Despair and Unease

Fish looking at youIncreasingly, I’m confused. When friends get together, the main points of discussion seem to focus on illness, relationship break ups, horrible things that happen in the grocery store, lack of hope for world peace, political craziness, or the completely strange behavior of children or parents.

I get tired when I scan Facebook, overhear conversations on the street, or read just about anything. “There’s nothing we can do!” is repeated as if it were obvious and reassuring. It’s a terrible world! Let’s live in it together. In other words, most talk seems to be about hopelessness that only we and our friends understand, ad nauseam.

In fact, the other day, a friend shared this quotation: “A fundamental sign of mental health is one’s realization that life is hard.”— Scott Peck.

I answered this, being me, with, “That’s a depressing quote.” To which someone replied, “But life is hard…” I left the conversation at this point, but have to ask isn’t “hard” a decision? An interpretation? If “life is hard,” what is the opposite? “Easy?” Then what is an “easy” life? Does it mean never having to/choosing to do anything? Most of Scott Peck’s quotations are simply challenging, such as “We cannot solve life’s problems except by solving them.” But I digress.

From the stage, a speaker “earns the right” to share with their audience through telling them about the bankruptcy, accident, or divorce. In a group we scorn the word “perfect,” which, if you’ve been following these conversations, you know I actually like (Perfect). In fact, we would rather wallow in our imperfections. Maybe we also wallow in assuming things are hard because it precludes action. It implies that addressing issues is ultimately useless.  Family drama is the norm. Many (most?) churches focus on sin and the sinful rather than on joy and redemption.

rusted out carsOf course, when we meet each other, it’s “How are you?” “Fine. You?” “Fine.” Although “fine” isn’t true most of the time. In the case of “fine” as a false response, in addition to our really not being fine (whatever that means), we’re lying to our bodies, our minds, and those we meet, which is another post for another time. Did I say I was confused? It’s not that I’m doubting that any of the above is true. I don’t know anyone happy with our current politics. I’m sure your mother’s behavior is incredibly frustrating.

But what would happen if we just said “hi” on the street and leave it at that —unless we knew the person we met and really wanted to know how they were? Or answered the question of “how are you?” as a friend of mine does. “How are  you?” “Partly cloudy with a chance of showers.” Or, as I  usually do, with silence and a smile.

What would happen if, while admitting our “not being fine,” instead of claiming it as our primary identity, we described the ways we’ve made it to the other side of the negative or asked for help in seeing how the apparently negative could be a possibility? What if the problems were presented as a chance to share job opportunities or to explore new ways to deal with your “difficult” mother?

As another example maybe one can say “cancer survivor” when talking about someone. But what if that person’s preferred identity is one who rejoices in flowers or who has discovered new cooking techniques, or who has set a new record in the javelin throw? And had also, by the way, survived cancer.

broken green houseOne reason I’m confused is that I know I dismiss some of this. “You really were life threateningly sick,” my doctor scolded me. “Oh,” I answered. And I think he’s right. I need to claim that part of my life even though I’d rather forget it. I joke, although I’m actually serious, that when I “earn the right” to share onstage, my line is that people can choose what “D” they need for me to expand for them. Death, divorce, disease, debt, degrees, depression, decadence, debauchery, even, perhaps, desires…, etc. But what I want to share and so “claim” to “earn the right” is the excitement, joy, and achievement on the other side. No, not on the “other side,” but as part of every side.

Because a major piece of our mandate to change the world involves daring to hope that it will change. Yes, I understand, that for some of you, that seems almost impossible. (You might want to reread our first conversation for a vision of why it’s not impossible.) But take the risk. Hope involves daring to see that something not only will and can change, but is changing. And this gives it space and direction in which to continue to change for the better.

The mandate is to dare to claim joy and excitement now.

So “How are you?” “Well, my knee hurts sometimes, but I’ve been swimming almost every day; I have a couple of new ideas on things to share with Spirit Moxie; I’ve met some new friends; I’ve started a new Facebook page; and I’ve had some chances to cook again.”

You?

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Photos from the top:

Fish — Spirit Moxie
Rusted Cars — David A. Lynch
Abandoned — David A. Lynch

Lessons from the Labyrinth

Continuing the conversation on Just Be.

Inside Labyrinth Grace Cathedral There are hundreds of books and websites on walking the labyrinth. They include meditations and prayers to use while you’re walking. Most extol the benefits of “using” a labyrinth. I haven’t read or watched any of them.

But I have been told somewhere that walking a traditional labyrinth (one that is actually a path that goes to the center as opposed to a maze), is a useful practice. So I walk them whenever I get a chance, even if I’m not sure why.

A few days ago I found myself with a free afternoon in San Francisco and headed to Grace Cathedral where there are two labyrinths, one inside and one outside. As I’ve been deliberately going where my body and the moment want to take me I wasn’t surprised that, while I headed toward Chinatown, I ended up at the cathedral. Plus I was tired of walking so just sat for awhile after I got there. But I’d promised myself that I’d walk the labyrinths, so I slowly started on the beautiful inside one.

