Random Thoughts On Love, Hate, and Having Your Shit Together

Today is the day of the march against gun violence, March for Our Lives. My feelings about guns are mixed. Personally, I don’t see why we need them. Of course I realize that mayhem will ensue if guns were outlawed, and I’d be shocked to see that day. I can understand wanting a gun for personal safety if all hell were to break loose in an apocalyptic disaster, a fear that has been the driving force of our culture since the beginning, originating from biblical times. And I get that shooting at a gun range could be fun. On the other hand, is one person’s entertainment worth a child, or any person, getting shot and killed? Kids can’t even go to school without fear of getting shot. I say that, and many kids (most?) aren’t even afraid because they’re so desensitized to it. People can’t even go to church, the mall, concerts, etc. without the possibility of some psychotic shooter with an assault rifle gunning the place down. Non-Americans must think we’re crazy, and they’re not wrong. I wish we could be more like Canadians. They’re nice to everyone, everyone likes them, life looks pretty darn peaceful for them, from here anyway. Their gun laws make so much more sense…

They’re expecting 500,000 people to be at the march today, but I’m guessing it will be much bigger if it’s anything like the Women’s March.

My friend Molly and I are going together, as we did the Women’s March. My other friend Kathy will be there, and we plan on meeting up, but meeting one person in a crowd of 500,000 people doesn’t really happen. You can be like I’ll meet you on the corner of Pennsylvania and 3rd, but just know that hundreds of thousands of other people will also be on that corner. I’m mildly stressed out because it would’ve been good to get there early, but Molly can’t leave until noon. Which is when it starts. I did what I often do which is at first I said, Yeah whatever we’ll get there when we get there, because I’m Miss Easygoing Easy-Breezy who just goes along with everyone else. I feel like such a doormat sometimes. In this case–or in any case, really–it doesn’t pay to be a control freak about it because there will be a huge crowd, the metro will have delays, streets will be overflowing, etc. But when this happens I always feel afterwards I should’ve used my voice more, should’ve had my own plan, should’ve just said, I’ll be there at x time and I can just meet you there… But I don’t think I’ll find Molly if I do that, based on my experience at the Women’s March. And I was just gonna go with Kathy and tell Molly we’d meet her somewhere there but then Kathy didn’t reply to my texts last night regarding plans (turns out she had to work late but my crazy head told me she didn’t want to go with me… Lord help me). My original plans had been with Molly and I knew then that we’d be going at her mercy because being on time or showing up at all has never been her strong point, maybe due to her ADHD or whatever disorder it is she has (the doctors have diagnosed her with a few different disorders that have changed). I love her so much but omg she’s so frustrating sometimes. Honestly if I’d known Kathy was going from the start, and that she wanted to go with me, then I might have made plans with her and just told Molly I’d meet her there.

Kathy is my boss and she and I have become good friends over the last couple of years, and I like her a lot. She’s leaving soon to go to another job which means my job will become more stressful and less of a positive atmosphere. The other girls there have various issues that require a lot of patience which I usually can show well on the outside, while on the inside I want to scream (I mean, let’s just be real here). The thing about Kathy is she has her shit together which is more than I can say for most of my friends. And I use that phrase loosely—I guess some might argue that she does not have her shit together. But who really has their shit together? Aren’t we all just trying to figure it out as we go? What does it even mean to have your shit together?

I know a girl who’s 25 years old, recently graduated from acupuncture school, lives with her husband in her parents’ (big) house (they moved away), and they raise chickens and sell their eggs. She’s an acupuncturist and licensed personal trainer, and he owns his own landscaping business. He’s gorgeous, she’s gorgeous, they’re both like six feet tall… They’re the weirdest people I know. I want to know more about them. Are they real? Everyone else I’m friends with is on a journey of figuring out what they want to do. Maybe one day I’ll have my shit more together and have friends who are like them, except we’ll all be more like 50 years old, and even then, I’m skeptical. I’m skeptical of them too, though I don’t want to be cynical. The universe is abundant! There’s space for everyone. There is opportunity.

The important thing is to be a positive force in others’ lives.

Here’s a song that keeps going through my head this morning, originally from Bob Marley, performed by his son, Ziggy:

More on Planet of the Apes

At work I found this card from a company called Borealis. I’m the card buyer, meaning, I get to choose what cards we sell, and our cards happen to be in the top 5 of our best-selling products. I care about that because the store is one of two locations, a real mom and pop organization, and the owners are good people who care about this planet and the living beings in it. Many customers come to our store just for the cards, because they’re unique. Most of the cards I choose have pictures of animals on them, or inspirational quotes.

