Different From Another


Remember the good old show “Sesame Street”–and the one skit where they did “this thing is different from another” and you had to figure out what it was? It had a little jingle too to engage the kids, just like all the wonderful things on that show!

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Well, I feel I have been that ‘different thing’ my whole life. For as long as I can recall, I’ve always been the odd kid out, the one that did everything against the grain. As a youth, this of course often frustrated (or angered) the adults in charge around me. As an adult it leaves me, at times, like the bright berry surrounded by the melding colors of those around me.

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I’m not sure where this part of me comes from: maybe the lonely heart of an adoptee looking to be seen by those passing by. Or maybe this is just who I would have been anyway: the stray, wandering off from the pack to march to my own drum.

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Having been a vegetarian, long before it was fashionable, I got looks from waitresses when I would question what was in the soup stock. And I brought bags to pack my groceries before Whole Foods gave you money for it–back then the baggers just got annoyed and huffed and puffed as though you were putting them out. Now I’m a hero!

For years I’ve embarrassed my kids with my ‘behaviors’, being too out there (I don’t see it as such)–maybe talking to strangers or how passionate I am. I just have never seemed to be able to melt into a crowd.

Belonging certainly has been something I have wanted: that symbiotic need where I would get out the desired sense of feeling a part, but I’ve never been willing to give up my identity.

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Today, in this massively diverse world, belonging seems to create a strange new need. While I may have felt hurt or sadness, I never felt drawn to violence over people leaving me out. In fact, it either made me try harder to be kind–or made me tuck into myself more.

It never made me lose my sense of self, my ideals or values. Over the years, they have gotten stronger while my mouth has gotten softer in expressing them.

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We should all be acknowledged for the special and beautiful person we are, whether or not we are different from the next person.  This can be very hard in these tumultuous and changing times. But there is room for growth and two different types of people can understand one another given patience and remaining open.

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So I still stand out in a crowd and am proud, not sad, that I’m unique. It would never suit me to follow the masses. Rather I want to be hanging on where I’m not supposed to, saying what I really feel and always being true to my heart.

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Golden Footsteps


Last night I had a dream about an old boyfriend. Our relationship was odd and rocky–just like much of my life during those years and many of my years prior to my move. It gave me pause, and I began to think about it while doing my yoga and meditation.

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During my meditation I had a sort of vision. One gets in a rather trance-like state at times, and I guess I was ripe. In my mind I saw a shadow woman walking during a dark, stormy street. There were trees blowing, lots of rain and dark blue. But in the distance there were these footprints that were illuminated in the darkness: a path to follow. They lit up as this woman was ready to see them.

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I wish I could paint, because I could see this so clearly in my mind! It seemed to encompass where I have been and where I am now.

My past so often felt as though caught within a dark storm, with my paths unclear and being battered by the debris coming at me. Walking in the gray left me weak and hungry for the light, but my eyes had become unaccustomed to seeing it any longer.

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But somehow I reached the eye of the hurricane–the calm place and from there was lifted out. Those moments allowed me to find the golden footsteps, those brightened by my own need and will. It seems as my eyes adjust, another appears….

So as I follow them out of the tempest and into garden, they may fade into the sun itself. And then it will have to be something else that guides me I suppose, something from within–then again, maybe that something already does….

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Misty Memory


I met him last night in a room shuttered and silent, painted with gray and gone wan. He was middle-aged handsome, his chin dappled with careless hair. Around his mouth were creases when he smiled that showed he had known joy in life. His eyes a mystery, my memory failing–or maybe I sunk into them drawn by their depth.

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We talked and laughed. And I had some project to perform–a photograph etching this moment in time, this man. But rather I revealed parts of myself, both physical and others, sinking within, to parts I had not gone in a long time.

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Somehow it seemed right with him, this man, in this deep and precious place. I let go for a moment, tasting again that feeling and wondering at it.

Then, he left for the night and the shadowed light returned. I arose from my bed recalling the visit as his misty memory disappeared.

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The Open Gate


My father has been visiting me quite often lately. This is quite an interesting phenomenon given he has been dead a very long time. In dreams he has come visiting, though foggy memories as I awake, it’s clearly him–warm and wise. This is unusual as I rarely had dreamed of him before my move.

