Welcome to my excuse to write. I like to meander with big ideas, little moments, weird observations, inspiring people ... and I am grateful for your company.
The cardiologist doesn’t know why I collect fluid around my heart. Pericardial effusion, mild to moderate accumulation. Breathing gets hard when it spikes. I also turn sort of gray.
Echocardiogram, EKG, abdominal ultrasound, chest x-ray, screens for lupus and other auto-immune disorders, 3 rounds of blood work … Fortunately it’s all normal, yet the fluid risk remains. It’s from Inflammation, they say, though they don’t know what causes the cause.
“It’s probably no coincidence this happened right after the election,” I joke to my doctor.
“Oh, that could be a new diagnostic code,” she jokes back. Though neither of us is really joking.
I have yet to decide if Donald Trump’s election made me unable or unwilling to write, though I suspect the latter. I have always preferred vulnerability, a commitment to honesty and self-reflection made public. I’ve mostly assumed most others – whether known or strangers -- are mostly curious and compassionate, even if they believe my ideas are stupid or my delivery sucks. I’ve mostly chosen to believe we’re all mostly kind.
But when 63 million people believed Donald Trump was an actual, legitimate, viable president of the United States? Fuck that shit. On November 8, 2016 I turned my back on my optimistic belief that others are trustworthy. It was a petty, immature, and arrogantly stupid response, to be sure. But I took my ball of faith and went home.
My friend, Lou Murrey, declared 2018 the year of reckoning, the courage to own and be accountable for, once and for all, our full truths, desires, and actions. I’ve been okay at that over the years: living my values, making hard choices, acting on those decisions despite my terror or shame. And like millions this past year I’ve joined more organizations, supported more causes, subscribed to more media, contacted more legislators, and marched along more streets.
But since November 2016 I haven’t risked enough that’s real or audacious, and I know it. I pulled my heart out of circulation, stashing it behind my disgust and my grief and mostly my privilege, until it suffered crushing congestion. Until I couldn’t breathe.
I know Lou means we should take our reckoning up a bunch of notches:
So I’m bringing my heart back out into the light, which for me means writing in public. This next year I’ll riff on hope and transformation, on the profound difference between governance and politics, on radical momentum, on why cultivating wisdom and knowledge matter, on things fueled by compassion and strength. On love.
As always, read, subscribe, unsubscribe, respond, or ignore anytime.
(PS about my physical heart: acupuncture is miraculous; when that first needle hit the exact right point, breath rushed in so deep, so satisfying I felt like I had broken through from drowning. My acupuncturist also warned nightshade veggies can escalate histamine, so I cut back on those luscious local winter potatoes and summer tomatoes I’d been devouring daily. There were other treatments, too: some energy medicine and some supplements. All combined, I haven’t had a physical symptom in months. And I appreciate every full breath I take.)
It didn't take long for the guy next to me on the train to ask if I was pretty liberal. He was merely confirming the obvious, as we amicably disagreed on several current lightning rods: health care reform, sustainable energy and the growing practice of natural gas hydrofracking, which, it turns out, was also his profession. He didn't dismiss the environmental hazards -- most notably permanently poisoning millions of gallons of water -- but instead emphasized the vast potential yield, that fracking can satisfy our energy needs for many many years to come.
But not 200 years or 300 or 1000 ...
I suddenly realized how infrequently we plan for centuries. 18 months, maybe 24, a large corporation may vision 10-20 years perhaps, or too often we plan just 'till the next election ...
But our future scope is frighteningly narrow.
We revere history. We are fully engaged in protecting a ruin, holding sacred a ceremony, honoring the dead, studying the past ... we explore our ancestry, re-enact past battles ... we celebrate foundings, anniversaries, ancient texts, long-standing beliefs ... We insist our children learn vast swaths of history, and our daily media stream the past and present with mind-numbing force.
I'm not suggesting that's wrong. But why not the future in equal measure? How come our future is relegated to video games and sci-fi or to those we sequester in ivory towers? We're closer to 2200 than 1776, so how come our kids aren't exploring that with as much vigor? Imagine a bunch of 2nd graders spending half their school day envisioning 2492. Then imagine them over the course of their education honing those visions, creating new inventions & skills, defining their world 800 years from now. What if communities routinely came together not to fight over a shrinking economic pie but to explore what commerce and exchange might look like in 2500? What if we were consciously planning our way-out future?
Instead of justifying (and having to earn a living justifying) a practice that may momentarily keep our lights on but will, as the nice guy on the train admitted, permanently destroy our water tables, what if he could describe how his multinational was thinking energy in 500 years?