So I took a picture of this card and sent it to my sister:

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It seems like a sweet card, with a sweet message. Who doesn’t love a baby animal?

But it turns out that chimpanzees get taken from their mothers to be pets, or to work in the entertainment industry. No chimp mother would allow this picture to be taken, because she wouldn’t allow humans to take her baby away. So that means this baby was forced from her mother for this picture, so we could look at it and say, Oh, how adorable. When the chimp becomes five or six years old, they become too much for people to handle, so people will abuse them into submission, or else dump them at a roadside zoo, euthanize them, or, if they’re lucky, they end up in a sanctuary.

The only reason I know this is because my sister worked for years at a chimpanzee sanctuary that housed chimps who’d been in the entertainment industry, who were sent or rescued to live at the sanctuary because people had no use for them anymore. These particular chimps lived an unnatural life without their families, and were often abused, used for humans’ entertainment in movies. So when you see a chimp in a movie and think that’s cute, it’s actually really not that cute or sweet at all. This card is the same way. People profit from this, and consumers don’t even realize it. It seems benign enough.

I like what Planet of the Apes does, in that it reverses the roles of humans and chimps so that we can get a better idea of the chimp’s perspective. Here’s a clip from the original movie:

We cannot communicate in the same language with other species. We try to interpret what they do, but we can’t really know. We can guess but we can’t know what they’re saying to each other because we’re not them, we’re not in their heads. I’m pretty sure when a dog wags his tail, he’s happy. But what about the gray areas? One time, I was at a pool party where some people thought it was funny to watch their dog get thrown in the pool and swim frantically back to the steps. I thought that the dog was scared, because I for one would not like getting thrown into a pool. Maybe someone else thinks it’s fun, and they love getting thrown in the water. How can you know for sure?

This baby chimp may love this puppy, but what else is going on?

Animals have emotions, that much I know. When I was little, when I was sad I would cry outside in the side yard, by the carport, and my cat would always come up to me and rub his head on my knees. Maybe he just wanted to be petted, but it sure seemed like he knew I was sad, and he was offering his love. It certainly made me feel better.

This post was not meant to be a downer, to make anyone feel guilty for enjoying a sweet photo of a baby chimp and a puppy. But it’s just to open your eyes and see that those cute chimps you see in the movies aren’t necessarily happy chimps who live extraordinary lives of leisure, but are rather more like property used and abused for human entertainment and ultimately for profit.

Though I’d love to pretend I don’t know about this, and continue going on my way saying positive affirmations and what-not, the truth is that this happens. While I’m probably not going to march in the streets, there are a few easy things I can do, and you can do too:

  • Don’t buy a card like this, or watch/pay for a movie in which chimpanzees play a part. This is an easy one. Just don’t spend money on something that profits people who use and abuse animals.
  • If you can afford it, contribute to a chimpanzee sanctuary, or to an animal welfare organization of your choice. Last year I donated to the Audubon Society in honor of my mom, who loved owls. This year I’ll contribute to a cause dedicated to chimpanzees, after watching Planet of the Apes and learning more about these guys. I don’t make much money, but I can give a few dollars.
  • Let others know that this is happening. It doesn’t have to be a shaming game in which we all sit around feeling guilty for enjoying a sweet picture of a baby chimp. We’re just educating ourselves. I didn’t know this happened, and now I do. Now I can choose to do something about it, like write this blog post, and not buy the card, or even distribute information.
  • Write to those in the industry and ask that they not do contribute to this. Not everyone knows this is happening. Borealis probably just thought the baby chimp holding a puppy was a sweet card, as I did.

Like I said, I don’t want to be a downer, but at the same time, I believe it’s important to face the truth and do something about it, in whatever small way we can.

A guy I know said that he found it difficult to watch the movie, because he could not get past the fact that not only do the apes speak, but to him they just look ugly. That made me sad, because I feel that the whole point of Planet of the Apes is to humanize apes so we can see them as emotional, sentient beings. You can replace them with dogs, some fictional alien creatures, or even just as someone who’s a different race or nationality than we are. We are all living beings, worthy of love. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I thought the apes were sweet and beautiful, and I wanted to hug and kiss them, which is generally how I feel about most furry or feathered animals, even when I see a cow or a goat on the side of a country road. Not everyone wants to smooch every deer they pass on the side of the road—I get it. But for me, I just love animals. That doesn’t mean I don’t also love humans. I find humans and human nature fascinating, and I like to be part of a community and have friends. At the same time, animals represent unconditional love. Like puppies. Is there a puppy out there who does not reflect pure love?