Outside LabrynithJust being. Quickly I learned that if I didn’t look without distraction at each step as I took it, I’d get off the path. The path wasn’t that wide and certainly not that straight. Even regular walking became too active. The only way around the turns was taking baby steps. Watching each one. So, as I walked, it actually didn’t matter where I was going. Or if I were going anywhere. The important part became each step. And whenever my mind wandered (which of course it did, being human and all), I found the wandering didn’t work. There was a sense that I was missing something by worrying or planning. What was missing was my actual experience of the steps. That process was what was important and interesting.

SometWhite lily shaped flowerimes when I looked up I was almost at the center, but then the path curved away. And then came a wider turn or a long straight stretch. Step by step. Suddenly I did find myself in the center. But while that was, in a way, exciting and fulfilling, it was also only temporary. Again, it was step by step leading where? Oh, I knew it was to the exit. And it looked a few times as if I were almost there. And then suddenly I was.

Outside, half the labyrinth was in shadow, and as I’d already walked one, I found myself noticing other things as I continued step by step. First, anywhere I stopped was perfect. A lily-shaped flower. Tourists engaged in that random, but deliberate, curiosity tourists seem to have. Seeing my shadow. Had I already reached the center? I didn’t think so, but really couldn’t remember. Just keep going step by step. Ah, here it is. I sat on the ground for a while. Because I could? But then I had to get up, and again, it was step by step to the exit.

Shadow of authorSo what does this have to do with Spirit Moxie? Somehow it was the strength of trusting the path and that my steps were going in the right direction without my really knowing what that goal or destination might be.

I suggest you try it. You don’t need a labyrinth.  Go to the park or even a city sidewalk and just walk. See what you see. Go where you go. Be. You.

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Information on Grace Cathedral’s Labyrinths

All photos by Spirit Moxie: from the top
inside Labyrinth, Grace Cathedral, San Francisco
Outside Labyrinth, Grace Cathedral, San Francisco
A flower on the cathedral grounds
Shadow of author on outside labyrinth

Ask for Support

Mountain viewThere are more than 100 “How to Change the World” items on the Spirit Moxie challenge list. There are multiple permutations for all of them. But sometimes a brand new, world changing experience gets added.

Last week I participated in a camp designed to stretch me mentally and physically. It was the final day and we were climbing a mountain which is something I knew I could do. I’ve done serious hiking before although not much recently. I knew that although I’m pretty slow, I could persevere. And I was right. With some encouragement on the harder parts, I made it up. The weather was gorgeous, the views were beautiful, and the companionship perfect.

We were functioning as a team and had to get back down within an allotted time. But I struggle going down. Slight slopes scare me and some of them on this mountain were steep. I clutch railings walking down stairs. And the one time I tried to downhill ski in order to confront my fear, in a very safe beginner lesson, all I managed to do was knock over my six-year-old son. He, of course, was doing just fine in the same beginner class; he just didn’t get out of my way fast enough even though the instructors (who saw it coming) yelled at him to do so.

Going down the mountainIn last week’s hike, I knew it would take me hours to get down off the mountain which was hardly supportive of my team. So, I stood up and said, “Hey, guys. I know this is a mind frick [something the mind claims as true when it isn’t], but I freak out going downhill.” The rest of the team just took it as a challenge. One guy grabbed my backpack. Two other tall, strong men were suddenly on either side of me. And they almost (or so it felt like) flew me down that mountain.

Never have I felt so supported.

So what was different about this versus other times I’ve requested something? One Christmas I asked for Spirit Moxie Facebook likes to reach a certain number, and it happened. I get unasked and asked for help all the time. But this time, on the mountain, the help I received made me invincible. I asked for support to do something I was afraid of doing, but needed to get done. I learned that there is power in asking for support for what seems impossible.

Backpack and shoesNote this may be different from asking for help. While we’re dealing with semantics, asking for help implies need. Support, for our purposes here, implies an addition to what one is already doing, something above and beyond the obvious. The support I received made getting down the mountain easy. If I had to do it by myself, I’m pretty sure I’d be off that mountain by now. As an example of the ”help”/“support” distinction, five months ago, when I was sick, I collapsed in the kitchen. I needed help to get up, but received support to keep going.

Isn’t this what changing the world is all about? When we look at the whole thing right now, our chances of having a peaceful, healthy, beautiful world seems kind of unlikely. Until we do that one little thing and see that the result is slightly bigger than that action. Or, that when two or three or twenty or a hundred people do something, the result can be exponentially larger. Chaos, which in Spirit Moxie can be a positive force, almost always happens only with volume. So, if you will, it took more than forty people to get me down that mountain. But the result was we all did get down and showed a display of mutual support that shocked (in a good way) those running the event.

Plus it changed me. No longer do I see support as my due, a weakness, or as something that just happens. It is now an overwhelming gift that must be asked for. Because when you ask the world changes.

Thoughts? Stories?

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Photos from top:
The view — Crystal Donald
Headed down — Ellie Rome-Reed
Hiking Gear — Gary Templeton

Wash Your Hands

When they discovered I was terribly infectious during the final week I was in the hospital in January of 2017, I thought no one could come to see me. But I was wrong. For those who dared, they didn’t need to put on the blue plastic hospital gown conveniently available on my room’s door or wear a mask. Nope. There were only two instructions: to not touch me (and it was those who love hugs who showed up) and to wash their hands when they left. Either use the sink in “my” bathroom or take advantage of the hand sanitizer by the door. Period.

