All week I’ve felt like a tumbling tumbleweed, going from meeting to meeting, issue to issue, emotion to emotion. That’s made this week feel two weeks long.
Today I finished another Program Initiative Planning week at work (lots of meetings, lots and lots of them, all intense). I ate my delicious free lunch of stuffed acorn squash and came back to blog for the rest of lunch hour.
Instead, I realized I was just staring into space, listening to the high whistling sound made by the industrial air conditioning system, mesmerized by my keyboard and mouse. I only figured out my keyboard did this light stuff yesterday, at about the same time that I realized my mouse changed colors.
The Chinese are very creative, are they not? But, with no English instructions, I didn’t figure out this stuff until I looked online for how to get the mouse to work. The USB dongle thing was very well hidden. Anyway, this thing SHOULD keep me awake, shouldn’t it?
But, the point is, I just crashed. I had nothing left. All the color is gone (other than the keyboard, this place where I’m working is nearly all black and white). That’s not good, since there is still work to do, so I hope that writing this will perk me back up! It’s very rare that I crash, since I’m one of those people who always has something to do, plus two or three back-up activities. I predict some more crashing in the near future. My brain is telling me I need to slow down and breathe.
Now, I DO meditate, faithfully. But, that’s more of an “activity” to me, because emptying my brain is doing something, at least to my busy brain. It’s my favorite part of the day, but that peace rarely creeps out into the rest of the day. Hmm, the meditation peace is active in some way. This exhaustion peace is empty in a totally inactive way. Like nothing. Meditating is something.
I need some clarity on this, so I’ll go back and think about it more. Or, I’ll spend another 15 minutes watching the keyboard.
Lately I’ve varied the kinds of things I put on social media. Sometimes I share a thoughtful meme, sometimes I talk about how I’m feeling, sometimes I share a blog post, and other times I do a check-in, where I ask people a question.
By far the most engaging posts are ones that ask questions. Today, I was feeling a little bummed, so I asked people to share what the highlight of their day had been so far. I was delighted to see that by 6 pm it had close to 80 comments! I heard from so many people, some of whom I hadn’t heard from in a while.
Plus, conversations got started in the comments. I love it when I see my friends “talking to each other” thanks to a conversation starter from me. That may be my favorite aspect of the Facebook, conversations. I learn so much, and I am so often uplifted and encouraged when I read what my friends have to say.
In marketing, they always tell you to put a call to action on things you post (like, click, comment, please!). I am not all that great at that, though I do add a question to my blog posts when I sincerely want to know something. Marketing is SO not my thing, which is probably why I still only have a thousand followers and don’t get 40 WordPress likes every time I sneeze (I am guessing not being young, cute, and an “influencer” may also have something to do with it). I should be grateful that at least someone reads what a grumpy old Boomer with blue hair types! (I admit that I type mostly for me, anyway…it’s been said that I’m self centered…maybe a narcissist…I do stare in the mirror a lot.)<– humor.
But, seriously, the reason I’m here is to give YOU this little hint. If you want to hear from your friends and family ASK something! It works like crazy, and if you happen to have something you want to promote along with it, feel free (some of us do prefer subtle promotion that is not constant, though, just saying). People like to answer questions, it makes them feel like someone is actually interested in them (and in my case, I am!). This builds community, and it’s free PLUS you can do it from the comfort of wherever you happen to be!
What if you’d rather answer questions than ask them? There are two people I follow on Facebook, who ask great questions nearly every day: Joanna Fontaine Crawford and Jonathan K. Horstmann. One’s a UU minister and one’s a filmmaker/musician (both are parents of attractive children, ranging from babies to young adults). I’ll try to share others as I’m reminded of them. You can “meet” interesting folks by reading other people’s answers, too, and in these times, I’ll take any kind of uplifting human content I can get!
Let me know if you have any questions you’d like me to ask, either here on the blog, or on Facebook (I don’t ask questions on Instagram). Not connected? Tell me you’re a blog reader, and I’ll be your friend unless you start spamming or attacking others!
