Wednesday, June 29, 2005

raging thunder lizard evangelist agents for change

Don't ask yourself what the world needs; ask yourself what makes you come alive. And then go and do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.
- Harold Whitman

In writing this book project I'm working on, I realized how painful writing can be for me. It comes out in fits and starts, particularly at the beginning. I say painful because its almost as if I'm depleting my life force by taking it from my mind and soul and putting my creative expressions in words. However I don't feel like that when I'm writing something open and free like this blog or in my journal. I think part of it is that I have complete creative freedom and expression and no deadline and no one to impress or please. I feel very attached to my creative expressive writing because its a part of me, only I can write these particular words and had these particular experiences.

Yesterday, I listened to this "community call" with Alanis Morrissette and author Cheryl Richardson (Stand Up For Your Life) and Alanis talked about how the work-horse mentality for her is such an inspiration killer, and that she'd rather go eat bonbons than work in an environment like that! I completely relate to that. She said that for her best expressive talents to come out, it was vitally important to be surrounded by people excited by the process of creating, who are non-invested in the outcome. She needed to have an environment where giddiness and joy were present. She also expressed how people around artists need to understand the sensitivity of the creative environment for the artist, and artists themselves have to be vigilant about guarding the artist spirit/inner child. This resonated deeply with me. (You can listen to the hour-long call at 405-244-4000 then punch 158).

I have had some feisty moments lately with some friendships, but I also am realizing that the fiery passion that lives in me - my protective bear spirit -- is itself my creative energy, the passion that makes me excited to live, to love, to have this and every day to write, to have friendships, to smile at the giggling of my friend's toddler when he pets our kitty, to just be excited about making things happen (these things are the manna in my day that feeds me). Our anger or rage against injustice and our voice that speaks our own truth is not something to be hidden away, it is the force that creates change - to make our lives better for ourselves, but also makes the world a better place for our children.

A colleague at work once had the official title "Raging Inexorable Thunder Lizard Evangelist Agent for Change" - Is that cool or what?! I think it is my new unofficial title, #2 in charge. Ha ha! But I'll have to add Bohemian to the title... Raging Inexorable Thunder Lizard Bohemian Evangelist Agent For Change. Or Raging Inexorable Bohemian Thunder Lizard Evangelist Agent For Change? Here is a quote from an article in Fast Company magazine: "Being a thunder-lizard is about fighting the silly notion that passion doesn't belong in the workplace. We need to harness passion."

Monday, June 27, 2005

emotional intimacy and fear

As I was running today, I was thinking about my two "best year" goals, and I had been leaning toward "having more fun/finding more like-minded friends" as one (the other is a professional goal). But I got to thinking that it doesn't matter how many friends I have or how many fun things I do, what I really crave and need to learn and stretch to do is emotional intimacy - with my kids, with my friends, with the people I love. I feel my attachments very passionately, and I have deep love for my family and friends, but I find it somehow really hard to really let people in.

The ironic thing is that I tend to wear my heart on my sleeve, and I can be very talkative, and I write prolifically. I have few secrets, so my life is like an open book. But what struck me was that I almost use writing and talking as my medium for connection at the expense of really, truly, deeply letting people in, or moving it to a deeper level, or even listening to the other person's life and needs and wants. I push people away when they get too close in one way or another. I tend to work myself to death, with so many things on my plate, and have to force myself out of the house to spend time with the kids. Either I'm too busy for people, or I find ways to sabotage the relationship from its full potential. I did this with the love of my life, because as I felt myself getting deeply attached and closer, I pushed him away because I was terrified of being hurt or letting him in too deep. Of course it backfired. What I really wanted was a closer connection but that's not what I did and that's not what happened. I think it will continue to work itself out, but its a bit scary how it can come and bite you in the ass.

Am I a good listener? Probably not. A lot of people open up to me, so maybe I am (I want to be), but am I more interested in everyone else hearing all about "me" and my needs and desires and wishes, or really connecting on a deeper level and hearing about their truths and needs and desires. I think its because my "story" (as Debbie Ford calls it) is that I am unwanted, nobody cares about me - so listen to me, hear me, tell me I am important. The goal of Debbie Ford's work is to live outside of the story and to be fully alive and passionate and not whine and complain and live in our story. Its tough! Intellectually I do know that acknowledging another's perspective is absolutely critical to true understanding and empathy and connection. Its hard to get from the stage of intellectual understanding to implementing it in my own life.

