We Make Our Own Beds….Or Do We?

Last night I was talking to a friend and she stated and we landed on the subject of personal responsibility and it went something like this:

My friend:  “You know, we all make are beds so we must lay in it!”
Me:  “Or do we?  We make our beds but what if someone comes along and steals our sheets?  I’ve had help making some of my beds!
My friend:  “Well, that’s true.  But come on, you have to take personal responsibility.

We continued this conversation for a few more minutes interspersed with outbursts of laughter.  Like many of my conversations, this one lingered alongside my new challenge to the cliché  that if you make your bed you must lay in it.   Might we be encouraged to see this differently?

20100615-img_6661-4As children, making one’s bed is one of the initial early tasks that some of us in American society encounter.  It also marks one of our first introductions to being responsible.  Yet, this metaphorical bed becomes complicated and sometimes messier than the bedsheets that one would use for the task of making one’s bed.   Thus, I have no solutions,  just questions for everyone to consider when we ask that people lie in the bed that they made:

  • How do you make your bed and lie in it if there is someone who plays a role in stealing your sheets or ruffling the covers?  Or perhaps they steal your bed?
  • Perhaps you have individuals who collaborate in “making the bed” yet they leave you to take the responsibility for the outcome.  Then can you truly said it is a bed you made?

Then of course there are the other realities like what if someone does not have a bed, covers or sheets (metaphorically speaking!).  In other words, some individuals start off without the materials to truly make their bed and lie in it, what then?  Is this rationalizing?  Is it giving an easy pass?  Or is it recognizing that not all of us start out at the same place?

My friend was right and ultimately, I do agree that we have to take responsibility for the parts we play or pieces we add to making the bed.  But perhaps we should not be so eager to jump in and claim it all as our own personal doing (or making in the case of the bed).  And maybe along the way we should recognize moments when we have unwanted help with the making of our beds.

Ponder This: Why Do We Keep Doing That?

I was talking to a friend tonight about relationships, vulnerability, and our lived experiences.  The conversation was interrupted with laughter of disbelief in regards to some of the things we have experienced, then she says, “You’d think that we would learn better.”  I quickly responded, “Why?  Why haven’t we learned, why do we keep doing this?”

The “this” in question was in regards to the continued attempts to establish, create, and/or maintain friendships, loveships, romanceships, and any other configuration of human relationship that involves unzipping and becoming vulnerable.  Then I remembered why and how it is that we all have become so easily taken and sometimes weakened by our experiences.  I started to respond to our pondering outloud with the only thing that made since in the moment,

index“You know like old, worn objects that get cracks, dings, fissures, tears, and holes in them?  Over time, the wear and tear creates an opening that weakens the foundation.  Humans are a lot like that.  We get worn.  We get cracks, dings, fissures, and holes in us allowing us to become not only permeable but it jeopardizes our foundation over time.”
I know there is wisdom and the cliches that we were all encouraged to repeat about various things strengthening one’s character and resolve.  Perhaps the strength is a double-edge sword that comes in the form of a wound, an incision that allows for us to keep letting things in while creating an exit point for pieces of us to escape.  Perhaps the resolve or resilience is the pain or wound that reminds us that we can still be vulnerable and let the world in as we weaken because each in every encounter leaves us with a little less “us.”

Thus, we keep doing it because it is the only thing the cracked and as a result permeable know how to do….be present and let it in.

 

 

 

The Open Letter As Challenge & As Art

 

notesA few weeks back I posted something of an informal challenge on my Facebook only for those who wanted to take it.  You see, the open letter (or even, a letter itself) is a type of art.  As a result of that inspiration, I asked if others wanted to join me in creating an open letter addressed to anyone or anything.  But there was one catch–I asked individuals to dump their vulnerability into this letter that they might wish to share with others.  I stumbled around challenged by my own challenge trying to figure out what I was going to write about and to whom. I decided that a letter to my younger self would be most interesting, yet it was also most difficult.  So, here goes. 

Dear former, younger self,

magickIt is now that you know it all and you have it all figured out. So this isn’t my attempt to convince you of anything different. But consider this as one of the many magical experiences that will inevitably flow through your veins. And perhaps, through my words, this incantation, you will know who I am. Or maybe, just maybe you won’t recognize the windows through which you are gazing into until you pass that threshold into wisdom. Either way, younger self, here are my words to leave at your feet as you travel to many places….

There are moments of stillness that you might notice and it will feel like everything stopped. Yet your senses will be open to everything within those seconds. It is then that you will question what is real and what is not.

This is the moment where you can’t be afraid, for it is the universe winking at you. It is pulling the curtains back, but don’t blink or turn away! it will be gone as quickly as it appears. Instead, you are invited to just enjoy without questioning its existence.

