Not quite 3 years ago, when I was first working in the city, I met a young woman named Alice. We were waiting in line for food one lunch hour. I was in the flush of new job excitedness. The service was slow. She was in line in front of me, and I, emboldened by my flush of good fortune tossed out a comment meant to elicit a laugh. I got a small smile and we had slightly awkward conversation. Then it was her turn to order and I turned my mind to what I wanted.
As I got my lunch and turned to leave, determined to take my lunch back to my desk, I saw her sitting alone and there was something….I will never know why, but I stopped at her table and said something to the effect of “I was wonder….I’m just going off to eat by myself…if you’re not expecting someone, would you mind if I joined you for lunch?”
She kind of lit up and nodded and made room on the table for me. We talked for the best part of a half hour…not about anything in particular…just the sort of small talk strangers do when they meet. We exchanged names, discovered we both worked nearby and I discovered that she had an older sister who had a medical condition of some kind.
For some reason, I offered her my business card and told her that if she ever needed to talk she should give me a call or she could email me. Then I went back to work. Alice wasn’t a pretty girl and I got the impression that she’d been told so repeatedly. She had a beautiful smile that she hid behind her hand. Her voice was musical and she had a great laugh…but she did not fit conventional ideas of beauty.
It was almost two weeks later that I got an email from her. She asked if we could maybe have lunch together again. I agreed. Over the next little while, we had lunch once or twice a month. I learned a little more about her. Some of it she told me, some I deduced by her behavior. It was maybe 6 months into this friendship that I got a call from her just as I was going to bed. We talked for almost two hours about next to nothing.
It was only a few weeks later that she told me that she’d been planning to kill herself, that she called me with the knife in her hands and my laughter and warmth made her put it down.
Two more times in the last nearly 3 years, she called me as she was sitting with the means to end her life. The last time I wasn’t sure I had talked her down when we finally hung up after 5 hours. But I got an email later that day saying she was seeing her doctor, so I was relieved.
I wouldn’t say I knew her well. I never met her family, though I knew that she felt as though she was a burden to them, especially her mother, because she knew her sister needed their mother more. I knew how she liked her coffee and that she loved chocolate and caramel, that like me she loved getting postcards and snail mail. I have dropped a postcard to her in the mail often, and sometimes I’ll write a little note on a post it, stick it in an envelope and send it to her.
I wouldn’t say we were good friends. I never spent more than an hour in her company in person, our conversations were never very deep or meaningful in content and we often went more than a month without even an email.
The day after I had learned that Alison Jessop had passed from this world, I got a phone call from her phone number, but it wasn’t her voice on the other end. It was her mother. She asked who I was and why my number was one of the five her daughter kept in her phone. I learned that Alice had left a note for her mother, apologizing for being such a problem and that now Delia (her sister) could get all of her mother’s attention…and then she had taken a bottle of pills and gone to sleep.
She hadn’t called, and believe me, I checked. She had just decided she was done hurting, done hunting for the light in the vast darkness that swallowed her.
Yesterday, when I got home from work, there was a card in my mailbox from her mother. The note inside said that she had found a box in her daughter’s closet labeled “Box of Happy” and inside it was every postcard and post it note I had ever sent her, along with odds and ends of other things. There was also something Alice had left and asked her mother to send to me.
In the card was an envelope. In the envelope was a post it note. It said, “Thank you. Goodbye.”
Kindness Matters. It matters so very much.
My 2016 did not start out on the foot I expected, or wanted it to. Three days into the new work year, I was laid off from a job that I loved more than I thought a person could love a regular 9to5 day job.
I don’t hold any grudges. I realize that there are reasons for the lay off. I get that choices are hard in times like these. As much as I don’t like the uncertainty of being out of work, I would never wish it on any of the amazing people I worked with either.
It does, however, put me back in that place I always flounder a bit: the dreaded job search. I am not very good at tooting my own horn. I’ve always let me work speak for itself. However, when you are coming into a situation with no work to show, that can be problematic.
I know I’m good at what I do. I’m a good editor and writer. I’m great at managing projects large and small. I am pretty good with some data analysis. I’ve even learned a bit of code along the way.
The problem is, how do you reflect that in a resume? How do you show the hiring manager of the next great job that you can do the job? How do you convince them to give you the opportunity to prove yourself? Especially when all of your writing samples are company confidential.
I’m really hoping that this is one of those cases where a door is closed and somewhere new a door opens. In the meantime, I apply to as many jobs as I can find in the world of writing, and hope that someone sees past the lines on a resume to recognize the talent I possess while working on the next novel.
I was looking back at posts I’ve made on Facebook for the last few New Year’s eves and there is a resounding theme through them, a theme of love.
Being Pagan, I do my planning for the new year, my working of will to affect change in my own life at Samhain. I don’t do resolutions, as such, because all too often we make big promises to ourselves that we can not even begin to keep and then wallow in our failure. I review all the things I didn’t like about the current year and I make a plan for minimizing those things in the coming year.
