Jewel(s) Indeed

Julie, I can’t describe how delighted I am that you contacted me. Anyone or any factoid that survived the stroke I had in 2015 (and the Heart Attack/Stroke incident on September 17th just gone) indicates what a deep impression it made on my brain. I love that you thought of me. I love that Jules and Joel and JR got you through to me at last. Thank you, you Js, for respecting my privacy and at the same time, giving Julie access.

Really, if it weren’t for the paperwork mentioned in my last (and what I thought would be my final) blog post, I would venture even less frequently into what you folks call The Real World. I was going to get rid of this whole site, seeing as I never use it to blog anymore, but something prompted me to pay the annual fee. Within 24 hours, Julie, your message came in. It was worth keeping the site to see your message.

And who knows? Maybe that’s what the site is for, to let me write my replies to you. You see, I’m no longer good on the phone (if ever I was, which I doubt). My brain’s dramatic cognitive changes, aided and abetted by the insights afforded me via long Covid and its accompanying loss of voice and strength; “disability” (sorry, but almost every word that pops into my head has quotation marks around it; nothing’s real to me anymore, especially not words); and what allopaths consider “illness,” have drastically changed how—or if—I communicate.

The one thing I can still do, apparently, is type on my laptop. With 60+ years of writing experience, it is something I can do that doesn’t leave me dizzy, disoriented, or downright ill. I do understand that you, however, may feel any or all of those things when reading my words! I cannot hope for understanding of what I say, as it’s all an exciting mystery adventure to me and I don’t really know shit. I can only hope that after so many years the grammar and spelling pass muster.

Since we met oh-so-many stories ago, Julie, my world view has changed profoundly. Religion and I are divorced now; we parted amicably and can now appreciate each other’s strengths. After the split, 50+ years Depression left too, after realizing all the things she thought were awful were really not. Fear left me when I got rid of old stories; realized that the past not only can’t be fixed, but isn’t real; and that “future” is merely the past trying to make me believe it’s real again. Julie, I can’t tell you how wonderful it is to be free of fear!

And thus I come to probably the most profound change of all: my relationship with words. All my life since the age of four has been about words: reading them, writing them, saying them, categorizing them, teaching others about them. And what I learned, Julie (oh and what a sad day it was for me, how I grieved!), was that words do not unite; they separate. They are the lowest form of communication. They seek to name and categorize and describe what, simply, cannot be named or categorized, or described. We appear as separate, but we are not. We’re as threads in a tapestry, or drops of paint on an infinite canvas. We’re “one, but we’re not the same,” as Bono says.

Words—even the most beautifully arranged—merely pin things down, like dead butterflies to a corkboard. Life is ever-fluid, ever-changing, never ever ever the same from one moment to the next, and we are part of that Life. If, when gazing out at the mountains and the incredible sky, I stop to compose a poem or even record my thoughts, I miss the Life that’s happening at that moment. I think phone calls exhaust me so because I’m forced to engage in what is, to me, unreality. My world is what is right in front of me, and that’s IT. It’s a beautiful, peaceful, nonviolent, generous, kind world. I feel extraordinarily blessed to just sit and enjoy it.

I enjoy it too because of people like you, Julie, who like your story of me so much you’ve held onto it. I’m both the who/what you thought or think of me and then again, utterly different. A bundle of concepts and stories that would not exist if it were not for you, and those of you reading this blog who have physically been in my life.

Life is a movie, projected by a Source I had the pleasure of meeting briefly on September 17th. I was invited backstage and was blown away by what I saw. There’s nothing but love there, I assure you; love and incredible special effects tailored by our own beliefs and thoughts. It’s impossible for me to see anything now in a “bad” light. It’s the perfect show and I’ve got plenty of popcorn. I don’t want it to end.

You were in an earlier part of my movie, Julie. Thank you for re-Minding me of that delightful scene. And thank you for using the blog. I haven’t lost all forms of communication after all! I can still write, however poorly the words convey my deep joy and contentment with Life.

I love you all, and I mean that. You have no idea how amazing you are, just as you are.

Who are you really?

It appears a move is in my future. I’ve reached the top of the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher list in my county and this time it’s portable: I can live anywhere in the United States I wish. I’ve been very very good at following the rules and now I can be rewarded. I don’t have to live in low-income housing, or a senior ghetto, or stay at what society views as the bottom of the pond.

