Judgy Judgy Judgy

People are so darned judgmental. I know we’re wired to be that way, but why does it seem like so few people are even TRYING to let go of that? So many folks feel compelled to be all like, “I’m not normally judgmental BUT it affects me, so judge, judge judge.” In the past week or two, I’ve seen the effects of other people’s judgmentalism and compulsion to give unsolicited advice have hurt people I care about who are doing their best in their complicated and difficult lives (hey, isn’t that every single one of us?).

I find it easy to love everyone. What’s your problem, Suna?

So, here’s sort of a letter to myself, to remind me of my intentions. Writing them down helps. And, it might help some reader, even!

What Helps Me

I read a lot of Buddhist stuff, and a lot of my spiritual practice draws from that tradition. It’s helped me a lot as I walk my own path toward being less judgmental (just ask anyone who knows me, I have an issue with it, just like everyone else). Here are two things that help me, and they are things that can help you no matter what your spiritual beliefs are:

  • Breathing: By this I mean stopping whatever you are doing that makes you feel angry, annoyed, anxious, or worried and breathing deeply. If you concentrate on breathing from your core, you can’t also be worrying or judging. It gives your busy mind a break and helps you change your focus. This has worked for me for at least 50 years, so there has to be something to it! And I find it works with animals, too, especially horses. It really helps Apache. And no, it doesn’t have to be special yoga breathing, Zen meditation, or some fancy thing. Just breathing deeply and focusing on it works. The latest issue of Lion’s Roar magazine has great articles on this that would apply to anyone.
  • Lovingkindness: What’s that? It’s a Buddhist practice that boils down to sending positive energy/thoughts out to the world. You start with yourself, then your family, then your friends, then people you like, then people you don’t like/don’t know…eventually getting to the whole world. It’s like prayer, and I know there are several prayer practices much like this. One way to do it is just to repeat this, with broadening focus:
    May you live with ease, may you be happy, may you be free from pain. May you live with ease, may you be happy, may you be free from pain. May you live with ease, may you be happy, may you be free from pain.
    I just like the idea of lovingkindness (metta). It really helps me focus on caring about fellow humans, even ones I may disagree with. Read more by searching for it!
In ranching news, Lee and I got some fish for the water troughs. Here I am trying to get a photo of goldfish.

My Own Hard Work against Being Judgmental

I know I’ve had pretty harsh feelings and thoughts about people who differ from me, whether politically, educationally, culturally, or philosophically. Sure, I have every right to think I’m correct, since what works for me does work for me. But, I know darned well I’m a product of many things:

  • When I was born
  • Who raised me
  • How I was educated
  • The people who surrounded me as I grew up
  • What I’ve read (or watched), and not to forget this one…
  • How I’m wired genetically

The last one has been hitting me hard lately. I’ve done enough reading on how our minds and bodies work to know that about half of the people in this world see the world one way, and the other see it another…and these boil down into the various dichotomies that have been around throughout our time as humans. Right now it’s liberal vs. conservative in the US, and other things in other places. But it’s there. And it isn’t going to change.

So, for the last few months I have been cutting back on my participation in the divisiveness in the US that’s not helping anyone. I’m going to keep my beliefs, but I’m going to haul out the lovingkindness and remind myself that people who do things or think things I disagree with were raised differently from me, have had different life experiences, are surrounded by a different subculture, and most important, are wired differently from me. This does not mean I can’t get to know them, be friends, or learn valuable things from them. I’m DOING this, dang it.

I know that there will be judgments aimed at me as I try to be more open, because my efforts aren’t exactly being replicated all over the place right now. So, the next thing to work on is not being hurt by judgments thrown at me. I guess these efforts go hand in hand. The past few years, where I’ve lived in a town where I don’t fit in, live with people with vastly different points of view and life experiences, and have not hesitated to share my thoughts have been great practice in not letting other people’s opinions hurt me.

From Jack Kornfield’s version of the meditation.

That’s not easy! I get hurt sometimes! But, at least I know that just because others look at me one way, it doesn’t mean I’m bad…just different. The key is to take the nugget of truth or valid criticism to heart, and reject the negative attitude or intent. We CAN learn from people who aren’t always kind to us or agree with us without absorbing the negativity. I’ve got a ways to go, and I’m glad I have role models who are further along with this than me.