In the meantime, three friends have had the flu without any help from me, multiple people have had colds, and everyone else seems a tad worried about all the illness floating around. But again the mandate seems simple. Wash your hands. Oh, wait. Apparently that doesn’t help against the flu. Then again, washing your hands is on the list of things you can do to prevent the spread of it.

Sigh. But seriously it is fairly universally acknowledged that this simple action keeps us all healthier. If everyone washed their hands regularly, disease would have a much harder time spreading.

Wine bar's hand washing signThere are standard rules. The ones we might be most familiar with are to wash your hands after you use the bathroom and before you eat. If you work in a restaurant, you know that any food handling requires hand washing. From there it goes to multiple compulsive, frequent situations. Currently the one I’m having the most trouble with is sneezing, since I’m “nursing” a runny nose like a little kid.

So, hand sanitizers are OK, but not as effective. For doing hand washing right the rules are simple. Use warm water and soap. Lather. Wash for 20 seconds or two choruses of “happy birthday to you.” (I’m failing that last part too. I sing it really fast. But even if my timing of two choruses is shorter than 20 seconds, it is closer to 20 than what I usually do.) Rinse. Dry. So can we start? At least on the “after the toilet” and  “before the food handling” times? And I’ll start the 20 second rule (sigh), will report in, and invite you to do the same. Really.

Having written the above I’ve been practicing. I’m learning I am more apt to do my two choruses when I’m not home. Oh I wash at home, but the familiar pass through under the faucet happens more often than not even when I’m challenging my self. But I’ll keep with this and will report in on the comments on the web site. Join me.

Maybe this isn’t the sexiest, most personal “changing the world” piece. But washing your hands is clearly crucial. Staying healthy makes your participation easier. And it’s one of the 100+ actions that make a difference listed on the note cards that began Spirit Moxie. Are you in? Are you better than I am at this? Game on.

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All photos by Spirit Moxie. From the top:
Hands washing — courtesy of Dave Lynch of Three Kool Kings
Sign at Market Wines at Findlay Market, Cincinnati, OH
Women’s restroom at WOW [World of Wearable Art] Museum, Nelson, New Zealand

Just Be

I’m so confused.

CD collection - partialI’m talking to a guy who showed up in my life out of nowhere and helped me through the month of hospitalization that ended 2016, adapted to my commitment to not own a car, and introduced me to the worlds of music and basic hippiedom that existed as parallel universes while I was growing up. And while his showing up (magic?) was confusing by itself, my questions were more about the call to be less than present (too active) or even mindful, but to exist without being driven by plans or expectations. I just seemed to be called to simply be. I think he and I both found that confusing.

For the past few years I have learned that our bodies often know better than our minds as to what is good for us and who we are called to be. Our bodies certainly remember traumas and, I think, celebrations. Our minds are full of societal expectations and the basic survival responses of fight or flight.

We become doctors or lawyers to please our parents. In my case, I found myself majoring in Classical languages because my mother taught Latin, even though I’m terrible at learning languages. I think my mother even played with being a writer. Certainly identifying myself as a writer is currently making a lot of sense to me. But it is through our bodies that we somehow know the truth of how and what we are called to be. Often our bodies react by getting sick, gaining weight, or creating other problems if we don’t pay attention to our calling but instead run after the societal demands of the mind.

black eye selfieThis is a lengthy way of explaining that when I fell down for no reason in late 2015, my only explanation was that my body wanted my attention. When this happened, I was called to just be so as to help the mild concussion I received from the fall heal. I wrote about it in Moxie and Miracles.

The year following the fall I did things like sell possessions and get coaching in presenting and sharing Spirit Moxie and talked a lot about the importance of being present. Then
cancer (a rare form of leukemia) showed up and again my only option was to “just be.” Every time I pushed forward into action, or even pursued what for me was the simple act of being present, I landed back in the hospital.

So this time I’m paying attention for the long term and working on just being. I don’t want to know what will happen to me if I don’t pay attention this time to the call to just be. But interestingly, a surprising amount happens when you stay in this “just being” place. Earlier today, almost all my bills got paid and I had a very fruitful time with homework for a class on stock options (no clue why I’m called on this one, but I am having fun, which is enough). But right now I’m sipping on a latte waiting for a friend to show up in a couple of hours. Yes, hours. Oh, and I’m typing this between odd computer games and just looking out the window.

Hospital room viewOf course questions arise. My coach (I recommend you find one) asked me what I was still sure about. My immediate answer was that I’m still sure about the vision of Spirit Moxie, the vision that we can change the world if we dare claim the little things we do. I’m also sure that all that happened in 2016 is somehow right if I allow it to be. (You can read about my fairly chaotic year in Dream updates I – and II.)

I’m also noticing what is changing. For instance my morning meditation practice has become more fluid, and a bit inconsistent. The pattern for years has been acknowledge my body, give thanks for at least 5 things that happened the day before, identify what actions I’ll take for Spirit Moxie, review what should happen for the day, and drift into more conventional meditation practices with visioning and letting go.