So, I find myself going through my things. I’ve learned to live on and with so little, everything seems rather extraneous; over-the-top. Things I used to believe defined me — diaries, manuscripts, pictures, poetry; even clothes, favorite books, and decorative items — I’ve learned do not. This lesson was brought home to me last year during the fires that raged through Oregon, when we were on high evacuation status. When it came right down to it, I knew I could leave all those defining “things” behind, these records of the stories about myself.

As it happened, I did not have to evacuate. Increasing accessibility issues opened the door to living in a new place, and here I am — still surrounded by boxes and shelves of my life story. With all those cobwebs of memory and intertwining ties that bind, these relics of my past have been up to now the most difficult to sort through. That is why they’ve accompanied me back and forth across the Atlantic, and have lived in other people’s basements and garages and scattered storage units in several states. I felt they defined me. I needed them to prove to myself and others that I’ve had a life. Really, I have!

What I realized with a shock today is that what I’m required to keep if I’m to live in the United States and its unreal reality has absolutely zero to do with who I am: bank records, medical receipts, driver’s license, passport, five years’ rental history, birth certificate, Social Security card. And, most shocking of all to me, my credit record. How on earth did a credit score become a defining-one-as-a-good-human benchmark? Really, think about it!

We are not our documents. We are not, despite our agonies over it and the constant checking of websites to “know where we stand,” our credit score. We are not our birth cert, or marriage cert, or divorce decree, or bank balance. We are not our Covid vaccine status, or passport, or criminal record, or record of church attendance. For one thing, identity theft (what a crazy idea! as if we can be stolen!) thrives on duplicating, stealing, and fabricating these various records. Indeed, if there were no records, what would they steal at all?

If I’m to exist in this current reality, though, I must keep all those things that most definitely do not define me, for there are still so many people who believe they do. It’s enough, for now, to know that these “records” are not who I am — really.

Trash Talk

3 a.m. The hour when body clocks switch from nighttime to daytime. The hour when our thoughts, if we’re aware of them, are weighty ones.

I rose and glanced out the window. Dismay! My trash bin looked like a dark cone with a triple scoop of darker ice cream perched not in, but on it. A similar thing had happened last week and caused the lid to come off when the trash guys came. They gave me a new one for free, but the next time it comes out of my pocket.

[Background: Our housing authority has strict rules about trash, codified in our leases, that we do not use another’s bin. (Has there bin too much trouble over it in the past?) The reality is that tenants do, forced to clandestine forays to the various bins, hoping that the curtain twitchers (every neighborhood has them, those who wait and watch for inevitable lease infractions) have closed their eyes for a few moments. I rarely have much trash, so mine has been a favorite bin. I embraced Reality and gave permission for my bin to be used, right there in front of god and everyone, in broad daylight. I did ask them (a) please bag the trash (early on, it had not) and (b) make SURE the lid can be closed. Them’s the rules, and I see good reason for them. Everyone heard the “yes” but did not hear my caveats. That’s Reality, too.]

On the heels of the dismay, I was glad I’d caught that bin with its lid down, and early enough to prevent its embarrassment when the collectors came in a few hours. Out I went in my jammies to see could I get that bag inside the bin.

Ah, but it was jammed tightly into the top three inches of bin. I laughed (silently). I couldn’t help but think of me trying to get myself into jeans several sizes too small. So tight, the zipper was unusable and I would just tuck the fabric back into a V. No danger of them falling off, for sure. Talk about muffin top!

I huffed and I puffed and managed to at least get the bag out of the bin. Never good at geometry, even I could tell that bag was never, ever going to fit. What had the neighbor been thinking? Tomorrow…no, actually, later today…I would gently but firmly let them know it was unacceptable to abuse my bin in that way. Wait…I have no voice, and no one’s going to want to read six chalkboards’ worth of my thoughts on the matter. Hmmm…

And then mind’s eye saw the neighbor who’s moving in a few days, going back to the never-ending tidying after her little children and baby are in bed. Only one trash bag left, she sees, and still so much to go in it. Wiping tears away, she fights exhaustion and continues to fill the bag. Jen will let me use her bin, she remembers. When she’s put all she can into the bag, it’s too heavy to lift. Hon, she says to her husband, will you bring this down to Jen’s place. And this gentle giant, who knows instantly that the bag will not fit but cannot bear to see his beloved in tears, says Yes. He brings the bag over, he stuffs it in as best he can, says a little prayer that the top-heavy bin will not fall over before the trash men come. For he and his wife–and indeed, all my neighbors–are kind-hearted, generous people who wish me no ill will.