But, I can take my breathing and use it to help me get back to a good place, and send lovingkindness out to everyone. That will keep me going as I learn, screw up, learn more, and find new ways to screw up. Now, doesn’t that sound just like a life well lived? It does to me.

An Invitation

Let’s see if we can all work to be less judgmental and more understanding that we can’t walk in other people’s shoes or know all their backstory. Can’t hurt. It might help.

Welcoming Deaths and Treasuring Lives

It’s an interesting time for me, when it comes to life passages. While I’m fine and not going through a life change, I am privileged to know people who are heading toward the end of their time on this earth, as well as people who are honoring lives of loved ones whose spirits left before their bodies did. I’ve never been one of those people who feared death or worried about it much, but I have always been intrigued about the legacies our loved ones leave behind. So, I’m going to share some stories that have been causing me to think. Some readers who are mutual friends may be familiar with some of these, but I’m not naming names.

Coincidentally, I spent some time this afternoon with my friend Holly, who’s documenting graves at Walkers Creek Cemetery. This one was like a jigsaw puzzle.

The Strong Spirits

My colleagues at La Leche League tend to be people of great fortitude and spiritual depth. My very first role model in living a good life while facing death was my mentor, Roberta Bishop Johnson, who shared many insights and nuggets while she dealt with breast cancer in the 1990s. She made sure she was participating in the lives of her friends, offering up ideas, and sharing her love for her family right up until when she passed. That stuck with me.

Two of my other long-time LLL friends are nearing the ends of their journeys here with us, and both have been incredibly open about sharing their ups and downs, feelings about their bodies and what’s happening to them, and coming to terms with the fact that things are winding down. I really appreciate their openness and willingness to share.

Not everyone is up to doing this; I’ve known people who didn’t share what was going on with them at all, which is a completely understandable option, but takes away their friends and families’ ability to share life with them as fully as possible while they are here. But I get it; people don’t want to appear to whine, to bring others down, or to share the painful details.

For me, learning about how these two women have made sure to do things they’ve always wanted to do, while they can (one married the love of her life, and one made sure to get in travel with her children, especially to the beach), how they carefully planned for things after they are gone, and how they enjoyed their friends and family to the fullest all contributed to making me much more comfortable with dying on your own terms. I’m not saying they are lucky, but they do have the luxury of knowing what is happening and being able to plan accordingly. I know my dad would have liked that chance, so much.

One thing that comforts me greatly about knowing I won’t have these friends around much longer is that I know their spirits and legacies will remain. After Roberta passed away, I could still hear her tell me what she thought about what I was doing in my life. And I also still hear my dad (and tell him stuff; I can’t help it). We will feel these generous friends with us for years.

This tree growing around a t-post reminds me of the struggle to fight unwelcome things growing inside us. Sometimes you just have to accept them and keep growing anyway.

The Ones Whose Losses Happened before Death

Another set of friends I’ve learned a lot from in the past few weeks are two dear local friends whose mothers passed away recently, but had been gone in spirit since an Alzheimer’s diagnosis. These women felt like they’d lost their parents long before they actually passed away.

One just had the memorial get-together with her extended family, and it was more of a nice gathering to share good memories and enjoy each other. The mourning had happened years ago, when they lost her personality, or essence, or something. The other friend seems to have gone more into business mode, of taking care of details. She had been so kind to her mother, though, even with the difficulties of COVID. Who could blame her for feeling some relief and just wanting to move on to the next phase?

I feel a lot of sympathy for these people and their families. They’re sad, yet relieved that their parents aren’t dealing with confusion now (though, I know some people with dementia who are happy just as they are…it varies so much).

Takeaways

Watching all these events as a third party, not intimately involved like families are, has taught me some lessons, maybe not consciously. I think the reason I’ve gotten a second horse and plan to start lessons again is that I want to do these things while I still can. And getting a swimming pool installed and making the ranch house look better, too, were things I’d been putting off or giving up on. But, if I can’t have fun now, when am I supposed to?

To show how far I will go to make things fun, I spent quite some time trying to line up my head and my hat so it would look like I am wearing a tiny cowboy hat.

AND, as I’ve been telling myself for the last couple of years, I need to recommit to being with people who bring me joy and make my life pleasant, go places and do things that expand my mind, and take the time to find the fun in whatever I’m doing. I think that’s the key to enjoying whatever time we have here in this life–enjoying where you are and who you are with NOW.

