Archive for September, 2013


paying it forward

pay it fowardRemember the movie “Pay it Forward”?  Now I don’t believe in helping others just because someone else did something for you, but there is something to say about how one small kindness can have a ripple effect.  I experienced that today.

I have been having a rough past couple of days: physically and emotionally exhausted.  It’s been difficult to drag myself out of bed and not cry at the smallest things.  Today someone took the time to reach out to me and listen.  Really listen.  Not just the, “Awww…I’m sorry” kind of listening, but the, “Hey, I might not be able to understand completely what you are going through, but you’re not alone” kind of listening.

Not but 2 minutes (or even less) later after this occurred and I turned around to find a girl crying down the hall.  Because I had been given support from someone else reaching out and listening to me, I was able to literally turn around and do the same for someone else.  The timing of these events was flawless.  Had I not been where I needed to be in order to both receive and give help, no one would have benefited.

So what if everyone really started listening to one another?  How would that effect how we are heard and listen to others in our daily lives?  Perhaps we would be more honest with ourselves and others?  Perhaps we would start seeing things from different perspectives, enabling us to better relate?  Perhaps we’d find that we’re not standing alone and that we don’t need to stand in opposition with one another?  Perhaps the results of “paying it forward” would be limitless in its ripple effects on loneliness, depression, oppression, discrimination and justice?  Perhaps…


the heart of the matter

the heart of the matterWhat’s at the heart of racism, discrimination, oppression and sexism?  Fear.  Fear of what we don’t understand.  So how do we get past the ugliness of these prejudices and address the fear?

I’ve combated racism and sexism in my close relationships.  For some, it was just ignorance.  They would never treat someone of another race poorly to their face, in fact, most of the time they would be very neighborly and helpful.  But despite this generosity, there existed an underlying belief that “they” were different.  It wasn’t something to understand, it was almost viewed as a fact and a permanent roadblock which society completely accepted.

In other cases, the prejudice and sexism is more subtle.  It presents itself in small side comments and the treatment of women.  Oh, they readily will admit that they have nothing against “them,” but they fail to understand what more “they” can want.  And the responsibility of bringing justice to people not receiving justice does not lie at their door – oh no!  We’ve given “them” plenty and look at what “they’ve” done with it?!  The language used makes it apparent that fear motivates their beliefs and behaviors even though in their mind they are completely neutral.

So how do we address the fear?  How do we reach out to these individuals who seem like completely logical and reasonable people, but hold completely illogical and unreasonable perspectives?  How do we find the right moments to ask them the right questions to make them think, reflect on their motives and perhaps open their minds to understand?  Is it our place to make them understand?

One always has to pick and choose their battles.  Some are worth fighting and others are not.  But what has been important for me to remember is that I am not fighting with anyone:  that will only invite other prejudices to surface.  Racism, discrimination, oppression and sexism do not have a face.  It lives in all of us to a certain degree.   But what if we could unite and fight the greatest enemy to human kind together?  What if we could defeat fear?  Now that’s an ugliness I think everyone understands.


The power of one

power of oneI’m always amazed by what can be accomplished when a group of people get together for a common goal.  When we believe in what we’re doing and our own personal agendas and issues are put aside for the benefit of the shared vision.  So who casts the vision and how do we let go of ourselves in order to see others?

What makes us release our own will to that of another?  We first learn how to let go through obedience.  Obedience to our parents, authority figures who we are told “know better” and we follow without question – like robots.  Then we’re encouraged to “think critically” for ourselves, but by the time that happens, we’ve already been conditioned and filled with ideas and perspectives on ourselves, religion, gender, sex, race, love and even justice.  However, we are not challenged to question all of those things that by then were the standard “factory made” settings.

Then, at some point, we’re hit with reality.  The reality of ourselves – of who we are or have become as a result of taking this ride called life: living it as a passenger on a track that someone else put you on.  Sometimes you can’t stop the ride in order to get off or veer it off course.  You get stuck.  Stuck on a journey that you didn’t choose to take but somehow you are the only one responsible for it.  This is either a debilitating realization or an empowering one.

