i wanted him to say “you are”

this week
again

someone couldn’t see it

How I created
crafted
made it just right

The just right part
was what he wanted to cut

My arms crossed
WHY so always?

WHY so invisible?

Didn’t I explain it?
Why can’t you see?

I KNOW it’s perfect

Is it me? because its from me?

time capsule to the beginning of everything
arms crossed
Foo stamped

WHY not?

waiting to for the glance
for the words

“You are”

Because I am

How loud do I have to shout to be heard?

I AM

I am

yes, I am

crafted
Just right

I KNOW I’m perfect

I don’t want to wait for the glance or the words

I don’t know what you are

but I am.

Choosing Autonomy

When we first knew each other, Chris and I set out on a road trip to see his family. We got about halfway there–three hours in– before I realized that I had left my wallet and my cell phone behind.

The cell phone I could deal with. I could borrow Chris’s cell phone to check my voice mail and that would cover the bases.

But my wallet being gone freaked me out. Chris watched me with concern as I started to melt down. “Don’t worry. I can take care of anything we need.”

That didn’t relieve me. I felt the world shrink around me. I would have to wait on someone else if I wanted or needed anything.

He tried a different tack, “Think this through. What are you really missing?”

“MY AUTONOMY!”

He asked how much it would take for me to feel like I had autonomy. I decided for this trip $40 would do it.

He gave me two twenties and I was safe again.

I trusted him, but I wanted to be sure that if I needed or wanted something I wouldn’t have to ask for it. I wanted the power to get it for myself.

I want to be the one working the levers and making the choices. I don’t want to need permission or assistance from anyone else. I want access to the choices. That’s autonomy, an environment where I can make whatever choices I want and even change my mind at the last minute.

I react pretty strongly when I perceive something encroaching upon my autonomy.
Unfortunately, I don’t always notice.

In his magnificent work The Constitution of Liberty, Hayek talks about how we have to have a range of choices in order to have liberty. If the sources of information I have are restricted, if they tell me only one side of a story, then I cannot make informed choices. Those who control the information are manipulating me into a limited choice.

Manipulation is not autonomy. It is coercion. It prevents me from making the choices that suit me best.

I get mad just thinking about it.

How dare someone else try to control me! I don’t want to be limited in my choices!

But as soon as I start to heat up I recognize an even more basic truth. There is another far more common way that my choices are limited.

I narrow my own options. I choke my imagination and restrict the possibilities.

So often I stick to what is known and what seems safe. I will get tunnel vision and not even realize there are other options.

They say that a rut is a grave with both ends kicked out. I get in ruts far to often.

The song says it well: Free your mind and the rest will follow. It is not something I can let up on.

worthy and unachievable

I am a perfectionist, and I like to get it right.

There is a satisfaction in arranging things, arranging data or objects and putting it all in its place.

I could do it all day long. I DO do it all day long.

I’m good at it. And yet, I can’t keep it all perfect.

There is no end to perfect. Because there is always something to get perfecter.

Makes me think of Mr. Incredible saying “Sometimes I wish the world would just stay saved.”

Then today I heard this:

Art is never defect free

It came from Seth Godin’s book Linchpin. Seth Godin was talking about how we are living in an industrialized, mechanized world but we humans are neither. And if we want to be valued, we have to do the things that only we can do.

Which is art.

If it can be measured and repeated, that is not art. It is work waiting to be given to a machine.

I don’t want to be  machine, I will never be as good at being a machine as a machine is.

Which means I have to come to terms with the imperfect.

To be perfect enough to get it done, but pay attention to the necessary defects. The things that can’t ever be perfect.

The human connections.

Darn it, I would like those to be perfect too, but those come with irregularities.

Perfectionism should come with time limits. I have to recognize that it can be a standard held loosely.

It’s a worthy and unachievable goal. The art of perfectionism come with defects.

That has to be okay, because it’s still worth trying for. Sometimes the defect is the point.

DIY role model

“Rage..Sing” is how the story of The Iliad begins. It was a story of war and bravery that is still preserved after ten thousand years, written to tell the Greeks who they were supposed to admire and aspire to be.

The heroes were super human and brave.

We don’t know that much about Homer, the author. We are sure that it started as a memorized poem, and then it was written down as soon as writing became a thing.

It’s full of gods, goddesses and impossible heroism. It’s history, but then again…it couldn’t have really happened.

It was 8 thousand years later, with the images and rhythms of Homer’s epic still bright in their memory, the Romans got a version of their own history when Virgil produced The Aeneid. Virgil writes a new epic poem, taking a character Aeneas from the Iliad and inventing a story of how he escaped the fall of Troy, with his son and went on to found Rome. One the way, he stops and conquers all of Rome’s contemporary enemies to prove that from LONG AGO Rome was destined to beat them in battle.