I’ll close with a few facts I learned about chimpanzees:

  1. Chimps share 99% of our DNA. Chimps are closer genetically to humans than they are to gorillas.
  2. Chimpanzees are endangered in the wild.
  3. Baby chimps stay with their mothers until they’re five or six, and many maintain close relationships with their mothers throughout their lifetime.
  4. When baby chimps get taken from their mothers in infancy, they develop behavioral problems.
  5. More information on apes in entertainment here. And even more information on apes in entertainment here.

So please think about this the next time you see an ape in a television commercial, or a movie, or in a greeting card. What seems so cute and innocent is not that way. Again, I don’t mean to shame or blame anyone, or make us all sit around feeling angry, sad, and helpless. Just know that you don’t have to participate in it, and you can actually do something about it. Maybe you and I can’t change the world singlehandedly, but together we can help make it a better place.

Peace and love,

TCH

PS: The animals in Planet of the Apes are played by humans, so they’re not actual apes being abused for entertainment.

PSS: It’s a bad idea to try and hug a chimpanzee, or any other wild animal. Did you ever see that documentary “Grizzly Man?” Good movie, good man, good intentions. Terrible, terrible idea.

Women’s March in DC

Well I didn’t die yesterday. No crazy bombers blew up the Women’s March. In fact, it was an amazing, positive, inspiring experience that I’m grateful to have been a part of. It reminded me that I am part of something much bigger. I am not alone.

People from all walks came together to show solidarity and support one another. Organizers expected 200,000 people, and instead over a million people showed up in DC. And they didn’t just march in DC, but around the world. Everyone was friendly, smiling, cheering. People said “excuse me” when they bumped into each other. Every now and then you’d hear a few people chanting nonsensical chants, such as, “Let’s start the march now,” at the beginning after we’d waited for an hour to start marching. Turns out it was too big for anyone to move for some time, and we ended up going everywhere, off route, because there were just too many people. Towards the end, everyone was walking in different directions, and it didn’t even matter because we were there to show support for each other.

Some of the signs were funny. One sign read, “Don’t turn back time. Let Cher do that.” Another sign read, “There’s too much shit to put on one sign.” Quite a few signs read, “We shall overcomb,” with a picture of Trump’s combover. Oh, and one more: “Melania, if you need help, blink twice.”

I saw a few police and military people, but they were not unfriendly, and one police officer had classical music playing from his van. People were climbing on towers, trucks, bleachers, and no one minded. People were standing on the balconies of buildings, holding signs, wearing pink “pussyhats,” pink t-shirts, scarves. It was a sea of pink.

My mother would’ve LOVED it. I like to think she was there in spirit, shaking her fist in the air in the feisty way that characterizes her personality.

Most of my pictures from the march didn’t turn out so well, so instead I’ll link to this New York Times article with pictures from around the world.

Peace and love,

TCH

The Struggle for Peace

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Another BayArt.org blog post resonated with me that I wanted to explore my feelings on, and share here. What really stands out to me is the messiness of the spiritual journey. This path of healing that I want so badly to be easy and carefree, well it’s exactly the opposite. For me, strength and courage haven’t come during the times of joy and peace. These things don’t happen when I’m breezing through life effortlessly. When life is easy and comfortable, I don’t search for peace, compassion, strength, joy.

If you’re looking for a message of hope and inspiration, you won’t find it in this post. I am at what I hope is rock bottom, and I only write this so that I can remember how hard it was when life gets better in the future, so that I can empathize with others during their hard times, and hopefully be of help to someone one day. Maybe it will be a comfort to someone else out there who’s suffering a similar hardship. I don’t know.

This thing that I’ve invested so much time and energy in, this thing I’ve wanted so badly, clung to, fought for… I just don’t know if I want to continue the struggle. It’s just too hard, and I question whether it’s worth it. Is this really how I want life to be? Yet I am so afraid to let it go, because I know that life is hard no matter what path you take, and at some point you make a decision to stick to your decision no matter what, because you know you’ll just run into different problems that are just as frustrating at a later date. I know this for a fact because I’ve been there.