If I hadn’t put out decorations in my houses, I wouldn’t remember that Halloween is in a few days. All that fun spookiness and pretending to be scared has fallen by the wayside in my circles. Everybody, and I mean EVERYBODY seems to have real fears right now. It doesn’t matter who you are or what social group you’re a member of, you’re probably scared, or at least really concerned.
People in the US seem to be the most scared, but friends around the world have been expressing their concerns to me or in public forums. The elections coming next Tuesday are alarming people. People are scared of fraud, roaming militias, unseemly riots, government failures, mayhem, the apocalypse, a military coup, bombs…you name it, if it’s bad, people are afraid of it.
According to an article in today’s The USA Today, 70% of US adults are anxious about the upcoming election. That obviously includes people from all parts of the political spectrum! The article describes what people around me have been saying:
The majority of American adults say they feel it. The anxiety, the fear, the dread.
They feel it before bed and when they wake at night, at red lights and in grocery store lines, at desks and dinner tables. Quiet moments are no longer a refuge, but spaces to ruminate, contemplate, to grapple with how risky it is to hope.
Only 52% were anxious in 2016 (I should have been MORE anxious). The thing is, no matter who wins, the other side will be doubtful about the results. I can see that. It doesn’t bode well. And taking deep breaths won’t help in that situation, will it? I have been wondering if there are any ideas I can share with y’all, my real-life friends, and my family (who run the gamut of beliefs and expectations).
Thank goodness for Alia E. Dastagir, who wrote this helpful article, and thank goodness I found it when I was faliling around searching for ways to cope. I’ll share her ideas for dealing with the next few days, weeks, or months, but feel free to head on over to the original article for details.
Avoid doomscrolling. That means don’t obsess over the news and check outlets repeatedly. You could even take some time off.
Prepare for a period of uncertainty. Ugh, I don’t want to do that! I want things to be DONE. Well, too bad. We need to find ways to remain strong while waiting for things to settle down. And there’s where I’m grasping at straws. Dastagir did NOT tell me how to do that.
Dare to hope. Dastagir points out that many people in the US no longer dare hope. At least there’s a suggestion on this one, which is to focus on finding something you can actually DO. I think all the postcard writing some of my friends did helped in that way.
Avoid black-and-white thinking. That is easy to fall into, especially for some of us. WE’RE DOOMED! I have been doing a fairly good job of avoiding that kind of thing myself. I try to remind myself that we are all fellow humans, and that awful stuff has happened throughout history and at least SOME people make it through it…so, maybe I’m not doing such a great job of avoiding doom and gloom. But, we can all try together, right?
Don’t despair. This may be easier said than done, but we are implored not to despair if our candidate does not win. The psychology professor quoted in the article recommended that we try to avoid people who may be gloating or in ecstasy for the first few days after a contentious election is settled. That is what I did in 2016, though that was easier then than it is now.
This time, I may have to leave town.
Hey, do any of YOU have any good suggestions for how to deal with what’s going to be a hard time for at least half of us, no matter what the outcome?
Yippee, I managed to vote today, at last. I’m registered in Austin, so I had to wait until I was there to do it. It’s the final week of early voting here in Texas, which means the anxious people already voted, and the last-minute people haven’t decided it’s the last minute yet. The process was easy and appeared secure, as far as I could tell. Of course, I am a white lady voting in a wealthy neighborhood…
Nonetheless, all the electioneering around the voting site bothered me. Sure, they have to keep at least some number of feet away from the poll place, but all sorts of people were there with shelters, clipboards, and other things that I found annoying. No, I don’t want to sign your petition. And no, you aren’t going to change my mind by wagging a sign in my face. Well, at least they still let people who aren’t white males vote, so it could be worse (and who knows, may be in the future).
I keep tumbling along through life like a tumbleweed gaining speed. I know I can’t fix everything, but, gee, I feel powerless to help in some situations. I tried to help a dog all day yesterday, and every time I got a ray of hope, something else knocked the hope out of me. There may be a lot more of that coming around, I guess.