Personal Desire Map word artFour years ago, I explored Danielle LaPorte’s Desire Map idea and identified for myself “creative,” “connected,” “adventurous,” and “light” as the core feelings that feed me. But now I am wondering if those are still true or too active or ????

Basically I am practicing living moment to moment, which is incredibly hard since, like almost everyone else, I’m wired to plan and accomplish “things.” However, when I get it right, as much or more happens than did before I made a conscious effort to “just be” moment to moment.

When I share this concept, some people seem to get defensive. Responses include:

  ”I can’t do that, I have too many obligations.”

  “Oh, yes, that is being present.” [When I just said it wasn’t]

  “I don’t have the time.” [Stay tuned for more information on a completely different relationship with time.]

  “Well that’s easy.” [Maybe it is for them.]

So, breathe. In. Out. And listen to what you are saying, either audibly or in your mind, and thank your thoughts for sharing. Just be and see what the next moment holds.

My friend is still a bit bemused by the whole idea of “being,” although he can see that it works by watching me.

How about you? Confused? Intrigued? Experiences?

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All photos by Spirit Moxie

From the top:
A small part of the “guy’s” CD collection
Injury from fall
View from hospital room
Computer “wallpaper” with personal Desire Map words

Response and Obligation

In September 2016, a few months before the United States election, I was at a seminar in Los Angeles. I’d been to others by these presenters and asked one of the people managing the event if either Charlie or Jeremy, two black men with similar builds, were there. At earlier events one or the other had provided me with major support. The two joke about the confusion that arises when they work together (I look forward to that!), but basically, they had provided me with a safety net on previous occasions. The response I got to my question from the event manager was, “No, but our team is still diverse.” What? Kinda stunned I walked away.


At this same event I talked with a white guy who wanted to improve his appeal to women. Only traditional masculine images worked for him, though. My suggestions of sensitivity or vulnerability as good male traits were met with his scorn and superiority.

Who's to blame wheelAs examples of what is going on in America, and maybe the world, these incidents seem perfect. I didn’t respond to the assumption regarding race. I did confront the sexist guy, but didn’t seem to have the right words. But confrontation and right words are what we need right now.


For, no matter how you voted (if you’re in the US), you made electing Trump possible. It is our world that hasn’t figured out the distinctiveness, equality, and friendship of race. Or the implications of diverse backgrounds. It is our world that has many white males and those who live within those strictures so insecure that they relish what they see as permission to lash out sexually and racially. They seem to need images of white male dominance, and to be blind to the positive promises of change and inclusion. We’ve all been living with people who have these viewpoints and have blithely ignored them, not recognizing them as our friends and neighbors, relatives and acquaintances, the guy on the corner or in line at the store.

And even that last bit on white males is sexist. The other day I was at a party with a proud Trump supporter. One of our nice liberal white males made a sexist remark (“Oh, I was only kidding.”). and it was the supporter who sternly called him on it.

What you do does matter.So I’d like to suggest that we are all called to action. We have, if you will, been handed a wake-up call, a call to healing, to address rather than ignore the “isms.”  To name and address, perhaps with love, whatever it is that made this a sexist, racist country. Surely, the world isn’t like that—although any person of color can tell you racism is alive and well, and in someways worse than before because we’re embarrassed by it, and it should have gone away. So don’t make excuses for yourself or your friends. Act.

There are, for the purposes of this conversation, three components of this action.

  1. Give up the us vs them orientation no matter how that helps you define who you are. Claim your personal responsibility for a sexist/racist nation. Acknowledge your own tendency to identify as not like someone else (someone who did or didn’t vote for Trump, a conservative, a liberal, gun supporter). Be willing to be with those not like you. Being anti-Trump does not make you superior to those who see things differently. It doesn’t give you the right to make fun of them. It does give you the right to engage, to try to see how their view works, and to share why you see things the way you do. I can have fun at a recent party where every one seemed to be talking ageism (which I did call them on). And sexism, too, which I didn’t call them on, since most of the comments were made by wives about their husbands. (“Men always….”)
  2. Don’t give visibility to the superficial actions of those you don’t agree with. (Those Trump jokes only promote him. However much it makes you feel better to share when someone says or does or looks incredibly stupid or scary, remember this gives them more visibility and power. Every time. It’s what they want. Your feeling clever helps their cause.) Do respond to the appropriate places when political action and support is called for. If you’re even a little politically active, start engaging and confronting your various national and local political representatives, no matter what their party, when they have decisions to make. You are still their constituency. When Women's March in Cincinnatithey do things you favor, applaud. If you are politically clueless (this would be me), this is a time to let your more politically minded friends suggest low stress, but
    effective, ways to act. So, march. Call the line that goes only to an answering machine. Find multiple sources to check facts and confirm what is going on — and let people know, gently, when the facts don’t match.
  3. Do things outside or your comfort zone, at least a little. Politically, but also personally. And continue to support and continue to pursue your passions whatever they are. This is your—no, this is our—time to change ourselves and the world in which we live. The party I attended was a little uncomfortable for me, but clearly was where I was supposed to be for all of us. And while I smiled at the neighborhood story of five white women going for drinks at a local club they thought was almost always black (“Are we the largest number of white people who have been here at one time?”), I think this was their response to confronting diversity and was actually incredibly brave.

