Life Taken for Granted

Moving back into my little house in my little city, I was reminded of a story my mom told my sister and I when we were children about Nasruddin, the wise fool found in much Eastern folklore and especially popular in Sufism.

One day a neighbor approached Nasruddin, lamenting the fact that his house was too small for his large family and asking Mulla Nasruddin for his advice.

“Yes,” replied Nasruddin, “do you have any chickens?”

“Yes,” said the man.

“Bring them all into the house,” Nasruddin told the man. “And if you have any geese or ducks, bring them in too.”

“But, it’s already so crowded, I don’t understand how this will help.”

“You asked for my advice. This is it.”

The man went home and brought his 10 chickens into the house. The next day he returned to Nasruddin.

“It’s awful,” he said. “They’re dirty and loud and it’s more crowded than before.”

“Good,” Nasruddin replied. “Now, do you have a donkey? A horse?”

“We have a donkey,” the man said.

“Wonderful, bring him into the house as well.”

“But…ok” the man replied.

The man returned the next day, looking more exhausted than before.

“It’s worse,” he said. “Between my wife and kids and in-laws and the donkey and chickens, it’s just much, much worse.”

“Wonderful,” Nasruddin replied. “Do you have any goats? Pigs? Dogs? Cats?”

“Yes, we have all of these animals.”

“Terrific. Please bring them all into your house.”

“But, I don’t see how this… ok.”

The next day the man returned, looking worse than ever.

“I haven’t been able to sleep” he told Nasruddin. “And now my family is all mad at me for bringing in the animals. Everyone is fighting more than before. The animals are eating all of the food. There’s not enough room for us in our own home.”

“Great,” Nasruddin smiled. “Now go home and put all of the animals back outside.”

Wearily, the man agreed and walked home.

The next morning the man reappeared, smiling.

“Mulla, your plan worked perfectly. Last night we all slept, no one is arguing, and everyone is very content in our little home.”

I’ve always loved this story and think of it often. How easy it is to take our lives for granted until that which makes them up is changed or removed and we are left realizing how good we had it.

Before moving to LA, I never gave my driveway or washing machine a second thought. I was bored with low overhead, believing that my life was too easy and that I wasn’t pushing myself hard enough. So, I traded my home for shared walls, shared laundry, and street parking, increased my overhead by half and made the move.

It was fun, it was new, and it was a change, which is maybe what I needed most of all. And then it was old, the same, and normal. As life goes. “Wherever you go, there you are.” I came to realize how mellow I am and how mellow the life I love is. I cook. I blog. I work. I go to the movies. I visit friends.

The museums and concerts in LA are great, as is the shopping. There is more of everything to choose from. The food is amazing. But, when it came down to it, too much choice actually made me slightly catatonic and I began to crave routine and simplicity over excitement.

Now, back in my funny little desert city, with it’s empty streets, quiet night life, and my own personal driveway, you’d think I’d won the lottery. I’m perfecting my yogurt recipes, riding my bike, and relishing not having to work as much. Sometimes it takes giving something up to realize what you had and to remember that simple can be great.

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Always

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(photos made by me, November 7, 2016)

Two years ago, I woke up on election morning, in LA. The Cubs had won the World Series  just a week before and as I went about my morning, I thought about what I would say to my 5 year old nephew that night, when I called him on the phone.  I would tell him how cool it was that his normal would be going from an African American president to a woman president and that, of course, the Cubs always won the World Series, not just every 108 years. I couldn’t wait to call him.

That night I went to a friend’s house to watch the returns come in. I brought a bottle of wine. The polls had just closed on the West Coast. “It doesn’t look great,” she said from the kitchen. “Oh, don’t worry,” I waved her off, “it’s still early.” But, then it wasn’t early. My friend stayed in the kitchen, unable to watch the unfolding reality. I covered my eyes and slumped deeper into the couch.  I left a few hours later, in a blur of disbelief, unable to comprehend that a racist, homophobic, xenophobic, misogynist narcissist, completely lacking in intellectual curiosity and empathy, had just been elected by my fellow citizens. Late that night a friend called me on the phone, sobbing.

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(photo taken by Colleen Hayes, November 8, 2016)

I awoke the next morning crying and the reality set in. I went to get coffee in an attempt to confirm that the world that had existed yesterday, still did. Los Angeles was a ghost town. The few people I saw on the sidewalk looked like zombies. Some were crying. I remembered a similar feeling of shock on 9/11, but with the distinct difference that on that day we had been attacked from the outside, whereas on 11/8 we had done it to ourselves. I don’t remember so much public crying in 2001.