Soul Touching By Dzioba

Soul Touching By Dzioba

Your soul will also extend an invitation in the form of a wink through all of the ways that you never imagined. I can’t tell you really what this looks like, but I must warn you to keep all parts of you open to this possibility. Many times it will be like an unexpected stranger or friend knocking upon your door and it might be delivered through a story shared by an unfamiliar face or voice; or a cyclone that was stitched in the womb that became the invisible string pulling you from your navel.

In short, it could be any of these things or none of them, but if you experience your soul flapping its wings against the physical cage of your body, let it in.

soul winkWhen you do, it will feel like magic. Feel like something akin to the deepest of things that you whispered or chanted during the time that you were most trusting yet you weren’t sure that you were good enough to have. Even as you experience this, the moment that your soul reveals itself to you, you won’t have a way of describing it but you will know it.

I also need you to tune your ears because your wild thang will call to you. It might live in a forest or a field of thorns asking for a kiss from your bare feet to its floor. It’s water with unknown depths demanding your pride,

the voices of parents, friends, and so-called logic
and all that you clothe yourself with.

Your wild thang will sometimes dwell within a locale, a real or imagined voice, or in between the smoothness and the wrinkles of bed sheets. It might cozy up to you as you attempt to play dress up in the streets or it will converse with you while you attempt to lay upon the pillows of what you call civilization or monotony. Go to it.

As you make these discoveries, you will occasionally cut yourself on the walls and jagged edges that you have created and upon the walls of others. This is vulnerability. In an effort for the pain to end, you will build more walls as you attempt to keep your track shoes by every bed and your fingers curled around every doorknob. You will be tempted to plan your exit with every entrance.

This, among many things, will be your Sun Dance as you will be summoned each time to be suspended. Earn your scars, seen and unseen. Acknowledge the wounds that will sometimes feel like they have become the crown that threatens to pierce your skull and collapse your neck under its weight. You will survive it as you learn to prepare for another beckoning until you learn how to allow yourself to properly surrender and taste the sweetness that also exists within pain. Don’t avoid it, dodge it or ignore it-this too is vitality. That which you will experience called pain is also the twin of happiness. Thus, you will pay dearly for such attempts and you will surprisingly slay your happiness with your actions to avoid its kindred partner.

And more about happiness and bliss. There will be many moments that you will be surrounded by friends enveloped in laughter. You might notice a blanket of stars above your head in some random place or during a random moment that you might want to christen as “Perfect”.

Bliss will also go by other names like a cloudless sky where the blue is alarmingly endless,

the dance that you can’t believe is happening,

a conversation that is more like spell casting with bread crumbs creating a path that hands you back to yourself,

lips that haphazardly find yours that you don’t want to leave,
a melody to a song that you will want to keep on repeat,
the taste of something sweet or sour upon your tongue,
or fingertips that touch your landscape feeling like they’ve known you for a lifetime,

These will all be amalgamated pieces of your forever. They will end and they will come back again. However, you have to tuck that knowing away in a place where you can visit and remember that truth about the twins happy/bliss and pain/sad. Capture every detail of their short visits with you.

I promise that you will encounter many who will tell you that you can’t have that which you dream. In fact, the act of your dreaming will become vulgar to many as they attempt to place you within the confines of their fear, doubt, and sleep. You become hypnotized by their language, customs, and the rewards granted only to those who are the so-called behaved or who have taken to their imprisonment willingly.

During these times, stitch your wings together or repair them during your confinement which will feel like you have embarked upon the road to never. This thinking is a trick and an illusion. You will escape your occasional imprisonments (and there will be numerous) as long as you don’t forget the greater rewards of chance, risk, and flight.

Eternal Soul Mates by Lee Bogle

Eternal Soul Mates by Lee Bogle

Let’s talk about love and marriage. It might happen one time, many times, or never. It will feel like your heart is being unmade, like pieces of it are shattering within you creating shards and internal bleeding each and every time you thought a soul mate was stolen from you. And perhaps, my dear, it was a soul mate one of many that will be involved in your becoming. None of this is mistake, wasted time, nor thievery but instead gifts that you won’t discover as such until some time after. You will eventually meet not “the” but “a” one who will be the birth of thank you notes you’ll whisper to all of your past mistaken lovers.

Strength will appear like “keeping it all together” and some might tell you that courage is appearing like Atlas with the world on your shoulders. But it is really letting it all fall apart while wondering how much worse can it as the ground will increasingly feel like a skating rink. You will question what you know and what you learned as the unknown unzips. Embrace it. Let your tears be your foundation and your so-called weakness be a reminder of your humanity. For these are your true strengths.