As I drag the bag to a place where if the neighbors look out their windows, they will not see I have taken it, I remember all the times I moved and left boxes (of what I thought were treasures) behind. I remember leaving Ireland in 2004, dear friends helping me throw things into boxes for shipment and other things–bags and bags of them–into heavy-duty trash bags like the one I was holding now, leaving them (with embarrassment, with chagrin) for the landlord to take away and it was not even his job. And it was not free, yet he returned my full deposit. In cash, so I’d have it for my trip. I so underestimated the size of my stuff and what it would take to contain it, I missed my own going away party in Dublin.

And I thought of all the times my family and children and friends kept boxes for me. Out of love for me did they do this, not for what was in those boxes. I would sincerely and honestly believe I’d be back soon for what I thought were treasures. Days turned into weeks turned into years before I realized, here at 3 a.m. on a cool starry night in south-central Oregon, how profoundly kindly I’ve been treated over the years. And my heart ached and I wept and I wanted to ask forgiveness of my son, my daughters, my sisters, my brother, my friends, for my taking advantage, however unwittingly, of their kind natures.

And I thought, too, how we have this small bin of time here and we try to stuff too many things in it, thereby not appreciating any of it individually. How we buy all these trinkets and gadgets in the hope they will fill our holes and make us happy, but they end up just trash in the end. We treat trash like people and forget that real treasures (like people) cannot be bought, sold, or even thrown away.

All this I thought in the wee hours Friday morning. Later, I sat where no one could see what I was doing and joyfully, mindfully rebagged the trash. (It fit in my bin after all. Next week it will be taken away.)

What goes around, comes around, truly. It’s my turn for the trash.

Do that to me one more time

My first Covid isolation a year ago was such a time of profound awakening that I must have asked the Universe for another dose, for here I am — today, the 15th of April 2021 — in Covid isolation again. Yet, I also find myself in a state of gratitude and delight, just as I did last year.

Indeed, words — those structures I have studied and loved all my life — appear now as divisions of what is, in my experience, a oneness of all that is and ever could be; an eternal Now. My words at best confuse, and at worst alienate all but those who have experienced this awakening. And they who know this feeling of absolute acceptance and love of what is, don’t need me to tell them about it. It is at once unable to be shared, yet freely available to all.

Life has become even more simple than last year. My job is still to notice how everything happens FOR me, not TO me, but there’s something else I’ve discovered. If I’m not able to do something — like speak, or walk — I’m being spared. For example, this bout of Covid leaves me exhausted with the slightest effort. (And I thought MS was fatiguing? Yikes.) I wondered who would take care of my little garden, for I knew if it was meant to be taken care of, someone would arrive to do it. Sure enough, my neighbors offered. They’re doing the watering and everything, and I get to view it from my living room window.

If you want to experience a life where beauty reigns and you feel like the wealthiest person in the world, you don’t need me to show you how (even if I could). I have no special skills whatsoever, and I’m no more “lucky” than anyone else. I found out I’m not a teacher at all; I am an eternal student. You are my teachers. If you enter my life, I will just listen (benefit of having no voice!). I don’t want to change you, but I remember when I did; when I thought I knew best. I too have felt “hard done by,” whether by disease, unemployment, abuse, or beliefs that I didn’t have or was not enough—and the agonizing emotions those thoughts triggered. I believed my thoughts for 60+ years and I got really good at finding the “proof” I needed to support them. Learning to undo my thinking took but a fraction of that time. I now question every thought that moves me from a place of joy, every day.

If you ask, I’ll gladly do what I can to help you achieve clarity of thought. Nothing you could say would shock, disgust, or change my love for you in any way. Know, though, that you already have the power to change your perspective and live a contented life. We all do.

Thank you for being in my life!

Brave in a New World

It’s been a time of profound awakening for me, this Covid “isolation.” So much so, that I find it impossible to describe the constant state of gratitude and delight in which I find myself. I’m brave in this New World.

Indeed, words — those structures I have studied and loved all my life — appear now as divisions of what is, in my experience, a oneness of all that is and ever could be; an eternal Now. My words at best confuse, and at worst alienate all but those who have experienced this awakening. And they who know this feeling of absolute acceptance and love of what is, don’t need me to tell them about it. It is at once unable to be shared, yet freely available to all.

