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Doing the Impossible

If it is not obvious to all who have been with us for any amount of time, things are not exactly sailing along smoothly for The Heron Clan.  Somedays, I think we are better than we were -- and then something happens to remind me how very far we have yet to go to reach anything that would qualify as good.  So, consider that to be the disclaimer ... or whatever you want to call it.

Every now and then, when I get clear about how many people have turned aside, quit reading us, run out of patience with our stumbles and our battles and our messiness, I really have to work to quell the urge to point out that "while we fell on our faces pretty spectacularly back there, we were (after all) trying to do some pretty challenging stuff in relationship terms.  I could talk and talk and talk about that, trying to explain or excuse our failings, and when it was all done, no one would care anyway.  I know all of that, but the urge remains...  Hence, the Faulkner quote added to our header today...

Astronaut Neil Armstrong, as he toured around the country giving motivational talks, would talk about all the many times that NASA engineers came up against seemingly insurmountable problems:

He said that in the years of research, innovation, and testing that led up to his first footstep on the moon, there were many times that NASA engineers and scientists would reach an impossible roadblock. During these times they would say, "We will have to halt the mission. There is no scientific solution to this problem." Or, "We have tried everything imaginable to solve this problem and we can't solve it."He went on to say that every time NASA's best thinkers and scientists reached an impossible roadblock, they were told, "We are going to the moon." And every time they would look at each other and say, " it," and then they would try again and again. Soon, they would have a solution that worked. He said this happened many times, and each time the impossible turned out to be possible once they were reminded of the impossible mission they were on.
So, I have added Faulkner's words to our blog header, and I want to leave this post here to remind me, and maybe even, remind us, that while we have been far from perfect, we have struggled mightily to do what very few others have even tried.  We have forged bonds of love and family when the society around us insisted that it was impossible and wrong to even try it.  We have made our homes a place of comfort; a retreat from the daily strains of living as exiles in the world that is ours.  We have been true to our vision, even when we were flat on our faces in the mud.  We have held to our dreams while acknowledging that the dreams we dreamed might be too big for us to bring into reality.  We have protected and sheltered the framework of our life together, knowing that we cannot fully live it just now, and still dedicated to the potential that it might yet rise up and live in us and for us.
If we did not manage to do the impossible, then by my lights, we were splendid in out failing.  And I will insist that if we were capable of being splendid at that, then we may yet be splendid in achieving the impossible.  I will honor the impossible life we are trying to live, and so I will keep on trying, hoping and believing in the possibilities I cannot yet quite figure out.



Spiritual ABC's -- Letter H (part 2)

Practice hospitality in a world where too often strangers are feared, enemies are hated, and the “other” is shunned. Welcome guests and alien ideas with graciousness.

I keep coming back here and looking at this root of another post -- and I cannot seem to do this one.

I tried to find a way to work from the rule of hospitality that St. Benedict put in place for monastics in about 500 A.D.  I remember a story I was told once, about a monk at a monastery who's assignment was to open the gate to visitors.  Because the rule in Benedictine monasteries is to welcome all who come "as if it were Christ, himself," the monk answered the bell for the gate one night, after dinner, and welcomed in a stranger. Taking the man in, the gatekeeper prepared the traveler a simple meal, and made him comfortable in an available room.  Returning to his evening activities, preparing for sleep, the monk was again called by the bell at the gate, and again, he welcomed in the stranger, preparing a cup of tea, and showing them to their quarters for the night.  Finally, asleep in his own bed, the monk was awakened in the quiet dark hours by the ringing of the bell from the gate.  Tumbling from his warm bed, and staggering out to open for the midnight visitor, one could hear (if one were awake) the monk muttering to himself, "Jesus Christ!  Is it you again?"

I like that story,  but it doesn't really enlighten me when it comes to the practice of "hospitality."  

I found lots of sermons about hospitality, extolling the virtues of taking others where they are, welcoming the stranger, taking the risk...  I can sit, and read, and nod to myself, but there is nothing there that moves me.

The fact is, I'm not that comfortable with the whole business of welcoming strangers.  I like my place, my privacy, my settled ways.  I can welcome people who have been invited in, for whom I am prepared.  I enjoy entertaining in that mode.  Let me tidy the house and light the candles and choose some good music and prepare a pleasant meal -- and I'll be glad to spend an evening with friends who will, of course, have the good sense to leave at a civilized hour.  But strnagers?  Not so much.  

I've got a whole list of things that I know I should be better at.  This one is right there.  Blech!



Another New School Year

These are not my actual kids... but they surely could be.