With love in my heart for my friends heading toward big transitions or recovering from them, I invite you all to do something fun with someone you care about.

Helplessly Hoping

Oh, my friends, this anniversary of the pandemic lockdowns has not led to a bunch of happy, hopeful humans in my little world. The people who are struggling to maintain their equilibrium are just not doing it. And even those of us who’ve been keeping our heads above water feel like we are sinking. The hope that truly IS out there is just hard to see!

The little pink flowers of hope are hiding among the prickly cactus that is life with COVID-19.

Heck, I’ve been doing sort of okay most of the past year, but for the past few days, it’s been quite difficult to get through a day. It doesn’t help that my meetings seem to have meetings in them and I get really tired of Zooming. I put the image below on Facebook, and got a lot of support from friends who said this has been an extra-hard few days for them.

*then get back up and do the needful.

It’s weird. I’m NOT all afraid like my friends in the Other World (that’s what I’ve decided to call the Fox News watching crowd) keep telling me. I’m living my life. I’m getting my second vaccine today, actually, and I look forward to some travel in a couple of months. I do have hope, but it feels like helpless hope. I honestly think I just can’t believe positive news.

For example, President Biden gave a talk last night, and it was full of hope and positive energy. People in the US might actually get vaccinated. People who are not me are getting money from the government, too. He spoke kindly, stayed on script, and didn’t call anyone names. This normally would have made me feel better.

But no, the cycle I’ve gone through in the last few decades (Bush, Obama, the previous guy, Biden) has led me to not put any credence into good news. There’s always something awful just down the road. Don’t get me wrong, I am fully aware that life is suffering (I read Lion’s Roar, after all) and that there will always be positive and negative aspects to life, the dark and light sides of the Force, and all that. But the un-ending, pounding, grinding succession of challenges, struggles, meanness, and and obstacles the past year has brought with it have taken a lot out of me. It helps to know I’m not alone.

Don’t force yourself to choose unless you want to, says Suna the Grey.

I admire the folks who are hanging in there and posting the positive memes every day (like my dear niece who could find the good in our sun going supernova, I think). Hope is needed. But right now, I’m in a place that I don’t believe it, no matter how nice it is to see it in others.

All I have for y’all is some virtual hugs. I think I mentioned needing hugs just a couple of days ago! And I appreciate the return hugs and good energy. I’m absolutely confident that I’m just dealing with a passing depression episode that’s completely understandable. Just know that I’m still helplessly hoping, and some day I may even believe my hope and get back to all that cautious fun I was managing to have earlier in the pandemic period.


Oh yes, it’s my job to mention that I do have podcasts now of all my most recent posts. I usually record each blog post within 24 hours of posting it here. You can go to Apple podcasts, Spotify, and many other places, search for the Hermits’ Rest, and follow our spoken journey. I also promise to mention anyone kind enough to sponsor my podcast, which will help repay all the money I spend to bring you this blog!


Book Report: Women Talking

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Wow. There are so many things to say about this book that I’ll never get them all said! After I read All My Puny Sorrows, I wanted to read more from Miriam Toews, and selected this one, Women Talking, after reading the intriguing reviews. I said All My Puny Sorrows was a jewel of a book. Well, this one is like the Hope Diamond or something. There are so many aspects of it that are just…perfect…that it’s hard to find a place to start.

If this is soon to be a major motion picture, I think I’d have a hard time watching. It’s intense.

Well, I do know where to start, which is with the content warning. If you can’t handle books where there is discussion of rape, you’ll need to pass this one by, because the premise of Women Talking hinges around the effects of women of an entire community dealing with the consequences of it. It’s based on a true story, but the dialog and such are imagined.

The protagonists are a group of women in a Mennonite community isolated somewhere in South America, who at first thought they were being attacked by ghosts or demons in the night. The entire plot takes place over two days, as they decide how to deal with the men in their community who actually perpetuated the crimes.

None of these women have been allowed to learn to read or write, and very few of them have ever left their small compound. They have been trained to obey the men, never offer an opinion, and to simply do their jobs (cook, clean, farm, and reproduce).

They hold a series of secret meetings, when the men have gone to try to bail out the rapists, and they ask the one educated person in the community, the teacher, who’s an outcast, to take minutes of their meetings. August is not sure WHY they asked, but he is willing to do it.

