What If — Instead Of’s

by Jane Tawel

“…change…” by ĐāżŦ {mostly absent} is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

 

What If — Instead Of’s

By Jane Tawel

May 26, 2020

 

I have more time lately, and reason, to meditate on all the “What If’s” and “Instead Of’s”. Some days, this is instructive and hopeful, such as “What if we realize people in essential services need to be paid more in the future and billionaires need to be paid less?” And some days, this is mind numbingly depressing and futile, such as “What if they win again, and Canada still has closed borders?” Perhaps we all have been made more aware of this frame- work of Possibility Thinking during this “Impossible- to- Imagine- It- Could- Happen-In-Our-Lifetimes” Time. I mean, even dear John Lennon, didn’t “Imagine” this. I truly hope and pray that with all we are all thinking, writing, experiencing, doing, that we, the human race, or at least The Good Guys and Gals, decide to use Possibility Thinking for a better world for all of us. A healthier, saner, safer, kinder, more peaceful, restful, equitable world would be a nice “Instead Of” Outcome.

 

Though I am rather obsessed lately with the What If’s of the Future, we most often use this rhetorical device for thinking about the Past, and not the Present or Future. It’s human nature, after all to pick over the spoils and pick at the scabs incurred in our Pasts. And of course, it is vitally critical to look at the Past — or should I say, Pasts — plural. We have all gone egregiously and just stupidly wrong in not learning from our individual Pasts, our communal Pasts, and our national, religious, planetary, and world-wide Pasts. It is one of the things that elevates us as humans, this ability to change course, to envision something better, and yet we foolishly continue to so seldom use it. Rather than evolve by learning from past mistakes or last night’s sins, we so often choose to devolve into either helpless or stubborn beast-like creatures, chalking it all up to some other beastie’s problems or some innate inability in ourselves to grow and change. But being a human being was meant to be a glorious thing — a unique thing, a godlike thing. As human beings with souls, we are uniquely placed on this planet to live into the reality of “If-Then’s”. And therefore, when we go wrong, we can live into the miracle of “What If Instead Of this, We do that Instead’s?”. We can choose differently today than we did yesterday. We can regret. We can repent. We can hope. We can imagine. We can change. We can ask, What If we did this Instead Of that?

 

Now the “What If’s” are closer to home for many of us on a day to day basis now they seem to be more personal and more a very real matter of life and death. We don’t have to imagine quite so hard what it is like to walk in another person’s fragile, vulnerable shoes. We don’t have to try so hard to think what it is like to be afraid of going outside, of being imprisoned, or of not having enough money for the future or even the present day, or what it is like to work among dying patients in a war that makes no sense, or what it might be like to be very ill, afraid of dying and physically impaired in a world meant for only healthy people. Some of us don’t have to rely on memory alone any more or try to imagine what it is like to have pollution- free skies, or birds singing in the morning, or time to just be still and relax and rest. Some of us are finally experiencing a small sense of the prejudice and injustice that people of color have experienced their whole lives. Some of us are mourning over the senselessness and randomness of death.

 

Some of us are finding out the joys of the “Insteads”. We are finding that it is freeing to make do with less. That love starts at home but you have to be there to be part of it. We are discovering that creating things is vital for every human being and that everyone, no matter how faceless and nameless, matters deeply and intimately to each of us personally. A few of us may be realizing the “Instead-Reality” that we were meant for more — maybe it isn’t completely clear yet, but it is glimmering up ahead as a faint, dream-like Possibility. Most of us hopefully have some clue that instead of getting ahead for just me, myself, and I, Life is more fulfilling, and the Future more plausible, if we realize that we are all in This together.

 

And so, we may find ourselves asking, “What If we want things to be more like this in the Future?” What if I want to care more about others less fortunate than I, now that I have a better idea of what their lives have always been like? What if I want to help heal the planet from the outrageous things we’ve done to it? What if I want to work less and live more, and try to make sure that everyone has that same opportunity — to stop living for our work and start working so that we all might live — more equitably, more freely, more safely, and more joyfully? What if I want to spend more time in creative pursuits and supporting those who create art — whether it is on a stage, in a gallery, or in a garden? What if I want to spend more time outside in a world made for our enjoyment? What if I want to help protect the things in nature that before I have endangered? What if every day, I want to look at those I love and be more forgiving, more accepting, more understanding, and more selflessly helpful? What if everyone I love becomes Everyone? What if everyone I love includes you? And what if everyone I love includes myself — me?

 

What if I carry the lessons of the Past into Today to change myself in order to be a part of a better Future for the world? What if I become an “Instead Of”?