The new school year is in full swing, and I am immersed in learning how to reach a whole new group of youngsters; how to help them; how to discipline them; how to give them the very best shot at success.

I'm in a new teaching assignment.  Where I have taught only 6th grade for the last 6 years, I now have classes with 6th, 7th, and 8th graders.  My usual angst about letting my 6th graders go at the end of each school year will be allayed as I get to keep them for three whole years.  Now, I will only have to live through the annual launching of our "finished" 8th graders into the wider world of high school.

My new courses are keeping me busy, figuring it all out and finding ways to make it lively and interesting.  My new charges are a bunch of interesting personalities, and we are slowly learning to know and trust one another.  They are in that early phase where they begin to believe that they may have fallen into the hands of a crazy person -- and then wonder if that is a bad thing.

I am tired each night, excited each morning, and tremendously relieved every single weekend.

Another new year is well started.



Spiritual ABC's -- Letter H


Let this positive and potent emotion fuel your dreams and support your service of others. Through your attitudes and actions, encourage others never to lose hope.
Spiritual Literacy -- Reading the Spiritual in Everyday Life, by Frederick and Mary Ann Brussat.

OK.  Back to this alphabet series...

There is so much that gets written about "hope," and in this highly charged political season, it is difficult to not get tipped over into the sloganeering that seems to have grabbed the word and hijacked it for sixty second advertising copy.  There must be more to say.  I feel, very strongly, that somehow I survived on hope during the last two years; that our whole family survived on hope.  That is pretty powerful stuff, not just some sort of fluffy, feel-good cliche.

Shel Silverstein wrote:
“Listen to the mustn'ts, child. Listen to the don'ts. Listen to the shouldn'ts, the impossibles, the won'ts. Listen to the never haves, then listen close to me... Anything can happen, child. Anything can be.” 

I really think that the important kernel of understanding about this "potent and powerful" emotion is there.  Hope is the conviction, against all reason, and in contravention of everything we are told, that anything at all can come to pass in our lives.  Hope happens because there is something in us that will not give up, will not quit, will insist on looking forward rather than backward.   

That is what fuels our dreams.  Backward, into the darkness of days gone by; into our personal histories, there is nothing to dream of.  Going back is not an option for any of us.  Time moves us forward relentlessly. Hope turns us around and points us in the direction of the light of new days and new potentials.  

We hope for better opportunities, more successes, happier circumstances.  We hope to find love, or to perfect loves, or to go on forever wrapped up in a love that seems perfect in the present.  We hope to avoid unpleasantness.  We hope to mold and shape our lives to our liking.  Hoping for what is not, and being convinced that it could yet come to be, we hold on, we persevere, we wait, we become patient.  

Hope removes from us the sense of demand that characterizes the impatient child.  Instead, with hope, we can sit quietly through the storms and vagaries of our days and years, believing that if we can imagine it, it can yet come into fullness in our lives -- and no one will ever convince us otherwise.  WE HOPE!



Then and Now

A year ago, we were still in the very early days of the physical therapy protocol aimed at the rehabilitation of His right shoulder replacement.  After weeks and weeks of total immobilization, the PT was excruciatingly slow and gentle, allowing that prosthesis to stabilize...  For what seemed like forever, the exercises looked like this:

Today, as we were hauling bags and bags and bags of groceries into the house, He just reached right up and grabbed the hatch on the car and pulled it down and closed it.  I remarked on the change, saying, "You just reach right up and pull that down and never even think a thing about it.  Your shoulder doesn't bother you even a little bit."

 He agreed that it was true, and said, "My replacement shoulder feels better and stronger than my other shoulder."  And then He said, "I think it is better than ever, and I think it is stronger because of spanking you."



P. S. - I did suggest that, if spanking was good, then surely flogging would be even better...


What Does a Girl Have to Do?

Have I mentioned, or have you noticed?

  • I am crazy in love with Himself...
  • I am masochistic to my toes...
  • I get off on a good spanking...
  • I try, really hard, to behave myself...
  • Sometimes, I'm not entirely sure what "behaving myself" might really look like...
  • I don't want to be a nuisance, a pest, a bother, a nag, or a chore...
  • I tend to over think things...

Yup.  All true.  Add to all of that a bit of relational tentativeness; a bit of uncertainty, and things get, ummmmmmm... complicated.

We've been caught in a complicated backwash for the last few weeks.  He is through the first, acute phase of recovery from His knee replacement surgery.  The first three months are an intense period of physical therapy, and slowly decreasing dependence on pain medication.  There are good days and bad days, but no really "normal" days in the first three months.  The prosthetic is still foreign, strange, not "at home," and it takes time to learn how to rely on it comfortably.  And then, about 12 weeks out from the surgery, things start to settle and feel more normal.  It is easier to get through daily activities, and life begins to spin back into a reasonable routine again.