Through his notes (and his unexpectedly complex asides and insights into his own history), we learn what a fascinating group of people these women are, gain many insights into the beliefs of their Mennonite community (by the way, NOT like all Mennonite communities…it’s a bit cultish), and see how brilliant, brave, compassionate, and feisty they can be.

When they start planning, reasoning, discussing theology, and supporting each other, you can’t help but be in awe. Toews shows how resilient the human spirit is, and truly draws you into their culture and concerns. There are so many details I’ll never forget, such as conditions they have to deal with all alone, with no real medical care (edema, fainting spells, pregnancy and childbirth, loss of eyesight, loss of limbs, etc.). And there are little things like how one of them manages to be a smoker, or how the two youngest women braid their hair together, or jauntily remove their head coverings and roll their socks down in rebellion.

You eventually see that everyone in the book has suffered, has tenuous connections to sanity, but have strengths, the depths of which they don’t always realize. And to get to that realization you get to enjoy the privilege of Towes’s spare dialogue, her knack for expressing things in ways that people from another “world” would say them, and her true love for marginalized people.

I admired the women in this book deeply. They stuck to their principles as I could only hope to do if I was challenged to fundamentally. And I admired August the note-taker, too, poor tortured soul.

This book affected me as deeply as The Handmaid’s Tale did way back in the 1980s. That means it will stay with me forever. Please read it.

Bring Back the Word of the Year. Enough.

For a few years, I participated in the practice of selecting a word of the year. The idea is to look at the year through the lens of the word you chose.

Inspired

I didn’t do it for a few years, and haven’t since I started this blog. But, through the miracle of figuring out where the option to search my old Facebook posts is located in the interface, I found my choices from previous years. It appears that the 2013 word was “Flexibility.” Good choice.

And here I found out the 2014 word was “acceptance” (that’s done me good ever since!) and 2015 was “vulnerability.” Whew. I’m glad I’m healthy for my age, because I can see how long it takes to really assimilate concepts that require fundamental changes in my outlook and mindset.

I’m not sure how I got out of the practice of setting a word for each year, because I enjoyed it in the past. Maybe 2016 was a hard year for focusing. It was the year we spent at the little casita. That was, indeed, a confusing year. Of course, I’m glad I didn’t pick a 2020 word, as interesting as that might have been.

2021

It took very little meditation to have this year’s word come to me. My year’s focus and mantra need to be this.

2021 Suna Word of the Year

Yes. Whatever happens, I want to find it to be enough. I’m not going to push this year. I want to appreciate what I have, how things are, who is in my life, and what happens. I’m not looking for perfection. I want to abide and accept my circumstances. It’s enough.

I encourage you to find your own word for 2021. Please share, if you would like to.

Religion, Politics, Grievances

Not sure if this is a rant or what, but I’m experiencing some righteous indignation on behalf of some people I know, in person and online. It seems like folks are really, really bored right now, and I get that. It’s winter and many of us are pretty isolated.

BUT

Nope. Not finished.

Just because you’re bored and you have an opinion about someone’s beliefs or actions does NOT mean you are obligated to share it with the rest of the planet. More important, you don’t need to tell people how wrong all the things they think and do are. Really, you do not.

Yes, people we know do stuff that bothers us. And, I have nothing against talking about things people, in general, do that bother us. I do it, as you may have noticed, and am doing it now, as a matter of fact.

However, just because you have the TIME to send a long email, text, or IM to someone spelling out exactly how wrong their beliefs and opinions are, it doesn’t mean you SHOULD do it. Think about it.

If you are happy with the religious path you have taken, which after all is a personal religious path, would someone telling you how wrong it is do anything other than make you think less of that person. It certainly would not change your religious beliefs. That happens between you and your deity or deities. No one has a right to call your beliefs into question (even Scientologists, ha ha).

Now hush.

If you have expressed your personal thoughts on a personal platform (blog, Instagram, Facebook, etc.) about politics of your country, policies in your area, or issues that need to be addressed, that does not (or should not) open you up to diatribes, name calling, meanness, or threats. Sure, people can express disagreement or other points of view, but why be mean about it?

Does insulting someone or disparaging someone’s beliefs EVER EVER EVER get them to change their mind and see your brilliant point of view as correct? (Hint, the answer is, “no.”)

