest you end up naked in a coffee table book.

It beats the hell out of waiting for Harry Potter to give you a sock.

You Are Here

On my Pinterest board labeled “Just for Laughs” i have a great meme. It’s a picture of the Milky Way. Near the center is a small arrow with the words You are here just below it. It is a reminder to me that, no matter how important each crisis seems, in the grand scheme of things, it is merely dust.

Over the years, i have sent that meme to many people. Friends and acquaintances who are overwhelmed with work, family, or just the day to day of everyday life. Meetings, deadlines, appointments, bills, obligations, politics, illness, aging… Adult life is fraught with reasons to stress. And each day we are bombarded with more. Realistically, most of these anxieties aren’t sentinel choices. Yet we worry over them as if they all are. I wonder why.

Far too many of us are pumping out the cortisols because we feel pushed to gain power at work. We must come early. We must stay late. We must get it all done, on time, perfectly, and then some. At the expense of family dinners and ballgames and recitals and relaxation. Because we are worth nothing if we are not a wealthy boss who runs the world. I’m not sure where the idea came from. When it became more important to succeed at at work than to succeed at life.

We stress over our looks. Too fat. Too old. Too ugly. Too bland. The pressure to look perfect is real. But as Cindy Crawford once said, “Even don’t wake up looking like Cindy Crawford.”  Yet, without those looks or that Photoshop, we don’t think we make the cut. We feel so unworthy that, when joining dating sites, we lie about our age, post pictures from the best body of our lives (decades ago), and hope to God that they don’t notice we lied when we meet them. Because we think we’re not worthy of being met as we are. Why? Who’s opinion is so all-powerful that without it, we are nothing?

We aren’t the CEO, so we failed at business. We owe money, so we fail at providing. We have pooches, so we failed at body. We let our kids eat McNuggets, so we’ve failed at parenting. We are 50 and look it, so we failed at beauty. We failed. At everything.

That is how it feels sometimes.

Those arbitrary standards… Where did they come from? I mean, yes, we all know that the media puts it out there, but we don’t have to buy it. Regardless of what we see on TV and the movies, we aren’t required to accept the notion that we are losers because we aren’t rolling in the dough. Or dating Halle Berry. Or running the free world. We don’t have to accept those notions any more than we must accept the notions of talking dinosaurs, altruistic politicians, or zombie apocalypse.

My friends, especially those of you who are stretched so tight that you feel you’re about to break, it’s time to ditch the media benchmarks and come up with a new definition of success. Things that improve the tiny speck that is your position in the universe. I’ll bet if you sat down and made a list of all the things that prove you haven’t failed, you might surprise yourself. Not just because you are able to make a list, but because of what the items on that list have in common.

You have raised weedlings who will share their lunch with someone who has none. You organize meals when a friend has surgery. You smile and talk with people who look lonely. You always put change in the Veterans’ collection cans. You’ve managed to stay mostly happily married for over a decade. Or two. Or more. You give out the good candy at Halloween. You bake for your coworkers. You compliment little old ladies. You make people smile, even when you don’t feel like smiling yourself. And someone, somewhere, feels better because they know you.

Those things are harder to measure than dollars or titles or pounds, but they are the energies that  real success is built on.

Yes, money, fame, power… those things impact the people around you in a measurable concrete way. But they don’t send ripples thru the universe like love can. Or kindness. Or positivity. Those are the things that change outlook, and, therefore, actions. Those little existential protons are the building blocks of the good life. They compound themselves until they extend far beyond this third rock from the sun and become something glorious.

So tell a child something good you notice about them. Help the elderly carry their groceries. Volunteer for your cause. Share what you have. Make someone smile. And then later, when you feel stressed, overwhelmed, lost… Look to the center of the ripples you’ve created… And say to yourself, “You are here”