Last night I spent an evening hanging out with the women at Rahab’s Sisters. Rahab’s Sisters is a ministry that provides hospitality to women marginalized by prostitution, drug abuse, and homelessness. I haven’t volunteered there for over a year, but I was invited by a friend to stop by and so I did.
It’s been a long time, but things really haven’t changed. If I were to give someone advice about working with women on the streets it would be this: expect nothing, open your heart to be in the moment with someone..there is enough in that.
Last night I met up with “T” one of the women I really adore. She’s 48 and looks 68, she’s full of restless energy and a love for her children that is unparalleled. And her mind is steel trap…she is smart. She is also a drug addict. If she weren’t an addict I can only imagine how her life might have been different. Next month, she told me, will mark the first time in her life she will be not be on probation in 35 years. Crazy. T has told me stories, every one of which I believe, that I cannot imagine living through. To say that she is resilient…I am not even sure if that is strong enough. Why she is an addict makes sense at some point. How someone lives with pain and memories of her life is incomprehensible. Poverty doesn’t allow for competent therapy and support.
Last night as I listened to T, I wondered for a moment why I had stopped volunteering. Much of it had to do with my own life and energy at the time. I grew tired. I remember once training a large group of eager young women to become volunteers. Their hope was to make an impact…to pull women’s lives out drugs and prostitution. Yes I hoped for that too. But real change happens in small, unnoticeable increments. Prostitution and drug addiction are two of the most difficult things to get out of. I don’t want to say that it is hopeless. But hoping for an outcome and wanting to “make a difference” had become disingenuous to me. Who’s agenda was I serving. I can only love and be present. That is all that we are ever asked to do. It can be a difficult a thing, being fully present with someone else; even harder with someone we don’t know, someone who is struggling. T made it easy last night. She reminded me of our sisterhood; she reminded me of why just “being” is enough.
I woke up to a beautiful morning and a world of possibilty…then I panicked. I hate that I do this. It seems that whenever I am offered a day to do anything I want, I become overwhelmed with the choices. I fear I’ll turn a potentially perfect day into a wasted one. I wish I knew why I did this, but more urgently I need to know how not to do this.
Part of this started with the realization that tomorrow I will be in a six hour CPR class…on what is supposed to be an incredibly beautiful day. I’ll be trapped inside! I initially thought to myself, blow it off. Call in, sign up for a class at another time. I could drive up to Bellingham, see my niece, such a better plan. But the reality is, I need to take this class. And who’s to say that the next time I sign up for it won’t be as lovely a day.
And then there’s tax prep I need to get done, and Luka, and my garden, and spring cleaning, and wasn’t I going to rearrange my house, and paint, and clean the windows……aaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhh.
So I turned to my yoga. I came to the mat with sadness over my pulled hamstrings and the frustration of having lost my once flexible body. This is where I am. And I must start everyday at a new beginning. As a teacher I will tell my students this. As a yogini I must live this. I cannot ruin a perfect day. No day is inherently better than any other. It is my perception that gives a day value. In that still place where God resides and I am, I know differently.
I am what I believe…let me believe only in love.
as above so below.
i let a balloon go today
i watched move slowly
caught in a slender branch of
then freed, it floated
it lingered in an eddy
above a neighbors yard
then gained momentum
and soared up
until i lost sight of it..
I just discovered this wonderful Vietnamese market in my neighborhood. Okay..I’ve know it was in my neighborhood since I moved to NE Portland, I just didn’t know how wonderful the market is. I just bought three bags of food for $20.00. Really! Lots of beautiful veggies, fresh thai basil, noodles, hot sauce, even some oranges, and yummy wontons. And when I checked out, I was given a plastic $1.00 off coupon for my next trip. How nice is that?
Last weekend I went to the market and bought $5.00 worth of food and was able to make 3 huge meals out of it. Money’s tight these days, and I feel frugal but fortunate. Tonight I made a beautiful pho..so tasty…
There’s something very sweet about living in one’s neighborhood. And I have a neighborhood that I can really enjoy living in. I can walk to parks, restaurants, a bookstore, coffeehouse, farmers market and post office…longer walks can take me to the library, movie theater, and some antique stores. The lightrail is just down the street, the airport not too far away. I say it often, and it’s true.. I love where I live. Life is feeling right right now.
“I can negate everything of that part of me that lives on vague nostalgias, except this desire for unity, this longing to solve, this need for clarity and cohesion. I can refute everything in this world surrounding me that offends or enraptures me, except this chaos, this sovereign chance and this divine equivalence which springs from anarchy. I don’t know whether this world has meaning that transcends it. But I know that I do not know that meaning and that it is impossible for me just now to know it. What can a meaning outside my condition mean to me? I can understand only in human terms.” Albert Camus
It is comforting to know that we’ve been trying to answer the unanswerable for such a long time. I guess I can only only manage my life…manage my happiness. Or as a friend once said, “we can only effect the quality of our waiting.”
