Black Lives Matter

When I heard the news that nine people had been murdered in Charleston, SC, last week, I was riding the bus home. As I sat next to strangers, I was overwhelmed with grief. At our Sunday morning service, we a spent a moment in silence after the name of each person was called and their picture shown on the wall. Taking in those beautiful faces, knowing that they are no longer here with us, I felt the loss again.

It is time for us to say “No more.” No more violence, no more fear, no more refusing to see the value and beauty in every person in this world.

What can one person do? I am surely not the only one who has asked this question. I am surely not the only one who has felt too small in the face of so much. Perhaps I cannot change the world, but I must change myself–and that is no small thing. When I skirt around the edges of despair at just how huge this problem is in our country, I keep coming back to LOVE. We have got to breathe through our fear, our despair, our anger–whatever it may be for each of us–and see with the eyes of love.

Last month, Natasha Ria El-Scari spoke at CSL about living the Science of Mind principles in the face of racism. One of the many things she shared that touched me was her story of being shoved by a white man at the gym where she was exercising. He had clearly gone out of his way to do it. She followed him and asked him why he had. At first, he denied having done anything. She held firm and calmly replied that it was clear that he had, and she asked again what had led him to behave that way. He finally apologized and she accepted it. To us Natasha said that she was aware that there are two acceptable ways for a black person to address racist acts–one is to pretend it didn’t happen and the other is to go into a rage. Neither works for her. If she remains silent, she becomes complicit with the act of racism. If she responds with rage, she is dismissed. Either way, the behavior itself remains unchallenged. Her approach, instead, is to “get all up in people’s faces with love.”

Speaking up has always been my struggle. I have not known how to address things that felt wrong to me. Stuck between two choices–fly into blaming, shaming, righteous mode; or remain silent–I have not spoken. I feel in the turmoil of my soul that my silence–our silence–makes it possible for horrendous acts of violence against black people to continue unchallenged.

Natasha offered a very clear alternate path. Love wants to speak through me. I may not feel that I have the power to change the world, but I can open my mouth. I can set my fingers to write when my throat won’t loose the words inside me. I can let Love speak through me. Doing so will change the world.

Playing the Fringe

I started preparing for KC Fringe Fest 2015 by playing around with fairy tales to see which one best told my own life story. A few fits and starts later, it was clearly Sleeping Beauty. I have felt for much of my life as if my heart were asleep, inaccessible to me. I have searched for true love’s kiss sure it would wake me up. It never quite did.

Finally, I comprehend that I’ve been looking in all the wrong places, that the love I have sought is already alive within me, that I am created of Love, by Love and can never be separated from it. I had to awaken to that before I could ever be available to any love that someone else might have for me. Once I did, I saw it everywhere.

Just as with love, this story did not go where I thought it would. I had a couple of personal stories I’d already crafted that I expected to become a part of this structure. Turns out a different story wanted to be told. Twice Conceived made itself known to me in fits and starts. I just kept walking into my coaching sessions every time sure that I had nothing to work on, nothing to give. Every time I walked out, I was delighted to have discovered that something had been percolating up in that brain of mine after all.

Without my storytelling coach, it never would have happened. Laura has a way of hearing story into being. She held room for me and the story both when I hit those hard patches that have been silently hiding my stories. It was painful at times. My body had grown around those shadows; they had become a part of my marrow, hidden within my bones. Without her guidance and support this endeavor would still be the pipe dream it has been for the last three or four years.

Twice Conceived debuts at the KC Fringe Fest in July. I am excited to see how this story ends.

The Porcupine of Truth

The Porcupine of Truth by Bill Konigsberg. Published by Arthur A. Levine Books, 2015.

How could you not pick up a book called The Porcupine of Truth? The title led me to the inside flap — boy meets lesbian — which led me to the first chapter. There I found writing that engaged me just as much as the premise of the book.

A summer of exile from New York became an adventure on a number of levels for Carson Smith. Carson, facile of verbiage — except in the presence of beautiful young women — finally manages to speak to one. It turns out not exactly to be the adventure he was hoping for, but . . .

It all began with Aisha offering Carson a tour of the Billings, Montana zoo where his mother had just dropped him. She was headed to his father’s house to get things organized for their summer visit with the dying man. Neither of them had seen him in the 14 years since they left when Carson was 3.

Turns out that Aisha is not only a lesbian, she is newly homeless – kicked out by her father. She joins Carson in his basement room, and as the two of them are trying to bring some order to the space, they discover a carton of letters from his grandfather who had abandoned his own family when Carson’s father was 17. Most of the letters are unreadable due to water damage, but the one they can read leads them to believe that Carson’s grandfather may still be alive — and that the abandonment story in his father’s head may not be accurate. They grab the one clue available to them as to where he might have gone when he left Billings and they hit the road.

