Archive for the ‘simple philosophy’ Category

42. How You See It

December 7, 2018

When you try to do something and you fail, that seems to suggest that you can’t do it. Suggest, but not prove. This is where you have to decide, and choose between letting it go, or trying harder. If you try again and fail again, the suggestion gets stronger, so the determination must get stronger too, or else, there is the option to let go of that endeavor, and move on. Does that make you a quitter? Or a failure? This is your choice too. Giving up too soon or too often is not a strength, though it’s not a disgrace either. But the price you pay is, you never give yourself a fighting chance.

Everything that happens in life is open to interpretation, and ultimately the only interpretation/ opinion/ belief that matters is yours, because that is the only one that actually has any actual true power or influence on your life.

The children’s rhyme “sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never hurt me” is not quite true. Words can hurt, a lot, but can not conquer you, unless you choose to let them. You always have a choice. Are you going to let somebody else “out there” set your course in life? Will you choose to let their opinion change your inner knowing that you are more than they can see? Are you doing that now? Why?

Once in a conversation, a firefighter friend told me “You can do it if you set your mind to it.” I wanted to be a firefighter but as a woman, at five-foot- six and 112 pounds, the odds against it were enormous. Three years of hard work pumping iron, running bleachers with a backpack full of sand, 40-mile bike rides, and several failed firefighter-physical-agility tests later, one day I didn’t fail. I passed that one, and then I passed some more, and eventually  did I became firefighte then an officer. Though I started out late, I served eight years of active duty first-response Fire and EMS, with a remarkable performance record. It turned out my friend was right. Since then, whenever I’ve had to set a difficult goal for myself, my mantra has been: “I can, and I will.”

Here’s a truth: It’s possible to learn more from failing than succeeding. If you start out not strong enough, you have to learn how to get strong, and then that learning and confidence will be there for you in everything else you do. The experience of failure is painful and humbling, but it is the ultimate challenge to inner strength. It can develop character and courage, depending on how you see it. Failure is one experience that can come between you and success, one rock in the road.  Everything depends on how you choose to see it. Life is open to an unlimited number of interpretations. The only one that matters, is yours.

Ravi Shankar said this: Life is like a river. The river does not stop because there is  stone”

39. Snapshot: Three Women

June 12, 2018

There’s a little photograph I keep on my refrigerator door that has three women it, sitting in a porch swing on the plain unadorned wooden porch of a farmhouse, somewhere in rural Illinois. The women pose with proper grace, smiling for the Kodak camera, with their hands folded neatly in their laps.

The house is quite small, made of clapboard neatly painted white. It’s summer, and emerald green fields of corn stretch out behind the house and seem to go on forever, all the way to the horizon. At the front of the house, two windows face the road, plain and functional, and there are no curtains. The porch shade is more than enough from the midday sun, and there are no neighbors near enough to look in.

It’s Sunday after church, and the women are my mother and my two sisters. They have traveled all the way from Dallas Texas to Bloomington Illinois for Mother’s 50th high school reunion. This house is a place Mother lived a long time ago as a child, and the current residents have welcomed her to the old homestead and invited all of them to stay for dinner.

In this small snapshot I can see through time, to past generations of strong farm women, practical, hard-working and generous. I love this little picture for its sweetness, its honesty and simplicity. Mother has left us now, gone from this earth to a higher calling. Both of my sisters still live in Texas, and both have grown children now. My own path has taken me from Texas to the East Coast, to the Midwest, and finally to the West Coast of Northern California where I call home, a long long way from Illinois.

I take the picture down from its magnet on the fridge door and hold it in my hand for a moment. I hold these women in my heart forever.

37. Query Letters and Cowboy Boots

May 7, 2018

As I write my book, I’m putting together the necessary query letter for potential agents and publishers– the first level of approach and 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 gentle and vulnerable, who probably has had to be on guard for most of their lives, even ashamed, lest that gentleness at their center might be found out, rejected, shamed, or abused.

Though this will likely 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 and usually demands from us. That’s one of the themes of the book, 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 be that. The hardest obstacles are the deeply-embedded untruths 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, but lied because they loved us, and thought they were protecting us from life.

My book is about a skinny little girl who runs through the neighborhoods and climbs trees and loves horses and fire engines. She gets repeatedly told by the big people “You can’t do that, you can’t have that, you can’t BE that” (almost all of the things she loves) because you’re a girl. And what’s worse, there is the powerful unspoken mandate: “You shouldn’t want those things.” 