I did get to see one of my coworkers who I hadn’t seen since March today. Here are my two teammates taking socially distanced photos of each other.
All Is Not Lost
But, hooray, I managed to fix something after I voted! I had to go to the grocery store after voting, because I have NO coffee creamer at this house (little did I know that my endless fascinating meetings start at 8 tomorrow, so I probably don’t have time for home coffee). It was nice to see food, drink, vegetables, and such all arrayed in aisles and displays. There weren’t many people there, so I didn’t get too concerned about germs. I had a fun time at the checkout speaking bad Spanish with the cashier, then started to go home.
The car’s key fob had decided its battery was end of life. No amount of trying to put the key in a better place made it start. So, I called the dealer. What to do? Can they come fix it? No. Oh, darn. BUT, the dude described how to get into the bowels of the key fob and find the battery! And I happened to be at the grocery store, a place that sells, of all things, batteries!
Back in I went. And I fixed the key fob all by myself. That tiny self-sufficient act made me feel all empowered and proud. That kept my spirits up and led to three good meetings with people on my team. Ideas were had! Progress was made! I have competencies!
Honest, I’m not as full of mood swings as this makes me seem. I’m sharing, because right now we are all running into unavoidable obstacles or feeling unable to keep up with things that are going on around us. Finding something to center me (along with all that list of things I shared yesterday) gives me a surprising boost of well being and confidence.
I highly recommend doing a good job at something, anything at all, to add to your morale as those of us in the US try our best to get through these unsettling times. What’s YOUR competency?
True fact: every time you figure out a way to lessen one type of stress, another one comes up. Ha ha, life, you are SO FUNNY!
I had gotten a handle on some of my worries about the greater angst in the planet, which has helped me see our political stuff a different way (thanks to the mushroom book). And reading Caste gave me concrete ideas for working to make relationships among Americans better, so that wasn’t upsetting me as much. I even grappled myself into a place where I can deal with the changes at work in a positive and productive way. So proud of my own self.
But, no, I did not dwell in my feelings of equanimity for long at all.
The details are not important, just know they involve a not insignificant collection of sad animal tales and sickly family member tales (not just me; by the way I feel better).
BOOM. I got knocked right down and feel like a tumbleweed rolling down a hill in a rainstorm. Not a lot of control. But then, you NEVER have a lot of control, do you? I have to hand it to life, it doesn’t take it long at all to remind you of lessons you should not be forgetting.
There are challenges out there and they aren’t gonna stop. That’s always been true, even if right now seems like they’ve sped up, like an old 78 RPM record or something. Round and round and round, zoom!
While there will always be challenges, there will ALSO always be ways to deal with them! And I know what those are, because I’m prepared!
Deal with one day and one challenge at a time
Not worry about what’s next or what just happened
Breathe deeply and get to my familiar place of comfort/ease
Light a candle and stare at it for a while
Read a book on a non-sad topic (I’m looking at YOU, book on the color blue!)
Pet a small animal (hi Pickle, since Vlassic is staying with Jim, ’cause it’s cold)
Go on a brisk walk (guaranteed brisk, due to aforementioned weather)
Send out loving-kindness to all my friends and families dealing with similar crap as mine
So, I hope you can do some of these things with me! Peace to you.
Yes, another book report. That’s what happens when you take time off from your usual busy-ness-hood. Today’s book is another really special one that I bought after the Master Naturalist meeting. Fantastic Fungi is a companion to a film I need to see. The book is edited by Paul Stamets, an expert on mushrooms, who also contributes essays.
Before I go on and on about the writing, though, let me gush about the illustrations, which are mostly gorgeous photographs by Taylor Lockwood and others. I could look at them all day. The variety of shapes, textures, colors, and forms that mushrooms and other fungi can take surprised me. There are things in this book that I’m awed by.
And now for the content of the book. There are lots of short essays, interrupted by annoying large subheadings (my only complaint). The greats of mushroom science contributed, and it’s weird to read “and I discovered x in my research,” rather than “this famous person discovered x.”