At New Years, instead of making resolutions, I choose then to make wishes for others. And for the last three I have wished for love. Not a new relationship. Not a rekindled affair. Not that kind of love. Not the small minded, jealous of others, possessive sort of love. I wish for the kind of love that changed me for the better.
I wish for all to feel the touch of unconditional, unfettered, unstoppable love. The kind you give to yourself first. Let it begin in your heart and burn away your self-doubt, your self-loathing, your fear of inadequacy, your fear of intimacy, your fear of being bold. Let it blossom within you and change the way you see yourself and from there it will change the way you see others, the way you see the world.
Let me pause a moment to address what I mean by unconditional love. It means love without conditions. It does not mean that there are no boundaries on behavior. It does not mean anything goes. It means loving yourself through it all, never letting go of that love. And it applies outward too. Unconditional love for another doesn’t mean you have to allow them to hurt themselves or others. It doesn’t mean approving of everything they do. It doesn’t mean putting yourself in harm’s way.
It means loving them anyway. It means never giving up, never letting go of that love.
When you can embrace that love for yourself, it will drive out the fear and the hate. It will bring you a freedom unlike anything you have ever known.
My wish for you as we head into 2016 is that you find this love, that you share this love, that you give love, that you accept love, that you love yourself. Beyond that, I wish that you do one thing you don’t think you can do, that you face your fears, embrace your faults, that you challenge yourself everyday to be a better version of yourself, that you do something that scares you, do the things that you love, that you help someone who can never repay you and that you care for your body and mind.
May 2016 bring you joy and blessings.
Once upon a time, there was a planet that we named Pluto, and no, it wasn’t named after Mickey Mouse’s pet dog. No, Pluto, in ancient classical Greek mythology was the god of the Underworld, the keeper and ruler of the dead. He was portrayed as a stern lover who stole his love, Persephone, from the land of the living.
The Greek idea of the next world differs quite a bit from our Westernized Judeo-Christian construct. It has many different places within it for the dead to dwell in, from places of torment, to places of everlasting pleasure, and where you ended up was based on how you lived your life.
You may have noticed that many of the objects in near space have names based on mythology. Jupiter, who was the Roman King of the Gods, Mars was the Roman god of war, etc. If you dig a little, you find that Pluto’s moons are also named after people and places associated with or located in the Greek underworld. Charon was the name of the ferryman who took the dead from the land of the living into Hades and his mother was Nix. Kerberos is the Greek spelling of Cerberus, the three headed dog who stands guard at the gates of Hades to prevent the dead from leaving and the living from entering. Hydra, the remaining moon is a sibling to Cerberus. And no, Hydra didn’t start as the villains in a comic book either. The Hydra was the offspring of Echidna, who was half woman and half serpent, and Typhon, who even the gods feared. Like Cerberus, the Hydra defended a gate to the Underworld, one that was underwater.
Interestingly enough, Pluto was thought to be the ninth planet in our solar system until the planet Eris was discovered, Eris being the goddess of chaos. Eris is said to have tossed a golden apple into the midst of the goddesses Hera, Athena and Aphrodite with an inscription stating that it was for “the most beautiful one” causing an uproar as each sought to claim it. Fitting she’d come along to upset the apple cart again, no?
Pluto, the god, lived apart from his fellow gods for the most part, with mostly the dead for company. Fittingly, Pluto, the planet (or dwarf-planet, if you prefer) lives out of sync with the rest of us, it’s orbit off kilter, higher and more elliptical than circular. Of course, we couldn’t have known that when we first found it, just like we couldn’t know most of the details we’ll be finding out as the New Horizons probe sends more data and our earth bound scientists can sort through it all.
It’s a little bit awe inspiring to think about it, about this little man made probe we hurled out into the darkness of space, and it’s nine year journey to get to Pluto, the data and images it has sent back, and will continue to send back providing nothing breaks it or throws it back at us. It’s a little like we’re connecting two dots, the distant, ancient past and the distant, unknowable future, drawing them in a circle around us and trying to tell the story.
Or I’m just a mythology geek and a lover of science and space and couldn’t resist the chance to trot them out for your perusal.
Here’s the thing…there is nothing wrong with being proud of who you are, your heritage, your history, your skin color, your culture, no matter who you are (well, unless that history/culture/etc gives you reason to not be proud, as much of America is doing now). I don’t care what color you are, what gender, what orientation, gender expression, religion, nationality, etc you happen to be. Go ahead, be proud. Go you.
However, when you translate that pride into needing to put all others (or any others really) down in order to maintain that pride, you overstep, you needlessly create the climate of Us vs THEM.
You can be proud of who you are without denigrating others. You can be a proud, straight, white, Christian man without stepping on the proud, gay, black Atheist man. You can be a proud, married Christian woman without denying the same pride to the single mother of mixed race children.