“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 she hears clearly is: What you want and 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, just-learning about what life’s supposed to be, most of us get informed, either by words or actions, “You shouldn’t be who you are, you should be something else.” Or something better, smarter, prettier stronger, whatever. If you’re a boy, you’ve got to like guns and baseball, not art or music or poetry. If you’re a girl, you must like dolls and dresses and tea-sets, not mud and horses and fire engines.

I remember with crystal clarity the day my brother got cowboy boots. Daddy brought them home for him one day. I was crazy about horses, boots and spurs, and cowboy stuff, so 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 think I was three 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 imagining myself as a fast beautiful racehorse. Eventually I grew up and turned out straight, which made things easier in Texas in the 1950’s. Had I been born gay, everything would have been much harder. I learned to “act like a lady” and obey the rules. I grew up and got 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. He never noticed. 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 was before had gotten sacrificed, lost somewhere. It was not his fault. We both played the roles we were brought up to play. That works sometimes for some people. Not this time, and not for me.

Leaving was hard, shattering. It was not just a failure, it was a death. The end of a life that failed. The end of the lie.

But I knew it had to happen. I left. I stepped off the precipice into a blind freefall into the unknown. I got a divorce. I took my life back. I bought myself a pair of cowboy boots.

34. To Be Who You Are

February 25, 2018

The year I was ten years old was a year of awakening and child-size revelations. I started to look at the world around me for the first time, and notice things beyond the end of my own nose.

It was summer and the warm lazy days flowed along like an easy river, and carried me with them. Sometimes when I was by myself I would climb up in the little pear tree and and sit, hidden in the branches, and wonder 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 said, 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 just go back to sleep.

Summer evenings when I went to bed it wasn’t even dark yet. I looked out my window at the lavender-colored sky above the rooftops, and I understood that God was kind of like the sky, just always there, so big that it fills everything and goes on out there forever and ever. I  knew God was taking care of everybody and yet He still had time to notice me falling asleep.

God was this somebody or something that was bigger than the sky, that saw me and knew me and loved me, and He thought I was okay. I tried to be good, even though it meant sometimes I had 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 could be okay with everybody else. But I knew 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 just want to be who we really are. But as children and as adults, it’s hard to even know for sure what that is, because most of our world is always expecting us to be everything else.

We all got taught a system of well-meaning lies (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 some problems our parents or other grownups had experienced in their lives.

But their lives are not our lives. We believed them though, because we were little kids. We didn’t know any better. Then when we grew up, we kept on limiting our own lives, for years or even for a lifetime, by believing those rules. Some of them were never true in the first place.

What was true for our parents or anybody else “out there” may not be true for us, so the soul-work for each of us has got to be the unlearning of our untruths, and the re-learning of what is true for us now, which maybe always was. When you know the truth, it really can make you free.

If we don’t unlearn, we don’t grow into becoming all we are meant to be. If we hide our own light, we can’t 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 think. If you want to know who you really are, don’t ask anybody else, Don’t look “out there” or even in the mirror. To be who you are, look inside, and believe what you see.

32. Courage and Faith

January 10, 2018

There is a basic universal law that is always invisibly working in our lives, whether we know it or not, and even when we are totally unaware, and here it is: “What we believe, is what we receive.” This is the winner’s edge, and the loser’s self-defeating curse, because we can only be that which we are willing to dare to believe we can be.

In every aspect of life on earth, courage is the difference-maker. That, and the commitment to hold onto our “foolish”  faith, sets every impossible dream into forward-motion.

“Nothing is impossible, if you have faith.” Jesus said that, among other radical ideas that got him in trouble. He was telling the truth. That’s exactly what he and other great teahers and messengers came here to tell us about – the power of faith. Even a little faith. (If you want to move mountains though, I recommend more than “as a grain of mustard seed.”) The greater the faith, the better the outcome. But faith is not easy. It requires courage.

If your heart and soul truly, passionately desire something “impossible,” don’t play the odds. Go for it, all out.

Believe anyway. Impossible is just a word until proven otherwise. I’ve done some impossible things in my life. (yeah, seriously. even me.) They turned out to be not impossible, just really really hard. If you believe you can, or if you can even let your self believe you might, all bets are off. The power of the universe gets behind that. If you can dare to believe you can do it, you will.