Remember that last summer He had a total reverse shoulder replacement.  We knew that He needed to have a fully functioning shoulder to be able to negotiate the mobility issues of the knee replacement -- using a walker and a cane for weeks and weeks...  That was the RIGHT shoulder -- his spanking arm.  The medical professionals were careful to tell us that it takes a full year to gain full use of the arm after a replacement.  As the shoulder rehabbed, there were stages regarding His ability to spank:

  1. No right hand spanking at all -- left handed only
  2. Some very limited spanking with His right hand, but nothing heavy, and not for very long before the shoulder would start to ache
  3. Longer and longer periods of spanking with the right arm, but unable to "swing" anything like a flogger or a strap
  4. Slowly, over weeks and months, regaining strength, flexibility, and range of motion

We had really just gotten back into some kind of revived and renewed spanking play when it was time for the knee replacement, and a summer dedicated to rehab and recovery.

There has been what you might call a spanking hiatus in our house -- a really, really, really looooooong spanking hiatus.

I'm a grown up, and I get that, in life, things have their place, and the sexy, fun, exciting stuff must sometimes be put away for a season, or two, or three...  A spanking "hunger" does not, after all, lead to starvation.

Now, though, we are through the first months of healing.  He is a week or two away from the end of physical therapy.  He is back to riding His bike and back to walking some.  He is feeling better and better, and I have been anticipating the resumption of THAT part of our lives together.

Oh, but, it isn't that simple.  From my perspective, it was way easier when He wanted to spank ALL of the time.  I never worried that, by asking for a spanking, I was imposing on Him; never felt that it was some kind of obligation or chore that I was laying on Him.  If anything, in those days, I most often worried about how to string together enough "non-spanking" days to heal up between sessions.  Here, lately though, I've wondered how to make it clear that I am ready and willing without creating a demand. Under those circumstances, my brain begins to play games with me.  The pretty steady internal question has been, "What does a girl have to do to get a spanking around here?"  I have begun to compile a mental list of behaviors that might lead to the spanking that I so desperately crave -- without tipping over into some hideous and awful "punishment" thing. Sigh.

Finally, this week, in an IM during the day, I just told Him that.  Exactly that:  That I'd been wondering what I needed to do to get spanked, and that I had a growing list of behaviors that I thought might work the trick. I can't remember exactly what His response was in the moment, but I do know this -- we've had a spanking weekend.  Good sessions both days, and I have a very, very ouchy backside to show for it.  Ain't love grand?



Moonbeam Update

Bringing home a stray kitten, as we did on August 1, is one of those things that is almost guaranteed to make you question your sanity at some point.  We've had our share of moments when we wondered what we were thinking, and I suspect that T remains convinced that the two of us took leave of our senses that night...

All in all, though, our little Moobie (short for Moonbeam which seems so very formal for such a little mite) has settled in quite nicely.  She is an unfailingly sunny personality, always ready to romp and play.  She will, if she is tired or sleepy, snuggle under my chin and sleep quite contentedly.  She comes when she is called, and she greets us at the door whenever we come home after being out.  She sometimes seems like a very sweet little puppy :-)

Callie, our old lady cat is still not thrilled with having her in the house.  She growls and hisses whenever Moobie gets too close, and cannot seem to comprehend what the little one might want --"what is this thing called PLAY?  Grrrrrrrrr!"

My house is strewn from one end to the other with every kind of cat toy imaginable.  And, when the toys lose their luster, then just about anything that is not nailed down becomes fair game in the mind of the kitten.  She is a continual lesson about living in the moment and enjoying each and every second of everyday.



I Am Voting for President Obama

I am voting for President Obama on Tuesday, November 6.  That bit of news should not be any surprise to anyone who has followed this blog for more than a few months.  My politics are liberal and progressive, and while I can be as cynical as the next person, I do believe that elections matter.  

I know that there are plenty of our readers who are not U.S. citizens, who can only shake their heads in amazement at the wild and wooly way we go about selecting our president every four years.  I am trusting all of you to just find someplace else to be for this one -- unless of course, you are somehow fascinated with this kind of political expose.