All I know is that something has to change. I have to change. I want so badly for things to just go my way. I want it to be easy. I want safety and security and stability, and that just ain’t happening right now. I have a support network yet I feel totally alone. Who can I call right now? I’ve called everyone I know, I’ve been to every support group meeting available right now, I went to church, I meditated, I called my therapist, my acupuncturist. I decided to keep my money rather than visit a psychic, as badly as I want to know the future, how this is all going to play out, because on some level I know I’ll be given some vague story about how it will all work out. And I know that it will. The problem for me is that I don’t know if it will work out the way I want, and that’s what’s so painful to me.

This is my spiritual journey. It’s not rainbows and unicorns in the sky with glitter and stardust and angels or my dead mother telling me she’s with me and everything’s going to be okay. It’s me sitting alone in my bedroom at 8am on a Monday morning balling my eyes out trying not to sob too loudly while my roommates sleep soundly in their rooms, and my loved ones are far away in their own world of pain that I cannot do anything about, and in fact I seem to just ruin it because I’m in too much pain myself to be of use to anyone else right now. It’s me crying alone in my room praying to God for help, mercy, grace. If Mom were alive, I could call her, and I’d feel better in the moment talking to her, but I still have to fight this battle on my own. No one else can save me. Her being alive would not change that.

Yesterday I reached a new level of understanding, of realizing I cannot wallow in self-pity, I cannot blame Mom’s death or expect everyone else to understand and pause for the next year or two or five or however long it takes for me to process this grief.

I don’t know if going back to school is the right option. I’d love to feel confident in my decision, secure in knowing this is what I want, and faith that it will work out for the better, but I only feel that this is the only option, the last option. I simply do not know what else to do. I am 40 years old with a master’s degree in field I cannot get a job in, working at a grocery store, making barely enough money to get by. So I registered for classes next semester, even though it’s the last thing I want to do right now. I don’t want to spend all my free time studying a bunch of shit I can’t remember later for a job I don’t know if I can get or will like once I do get it. But nothing else is presenting itself to me right now. So this is it.

If I had any hope or strength to offer, it would be this:  ask yourself as you go through the day what you can offer to life rather than what life can offer to you. Say some positive affirmations, no matter how hard it feels, no matter how untrue or fake it feels. If there’s something you enjoy doing, but you just don’t want to do it, do it anyway. This is where growth happens. The journey is not a straight path. It’s a narrow and winding road full of hills, but we will get there. It may not feel like it right now, but we will.

Peace

A white woman of about the age of 50 came into the store yesterday and talked to a young African American man (technically he’s biracial, in his late 20s) about what’s going on in America today. I did not catch all that was said, just that this normally cheerful young man became visibly shaken and irritable. The woman had good intentions, and was letting him know she’s on his side, blah blah etc. He said that no politicians will fight for the people; the people must fight for themselves. He pointed out how no politicians are doing anything about what’s going on at the Dakota Access Pipeline.

So that happened.

Another customer at work reminded me recently about the law of attraction, that whatever’s in here (he pointed to his head), is what happens out there. Our fears create our reality just as much as positive thoughts can. The wolf you feed is the one who wins. One might hypothesize that if you fear an apocalypse, maybe that’s what created the apocalypse. If you believe something good can come out of tragedy, then you will find something good that came out of that tragedy. Some of us—maybe all of us—have to lose everything to then start over again with a new lease on life. It’s like the St. Francis prayer, which I’d previously taken metaphorically, but now think of in literal terms as well, in light of my mother’s death:  “It is by dying that one awakens to eternal life.” Another version or translation reads like this:  “It is in dying that we are born again to eternal life.”

The other night I watched “10 Questions for the Dalai Lama,” a documentary from 2006 in which the Dalai Lama offered a profound answer to a question that really resonated with me. The question was this:  How do you react in the face of violence? At what point do you fight back?

The Dalai Lama said that if someone’s hitting you, hit back. But he added that if you kill someone, if you participate in the destruction of someone else, you’re ultimately contributing to the destruction of yourself, because we are all interconnected.

This is what it means to me to surrender. Let go of your tight grasp on the way you think things should be, and let life flow. We have no way of knowing the outcome, so all we can do is focus on being in this moment. My intention for today is to see where I can be of service to others. What that means is being present, offering help where I can, and being kind in the process. I don’t need to be phony in my cheerfulness, nor do I allow others to walk all over me. At the same time, I do not have to retaliate with aggressive or vengeful words, thoughts, or actions. I can focus on being present in the moment, and not lost in thought of how someone else wronged me or how I will take revenge in the future. Those kinds of thoughts only serve to keep us imprisoned.