 

At this crossroads time in the history of humans, we are forced perhaps like never before in most of our lifetimes, to look backwards and wonder, “What If”. We ask it of the whole world: “What If they had done this Instead Of that?” We look at our leaders and weigh them in the balance of this equation. But it will never mean a thing if I am not asking the What If’s of myself. If we are at all honest and seek any kind of life of understanding or at least desire something better up ahead, we must look within our own hearts, our own minds, our own individual wills. We must peer with intention into the very essence of what makes us human — we must look within our souls. While we have been picking at the Past scars of What If’s that we can not change: — What if I hadn’t let Grandma go to work that day? What if I hadn’t gone to that birthday party where that woman was coughing all over the buffet table? What if Uncle Pete hadn’t gone to sing in the church choir that Sunday? — We must now let the scars heal over, and begin to seriously look at the “Instead Of’s” from here on out going forward. The What- If’s of our past choices should be given a very short shelf life. They are rather useless “what if’s” unless we can create a Time Machine and go back in Time to change them. (Let me know please, if you do. But I must warn you, I have a rather long list of changes I’d make.)

 

Some people spend a life-time on “What If’s”. What if I hadn’t married her? What if I had taken that job? What if I had majored in something else in college? What if I hadn’t gotten drunk? What if I had told him how I felt? What If’s can only change the Past-Self if we let it change for the better our Present-Self in order to grow into our best Future Self. We can evolve, we can be born again. That is the glory of our status as sentient, sensible souls. What If’s can pull us under with regret, remorse, anger, sorrow, lack of initiative, brokenness, and a host of other short-term and long-term emotions and ploys for convincing ourselves and others that change is impossible. Emotions without goals for change merely serve to sap our desire for a better life and deplete our energy for action. What If’s are only helpful if one understands that “though I didn’t know it then, I DO know it now”. What If’s are only helpful if you look at the Past and decide that Today, you will choose “Instead Of’s”.

 

If you grew up “back in the day”, when I did, with any sort of Biblical or Judeo-Christian Worldview, you have grown up to believe that every thing is, in fact, a “life or death” decision. Ideas like, “what does it profit a man if he gains the world and loses his soul?”, or “the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life”, used to be the bedrock of a belief system that supposedly was based on a Savior who lived and died in such a way that the whole world might be changed for the better. Tragically, this isn’t at all a popular or wide-spread belief among the most vocal of those who claim this particular religion these days, so please don’t be fooled if you look to those who espouse a religion in name only, and not in deeds. Unlike what we hear today, the Judeo-Christian belief system was meant to be pretty much completely a religion of straight-up, unadulterated, no excuses, no holds barred — Love-First actions. I say that with a great amount of regret and repentance before God and other humans, for my own Past, a deepening humility for my Present lack of virtue, selfless love, wisdom and dearth of loving actions, and my plethora of selfish wrong-doings. I say it with a great desire for a Future that is definitely based on a lot of “What If’s”. What If — I can change — be reborn — starting today? What If — God is real? What If — human beings are meant to live most practically and healthfully when we love others as we love ourselves? What If — we were put here to care for a planet? What If — we will only keep our human souls alive if we make sure that the least and most struggling among us is as essential as the highest and most powerful? What If — Jesus was an example of what we all could be — Miraculous?

 

So Today, I look outside my window, and hear the little grey sparrows and the large black crows, and I say, “What If God’s eyes are on the sparrows and the crows, and what if I can trust that like a Mother Hen, She is watching over me?” What If I truly have nothing to lose by living in love for all others, by doing right and speaking truth, by choosing to do Good, by changing my worldview, my heart, and my actions, and by hoping and praying that the whole world might be “saved”? What If I have everything to lose if Instead Of that, I choose my freedom and rights over other people’s safety and health? What If I choose my will over their lives — “not Thy will but mine be done”? What If I choose my convenience over the planet’s safety and health, if I choose my pleasure over other people’s needs, if I choose to be right rather than righteous? What If I gain the whole enchilada, but piece by piece, day after selfish day, lose my soul?

 

Ah, hurrah, hurray, it’s another grand day! To be alive! To be alive to choice and change and chance! To be alive to the idea of being a better human being today than I was yesterday. What If — ah Glorious, Glory-ing thought! What If by believing whole heartedly in the lessons of the Past, by studying them deeply and with humility, I can change. What If by making less of me and more of others Today, there will be something of me Tomorrow? What If by loving others with heart and mind and will in the Present, I can save the very essence of who I was created to be, I can save my soul, and have more than a temporal happiness, have Instead, an eternal life of love, and light, and joy?

 

What If today instead of Death, I choose Resurrection?

 

What If my Future, and the Future of the Earth and the Human Beings that inhabit it could, Instead of This be……………? Imagine……

Wouldn’t that be Miraculous?

Time to Get Your Inner Child On

Time to Get Your Inner Child On

By Jane Tawel

May 13, 2020

photo-9

My darlings playing back in the day

 

It is time for each of us to plan for the “new normal” of our First Post Corona Virus Pandemic Lives. I say, “First”, because there will be more, not maybe, but definitely, if not Pandemics, then other world-wide paradigm-shifting events. My advice – Get Your Inner Kid Back On.

If we all begin to think and act like children again, I think we might have a better chance of not only survival but more enjoyment of life. If we hark back to attitudes, behaviors, warnings, and beliefs from when we were kids, we might deconstruct and then reconstruct where we have gone wrong as adults. Time to get our inner-kid and outer-child in gear, ramped up, and ready to roll.