I imagine that there are a few people with "sensible" and "logical" reasons for not re-electing Obama in this election year -- millionaires, for example.  I also know that there are a fair number of right-wing types who insist that our president is a commie, a Kenyan, or a Muslim.  They are the tea party sympathizers who warn that he wants to destroy America with universal health care, gay marriage licenses, and crippling taxation.  Add to those two factions the "grumblers," including a few disappointed liberals, who point out that President Obama has not fulfilled all his promises and has been too willing to play nice with the obstructionists on the other side of the aisle.

I have lots and lots of reasons to vote for Obama this year, although, in the interest of full disclosure, I must admit that I have only twice in my 57 years voted for a candidate who was not a democrat.  The first time was when I voted for John Anderson, the liberal Republican turned independent candidate, in the 1980 election.  And then, this year, I crossed over to the "dark side" and voted in the Republican primary here in Ohio, casting a vote for Rick Santorum -- trying to push the Republican primary mud wrestling further into chaos.  It didn't work, but there it is.

Reasons to vote for Obama this year:

  • The Affordable Care Act, derisively dubbed "Obamacare" by those who oppose the whole idea.  Say what you will about flaws in the Affordable Health Care Act. It is a start -- not perfect by a long shot, but it is at least an attempt to address serious problems that beset our current health care system. Right now, because of the passage of "Obama Care," people with diabetes, or multiple sclerosis, or parkinson's, or lupus, or rheumatoid arthritis, or any of a myriad of other health issues can no longer be denied coverage because of pre-existing conditions. More, if your family has an adult son or daughter, age 19-25, without their own health care coverage, they can now be covered on your family health plan.  If you have a child with a significant disability, the lifetime maximum cap on your medical coverage has been lifted.  You and your family do not have to worry how you will pay for the medical care your child needs to survive.
  • The Republicans are universally beating the drum, demanding to know if I am better off than I was four years ago -- and I imagine they have asked you, Dear Reader, the same question.  My answer?  Hell, yes!  In spite of what they would have us believe, in 2011, corporate profits reached an all-time high, even as wages stalled or declined. In 2008, as President Obama was coming into office, the U.S. economy was in a critical nosedive.  The Dow-Jones had entered a long plunge from 14,164 (October, 2007) down to 6,440 (March, 2009).  Trillions of dollars in investments were wiped off books before Obama's steady hand pulled all of us out of the death spiral.  Since then, stock market valuations have doubled and the retirement plans of many an angry "birther" have been saved.   Talk to a GM or Chrysler worker today.  Those men and women with families and bills to pay, just like you and I, are still collecting their paychecks, as are thousands who toil for the manufacturers of parts that feed the U.S. auto industry.  In June of 2012, with 248,750 vehicles sold, General Motors had its best month since the 2008 collapse. Chrysler did even better with sales gains of 20.3%, and its best June figures since 2007.  And although the right insists that Obama is to blame for rising gas prices, the fact is that in May, 2008, crude oil sold for $135 a barrel and the average price of a gallon of gas was $3.94.  Four years later, under Mr. Obama, the average cost of a gallon of regular unleaded has dropped to $3.50 and a barrel of crude is selling for $84. 
  • Osama bin Laden is dead.  I am not one who celebrated that event, but I've paid close attention to the decision making process this president followed in launching that raid, and I am impressed by the backbone displayed in the call that sent Navy Seals into Pakistan.
  • The previous administration got us involved in the wrong war, for all the wrong reasons.  The cost to us in dollars and precious lives has been staggering.  Today, because President Obama kept his promise,  all U. S. troops are out of Iraq, and Obama is careful not to involve our nation in wars we can avoid.  In Libya, we helped take out Moammar Ghaddafi.  President Obama rallied NATO behind him and won the full support of our allies for military action.  Not one American serviceman or servicewoman died in Libya as a result.

It is true that I have been disappointed with this president on a number of counts:

  • It took him way too long to come around to supporting marriage equality.  He was far too beholding to the religious fundamentalists who preach HATE and exclusion.  
  • He has not closed the prison at Guantanamo Bay.
  • I agree with this administration's push to deport illegal immigrants with criminal records, but I wish President Obama had pushed harder to get the Dream Act passed.  
  • The unemployment numbers are still far too high, and there are too many people struggling to make it in an economy that is leveled off, but not growing at a rate that helps those of us with modest incomes to survive and thrive.  
  • The cost of a college education grows more and more prohibitive every year.  My own kids can't afford it, and they are out of luck when it comes to "borrowing money from their parents."

