Saturday, October 31, 2009

Trick or Treat

Whew! We made it through another Halloween weekend. The only Halloween that I can recall where no ghosts, goblins, spooky sounds, nor terrifying costumes are necessary. Because this year, reality is much scarier than anything in a horror movie. Let's take a look....

Swine flu is killing kids faster than we can subject them to a deplorable public school education and, if they're black, send them to jail. The war in Afghanistan is escalating. Job loss is still soaring. And there have been recent spikes of murderous violence that is causing more and more people to live in terror even in safe, quiet, suburbs. Chilling.

But with the world in such a mess, it seems strange that anyone would want to celebrate a much darker side of existence. Perhaps it is an escape. An economic stimulus, maybe?And in theses tough economic times...blah, blah, blah. But, perhaps, there could be a much deeper theme underlying it all. If we agree that darkness (dark concepts-i.e-ghosts, murders, fear) are separate from lighter concepts (life, birth, happiness), let's proceed. When we consider that when we embrace one (i.e-life), we seldom embrace it's opposite-death, it seems that we should all be sunny and cheery or depressed. The reality is that we exist in a world where we these concepts are intrinsically linked. Life, even in it's fullness, will meet an inevitable death. Happiness based on family, wealth, or success is linked to the fear that we may loose it all. We don't need to look far to understand this painful reality. And sure, as Mufasa says, it's all apart of the great circle of life. Couple that with the fact that we can't all live in Pleasantville. And there you have it, modern day USA. We've tricked ourselves into believing that the treat of happiness is an illusion and depression is a reality. When we celebrate darkness, we're basically celebrating the reality of despair in someones life, one that may far outlast a commercial holiday. A scariness that may be all too real.

I attended a Spoken word show this weekend appropriately titled Last Call. But beyond a clever play on words (they weren't talking about alcohol) the concept of Last Call really resonated with me. I see it as the metaphor for life's ultimate drum roll and grand finale fanfare. With the current state of affairs, who knows where we'll all end up. The necessity to live our lives responsibly and FULLY has never been more real than now. Whether we choose to walk in the light or in the dark, we all must be reminded our days are numbered. That whatever gifts and talent we are given on earth to unearth the fullness of humanity, we MUST use. If we allow the darkness, fear and despair to consume us, wasting opportunity after opportunity, or the recklessness of youth to destroy us, we miss the chance to live boldly and passionately. And when the last call comes, we are riddled with regret and faced with death. It may not be happening to you and it may not be happening to me, but it's happening to someone. Right now.

I write, this, as always, from a completely biased point of view. I've always, always, hated Halloween. But I am always grateful for extended metaphor. So all sexy kitten and naughty police uniforms aside, (my parents would never let me dress up in slutty costumes). I hope that this Halloween you do just a little bit of reflection. About the dark places in your life, that you never entertain for fear of forcing them into light. Truth is, We've got plenty of REAL issues to lavish a good bit of screaming on. People whose REAL issues surpass horror. Those issues will not yield to darkness or go back into hiding on Nov 1, but rather push their way into the light, forcing us to face them. I hope that you are not too busy playing dress up to notice. The window of time is much smaller than we think. By the time your kids are coming down from sugar highs and you are recovering from hangovers, the world and its problems will come knocking on your door. Trick or treat?

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Can You Hear Me Now??

No?? Well, it's probably better that way. Because you'd probably be alarmed, bewildered, concerned and insulted (maybe even all at once). Not because of the words that come directly from my lips, but rather by the words that never escape them. They're mine. They're yours. They're everyone's.....inner thoughts.... (insert goosebumps and spooky music). In a world where we are always encouraged to speak our minds and frankly, to be outspoken, it's no wonder that none gives credence to thought and SILENCE anymore. But thoughts are powerful. Not only because they are the basis of our actions, but because they often are MORE powerful than the words on our lips or the work of our hands. Sure the power of thoughts may SEEM to pale in comparison to the consequence of our deeds, but the uncensored thought, the silent refection, is the basis of our own truth. The truth that we take into the world, the truth with which we impact lives.

Whether it's patiently dealing with a co-worker who is working your last nerve with their dumb questions (yes, there is such a thing as a dumb question), graciously greeting that special (and I do mean special) someone who has stepped to you wrong one too many times, or shifting your eyes and smiling nervously when you are trapped in an elevator with someone you KNOW just passed gas.....our inner thoughts at work, carefully crafting the words that we will never, ever say. Why? Societal sensors of course. Decorum that preserves the feelings of the person at whom our thoughts are directly, sparing them embarrassment, fear and "come to Jesus moments," while we feel those very same things, double time. And while this seems like a raw deal, we find that time after time, when we open our mouths out of fear or ignorance or impulsiveness we are the most destructive. Why? Because the world would like to make you think that you are a punk if you don't SAY SOMETHING. All when we could have let silence SPEAK VOLUMES in our place. It's like those old, wise women who sit on porch stoops bearing witness to some of the most questionable and sometimes foul things all while shrugging their shoulders, raising their eyebrows, whistling and continuing to knit. The unbroken silence is baffling to most of us who have something to say about everything. Her unspoken words, may help a child escape from their abusive home in the middle of the night, keep a homeless man from being arrested, or protect a young man, teased to the point of torture. These are women, for whom silence is their strength.

