37. Query Letters and Cowboy Boots

May 7, 2018

As I write my book, along the way I’m putting together the necessary “query letter” for potential agents/publishers– the first level of approach/sales-pitch to get published. I scribble bits of ideas that come to me at odd times. Today sitting in my little neighborhood church in Oakland, I was not thinking about the book and certainly not the query letter, when a new segment of “my readership” suggested itself: gay men.

And everyone else who has a sensibility that’s strong but gentle and vulnerable, who probably have had to be on guard for most of their lives, even ashamed, lest that gentleness at their center might be found out, rejected, or abused.

Though this will certainly be catalogued as a “women’s” book,  the fact of the matter is, all of us struggle to fit Who We Are  into What The World Expects instead, and usually demands from us. That’s one of the themes of the book of course, and truth be told, we all spend most of our lives trying to understand who we are, and then find the courage to dare to genuinely be that. The biggest obstacles are the deeply-embedded lies we were taught about ourselves when we were children, either by people who should have loved us but didn’t, or more often by people who did, and lied because they loved us, and wanted to protect us from life.

The book is about a skinny little girl who loves horses and fire engines. She gets repeatedly told by the big people “You can’t have that, you can’t do that, you can’t be that” (about this and most of the things she wants) because you’re a girl. And what’s worse, there is the powerful unspoken mandate: “You shouldn’t want those things,” (because) girls don’t.

“Who says?!” She demands, to no avail. Again and again she asks, “Why not?” and gets no reasonable answer. “Those things are for boys,” they say. What the child hears clearly is: Who you are is not okay.

It’s a big fat lie, and somewhere in every child’s heart we know this, but what can we do? We’re just a kid. Some of the same lies are passed along for generations when we’re young and vulnerable and trusting, newly-learning about what life’s supposed to be. By words and actions, many of us were informed, “You shouldn’t be who you are, and it’s wrong to want to be.” If you’re a boy, you’ve got to like baseball, not art or music or poetry. If you’re a girl, you must like dolls and dresses and tea-sets, not horses and fire engines.

I remember with crystal clarity, the day my brother got cowboy boots. I got all excited and asked, “Ooooh! Do I get some cowboy boots too?” My parents laughed and said, “Oh no honey, cowboy boots are for boys. You can have some pretty ballet slippers…”

I was four years old. “Ballet slippers? WHO wants THAT?!” I begged for cowboy boots too. It didn’t do any good. Even now I can still feel the ache and sting of being so terribly wronged and cheated. I pleaded, in my own defense, “I couldn’t help it I was born a girl! I didn’t get to choose.!”

I became a closet-tomboy, sneaking out to climb trees and roofs and fire-escapes and run around the city pretending I was a racehorse. Eventually I grew up and turned out straight, which made things easier in Texas in the 1950’s. I learned to “act like a lady” and I obeyed the rules. I married and worked two jobs, the telephone company and a department store, to put my young husband through graduate school. I was a good wife. I spent the 4 1/2 loneliest years of my life like that, until finally I realized that I had no Life, and I had no Self. I was living in his shadow, and whoever I used to be had gotten lost somewhere in the dark. Not his fault– we both played the roles we were brought up to play. This works sometimes for some people. Not this time, not for me.

Leaving was hard. It felt like more than a failure, it felt like a death. But I knew it had to happen. I got a divorce. I took my life back. I bought myself a pair of cowboy boots.

36. Believe Anyway

April 6, 2018

Even though it’s true that every life will have some stumbling places, dark passages, and challenges to grow through, the most powerful factor and the most profoundly hard-to-accept truth is that Life responds to our beliefs. That’s the catch-22 that our parents never taught us, because they didn’t know.

Most of my adult life, I never asked for what I really wanted because I believed I didn’t deserve it. If I prayed for it, I did so as a meek unworthy supplicant, not as a fully entitled child of the Most High, my Father God. One reason why our prayers for other people often are more successful than prayers for ourselves, is that we dare to ask earnestly for their sake, in trust and faith, believing that they deserve it.

Jesus the Christ said, “Whatsoever you ask, believe you have received it.” The catch is, you’ve got to somehow dare to believe that God believes you deserve it, even if you don’t. To believe even before you ask the gift is already set up, ready to go, with your name on it. (In this physical world, that’s a difficult task.) You have to hold your secret wish in your heart with all your strength, and yet release it to Life/ God/ the Universe, then relax and trust that “it’s on the way – no problem.” So, if “The Force” is always with you, why don’t you always get what you want? Because God/ Life/ The Universal Consciousness/ etc.  always works to bring about what you are actually believing. When you know this process is real, eternally active, and it’s a gift to you as a life-law that you can use – then you’re set free, to choose the life you really want. You can do whatever you have to do to believe in it as rightly yours, and begin to live it.

Whatever you hold in habitual belief, life will habitually deliver to you. But be careful of what you are believing unawarely, in the dark corners of your mind, for it is not harmless. All lies, when you believe them, are just as powerful as the truth.