Still, with all of that, I see promise in what has been achieved.  It isn't all I would have hoped for, but I do believe we are moving in the right direction.  I am 57 years old.  I have worked all my life, knowing that there would come a day when I would need the social security income I have paid into for decades, and the Medicare coverage, and perhaps, should I need that level of care, even Medicaid.  I have children and grandchildren, and the world they are going to live in needs to be one where the opportunities for them to advance are still available.  My lifelong fight for equal rights for women did not end when I hit menopause.  I may no longer need birth control options for myself, and I will never again be faced with decisions regarding an unplanned pregnancy -- but I adamantly insist that those decisions are for women to make for themselves, with their own physicians.  Government should have no part in that conversation.  Which brings me to the subject of supreme court judges.  Presidents come and go, but a supreme court justice is a lifetime commitment.  The makeup of the highest court has far reaching impacts on our lives.  When I think about who might be appointing those men and women to serve on the court in the future, and then I contemplate the values and beliefs and political affiliations of Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan -- I am afraid.  

And so, I will vote for Barack Obama in November, and if you are eligible to vote, I urge you to do the same.



Hiding in Plain Sight

Every now and then, I find myself caught up in a bit of personal insanity that goes like this:  "I've worked with these people for many, many years.  They've seen me work, and they've heard me talk about Tom and T as my neighbors and good friends who I've helped in various ways, and who have been there for me plenty of times.  Surely, as people see us together, at events through the years, they come to understand who we are really.  Maybe some of the more open minded ones could be let in on the secret -- and we could be friends, and not just colleagues..."

That little bit of fantasy came crashing to earth at lunch on Friday.

Our gaggle of junior high teachers gathers for lunch in the art room.  It is a big, bright space with enough room for all of us to gather around the table, and enough privacy for us to chat without fearing that we'll be overheard.  The conversation is wide-ranging, and I am often surprised by the opinions expressed by all these lifelong Catholics.  These are interesting people from the art teacher to the language arts guy to the technology guru to the curmudgeon that teaches social studies.  I enjoy the conversations.

One young fellow, who is a long-term substitute teaching the upper level English and reading classes, has a side business as a wedding photographer.  On Friday, he told us about meeting with a potential client to discuss her wedding.  He told us that he thought she was in her early 30's, a little heavyset...  He met her at a local Panera to discuss the plans and what she wanted in terms of photos.  When he arrived, she was sitting with an "older couple" in their 50's, and he assumed they were her parents.  They talked about the ceremony (pagan), and the location, and the time, and other assorted details.  After some time, the young woman, looked at him and said, "You do know that the three of us are getting married, right?"

Around the table, there were gasps of shock and horror.  I think the word I heard was "creepy!"  As if in a single voice, my colleagues declared that the multiple marriage thing was unthinkable, even though they all declared that they consider themselves to be "open minded."  And then the conversation turned, of course, to whether or not anyone has read "Fifty Shades of Grey."

Me?  I studied the contours of my ham sandwich, peeled my orange, and pried open my yogurt container.  Eat.  Breathe.  Try not to look at anyone.  Keep on hiding in plain sight...



Spiritual ABC's -- Letter G


Accept grace and your world will be larger, deeper, richer, and fuller. Look for its intimations everywhere. Let this seed of the Giver of Life bloom in your words and deeds.

Spell out your days with a grammar of gratitude. Be thankful for all the blessings in your life.
Spiritual Literacy -- Reading the Spiritual in Everyday Life, by Frederick and Mary Ann Brussat.

I have delayed doing these two for a couple of days now.  I am feeling grumpy, bordering on depression, and the last things I want to be talking about are grace and gratitude.  I committed to this little project though, at least in my own mind -- so let me see if I can do something with these "G" letter concepts.

First, to grace:  I wanted to skip this altogether, because I find it so difficult these days to speak in the language that is commonly used to discuss "God."  Even when it is wrapped in some sort of disguise like "Giver of Life," I read "God," and find myself locked up.  One of the casualties of the passage to this point has been my "faith."  I have none left.  If there is a "God," then it is a callous and uncaring and disinterested entity.  Blech!  

So, if I'm going to accept grace as a path to that larger, deeper, fuller, and richer world, there has to be some other way to think about it.  Like this maybe:

“If grace is so wonderful, why do we have such difficulty recognizing and accepting it? Maybe it's because grace is not gentle or made-to-order. It often comes disguised as loss, or failure, or unwelcome change.” ― Kathleen Norris

There.  Loss, failure, and unwelcome change -- the grace with which I am familiar.  Should I then accept loss, failure, and unwelcome change...and see it make my world larger, deeper, richer, and fuller.  If I look for the intimations of those losses, failings and unwelcome changes everywhere, what will I discover?  What strange blooms will show forth?  Will life make all of that seemingly negative stuff burst out into beauty and joy?  I can't imagine it, but perhaps I just need to let the lessons settle.