 

I have included a minimum by the way of explanation or example in my list below of Lessons from Childhood.  I figure every reader will have their own of both. If you have forgotten what your parents tried to teach you when you were a kid, ask them; they will not only remember but probably still have your score sheets for how well you did.

 

A lot of what we learned as children wasn’t learned from our parents, but from our time spent with our friends, and it has been interesting during this Pandemic Sheltering-in Time, to find out who our real friends are, and what we can learn from each other. Popularity doesn’t matter so much right now and neither does being the teacher’s pet. So, we are all reassessing, maybe a bit. What cliques do we want to belong to when we get out of this “thing”? And what purpose do we want to find in life beyond “grades” and “praise”?

 

During this world-wide sheltering-in, we haven’t gotten as much play time with our friends and family, but we have learned a lot and found creative ways to stay connected. We’ve actually had to be a lot more like kids again. We’ve managed to get to bed on time, and make our own lunches. We’ve had to find something to do if we get bored. I think a lot of us have remembered how fun doing simple things can be, and how much we love the people we live with.

 

There are many lessons that we can learn if we remember the lessons from our childhoods. They will be very helpful – critical even – for our life in “the new normal”. Here are some I think we should start with.

 

Important Life Lessons Learned from Childhood

 

  1. Treat everyone close to you as if they might have cooties. They might.
  2. Don’t let the people close to you breathe your air. It’s yours and your little sister can’t have it.
  3. You can talk to strangers but don’t get close enough to them that they might grab you. Or give you cooties.
  4. Smile with your whole face.
  5. Enjoy every time you get to wear a mask by imagining every day is Halloween. Go up to people and say: “Trick or Treat” and see how much candy you can come home with.
  6. Treat your money like a stingy allowance your parents give you. Remind yourself that your parents only give you an allowance so you can “learn how to take care of your money”. Remember, you won’t get any more until next week, so save it up for something you really, really, really want.
  7. Save whatever you don’t spend of your allowance, along with any loose change you find on the sidewalk or in the couch where your dad usually sits. Keep it at home in a jar on your dresser. It will earn at least as much there as it is earning right now invested in the stock market.
  8. Make good choices. You almost always have a choice. Some are good, some are better, and some are best. Take time to make the best ones.
  9. It is better to be safe than sorry.
  10. Plan for the worst, hope for the best.
  11. Spend every free moment playing.
  12. Get your work done fast, so you have more play time.
  13. Go outside and play.
  14. You have to include everyone and let everyone play, even if you don’t like them.
  15. Everyone gets to be on a team.
  16. It’s not whether you win or lose, it’s how you’ve played the game.
  17. Clean your plate. There’s going to be a lot more starving children “over there”. Think of them and finish everything on your plate. Which will remind you to not let your eyes be hungrier than your stomach. Take only what you can (should) eat.
  18. Eat your vegetables.
  19. Don’t chew with your mouth open. It’s disgusting (and spreads viruses).
  20. Clean your hands. You actually DO know now where they’ve been. Wash them. A lot.
  21. Stop picking your nose. In fact, stop touching your face.
  22. Practice makes, if not exactly perfect, at least makes you good enough to stay in the game. Keep practicing and you’ll get there.
  23. You have to share. Period.
  24. I call shotgun! (That has nothing to do with good lessons from childhood, I just wanted to call it first before we’re allowed to travel again.)
  25. Turn the lights out when you leave the room, do you think I’m made of money?!
  26. God helps the one who helps himself (and who helps others).
  27. Honor your mother and father so you can live long on the earth.

Parents, as long as they live, will never stop being totally irritating for trying to tell their children how to live. We owe it to our parents to irritate them right back so that they know how to live.

  1. Remember, our parents brought us into this world, and they can take us back out. Of course, now we know that we can take them out too, if we aren’t careful.
  2. Be careful.
  3. Do as I say, not as I do.

It is time for us, the “children” of the world to appreciate the lessons of the parents, and to do the right things they have tried to teach us to do (whether they actually did them themselves or not). We should all be grateful for what we learned as children and appreciate the life-lessons of our elders. We should grieve for all the people who didn’t have parents, or at least, have good parents, but all that means is that those of us who did have good parents, need to do the heavy lifting and the hard work. As the good parents told us, “we should know better”.

 

No matter who our parents were or are, we can try to believe that they tried to do their best with their children, and now we need to try to do our best for the future of our children, and our children’s children. It is a critical time for us to do much, much better. Better than our parents, but also better than we were all doing before this whole thing happened.

 

Whatever the unsettling, even catastrophic “thing” is that happens in our lives, our families, or our world, we need to remember and re- believe that human beings, like children, have an infinite capacity for creative do-overs.

 

Let’s call “do-overs”, okay, Kids?

tooles

Adult Friends of Mine Playing – 2016

 

We are a world-family, and if we didn’t know it before, we should recognize it now. We can do great things, if we all work together like a happy, hopeful band of children. Let’s begin to look at the world with the same eyes and hearts that children do when they are rebuilding a fort, singing rounds in the back of the car, going on a team scavenger hunt, making breakfast to surprise mom, working in the garage with dad, making mud pies in the yard, selling at a lemonade stand, playing hide and seek, or jump rope or hop-scotch, or doing any of those things we used to think were fun and important because we were doing them with people who were our friends and our family.