Anyway, so I think that will be my year's challenge, to learn to emotionally connect with people I care about, starting with my kids. I am actually pretty good with keeping up with people, friends & family, but I want to take these things to a deeper level, to challenge myself to be brave and listen better and love in a way that seeks the other's best interest before my own and see how it blesses my life and theirs.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

camping and making one's heart light as a feather

What would life be like without kids? I love those little crazies. I took them with me to Angelina National Forest where we learned about longleaf pine ecosystems with a USFS biologist, and then the kids and I camped at Martin Dies Jr. State Park at the northern edge of the Big Thicket. They complained the whole time we were out with the biologist ("it's hot," "I don't feel good," "Sam says he would rather be at the MALL shopping than out here!" etc etc).

I sent them on a quest to find the coolest pine cone, which Sam took to with abandon and Savannah ignored completely. Halfway through the day, Savannah was whining and complaining and I gave her a little talkin'-to about appreciating the day and the moment because it can always be worse - all the things we have can disappear in an instant: our health, our family, our financial blessings. I told her kids her age have suffered through cancer, the Great Depression where families struggled to put food on the table or keep the kids at home at all, the death of family members. While this may seem harsh for a kid, I believe they must learn this lesson because it's a deep truth. The present moment is all we truly have, and I believe so much "life" is lost because we fail to just take a deep breath and appreciate that we can breathe, that we can walk, that we can talk, smell, taste, hug, and see and appreciate the beautiful outdoors. (See more photos of Angelina NF and Martin Dies Jr SP.)

Immediately after this "talk" we went swimming in Sexton Pond at Boykin Springs campground of the Angelina National Forest, and she cheered up quite a bit. In the pond I told her she was my Mystery Magic, and she liked this at the time, at least it made her smile. I decided Sam was my Sunshine Crazy. I am still working on a name for myself but it starts with Bohemian. The kids thought Bohemian Stupidhead sounded good... I said if you both came from me, then I must be Bohemian Magic Sunshine or Bohemian Mystery Crazy.

Sam convinced us all to try to catch minnows by hand, at which we failed miserably. Then he found a hairy mud monster, which he proceeded to try to attack Savannah and I with. We had a great time. On the way back to the car, Savannah started singing a song the kids made up at school that just cracked me up, I just love the silliness of kids. In chapel they sing the song "Go now in peace..." and she was singing "go now in peas... go now in broccoli... may the love of the Lord surround you..." I just think kids are funny. To listen to what they talk about and how their minds think is fascinating. I get so busy, its easy to miss so much of it. Even when they whine 50% of the time, its worth it when they give great big hugs and make me smile by their silliness.

What makes me feel great is when I can just be myself and act silly (which is me being me...); when I can laugh and do cartwheels and roll down grassy hills and hang upside down on the monkey bars and pick my kids up and spin them around in the middle of the mall and make silly faces and really not give a rats a** what anyone else thinks. And I do these things! But more often than not we grownups are so constrained to worry about what everyone else thinks. I really abhor being a grownup sometimes because of this. Because it's not that I'm worried about what other people think in terms of doing something immoral or unethical but its more, "Is being me ok?" if being me is something certain people might frown on - I'm too old to act like that, I talk too much ("chatty Cathy" persona - LOL), I open my mouth (or my outgoing email) when I should shut up, then I obsess over if I said the wrong thing, I don't ask the right people permission, I ask too many questions, I don't trust, I have thin boundaries... so many things that are just me learning how to live and yet is it ok to be here where I am? Is it ok to not be perfect? Yet?! In the mall today after a movie I was swinging my bag around and around and she was like "Mom! That is something a kid does! You are supposed to be old and boring like a grown-up." So I proceeded to pick her up and twirl her around and around several times, and she laughed and acted embarrassed but I know she loves it (because she gave me a big hug). Why should kids have all the fun?

I had an odd family structure growing up and I really taught myself most of what I needed to know about life (much through music and books); my dad and mom and Celeta and Skip taught much about being a genuine and "good" person, but I learned so little about how to interact with other people because I never had a real or cohesive family unit, and I spent most of my time alone, reading, doing my own thing, or proving adults wrong so that I learned not to trust authority. This issue is something I am working on, how to interact in a team. Savannah and I went to see the movie "The Perfect Man" tonight and the teenager has a line at the end of the movie when she wants to move and says, "I'm done with these people, I want new ones." I remember feeling that exact same thing when I was growing up - we moved so often that I rarely had to deal with working things through with friends and people who I went to school with. I remember being glad to move again because I could completely start over. In a meditation before we saw the movie, that same message came to me, that I need to learn to stay and work through things when they get tough and everything isn't perfect. Weird!