Finding Peace

img_2114No matter what the circumstances, it’s possible to find peace and happiness. It can be easy to forget gratitude, but if we make a concerted, ongoing effort, we can find it.

This weekend I’m spending in New Mexico with my sister and her kids. I’m nervous about going, for reasons I don’t completely understand—I think it’s because usually Mom would be with us, and now she’s not—but the good thing is that I get to spend time with my loved ones. The most valuable gift you can give a person is your time, which is a good thing because I can no longer afford to buy them expensive gifts. What I can do is show up.

The holidays won’t be easy this year for those of us who’ve lost loved ones. Their absence will be felt more strongly. But the beauty of that is that we can allow ourselves to feel the depth and strength of the love we feel for those we’ve lost. We can be grateful for our loved ones whose physical presence is still here, and we can know that those who’ve passed live on in our hearts.

My belief is that most people are inherently good. Our actions may not always show it, but we want to do good. Some of us have different ideas about what that means. We have no control over what another person says or does, or how events play out. All a person can do is her part. We can cast our votes and then accept the results. That doesn’t mean not to take action. Now more than ever I want to get involved in being of service to my community. No laws prevent us from helping others, going to rallies, or engaging in peaceful protests.

Not everyone is a thinker or a spiritual seeker. Perhaps most people are not. Many of us spend at least some or all of our time numbing ourselves out with television, food, alcohol, or one of the other many addictive behaviors our culture encourages. These behaviors are soul-killers. They prevent us from being who we truly are, our highest selves. They prevent us from getting close to God, Tao, Allah, or a higher power, or our inner/higher selves, or whatever you want to call this power greater than ourselves. Not everyone is interested in this higher power, but for me, it’s how I find peace. That doesn’t mean I don’t like to indulge in a good TV show now and then.

However, lately I find that it’s hard to do anything that involves words and people. One reason could be that the words that I read and write are too negative, or too much, or too little, and that’s why I haven’t posted every day. Our brains are wired to the negative for self-preservation, but this evolved way of thinking no longer serves us. Neuroplasticity allows us to re-wire our brains for the positive. Lately I find peace in painting, Buddhist chants or instrumental music, preferably uplifting sounds. I love to watch documentaries about wildlife. I no longer want to live in the negative.

Some other ways in which I find peace, things that I feel grateful for, are this:  nature, watching birds, taking photos, looking at photos of animals, spending time with loved ones, reading inspirational books, sipping cinnamon rose tea.

At night I go to bed with the intention of having a dream that will expose truth to me, because I believe dreams can do that. Last night I dreamt I saw a chalkboard and on it was written:  God. This is it. My interpretation is that God (or whatever word you use—I use “God”) is the answer; God is here. No matter what we do or whether or not we acknowledge it or feel it, I believe a higher power exists, and is right here, now. For me to find peace, I must access this higher power, and access it on an ongoing basis. It’s easy to forget, especially when times are happy, but we can always come back to it… Peace and namaste.

 

Finding Hope

Today I am stunned and heartbroken over the results of the election. I want to write more, but I don’t have the time right now, nor do I want to mull over the sadness I’m feeling. Furthermore, I don’t wish to alienate anyone who disagrees with my view.

My goal now is to give and receive positivity by finding ways to be of service to others. And in spite of the fact that I don’t agree with everyone’s view, my aim is to love others no matter what. People like Jesus, Buddha, Gandhi, Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King, Jr., Nelson Mandela, Thich Nhat Hanh, Pema Chodron, Tara Brach, Jack Kornfield… these are all people who led by example, people who, in some cases, endured tragic circumstances but held strong and true to their beliefs. They are my role models.

Here’s one of my favorite prayers, the St. Francis of Assisi prayer (the 12-step version):

Lord, make me a channel of thy peace;
that where there is hatred, I may bring love;
that where there is wrong, I may bring the spirit of forgiveness;
that where there is discord, I may bring harmony;
that where there is error, I may bring truth;
that where there is doubt, I may bring faith;
that where there is despair, I may bring hope;
that where there are shadows, I may bring light;
that where there is sadness, I may bring joy.
Lord, grant that I may seek rather to comfort than to be comforted;
to understand, than to be understood;
to love, than to be loved.
For it is by self-forgetting that one finds.
It is by forgiving that one is forgiven.
It is by dying that one awakens to eternal life.
Amen.

I hope that you too will look to spiritual teachers and the pitfalls that come in life as lessons to learn, regardless of whether or not you feel the same about this particular issue.

Peace and love,

TCH