And, now, here we are. Election Day, 2018.

Two years of confirmation to how bad it really could get. An old, rich, white, male club in its death throes, clinging to power as the world around them changes and evolves. Make America Great Again; an idea grabbed onto by so many, as if there is ever a way to go backwards, to a time of privilege for few and oppression for many. As our greatness was called into question, one thing was sure; the muck was rising to the surface and a level of bigotry of which I had been totally ignorant prior to 2016, shocked me daily and continues to do so. The level of privilege I had been granted because of my race, economic class, and sexual orientation became blindingly clear.

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(selfie, July 4, 2018)

Who are we? Who do we want to become? The macro imitating the micro. Involved, kind, present, and compassionate. As we practice these ideals in our households, they  permeate into our neighborhoods, towns, cities, states, country, and finally planet. There is no other way, that I can see.

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(photo taken by me, January 21, 2017)

I’m antsy right now. I am blogging to keep from checking my phone, social media, or listening to the news. I voted. I donated. I asked others to do the same. Now, I wait.

It’s a beautiful, autumn day outside. I’m going to go for a bike ride. I’m going to make lunch. And, because of the PTSD I still feel from watching the results two years ago, I may go dancing instead. I have faith in you, my fellow citizens and humans. Love will always win in the end. Even when the road looks dark and the way unclear.

When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love have always won. There have been tyrants and murderers and, for a time, they can seem invincible, but in the end, they always fall. Think of it- always.

-Mahatma Gandhi

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And VOTE!

 

 

Dead Can Dance

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The Guest House-

This being human is a guest house.

Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,

some momentary awareness comes

as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!

Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,

who violently sweep your house

empty of its furniture,

still, treat each guest honorably.

He may be clearing you out

for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice.

meet them at the door laughing and

invite them in.

Be grateful for whatever comes.

because each has been sent as a guide from beyond.

-Jellaludin Rumi

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Do not stand at my door and weep,

I am not there, I do not sleep.

I am a thousand winds that blow.

I am the diamond glint on snow.

I am the sunlight on ripened grain.

I am the gentle autumn rain.

When you wake in the morning hush,

I am the swift, uplifting rush

Of quiet birds in circling flight.

I am the soft starlight at night.

Do not stand at my grave and weep.

I am not there, I do not sleep.

Do not stand at my grave and cry.

I am not there, I did not die!

-Anon

Feliz Día de los Muertos.

Besos.

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Zucchini Deliciousness

It’s like I just got home from a year of crazy. And now, suddenly, it’s fall, the end of 2018, I’m living back in my house, just returned from my trip East, and for the first time in a long time, maybe since last year, I feel settled. Like I can exhale. Like I didn’t know I’d been holding my breath until I no longer was. And, while I think about all of this and it soaks in, I decide that instead of making a fire, because suddenly it’s cold and flannel sheets with tea and slippers seem like a good idea, I decide that instead of that fire, I’ll bake.

Gluten Free Coconut Zucchini Bread

1 C sugar

2 eggs

2/3 C vegetable oil

1 t vanilla extract

11/4 C gluten free flour mix

1 t baking powder

1 t cinnamon

1/2 t xanthan gum

1/2 t baking soda

1/2 t salt

2 C shredded zucchini

1/2 cup chopped nuts (optional)

1/2 C shredded coconut (optional)

Preheat oven to 350

Mix eggs and sugar in large bowl. Add oil and vanilla, mixing well.

In a medium bowl, mix all dry ingredients.

Add dry ingredients to wet ones, mixing well.

Then add zucchini, nuts, and coconut, mixing well.

Transfer to a lightly greased 9×5″ bread pan.

Bake for 1 hour or until knife inserted in center comes out clean.

Let cool. Enjoy!

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Our Known’s Last Days

I’m riding on a train from Providence back to New York and out the window the trees are just beginning to change. The sky is grey and, after a hot, sticky beginning to the month, temperatures plunged and today was 45 degrees cooler than Wednesday.

