Category Archives: Spiritual Journey

To Control or Not Control, IS that the Question or the Answer?

heart_water_handsA friend asked me to watch her kids while she was out-of-town and I was thrilled, it felt so good to provide that help that after my shift was up, my ego decided I should call her to highlight my greatness in carrying out this neighborly good deed. However, I did not completely follow her prescribed instructions on the commission of this kindly act. In my mind the end result was achieved, so the response I got…….well let’s just say I was bucked off my high horse. Read the rest of this entry

Bieber’s, and Christie’s, and Miley’s Oh My………Seriously!!!!!

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I consider myself a pretty easy-going person, I really strive to experience my journey and allow others to experience theirs, without judgment, at least I try, ok. Quite frankly as far as preoccupations go, our society has an overabundance of judgers (notice how I am judging the judgers, wonderful isn’t it!!!) So I try to not fill an already overcrowded field. However, today I am wading in up to my eyeballs, and I am owning up to the fact that this post is a complete and mindful departure from how I intend to be in this world. Today I am a big judger. Whew, that long-winded justification certainly makes me feel better how about you??

So buckle your seatbelts here I go. First, I am appalled that we recently had a chemical spill that fouled the drinking water for approximately 300,000 people in West Virginia. That is similar to saying all of St. Louis or Pittsburg were suddenly without water. Further, at the risk of assuming too much, I believe, had it happened in St. Louis or Pittsburg there would be a public outcry along with the kind of political pomp and circumstance we expect when people are suffering, which would have kept this incident front and center. Instead what actually happened when 16% of the state of West Virginia, one of the poorest states in our country, was told not to use their water except to flush their toilets, well, not much really. It did not even warrant the front page of my hometown newspaper or the leading story on our news that night. Huh!?!?! I can’t even begin to understand the hardships people faced and are still facing in West Virginia. These poor people were blithely consuming this contaminated water, no one is certain for how long, before it was detected. Shortly, after the spill the water was declared safe to drink for everyone except pregnant women and then that was rescinded as premature.

I am not even sure where to begin, you see, first we are dealing with a chemical that was never intended to be in drinking water. No one really knows what we are dealing with. I sit in amazement as people are angry with the water company, really?!?!?!? What about the rules, regulations, lack thereof or disregard for, that was perpetrated by anyone along the chain of custody of that chemical?

Folks I am not sure how to properly express this but this is a big damn deal. If you think this could only happen in West Virginia think again the indifference toward West Virginia will bring this injustice to your local hometown very soon.

When I first heard of the spill, it was the next morning after, so I grabbed every newspaper on the counter at the hotel I was at to find out what the heck happened. I expected to see it on the front page, when in fact only one newspaper had an article about the spill, it was one of those small rectangular articles on the third page of the paper filling a gap next to the continuation of a front page article. I don’t even remember the front page article from that day. I do remember I was absolutely incredulous that it was not front page news. I mean Miley Cyrus twerking made front page news, Gov. Christie’s bridgegate scandal made front page news and now Justin Bieber’s latest episode in his ongoing acting out saga is splashed across the front page of the newspaper. These are life changing issues right??!!!?!?!

I found myself thinking it’s too bad it wasn’t a terrorist’s intentional act that contaminated the water, because that would be really sexy and newsworthy and then people would acknowledge the seriousness of this unbelievably tragic situation. The minute that thought ran across my consciousness I internally chastised myself, that’s a terrible thing to think! Really though, what difference does it make if it were some misguided person following a particular fanaticism, hell-bent on hurting others or if it is a careless or clueless business owner? The end result is the same, so why would we rally and become impassioned if it is perpetrated by one and not the other? We actually have more power to change the effect of the latter, so where is our outrage, why the indifference?

There has been such a lack of passionate response about this incident that I find myself wondering, did I unknowingly slip down a rabbit hole and find myself in an alternate reality? As I am typing this I am trying very carefully to keep from typing the obscenities that are bubbling up my throat like bile needing to be expelled to give me relief. I am thinking of all the people, kids, hospitals, schools, and businesses affected and still affected by this spill. Ugh, breathe.