 

If we get our “inner-child” back on, we might find that the greatest games in this Game of Life, are played best, when we play nicely with others.

 

Let’s love each other as if every older person were our very own beloved parent and let’s love every younger person as if they were our very own beloved child.

 

Let’s act like children again in all the right ways.

 

And finally, the most important lesson of all that we can take away from this time, and that we need to believe as sincerely and as deeply as children do is:

 

  1. You are the very, very, very best gift in the world. You are loved to infinity and beyond.

 

photo 1-25

My son, Gordon and I playing, wearing noses he made for us

This May Never Be Over, But It Could Be a Good Start

This May Never Be Over, But It Could Be a Good Start

By Jane Tawel

April 25, 2020

Journey

“Journey” by PlayStation Europe is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

 

A friend of mine wrote today about crying, laughing, eating and drinking, and then crying and laughing some more, and feeling alone, and feeling overwhelmed by the few family members she was stuck with at home for the past forty days.  She wrote about how “40” is a symbol in numerology and is the number of “completion” in Hebrew mythology, and how she woke up distressed that this whole sheltering in, pandemic, quarantine, is not by a long stretch “completed” after forty days (or more depending on where you live).

 

This friend of mine is one of the truly great “livers”, in my opinion. Just to give you an idea — She and her husband plant a thriving garden of veggies and flowers that they enjoy all year long and share generously with others, they raise bees and sell honey, and make products from the honey and other natural sources grown in their yard, all while running two thriving small businesses in the Middle of American, and while caring with honesty, panache and deep love for an adult child with special needs who will always need their care. I wish I were half as amazing as the woman my friend is. And to top it off, what she writes and journals and then shares, especially during this time of Corona Virus, is so much all around just better than what I have ever written.  So, when she wrote this one thing today, in the middle of another delightful, meaningful, moving post, I was rather stunned by it. What she wrote was:

 

“Maybe I have been looking at it all wrong. I have been looking at the outcome, and not the journey”.

 

And I was stunned, because if this A+ friend has been “looking at it all wrong”, then I must have been getting worse grades in living than the C + I was grading myself!

 

What I realized when I read her words, is that this should not be some new idea to me, but it always seems to blindside me, just like this viral pandemic seems to have blindsided the world. I keep thinking, I have taken pretty good care of my spiritual health, in the same way I keep thinking I have taken good care of my physical health, and then something happens like my amazing friend saying this about herself,  or I start suffering extreme physical pain, (or a worldwide quarantine could do it), and I realize – “Well, drat! I really wasn’t doing such a great job at either the spiritual or the physical. Darn it!”

 

And the thing is, you can’t go back and change any of it. As much as I wish I could, I don’t get do-overs. But my fear is that, I won’t take the past seriously enough, to change the present. Because the Present, at least to a large extent, is the only thing that we ever truly can change. If we can’t change the circumstances of the Past or Present, we can certainly change our attitude towards them and our decisions that we can make in the Now in order to have a better Future.  My fear for our world is that we will try to change things only in order to protect the Future to remain the same as the Past. And surely we will realize after this, that the Past is unsustainable as it was, both spiritually and physically, individually and world-wide. I fear that we will keep trying to move too quickly forward, forgetting what we have learned when this is the Past, and that we won’t make different decisions that can profoundly change things because we will rush willfully and blindly toward an un-different, indifferent Tomorrow. My fear is that we will try to keep looking for the same outcomes, and we will not have learned that we must look at the journey instead.

 

And so, the fear is that because we can’t seem to recognize the journey’s importance,  we will once more mess everything all up, all over again. We are so anxious to move on, keep moving, move life along, that we keep forgetting that we can only ever live in this very moment. So we should try to do the best we can with it and in it. We also forget, that we can as humans be so much better than we think we can be, if we think we must be. I want to remember the feeling of accomplishment lived into the “Must” of this momentary time.

 

The problem is that I still spend too much time wishing something would be over or conversely, that something would arrive. Like hoping for an ending to an illness or counting the minutes until I will receive a Next-Day Package, I waste a lot of my life in “Not Nows”. Today, throughout my part of the world, people are “chomping at the bit”, as we used to say.  They are ready to have this be over, and the world to “return to normal”. And it is hard not to want to rush out there and pretend it was all just a glitch, a nightmare to wake up from, a time of sleep, not action; a time of pause from life, not life.  As the weather warms, and the birds sing more sweetly, and the bulbs planted last fall rise to show their glorious blooms, and we miss more and more the hugs and smiles and meetings at coffee places– it feels like we should be past this time and on our way back to accomplishing our goals, getting on with our lives, rising to the new challenges. We are in danger of thinking this is a pause, but it’s not a pause. This is the where and when of the real action. This is the real life we are meant to live. This is in fact, the only life we can live. Right Now.

 

And maybe only a very few of us will realize it, but we can try to encourage each other as friends, as survivors, to believe that for this time of confinement, of sheltering in, of enforced care of others, and healing rest and being alone in a reformulated communion with oneself and those we cherish most– that this is exactly and fully how life was meant to be lived. Always. Every day.

