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I was thinking about how much I love Pema Chodron, David Whyte, Buddhadarma magazine, anything India or Hindu or yoga related, my energy healing school… why don’t I just join a religious order someday?

I can’t speak for someday. I may hit a yoga retreat or an ashram or visit a Christian religious order just to clean up or get new clarity. I want to visit (almost) every place of worship with every loved one who will invite me, from the Hindu temple with Vidya for puja back to Christchurch in Rugby or Epiphany with my mom. Maybe I’ll take the Art of Living course for my birthday.Maybe I’ll go back to work for some difficult, bureaucratic, profitless agency that lets me help people and stresses me with the hardships of our clientele and staff.

But I could not just walk away permanently. I realized that I love this world, and that is why the answer is no. Spiritual practice must not be something that just sits off to the side waiting for an acceptable time. It is where the rubber hits the road– when someone pisses me off, when I am afraid, when I am celebrating, when there is injustice, mendacity, thoughtlessness, hurt, waste, pain, violence whether in words between family or warfare between nations– that tests what I believe and what I am growing to be.

My Tassajara would be a bed and breakfast where travelers can find family meals from my own garden and welcome and comfort. My 29 Palms is the beach at my Mom and Dad and Grammy’s house, Kim’s back patio looking out over the little lake, or Station Camp in Big South Fork, until such time as we can afford that second home in West Virginia near Granny’s house. I find so much to be grateful for each day, I just have to remember to see it and be grateful.

I don’t need a retreat. I need to be mindful. I can find a walking meditation counting flowers as cars roar by on the smelly city street that is the way to and from my child’s school. I know wine shrinks your brain but ‘this is the blood shed for thee’, and I love to taste it and cook with it. I can find a meditative joy in cooking mindfully, trying to nourish my family with healthy food, swimming upstream against the food industry. I can find a meditation in cleaning and organizing and FitTV. There is so much music to enjoy on YouTube or alternative radio or someday when we have a babysitter again in clubs.

I have about ten vocations… for one of them I might learn Buddhist counseling methods– just read a wonderful article about that in Buddhadarma magazine. I’d love to do that with a fat helping of Jungian study in San Francisco and Kabbalah from the School of Healing Arts in Nashville. I don’t have answers any more than anyone else does… and the answers are right within us, within our values and hopes and need and dreams. And this is our life, our kingdom come.

I love this world. Some parts of it hurt– people do nasty crappy things here in LA, as I know they do everywhere (though maybe not quite so often or willingly!). I think about losses and griefs. I screw up, judge, feel anxious, get irritated. I struggle with giving up unhealthy behaviors– all legal, but not healthy. Travel has forced me over and over again to reframe in a way that has been hard but good for me. How I handle these is constant opportunity for meditation without abandoning daily life. Spirituality can be a retreat, an abandonment of real life… I will never retreat. Meet me right here.

In that spirit, with my usual dedication to reverence and irreverence, here’s one of my theme songs. Stop right here if you don’t like ugly words.

The Bill O’Reilly Dance Remix used to give me a much needed laugh and relief from tension when I was working at the library. Okay, we don’t live in Darfur or anything, but outside of that… simple daily things were so hard I cannot describe it. F* it! I can’t do it! What a joy to have Bill express how I felt so eloquently every single day. I laughed my head off no matter how many times I watched it.

Now the video still gives me great joy– Kim R. just posted it on her fb page this morning and I’ve watched it about five times already and will probably watch it five more. But now the line that speaks to me is F* it! We’ll do it live!

Doing it live…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5j2YDq6FkVE

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Yes, Valentine’s Day is a greeting card holiday, and we should be celebrating connections with people we care about all year long. The odious onus of finding something to ‘show we care’ slaps us in the head yet again way too soon after Christmas. 

At my library my theme each February, and actually a guiding principle of my life, is ‘Love is Sharing a Story.’ That neatly ropes in everyone, old and young, coupled and uncoupled, childless and, uh, childed.

I ask people to tell stories, write them down, read with their baby even if their baby is 50 years old, or read with someone else’s baby. Write a rap, or a poem, or just spew out your irritation about some issue Lewis Black or Dave Chappelle style. Learn to podcast.

If everyone spoke honestly and spoke up, if everyone read together, or if every adult, parent or no, took a few minutes each day to share a book with a friend or a small child, this would be a different world.  

But I digress.

I’m reminded by the newsletter from my mother’s Church of the Epiphany– “Don’t forget those who are hospitalized, ill or shut in on Valentine’s Day. Send someone a card, or make a phone call. You will brighten someone’s day.”

This is what I hate about Christmas.

That didn’t come out right. I love Christmas. But I have a strong family, work, and social network to share it with. I have tried on, so to speak, Christmas without family or husband or friends. I can’t seem to make it fit. It just feels miserable. I would feel sorry for myself, even if I were comfortable financially and physically, had my health, had good food to eat, and books to read and quilts to quilt… it was just too sad.

So rack your brain or look around for someone who can’t leave the house, or folks you know at the hospital. People with long term inability to get out and fend for themselves in the rat race eventually get passed over in the rat race. Even families with the best of intentions tend to pass over the quiet one– the wheel doesn’t squeak, so to speak.