Life is so very simple: my job is to notice how everything, but everything that happens, happens FOR me, not TO me. I could opt to record these noticings for posterity in this blog or in articles, but I prefer to go walkabout and revel in awareness. A new friend here in Reedsport said I was a beacon, drawing others into a circle of light. I love that! What’s funny is, I’d met him several times months ago, but he didn’t remember those meetings. I’m radiating at a different frequency these days, I guess.

If you want to experience beautiful clarity and bravery, you don’t need me. I am not a teacher; I am a student. You are my teachers. When you enter my life now, I mostly listen instead of talk. (I know! Hard to believe, eh?) I want to hear your story, and I don’t want to change one bit of it. I’ve been there, whether it’s disease, depression, or the belief that I don’t have or am not enough. I remember how it feels so true and real, and how agonizing it can be. I believed my thoughts for 65 years and I got really good at it. Undoing that thinking, though, took but a fraction of that time.

If you want my help, please ask. I’ll gladly do what I can because I love you, but know that you totally have the power yourself. We all do.

Trailing Clouds of Story Do We Come

Two friends recently received DNA test results that floored them: the stories they’d lived with for fifty-plus years were lies. Their grief increased when they learned everyone else in the family had known all along and kept the secret from them. Both have difficulty now trusting friends and family. What else might they be hiding?

What I shared with both friends is that they are not their stories. I and others love them for who they are: kind, witty, generous, creative, easygoing, intelligent. They would express these traits no matter where or to whom they were born.

I speak from experience. You see, I gave up a child for adoption in 1975, and she found me in 2018, through a cousin who’d had DNA testing. When we had our first encounter via FaceTime just before Mother’s Day, what struck me like a cannonball in the chest was that she was exactly how she would have been had I kept her myself. Yes, she looked like my mother (who died in 1994) and me, but what startled me most were her voice timbre…her sense of humor…her intelligence…her mannerisms…even the way she sang and danced with her children. Regardless of the back story, she was just her beautiful self.

Right after the conversation, I felt horror: I wouldn’t have needed to give her up! Rage at the lies told us and grief for the lost years nearly overwhelmed me. Love proved stronger than both grief and pride, thankfully, and now our whole family enjoys her presence.

Love won when it dawned on me we are not our stories—no matter how long we’ve believed in and cherished them. We’re born into our stories, and they’re heavily edited ones at that. Caregivers tell tales they believe are in our best interest. While time may prove those stories to have been more for their own interests doesn’t matter; people do their best at any given moment. Since most humans operate out of fear, however, it’s no wonder we rarely get the truth.

And that’s my point: no story is “true,” as in objective truth. Our vision and hearing are selective. “Truth” derives solely from our perceptions, which are filtered through our personal priority lens. Priorities change, and suddenly we discover the time for confessing has passed. We cross our fingers and hope to die with the secret unspoken.

Stories have this nasty habit of reincarnating, though. Just when we think it’s safe to look in that closet, out tumbles a skeleton, and the coverups restart. DNA testing has caused a sharp rise in de-closeted skeletons, has it not?

If it weren’t for skeletons, we’d have far fewer stories. As audience, we always know more than the poor protagonist: If it’s a quest, we know the hero will find their Grail. If it’s a mystery, we know someone will be found guilty of the crime. But when it’s non-genre, we don’t quite know what’s going to happen. We identify with the protagonist and hope for a happy ending.

What, then, is the difference between “real life” and stories about “real life”? Nothing. Nothing at all. We think there’s a difference, but it’s just that in one we’re the audience, and in the other, a character.

We enter life mid-narrative, our role already decided. The original script has been altered beyond recognition, yet everyone keeps playing their part, however unsuitable. We’re unaware we can change roles at any time; we don’t have to follow the script. We can scrap it altogether and start fresh.

After my daughter found me, I grieved for a time. Losing stories can feel exactly like losing a precious human or pet. Then, determined to suffer no more, I gave thanks for every single past experience and person I’d blamed for my nearly half-century of suffering. Not forgiveness: gratitude. There is nothing to forgive if everyone is, as I believe, doing the best they can. They’ve got their burden of untrue stories, too. Forgiving implies that my perception of events is more true than others’. It’s not. I don’t need apologies, nor do I extend them anymore. It’s simply not necessary.