Faith works. What we believe, we will receive. We fail to have faith in the best things of life is because there’s always so much loud ugly “physical evidence” to the contrary on the 10 o’clock news. These are real people’s lives, yes, but if you find yourself more blessed, don’t feel guilty, feel grateful. Do what you can to help where you are, and make your choices different from the individuals on the news. It’s that simple, and that profound

Search out, shore up, and call forth the hidden strength that’s in you, and have the courage to believe in your own life, and in your self, no matter what the odds are, and no matter what other people’s lives are. You’ve got to be willing to believe that God thinks you’re good enough, even if you’re pretty sure you’re not. You’ve got to make up your mind, and then, as stubbornly determined as a four-year-old, Believe Anyway.

35. Sparrow and Stone

March 22, 2018

Sometimes I feel
like a sparrow in a storm,
hurled like a leaf,
helplessly,
searching for sanctuary,
any shelter I can find,
and finding none, struggle on.
I am small but I am brave,
and no matter what happens,
I always remember,
I can fly.

Sometimes I feel
like a smooth river-stone,
deep in the riverbed
hidden and safe,
and the river flows over me
cold and clean,
and carries the earth’s wild life.
Whether it floods,
or trickles, or torrents,
here at the bottom, there is peace
and grace.
Golden sunlight
glittering on the water,
lovingly kisses the river’s face,
and all of Life
rushes joyously along,
as I rest for a while
in this sacred place.

34. To Be Who You Are

February 25, 2018

The summer I was ten years old was an awakening of child-size revelations.  That was when I first started to look at the world around me, and to notice things beyond the end of my own nose.

The warm lazy days flowed along like an easy river and carried me with them, and there was plenty of time. Sometimes when I was by myself I climbed up in the little pear tree, and I wondered about things, like life and God. I’d be wondering what God was, but then I’d notice a perfect green pear I could pick, so I did, and I ate the pear and it was warm from the sun and crunchy and sour and sweet at the same time, and the juice ran down my chin and I forgot all about God. I just knew that he was around and always watching out for me like Granny did, and keeping me safe. Even if I woke up in the middle of the night in the dark, he would be there and I could go back to sleep.

Summer evenings when I went to bed it wasn’t quite dark yet. I looked out my window at the lilac-tinted sky above the roofs, and I understood that God was a Presence, so big that it filled the whole infinite twilight sky, and yet it still had time to notice me falling asleep. God was something strong, that saw me and knew me and loved me and thought I was okay.

I always tried to be good, and that meant sometimes having to do what I didn’t want to, or act like somebody different than I really was. And I came to wish with all my young heart that I could be the same person on the outside as I was on the inside, just be me, the way God saw me, and that be okay with everybody. But I didn’t dare.

I never imagined that 50 years later I would still be trying to do that. The simplest truth at bottom of all truths is that we all want to be who we really are. But as children and as adults, it’s hard to discover what that is, because most of our world demands us to be everything else but that. And we’ve each been taught a system of  well-intentioned lies, (each of us a slightly different set, like You’re not good enough unless… You don’t deserve that… You can’t do that because… You shouldn’t want that because…) and these rules were meant to protect us from the problems and suffering our parents or guardians had experienced in their lives.

But their lives are not our lives. Without realizing it, we grew up and limited our own lives, for years or even for a lifetime, by unknowingly believing and embodying those rules, some of which were never true in the first place.

What was true for them may not be true for us, and so the mind/soul work for each of us must be the unlearning of our untruths and the relearning of what is true for us now, and actually, always was. When we know the truth, it really can make us free. If we don’t unlearn and relearn, we don’t grow into what we are meant to be, we hide our light, and we cannot live an authentic life, which is the one thing every living soul sincerely longs for.

No matter what anybody else told you then, or tells you now, you do have the right to be who you honestly are, and that real-you is actually much more wonderful than you know.

33. FYI, I Love You

February 11, 2018

One of a few meaningful regrets in my life is that I spent so many years not saying I love you to people I loved. Some of them have left this world, and I no longer have the opportunity to tell them face-to-face. I can only tell them in my evening meditations/ prayers.

This is a habit that so many of us have – holding back and not expressing the good things that we feel for each other. There are many different reasons – mine were that I was shy, embarrassed, and my family had not been physically affectionate when I was young. For many of us, it just seems easier, or safer perhaps, but it has a cost. Not saying I love you, not saying I’m proud of you, not saying I respect you for who you are. When the moment passes, we may never get that opportunity again, and we will never know how much it might have meant.

Now, I just tell people. Just like that, no big deal. What a radical idea! Not the romantic I-love-you, but just the friendship I-love-you, the Mom, Dad, sister, brother I-love-you. Especially I think we ought to tell people who probably know we do, or ought to know. Do they know for sure? It might actually matter to them more than we knew.

I often give hugs spontaneously to friends, coworkers, patients in my E.R. Nobody seems to mind, and sometimes, it turns out to be a gift they needed, but couldn’t ask.

I smile at strangers that pass me on the sidewalk. (A stranger’s smile saved my life once.) Smiles cost nothing at all – you can give away zillions of them. Try it. You’ll never regret a single one.

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