Everywhere I go I can be only the older, white, heterosexual, Christian woman I am. My goal is to be in a lot of places where there is at least a mix. I’m lucky in that I walk in mixed situations often and am finding that people want to engage person to person. But as I write this I’m in a coffee shop across town (hey, wifi and warmth while I wait for a friend). One person here has slightly darker skin than the rest, but I think I add to the diversity in that I am a bit older than most here, but playing with my electronics with the best of them. Perhaps my just noticing and naming it to myself is enough.

At the seminar I mentioned at the beginning of this post, one of the women assisting wore a hijab. Having someone identifying herself this way and just interacting like everyone else was a first for me. I did say how grateful I was that she was there. But all the time, I wondered if I were being racist or politically incorrect. Welcome to the learning curve. Welcome to the challenge of the day to day possibility of healing our world.

What have you seen, what are you doing, and how did you react? Game on.

Postscript:

It has taken me a long time to write this conversation. Another post on the excuses and what I’m learning will be coming “soon.”

The idea of “ageism” has been highlighted for me through the incredible work of Dr. Christiane Northrup who suggests that our extreme focus on age as a number allows our bodies to internalize the social conventions associated with that number. For additional insights read her reflections on the increasing number of healthy centenarians contributing to our world. (Used with permission.)

I’ve resisted adding multiple, in my eyes brilliant, pieces on the current situation in the U.S. But you’re free to share them in the comments!

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Illustrations from the top:
Who’s to Blame wheel — Sheryl Samuels Greenfield
What you do does matter! — Spirit Moxie
Women’s March on Washington Cincinnati — Gary Templeton

Dream—update II

One important lesson I’m learning is that you need to listen to your body and the signs the Universe provides as you move forward. Listen to your heart.

While I realize all this is very touchy-feely, I have some concrete examples. For instance the Universe sometimes shows up in the form of technology—my phone, the internet, my computer. These devices usually support me beautifully. But sometimes one (or all!) of them just, simply, stops working. Now I have friends who think the Universe is out to get them when that happens, but personally I’ve found it almost always means that I need to simply stop doing whatever it was I was doing. Usually it means I should go to bed! A minute ago the electricity went out (an extreme example), which I took to mean, “Go to the library. You write better there, remember?” So right now I’m writing in the library, and I just received a text from my housemate confirming that the electricity is already back on.

Earlier this year I said my dreams for 2016 were for ongoing support and unexpected adventures. “Dream” was the mantra, and the focus behind mine was for freedom and community. Only a month later, I posted an update and had even shared some goals, albeit reluctantly.

Bedroom windowMy friend the Universe, if I choose to claim her as such, had freed me from a lot of belongings and challenged me to seriously think of moving to another city and form more concretely the possibilities for Spirit Moxie. So I moved in with a friend (support), seriously explored Portland and Seattle as possible places to live (adventure), and began taking some classes to solidify the work of Spirit Moxie (support and adventure). Actually the whole year has been one of support and adventure with new friends, reconnections, and the travel I love.

And frustration. While miracles continued to occur and things moved forward, the actual manifestation of “here’s a perfect place/room to move to” never happened.

Oregon coast - WaldportOh, for weeks my meditation time ended with an image of me walking a beach. And in July, on my birthday eve, I did find myself walking over intricate sand patterns and through tide pools on the Oregon coast.  As part of my exploration of Oregon, my friend Julie decided we needed an overnight at the beach so suddenly I had hours of beach wandering and just being. And I realized that, at least in this case, consistent dreaming had come true.

One of my reluctantly set goals (because I had decided I wasn’t going to set goals this year) was to “create a time dancing course” and this workshop now has a name: Tango with Time, which is a tribute to my love of dancing. It suggests the image of partnering and affirms that dancing is my preferred image for interacting with you. I am now positioning this part of Spirit Moxie so people realize that we’re not talking about “time management,” but rather changing our relationship with time. So there’s major progress on this front.

But I wasn’t moving forward as smoothly and quickly as I wanted, especially on the “moving locations” front.

Maybe this had something to do with health? I conquered most of my pain issues through sheer determination — and stretching. I got all my range of motion with no pain to return in my right shoulder, an injury I don’t know how I got. While my weight went up a tad, it never spiraled out of control and then it went back down half a tad. The only loose end was some slight anemia numbers that my doctor and I started tracking, because hey, it’s my body…

A couple of weeks ago we finally did the last available test for the anemia. A bone marrow biopsy. I was rushing the process because I wanted to figure things out before I made definite plans to move, even though at this point I wasn’t sure where. A week later I went back to  my doctor for the results.

IV bag and poleNever have I seen medical people more unconcerned when “cancer” or, in this case “leukemia,” was part of the diagnosis. It’s rare.* Easily treatable. A week, once, of chemo with about six months of monitoring is all you need. If you really want to move and have treatment on the West Coast that’s fine.

But the “perfect place/room to move to” hasn’t shown itself. And one of the best doctors I knowthe one giving me the diagnosis—is also the perfect person to treat it. And I really do have love and friendships where I am now. So somehow the support and adventures dreamed about in January are manifesting as “at least six more months here in Cincinnati.” And, as occurred after my minor concussion a year ago, I am called to increased stillness despite the fact I assumed things would “happen” (whatever “things” are) only through major activity, e.g.  all the traveling and exploring West Coast cities.

