Marching to Souza

I always come back to the same mental problem: What am I missing? What do I need to change? What could be better?

I remember reading a quote in middle school saying that only a fool never changes his mind. I liked this. I grew up arguing with my younger sister on a daily basis, and in these arguments there were no rules. Something you said yesterday could certainly be held against you years later, even if your mind had been legitimately changed. I liked the idea of a freedom to pursue the truth, regardless of what I once thought. And rightly so! As a child, I was told that yoga was a cult religion, that a tall glass of milk a day was good for you, and that an overweight man would break in on the celebration of Christ’s birth and eat our food. We have to evolve if we want to understand real truth. But something occurred in my child mind that day that would shape my adult personality. At any point, I should be seeking to change myself, to modify my truth, to get it as close to The Truth as possible. It has been an exhausting ride, my friends.

So many of us take the complicated route to Truth. My husband Robert and I have had our share of filling the “God-Shaped Hole” with food and clothes. As we try to escape this existence, we justify smaller acts – “it’s not so bad if we use a Groupon!” “It’s the thrift store, I can buy whatever I want! Whee!” but none of these things delivered Truth.

Last night I was showing Robert and our dog Logan my progress in playing Moonlight Sonata, and we discussed the timing of certain parts. We searched the internet for various versions, and compared. This depressing song made us so happy as we focused only on it, like a meditation. Logan drowsed in and out of sleep, clearly a fan of the Classics. Then Robert asked, “what next?” – “Lacrimosa!” I yelled.

“Now what?” I asked, after that.

“Souza!” he yelled, jokingly. But it struck a chord. I was transported to my six-year-old existence, marching in the living room to an old record of Souza marches. “YES!”

And so we marched, and kicked, and jumped, like it was the Fourth of July. I channeled my child self last night – I was transported.

Truth is not out there. It is not found in the world. It isn’t even in family. It is within ourselves. Without the capacity to appreciate that family, that tree, that music, it is but clutter in our muddled minds. Let your Truth shine.

Naomi Wolf- Dangerous Writing

Author Naomi Wolf gave a keynote address at Columbus State Community College today as part of an ongoing seminar. Though not currently a student, writer, or seminar-goer, I felt drawn to it after reading a brief bio of this bright and inspiring author.

The address was given as part of a writing conference, but it was largely focused on advocacy. From mild surprise at hearing the C-word to a notebook full of excellent tips, it was engaging and well worth my time.

The most interesting point was the need to find your voice before you can become a writer who will affect any kind of change, and the fact that it will not be easy; in fact, it may be risky or even dangerous. From blogging all the way back to editing my high school yearbook, I’ve always thought of writing as a way to please, inspire and entertain. I’ve always considered what family would think about my writing, how it fits into my perceived sense of self, etc. Imagine… me, rocking the boat!

So. The things I care about: the earth, health, nonviolence and civil disobedience only when necessary, kindness, equality, ending hunger, anti-corporation in favor of a village life dynamic, mindfulness of how we affect others, rejecting society’s proposed categories and requirements for different types of people, reconnecting members of society to one another, limiting or eliminating technology, rejecting society’s views altogether in favor of positive social change, leading those who would seek to enact social change so they do not act on anger, damage their causes, or alienate others (Jesus, Gandhi, Dr. King). Now you have that to look forward to.

Perspective, Balance, Meditation

Seven years ago, my husband was stationed in Hawaii. He was in the military though he wouldn’t hurt a fly, and I was fighting against my pacifist background to tolerate military life. As newlyweds, we enjoyed the freedom we had to make a new life for ourselves, to have our weekends free, to be far away from social pressures we experienced at home. Two years in, he was done with the military and we were shipped back home to Ohio. Jobless, homeless, living with a family member temporarily, I felt rootless, like a maple tree helicopter twirling and twirling down toward the earth, prey to the slightest breeze. Up until that time, I had never experienced a financial crisis, and the sensation took me completely by storm. While Robert felt now was the time for a little relaxation before we started “real life” again, I fretted over being uninsured, having to depend upon another for shelter, and the perceived shame of having failed at life. During this time, I had to take meds just to be in control of my anxiety. I found a job and was able to get off the meds quickly.

Years later, because of said job, I was back on them along with a sleep aid. While I didn’t have adverse reactions to either, I felt a certain shame at not being able to handle life’s troubles. I wanted to move on, but I didn’t feel I had the skills to handle my stresses alone. As I waned myself off of these meds, I found replacements for each. Melatonin for sleep, St. John’s Wort for a reassuring feeling. These gave me the feeling of outside support, and probably acted as placebos more than anything else.