Most important of all my dear one is that you will become inebriated many times and pieces of yourself will go missing. Some parts kidnapped by people, places or things. Other parts of you will just be plain ol’ forgotten. And you will forget but only during the moments you are foolish enough to contort and mold, but your self knows better.

So, be the loud and the silence that few may understand,
be your sensitive self that knows before everyone else does when the wind has changed,
Be the intensely passionate, fiery girl misunderstood by those who’ve forgotten what the warmth of such living has felt like,
Be daring as you continue to incubate your dreams in a field of your naysayers,

Be bold and ride your fearless that you have made into your stallion,

Be unapologetic as you curate your garden and pull even your most beloved bittersweets-yet-former-flowers out for your own growth and survival,
Be open to the surprise and the gifts that come in unexpected packaging–I can’t stress this enough.

endingBaby, most importantly, just be. And remember that you are dust and energy. Thus, be intentional about what you are leaving upon the world through every hug, exchange of words, mistaken glance, or planned destinations. All of these things will carry pieces of you, your fingerprints.

There is more I could sit and tell you or warn you about, but because I know you best, you won’t listen. So capture the memory of my smile and the life, the fire that has not left my eyes.

They are yours to keep for these roads that are sometimes narrow, wide, winding, paved, broken, or nonexistent….

Go forth and I will always be there, even when you forget.

With love,
with acceptance,
and an eternal soft spot for you,

Your Future Self

The ALS Challenge & A Challenge to Our Criticism

“Our best college students are very good at being critical. In fact being smart, for many, means being critical. Having strong critical skills shows that you will not be easily fooled. It is a sign of sophistication, especially when coupled with an acknowledgment of one’s own “privilege….Of course critical reflection is fundamental to teaching and scholarship, but fetishizing disbelief as a sign of intelligence has contributed to depleting our cultural resources.” (Source: Young Minds in Critical Condition by Michael S. Roth)

140811-boston-ice-bucket-challenge-1350_26906d39ac7ead702b45e5b7707b8dc6I recently attended a meeting for work and during the closing remarks a piece of this quote was included in regards to some of the harsh criticism that the ALS challenges have endured.  And honestly, I was one of those naysayers.  I viewed the challenges as an attempt to get a bunch of individuals to foolishly dump buckets of water over their heads while someone sat back and watched the whole debacle.  Then, I was challenged.  But not to do the ALS but the ice bucket hack challenge that beckoned me to dump water over my head to help end racism and in response to the events unfolding in Fergusson, Missouri.

Was I to stand perched in my disbelief, my criticism?  Did it matter if individuals were appearing foolish for a good cause?  Who cares if a gimmick was used in order to get people involved and gain more exposure for a cause?  Now here I was being challenged.

In the end, it mattered more that I participated rather than remain perched on my soap box.  So instead of dumping water over my head, I had a friend follow me to route 30 in Vermont and record me submerging myself into a body of water.    As I sat in my seat listening to the closing remarks and thinking about this quote that was shared, it was a reminder and also an opportunity for me to call myself out for all of the criticism I expressed about the ALS challenge and many other things.  My disbelief or criticism had to be re-visited and actually suspended for many things, especially.
*Also featured on  Green Mountain Mornings on 100.3/1490 WKVT “Ponder This*

 

 

Re-thinking our Take on Malicioius Intent

SaariI want to revisit how we use or misuse the term malintent (the compound slang of malicious intent) as it relates to the people in our lives.  Often, we reserve such a term for individuals or situations in which a person has purposefully or through premeditation set out to hurt, maim, or harm.  Within the context of many conversations I have had where a statement was made like “so and so did not have malintent” it is usually because someone seems to be causing some distrress to others yet because they did not set out to do it or premeditate it, we let them off the hook.  But is this correct?  Do these individuals belong in a sub category within the big container of malicious intent?

Let’s step back and I will share an example from a conversation I was having with a friend.  Years ago, one of my friends was going through a potential break up.  The conversation went something like this:

“Well so-and-so did not have a father, he really was not taught anything about how to be in relationships.  He is nice and has a sweet nature and he is just not aware.  Though he did some horrible things, it feels like he was not doing it on purpose. ”

Joker-SmilingOf course there were many other parts to the dialogue but my main point is that we were giving Mr. So-and-So a pass due to his life experiences, our other interactions with him, etc.  In other words, because he did not land within one of the social categories of malicious individuals -thieves, sociopaths, murderers, anyone that is setting out to do harm-we automatically gave him a pass.

But honestly, how does this work?  In other words, just because someone is not conscious of their malicious intent via premeditated or intentional ill-action does this remove them from that label?  If someone is unconsciously recognizing that their actions are linked to causing harm and/or discomfort, should we give them a pass?  Just because a person’s actions is not premeditated or filled with malicious intent due to a seemingly kind nature, does this remove responsibility?