So, I am practicing being present in the moment even more consistently. What if instead of goals and action, I just do “what is given to me to do?”** What happens then? Well, the electricity goes out. You find yourself writing at the library. You finish a conversation post when people haven’t heard from you for way too long. More exciting thoughts on time jump out of one of the books that started Spirit Moxie.*** You meet new people and pets.

“Presence” says it’s time to go home. I wonder why.

But I’m also wondering how are you called? And to do what? To planning and action? Or to stillness? Or are they both the same?

I wonder what our dreams will be when we arrive at 2017?  But that’s a whole adventure away.

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*”Hairy cell leukemia” in case you want to look it up
** Book of Common Prayer 1979 (New York: Church Publishing) p. 366
***John Briggs and F. David Peat, Turbulent Mirror: an illustrated guide to chaos theory and the Science of Wholeness (New York: Harper & Row, 1989)

Photos by Spirit Moxie. From top:
Bedroom window
Oregon beach — Waldport
Treatment begins

Support Artists

Last night I trekked across town to listen to my friend Brianna sing soulful, original songs at a place with the wonderful name of The Listing Loon, a “craft beer & wine bar/bottle Brianna Kelly and friendsshop.” I also unexpectedly heard her play more “upbeat” stuff with another guitar player and a drummer, a side I’d never seen before. In the process, I met people and, yes, talked about Spirit Moxie, supported the local economy by buying a couple of drinks including one for the musician, and for the first time, was betrayed by Uber. As result, I also had a perfect, unexpected, and beautiful midnight bus ride home. Great evening.

I also started thinking about how we support artists and why it matters. I was going to write a Conversation piece about going to art fairs, and I still might, but today the broader scope seems more crucial.

It truly is through art that the world is changed. The impact of writers is fairly obvious. Look at the writers, especially novelists and playwrights, in closed and violent Communist countries who told the truth of what suppression did to people. Think of Madame Defarge, in Charles Dickens’ Tale of Two Cities, who has now become an icon for revenge, who used something as innocent as knitting to secretly keep records. As Samantha Bennett says, “…the only thing that ever changed the world was a new story.”

But today I’d like to put in a plug for the visual and performing arts similarly changing the world. And I’d like to add our support and participation, since I know some of you are artists, for changing it, too.

People need weird stuff in their houses.At it’s best, art makes us see things differently. We see an ordinary object from a different perspective. The “truth” of a song, any still life, a great portrait, that weird piece—whether visual or audio—where you can’t figure out where they are coming from. Look at the fairly recent popularity of flash mob performances. Just having our regular routine “upset” by art seems to speak to us.

A New York City friend recently posted on Facebook about someone taking over her subway car: “That moment when your train entertainment is so good you wish you had money to throw at them. Sorry man, you totally deserved my absent cash money. Hope to hear you again soon with a full wallet.” (For the record, for non-New Yorkers, the people who choose to interrupt the anonymity of subway travel are usually terrible.) The only money I give out on the street is to performers who are worth it, sharing their talents and trying to make a bit.

BANmovie2You might already support multiple artistic endeavors. Your children’s school performances. The garage bands started by friends and family that get real gigs in bars and restaurants. I still remember the ska band Nice Guy Eddie that was the creation and obsession, for awhile, of my younger son’s friends, who are now my friends. And then there was the grand red carpet opening (and only showing) of my son’s almost complete film, which also featured his friends, Bitch Ass Ninjas: the return of Fatty which we attended in faux furBANmovie1 and a tuxedo.

And of course, when you attend an event you are also supporting the bars and restaurants that have these groups play, which also helps the world.

When the “little things that can change the world” piece on Dance came out, I talked about my friend Misa’s work. She’s now on to bigger things, so if you’re anywhere near Los Angeles or Santa Barbara you might want to look up TURF. My drummer friend Lance, who critiqued that same post, now has his own band Free Speech, based in Cincinnati, which unfortunately I’ve only been able to see a couple of times. And I’m just using this as an example. What are yours? What excuses are you using for not going? They’re playing too late? I don’t go to bars? How dare they charge when they’re amateurs? If you’re playing that last card, I don’t suppose you’ve considered buying their new CD either.

Painting Track 2-Train LateAnd how do you support the visual arts. I can find time to attend events, but I only have so much wall space. Well, artist have events too. While you might not buy, there are openings, receptions, and, yes, shows. My regret is that my awesome friend Jeri is regularly winning pastel honors and being featured in shows, but the closest I ever got to attending one was trekking to downtown New York to see one of her miniatures on exhibit. I’m just not in that part of the world at the right time. My friend Kim has reinvented painting Water of Lifeherself into a successful encaustic artist who is featured in various Colorado galleries. But I can “like” the pieces these artists share on Facebook. I can tell them I’d like to be there for the opening. And I can cheer when one of their pieces is the perfect piece for an award or show or, gasp, just because I love it.