Off meds and in control, I knew I needed to tackle the root of the problem: caring too much about what others think, and worrying too much about life’s what-ifs. I began to read self-help books and found almost every one I read extremely helpful. I think the most important element to my success what that I was open to improvement, I felt desperate for guidance and therefore did not judge or doubt the advice I received. Through this, I discovered meditation.

Most people I know who don’t already meditate tend to shut down when I mention the word. Surprisingly, it is occasionally still thought of as hocus pocus, pagan practice, the work of the devil. These people must picture me contorted and speaking in a strange language, practicing evil magic.

I’ve also noticed that it is best mentioned when someone is actually coming to you for advice; unwanted advice is rarely put into use.

But meditation is simply the intention to focus your attention, quieting the mind. From observing your breath to chanting “ohm,” there are good reasons and good benefits to each type of meditation. It has helped me tremendously. In some way, guided meditation is comforting to me just because I am able to listen to a calming voice, and I put some amount of trust in that voice.

The other day, a friend was struggling with a romantic relationship, wondering how best to handle her situation. An hour later, she was ruminating over the same several factors that we had discussed. Her mind could not break free from this cyclical thinking, and she would likely be up all night in the same manner. I suggested she Google guided meditation and make an effort to get some perspective on her situation. After all, she has a choice over how her life will progress, she is not being persecuted or abused, and her basic needs are being met.

Surprisingly, she was open to the idea. To me, this is how God sometimes affects positive change in our lives. A conflict is brought about which forces us to assess ourselves and seek outside help or make a concerted effort to improve. Whenever I have trouble sleeping, I step away from the situation and ask, what is out of balance? A day or two later, I discover something was out of balance – whether I was not being mindful enough of the blessings in my life, or wasn’t allowing enough time for decompression at the end of the day, I needed to make a change to find my inner quiet again.

Poor Logan has …

Poor Logan has had a recurring ear infection off an on, despite veterinary medications. We’ve gone through three tiny squeeze bottles, countless cotton swabs, and always it comes back. He has floppy ears so he’s prone.

It’s no longer feasible, or justifiable, to continue spending money on these medications. I found a recipe for a home remedy: 1 part witch hazel, 1 part apple cider vinegar.

I have half a bottle of witch hazel left – I used to use it as toner for my face, but I no longer need it thanks to my hygiene/beauty regimen. More on that later. 🙂

All I needed to buy was a $4 bottle of apple cider vinegar, and we are in business! I funneled the vinegar into the other bottle, and it works perfect as a squeeze bottle. The first time I tried this, Logan was shocked at having something squirted into his ear with such volume and speed. He shook his head back and forth, and ear wax actually flew out in mass amounts, so it was definitely successful in breaking it up. If your dog doesn’t like the idea of squirting, you may want to assign a wash cloth just for him and apply the solution to the cloth before working it in.

I’m usually an advocate of self-sufficiency and frugality, but this took me to a whole new level. Being able to care for my dog naturally, and work within my means, is truly gratifying and gives me a sense of pride.

Happy dog!

Aside

New Territory

For over four years, I’ve felt my job doesn’t do any harm, but doesn’t do any good. I tend to feel more and more jobs are being created like that in this society of efficiency and isolation of tasks. And often during this time, I’ve wished I could just have more time to myself, to pursue my own interests, alternative ventures.

Two weeks ago, I was laid off. I got my wish! Though the first day was a shock, and it didn’t really sink in until the third day or so, I am grateful for this opportunity to seek other ventures.

As a dutiful child born in the 80s, I of course feel pangs of guilt at the idea of not contributing to my society or household for the past two weeks. I did not grow up in a one-income household, and can’t fathom the workings. Having meals ready and taking the dog for walks doesn’t feel like quite enough responsibility. But a wise friend told me the key to dealing with this is to wake up early every morning and do something productive, to work on the things I’ve always wanted to. She asked me what they were, and I replied, “writing, getting in shape, hula hooping, taking the dog to the park, getting rid of my yarn stash…”

My work is cut out for me. I have busted out about 5 tricks with the hoop, I can feel my body shrinking just a little, I have more energy and I don’t feel my life force being drained from me and injected into corporation. My dog is happier, and I’ve made a few washcloths with the mass of yarn I’ve bought and not used.

I began looking for jobs and got a nibble or two. But going back to that begins to stress me out almost more than being jobless. I am meant for something. And it is not a desk job. When I had a job I couldn’t see an end. My situation seemed more comfortable than alternatives – safer, more consistent, stable. Without those things, I feel happier. I feel I can breathe.

Here, I will begin to explore making do on less, being in harmony with my situation at any given point, and living richer and fuller than I ever have. I am in love with my husband of 6 years, our dog is healthy as are we, and we have family and friends all around us. I like myself and I am proud of the person I am. I needed to be shaken up to truly appreciate this. I am grateful for this opportunity.