To the questions of whether it's ok to be one's imperfect self, Debbie Ford retells a beautiful lesson she learned from her rabbi: to write on a piece of paper, "I am nothing but dust and ashes" and put it in one pocket and meditate on it. Then write on another piece of paper, "The whole universe was created just for me" and put it in the other pocket. Then meditate on both truths. She also related something Deepak Chopra said, which is that when we die God puts our heart in one hand and a feather in another; if our heart is lighter than the feather we know we have evolved. I like this because so many people (myself included) have heavy hearts, we become entangled as we weave our way through life's spiderwebs. To find the Way that makes our heart light and joyful has got to be the greatest gift we can give ourselves and those who encounter us in life. Jesus did say that he came so that we could have life, and have it to the full (Jn 10:10); and to lay our burdens on him, "For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." (Mt 11:30). How to get from here to there, that is the question. I think part of the answer is that the joy comes like manna to God's people in the desert: a hug, the splashing of water, the lesson learned, the work completed successfully, an awareness and recognition in the present moment that "I am alive, healthy, have two great kids and wonderful friends and an imperfect but loving family..." The huge mountaintop moments come only rarely, but manna comes daily, we just have to recognize the smallness of it can still nourish every part of our soul and provide just what God knows we need.

Anne LaMott completely cracks me up. She has got to be my all-time favorite author. My friend Daline and I have been talking about the parts of our personality that we define (Daline gives them names, aka chatty Cathy, so I started this practice too). I am reminded of something in LaMott's book "Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life" where she relates the chattering voices in her head, and how she mentally shrinks them down and puts them in a jar, screws the lids on tight and watches them chattering away clawing at the sides. She writes, "There's the vinegar-lipped Reader Lady who says primly, 'Well that's not very interesting is it?'" and then about sitting down to write, "Then your mental illnesses arive at the desk like your sickest, most secretive relatives. And they pull up chairs in a semicircle around the computer, and they try to be quiet but you know they are there with their weird coppery breath, leering at you behind your back." I love someone who can make me laugh because I hate to say it, but I don't laugh much anymore, and someone who can make me laugh out loud is my hero! I can usually make myself laugh at myself (I do write things and laugh out loud at them...), and sometime my kids make me laugh but sheesh I gotta work on this...

Friday, June 17, 2005

who inspires me

"Be the change you want to see in the world. - Mahatma Ghandi

I feel such a desire to make a difference and to get change implemented in the world. Yet it feels overwhelming. I remember protesting a nuclear power plant with my dad in Oregon when I was 8 years old. My activist roots go way back... I find I can get things done fairly well myself but I don't know how to motivate others. I am often told how there is a lack of people wanting to volunteer, or take on leadership roles. Why is this? I see my whole life as a mission field - not just teaching others about the Way (love), but about getting out there and making things happen. Stop flapping jaws and start implementing the change you want to see.

The person who inspires me most in this area of making a difference in wildlife conservation/environmental activism is J. Nichols. I met J. when I wrote an article about him, "It Takes a Village" for Animals Magazine in 1998. He studies and works to conserve sea turtles, which are near and dear to my heart. J. has worked closely with the Baja fishermen and citizens in raising awareness about the sea turtles, and has since then co-founded and directed the nonprofit, Wildcoast, and now works with Carl Safina at Blue Ocean Institute, and is also instrumental in starting the new Ocean Revolution. I am amazed at how he has networked with so many people, and made so many efforts successful on so many levels. I love how he loves his work and seems a part of something bigger than himself - creates it even. I talked about this some a few days ago re. wanting to be a a part of something bigger. I am just so inspired that you can be around people who care so much and love living and what they're doing. I feel that way but I'm not surrounded by people who do - or if I am, they certainly don't come together in collaborative ways like that. Maybe I will just have to make some of that happen myself.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

wilderness warrior women!

I spent Saturday doing trail maintenance on the Lone Star Hiking Trail with Sierra Club volunteer and piney woods expert Brandt Mannchen and with Ruthanne. We dubbed ourselves Wilderness Warrior Women! The Lone Star hiking trail runs through the Sam Houston National Forest and at over 120 miles is the longest contiguous hiking trail in Texas. Much of it runs through red-cockaded woodpecker habitat (a federally endangered species), and the USFS manages the forest to maintain open park-like stands of pine with little mid-story, but some runs through the Lake Creek Wilderness Area that opened my eyes to an astounding fact: most of the Sam Houston NF area that I saw not have downed, rotting logs. When you see them all over the forest, you realize this is the way a forest should look. When I grew up in the woods of Oregon the moss-covered soft red rotting logs were part and parcel of the ecosystem - mushrooms, small mammals, reptiles, insects all use these logs - and they are integral to its beauty.