No, it does not.  In fact we do more harm to that individual wrecklessly causing distress.  Perhaps being unconscious in one’s harmful actions could arguably be more malicious than the person who has preplanned it.  Thus, there are a at least a couple of categories of malintent–the conscious which are always demonized because they are the most aware supposedly and unconscious or subconscious who rarely get this label.

Let’s stop giving people a pass, stop making excuses when harm is caused by people who are seemingly asleep at the switch.    Our rationalizations only continue to support the harm they cause.

You Can Author Your Story But It Takes Privilege to Narrate

All of us can author our story but sadly, it is a privilege to also narrate one’s story as well.

Who Narrates Who Authors

#IfTheyGunnedMeDown with my own collage. An image or story is very powerful in the wrong context.

This is what immediately occurred to me in regards to reading about the recent tragedy involving Michael Brown in which the 18 year old was gunned down by police.  In response to this incident, many are bringing attention to something we have all recognized but continue to ignore–the reality of racial profiling and stereotyping within the context of media. #IfTheyGunnedMeDown is a part of a larger outcry illustrated on Twitter, Facebook, and various social media sites reminding us of our perceptions in regards to race in the media.  The hashtag/twitter dialogue includes individuals who have presented photos juxtaposing two different images:  one portraying the individual posing as the media accepted (and often presented) stereotype and another illustrating the way they live their lives as students, professionals, etc.

I won’t ignore the fact that there are certainly stories that are being presented by some individuals of color within media (for example, within many reality tv shows that I will not mention) who use stereotypes as the foundation that maintains the bridge of ignorance.  However, what happens in a situation which a person of color is killed and a snapshot of their life is depicted as a part of the evening news?  What story is presented, by whom, and how?  Do we get to see a full person, or a glimpse into a certain perception that is being offered?  Over the years I have asked these questions or swapped race and/or gender in all of these recent tragedies.  In this instance, when I imagine if Michael Brown were white instead of black, I notice that the storyline would either be different or we most likely would not be talking about a teen’s death because it probably would not have happened.

Thus, all of us pen our stories through the minutes, hours, days or the years we live our life.  Only few of us get a chance to maintain the ability to narrate what is presented.  For having such capabilities involves power and privilege.

 

 

 

 

 

Strangers? Friends? It Depends on Where or How You Are

imagesThere is not much difference between the people we call familiar either within the categories of friend/family member/partner and those who are unfamiliar or strangers.   We separate these categories based on many things such as the length of time we have known or not known someone (usually, we use time to measure depth in this instance), the details or facts we know or don’t know about an individual, etc.

These categories have become challenged in an age where many of us may accumulate “friends” that we have not physically met as we drift apart from the people that we call our friends, family, or partners but they may know very little about us.

Thus, I offer this-there are moments of knowing and not knowing someone, we are all either friends or we are all just mere strangers to each other.  We are all but mere individuals passing by at different points.  In other words, you can share an intimate moment and depth of knowing with a stranger in five minutes or become plunged into strangerhood with a friend that you have known for 10 years.  A friend can become a stranger and a stranger can feel like a lover, friend, partner, or family member.  It is just really where or how you happen to be,

The Importance of Misbehaving

 

imagesMore important than behaving is teaching our future adults how to properly misbehave.

Let me further explain.  We teach about a false system of opposites with a clear cause and effect–your good behavior or deeds are rewarded while you are punished for your misbehavior.  However, for most of us, we have experienced a number of options that unzip life in all sorts of directions making the connection between reward/good behavior and punishment/bad behavior murky.

In my personal experiences and general observations, I’ve learned that that there is no more or less glory for your reward than your punishment.  In other words, people are fickle  and the same public or group of people who  will praise you for your good will join the masses to chant for your hanging for misbehavior.  Also, as most of us have experienced, the definitions for so-called good or bad behavior changes like the climate and misbehavior is only considered as such because it does not fit into the norms or rules established by society (a.k.a. all of us).

In fact, good behavior or being good due to-the potential reward (either tangible or intangible) gained, fear of punishment,  “someone is watching” like the law, or because it is a certain type of rule to follow- is not good behavior at all.  Behaving for one or more of those reasons illustrates a larger fear.  So, I advocate for people to just be with no good or bad attached to it.  And the reward is the freedom to release any concerns with the praise or criticism you’ll receive from a fickle public (who will provide their own commentary without prompting!).

imagesNow, back to my initial thought, let’s properly misbehave and teach our children to do the same.  If we were all given the proper context of when and how we could engage in our impish delights as youth, perhaps it would not appear as such a grand garden of temptation in our adulthood.