Gratitude: that’s the key. After mentally thanking every event and person for the gift they’d given, I discovered I loved myself. For the first time in sixty-odd years, I love myself! Talk about miracles… but if I hadn’t had those experiences… if I hadn’t believed the stories… I would not be the person I am today. And I love me! A strange paradox: though we are not our stories, our stories act as a filter of our reality. We then make decisions based solely on what comes through that filter.

What we don’t realize is that no two filters are alike; no two humans view events in exactly the same way. Embracing this truth fosters compassion, and compassion leads to gratitude. I’ve chosen to view everything that comes my way as a gift—the best ones often arrive in shit-brown wrapping paper, BTW—and I give thanks for it. It not only brings me daily contentment, it obviates the need to retread the path of suffering.

Stay in your painful story if you choose. You’ll have a lot of company there, for we’ve long been told that suffering is mandatory, and life is hard and unfair. Those are lies, too. I no longer believe them for one second. Grieve your loss, yes; but know that suffering—the clinging to pain long past its usefulness—is optional.

We’ve all been lied to. We’ve all experienced betrayal. But if we move our mind’s eye, we will also see we had love, sunny days, and starry starry nights. When you filter life through gratitude instead of old stories, you’ll be astounded. Everything you ever needed or wanted sits there, just waiting for you to notice. Notice. Give thanks. Then go ahead—open your Present.

This article will appear in the Milwaukie-based arts and culture magazine 99E in 2020.

This IS My Normal

Wheelchair users get such questions by caring people as, “What happened?” or the more blunt, “What’s wrong with you?” When I hear those questions, I look around to see who they’re talking to, and then realize they’re talking to me. “Oh!” I say. “There’s nothing wrong with me. This is my normal.” They blink a few times, murmur “Oh…okay” and leave, perplexed.

People assume that if you’re in a wheelchair, there’s something wrong with you. Indeed, I believe many wheelchair users also believe there’s something wrong with them. They haven’t yet realized that their wheelchair is the most natural, practical, and helpful thing in the world—at least right now. Believing that you shouldn’t be in a wheelchair when in fact you are, causes deep suffering. I choose not to suffer in that way anymore.

We use words whose meanings we believe we share: honest, fair, or even our friend, normal. But the truth is, we do not share these meanings; we do, instead, create definitions based on our perceptions.

Let’s alter our perception of the term “perfect.” Doesn’t perfect mean that something or someone cannot get or be better than it is? In this moment, can you or I be different than we are? The key is: in this moment. And I hate to break it to you, but we only have this moment. We may choose to alter our behavior in the next moment, or the one after that, but there is no way in this moment to change what’s happening. By definition, it’s perfect. We confuse perfect with ideal. Ideals, when we feel we’re not meeting them, make us feel not-good-enough in that moment and thus rob us of our greatest gift: the present.

To believe that we are not “normal” also robs us of the present. It’s saying to the universe or your Higher Power: “Not good enough. I don’t want this present. Give me another one.” Don’t you hate hearing that after you’ve spent big money on the perfect gift? Yet many of us do this day in, day out.

Let’s get back to normal. We have the perception—aided and abetted by the billions of dollars poured into advertising—that there is a normal out there, and if we just buy/do/say the “right thing,” that normal can be ours. We who are older think we remember a time when we were normal. (Um…yeah.) We spend every waking moment and most of our savings trying to recapture that. (They don’t call it “lost youth” for nothing.) Young people spend their money and time trying to ward off or postpone the Demon, Age. (Thus, “youth is wasted on the young.”) Living in the past or fearing the future is a sure-fire way to waste your present in suffering. And it’s utterly needless, for neither past nor future normals exist. Few people recognize that the present is their normal, and it’s just perfect the way it is.

What great news! If you change how you think about it, then right-here-right-now, YOU’RE NORMAL! And your body knows exactly how to get you to your normal—not the ideal you’re harboring. It’s constantly giving you feedback. Maybe instead of muffling what it’s trying to tell you (with social media, drugs, alcohol, or shopping, to name a few), you might like to listen to it. Your body, with its neural networks and receptors and genes, works tirelessly and perfectly behind the scenes, listening to how unhappy you are and how you wish you were someone/somewhere/something else. It loves you anyway and gives you a constant stream of feedback to let you know what systems need your attention now—not twenty years from now, or twenty years ago. If you choose to listen, you can give it what it asks for: sleep, a good cry, exercise, nourishing food, pure water, a hug.