Tonight on HBO, a documentary about Gloria Steinem. And, so, an excuse to post my interview with her (such a cool gift!) for All About Women (For some reason the magazine took offline the first several years of issues.) From All About Women, 2/08:
In 1968 journalist Moses Znaimer conducted a lengthy, intimate interview with then 34-year-old Gloria Steinem in her New York City apartment, subsequently broadcast on the Canadian Broadcast Centre show entitled, The Way It Is. “New journalism” was the primary topic, Znaimer and Steinem discussing the new trend among an elite group of writers, including Steinem, who blended impeccable reporting with their own personal perspectives and connections with the story. Certainly it was interesting to learn about the origins of a journalistic style we now take for granted. But I found the interview’s equally overt sub-text even more fascinating.
Gloria Steinem was a “girl” and Moses Znaimer wove that fact into the interview with easy, casual frequency:
Do you distinguish in your work between the fact that you’re writing and you’re a lady writing?
I just want to get past one uncomfortable & fairly obvious fact … that you’re a pretty stunning woman. And I want to know whether you capitalize on that?
While Steinem inexplicably ironed a blouse during a portion of the interview, Znaimer asked, How many “ladies” things do you like doing? Do you cook? You iron … exceedingly well, too.
While discussing Steinem’s undercover expose as a Playboy bunny, Znaimer asked, “Forgive me, but I always thought you had to be stacked, absolutely stacked to be a bunny girl. How did you get the job?”
After the interview, the closing anchor, holding an iron in his hand, summarized with a smile, “[That was] Moses, ironing out a few things with a heck of a good writer, and not a hateful looker …”
Message to a friend who just showed up in my dream ... life is supposed to feel good, feel blissful in fact, if we actually allow such things. Love, too, but that goes without adding. Even change or growth or those expansions we invite or that life imposes sometimes unawares: shouldn't be a pit weighing heavy in our gut, but butterflies alight with anticipation or excitement, even if laced with a little healthy scarededness. Any decision quietly fueled by guilt, or god forbid shame, (or a twinge of that characteristic Stubborness that gets us in trouble every time) really should be reconsidered. Or maybe redone, even if such a radical wave makes the tides themselves shift direction. Cause when parts of ourselves fly through the pull of the moon seeking advice from others who slumber, somthin's up. Or at least it seemed to be as I softely brushed the first sleep from my eyes, back in the room where last night I lay my head.
Besides the obvious personal implications for Alden and his fellow middle schoolers, my mind is popping with all sorts of other contexts ... for my therapist, psychologist, psychiatrist colleagues: similar self-paced, interactive video, private & blissfully personal learning for those elements of recovery, wellness, illness management, psycho-ed, family supports, healthy relationships. And then saving precious face-to-face time for deeper applications -- wrangling troublespots, making it real with loved ones & groups, finding tailored sweetspots unique for a person or relationship.
Certainly has relevance for all my trainings. We're so locked into an expert training or facilitating a group of participants through content and exercises, whether live or tech-fancy remote. And sure we have eLearning, but imagine tossing those boundaries. Offering spaces of time, with instructions like "go watch these videos and then these times we'll play together with the concepts."
People want engagement, conversation, discussion, "relationshiping" over getting expert content poured into their heads, now more than ever. TED itself has proven the utter bliss that can be offered in 20-minutes (honestly, the limits to my attention span anyway). The Kahn Academy just propels it to so many cool new horizons.
Living fully in the present moment is far more disorienting than advertised. Don’t get me wrong – I feel great. But I have lost my familiar landmarks. When unconstrained by time and space, my boundaries bleed seamlessly into some universal pool so I can't quite feel any ground beneath my feet. If I'm One with the dang cosmos, then where do I reside on the map? And if I can't punch in my point of origin, then it totally messes with the whole concept of "direction," let alone the familiar process of setting a course. Seems all backwards now: I used to be tethered to an evolutionary past, using previous experience to guide my next journey. And I got pretty good at self-reflection, goal-setting, planning then doing. But now I’m all glorious imagination, dancing from this moment to any of a zillion new desires. And I can’t find my starting point. Hell, I can’t even find the atlas.
I'm pretty sure it’s all gone … the map, the linear plane, the sequence of logical events … I suspect those things have always been an illusion. But, sheesh, this totally messes with skills I’ve honed for eons, not to mention mucking with the brain chemical that helps me find my hotel in a strange city ...
I am exhilarated, to be sure. But this is a huge change, and the new learning curve is making me kind of dizzy.
A writer recently interviewed my niece, Lindsey, for a magazine feature about an inspiring young woman who transformed after a harrowing experience. (Quick recap for the uninitiated, October 2009 Lindsey – barely 20 -- and her boyfriend were robbed, and he was shot and killed as they left their house to go out to eat. I blogged periodic updates.)
The interview was painfully magnificent; Lindsey offered details I’d never heard, and, as always, her wisdom astounded me. But afterwards she and I talked about her one glaring omission. When asked what helped her recover she readily described support from friends and family, wonderful sessions with a therapist, stability with school and work … she even described her own fortitude.