Ever taken a road trip by yourself or spent time alone in meditation or prayer? The quality time spent in SILENCE with your inner thoughts is either comforting enough to become a routine or terrifying enough to make you want to spend the rest of your 20's on a shrink's couch. Even when the world around you speaks, YELLS even; when you are quieted enough to discover what is at your core, what amazing inner and outer strength we find! A man was once quoted as saying that "our time spent in the private place will determine our strength in the public place." Whether the private place we find is our own minds or in the corner of our closets, find it, and and stay there as long as you need too. After all, the world is not in need of another talking head whose comments have no point of reflection or truth, but it is in DESPERATE need of a few (well, more than a few) who are willing to keep their mouths closed long enough to process the thought that's coming out of it. If that takes be it.

This is not a "silence is golden and all words are weapons" lecture. It's just a mere reflection, from a girl who is not quick to hold her tongue but is slowly learning the need do." And a message to all of you in my sinking ship. Words are powerful tools/weapons, but what we find in their absence is the time that we need to make sure that we are using the right ones. But, you didn't hear that from me. :-)

Monday, October 12, 2009

Get Ready...

"Hold up, bring the beat back." Stop. I aint ready yet" " Wait. Lemme fix my hair....." ~Beyonce, Freakum Dress. Perhaps I could have chose a more appropriate song lyric but I am inclined to believe that we approach life about the same way.

In the sometimes confusing but consistently sobering world of adulthood, I've learned a handful of things. One nugget of wisdom is that there this, in fact, a difference in getting ready and being ready. A distinction between preparation and action (Besides the obvious). Getting ready is the process by which one prepares for something, rehearses, arranges, learns, anticipates... Being ready, however, is being positioned. Being able/having the capacity to receive or to give. Whether it's a task, a relationship a calling. Both states of being are good. Both can be beneficial. Both are necessary. The bad news is that most of us are trapped in the stage of ..."getting ready" and all of its lofty, do-nothing verbage. It rarely ever translates itself into any substantial action, but has a great plan to do so. And I'll say, frankly, that I am no expert on how to get out of it. Heck, it took me a week just to finish this blog entry. I do know that the thing that we must master is how to balance preparation with action. So that our actions are not premature or delayed.

We spend the morning preparing for the afternoon. The afternoon preparing for the evening. The weekday, preparing for the weekend. Our twenties preparing for our 30's and so on. When one considers this pattern, it seems that we are never READY. We're always "getting there." That is particularly troubling because I spend a great deal of time pouring over tasks getting ready for this and that. It's maddening to think that death is the only state of completion that I may ever achieve. This is not an endorsement for the "I have arrived" attitude, it's just my simple realization that who we are NOW, and where we are NOW and what we need NOW never get full consideration except for being the stepping stone to what we need to accomplish later. At some point we need to operate in the NOW. The right now. Instead, we often treat life like a squirrel storing acorns, waiting for something BIG to happen. Meanwhile something IS happening...this thing called life. We were just busy storing money, looking for a spouse and planning for grad school to notice. Too busy "getting there."

There are people who need our help and causes that need our attention and crisis that need our prayers. They can't wait until you write your law school personal statement that isn't due for 5 years. The world doesn't need more people who are so focused on getting ready for tomorrow's goals, promises, problems that they forget about the folks for whom tomorrow is a distant reality. Instead of getting ready for tomorrow, dig into today. I assure you, it's much more exciting and fulfilling than worrying about things that haven't happened yet.

One event that has made this concept crystal clear to me is the recent flooding in Georgia. Hundreds of homes were flooded. People lost nearly all of their material possessions. A few lost their lives. The outpouring of support from communities, community organizations, generous individuals has been AWE-INSPIRING and most importantly, IMMEDIATE. No one sat back and waited from Katrina #2 to unfold, except, maybe the insurance companies and federal emergency agencies (but we know their stories). People's hearts and even their wallets were mobilized to make a difference. To give. Not because they were rich, but because they were ready. They possessed the capacity to serve. I've seen warehouses full of clothes, supplies, food that make me a believer. A believer in the fact that not every heroic deed or act of kindness must be preceded by a 3 prong strategy or a 10-item to do list. Find a need. Fill a need. It's the ever delicate balance between preparation and action, there's no lag time and the action is quick and decisive. Not because its easy, because the time is now. I suppose if those who contributed to flood victims had been so wrapped up their own little worlds, shoving the needs of others behind their agenda's, plenty of people would be in worse shape.

So I'll keep it relatively short and sweet, because I am sure....positive really, that you've got something to get ready for. :-) And life? It's not waiting on you. ;-)