We arrived in life hardwired with incredible healing powers. We can switch our genes on and off with a mere thought; we can change the course of our own lives in a nanosecond. The caveat? We must be present to do so. We’ve been conditioned to regard our world in a binary way—good/bad; right/wrong; normal/not normal—as if we were computers and not humans. We wonder why we feel so out of place, and agonize because we don’t have/look/act like “everyone else.” It is very painful indeed for social animals like ourselves to feel like we’re just wrong the way we are; that we’re not normal. It’s painful because it’s so untrue. We are not just one thing or its opposite; there are as many normals as there are people. Not an ideal system, but it is perfect.

Our complex body systems have infinite capabilities and thus, an infinite number of “normals.” We’re equal spokes on the ginormous wheel of time, yet we each have a slightly different perspective of that wheel and our place in it. We cannot adjust its spin, but we can know we’re perfectly placed. And normal.

This article first appeared in Utah State University’s Center for Persons with Disabilities blog column, “A Rolling Perspective,” in October 2018.

Breaking News: Talk Not Cheap


by Jennifer Holland, NBN Reporter

Necessarily Brief News reported today that the cost of Talk, once so cheap it could be ignored, has risen to the point that an as-yet-unidentified number of persons have lost everything: relationships, businesses, employment, and worse yet, Hope.

Experts were focused on world markets and various stock indices and did not notice Talk, specifically the Self/Own sector, making its meteoric rise until the Speech Bubble burst. NBN learned that millions, if not billions, of people have been affected by Talk’s steep cost increase. Horizon’s CEO, in a rushed interview, blurted: “No one thought they needed budget. Our ads misleading, ‘free talk/text.’ World under illusion quantity better than quality. Must—”

Human thought/talk expert Byron Katie could not be contacted by phone or email, so this reporter read one of her books. Apparently, self-talk trumps any other form. Disparaging comments directed toward one’s self ultimately affect a person’s health, wealth, relationships, and even happiness levels. People belittle and minimize themselves with shocking frequency, and their Mind believes every word. More important, Mind influences Brain to organize what it believes are successful outcomes to those thoughts, known for decades as “self-fulfilling prophecy.” Fearless questioning of one’s self-talk is, according to Katie, the only sure way to dam the rising flood of negativity that causes untold suffering.

Katie restates older texts here. The Bible’s Proverbs 23:7 notes that as we think in our hearts, so are we. Abraham Lincoln, a man of few but excellent words, noticed people were about as happy as they’d made up their minds to be. Humankind might have noticed the signs of impending doom had they (a) acknowledged sooner that their cell phone bills did not, in fact, total $0.00, and (b) paid more attention to their Self/Own talk than their mobile devices.

Citizens are urged to stop wasting their cell phone’s “free” minutes and spend time freeing themselves via nurturing Self/Own talk.

How to Give Peace a Chance

I wondered why my mind could not rest after reading and responding to Jan’s comment on my last blog. At length I realized my mind’s machinations were providing me with the last chapter of the how-to book I’m presently writing (as yet untitled, but The Art of Poverty has been bandied about). Though I’m reluctant to release details of the book prior to its publication, my mind cannot rest until I share these more general thoughts with you today.

I was never a contestant for Miss America, but I know my answer to the question, ‘What is your dream,’ would have been — and still is: World Peace. “Can’t be done,” says nearly everyone. And if nearly everyone believes that, they’re absolutely right, for as my friend Jody says, “Perception is reality.” Until we can see something in as much detail as possible in our Mind’s Eye, we have but an infinitesimal chance of achieving it. (You can see my earlier blog, ‘I Can’t See That Ever Happening,’ for a fuller discussion of this phenomenon.) When it comes to World Peace then, it would take a very large number of people indeed to make that happen, right?

Maybe not. Journeys begin with one step, and world peace begins with one person. We must make peace with our own world, our inner world and immediate outer world, first. That’s why I’m writing the book, but I only realized its larger import today. If we individually can see how amazing and creative we are when facing our own budgets, for example, and we see the fruits of our non-violent efforts on our own behalf to love and accept ourselves as we are, the ripple effect will be remarkable in the best of ways — even to the elusive concept that is World Peace.