Each time I see that mug shot of Justin Bieber on the TV I find my face getting flush, I see that pompous smile on his face (at least that is what I make it mean) and I feel a mixture of shame, anger and frustration. I feel like answering the call from Howard Beale the fictional news anchor from the movie Network, when he said and I quote “I want you to get up right now and go to the window. Open it, and stick your head out, and yell, ‘I’M AS MAD AS HELL, AND I’M NOT GOING TO TAKE THIS ANYMORE!” People we need to wake up, we need to decide what is important for us, for our existence, for our kids, for our community. We have too many misguided people deciding what is important for us to know. Twerking, while funny and intriguing, is not important, political folly while filling our need to feel self-righteous, is not making the world safe or more peaceful, scrutinizing a teen-aged train wreck, does not meet our most basic needs.

I mean seriously our water, mother earth provides us precious water which is absolutely necessary for our survival and we foul that precious resource without so much as a whimper. Someone twerking in front of us or our kids, while awkward and unseemly, is not newsworthy. Getting caught in a traffic jam at a bridge crossing, while contrived and inconvenient, is not a tragedy. A young man making bad choices, while a misuse of talent and energy, does not threaten our way of life. But fouling our drinking water does threaten our very existence.  Terrorists frighten me, their ability to destroy life while seemingly detached from the result, frightens the hell out of me. AND I am more frightened by the lack of impassioned response to this incident in West Virginia.

I hope that my fears will be unfounded, when I discover that I simply slipped down a rabbit hole. That the parallel universe I am in, with its complacent and submissive response, is merely an illusion. I hope I emerge from my confines to find out there was indeed outrage, there was concern at the highest levels. That instead of knee-jerk reactions and short-term candy coated fixes, there is deep consideration and thought about what we need to do to make sure that this kind of ridiculous carelessness does not happen again. That in fact our clean water is protected. You will have to excuse me now I have to keep looking for that DRINK ME potion so I can get back to reality!!!!!

“The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it’s indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it’s indifference.”
―     Elie Wiesel

I forgot to download my parenting app, now what????

IMG_0680_2Of all the titles I have in this life the one that gives me the most joy, the most bewilderment and definitely the most consternation is my “mom” role. I blithely dance through life while wearing my other monikers; engineer, sister, friend, wife, and cousin. I mean there are bumps in every road, but in a macro sense I do not find myself shouldering the burden of every decision I make, as much as I do in my parenting role. Questioning not only my choices but my wisdom in making those choices. And by wisdom I mean, do I even have all the necessary marbles in my brain to make this decision? I am not talking about a narcissistic preoccupation centered on how I will look based on this decision, I am talking about a real sense of what the hell am I doing? I mean seriously IS there an app for this?

I love math, so what, you’re probably saying, well bear with me I’ll explain. I view life through a math-tinted lens, when I think about the advice, guidance, criticism, praise and support I give my children I see it this way. My kids are on their own unique journey with or without me it is their and only theirs, I do not posses it, and I believe I do not have a right to claim it as my own. However, like a vector in math I know the slightest, even most minute, change in angle on a vector will have greater and greater effects as the magnitude or length of the vector grows. So the little things that I do with my children, say to my children, advise my children about, acts as an external variable on their path. I believe, please hang with me math-haters, those external variables create slight adjustments in the angle of trajectory and grow in significance the further away we travel from the point of origin. So it sometimes overwhelms me, even with the so-called little things I do or avoid doing as a parent.

I put myself on heightened alert when I tread near my “regret bone yard” with my kids. People who have no regrets fascinate me I wish I could say I have no regrets, but I do, starting with I regret that I regret! I regret how I treated some people growing up, I regret that I did not stick with my chemistry major in my first attempt at college, I regret that I treated my mother poorly at times, I regret that I was not with my grandma and my dad when they took their last breath. Each regret has its own unique circumstances so when advising my children in any areas that overlaps a regret in my bone yard, I ask myself are you advising young Marsia, or are you advising your kids? I could lie and say I always answer my kids but I don’t, sometime I forget to ask the question or I ask and convince myself I am only thinking of the kids, this is where my parenting gets messy.