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A door seemed to have been opened, a gate to my subconscious thus allowing an ancestor to cross over into my realm. What smoothed the way for this meeting and caused the crack that let slip the apparition to appear?
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When an aperture is created, whether actual or unintentional, it gives the opportunity for its opening to allow entrance. If the gate is purposely opened and we welcome whatever is on the other side, then we are prepared for our guests.
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But often this may not be the case. A hole can happen suddenly in our lives, unexpectedly due to an unforseen accident or illness. This creates a gap that opens the floodgates of fear, anxiety and depression. Then the uninvited visitors may march into our deepest self and take residence without our permission.

Sometimes a planned change in our lives, like my own move or a divorce, can surprisingly pry open parts you might not think. My sweet, new relationship with my Mother is now tender and loving. It catches me at moments where I find myself overwhelmed by it. This passing through has put me on the other side where I have always longed to be.

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These wells, doorways, keyholes can be tangible or deep within our souls. Maybe we dig them with shovels and spades or instead they can be created by a diagnosis or footsteps walking away from us. Either way, we can ultimately decide to walk through–welcome the ancestors, walk over the threshold and see the gate as something to open, not slam shut.

So look for your openings, guarded gates,  daring doorways and hold in wonder what may be on the other side. For maybe they were flung wide beckoning you to enter the life you have yet to discover!

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Out Of Place


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With the holidays rapidly approaching, for me there is a strangeness to it, as though I am an alien having just landed on a foreign planet. Living my whole life up north, this will be the first time that I will spend an entire holiday season in a tropical place. Where is the feeling of the crisp cold air as I walk outside and observe holiday shoppers in their frenzy of consumer glory? No feeling of anticipation of possible blizzard warnings and being able to play “White Christmas” and have it come true. As much as I came here to be away from the cold, I admit a melancholy now. I simply feel, well, out of place. 

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This term, out of place, when we break it down and really look at it can reflect a truly heartbreaking human condition. As humans, most of us identify strongly with our place: where we grew up, our people, our city, our home.

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And now for millions of people this sense of place is being ripped from their lives. Refugees all over the world, fleeing the horrors of their home must leave what they know and what gave them comfort to face potential dangers and a life on the edge. Migrant workers crossing borders hoping for a better life, living in the shadows–having left a culture because of violence, seek shelter and work, but struggle to fit in.

When I think about the idea of borders, it gives me pause. Did this earth come with borders? These human-made delineations that keep me in and you out. While it’s true that even animals ‘mark their territory’, they rarely fight to the death to protect them. There’s a fluidity in nature that humans seem to struggle against. Sharing seems to go against human nature.

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As countries deal with the burgeoning refugee crises, as camps swell and overflow and our own country fights over what to do–what do we as fellow humans feel? That empathetic side to understand feeling out of place, to try to put oneself inside the body of one fleeing terror or drug gangs…would you run? And would you want someone else to have their arms open to help you?

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It is simplistic I understand, but we are after all, just each a human. And this earth was birthed with no lines, no walls and no doors that said do not enter. We all stepped onto it together with the same hearts beating, the same blood flowing, breathing the same air.

Isn’t it maybe time to put our beautiful complex brains together so that we can figure out how to share this amazing planet as one? 

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Phases


Phases are found in every aspect of nature and life on this planet. Look to the moon and watch it wax and wane in its monthly cycle around the earth. And the lovely butterfly: from larva to amazing gold studded chrysalis and then birthed into flight as a full winged angel. There is the brilliance of Summer painted with color, bursting with food; and the glorious riot of Autumn with trees hung in their last hoorah before the solemn rest of the snow covered quilt of Winter lays the world to rest; and on to Spring where babies and sprouts tenderly crawl and peep to start it all over again.

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These cycles, phases are so numerous, so abundant and obvious that often we simply take them for granted. They beat within us like the ancestral clock that started from when we crawled out of thick slime and our eyes first opened to the great firey ball in the sky. And this clock has not stopped ticking since.

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But there are also the human phases we face. These too may be obvious like the ones where we pass from childhood to adulthood. We celebrate the turning of our phases by weddings, funerals, Bar-Mitzvahs, Baptisms as to honor the next phase into which we are passing.