 

Maybe a few of us will hold on to what we have begun to learn during this season of learning. Maybe some of us will finally remember what it is to actually just “Be”; to just “Live”. Not just being as a self-satisfying panacea, but just being as a life provoked into purpose. Being alive in the journey of one more lovely step, in the allotment of one more chance, one more moment, one more “now”.

 

The true tragedy that may finally either destroy our species or the whole planet will be that not enough people come out of this time of repentance and renewal changed enough to change the world.  The vastly more horrible thing will be if we come out of the time too soon, and that people we love will have died in vain, served in the health and food supply front-lines in vain, remembered what love and life really feel like in the joy of being alive – all in vain–and we not only start up another pandemic, but end a time of reflection about what we need to do – must do! — that will radically change not only our own course but the course of the world. What will be the very worse outcome of this Corona Virus will be if we all continue to live as if each of us is only worth what we accomplish for ourselves or the outcomes we seek only in terms of the fleeting importance of money. What will kill us in the end, is if we continue to squander our very lives today, by living for what we can never own – tomorrow. What will be the end of true physical and spiritual forward motion, is if we think we only had to temporarily love others as we would have them love us; that this was merely a “war-time” measure that was inflicted only in order to protect our bodies from a pandemic, and not the more important “peace-time” measure needed to keep acting in determined commitment to loving others and caring for the world in order to protect our planet, our neighbors, and our own very souls.

 

I have been “emerging” slowly for the past years into this same, profound idea that my friend wrote in her post — “It is not about the outcome, it is about the journey”. But this pandemic and the quarantine and safety rules, should help me understand more deeply, not only that each moment is precious, but that the journey was never meant to be about “ME”.  It is not a journey of “self-actualization” or “self-realization” or “personal salvation” or any of the other self-centered religions we have created. Surely some of us will realize that the religions who claim that by saving myself I will have a good “outcome”, are based on deeply and immorally flawed theology.  Surely some people may have a eureka moment and realize that it is pure foolishness to continue to act on the political systems that base success on the idea that more money will solve all our problems. Hopefully many of us will make new and better decisions by seeking only that which we truly need, and maybe we can then save the planet and other struggling communities from our greed in “going after”, all that we think we want.

 

Surely some of us will be willing to keep living after we are back to our “normals” by deciding that “normal” is better when we are changed by the past, and committed to a future world for our children, by living more wisely, graciously, honorably, nobly, and lovingly, in this precious moment.

 

This latest experience in this Journey of Life, makes me realize that I have far too often tried to heal myself and still hang onto my profound misunderstanding of what life is about. I have believed the Big Lie and continued to lie to myself about the importance of outcomes. I have not committed wholeheartedly to the Strong Medicine of Being, and the Paradoxical Natural Cure of Joying in the Journey. I have instead numbed myself with spiritual palliatives, emotional over -the -counter medicines, and a life-time of self-medication of false hopes, selfish pride, and anxious strivings. Then, with the ramifications of the Corona Virus Worldwide Pandemic, it is as if, suddenly, I am rushed into the emergency room for surgery.

 

This metaphor of the world’s population being in a spiritual hospital is paradoxically all too real for a world with loved ones being hospitalized in frightening numbers, and loved ones risking their own lives serving as medical professionals, support staff, and emergency personnel. But metaphorically, for each of us in a very real way, living in the Time of Corona Virus, is like being in an emergency room at a hospital. The World is our Hospital, and the stories we tell make all of us into characters in the unfolding plot. You may be the child, who has to wear a mask to “sit next to” your ill relative, or you might be the family member in the “waiting room”, who is still able to go to the “hospital canteen” for food for the others waiting it out. You may be the person who works to supply the food for the people in “the World’s Hospital”. You may be the exhausted “hospital” worker, still able and willing to care for our World Family by supplying the “Hospital’s” needs or by saving the lives of the patients. You may be the surviving mourner, grieving in a world that is unable or that has forgotten how to mourn with one another other.

 

You may even be, the antagonist, the fool, the enemy, who spreads or derides the consequences of the World’s illnesses, the World’s evils; the character who wants his rights and own success and selfish ideas of personal freedom, over the triumph of Goodness; the one who doesn’t care about others’ suffering, and who will stand up for his own rights even when it will eventually be the thing that kills him too. You may be the one who lives for yourself or your beliefs against the good of the whole world, in order to gain – what?  Are we not able to finally look at the antagonists of the World’s Story for what they are? Pathetic excuses for what humans were created to be.

 

But we mustn’t be too proud. For we all play the fool and the antagonist at various points in our life’s story, whether we like to admit it or not. But today, we are faced with a paradigm shifting new story – the action rising has reached a climax we did not anticipate – there has been a foreshadowing of this Time of Corona Virus, but we missed what the signs meant; and now the Climax is here, and we as the only protagonist we have in the writing of our own Life Story get to decide – what path, what story-line, will I choose? What will this catalyst of change do to my story? Will I be the hero in The Journey’s great Quest? When I finally get to leave this time of “symbolic hospitalization by fiat”, will I continue to seek a purpose in my journey and meaningful opportunities to give healing and love to others? Will I live with a sense of joy in the journey, only “on the page” I can live in today, without cheating and flipping Life’s Pages ahead to rush the end? Will I live as if the only outcome that matters, is that Love wins?