We all do it even those amazing put together parenting authors and shows, they have their messy moments. My messy parent internal alarm goes off when I start to feel that gnawing uncomfortable feeling. I believe our greatest lessons are in those awkward, uncomfortable circumstances and times in our life. So when I witness myself or another parent pushing kids in a direction the child doesn’t seem to have a passion for, I get that wobbly feeling.

Case in point, my daughter asked to take guitar lessons I was overjoyed! Oh boy one skeleton in my bone yard is the “I wish I would have played a musical instrument regret.” So here is one of those parenting mine fields for me, I start to watch every step so this whole thing does not blow up. I keep checking to make sure my intent is pure, my advise authentic.  Am I pushing her to practice because she needs to learn commitment, to learn patience and realize the accomplishment for that patience and hard work, and not pushing her to clean up my bone yard? It really is a fine line we parents walk, if I am having my children make up for my regrets or if my passion becomes theirs, is their trajectory diverted so off path that their true purpose becomes more difficult to achieve or even see? And what about experience? Are we supposed to ignore our experience, no, but we can’t be consumed by it either. Sheesh, it’s complicated.

And what about failure? I have learned so much from my missteps, can I let my children fail? My mom and dad allowed me and my brother to fail, I can’t imagine what it took for them to stand by knowing full well we would fall flat on our face. I have seen children who are not allowed to fail, their parents make sure of it, I feel such compassion for those parents, but also great sorrow for those children. This has been difficult for me, to let my kids go into situations where I was not sure whether or not they would fail. I still struggle with it every single time. It drives me to distraction when my kids fail an assignment or test, however, my work as a parent is lessened with each failure I allow them to experience because that is where the really learning takes place. I still despise it.

So whether or not I know what the hell I am doing, and I am certain I do not, this is what I do, right or wrong, my parenting litmus test is the way people feel when they are with my kids, if they recall feeling hopeful, happy, or good, I must be doing ok as a parent. It’s the same test I use on myself as a human being.

It’s not only children who grow.  Parents do too.  As much as we watch to see what our children do with their lives, they are watching us to see what we do with ours.  I can’t tell my children to reach for the sun.  All I can do is reach for it, myself.  ~Joyce Maynard

Learning from Opposites

This better work, it's what the guy in front of me did!

This better work, it’s what the guy in front of me did!

A very thoughtful friend who knows I have Seneca heritage introduced me to the teachings of a wise Seneca elder, Twylah Hurd Nitsch. Since then, I have become transfixed by her teachings I want to read and assimilate all her wisdom. She often speaks of truth, the truth within. In an interview with Margaret Wolff she described how we inflict upon ourselves pain and hurt when we avoid our truth within, which also affect our love within and peace within. She also expressed that until we grab hold of the truth and remember our Oneness, which is a truth we hold deep inside each of us from birth, we will continue to learn that truth through opposites.

Now this was where the hair stood up on the back of my neck – she said, “you confront the opposite of truth so you can learn it.” I get in the mud often and bemoan and lament the actions of others I find offensive or disrespectful, but in reality what is really happening? I am learning how not to be, or I am learning how to be, by recognizing what not to be. Think about a time when you watched someone struggle to do something, you see what works and doesn’t work and use that knowledge when its your turn. This concept reminds me of the tough mudder competition I recently participated in, I would watch the contestant in front of me attack the obstacle if they were successful I would use the same approach if they crashed and burned, I did not. So this idea of learning from opposites means that we are actually blessed each time we witness offensive or disrespectful behavior particularly when we recognize it as such.

I know this sounds bizarre but it’s so true. I have witnessed many people who struggle with the truth and my response has always been the same, a mixture of disappointment and pity. Now I recognize they are heyoka’s. The Lakota call those who walk among us and react and move opposite of the people around them heyoka spirits. Heyoka’s violate the ethical rules and societal taboos of the tribe thereby teaching the importance of such rules by creating awareness.

Beautiful and simple yet painful. As I continue on my path in this world I see how the truth really does set me free. The more closely I respect and embrace my truth within, the lighter my load. I recognize now my pious reaction to my heyoka’s is not only misguided it is disrespectful. These people are walking a very difficult and painful path to teach us how to connect with our peace and love within.