For me, I started this new journey in the debilitating stage (perhaps I still am).  The idea that all this track that I had traveled was not in the direction I really wanted  – 10 years worth of traveling away from myself.  My real self.  The one that I was only now, at 29 years old discovering.  Regret is a powerful and paralyzing enemy.  Ironically, the only way to overcome regret is to not fight it- to let it go.  But letting go can be more exhausting than a brutal fight.

Once the journey of letting go begins, freedom and empowerment begin to fill the emptiness.  You begin seeing the world differently, seeing yourself in from a kinder point of view and embracing choice.  Feeling like you finally have a choice because you no longer need to respond with a trained reflex.  Time becomes your friend and a valuable commodity which you learn not to exploit or take for granted.  For the first time, you truly know yourself and want to be known.

So why would you want to give up your individuality which took so long to discover in order to accomplish someone else’s vision?  You don’t.  Supporting and joining a cause does not revert you back to robot status.  In fact, if you do become part of a group that makes you feel like a robot, you know it’s not healthy for you.  A healthy group turns the volume up on your individuality and stimulates the growth of your identity.  That’s when you know you’re valued and you don’t have to remain guarded.  When the guards come down and people can just be themselves amazing things can happen.  We can accomplish great things together – when we first embrace ourselves.


Full of agenda

truthHow do you have an agenda without having an agenda?  I mean, when you want to encourage someone to see your point of view, how do you influence them without actually stating your position?  In other words, how do we talk about important issues like sexism without beating someone over the head with it?

Just the other day I was talking with a girl who had her hair up in a new style.  I told her how much I liked it and she said it was strange for her because she couldn’t flip her hair back (she usually wears her hair down).  I playfully told her that this was an opportunity to break out of behaviors expected by men of women.  She laughed and said she never looked at it that way.   A boy nearby chimed into the conversation by sharing he thought hair flipping was hot.  I replied that that is exactly why women need to break it because it is a trained behavior resulting from a patriarchal society which teaches women to do what men think is “hot.”  He couldn’t help but agree and cheered me on.

So did I have an agenda in this conversation?  No.  I was simply talking with a friend and the circumstances made me question an everyday behavior.  Unfortunately, too many times we tend to bring our own intentions into the everyday circumstances and create our own “lesson teaching” times for others.  In this case, it was an interesting reflection for me and thus was not taken as “preaching” to those involved.  But if I had purposefully initiated and steered the conversation to go that way, I doubt things would have ended so pleasantly.

This is not to say that we shouldn’t have direct discussions which address specific issues.  We need to have confrontations and challenge people’s perspectives.  However, I’m learning that the most effective way to really transform social norms is to meet people where they are in their journey.  For me, this means that I must endeavor to understand perspectives other than my own.  What I tend to discover is that sexism is a result of a lack of education, awareness or an acceptance that “that’s just the way things are.”

Questioning is the key.  When you ask yourself and others questions, it allows for the opportunity to reflect and come to your own conclusions.  Nothing is pushed or shoved down anyone’s throat and so heavy topics become light and witty banter.  Who knows how a harmless question will stir someone’s heart and mind?  But if we don’t ask, we won’t know.  Now, what’s on the agenda?


hold on tight?

roller coasterLife is really like a roller coaster.  One day you’re climbing that mountain, feeling like you’re really making headway and getting somewhere.  Then for a brief moment you reach that incomparable view of the world and the next moment you suddenly drop!  Your stomach flies up out of your body as you experience complete weightlessness until forced back into your seat, holding on for dear life.

Sometimes you want to just stop the ride because you feel like you’re going in circles anyway.  Will things ever simply level off?  Do I really want to travel a long, flat plain for the rest of my life or would I miss the ups and downs of life?  Do we need the ups to really appreciate the downs?