And then there are the mean old (or young, I guess) biddies (male and female!) or the neighbors always yelling at us to ‘Get off my lawn!’ or even the kids nobody likes or the trio of siblings who, you happen to know, are being raised by a grandmother who can’t even do for herself because she is very ill, won’t even come in and get the kids a library card, sends the kids out to do their own laundry at the laundromat, so they are pretty much on their own (though I know from experience that being on one’s own isn’t the worst thing that can happen, some serious self sufficiency, at least  in terms of life skills, can result, you do what you want, and at least nobody’s yelling at you).  Or the acquaintance who’s divorced or the single parent or the friend who’s ill or having marital troubles. What might brighten their days?

Put some candy in your candy dish. Stop by somebody’s house just for five minutes with a flower or a warm lunch or a pair of fuzzy slippers you found on clearance. Drop a card in the mail. What small good could we do in just a few minutes? Brightening someone’s day literally makes the world a better place and it just takes a second.

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(And no, this is not the blog post I am so proud of. This is a quick, thought of the moment post– the one I’m proud of is on afteryeswedid.wordpress.com. If you’re an Obama fan or liberal or activist or general stirrer upper, take a look at it, if not, don’t. Please. I want you to continue to be my friend.)

Anyway– isn’t it weird the morbid thoughts you have when you’re a mom, not to mention a stressed out one with a, er, creative turn of mind?

Life is short. I’ve been thinking a long time about how important it is to do what matters most each day– some looking to the future, some time spent on habits today that will make me happier and healthy both today and in the future (exercise, spirituality, cleaning or creative work) some documenting of the precious memories of the past, but without fail making sure I also just stop and spend some moments right here right now.

I might be sitting quietly with my little girl, admiring the million and one things about her that, if I just stop and pay attention, never fail to remind me that the Universe is a good place– from quiet things like her tiny freckles on her snub nose and her thick eyelashes, to big things like her insane sense of humor (my fault, I taught her farts were funny when she was twoish, now she’s five, she makes fart jokes all the time, it’s not that funny any more to anyone but her).  I might be just holding my husband’s hand in silence for five minutes, just nothing but being there. I might be deeply absorbed in just enjoying the feel of my body and senses engaged in a long walk or yoga or 30 min of Shimmy, my favorite exercise class, or really engaged in helping a child with homework at the library.

So I’ve been trying to pack up my fall holiday through Christmas stuff in some logical fashion since Epiphany. Half of it is still lying all over my room — crafts, wrapping stuff, items hoarded for next year. My husband has been in cleaning mode for a few weeks and finally got pissed off stuck the lids on the boxes before I’d finished packing and cataloging, and put the boxes which took up our entire dining room on into the attic without asking me.

He said he figured it had been long enough. I said well, it hurts my feelings to think you think I took too long (even though I know I did take too long, because I am so freakin’ detail oriented I just sink, every time) but it makes me feel good to re-frame that into, I took them on upstairs and threw them into the attic because I didn’ t want you to have to worry about them any more. He smiled and seemed to take note — she didn’t take too long. I just didn’t want her to have to worry about it any more.

So I’m doing the last of the packing up and cataloging today. And I’ve thought this several times.  I have always thought that the Law of Attraction is true– you think happy thoughts, expect good things, those good things come. You worry, you attract just what you’re worried about.

Having talked with my mother through the ordeal of my grandmother’s stroke and very gradual recovery and watched Julia Sweeney’s Letting Go of God– and being the agnostic/new age/eastern/healing school/hardcore former Southern Baptist that I am… I have come to believe that life is just random. No justice. Just– sometimes you are blessed beyond belief, sometimes you get struck down.

There may be a plan for all of this. Even my healing school teacher says hindsight always shows that what you thought was hard at the time ended up being a precious growth experience.  But it’s still random, as far as our understanding goes.

So as I pack each little hoarded item– gifts and ornaments bought half price at Walmart after Christmas, gifts from friends that will be wonderful to decorate/cheer the house up next year, the world’s most expensive origami cranes (paper from Pottery Barn, probably two bucks a crane and incredibly difficult to fold), craft books… I am so excited. As long as it has taken me to get them organized cataloged labeled (including ‘open on’ date) I can’t wait til next year to pull all this out.

So please Lord. I know there’s either a plan I don’t know about whereby everything turns out just as it should, even when it’s not as we think it should be or want it to be, or that it’s completely random and we really can’t change destiny– not because it’s set in stone but because it is just– randome. We cannot divine when these things might occur.

So I make lots of requests, all the time. And I’m not always as grateful as I should be. but I do ask, in Jesus name, for another Christmas with loved ones. I pray for a Christmas full of at least similar gratitude, joy and fun, and more. I claim it, darn it, just like that chaplain praying over my poor Grammy critically injured by that damn stroke– a holiday season that blesses me and every single person I know and don’t know from the crown of their head to the soles of their feet.

I’d like a similar family configuration, preferably with my Grammy at some considerable level of recovery and quality of life, but at the very least my spouse and children and parents and dearest friends, preferably with a great deal less worry than I was experiencing last year the weeks before Christmas when she was struck down.

Please let me open these boxes next October or so and see the season through with joy and hope and comfort for me, my family, and everyone we know and don’t know.

Amen.

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