So the next time you feel repelled by the behavior of another be grateful that you are blessed to be aware of that behavior and have the ability to choose the opposite.

“It is in vain that we search for an essential difference between good and evil, for their constituents are the same. The crucial distinction lies in their structure, i.e., the manner in which the pieces are assembled. Evil is disintegration, an angry juxtaposition of alienated opposites, with parts always striving to repress other parts. Good is the synthesis and reconciliation of these same pieces.” ~ Charles Hampden-Turner

You Are Enough!

When we are enough so is the world around us

When we are enough so is the world around us

I have been blessed with enough, there is no doubt about it. Not necessarily abundance, more than I can imagine, but as much as I need. Yet I have my moments where fear takes over and it almost always starts with a focus on not enough. I am not thin enough, I am not smart enough, I am not strong enough, I am not good enough. Do those mantras sound familiar to you? Maybe these sound more familiar; I don’t have enough time, I didn’t get enough sleep, I don’t have enough money, not enough, not enough, not enough or better yet what about everyone around you? They don’t have enough integrity, they don’t have enough compassion, they don’t have enough intelligence, they don’t have enough capacity to care, etc…..

I am reading Brené Brown’s book Daring Greatly and the focus of her book is the power and courage of vulnerability and in that discussion she talks about the epidemic of scarcity in our society. Brené even refers to another book, which is one of my all time favorites, The Soul of Money by Lynne Twist, where Twist states scarcity is the “great lie” in our modern society. I mean seriously most of us have more possessions than our ancestors could have possibly imagined and yet I am pretty sure we focus more on scarcity than they ever did.

I have noticed a considerable shift in our society, where our language  focuses on scarcity. I am not sure if I am noticing this shift because I am being more present or if the incidence of scarcity based thinking is increasing. I am not sharing these observations to instill shame that only exacerbates the issue, it’s merely a means to bring about awareness. I notice when I focus on scarcity things start feeling out of control. However, when I focus on my needs being met, gratefulness or service to others, I feel whole and in harmony.

I have also noticed we all like to focus on what others or we could have done better. We like to compare ourselves to some benchmark, then comes the shame because we are not measuring up. I see this in relationships, in work environments, and in school.

Brené talks about coming from a place of worthiness, and to own our vulnerabilities. We as a society view vulnerability as a weakness rather than courageous. I know, based on my own experience, people who tend to have low self-esteem or do not feel worthy are the most difficult people to be vulnerable with, because of their own acute discomfort with vulnerability. I have over the years slowly been attracted to people who have this strong sense of worthiness. It has been a very powerful shift, I have noticed my ability to be vulnerable increasing because those who exhibit worthiness or wholeheartedness do not have fear based reactions to my vulnerability and I in turn become more open to theirs.

It is a difficult path to navigate when your vulnerability is met with fear, anxiety and shame. I have been there, many times. I have reacted with fear, anxiety and shame with others when they are being vulnerable with me. I know by surrounding myself with people who are brave enough to be vulnerable and brave enough to experience my vulnerability, the more courage I gain and the more comfortable I am with other’s vulnerability. Our reward is authenticity. Ahhh authentic relationships they are like a breath of fresh air on a cool morning at the beach, a little bite and a lot of comfort.

Our political system is based on preying on our fear of scarcity and the complete lack of authenticity. If we support candidate x or issue y it will result in lack of freedom, lack of money, lack of safety, lack of protection, lack of “fill in the blank.” We are so programmed to respond from a place of scarcity and fear and to view ourselves and the world around as “not enough.”

So what is the alternative? Enough, understanding we are enough. What is enough? What does that look like? What do we need to be enough, have enough? It is accepting the present you, the present moment,  and understanding both are meeting your needs. Vulnerability is the key to accepting you are enough right here, right now. As Brené Brown points out in her book, when you are vulnerable you have the courage to show up and be seen as you are. Vulnerability is ultimately about trust, to be trusted and to trust. So dear reader trust me, you are enough just as you are.

He who knows that enough is enough will always have enough. ~ Lao Tzu

Completion

It always feels good when the job's complete!

It always feels good when the job’s complete!

I am great at starting things, in fact many of my friends and family have asked me to help them with business plans, project plans, house plans anything related to planning or start-up. I have a great passion for the genesis of almost anything.