Suggested Alternatives to Giving People a Piece of Your Mind

If you get a strong urge to tell someone exactly what you think about their life choices or viewpoints, here are things you can do that don’t involve attacking them with your scathing words:

  • Donate money in their name to your favorite cause. That always feels good. I’ve done it!
  • Write the horribly misguided person a long letter by hand, on a piece of paper. Then stomp on it really hard to get your frustrations out, followed by violently wadding it up and throwing it in the trash.
  • Take a long walk around your property while muttering dark and foul thoughts about your target, until you get distracted by something naturally beautiful and you start feeling all sorts of oneness and your hostility dissipates (works for me).
  • Call your best friend and declare that it is time to vent. Rant and rave and complain your head off. The friend will say soothing things. Then you will agree that there’s no point in telling the wrong-thinking person off; they just won’t get it.
  • Wait until Festivus, then stand by your Festivus Pole and air your grievances. That will be okay, because it’s a holiday activity.*

By the way, it’s FESTIVUS! Let us air our grievances!


(*The article I link to above explains how Festivus is the perfect pandemic holiday and is pretty cute. Also, if you Google Festivus, there’s a Festivus pole in the margin! Hilarious!)

I’m Not Sick, Just Tired, But I MUST Be Supportive!

Please let me first apologize for making my discomfort with plane travel over the weekend appear like I think I am sick. I have no symptoms of COVID-19, and have been taking my temperature. Still just fine, as far as I can tell. I was just really uncomfortable being around so many people in the Dallas airport and sitting next to a woman who was coughing. Like I’ve said before, I’m a special snowflake who believes the pandemic is real and would prefer not to take chances. But, I’m not sick.

As it does every day, noticing nature’s beauty keeps me feeling well. These are two red-tailed hawks circling above Marbry’s Ridge.

And by saying I’m tired, I mean I’m spending a lot of energy (and rightly so, I think ) supporting friends and family who are going through really hard times right now. It may be tiring, but it’s important work, and I don’t plan to stop.

Examples and Inspiration

For example, I know how to not get overly sucked in by others’ needs, but when your close friend’s husband passes away, you can’t help but send your energy out to them. My friend Vicki was the only person who came to my dad’s funeral to take care of ME, and she’s stuck with me since we were teenagers, despite our political and spiritual differences. That’s true friendship. I’m so sorry she lost her beloved husband so soon after finally reuniting with him. True friends need to be there for each other and truly listen, so I’ll so what I can in these WEIRD times.

A circle of friends surrounding a cactus seems an apt illustration!

Coincidentally, I just read this beautiful article in the New York Times, by someone famous, but who suffers just like us.

“[W]hen people ask how any of us are doing, and when they really listen to the answer, with an open heart and mind, the load of grief often becomes lighter — for all of us. In being invited to share our pain, together we take the first steps toward healing.”

The Losses We Share, by Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, New York Times, November 25, 2020

She recently experienced a miscarriage, a devastating life passage she shares with so many of us. She shared that just having someone actually express that they care about how she is getting along was helpful and healing. And her overall point, that checking on others during this time of isolation is VITAL, is something we all need to think about.

I know reaching out is not one of my best skills, but I’m prioritizing it. I’m very GOOD at responding, though, and boy do I send out those healing thoughts (which I’ll go along with the organized religion fans and assume do some good).

This is where I send all my vibes to. Hee hee.

Another example: someone I know mentioned that none of their local friends had checked up on them during the pandemic until very recently. That hurt. It made me wonder who I should be checking up on (yes, I will call my stepmother). Who do you need to check on, just so they will know they aren’t alone?

As Meghan pointed out this morning, we need to really see each other right now, even if we’re covered up:

“We are adjusting to a new normal where faces are concealed by masks, but it’s forcing us to look into one another’s eyes — sometimes filled with warmth, other times with tears. For the first time, in a long time, as human beings, we are really seeing one another.”

Ibid.

I truly hope she is right. With so much loss and pain going around, we need each other to see us, accept us, and show we care.