And then, there is that business of gratitude, being thankful for all the many gifts -- and I am.  Everything I read says that one of the ways out of depression is the practice of gratitude, and I know that there are many who regularly and actively list the things for which they are grateful.  I can do that.  I have so much, and I am aware that there are many who have so very little.  But, I do not FEEL grateful.  I feel deprived.  I feel cheated.  I feel resentful and angry that I cannot have what I want.  It is childish and ego driven, and it is shameful.  I just don't think that making daily or weekly lists of the "things" for which I am grateful is going to help this.  This needs a change of heart.  Somehow, I need to find a way to be truly grateful for all of it, the "good" and the "bad."  Actually, I need to find a way to lose that language, and know that there is no good or bad, but only life.  The moments and events that I evaluate as positive or negative are all equally a part of my living and breathing and being here in this place and this time.  Perhaps, I only need to school my ego to judge less and then the song which is gratitude will arise of its own accord...

I Receive ALL of Life with Thanksgiving -
I have gratitude for EVERYTHING
that has ever occurred to bring me to this moment.
I give thanks for the joys and the sufferings,
the moments of peace and the flashes of anger,
the compassion and the indifference,
the roar of my courage and the cold sweat of my fear.
I accept gratefully the entirety of my past and my present life.
- Jonathan Lockwood Huie



Spiritual ABC's -- Letter F

In both your private and public lives, discover the sweet release that comes from forgiving others. Feel the healing balm of being forgiven and of forgiving yourself.

Spiritual Literacy -- Reading the Spiritual in Everyday Life, by Frederick and Mary Ann Brussat.

I have mostly done this series in fairly general terms, and have mostly avoided speaking directly to BDSM related applications of these ideas.  Not with this one.  For this one, I think there is much to be said for learning to forgive; to bring down on ourselves and our relationships the healing balm of being forgiven and forgiving...

If there is one thing that challenges those of us who seek to live in intimate relationships, and particularly those of us who live within power dynamics, it is the work of forgiveness.  We do so much structuring and negotiating on the front end of our connections that we get bound up in the expectations that we create.  We expect our dominant partners to be strong and good and intelligent and perceptive and decisive and wise and balanced and fair and honest and...  Along the same lines, we expect our submissive partners to be faithful and loyal and obedient and serene and open and self-aware and flexible and transparent and ...  How often do our "contracts" (explicit or implicit) begin with the assertion and expectation that our partners, on either side of the power equation, are HUMAN, and therefore, inevitably, fallible?

Submissive women are the worst at this one.  We put our menfolk up on sky-high pedestals; proclaim their greatness far and wide; and then behave as if their clay feet are some sort of personal affront.  When they stumble... screw up... or act like pure through and through jerks, we carry on like a hound dog with our tails caught under the runners of a rocker -- and whine and bitch about how our trust is "broken."

Now, I know that there are some insults to the integrity of a relationship that cannot BE forgiven.  Each person has to define that line for themselves and for their particular relationship.  But most faults and failings are miles from the "unforgivable" line.  I suspect that too many of us pour gasoline on our most treasured relationships and then stand back and toss a match at it just because we've painted ourselves into a corner of mythical "perfect or nothing" fairytale foolishness.

What sweetness we might find if we'd just learn to forgive, and be forgiven.  And then, when we do forgive, we ought to do it completely.  Once.  For all and all.  I like this quote by Marlene Dietrich:

Once a woman has forgiven her man, she must not reheat his sins for breakfast.



Spiritual ABC's -- Letter E



Celebrate life with this intoxicating passion. It adds zest to everything and helps build community. Hold nothing back.
Spiritual Literacy -- Reading the Spiritual in Everyday Life, by Frederick and Mary Ann Brussat.

I've been sort of stalled with this series for a couple of days, wondering "what is enthusiasm, exactly?"  It is one of those words that I thought I knew a reasonable definition for -- but as I considered talking about it, I didn't feel that comfortable.  I have needed some time to consider what I might have to offer with regard to "enthusiasm."  As I often do when I find myself stuck in that fashion, I checked the definition and the etymology of the word.  Interestingly, the dictionary tells us that "enthusiasm" is an absorbing or controlling possession of the mind by any interest or pursuit, AND also any of various forms of extreme religious devotion, usually associated with intense emotionalism and a break with orthodoxy.