It truly is hardwired within me. And it is not just projects, it’s true with people too. When I meet someone I am always interested in how they got to be where they are; philosophically, spiritually, geographically, any of the ally’s. There are people who are passionate to tell their story and I should always be paired with them because I am passionate about hearing their story. There are members of our family that are sick and tired of hearing the same old stories from aunts and uncles, I honestly never tire of it. I can’t explain why I just love to hear how they started out, their beginnings.

Contrary to my provenance loving side, I have come to understand through much self introspection, suffering, tears and sleeplessness nights, that I struggle with completion. I am not even sure what completion really means because to me everything is always a process, each moment a new beginning. However, if I am chained to the idea that I am in a repeating cycle and there is no genesis occurring, no new beginning, no new discovery I feel the need to, well honestly, get the hell out of there, so to speak.

So that brings me to the issue that sparked this stream of consciousness, the book I am writing. In the beginning my keyboard was smoking; I could not type the words as fast as my mind was “speaking” them. Eventually, the keyboard sat there forsaken and each time I approached it I looked like a member of a chain gang being forced to break rock with a sledgehammer.

My book is about the process I went through during a series of personal losses most profoundly the death of my father. Several people referred to that period of my life as the “shitstorm”. However, what I have come to realize is the parts of the book where I focused on everyone else; my dad, my uncle, my brother, those were the easiest to write. However, the remaining chapters actually go right to the intent, the purpose of my book, how I navigated these turbulent waters and came out of it albeit cut up, bruised and knocked around but stronger. The back story to me is very important, obviously, but now that I have to get to the essence of the story I am struggling. Why? I guess because now it’s about me, just a woman and her thoughts, as they say.

Please don’t misunderstand I am not this holier than thou person, I can be as self-serving as the next gal, just ask my husband! It’s really about looking outside, it is so much easier than looking inside. That’s why gossip is so engaging let’s talk about everybody else’s faults, but please let’s not talk about mine. It’s interesting I just went through a relationship where it absolutely drove me crazy, I perceived this person as disconnected from their own spirit. Let me make this clear, this is my perception, my reality, nothing more. However, I realize the discomfort I felt in that relationship is because the behavior I perceived is that which I was most uncomfortable with myself.

When I type those words, the words that describe the real feelings and breakthroughs I experienced as I emerged from the shitstorm, I am fully exposed. I have been there before, during the darkest days of the shitstorm I was fully exposed, I felt stripped naked and exposed to the world. The level of vulnerability was so heightened I can actually feel my toes tingling right now, as if I am on the edge of a 100-story building looking down. So I have to put myself back in that very tender place to complete this book. It’s one thing to wander in there unaware, it’s another to trudge back fully aware. As the saying goes I am pulling up my big girl pants, I am going in! There is work to be done and I will complete this book.

There are only two mistakes one can make along the road to truth; not going all the way, and not starting. ~ Buddha

My Momma

ImageHappy mother’s day mom. Thank you for bringing me into this world. Thank you for my self-esteem, you always believed in me, thank you for my creativity, not only did we live outside the box, I did not know a box existed. Thank you for your unconditional love, I have grown into a loving person.

Mom I had no idea how many years we would have together, but I truly thought we would have more. I was in the infancy of my own motherhood when you died. It’s been a challenge since you left, I had so much more to learn especially about raising my own kids. I have managed to create a great circle of amazing women since you left, they help fill in the gaps but none will ever replace you.

I remember one of the last times we spoke on the phone you told me you were worried that my youngest would not know you because we lived so far away and you had only seen him a couple of times, I dismissed your concern, of course he would know you. Then you died shortly after that, he was only 3. Both my kids have no real memory of you, only pictures and stories I share. It breaks my heart when I struggle to keep your memory alive with them knowing this is how they will remember you. I also look back at that conversation and somehow you knew didn’t you mom, you knew at some level your time with us was short. I did not see it, maybe I didn’t want to.

Every time I hear that someone has lost their own mother it re-opens the wound of losing you. I know we had a loving, complicated and sometimes messy relationship, many mothers and daughters do, but I love you mom I always have and always will.