Since mushrooms are an area where I lacked knowledge, I learned a lot about how mycelium and fungal networks are organized. I knew they could be very large and very old, but the contribution they make to life on this planet are way more significant than I’d realized.
And that’s where this book switched from being a pretty book about a part of nature I only knew a little about to something much more significant. Over and over, the contributors to Fantastic Fungi, stressed that fungi have much to teach us and may even be able to save us, if we learn how. The subtitle is: How Mushrooms Can Heal, Shift Consciousness and Save the Planet, after all.
Reading about how we seem to be designed to use the nutrients, chemicals, and other aspects of mushrooms makes me realize we are related. And that’s the point the contributors are trying to make. Without mushrooms, plants and animals would suffer greatly. Paul Stamets, especially, speaks eloquently.
A core concept of evolution is that, through natural selection, the strongest and fittest survive. In truth, (and scientifically proven), communities survive better than individuals, especially communities that rely on cooperation. Acting on such a principe, people want to give in order to receive, which I think reflects the power of an essential goodness.
Paul Stamets, p. 66
It becomes clear from Stamets and others that all of the organisms here in Earth depend on each other. Humans have been woefully ignorant of this.
Then, they bring in the heavy hitters, Michael Pollan and people he’s worked with to talk about how mushrooms (psilocybin) can help humans realize this (which I did read about in How to Change Your Mind). And they bring in more research on the experiences people have with these mushrooms. Good stuff.
What they mainly say is that people overwhelmingly have experiences of oneness and connection with other people and the earth. Maybe this is what mushrooms are trying to tell us? If so, I’m all for it. A bit more acknowledgment of our commonality and less artificial differentiation would be fine with me.
I’m inspired. And it strikes me that focusing on this kind of mutual connection is yet another way we can help get past racism, bullying, and needless antagonism. Thank you, fungi.
Hmm. I seem to be on a journey, don’t I? Are those mushrooms growing on the cow patties what I need?
(No, I’m not gonna do it. Too law abiding. And don’t want to poison myself.)
Even not feeling great, I’m finding things to be excited about. I think that’s part of my charm. Perhaps. Today’s theme is big. For example, this is a big grasshopper, especially for a male. And it’s one of my better photos, right on my driveway!
The extent of my walking yesterday was patrolling the back yard with Lee. While I regretted not meeting my activity goal, I still managed to find something big and beautiful. It’s one of my favorites, a yellow garden spider.
And now, I’m sure you’ve been waiting for us to see what was inside Fancy Pants’s giant egg from a while back.
It was still big after peeling. and still rather lumpy.
I got out the sharp knife and carefully sliced the big bruiser. Would it be a double yolk? Would it look weird?
I can’t tell if it’s double or not, but it sure is big! Way more yolk than white.
I wonder if this one would have had enough food in it to grow a chick? We will never know. But it does make me want to raise chicks. Maybe the next broody hen will get lucky!
I don’t usually reblog or repost things from other people. But this article From Maria Shriver’s Sunday Paper today hit so close to home that it nearly burst my heart. So, today she’s the guest blogger. I hope that linking to the original makes this more okay.
She writes of the divine feminine, which I’ve always associated with our interconnectedness with each other and nature. She writes of tenderness, a trait we see less often these days. She provides hope for the future.
I don’t know about you, but I need it right now. I pretty much shut down yesterday and ditched my commitments. I had to breathe. These words support and uplift me. (I will link to the original when I can find it).
Maria Shriver is my age, and has seen a lot in her privileged life. To read her thoughts is comforting!
I’ve Been Thinking…
Not too long ago, a friend suggested I write down the definition, values, and characteristics of the “divine feminine.” He said it would be a “good exercise” for me moving forward.
“Mhmm, OK,” I thought.
I sat down to give it a try and ended up staring at the paper for a long time. I wrote something and erased it, and I tried again and again. Nothing really felt right to me.
Then last Sunday in this newsletter, I wrote my essay about courage and tenderness. The response I got was overwhelming, from both men and women.