The beautiful cover photo that was on the Spirit Moxie Facebook page through August 2016 (you can see it in the notes below) is by my friend Su White Paper DressYork of Suzanne York Photography who is frantically launching a business with her gorgeous photos (she’s also winning awards), while she continues to be one of the best hair stylists in Cincinnati. Sometimes one can just cheer. I’ve met the incredible Roxana Ramos Cueva — and “liked” the paper installations she’s done throughout South America. Etc.

So who are you supporting and how? Every like, every dollar, every purchase, every  puzzled “what were they thinking” or pure moment of simple enjoyment , helps change the world. Trust me on this one. Report in. We can help the world see itself in new and creative ways.

Are you in?

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Illustrations from the top:

Brianna Kelly and Friends — Spirit Moxie
Ezra Croft quotation — Spirit Moxie on Canva
20th Century Theatre marquee— Spirit Moxie
Movie Opening — Spirit Moxie
track 2/train late — pastel by Jeri Greenberg, used with permission
Water of LIfe — encaustic monotypes by Kim Roberts, used with permission
Installation in paper by Roxana Ramos Cueva — Gabriela Morales Gonzales

The August 2016 Spirit Moxie cover photo by Suzanne York Photography
view of Cincinnati from Kentucky

Random Notes

Stormy sky with bit of sunFor years I’ve avoided reading newspapers or watching the news, but I still manage to learn about major events. Sometimes when I hear a bit of news, I even go looking for more information. And certainly the Internet, odd notes on Yahoo, and posts on Facebook, keep me pretty well informed. Whatever that means.

In June 2015, when nine people were shot during a church service in Charleston, SC, all I could think about was confronting my white brothers and sisters, or maybe confronting us all, about privilege, humanity, and self-worth. The result was my post My Turn. If you haven’t read it, I’m told it’s worth reading. If you already have, it might be worth rereading.

I reread it recently because for the past two weeks, the world seems to have again been overwhelmed with violence. And I realize I don’t really have any more in-depth, challenging words to add to what I wrote a year ago. But I feel compelled to share something. Killing each other, yelling at each other, and feeling helpless and disempowered are not ways to make the world work! So, we’re back to the little things we can do. I can write. Here are a few random notes. Things to remember. Things to do.

Flower1) Baton Rouge, LA; St. Paul, MN; Dallas, TX; Nice, France; Bagdad, Iraqi, plus multiple other places. My friend K. Jeanne Person remembers those shot in Orlando, FL, with beautiful, in-depth word sketches about one person per day. At this point I just want to list names of the United States’ most immediate tragedies—or the tragedies when this began. Baton Rouge has been hit again.
Meanwhile I find myself wondering how surprised Alton would be to find himself listed with white police….

The Names:
Alton Sterling
Philando Castile
Lorne Ahrens
Michael Krol
Michael Smith
Brent Thompson
Patrick Zamarripa

2) People who should know say we’re all one race, or al least that is what anti-racism teacher Jane Elliot is saying. The human race. Time to change the forms? I wanted to mark “other” when given the usual choices yesterday. However I guess I’m not quite confrontational enough. And yes, one can argue. Words are just words, so we are the ones who decide what race means. The dictionary includes most definitions we’ve heard.

But if one is playing with vocabulary I find myself with the word “species.” We are clearly one species.

French Bulldog restingNewfoundland resting
Then I think about the species “dogs.” We know a dog when we see one, but I can’t think of a species that has so many different looking breeds. Yet most dogs recognize any other dog as, well, a dog.

In My Turn I use the words “race” and “people.” I’m not sure I would now. Do we really want to claim separation among ourselves? Brown eyes. Curly, red hair. Maybe. But separating us much more doesn’t work. Human. Yes, that classification simplifies things.

Black Lives Matter t-shirt3) Regarding “Black Lives Matter.” Yes, indeed, we do all matter. But the recent steps to explain why “Black Lives Matter” doesn’t threaten us all mattering, got me thinking.


My take is that there are good analogies for us all being one body. Even if you don’t agree with that play along for a minute. I brush my teeth (flossing is one of the major things you can do for your health). I stretch because otherwise my legs and shoulders hurt. But when I fell last winter and had a minor concussion it was all about brain health (and monitoring a lovely black eye). I black eye selfieassume I still brushed and flossed, but what I focused on, what I remember doing, was monitoring coordination, memory, and pain. During that period, the priority was #painmatters.

In our one body analogy, or the one race one (see #2 above), our black brothers (mainly brothers) are being killed. Racism is still an insidious problem. It is hurting our safety, our economy, and our sense of self worth. It is hurting all of us. #BlackLivesMatter is a call for our collective health. So we can, if you will, get back to flossing.

4) Pokemon Go. (What, you say? Remember the title of this post is “Random Notes.”

“Oh, my god. People, kids(!), are walking down the streets on their phones.” “I am above [implied] downloading this app.” “How dare people look at my outdoor space.” Etc.

Well, you have been complaining for years that kids are looking only at their computers and not going outside. Now they’re playing, actually [gasp] walking, and you find this to be a problem?

Oh, they want to step two feet into your yard? Let’s post a social media complaint and threaten them. Heaven forbid that you interact with people playing a game. Would you call the police if a ball landed in the yard too?

Pokemon ScreenThe world is suspicious and impersonal and now random people are stopping you in the street (or at least this happened to me) and saying, “See, isn’t he cute?”, as they show you their screens.