Waiting that is for those moments of ultimate settledness.
Right now, I must be settled in the fact that I am due for a printmaking critique and must be off.
Okay so it’s a bit hard to read…but it doesn’t really matter because because UCONN is not in it this year…MADNESS indeed.
I do so love college basketball…it will be very different this year.
It’s Pi Day…please celebrate.
I was to have pie with Richard at Random Order Coffehouse…but yoga school and daylight savings have interfered a little. He gave me a slice of his tasty salmon quiche though so I could celebrate today. Quiche is pie…it’s just egg pie, but “egg pie” doesn’t sound as lovely as quiche.
Be sure to celebrate, this day only happens once a year.
since feeling is first
who pays any attention
to the syntax of things
will never wholly kiss you;
wholly to be a fool
while Spring is in the world
my blood approves,and kisses are a far better fate
lady i swear by all flowers.
Don't cry--the best gesture of my brain is less than
your eyelids' flutter which says
we are for eachother: then
laugh, leaning back in my arms
for life's not a paragraph
And death i think is no parenthesis
when i first read e.e. cummings i felt i had found a kindred spirit...
it wasn't his words so much, but his preference for the lower case letter
and his indiscriminate use of punctuation
... his words soon followed into my heart
Last Wednesday at my yoga teacher training class we had a seminar on the Bhagavad Gita that “the Swami” facilitated. The fact is I love the Ashram where I attend yoga and am now studying. The grounds are beautiful; I love the yoga offered there; the people are warm and welcoming and really smart and accomplished too. It’s pretty wonderful. What I don’t understand yet…is the Swami. He’s the leader of the Ashram, a man who has spent his adult life living the life of a guru in America. Not an easy path in life…not an east thing to understand.
What is hard for me to get, well one of the hard things for me, is the devotion others have for him. Perhaps it is akin to the devotion Catholics have for Saints…maybe I’ll ask Swami that next time I have the chance (he and I are both former Catholics). Maybe it’s that I haven’t experienced the Swami in a way that I would feel compelled to devotion. Save for the love I have for my kids, I guess I lack the experience of devotion in an earthly relationship.
Lately I feel I have little belief in anything. What I have is my experience…my subjective and neural response to the world. That’s it… That’s what I believe in. Truth is moving object..memory can’t be trusted…the experience in the moment…it’s all I have. And it can bring me great comfort. My sadhana, my spiritual practice, is learning how to be in this world. Just be. That’s what I believe in now.
My belief about God’s existence is…well mixed. What I know is nothing really. What I speculate is much. What I feel is whole other thing.
I was making my bed today and the thought just rose up in me that we as a God believing people are pretty arrogant to think that there is a God up in heaven judging our every action. It’s a scary thought on one hand if this is true. And I have lived with this being the truth for most of my life..so much so that I have lived in an almost constant state of fear and anxiety, acutely aware that I was being watched. I have wondered too much what God would think of me in this moment and the next. Wondering if what I was doing was good enough and waiting for some reward or punishment as the answer. Not a good way to live, and certainly not an authentic way of being. Every action done out of fear. Ughh. It makes me queasy thinking of this.
Why do we buy into this? I think it is because we like to be judged. Really. We want to know where we stand at any moment We want to believe that good begets good and bad begets bad…and by God, literally, we want to be told we’re doing well. We want it in school…working more for the grade than the actual understanding of a subject. We judge and our judged by our peers and strangers alike, as well as by those we work with and for. It would be nice to believe that we are not a judgmental people, but we are. I am. I compare myself to other women all the time…most I see as more successful than I am. But often I judge myself as better than others. It’s ugly but it’s true. I catch myself comparing myself to others all the time. How is this not judgment? Pay attention one day to your inner thoughts. I think you’d be surprised. I was. I had always thought of myself to be a fair and decent person; but the truth is I am pretty insecure and often judgmental. One has to look in the mirror sometimes and face the truth.
Just the other day I heard Obama praising the firing of an entire high school’s teaching staff in Maryland. Former and current students of that school spoke up last week criticizing Obama for making an such a statement when he didn’t have the facts. “He doesn’t even know us,” they complained, “how can he make a fair judgment.” Don’t we do this all the time? We see someone arrested for a crime and we assume guilt. If the person is found innocent, that story often doesn’t make the news.
It makes sense that as a judgmental people we would believe God to be this way too. The Bible even tells us there will be a judgment day. Enough already. Look at the universe…in the scheme of things we are a pretty insignificant part. To believe that God is out there somewhere watching our every action is too much for me to believe and seems incredibly arrogant. I think I have chosen to believe this in the past mostly out of fear, a tradition of fear that was passed down to me. What I have come to believe about God now is very simple.
God is Love. There is no fear or judgment in this Love…it is Love only and immensely. Our task on this earth is to accept it.