“That is what we need!” people wrote to me. “That’s who I want to be!” My friend Elizabeth suggested I even curate a new conference called “Courage and Tenderness: The New Hero’s Journey.” Others wrote that they had never contemplated tenderness in the public space, but that they were open to it, even hungry for it. (An old video of Joe Biden resurfaced this week that visualized what I’m talking about.)
As I read all the responses from readers like you, I allowed myself to be touched by the words. I allowed myself to receive your kindness and gratitude for the idea, which wasn’t really my idea at all. It was the Pope’s! But, perhaps I presented it in a different way, maybe even a feminine way.
Several people also responded to the paragraph I wrote about bestowing tenderness on my tough mother. People told me those lines really took them aback. I’ve thought a lot about that in the days since. The truth is, I have spent many years trying to understand the towering warrior that was my mother. My quest has, in turn, helped me to better understand myself.
Better understanding myself is not why I wanted to understand her, but it is the gift I got from delving deep into my mother’s drive, restlessness, rage, pain, and determination. I learned a lot from seeking to understand the way she wielded power in the halls of Congress, in her extended family, and in my own immediate family with my father, my brothers, and myself as her only daughter. I could write forever about my mother, from whom I learned feminism, although I’m not sure the word itself resonated with her. But the concept of women being equal to men sure did.
But today I want to focus on the description of the hero or heroine’s journey at this moment in our collective journey. It is, in its own way, the realization of the divine feminine. Women of my mother’s generation were not seen or valued, much less understood. If they had an idea, they were passed over or silenced. If they wanted to compete, they had to be a warrior 24/7. They had to bury their tenderness and femininity and show they could out-men the men. And even then, they were often invisible to the people around them.
Thanks to so many women of my mother’s generation and my own since then, we have paved a way. Today, many young women are brave enough to step out and speak up without giving it a second thought.
Women today, like the men of today, have the opportunity to lead in a more evolved and humanistic manner than those of generation’s past. In fact, they must if we want to survive. Yes, survive. You see, I believe that our collective humanity is on the line right now, and that it will take tenderness and courage, coupled with the divine feminine to resurrect us all.
Today in our midst, there are record numbers of cases of anxiety, depression, suicide, abuse, and addiction. People report being bullied. Millions are desperately lonely and feeling anything but “seen or understood,” much less “included or valued.” It is time to reimagine the way we walk and talk in the world, as well as how we lead in our homes and places of business. It’s time to shift the old power balances that still exist around us, because it simply doesn’t feel like it’s working anymore.
It is time for the tender warrior: courageous in thought, word, and deed. The tender warrior is vulnerable in action. Compassionate in speech. Fully alive and fully realized. The tender warrior uses their eyes to see what is, not what the deluded mind says what is. The stories we tell ourselves and others are critical to moving forward in a realistic way. They are critical to know what needs reframing and reforming.
The tender warrior is an empathetic storyteller, one who is courageous enough to tell the story of where we are with honesty. Their mission is not to scare us, but to reassure us that the future we imagine is, in fact, possible for all of us. (Just look at New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and her handling of the pandemic in her country.) They use a new language. They use words that we can collectively embrace, not hurriedly shove down our throats.
So, who is this tender warrior? Well, you can be one. Yep, that’s right. Each and every one of us can be a tender warrior. To become one requires a tender heart and a courageous spirit. It requires a commitment to compassion, empathy, and the journey ahead. Everywhere I look, tenderness is needed these days. Everyone I know can soften under its expression. Even the toughest of the tough.
I know this because I was one of those tough people for years. I felt I had to be tough to survive the family I was born into and the profession I chose. And yet, when tenderness touched my armor, the walls came tumbling down. Imagine that power. Imagine knowing that you have it to bestow on another. Think about that and let it sink in.
I pray we can jointly commit to stop the bullying in our public square. It’s ruining lives and damaging psyches. Expressions of hate demean us all and destroy the very fabric of our humanity. Racism. Sexism. Ageism. Any “ism,” really. Let’s put them to bed once and for all. They are beneath us. It’s time.