So, to live with enthusiasm is to allow for life to completely seize us and swirl us up into the currents of all of everything there is.  If we live with enthusiasm, then we allow our minds and our hearts and our spirits to be absorbed and controlled -- possessed by the sheer wonderment of a steadily beating heart, and the exchange of gasses in and out of our lungs, and the perfect replication of each and all of our myriad cells, over and over and over.  To live life with enthusiasm is to be caught, enchanted, and bedazzled by the texture of a lover's skin, the timbre of a child's laugh, the intricacies of a leafy forest painted on an autumn storm sky.

When I start enumerating all the amazing things there are to be amazed by...  How can anyone avoid the involuntary, "WOW!" of awestruck wonder?  I can imagine, clearly, the day when all of us finally see, and then wander aimlessly, grabbing one another by the hand and asking, "Do you see...?!?!?!?"  That simple shared question might knit us together as nothing else ever has.  We'd be compelled to a community of breathlessness -- and that would be so kewl!



Change of Pace

My summer days are relaxed.  The hours pass by in a long, slow, bumblebee haze, without much in the way of schedules or deadlines.  The obligation list gets simpler in the summer:  mealtimes and enough clean clothes and the regular round of tidying the house and an occasional appointment.  He and I spend lots of time together in the summer.  Not programmed time, and not structured time.  Often we sit side by side and read, or we watch baseball, or we walk, or we journey out to the ice cream place for a late evening treat.  We sleep late because we stay up late.  Summertime and the living is easy.

No matter how I try to plan the inevitable transition out of that, the start of the school year always comes as a bit of a shock.  Suddenly, we are thrust back into a world that is bracketed by the 5:20 AM alarm clock, and the necessarily early bedtime.  I'm out of the house and on the way to school by about 6:45.  He and I try, most days to stay in touch by IM during my planning times, but our extended hours together vanish in a flurry.  Weekday evenings are busy:  home from school, fix dinner, clean up the dishes, handle whatever chores (home or school) need to be taken care of, try to watch the baseball game, and stagger off, exhausted, to bed so we can do it all again the next day.

Weekend times take on exaggerated importance during the school year.  I really look forward to those lazy weekend mornings -- time to play, time to make love, time to enjoy leisurely breakfasts...  When things get in the way, I have a hard time making the allowances needed.  This was a three-day weekend, because of the Labor Day holiday, and those always seem like a real gift.  Three days feels like a "long time" somehow in the midst of the wild and wooly first weeks of a new school year.  I shouldn't let myself get all wound up into expectations for the weekend, but knowing that is not the same as doing it.  I spend the school week building up silly, girlish fantasies about the weekends... and more often than not, I get my hopes dashed.  Life happens, after all.

This past weekend, the big bad wolf, was a monster, intractable migraine (compliments of the excrutiatingly slow moving remnants of hurricane Isaac).  No matter what my mind fantasizes, spanking in the midst of a migraine headache is just ugly.  He loves me and won't add to the pain and suffering that is a migraine episode.  So, added to my physical misery is the disappointment...  Logically, I know what dashes my hopes, and I know it isn't, in the first instance, His idea or His choice.  Emotionally, though (and migraines mess with my emotions in very weird ways), I start to believe that it is really because He "doesn't want to."  And then I start to get all tangled up in an emotional tizzy...

And that was the weekend.  We did, finally, spank this morning, and He tells me it was good for Him.  I think I finally shut down all the nasty internal voices -- just as it was all over with.  Sigh.  Ahh well, it is a four-day week, and then there will be another weekend.



Spiritual ABC's -- Letter D


Express your feelings of praise and adoration through devotional practices. Pray with words and pray through your actions.

Spiritual Literacy -- Reading the Spiritual in Everyday Life, by Frederick and Mary Ann Brussat.

It seems to me that there are two parts to this: 
1)  The expression of feelings of praise and adoration
2)  Prayer

I have been a skeptic with regard to traditional religious practice for many, many years now, and so this language is a bit of a challenge.  For this to work for me, the notion of praise and adoration, and the notion of prayer have to all be directed toward some reasonable and essential mystery at the heart of everything.  I believe that honest and loving praise and adoration is entirely appropriate, and even vitally necessary in a loving, intimate relationship.  Too, I can encompass the idea that the creative energy that enlivens the universe is an awesome and wonderful evolutionary force.  Perhaps together, those bits will do.

The Latin word, adoratio, meant love given with deep affection to someone or something.  Historically, kings and princes have been the recipients of adoration from their subjects.  In those times when the world was filled with, and run by, potentates of all sorts, it was common practice for the common and ordinary folk to bow, to kiss the hand, or to fall prostrate at the feet of the Lord and Master.   Adoration, in this context, is not about religion.