 

Each of our homes, during this pandemic, has become a “waiting room”, and each of us characters in the unfolding drama. In another sense, each of us is the person who has been “rushed to the hospital”. We have been trying to live a life where we treat our spiritual ailments on our own, and now, we are “forced” to face the fact that we need outside expertise and serious intervention, and we need each other, in order to live. We have to finally make the tough decision to “operate” on what ails us. What is wrong with us, won’t get better without some serious professional intervention and tough decisions and sacrificial love of people whose names we may not know or those we may never meet.

 

We must commit to incising the bad stuff, surgically, painfully even, removing the diseased parts of our souls and of our world. And then, with equal parts skillful study and hopeful faith, we must replace the bad stuff, with some good organs, like a heart of love, or good blood, like a throbbing, flowing zest for living in the Now, or a good something that we might simply call a Second Chance or a New Life. And this New Life or Second Chance, we have discovered, has to be available for everyone, everywhere, if we want a healthy life for ourselves; and it has to be applied to the Planet of Natural things and of animals if we want this Renewed Life to continue in the World and in a viable future world for the children.

 

We are all a part of one Big Story. Except for those trying to rush to the end, who keep living into some kind of on-demand commercial break. Tragically, some people still believe that they are the only character in the World’s Story who matter and so the outcome for them becomes more important than the plot line of the World’s Story. And they will continue to think and behave this way, to the World’s great loss. But I don’t have to choose to continue that way. Although I cannot choose the outcomes, as long as I am so privileged to live one more moment, I can choose the way I will journey.

 

 

I hope I can come out of this surgical necessity, this time of “extreme measures”, with more understanding and acceptance of what life is meant to be in the Now, and more joy in the journey of the moment. I hope I can sacrifice for others and therein find what Love truly is. I hope I can be a daily “organ donor” of my heart, for others in this world who are in need. I hope I can donate my Life’s blood to the flowing course of The Tao. I don’t think I will be completely healed; there will still need to be a lot of my drinking of the bitter medicine of humility and suffering, and of the palliative care of struggling to put others before myself. I will need to remind myself that happiness is fleeting, but joy in the journey is profoundly and truly found in some mysterious way, in the Forever of the moment.

 

In all moments, with enough wisdom and love, life is good. And yes, paradoxically that means an acceptance that Life must continue to include tears and mourning, sorrow and pain, confusion and feeling alone, doubt and fear; for these also are the things that make us more human, more a part of what happens to each individual part of the whole, and more in recovery and restored health, along with all of those others who lie in a sort of Spiritual ICU Time, waiting to be transformed to a New Normal Life and released back into the World’s Wondrous Story.

 

I will have scars large and small left from the surgical intervention of Corona Virus Time; but I will be remiss if I cover those over with business as usual and self-medicating measures. I will feel all the things I have felt for the past forty days, and not have a quarantine to blame it on, and it will be tempting to find a scapegoat or to vent my boredom or sorrow or anger on someone else. I will find happiness in the small things, but I will be tempted to not let that be enough. I will be tempted to use the excuse that I am only human, without remembering that a human being is capable of great and glorious things, sacrificial things, lovely and true things, and yes, even Godlike things. I have seen humans do those Godlike things during this frightening, worldwide-suffering time, and though it will be easy to forget, I must make metaphoric plaques on my soul’s memory walls of all that occurred in the name of Love during this “Hospital Time”.

 

I must determine today and every day that as long as I still have life, I must remember that there are great human beings in the world, doing amazingly great things; and it also true that there is the enduring reality that in this moment, I and each of us, can do small things, with great love.

 

So today, on this day of “completion”, which even after the complete number of forty days that my friend noted, still is so very incomplete, we can, if you like, make a sort of “ending”. We can make this the day we end our ultimately hopeless, purely self-centered care, and begin to see our lives as so much more important than that. We have a whole “Hospital of a World” to care for, to be part of, and to do our part for. We must each of us accept that there is little we have ever truly been in control of in terms of our unknowable futures, so it is best to live well and in loving-wellness with ourselves and others. It is best to live this small life, with great love in the only thing we have for sure — this very, single, precious moment.

 

The Hebrews have a good word for that sense we long for, of completion or “wellness”. It is called “Shalom”, and to me, it is a shorthand word for something like “a bigger than life, bigger than just my life, bigger than all of our lives, a great and good and Godlike kind of Peace-giving, soul-satisfying Wholeness”. Shalom means a completed circle of one’s life in this moment. All the dots connected. The circle’s center protected. Shalom.

 

I can come full circle in this very moment at least, and make a pact with myself, not to forget. Not to leave this time with a broken circle. To remember to keep connecting all the dots, one journey’s step at a time.