The people who heard the poem had to know it was a new poem. But since the audience had just been given a new story about themselves, a new story about where they came from it was very popular.

It was total fiction. It was transparent propaganda.

But Caesar Augustus and his court really liked it. It made them feel good.

I could see this kind of self-deception as a problem. How foolish and vain are these people, to allow themselves to be flattered by an obvious fabrication!

I used to feel that way.

But I have learned the power of the stories we tell ourselves. Honestly, I would like to compose my own Aenied.

A story I can pull out to tell me how I have a history of being brave and strong, even it is the most flattering interpretation of event, is a really valuable thing.

The stories I tell myself are just about the most powerful motivator I have.

It’s easy and unsurprising to give in to shame and self-doubt.

It is a hero’s work to move towards our best selves. Virgil gave Caesar Augustus a semi-fictional role model. I’m all for fictional role models. Those stories can keep me going.

What are we waiting for?

 

“It will pass the time.”

I got to see a performance of Waiting for Godot last night. The play came out in the middle of the century, and confused everyone so much that they couldn’t stop talking about it.

These two homeless men- Vladimir and Estragon- have decided to wait for the person Mr. Godot. They seem to have nothing better to do, but are tortured and unhappy.

I found myself caring about them, wanting them to be okay.

There is a place in the 2nd act, where a Pozzo, a passerby has fallen and it asking for help. The two men discuss whether they will help him. Pozzo calls out loudly “help!”

Vladimir faces the audience, faces me and says with passion

“Let us do something, while we have a chance! It is not every day that we are needed. Not indeed that we personally are needed. Others would meet the case equally well if not better.’

oh yes. My heart swells. I feel that way so often. Why am I the one who has to do that thing, that EVERYTHING? As a mother, at my job–someone else would do just as well. But I am needed because I am the one who can do it at that moment.

“To all mankind they were addressed, those cries for help still ringing in our ears! But in this place, at this moment in time, all mankind is us, whether we like it or not.

“Let us make the most of it, before it is too late! Let us represent worthily for once the foul brood to which a cruel fate consigned us! What do you say?”

I say yes Vladimir! Yes, let us make the most of it! This whole play I have been waiting for the decisive action to take place, and I agree!!

“It is true that when with folded arms we weigh the pros and cons we are no less a credit to our species…What are we doing here, that is the question.”

I despise folded arms! Seize the moment, Vladimir! Poor Pozzo is on the ground needing help. Grasp your destiny, even if it’s small. What else are we here for? Go Vladimir, go!

“And we are blessed in this, that we happen to know the answer. Yes, in the immense confusion one thing alone is clear. ‘

Yes, it’s clear! A simple good thing that we could do! We are blessed to have these small tasks of help we can give to our fellow humans.

“We are waiting for Godot to come.”

Destiny

Abandoned

All the good that those humans could do

Suspended and waiting

For a strangers hint

Not even a promise

It is very easy to give up our choices and wait on some vague possibility. I catch myself doing that all the time.

That is the tragedy. Not that these men are homeless. They still had a lot that they could do–even living in the garbage heap and sleeping in ditches.

I am so powerful. I can do so much. What am I waiting for?

what to do

it was a busy day for work today

So i looked up a song, and found a live version on Youtube

and I say the band playing in front of a crowd.

 

I wanted to join a band.

“Chris! look at this!”

He looked up from getting his microwave dinner.

“I need to join a band”

“What are you goig to stop doing to start a band?”

It’s fun to think about

too much

“Oh look! Tater tots!”

“Ah no. I had too many tater tots once when I was a kid and I can’t eat them anymore.”

But tater tots are so good!

There is a word for this:
Surfeit

I met someone this weekend, a former professional orchestral musician who can no longer listen to classical music. If she is getting a massage and they have it playing, she makes them change it to some other music.

A life without tater tots is sad. Still, there plenty of other kinds of food one can have.

This musician had spent her life mastering a particular skill. She’d learned it and then the music she’d labored over turned to sand in her mouth.

LIfe is long, and people can fall out of love. People fall out of love of the ones they are married to, and fall out of love of their life’s work. And there is something within me that needs to be happy.

Thomas Jefferson said the right to pursue happiness is self-evident. I know I have to follow what draws me.

But there is another part. Since this is a right, it is also a responsibility. I have to pay attention to what matters to me. It’s a dishonor to myself to neglect my happiness.

Those tater tots would still be delicious if that little kid hadn’t over-indulged.

What if that musician had paid attention earlier on and stepped back from the music before it became utterly distasteful?

Marriages have to be tended. Many relationships could be saved with the right attention at the right time.

That scares me. I’ve worked too hard to achieve what I thought would bring me happiness to let it all be undone with inattention

It’s very easy to stop paying attention.

In fact, it is so easy it is inevitable. I do it all the time.

Am I doomed? Where can I find a magic amulet to guard against this nightmare?