Economically people (or so I’m told) are hosting events. Businesses are including PokeStops in their ads. It is a safe conversation with strangers especially given #1 and #3 above. (I spent a lot of time in a parking lot waiting for someone while engaged in this conversation.)

Younger people and adults are interacting. We want people to engage and so make the world friendlier. Get over it. Do you see how this might change the world? I guess I need to go download that app.

5) Just a reminder that there are already some “small things” you can do to change the world listed in Spirit Moxie conversations. These are critical right now:

Vote
Love your body
Be willing to be wrong 

Thoughts on the above? What would you add? Together we can change the world. Really.

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Photos by Spirit Moxie – from the top:
Clouds and sun
Flower
Sip (French Bulldog) and Gabe (Newfoundland)
T-shirt in bar
Black eye selfie
First Pokemon attempt

Name (a verb)

NametagsWhen I worked in New York a number of years ago, the staff where I worked decided I was important, competent, and interesting. To this day, Delta Airlines knows me as Dr. Sedgwick thanks to a secretary who wrangled my plane reservations. When I worked for a similar organization in another city, the identity I was given was, “Who are you? Prove you’re worthy to work with us.” Needless to say the first position was a lot easier and, actually, more effective for everyone involved.

Naming. How we see each other and verbalize the labels, the ideals, and the perceptions we have about those labels and ideals makes a difference. Perfectly competent adults visit parents and immediately become needy. It’s not just their falling back into codependency or old patterns. Their parents need to be needed. It’s their identity when they are around their children, and so everyone obliges. And we all know how people with serious issues like addictions behave and are wary when we’re around them.

Naming, in my experience, can be positive as well as negative and positive naming makes the world work better and is a lot more useful. It’s important to remember, however, that this isn’t magic, although sometimes it seems as if it is, and that naming doesn’t always work.

But it’s fun when it does. A couple of years ago, I was on my way to an unfamiliar Brooklyn street corner in the pouring rain, trying to figure out where I was supposed to meet my son. At night.

When I ducked under a bodega’s awning, a tall guy who I’m pretty sure (one learns these things) was going to ask me for money was already there. “I’m so wet,” I said. True. By the time we figured things out, he was 1) mad at how inconsiderate my son was and 2) offering to walk me the several blocks to my son’s apartment. Money was never mentioned, and when my son did show up, my new friend glared at him. We had named each other as peers.

Perhaps a more dramatic example involved my friend Valerie who taught third grade. Her classroom included many non-white students who had been “named” by their previous teachers as unteachable, slow, and/or stupid. These teachers promoted these students just to keep the system moving. Valerie saw, that is “named,” them as third graders, who could learn third grade material. As a result of her naming everyone in her classroom was reading at third grade level by the end of the year.

We do this with friends too, sometimes positively, sometimes negatively. We put each other in boxes. For example, we say so and so is always late. I’m usually pretty much on time (ask my friend Su), but my friend Marilyn has named me as always late. Even if I’m early she’s there first. It maintains her perception that she’s accurate and keeps her naming of me intact. I have friends who name me as intelligent and interesting. As adventurous. And as boring and antisocial.

So there are two parts to this:

1) How do we respond to how others name us?

2) How do we name others?

Awareness of how others name you is fascinating once you realize what’s going on. The positive part is usually energizing, although occasionally you may be named as someone you don’t want to be. For instance it may be positive to be perceived as intellectual, but sometimes it just feels like pressure. There are multiple people who name me as an excellent professional communicator (as in press releases and newsletters), even though I’ve never done that sort of work and don’t really want to.

Naming also has multiple sides. To be seen as friendly and fun may cause pressure when you really just want support. On the other hand that naming may help you generate enough energy to be friendly and fun despite your mood.

What do we do with negative naming? It’s often evident in bullying. Perhaps people use negative naming to increase their sense of self importance. Can we make it a game? (Just how early do I have to show up at my next “date” with Marilyn? Nope, that idea didn’t work!)

To not live into the negative part of naming is a challenge and sometimes not worth it. I quit the second job mentioned earlier. Oh, I learned a lot from it and could have probably set the right boundaries, now that I look back with 20/20 hindsight. I named those coworkers as gifted as well as highly respected and appreciated for their work and I’m pretty sure how I named them took before I left.

If you don’t like how you are named, it may be time to change friends—or jobs.

But it’s important to realize that naming isn’t usually instantaneous, or, as I said, magic. To decide that the kid on drugs is fine or that your mother will stop being needy is a bit more complicated than just deciding. Perhaps there is need for a serious intervention (or several), for the addicted kid. Perhaps the parent has to be told a thousand times that it’s not up to you. But naming always creates change.

Ultimately, however, what naming changes is yourself. In many fantasy books, among other sources, to name is to wield power. Certainly some of the power is over and for those named. But beyond this the naming is for ourselves. I can accept the good names and offer more positive names to others. The more I do this, the more the world will gradually change. So I’ll stay important, competent, and interesting. And intelligent and inspiring while I’m at it.

So, what about you?  Together, we’ll be more powerful and joyful and creative and alive.

Who do you need to name?

Who have you named?

How are you named?

______________________________

Photo:
Blurred nametags — Spirit Moxie