But she didn’t mention several valuable sessions with spiritual intuitives and ongoing help from a man we can only inadequately describe as an energy healer. Laughing she said, “I didn’t know how to bring that up. How do you describe those things without sounding crazy?”
Yet those things probably helped her the most, even if they seemed too weird to talk about in public. In fact, I’m finding this increasingly true for so many I know, myself included. Incessantly worried? Perpetually sick? Cycling through the same relationship woes, the same circumstance over and over again? I’ve seen decades of intractable, repetitive bad choices, ill health or patterns of catastrophe shift almost immediately after a session with someone skilled at shifting those energies we don’t believe exist. While I’ve never witnessed spontaneous cures from cancer or clinical depression (although I no longer doubt they happen), I have seen crippling illnesses – mono, severe allergies, chronic fatigue, dangerous blood pressure, paralyzing anxiety, and life-stopping grief – disappear so subtly and so completely, it’s as if they never appeared in the first place.
Lindsey has come to believe that this wacky chiropractor – this “crazy” man who taps her head, waves his hands, and talks a language that is about as comprehensible to her as ancient Greek -- is the health care provider she counts on the most. She doesn’t know what he does, but she knows that he has been the catalyst behind her healing and her resulting transformation. It’s like he cleared away all the debris blocking her path so that she can get on with her true life.
I sure don’t blame her for not mentioning this in a magazine interview, given how people tear at things outside the mainstream. But I wish she could. (And she did say yup to this blog.)
John's Art Show Friday Night: In a turn of unexpected, divinely-inspired (and less than a week) events, Renee Furman, brand new owner of Boone's Gladiola Girls (as in today is her 2nd day), is proud to be hosting the first show in umpteen years of brand new, original artwork by John Lee.
For real. And it's beautiful, even if I am wildly biased.
This Friday, Gladiola Girls, as part of Downtown Boone's Art Walk, 5:00 - 8:00. Renee's hosting the party so you KNOW it will be fabulous.
I'm a parent, not a teacher, but recently joined the debate about conflicting merits of external rewards and intrinsic motivation. (As always, complaining about stifling systems, not the fabulous teachers constrained by them.) My daughter, Maddy, attended a Montessori school ages 4-14, one that not only purely emphasized the intrinsic coin but also embraced a structure that allowed -- demanded, in fact -- all the time a teacher needed to create democratic, participatory, tailored, intrinsic learning. (With one exception: their middle school teacher said the kids could collectively cut his hair -- their choice among several reward options -- upon successfully pulling off a presentation night for parents; Maddy's philosophy professor dad cried as he listened to his 13-year-old eloquently perform and explain Plato's Allegory of the Cave. Their teacher's hair was a mess for months afterward.)
Admittedly it was a tiny school in a tiny town with full autonomy, and the shoe-string budget such freedom usually implies. But more than half her classmates had one LD label or another. (Several kids were recent transfers after disastrous experiences in other schools.) And the kids flourished.
Despite having never taken a test (standardized or otherwise) or received a report card until 9th grade, and despite her own reading comprehension LD, my daughter subsequently soared in her traditional high school and her current freshman college year, her teachers routinely calling her the dream student -- self-motivated, assertive, self-aware, and full of critical thinking (including when she told both her sophomore English teacher and me that her B-level work was really all she felt interested in doing).
So it was a gut-wrenching shock when my stepson, Alden, entered my life and I became involved in his traditional school experience, full of stickers, silent lunch and select-member pizza parties (not to mention grades, report cards and end-of-year testing). Alden's just as happy, secure and self-poised as Maddy. He's technically smarter, too -- he can grasp new information, concepts and intricacies with lightening speed. And he's far easier to engage - takes about 2 minutes for him eagerly to jump into something new & interesting. AS LONG AS someone else initiates or requires it.
Compared to Maddy & her Montessori alum, he just doesn't know how to find & follow his own curiosities or work tough things out for himself. He doesn't understand the learning process: getting curious, investigating a little, feeling dumb for awhile, things beginning to click, then mastery. At 12 he still resists unless required, he looks for external rewards, he demands exact instructions not so much to guarantee perfection but to make it as easy as possible, and he still considers our computer or video game limits as punishment.
Don't get me wrong -- my daughter said, "I'm bored" more often than my stepson, and I bribed her big on three occasions with stellar results (when she wanted to quit swimming lessons, age 5, and dance, age 14, and once on vacation when she & her best friend had melted down into fueding puddles.)
But when I mentioned to Alden that at his age Maddy & her friends organized & held a wildly successful poetry slam fundraiser -- for passion, not a school assignment -- he was utterly bewildered. "Why did she do that if she didn't have to?" was his reply.