The ironic and interesting thing is that the Lake Creek Wilderness area suffered an infestation of pine bark beetles 10 years ago, and everyone thought they devastated the forest. A mere ten years later, those logs from the pines killed by the pine bark beetles now make the wilderness area the most aesthetically pleasing part of the National Forest and presumably create far more structure for wildlife than the stands managed only for endangered red-cockaded woodpeckers. This has been debated for US Forest Service biologists and is the subject of lawsuits... I claim no personal expertise but can say the actual designated Wilderness Area is incredibly beautiful and the rotting logs add beautiful topography to the landscape.

Even the part of the trail we walked that wasn't in the Wilderness Area was beautiful. I just love getting outside - no matter the heat, I love to walk in the woods and observe and explore. The national forests go on for thousands of acres around Houston, across streams and over hillsides. They are adapted to historic fire and so forest managers do prescribed burns. You can see on this photo of a large tree evidence of a burn - the tree survives just fine. Brandt's "theory" is that most people don't know what a big tree is - they see a medium-sized pine and think its a big tree. Its because most of the really big trees are gone. However you see a tree like the one in the photo and you realize prior to logging in the late 1800s, most pines used to grow to this girth and beyond - their life span would be 300 years if we did not log them.

Take a look at some of the other photos from the day.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

blueberries, kids, and the hippie generation

The kids and I went blueberry picking with some friends today. I enjoy it, its almost like a meditation, the picking of berries off of the trees and filling up the bucket. I remember the first year we went, Sam was not yet two and by the time we got to the car, he had nearly whole blueberries in his poopie diaper!!! I had to laugh that berries could go through him that fast...

I looked at an old video of the kids recently and am always so touched by how little they were, or things I forgot. Time goes by so fast, but I am also reminded of how many things we have all done together over the years. (The photo is Savannah's 4th bday, several years ago...such an intense look in her eyes, wonder, curiosity; such little hands. Kids are so precious). Sam got out his baby book today and I totally cracked up reading what I wrote on foods he liked: "Bananas, oranges, spaghetti, grapes, venison, salmon, catfish. OK, let's face it - anything! Even non-food (or particularly non-food - dog food, pine cones, dog poop - LOL! paper, ugh!) This boy puts everything and anything in his mouth and swallows! Oh yes, and the excitement of getting one of his chewable vitamins! Oh! It's hysterical! He can barely control himself." Above all my darling Sam has joie de vivre! I had completely forgotten about all those things... I love that I wrote things down because memories can be so sporadic.

Looking at the photos of the whole family together, our drive to Alaska, our kayak trips, trips to Mississippi, so many things we did together. I miss the unity of the family. That is the hardest part of divorce I think. I am really grateful that I am friends with my ex still. He always has good advice for me, and I know he genuinely cares about me and that is nice. So people ask why did I leave but that is a complicated question. I think I will go to the grave not knowing if I did the right thing or not. Probably in some ways it was wrong and in some ways right. There were some selfish motives and some unselfish ones. And ultimately we both were involved in the dissolution.

I always related to hippies growing up because of my dad. He got me this coffee table book "Hippie" and looking at all the photos and text, I realized there are only parts of the hippie generation I relate to. I've outgrown my wild party days of youth, I am not into the whole free love thing, and I can't honestly say that I am a pacifist (C.S. Lewis' writing reflect my opinions on this), but what I relate to are the messages in the music, and the unorganized but real power of a generation believing in something other than the pursuit of their own selfish dreams (motivated by economic gain). They sought education, opposed the Vietnam war and demonstrated for peace, fought the establishment, sought women's rights, black rights, gay rights, established Earth Day, became entranced by music, wore flowers in their hair, pursued joy and love. Today people seem mostly apathetic. There is no unified movement of people seeking to improve the world or better themselves. There is nothing or no movement to feel that I am a part of it, or that I'd be willing to feel connected with or motivated by. Even the Christian community in my opinion falls way short of what it could be. In my time of direst need (my divorce and the depression afterwards) nobody reached out to me from the church, really only Matt (my ex!) and my mom and dad and a couple of friends were there for me. In the end we all have to walk our own road, but it would be nice to be a part of something bigger, something true and right and blessed. Sometimes though it takes hell to bring people together, like Sept 11. Its so easy for people to take the wrong road, and that is pursuing selfish desires, not considering others, putting economic gain over doing the right thing ("the love of money is the root of all evil" Timothy 6:10).

I guess the thing I seek in life more than anything is connection. Its a rare gift and requires becoming vulnerable and to risk being disappointed.