Some phases are not chosen by us: a divorce therefore making us now a single person, moving out of the once blissful cycle of marriage. Or maybe we were once clean but life, circumstance and inner struggles have moved us into the cycle of addiction. These kind of phases can be painful to pass through, seemingly bottomless pits of despair and pain.

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When we are young these cycles seem to whir by like scenery in passing car, our noses pressing up against the cool window–life flashing by blurred and blending together. But as we grow older we begin to grasp onto phases, realizing that maybe with regards to our own lives, there may be some choice.

Some are surely beyond our fingertips: one can’t stop the wrinkles (no matter how much cream you apply) or the creaking bones. It’s more the direction one’s life is headed and the quality of one’s soul work that may be within our ability to manipulate.

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As we grow older and begin to value the need for quiet and being alone (at least at times), one can begin to hear the song inside one’s own being. All the accumulated time we have spent speeding through our phases and watching the cycles of our world have woven together a story in our hearts. This story, when we sit with it, begins to form a pattern and as it takes shape can clearly lead us down the next phase of our life.

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It is at this point that we do not have to sit back and be unwilling participants in our lives where the world happens around us, or let people do things to us. But rather we begin to steer the boat and head toward the shore where we want to land. This is the beauty of growing older.

So within this phase, I continue to honor the Earth as She tries desperately to follow the phases that She has for millions of years. It is in joy that I watch the birds, plants and animals in their cycles upon this world and the planets, stars and clouds cross the vast sky. And it is with great humility that I now try to move forward toward the next phase of my life.

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Grief


Grief is something I have been thinking a lot about recently. My own especially, but grief in general. Certainly I know for me, it seems that more and more I sense that it feels like it permeates me and my every day life. I’ve turned this over and examined it, wondering why it walks with me like a shadow in my life.
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As with many things, help with our questions seem to come at unusual times. This kind of synchronicity can be quite welcome and hopefully informative. In this case a book has come to me to show me around some of my grief feelings. Some are obvious (even to me) and some may be more subtle.

In a culture that is filled with so much violence, how could any reasonable, loving human being not be filled with grief? Every day to be bombarded with death of people, our environment, animals, the oceans? It’s almost, at times, too much for me to bear. I find myself crying during the news and holding these things in my heart.

Then there are my own personal losses: some are obvious like my divorces, deaths of friends and family/pets. But there’s also the odd one that alludes– my adoption: what happened during my first 18 months with my birth mother? What trauma was caused by the rendering of that relationship and what grief do I hold there?

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There are loss of friendships, homes, jobs–many things that make us grieve. How well do we grieve in this society? For me it feels like I’ve always held onto a low level sadness. So now as the world implodes, I feel affected greatly.

But grief is a natural part of life. If you live, you will die–if you love, you will suffer loss. There is a cycle to grief, so it must be honored for what it is and not hold onto like a pit. The pit must be planted, watered and tended so it may grow into a strong new plant.

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I’m learning. It’s hard to see joy amidst all the sorrow. It’s hard to let go of the sadness when we keep getting hit by more every day. Some days I’m simply not sure I can. But with help–other people–whomever and wherever they are can help us to overcome this grief we may feel. Family, friends, fellow bloggers, maybe even a stranger will remind us what makes us human and what connects us all. And grief rituals are vital.

So as the world continues to produce grief in us all, or when you experience your own personal grief, remember to honor it, embrace it, feel it because isn’t that what really makes us compassionate human beings in the end?

To live fully as a human we will never escape this thing we call grief, so shake hands with it and maybe we can all find a way to eventually understand that it’s the passionate energy that powers the exposed belly of the soul.

Black Lives Matter


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Today I participated in a ‘town meeting’ at the UU Church where I’ve been attending Sunday services. For those of you who do not know about Unitarian Universalist Churches, well, let’s just say many of them are very, very open, liberal, accepting of anyone from any religion, race, ethnic, political background or sexual orientation. They also tend to be socially active, and by this I mean “civilly active”–they give back to the community in a positive way. At least from what I’ve experienced.

So I came in late to the discussion about whether to hang a “Black Lives Matter” banner on the Church grounds so passing cars could visibly see it, but on the property so the city wouldn’t give us grief about it.