Ah, now I remember. I know this!

All it takes is motion.

If I’m moving I’m not dead.

I have to take an action in the direction I want to go. I do have to pay attention to what I want. I’ve let it get buried before, I know.

I’ll have to trust myself to remember what I want.
Keep it on the to do list.

There is a lot more than tater tots at stake.

Breathe

“Now release into Savasana…corpse pose.”

 

I was finally taking my first yoga class. For years it seemed like everyone around me was into yoga, and half the people I knew taught it.

 

I didn’t feel the pull. But so many people said it was amazing, I thought I would try it.

 

At the end of the class I asked teacher a few questions.

 

“This is your first yoga class?” she said. Apparently I passed as normal in this class, and hadn’t worn my ignorance too conspicuously.

 

“I have always liked to do more active things. I run.”

 

“How do you breathe when you run?”

 

I stared. “By moving air in and out of my body…What are you talking about?”

 

“Oh you have to learn how to breathe!”

 

I had heard this from some of the more annoying Yoga fans of my acquaintance. I have to learn how to breathe. You can’t drop a bomb like that and just sail away!

 

Another person in the class said ‘Yeah, you know how you are supposed to breathe when you sing? With your belly?”

 

I guess so. Kind of.

 

I wasn’t at all sure about yoga.

 

But that annoying ache in my hips was gone.

 

So maybe.

 

And then I went back to my morning routine of running.

 

Yes. I like to MOVE, not stand still. But maybe yoga had gotten rid of that other annoying ache. I felt around for it and remembered the teacher had said I had to breathe right. From my belly.

 

How do you do that?

 

So I’m thinking of how to run fast and keep my legs moving forward and my arms pumping to make time, and trying to push my belly full of air.

 

Which feels very strange. Like my balance is all off. So where are my arms and legs again? Are they going fast?
But just as I am putting them all back in line I have to keep breathing, and if I’m doing that I have to fill my belly.
This is a lot of rhythms to maintain. And now I have to take a BIG yawn. and that throws off my breathing. Am I still moving forward? I don’t want to slow down.

 

So my stomach and my legs and my arms and my breath and my big pausing yawns are all working together like a bag of cats.

 

That ache seemed to be less, but I was pretty sure that I was going to have a new record of how slow I was running. Yawning my way across the finish line I stopped the clock.

 

My second fastest time ever!

 

Seemed like there might be something to it. I’ll go to the next class.

He Should Know

I couldn’t go to Easter church. My daughter had the vomits night before, so I stayed home that morning to make sure she was okay.

She was a subdued little one, so I went about my business that glorious sunshiny morning listening to my headphones. I’d been listening to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s recorded sermons.

From decades past, Martin Luther King preached the word.

His audience was mostly African American people, and in one of these sermons he was recounting things that people would say about African Americans. Judgments and slanders.

He recounted things that sounded to me like they might as well be ancient history. My reaction was “Really? People said that?” And not only did they say that, but in the 1960s apparently, people seemed to have believed it about themselves.

And as I listened to what felt like legends from the mists of time, I had a feeling that this was familiar.

It was 1787 that America passed the 3/5ths compromise, saying that the slave population-African Americans and some native Americans–would count in the census as 3/5ths of a person for calculating representation in congress.

Not only not a whole person, just a technicality.

This is a degrading and horrible law. It was also forever ago. But it casts a long shadow.

I’m not African American, but as a woman, I have some historical baggage that can weigh me down too.

I remember reading about the chivalric ideal of womanhood. A woman should never quite say what she wants to a man, but to cleverly put him off: always coy, always witty and never a person of action.

That shadows my life to this day. I heard it from people last week, reprimanding me for speaking too plainly in a meeting, recommending a course of action.

King Arthur was a myth from centuries ago, but this pernicious weed is still trying to climb my leg and trip me up.

When Dr. Martin Luther King listed a number of stories and expectations society had for the people in his audience I felt it. Those particular ones weren’t mine, but I’ve got my own.

Fears of how other people see me, and shame for who I think I might be.

Any group has their battles. Every group has their secret shames. It’s those shames that make us turn on others to distract from our own disgrace.

What good does it do to talk about it? It’s not fun to remember. And a solution, if there is one, is not easy.

But Martin Luther King did not leave me there. He knew how to preach. He gave me an answer to this situation.

“Love is the only creative, redemptive, transformative power in the universe.”

That’s the sort of answer a preacher would give. Not very scientific. Love is not so easy to nail down. Maybe that is why it can be so big.

Martin Luther King got it done. His life shows that he is someone I want to listen to. I do not understand all of it, but I believe that he knows more than I do.

So I know what creation, redemption and transformation is. That’s what I would like to do with those weeds of judgment. And if love is the force that activates those three things, I am willing to spend time and effort promoting love within myself.