I just wanted you to know how blessed I am that you were my mom. We had a crazy, fun, and wild ride while it lasted. I did not fully appreciate you then but every day I wake up and face my own motherhood experiences I think about you, smile and thank God for you. While my own children may not have a memory of you they are a reflection of you and through them you live on.

I have to say there are women who have given birth yet I hesitate to call them mothers, there are women who have never given birth who are magnificent mothers and there are men who mother. I salute all the great momma’s out there in all shapes, sizes and forms. I also honor the dear ones out there who are carrying on without their momma, some have lost their mom’s to death and some never had a mom or lost their living mom along the way. Please know I am thinking of you on this day.

“Giving birth does not make you a momma, it is the actions you take and the unconditional love you give that earns you the title mother.” Marsia Geldert-Murphey

Awwwwwwkward

Oh yeah I’m sexy and I know it!?!?!?!?

My daughter told me a few weeks ago that I was awkward especially when trying to have a important conversation with her about boys. My little baby has her first boyfriend and yes I probably was awkward because I remember her riding her bike for the first time as if it was last week. I remember when she called me momma, now its MOTHER!?!?!? She can’t possibly have a boyfriend, she’s still my baby. I immediately became defensive the minute she shared her observation.

However, my baby was right it was her perception and regardless of anything else, a person’s perception is their reality. And it was not only her perception but would have been a stranger’s perception, because I found myself in an unfamiliar place. I was unsure of myself as I spoke to her, what do I say, how do I say it, what if I say the wrong thing, what will happen, what is the right or wrong thing to say???? So yes I was awkward, now what.

You see my mom never had “the talk” with me, I had no basis of comparison, no framework to pull from, I was flying blind. My mom probably had the same sense of what in the heck do I say, as I do now. What information I did get, along the lines of the facts of life, was from a movie we watched at Our Lady of Perpetual Help catholic school in fourth grade. Honestly, I did not retain much from that but I do remember being confused and slightly frightened after watching the movie. A lot of the “social education” movies we watched were intended to keep us out of trouble through the use of fear. It was along the lines of Reefer Madness another movie before my time intended to use fear to keep kids out of trouble.

Fear was a great motivator and used abundantly in my youth. I remember when the Exorcist was released and the catholic response was mixed but in my community it was deemed a bad thing and akin to worshipping the devil. At least in my unsophisticated mind thats what I heard. My parents had a copy of the book in our house and my brother and I were so frightened about it we threw it behind the wall unit in our living room and covered it with a blanket, as if that would keep us from going to hell. Ahhhhh the power of fear, ok I digress, let’s get back to awkward.

Since my beautiful daughter tagged me with the awkward moniker I have been doing some reflection unfortunately my ego hitched a ride during this reflection. Many demons were fabricated during this time, one demon told me I could not write I was deluding myself, my writing was awkward. One demon told me my opinion was awkward. It is interesting how quickly I am wiling to give my power away when I get triggered based on a past defense mechanism.

My beautiful girl and her magnificent honesty gave me the opportunity to really look at who I am. Yes at times I am awkward no doubt about it, at times I can be eloquent, and I can also be beautiful and judgmental. That is the whole package of me. Why is it so easy to accept the parts of myself I think are “good” but I cannot get warm and cozy with those sides of myself that I deem “less desirable.” When I look at a rose I see the thorns and it does not take away from the beauty of the whole plant, or when I see a gorgeous but poisonous tree frog it does not affect the magnificence I feel when I see that creature. So why do I give the rose and the frog more compassion than I give myself. It’s so fascinating, isn’t it?

The difference now, I recognize when I am not being compassionate with myself, it may not be much but it is a start. So here’s to my awkward side and my confident side may they reside in relative peace within the whole.

“Awkward interests me, he said. At least when you are feeling awkward you are always thinking. When you are feeling fabulous, for example, rare occurrence that it may be, you stop thinking altogether. Which gets you into all kinds of trouble. Hence, you are for the better off feeling awkward. Just the sound of it on your tongue. Like chewing on screws.”  – Elizabeth Brundage

Can We Disagree with Love?