It isn’t long before the trip becomes three parallel journeys: the physical trek; an exploration of messy human relationships, how they form, and what they require those in them to become; and a journey into faith and spiritual meaning. I wasn’t expecting all that and was delighted to discover just how rich this story is.

In many ways, The Porcupine of Truth reflects my own story. It is interesting to me how often books seem to find me when I need them. In this instance, I have been working through the whole concept of privilege, and how it is so ingrained in us that we don’t notice it when it’s our own. Ever since I went to hear the two talks at CSL last month about racism and transphobia, I’ve been roiling around in my mind about my own privilege and how I can make an impact for change around a world that is too small for too many of us to fit into. How do I balance not making myself smaller than I am — which I have done all my life — while recognizing that this world does try (really hard and viciously sometimes) to make a lot of people smaller than they are. How do I not take advantage of privilege I am afforded as a matter of course because I am white, petite, aligned in my gender expression (mostly anyway — a little androgynous, but definitely a female in a female-gendered body)?

Is that even the right question? Maybe it’s less about giving something up than it is ensuring that everyone else be afforded the same “privilege” . . . because they are perfect expressions of God, exactly as they are. I’m still working all that out, and Porcupine has given me more fodder for doing so.

I loved both the main characters in this story, and my heart was touched by the people they met along the way as well as the people they came home to. For all that I make it sound like an earnest book, in truth it is funny as well as heart warming and real. Carson is kind of an ass a good deal of the time. He doesn’t seem to get that it’s not all about him. Even his gesture of giving a gift to Aisha in the form of leading her to a group of gay kids morphs into a petulant fit on his part when she actually wants to hang out with them. Yet Aisha and Carson don’t toss each other out despite their very human reactions. The book is a lovely exploration of the developing of friendship, of the healing of painful family relations, and of the belief in something bigger to help make sense of it all.

Appreciating My Power

Life will give you whatever experience is most helpful for the evolution of your consciousness.
— Eckhart Tolle

I am a powerful creator. Unfortunately, I had forgotten that until my throat started hurting a couple of Fridays ago. I’d been dreading having to work until midnight at our Teen Summer Reading Kickoff Event. Sore throat–ticket out. Except there was no way I was going to actually bail on the event. I was the only one who would be there that night who had the magical power needed to open the media closet. I was going to be there, even if I had to be rolled in on a gurney.

The day after the event, I crashed. I was completely couldn’t-get-out-of-bed tired with a stuffy head and compulsive cough.

I’ve gotten into affirmative mind treatment over the past couple of years and have been really diving in the last couple of months. It’s the Science of Mind approach to prayer. I’ve been praying and praying–alone, with my cats, with friends over the phone. I love praying. I can feel the joy in my body when I pray. I can hear the power in my words.

So if I’m so good at praying, why was I lying there, sick as a dog? For one thing, God gives you what you pray for–and thoughts are prayers to God. I really didn’t want to feel this bad. Time to give up the belief that if I don’t get enough sleep, I don’t just get tired, I get sick. There has got to be a better way to get out of doing things I don’t want to do. It was time to use God’s power for good. If I was that kind of powerful–and I am–I had to get conscious about my thoughts. I started praying for perfect health. I prayed every day. I’d like to say there was a glimmer of improvement each day, but truthfully, I was not feeling discernibly better.

Affirmative prayer is about revealing the truth to ourselves–about God, about ourselves, knowing that we are perfect spiritual beings. Which does not mean that there is no illness; obviously, there is. But it does mean that illness does not have anything to do with the truth of who we are. None of us “deserve” to be sick. When we align our knowing with the truth, we experience it; when we align it with not-the-truth, we experience that.

Probably not many of us would dispute the notion that God is perfect, that illness is not part of God’s experience. It doesn’t make any sense to think that it is. If we are made by God, out of Itself, then it doesn’t make sense to believe that it is inevitable that we are going to get sick.

So here’s the gift of this illness. This crud has me focusing on revealing the truth of who I am–on demonstrating that truth. I was invited (some might say “forced”) to consciously proclaim the truth: that I am a perfect expression of God, that wellness is my natural state of being. Over and over and over. I really liked hearing it. And hearing it repeatedly, I started to get it. I am a perfect expression of God, no matter what.

If it’s taken me a couple of weeks to demonstrate that in my physical self . . . well, hey. It took me two to three to manifest the experience. I’m not sweating a couple of weeks to cancel it out. And just between you and me, there’d have been no denying what a spiritual freak I am if I went from sick as a dog to healed, whole, and healthy overnight. God’s got my back on keeping that little secret.