So, OK.  I can practice devotion in the act of expressing my feelings of praise and adoration -- my love given with deep affection to the One that I have called Master for so many years.  I do experience what I do for Him as a sort of devotion, a moving, breathing, living exercise in loving through action:  coffees made with care, meals planned with attention to detail, clothing laundered and mended and organized with His comfort in mind, a thousand tiny, seemingly inconsequential tasks carried out as an endless, wordless hymn of praise and adoration.  I can speak to my continued amazement at the power of His mind, the greatness of His heart, the courage embodied in the work to which His life has been dedicated.  I can tell Him, way more often than I do, how very much His care and love and protection means to me; how I love the smell of His skin, the strength of His arms wrapped around me, the twinkle in His eyes when He finds something amusing...  I can express my praise and adoration.

Now, praying is another thing.  I'm not at all convinced that there is "someone" out there somewhere to pray to.  That creative energy that I experience as the center of the mystery is not a "person," not a who that I can pray toward.  Praying, however, is something that I do -- way more regularly than many of my "religious" acquaintances seem to.  I don't know exactly what it is that prayer does, but for me, it seems to get to some part of my brain that I can't access through normal, conscious, mental effort.  Praying gets into something deeper and different than my "knowing" mind.  If what we are all about here in this place is, somehow, evolutionary, then it may very well be that praying is part of what moves us forward along the evolutionary path.  If I can find a way to pray for whatever is "best" at this moment -- and not for more personally mundane and selfish wants and needs... then maybe the kind of praying that I can do will be good for all of us who share the creation.


Spiritual ABC's -- Letter C (another double)

Cultivate the art of making connections. See how your life is intimately related to all life on the planet.
Spiritual Literacy -- Reading the Spiritual in Everyday Life, by Frederick and Mary Ann Brussat.

Making connections is an "art."  I never thought about it.  I work, everyday, with my classes, to help young learners "make connections.  Connecting one thing to another is how our brains work to make sense of the world.  If I want to understand the deepest mysteries of astrophysics, I have to begin, quite simply, by learning to describe the properties of matter and energy.  If I want to bake wonderful, indescribably delicious pastries, I have to understand the workings of basic ingredients:  butter, flour, fruit, sugar, eggs.  The operatic diva, must begin by practicing scales and rhythms and tone, until the whole of it comes together in the soaring aria that embodies music and heart and pure magic.

This life that I live is not a singularity.  My life is intimately related to all life on the planet.  Intimately.  Not distantly.  We share in the stuff of creation, all of us.  If we knew of our connectedness; if we felt it and lived it -- could we behave as we do?  What would I do differently if every face looked like part of my own self?



Spiritual ABC's -- Letter C


Open your heart, mind, and soul to the pain and suffering in the world. Reach out to others and discover the rewards and obligations of deep feeling.
Spiritual Literacy -- Reading the Spiritual in Everyday Life, by Frederick and Mary Ann Brussat.

"Open your heart, mind, and soul to the pain and suffering in the world."  I find it ironic that tonight, as I try to write this, my television screen beams the last night of the Republican National Convention into my living room.  Only a few minutes ago, Clint Eastwood assured the hall and the assembled faithful that "we own this country."  And those simple words, intended to draw the picture of a "government of the people, by the people, and for the people," seem frightening in that context and in that setting.  Eastwood may have, inadvertently, spoken the pure truth -- those people are the "owner class," and they are not the least bit confused about that -- even as they work hard to make sure the rest of us don't tumble to the fact.

So.  Ours is a world where the gap between the haves and the have nots grows wider and wider and wider.  Children starve, or die horribly in war, or live out their lives in abject slavery.  Years and decades after the beginnings of the environmental movement, too many species are still teetering on the brink of extinction, and the planet grows warmer and warmer year after year.  Crazy people with guns walk into our schools, our places of entertainment, and our houses of worship -- and destroy and kill the innocents they find there.  Our kids can't find jobs.  Our elders can't pay for their medications.  Most days, when I get off the highway on my way home from school, some poor soul stands there with a cardboard sign and a plea for just a bit of change.  And on and on and on...

So many problems.  If we look, it is easy to become jaded and overwhelmed and depressed by the sheer magnitude of the need around us.  Living life with compassion is a risky venture.  I get that feeling deeply brings with it unavoidable obligations, but rewards?  What might those be?  I'm not sure that I know the answer.  I want to believe that I try to live with compassion, but I also know that I protect myself from going too deep.  I husband my resources.  I do.  So, this one comes with a challenge -- take the risk, and reach out just a bit further today than yesterday.  See what might come.