The decision must be a consensus of the congregation before it can go up–and as you can guess, there has been heated discussion.

From what I saw today, the main conflicting arguments seem to be between fear (don’t put it up) and standing up for equality and social justice (do put it up). All participants today came to this safe space to voice their deep and real feelings on these very current issues.

Fear, of course is one we can all relate to given the daily bombardment of news media relating story after story of innocent lives being taken by terrorists. Or even just hearing about people disagreeing with someone’s point of view and having them march into a place of worship and gunning down the parishioners. Fear is real and I definitely could identify with one woman’s heart thumping angst about hanging this sign, then picturing the aftermath. What if, what if….??

But what about all the Black lives? I had been personally very ignorant about the movement and said so, only knowing about its early beginnings. What I had heard in the beginning had turned me off because it had seemed too violent and militant for my taste. I have always been more of the same mind as Martin Luther King Jr. honestly–you don’t fight violence with violence….

I was told, though, I should go to the website and read it–that I might change my mind. So I did go, and now feel very differently about the movement. It was never that I doubted that Black lives matter, but I needed to be educated on what they were trying to propose and their credo. It made sense to me upon reading it.

So the real question is: how much is each person willing to risk for a personal belief? I stood outside with another woman who was also in favor (like me) of hanging the sign and we both felt that if the worse happened and we were killed for this, then we died for the right reason. Better than of cancer.

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She still couldn’t understand why others didn’t feel the same way. Having always played the diplomat, the ‘bridge’, the peacemaker–I tried to explain that people have a right to their fear and their opinion too–especially as UU’s!  Our ages took us through dark times with race inequality and in our own personal lives we had faced prejudice. So this shaped our decisions. But we all have our own story that creates our fears, our choices and our banners to wave.

So, we must continue to talk.

And this was the best part of the whole idea of hanging the banner in the first place: the dialog, the way it made us look deep within ourselves and how it makes us bind as a community. The ideas that surfaced and the commitments that came out of this meeting were so valuable too.

We must remember that even if the congregation votes no, it was not for nothing.

Home Trapped


Like many, many other Americans I bought the dream about nine years ago and thought that buying a home would build me equity and bring me into a secure financial future. This was the way of our Mothers and Fathers and those before us for generations, right? But we signed onto something that turned out to be a bust. The recession hit and our dreams crashed.
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Many folks lost their jobs and in turn lost their homes. I have been more fortunate. My situation is different, but for me at times, does not feel any easier.
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I’ve been watching the Netflix mini series “Orange Is the New Black”. I’m not usually a “TV” watcher, but in my current situation of being bored and waiting for the new chapter of my life to start…I’ve gotten hooked. It’s made me contemplate prison. Of course I don’t know how much of it is true, but it’s made me look at my own situation of feeling imprisoned and what constitutes feeling trapped.
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One can say there’s no comparison, but everything can be relative. I’m not here to say that I’m as bad off as anyone in prison, because I know I am not. Only to say that at times each of may live with our own personal prisons.

If the feeling of captivity can mean being held against your will, then it can come to define many things. For me feeling helpless about being able to leave my current situation without taking huge financial hits in the future, or ruining my credit, or getting renters that my not be able to take care of the house often make me feel trapped in a situation that I can’t control.

Someone else may feel held captive by a body that doesn’t function the way they would wish, or a mind that faces demons. Or maybe you are imprisoned within a marriage that is violent and frightening. Drugs may grip a person and hold them in a cage of abuse.

We all at times face some sort of prison if we are normal humans–whether they are forced on us, or we do them to ourselves. Our friends and family may chirp at us to be optimistic and think positively, but when faced with the bars of our captivity looking out at freedom, it’s not always possible…try as me might.

There was an old saying that went something like: if you love something, set it free. We can’t always do this for ourselves. We can read every self-help book, meditate, go to church, talk to our friends…and yet we still find ourselves sitting in the cell trapped in the place we don’t want to be. The situation in which we are faced may be permanent, or may have a solution.  But the fact remains that for some of us, we simply know that the darkness exists.
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On Tuesday I have another showing. It’s a cash buyer. Maybe this will be the one that will release me from my captivity and set me free.

I can only hope.

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