People are tired. People are scared. Who hasn’t had enough? A good friend told me that after watching the news the other night, she turned off the TV and wept. She said, “I can no longer tolerate the meanness. It’s destroying us all.” I said to her what I’ll say to you, “It will get better.” It will get better because the majority of us want it to get better. Now me must work to make it so.
There is light ahead, this I know to be true. There is a new energy coming our way. So, let’s each open ourselves to it. Let’s open ourselves to being tender, fellow warriors. Be tender and embrace the divine feminine that exists in you. Do not be afraid of what’s feminine, regardless of your gender. It is healing. It is nurturing. It is soft and vulnerable, and yet it is so strong and courageous. In its magnificence, it can mirror to another person their magnificence. It can show them their own divinity, which in turn will allow them to fly. How extraordinary is that?
It turns out that I know exactly the definition, values, and characteristics of the divine feminine. Now, will you join me in living them?
PRAYER OF THE WEEK
Dear God, please let us all be brave enough to embrace the divine feminine that lives within us. May we all be tender and courageous and reimagine how we show up in the world. Amen.
Thank you for reading! It’s worth subscribing to her newsletter for more like this.
I talked earlier about how fond I am of the color red and how much I enjoyed the session on cochineal, a red dye, last week. So, naturally, the first of the series of color books by Michel Pastoureau I just got that I’m going to report on is Red: The History of a Color.
The quality of this book is drool-worthy. Each book in the series is hefty and dense. The paper for the pages is so thick, and the printing is sublime. The illustrations are so interesting that I’ll go back to this book over and over.
While I did get lost in the photos, I also learned a lot about how red figured throughout European history. It was the most important color up until the last few centuries, when blue took over. Boo, blue (I guess I’ll be more on Team Blue when I read the blue volume).
The author teaches us a lot about how color has been perceived by humans, which I learned from earlier color books, but the focus on red and how it was perceived earlier than colors other than black and white made the history pretty memorable. it turns out names for many colors show up quite late, as the chapter on pink showed.
I enjoyed learning a lot about how people dressed through European history, and not just the royalty and rich people. Peasants always liked red!
Any book in this series would be a nice gift for an artsy or crafty friend. A high-quality book on your favorite color that’s also a work of art in itself—what’s not to love? And red’s the color of love!
I spent most of last night trying to figure out why my post from yesterday got so many hits it blew my stats out. Did someone love reading about putting one dream aside to focus on another? Of course not. Someone was upset about something peripheral. But thanks! All those hater-inspired hits make my SEO look good.
Speaking of hate, when I was heading over to my Google search console, I got distracted by this headline:
First I got all indignant that Texas wasn’t number one. I mean, gee, we have so much to dislike, first among which is that Texans think they’re number one at everything. Ha ha! Not in hate by others! We’re probably number one in racists and misogynists, though, just by population size.
I know you’re dying to know whether Florida or California is most hated. At least I was. But no! It’s New Jersey! I guess New Yorkers skewed that!
My guess is adjacent states have something to do with it, especially when I saw that most Texas haters came from Oklahoma, New Mexico, etc. Sigh. I’d like to know the most loved states!
Honestly, though, every place I’ve been has some pretty awful aspects and some amazing ones. Texas has some horrible politicians and some pretty dull scenery. Plus Houston. But there is so much beauty, many kind people, and a fun cultural mix. So, no need to hate it, just some parts. Ditto all those other states and countries.
Side story: I have a growing number of friends retiring outside the US. Each proclaims the wonders of their part of Mexico, Canada, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Portugal, etc. But I know each place has its frustrations, just like the US. One friend wrote about how people have twice stolen the telephone wires connecting their neighborhood to the main town, for copper. Another notes high COVID rates and insufficient medical personnel, even with socialized medicine.
No place is perfect! Or living thing, for that matter.
No blog, business, or person is. Hatred just wastes time. And energy. If you have a problem with something, pause to think if that issue negates all the good that’s also present.
I’m just going to accept Texas, Cameron, Austin, my pets, and my beloved humans as they are. Try it! You’ll like it!