It's all about love and peace

It’s all about love and peace

I have so many fond memories of growing up in South Dakota, one memory that is still very prominent was our routine of eating supper around my grandma and grandpa’s table and discussing the world’s events. I really enjoyed the healthy debate we would engage in at the table, particularly my grandpa and I. We loved each other dearly and as I began to develop my own thoughts and opinions they were not always in alignment with grandpa’s. So he would challenge my opinions, I loved it, it forced me to really research any issue I believed in or thought I believed in, grandpa could put up a compelling argument and occasionally I could be swayed from my original opinion.

Likewise, I once swayed grandpa’s opinion, I guess you could call it that. While studying Native American Tribal Law there was a particular issue I had really done my homework on and after several days of strong debate grandpa conceded, albeit somewhat begrudgingly. I remember feeling so proud that I could match wits with this man I admired so greatly. I guess it was the same feeling a student of chess feels when they finally beat their mentor in one magical game, only to turn around for weeks and weeks on end afterward never to best them again.

This experience with my grandpa taught me many things that have served me well over the years but the most important lessons were:

1) the confidence to express my opinions and ideas

2) to honor impartiality when fact-finding

3) its ok to disagree with others and for others to disagree with you

4) always maintain your sense of humor

My grandpa and I could vehemently disagree on an issue, engage in a healthy debate and in the end call it a draw. Afterward there was not a single notion of negativity, quite the opposite a great deal of love and respect was borne out of those debates, and high doses of pie a la mode.

That’s why my spirit dips when I see people attacking each other on social media today. It generally starts out with someone expressing an opinion and then someone who does not agree with that opinion sees it and feels the need to tear the person down, not the opinion, but the person. Debate is about the issues, opinions, facts, it’s not supposed to be personal. I was taught to share the facts as I understand them and if after both sides have shared the facts as they know them and we still do not agree, we agree to disagree with love.

I happen to love social media so this is not meant as an indictment of Facebook or Twitter. However, I believe social media is a cautionary tale of progress. We all know it is far easier to hit send than look someone in the eye and recite those same words. People feel safer in the electronic age to abandon all rules of etiquette, which is considered the glue that holds society together. I am seeing more and more signs that we are coming unglued!

Reasonable people are getting into comment wars on Facebook which then degrades into name calling and insults. It’s no surprise people are behaving this way it being modeled extensively in our pop culture and government as well. All of this would make poor Letitia Baldridge’s toes curl, we have US Senator’s calling the president a liar while he’s addressing Congress, we  have reality TV shows like Jersey Shores glamorize impropriety and we have musicians ranting at award shows because they don’t agree with who won. Is this how we want to treat each other? Or better yet is this how we want our kids to be treated or treat others?

What disappoints me more than anything is that we are losing our ability to communicate effectively and fight fair. By fighting fair I mean expressing differing opinions while still treating the other person in a dignified manner. Do we really want to live in a black and white world, with no shades of gray and trust me I am only talking about one shade of gray here not 50, that is for a whole other discussion. Which brings me to my gravest concern, we are losing our creative thought.

So much creative discovery occurs when we dance outside the boundaries in those shades of gray, that’s where the real breakthroughs happen. Many great discoveries came from scientists developing a product for one purpose and it ended up being used for something else. In the black and white world that product would have been discarded to continue to try to find the answer to the original question, rather than changing the question. Play doh was developed originally to clean soot off wallpaper, Viagra was supposed to be a cure for hypertension, Listerine was supposed to be a surgical antiseptic, these and many more accidental discoveries were made possible through creative discovery. Their minds transcended the black and white, even the shades of gray and saw the rainbow of possibilities out there.

I am one of those people who if you send me an email or share a Facebook post I will check the facts, and that goes back to my early days at grandpa’s supper table, one site I like is factcheck.org. One thing checking the facts will do is engage you to form your own opinion and not simply rubber stamp someone else’s opinion as your own.

I have friends and family who are solidly camped on either side of many hot button issues. I can further state that it does not make me love those whose opinion may happen to fall in alignment with mine more than my loved ones whose opinion does not. Again its the opinion we are debating not the person, when we personify these debates and demonize the person who holds the opposing view, that’s where the societal glue falls apart and what do we gain? I’m right, you’re an idiot. Seriously what kind of community can we create from that premise?