Last night, I stayed with friends in Westport, Massachusetts, in a beach house built from a kit in 1890, happily never updated or insulated. After eating lobster casserole at The Back Eddy in Westport and sitting in front of a propane heater to watch the Red Socks play game 1 of the ALCS, I climbed into bed wearing two wool sweaters, a hat, wool long underwear, and socks. It was 48 degrees, inside and out.

Fishermen, autumn’s chill, sweaters, swans in the pond.

On the train back to the city, watching beauty whizz by, while I read an article in NY Magazine about the recent climate report… http://nymag.com/intelligencer/2018/10/un-says-climate-genocide-coming-but-its-worse-than-that.html1 degrees bad. 2 degrees really bad. 3 catastrophic. 4 or more (towards which we are currently headed) apocalyptic.

A world without fish, coral reefs, snow, sweaters, enough food for billions… drought, fire, hurricane, mass migration, famine, starvation.

So big.

So beyond the imaginable. So far from the changing leaves, lobster, and last night’s lavender sunset. How did we let this happen?

The reality that the system of which we are part and on which we depend is failing and that no matter how quickly we change our ways and create solutions, our future will certainly look drastically different from our past and present.

A brand new baby in her mother’s arms across the aisle from me. Almost 40 years my junior. What will her world look like?

Twelves years. 2030. Twelve years is a blink, a snap of the fingers, the turn of a page, nothing. That’s how long the world’s scientists have given us to turn the boat around and avoid the iceberg, of which there won’t be any more, but you get the point.

The alarm has been sounded, the reality is here, and as I watch New England’s autumn leaves blur by, the beauty takes my breath away.

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Pollyanna’s Pissed

For the past couple of years, and weeks, I have yo-yoed between the consumption of constant news and social media concerning our current political situation and then, after the nausea, anger, and anxiety take over, backing away, going into withdrawal, consuming none, and feeling better. I struggle with the need to feel informed and the reality that the news and social media seem to lead me in circles, frustration consumes me, and nothing is actually accomplished.

I recently saw a post on Instagram that said “I am no longer accepting the things I can not change but changing the things I can no longer accept.” As a frequent utterer of the serenity prayer,

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I can not change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference

and though I appreciate the sentiment behind the Instagram post, I was left feeling slightly panicked about where to begin. I can not control the patriarchy and people who vote against their own self interest repeatedly. I can’t control the electoral college and climate change and the white misogynists who currently run our country.

It feels too big. Injustice so huge that the entire foundation of our country needs to shift in order for it to change.

So, once again, what can I control?

Where and how I spend my money, whether I vote, how I volunteer, contribute, am involved, and educate myself, how I creatively interact with the world, the energy I bring to all situations, my choices, whether or not I choose to see the glass as half full or half empty, and whether or not I wake up each morning and decide to try all over again. For fear of sounding like a Pollyanna, always looking for goodness, and as someone who is not comfortable with anger (I’m working on it), sometimes it really is just a shit sandwich and I have a hard, if not impossible, time finding any beauty. But, I keep looking. (I know some of you are rolling your eyes. That’s ok.)

At the moment I am grateful for the anger which will hopefully encourage more people out of their complacency and to the polls on November 6th (check your current voter registration even if you have never moved and always vote in every election), for the comedians, journalists, and artists who every day come up with new material to help me process, laugh, and think my way through the day, and I’m grateful for the courage of Dr. Ford.

No matter how ugly it is, none of it is new, but we are waking up and finally turning over the rocks. Only now, after it’s been exposed to the light, can things change. And they have only ever changed once a bunch of people were fed up enough to say “Nope. Time’s Up.” Never has that change started at the top.

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Commit…

To Commit- Verb: To pledge or bind (a person or an organization) to a certain course or policy: “they were reluctant to commit themselves to an opinion”

Synonyms: Pledge, devote, apply, give, dedicate, bind, obligate.

This word has been popping up everywhere lately.

Do what you say you are going to do. Do what you say you want to do.

Make a decision (you will always be able to make another one later). Non negotiable morning routines. Presence. Clarity. Be where you are. Love over fear. Forward momentum. Commit to Joy. Health. Community. Love. Creativity. Prosperity. Relationships. Beauty. Your dreams. Travel. Freedom. Whatever. Your city. Your job. Your family. Your dog. Yourself.

But, do it.

And, Go!

Disclaimer: my WordPress formatting has been spazzing out lately. I have no idea how this will look after I hit ‘publish’. Makes it exciting:/

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