You know, I taught ESL for years. I often quizzed my students as to why they chose to learn English, and especially why they chose to pretty much forsake their own beautiful languages and cultures in favor of the upstart, American English. My Chinese students confided that their number one reason for coming here was to learn how to be creative. As far as English went, they knew more grammar than I did, but the Chinese knew that that was not enough for success as they envisioned it. They wanted our ingenuity, not our language per se. Unwittingly, we gave this to them and a hundred other cultures because we mistakenly believed all they were interested in was the money they could earn by learning English.

Imagine that! Here’s a country — China — with however many millions/billions of people (as I mentioned yesterday, facts are not my forte; I’m a mystic, for Pete’s sake!), who could take the U.S. over by simply sending over their strongest and bravest young people and killing or maiming us before we had a chance. (You younger folks won’t know that various Menaces were portrayed for earlier generations in just this way.) But this never happened. Why? Because they discovered creativity is stronger than the sword.

As Americans, we have forgotten that it is our ingenuity that made us a world power in the first place, and it is that aspect of us that other countries want for their citizens. Thus, they send their students to learn our “secret recipe,” if you will. They observe and learn and return to their home countries to teach others. Meanwhile, we use the bulk of our money and ingenuity devising ways to kill and torture people. We send our bravest and strongest overseas with that murderous technology, and, unbelievably, in the name of peacekeeping or peace. Has there ever been such a dangerous oxymoron?

Citizens in some countries backed away quite a while ago, while others are only doing so now. They see the truths we stubbornly refuse to acknowledge. One of them is that the country who proudly brings you such earth-shattering inventions as drones to deliver pizzas, fifty ways to cure your hemorrhoids, and robots that will clean up your dog’s poop, seemingly cannot come up with a creative alternative to war, let alone ensure healthcare as a basic right, or clean air, or pure drinking water for all its citizens, and not just the rich few. They watch in horror as their belief in our democracy crumbles. They know that Democracy is a bottom-up process and not a top-down one; how do we not see that? They watch us charge into various countries — often unasked; or worse, having caused the mess in the first place — with the best of intentions, but placing us further trillions in debt. (I’m reminded of the times others tried to “help” when they were doing anything but. I know I’ve said, “Please, if I get any more of your ‘help,’ we’re all doomed.” I wish the countries who feel that way about the USA would just tell us!)

Seriously, would you be given several hundred thousand dollars because you wanted to keep pests out of your and your neighbors’ gardens? “But I’m doing a really great thing!” you tell the loan officer. The bank, knowing you make $1,000 a month and have a credit rating of 500, just gives you an incredulous stare and calls security. None of us are allowed to spend money so irresponsibly as does our government. We must scrimp and save and budget till we feel like we have been through a war ourselves.

That’s why I’m writing the book, which focuses on a concrete method of living happily within your budget. What I only copped on to today was that the method works not only for individuals, but societies. If enough people realize that their ability to creatively control their lives (including their budgets) can be extrapolated to their fellow citizens, world peace could actually ensue. The reason I couldn’t stop thinking about yesterday’s blog was that I hadn’t realized I’d actually discovered a way to World Peace. That’s what I always wanted, yet thought I was being too idealistic and naive. (And you thought so, too, I know:D). Watch this space, folks; watch this space.

It takes courage to envision a new future, and a lot of creativity. Bombing the hell out of people and places is so 2016. I love the words from a Michael Franti song, a man who also believes things can change: “You can bomb the world to pieces, but you can’t bomb the world to peace.” Amen, bro. I’m reminded, too, of a Vietnam-era poster that said, “What if they gave a war and nobody came?” These statements are meant to raise our consciousness and allow the creative process to begin: the imagining that John Lennon so beautifully articulated in his immortal song.

You can have peace in your lifetime, whether it’s world-wide or not. It really is up to you.


Bring Them Home

I had an entirely different topic in mind for this blog, a very upbeat look at the New Year, but the shutdown of our government presents such an amazing opportunity to change the world for the better, I could not resist proposing at least one option: Let’s take this chance to bring our children and grandchildren serving in the military home. Get them out of Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, and a place most of us didn’t even realize our children were being killed — Yemen.*

Learning that the military leaders Stateside would not lose a penny in the shutdown and that war is considered absolutely the most vital task our country could be conducting, should not have been a surprise to me, but it was. What’s worse, our young people are over there without pay. Even worse, if any of them die, their families are not entitled to the death benefit. Don’t believe me? From ABC news yesterday, 19 January:

Additionally, families will not receive the $100,000 death benefit provided for fallen service members. That money can cover funeral costs and family travel. It also helps to bridge the sudden halt of once-regular paychecks that the deceased was receiving — paychecks that end immediately after the individual is killed.