That’s what a new friend of mine suggested the other day.  Sharing a meal with her and spilling everything we had but our tea was definitely one of my mountain top experiences.  She had so much wisdom and insight, empowerment and hope to give.  It was just what I needed.

Unfortunately reality struck the next day as I was reminded of my dog’s cancer returning, got stuck in traffic on the freeway which made me late for class, found a piece of plastic in a restaurant bought sandwich, only to begin the next day with another ant infestation, this time in the kitchen (thankfully my husband is not out of town this timeJ).  So are we as humans destined to take this crazy ride of extremes or do we have some kind of control?

What is control?  Many say we only have control in how we respond to the events of life.  So is that real control?  Is control possible?  How can we get a handle on the fast moving coaster of life and enjoy every part of the ride?  How do we let go of the bars in front of us and let ourselves scream until we find ourselves climbing the next mountain?  After all, does holding on tight really change our course?


Accept this

acceptanceAcceptance.  What does it mean to truly accept someone?  Does acceptance look different depending on the type of relationship or lack of relationship?  And can we accept others if we haven’t even accepted ourselves?

This idea of acceptance has plagued me all of my life and has recently resurfaced.  Struggling with perfectionism, it took me close to 30 years to just accept myself.  So now that I’ve jumped that mountainous hurdle, how do I extend this ideology to others?

I’d like to say that the act of acceptance is not the difficulty for me, it is the concept.  But the reality is that they both go hand in hand.  Does truly accepting someone mean that you also accept or dismiss bad behavior as that being a part of who they are?  And on the larger scale of society, how do we accept people who have tendencies of violence, abuse or murder?  Does acceptance demand we accept all of them, including these deeds or is there some invisible line that is drawn which separates their actions from who they are?  I know for myself that acceptance did not mean giving up on bettering myself or growing, but self-imposed goals or hopes are different from those we place on others, right?

That’s the conflict.  How do we accept one another and yet transform our world to a healthier, safer and more justice-filled place?  Can you equate or include change with acceptance?  It seems to me that they are somehow at odds with one another.  However, if you truly accept someone, I believe you must accept all of them – past, present and future.  The dangerous part is when you accept someone with expectations that they may change.

So what’s the answer?  I don’t know.  We each have to take our own journey to self-acceptance and that journey within itself may take a life time.  Taking that journey alone is even more difficult.  So how do we accept who we are, for where we are in the journey and extend that acceptance to others…while still encouraging positive transformation?  Can we come to accept that it’s possible?  Or is true acceptance itself impossible?


give me a reason

give me a reasonThings happen for a reason, right?  I mean, that’s what society, religious and non-religious groups have been saying for years?  But what if bad things continually happen?  It’s difficult to believe that these things “happen for a reason.”

I mean, take this past year I’ve had: between my husband’s accident, multiple surgeries and my dog’s cancer – it’s hard for me to accept that these things have purpose.  Then on a larger scale I think about the senseless deaths caused by war, terrorism and random acts of violence.  Take another step back and consider the oppression, enslavement and torture of women and minorities throughout history – and which continue today in sex trafficking, discrimination and war.

Can a reasonable reason exist which can justify these events?  Are we to extract courage, compassion, character, perseverance or wisdom from this pain?  If so, how?  Furthermore, how do we then let go, move on and trust again?

The consistent lesson I’ve taken from these supposedly “meaningful” incidences is that nothing is for certain.  As a result, you cannot take anything for granted.  Expectations can also be dangerous.  With this enlightenment, one can either be thankful for everything or live in constant cynicism.  Either way we guard ourselves from disappointment: a shield to protect us from believing we deserve more or train ourselves to expect less.  Neither of these options sounds reasonable to me.

So how do we make this saying come true?  How can we assure that whatever happens in life “happens for a reason?”  Is it even possible?  Because I feel like I end up being taught the same lessons over and over again.  Is there hope for the human race to use all of our experiences to bring growth, equality and freedom?  Is that even our goal?  Where is the reason?