 

Just as after forty days of wondering in the wilderness, the ancient Hebrews committed to “Remember”. Just as the Native Tribes after the colonial genocides, and the persecuted Jews after the Holocaust, and the Armenians after the War of 1920, and the Rwandan Genocide of the 1990’s and on and on and tragically, historically on – we can determine, that the deaths as well as the surviving lives of this Corona Virus Pandemic will not be in vain. We can determine to Never Forget. And although humans seem determined to foolishly, selfishly put behind them history’s lessons in atrocities and pandemics alike, as if somehow by forgetting, we can “move on” to different outcomes; we can help each other to remember what we’ve learned. Because though we can not change the past, we should learn from it. History proves that the Outcome will always be tragically the same, if we continue to forget and dismiss our best Teachers and  Most Important Lessons. But we are given a chance today, to remember The Way, to live in Good Health spiritually, intellectually, emotionally, spiritually and willfully. We are given the opportunity to step forward and to walk rightly and righteously in the Great Journey. I can do all I need to do for now. I just need to take the first step.

 

We can determine, today, this time around, when this metaphoric Hospital World is a thing of the past, and the Story of the Corona Virus has ended this chapter, to Not Forget; to Remember how we should have been living all along. We who get a new chapter to live in, after this one is over, must not take lightly our continual and precious presence in The Big Story.

 

Even if I am merely a rather unimportant, bit character in the World’s Big Story, I am responsible for the plot line and character development of my own little life and tiny soul. It would be a horrible shame if after my time on the “operating table” of this Time of World Sorrow and Loss, I would survive only to go back to not caring for myself as I must and not loving others as I should. It would be such a waste of “good medicine” if I don’t change even further by living physically rightly, and spiritually righteously.

 

I can determine that this time I have spent during the lock-down, will not be something I want to “get through”, like a pause in my life, but something I want to “go through”, like a passageway in my life’s journey. This unique chapter in the World’s Story may complete the cycle, that metaphoric “forty days” or forty months or forty years; but no matter how long this troubling, difficult chapter in our lives lasts, it will not be a “completion”, unless we build truthfully and lovingly on the story line. The true troubles of this time, will never end, unless we make a new start.  Many of us will choose to let this chapter end and we will force ourselves to move on by forgetting the lessons we should have learned. We will all be tempted to make the next chapter of our own plot-lines, and of our planetary setting, into an ultimately unsatisfying selfish progression of our own hubris-fueled desires, and it will end up as just one more tragedy in a long endless tale of the tragic outcomes of history. But some of us, can hopefully, let this time in our lives be  the beginning, not the end.

 

The World is ready, is desperate, for a New Story with new adventures and new journeys and determinedly brave and spiritually healthy heroes that all combine to lead up to a new final outcome, and a satisfyingly, almost heavenly, one might say, ending.  Are we ready to start right now, in this moment, to live like we want to be a part of that Story?

When I was a child, I read the world like a child’s book, to be entertained, and to be careless with, dog-earing the pages, and not caring whether I lost borrowed stories or even remembered them. But now that I am an adult, I must read the World’s Story as an adult should. The World’s Story — and my neighbor’s story — and my neighbor’s neighbor’s story, and even my supposed enemy’s story — should not be some fiction I put away blithely while I remain unchanged. Every story of the world, every tale of the planet, every memory of a life, should help to change me to be spiritually healthier and more committed to a Good End.

 Every day should be read like the label of a life-saving medicine, and each moment I am so privileged to live, must be treasured as a precious blip on my soul’s heart rate monitor.

Are we ready to let our Time in Spiritual Surgery, convince us to take this new chance at life, this new step on our Life-journey, this new chapter with all the gratitude and a deepened desire to “play it forward”; all the love that this very, precious moment of Now deserves?

When we get out of “Hospital” will we let Providence guide our moments to help create in our Beloved World and for our fellow journeyers, a New Beginning at Life?

Providence Hospital ambulance

“Providence Hospital ambulance” by StreetsofWashington is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

The Return to A Better Normal

The Things We Will Still Do

The Return to a Better Normal

By Jane Tawel

April 4, 2020

The Problem With Being Normal - A Better Way To Health

 

Yes, it is true as perhaps never before in most of our lifetimes, that this is a great time and opportunity to really look more deeply into our beliefs about our lives, our souls, our jobs, and minds, and hearts, and relationships, and communities, and countries and planet.  Not necessarily in that order, but. . .

 

And by “looking more deeply”, I mean, assessing the importance of things we have taken for granted and weighing the consequences of past behaviors and attitudes – behaviors and attitudes we all had a mere couple of months or weeks ago. For most of us, there has been a paradigm shift in thinking about “What do I want for the future?” to “What do I want for Today?” There has for some us perhaps been an opportunity to meditate on the question: “Do I really want to keep my beliefs and actions from Yesterday”? Most of us are at a minimum needing to look at Time in whole new ways, as our Time both contracts and expands in rather mind-bending, choice- assessing, and relationship-shifting ways.  This is something that many of us are finding, would have been a better way to think all along, and so we have a unique opportunity if we survive this latest means to death (there is always some means, don’t forget). We have an opportunity to change the way we think and live, and to determine, “What are the things I want to keep doing”? “What must I really stop doing for the benefit of any of the stated arenas of a life as listed in the first sentence of this essay”?  “How do I want this gift of Today to change the World’s Chance at a Tomorrow?”