During the 2013 shutdown, Congress worked to mitigate the shutdown’s effects on the Department of Defense by passing a bill allowing for the death benefits to continue. Another bill allowed service members and “essential” Department of Defense civilian personnel to be exempt from the pay freeze.

“Ah,” you say. “So they’ll be paid retroactively when the shutdown ends.” Um, no. ABC, whether intentionally or not, neglected to mention that (a) the bill allowing for death benefits to continue did not pass, and (b) it was a signed order by President Obama that authorized paying the past wages (but not the death benefit) to military and furloughed government personnel. In case you haven’t been paying attention, anything, but ANYTHING Obama did, Trump will not do. Do I need to repeat that? Anyone believing Trump will pay retroactive wages, let alone death benefits, to our troops overseas is suffering from a major delusion.

So, let’s bring our children home now. We need them, our strongest and bravest young people with a heartfelt desire to defend our constitution. The war against democracy is here. The terrorism of government leaders who champion money over human life is happening right here, right now. Trump and his cronies really thought the Democrats would back down, but that’s because they don’t understand those of us who value human life and dignity over unadulterated greed. This is not a partisan issue; it’s simply about being compassionate humans.

You probably are aware that the military has but few soldiers hailing from the upper class, and even fewer that have Senators or Representatives as parents or grandparents. In fact, it’s less than one percent overall. (There’s that 1%/99% thing again.) Trump and his cronies thus have no “heart investment” in paying or protecting our troops. Trump has lambasted our troops more than once for their lack of skill, bravery, and competence. (This alone should qualify him for impeachment.) Truly, Trump’s way is a dead end.

It’s up to us. Somebody please start up a “Bring Them Home” fund and get our kids out of there. I’d contribute, and I’ll bet you would, too. Let’s do it while they’re still alive. Mothers, fathers, extended families, the Nation; we want you, our fighting sons and daughters, to know WE NEED YOU HERE. You have not been abandoned by those who love you and respect what you’re doing over there. Leave the war, if it must continue, to the mercenaries and professional soldiers. Trump always said they should be the ones there anyway, so let’s let them at it.

Trump probably believes that blaming the shutdown on the Democrats will ensure more Republican wins in the upcoming elections, but he has gravely underestimated the American people. The 99%, those of us who are so happy the Democrats stood up for not only the Dreamers, but all of us, will return the favor by voting against Trump and anyone who supported his racist agenda.

Federal employees too, if they’re honest, realize their jobs came about largely because of the Democrats. And we ALL know it’s mainly warmongering, greedy-for-oil-and-power Republicans who got us into the wars in the first place. Trump is so out of touch with average Americans he believes we all, like he does, only want money and more money. He has no concept of serving our country, for he was never in the military. We all want to prosper, certainly, but not at the expense of our humanity. What does it matter if we “win” (what does that even mean? How will we know?) our various offshore wars against terrorism if there is nothing but racism, hatred, and poverty for our troops to come home to? Indeed, without action on our part, there may be no way to get them home at all, for the parents of the children fighting cannot afford to bring them back — alive or in a box. Trump will make sure they get no financial help, so it’s up to us.

Why can’t we turn at least one aspect of this nightmare into something positive? Can we bring them home? Which is more un-American: a whole-scale walking away from war; or a strutting, pompous President who keeps our strongest and bravest children in bloody arenas just to get his own way? The Democrats drew a line in the sand and stood up to this bully on our behalf. Democrat or Republican, let’s use this time to Bring Our Children Home.

“You may say I’m a dreamer,” as the song goes, and that’s okay. “I’m not the only one,” either. Extraordinary times like these spark the kind of passion and creativeness that give those dreams a real chance of coming true. Let’s change the world!


*The war in Yemen we’ve heard virtually nothing about — even on MSNBC, which aired 5,000% more about Russia in the last six months than Yemen — is unconstitutional because it was undeclared. How much do you want to bet that this is the argument Trump will use to deny payment to all the troops, not just the ones serving there, when the Great Shutdown ends?