Your happiness, your success, your pride is NOT reliant on someone else’s misery, or failure or abject terror to simply walk out the door. We have to stop casting ourselves in a conflict that shouldn’t exist. That wouldn’t exist if we would walk away from it.
We have real problems right now. We have a race problem. We have a class problem. We have an equality problem. I believe in equality for all. Without exception. I believe we all have a right to be who we are, to not be afraid to go to the pool on a hot summer day or walk through a neighborhood or go to church, to marry whomever we love, to raise our families according to what we believe.
The Declaration of Independence, the document that launched our fight to become the nation we have become says, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that ALL men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
All men. It doesn’t say only straight, white Christian men with money. It doesn’t say just the men we like. It doesn’t even say just our citizens or just free men or just anything. It says all. All men are created equal. ALL.
So, go ahead, be proud all you want. But don’t be a racist. Don’t be religionist. Don’t be genderist. Don’t use your pride like a weapon. Your pride is for you. Your pride supports you. It doesn’t have to tear everyone else down.
I want to challenge you to try something new. I challenge you to stop attacking, put down the sword you’ve carved out of fear and hatred and set aside your pride for a moment. Sit down with someone different, someone you feel is attacking your right to pride in who you are. Talk to them, listen to them. Live as they live, feel what they feel. You might discover that what you’ve been mistaking as an attack on you is nothing more than someone trying to stand up under the weight of your pride dressed in bigotry and suppression.
There is room for all of us. Rather than using your pride in who you are to keep others down, use it to create a platform, use it to pull those others up, Remember, we are all created equal at birth. It sin’t birth that divides us, it’s us. And only together can we find our way back to equal.
Twice in recent weeks, I have been told that I am “a very good Christian woman” by people I didn’t know who witnessed something I’d said or done. I just smiled and said thank you and wished them a pleasant day.
Now, I think most of you out there reading this know that I am not a Christian, and I haven’t been one for years. There are still parts of Christianity that ring true to me at times, and funny, but those are the parts that the “Public Face” of Christianity seems to be lacking these days.
I generally don’t like to put labels to what I believe and when pressed I will mumble something about being an eclectic shamanic witch with agnostic or panentheistic leanings (depending on how I’m feeling about the Divine at that moment)…but I can say whatever the label I put on what I believe, the driving impetus of that belief is love and kindness. (From that stems service and the sharing of self, but that isn’t my point for this post so I won’t bend your ear on it).
The love in my heart, in my being, drove me to leave behind a religion I had come to feel was hateful and hurtful and incapable of understanding what love, unconditional, sacred love, actually is. If I were to judge by the world I see around me today, that continues to be true.
If you believe that the Bible is the word of God, and the bible tells you in Matthew that “you will know them by their fruits” and in Galations that “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,”…even this Pagan can look at Pastors who preach from the pulpit how much they HATE another they have never met, or teaches their congregation to HATE homosexuals or Muslims, or prays that another would die a horrible death…I can look at that and tell you those are some pretty ugly fruits they’re dangling.
It scares me, the level of hatred I see in the world around me…the number of people claiming to know what God thinks, what he wants and inevitably the people screaming these things are wearing the label of Christian and all they seem to want to talk about is everyone else’s “sin” and how God hates.
Taking a step back from religion for a moment, I have to also say that, that kind of hate? It’s exhausting. It’s bad for you physically. It’s bad for you emotionally. It can interfere in your relationships, it can destroy marriages and parental bonds. It can affect your heart and your blood pressure.
Here’s how I look at things these days. When something comes up in politics or news or my daily life that others feel the need to have me judge in some way, I come at it like this: Does it immediately affect me or my family? If yes, in a good way or a bad way? Does it marginalize, demonize or demoralize any person or group? Is it any of my business? Does it promote absolute equality? Does it promote love and kindness? More often than not, these questions lead me to judge that it’s none of my concern.
If we look at current events, lets say the chaos in McKinney: Does a racist cop and/or teacher affect me or my family? Not directly. Does it marginalize, demonize or demoralize any person or group? Yes, it does. Is it any of my business? Not overtly, but in the general, societal me, it does. Does it promote equality, love and kindness? Not even. Judgment? Cop and Teacher need to be educated and invited to take jobs in positions less likely to cause them to cause harm to others.
How about Caitlyn Jenner? Does her coming out affect me or my family? Not particularly, though some may take more interest in it than others. Does it marginalize, demonize or demoralize any person or group? Nope. Is it any of my business? Nope. Does it promote equality, love and kindness? Well, in ways it does…or is a request for them. Either way, live and let live. Her life is her life.
Okay, I’ll climb down off this soap box now and return you to your regularly scheduled perusal of the interwebs and cat videos. I will continue to hope everyone finds a way past the hate in their hearts to find the love that they have buried so deeply within. Unconditional, life changing, unbelievable love. Religion optional.