A final example: a blog reader wrote me a long email yesterday, in response to one of my blog posts on Highly Sensitive People. He was worried that he was using his sensitivity as an excuse to indulge his other issues (fears of various things). Now, this man is also dealing with autism and other mental health issues, and I felt so bad to think he worried that his personality type was an excuse. I’m glad he reached out, because I think he expressed something many of us experience, which is that our thoughts or feelings aren’t good enough, or are a cover-up for something else. In reality, many people share the HSP trait, and some of them have other issues, too. It’s just who we are, and dealing with it becomes a lot easier if we accept our limitations and challenges, and work to be the best unique individual we can be. Who that man is, the way he is, is fine. No one should judge him without spending some time in his reality.

Of course, I told him this, in other words. It’s what we all should do, listen and be supportive. Everyone’s struggling with something!

Looking out my window, it’s easy to see how we feel isolated, each of us up on our own hills.

Listen to the Universe

Wow, it sure seems like the Universe is conspiring to tell me something this week. Clearly, the effort it takes to be supportive of others, to listen to what people are concerned about, and to reach out is worth it, even if it can make you tired. We’re all we have!

Just another cool hawk photo to enjoy. I like how the sun made the interesting effect. Nice to end on a note of beauty.

Feeling Lighter?

I’m talking about mentally lighter, here. True fact is that I have been feeling much lighter while I’m on my sojourn in the mountains. I have finally given myself space to breathe and permission to do nothing I “should” be doing for a few weeks. I’ve been able to read, knit, watch silly television movies with the family, and eat whatever I want to, whenever I want to. Nice.

It turns out, though, that I’m not the only one. In my casual reading of email, Facebook, and news sites this morning, I have run across a surprisingly (to me) large number of folks expressing that they feel lighter, better, more free, or less stressed. It’s not everyone. But it’s a lot of people.

I’m glad there really isn’t an elephant in the room.

I’ll address the elephant in the room.*

Lots of people are feeling more free and less vigilant because of the US election results. Some of us are relieved at the Presidential election stuff; others are happy that their party did much better than expected in state and local elections. Still others are just glad for a break from all those ads and such. But, I don’t think it’s all about that.

There are still lots of things in 2020 that can keep us blanketed with concerns. The COVID stuff weighs on everyone’s minds, for sure. There have been exposures in my family, and that worries me, of course. And I keep trying to think of ways to have fun in Utah and avoid crowds of strangers (so far, I’ve done pretty well, though one store I went in last week made me uncomfortable, so I left). Being able to figure out ways to enjoy life, even with restrictions, though, has helped me a lot, and I am thinking others are figuring out ways to be comfortable with their “new normal” (a phrase I’m growing to dislike).

I’ll take it as long as it lasts!

Maybe, just maybe, the way we’ve all been forced to do a lot of introspection and many of us have been spending more time in nature and noticing how we’re all interconnected, maybe that’s helped. I want that to be true. And it has really helped a lot of us focus on the here and now, not what just happened or what might happen. When we realize we are a part of everything, even pandemics fall into place. We just deal with what comes up, every day.

I keep mentioning that finding the good in whatever you’re doing seems to work. Attitude seems matter, lots. I think more and more of us are finding this focus, whether intentionally or not. I know it’s how I’ve gotten through previous politically tough times and times when people I love are ill. I think back to when my mom was sick, when my dad was in his horrible accident and the aftermath of that, the loss of my son’s love, and all the hard times I’ve faced, and I realize that all these times I’ve focused on the current moment, realizing there’s nothing that worrying or brooding can do. We all have these kinds of times, and 2020 seems to have brought more than its share to so many people.

Let’s enjoy feeling a little lighter, even for a short while. Hold these times in our hearts as we figure out what to do with all the upcoming holidays and other challenges. Keep those negative thoughts in their proper place (there is still plenty to challenge us, and there’s no denying it). With the support of our inner circles and a focus on the good around us, I think we can make it.


*Another elephant (symbolically) is that maybe a lot of the people who are angsty and upset are hanging out in their Parler now, so I’m left interacting with people who are coping with life right now.

Roll with the Changes (like a tumbleweed)

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.

Like I said not long ago, it’s always something. Image by @LittleIvan via Twenty20

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.

Some of them there tumbleweeds are BIG, too. Image by @Dari via Twenty20

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!

Where I will imagine I am. Image by @Barefoot_Traveller via Twenty20

I shall:

  • 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.

Book Report: Fantastic Fungi

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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.

Cool book cover, plus Penney.

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.

The inside back cover. Look at those things!

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.

My favorite page, because of all those shapes.

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.)