So where do we go from here?  We practice peace, love, tolerance, we learn new ways to communicate in healthy ways which breaks the cycle of violent communication. We understand how to express ourselves and our needs without devaluing another person. My good friend Annie Loyd always a shining light here on earth and ready to climb any mountain no matter how high, is taking action toward peaceful communication. Her beautiful manifestation, the Fusion Foundation, is sponsoring a course called  Compassionate Communication, if you are in the Phoenix area I highly recommend this course. If you cannot attend this course I highly recommend the book this course is based on Marshall Rosenberg’s series called Nonviolent Communication, if you allow these teachings to permeate your everyday interactions it will absolutely transform your life and your relationships.

Imagine connecting with the human spirit in each person in any situation at any time. Imagine interacting with others in a way that allows everyone’s need to be equally valued. Imagine creating organizations and life-serving systems responsive to our needs and the needs of our environment. – Marshall Rosenberg

Southern Grown Creole Gratitude

jackson_statue_3_bg_20090719I recently visited New Orleans and felt compelled to share my experience there. Now before you read on I want to warn you, there are NO stories of debauchery or beads, sorry. I went to have fun, who doesn’t expect fun in NOLA, and left feeling marvelous about NOLA’s future.

My husband and I visited NOLA in 1990, pre-Katrina, and had a great time. On we were looking forward to returning to one of our favorite places. We had a little trepidation not knowing what to expect, how much had hurricane Katrina changed the city. I had been to the city for a brief visit right after Katrina for a conference and the schedule did not give us time to explore the city. So this was really the first time I was able to experience the city since our visit in 1990. Wow, has New Orleans not only survived, it is thriving.

This is truly one of the most unusual places in the United States and is the birthplace of Jazz, Cajun and Creole cuisine. The history of this city is fascinating, the food is spicy and delicious, the music is plentiful and good, and as one local put it, most of our street performers would be headline acts in other parts of the country, I couldn’t agree more. The architecture is mesmerizing, each time we walked down a different street we saw these distinct old structures with intriguing features. In many of our towns we have become numb to the structures that surround us in our cookie-cutter world, not in New Orleans, the exciting variety of food, music, and even the architecture keeps your senses heightened.

The real gift of New Orleans, however, are the people. I was deeply moved by the response of the people of NOLA during our recent visit. At least once, but generally more, each and every day while there, we were thanked by the residents for coming to the city. These messages of gratitude were not just coming from the business owners, but also; the neighbors to our B&B, the locals we shared a table with at a crowded Jazz bar, the couple at the Karaoke bar on Bourbon Street, the barista at the coffee shop, the woman greeting us at the WWII museum, almost every server at every restaurant, the list goes on and on. I was very touched by the sincere thankfulness of the people of NOLA. Many told us their friends and neighbors have jobs because more people are visiting again. Each and every time we were thanked for being here, without exception they said please come back and visit our city. I almost wanted to ask if they had all been given a training video it almost seemed rehearsed, but I knew better. They were sincere, not coached, and they were exhibiting their magnificent Cajun/Creole fun-loving hospitality.

I have been blessed to experience many wonderful cultural differences in our beautiful country. In Hawaii they talk about the Aloha spirit, and the best way I can describe it is a feeling of love and respect toward all. In the Native American culture respect and family are both very important. My word for describing New Orleans would be gratitude. And in all the places I have visited I have not experience the main theme of their culture with the dependability, consistency or regularity we experienced in NOLA. I just cannot say enough about our overwhelming feeling of being welcomed, appreciated and encouraged to come back.

What a resilient and grateful culture. It is exactly what I needed to see and experience at this point in my life. I want to practice the wonderful example the people of NOLA set for me, unabashed, honest expression of gratitude. We can choose to see all the things wrong around us and focus on that or alternatively, we can see all that is right around us and be grateful. I believe the only power we possess in this world is our choices, we can empower ourselves through our choices or we can disempower ourselves and others. New Orleans has chosen to empower themselves in a big way. Laissez les bond temps rouler aka let the good times roll.

We choose our joys and sorrows long before we experience them. – Kahlil Gibran

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