 

I like the philosophy that has been going around in various constructs, that as we hope to someday return to normal, we should decide what of “normal” is worth keeping.  So, although I didn’t feel like writing today, I do feel that writing about things and sharing ideas with others, is a normal I want to keep.  Hence, I started a list of things I have been doing while quarantining, and fighting the Corona Virus one immune strengthening regimen and protective action at a time; and a list of a kind of “off the cuff” reassessing of what I would like to change, if I am lucky enough to have a tomorrow to change for. I started thinking about what I want my new “normal” to be more like than my old “normal” was.  I highly recommend you start your own list, much as people used to do with Bucket Lists.  Maybe share your list with people who will stay important to you in tomorrow’s normal, and find out what they hope will change or stay the same for them. May you seek goodness and find love wherever and whatever your normal is today.

 

My “Return to a Better Normal” List

 

  1. I want to continue to be a better “reacher-outer” to friends and family. I want to keep calling, texting, face-timing, emailing them about their health, both physical and spiritual and mental. I want communication to be both more important as well as something that feels normal, not special.  I want to listen more and enjoy more the little stories and shared perspectives.  I want to keep giving advice to people I love and taking advice from them seriously. I also want to stop giving advice, and just “be” with others. I want to just enjoy the presence of another human being in that very moment as the most wonderful miracle of my day.
  2. I want to keep believing that it is important to take care of the animals that we let into our lives. I want to keep spending ridiculous amounts of money for my old dogs’ care until they just can’t go on living their happy little lives.  I want to forgive their incontinence and grumpiness and Daisy’s Sundowner’s barking at all hours of the night and morning, and hope some human will do the same for me when I am like that.  I want to treat the neighborhood cat that comes calling as the majestic beast he considers himself to be, and enjoy his willingness to hang out with me sometimes. I want to really listen without commentary to the songs of birds. I want to mourn the death of every bee and feel anguish at the wild animals displaced from their homes by people’s greed and ignorance. I want to think of the friendly beasts as my brothers and sisters, and regain some sort of native spiritual relationship to their presence on this planet.  And I hope someday, that when I am on my way out, that I will die with the same amount of dignity and love that animals die with, leaving behind as much joy in people’s memories of me, as our animals do for us.
  3. I want to keep listening to music, but I also want to keep making music, even though I am not good at it or famous and never will be. I want to sing and play guitar and piano more often, and be an active participant as well as an appreciative, listening audience. Music feeds. That’s all that needs to be said. We need music like we need food, and listening is nourishing, but creating music is like cooking a homemade dish to enjoy. I don’t need to be a competitive or famous chef to make a meal that I and others enjoy.  I don’t need to be a concert pianist or a rock star to make music that feeds me. I just need to enjoy “eating” it.  This is true for my writing as well. I thrive on reading other’s writing, but I grow from writing myself, not as an ends but as a means.

 

There are many things in the world of art or nature, that you might want to substitute for my thoughts on music and writing. Whatever it is, take time to feed yourself and feed others with those things whenever possible. If you are never going to climb Kilimanjaro but you love hiking or walking, do more of it, for the sheer pleasure of feeding yourself. Nature is Eternity’s Best Artist, after all.

 

If you love museums or movies or plays, imbibe more of them more often, and then find your own way to create. You don’t have to be a great artist to enjoy painting, or quilting, or gardening.  Using our senses to see and taste and hear and touch and move are those things that most deeply feed our souls. Using our abilities to create, no matter how small or humble that creation, is a gift – to ourselves, to others, and somehow, mystically and spiritually, to the Created Universe. Food is meant to help us grow, after all. So dine on what best feeds you and grow by creating it yourself.

  1. I want to stop buying so much stuff. I want to accept that except for food and drink (and of course, now we realize, toilet paper), I have enough stuff to last me three life-times, probably. I want my new normal to see constant shopping, as the raging addiction it has become in America, at least, and in my own life. I want to believe that true simplicity is something I can still accomplish, even though I will never realize my dream of becoming Amish. I want to believe that it is better to “hold things lightly” in my hands. I want to stop grasping so much and so hard, and  walk through the world with open hands and an open heart.
  2. I want to keep focusing on the humanity of anyone who is within six feet of me at any given time. I have long thought it oddly frightening to see people pass within “hello-ing” distance of other people – on a sidewalk, or a grocery aisle – and not even make eye-contact, not say “hi”, not even admit that there is another sacred, valuable, important being right there close by.  To me, that has been one of the most telling indications that we have become zombies. During this quarantine, people have ironically been friendlier and more connected now that we are more aware of the community around us and have more time on our hands to stroll outside with six feet of separation. But there are still people who think that even if you are six feet away, they will still “catch something bad” from you and I have no doubt these kinds of people will, once released from quarantine, continue to wear the Mask of Stranger, and wield the Protective Weapon of Busy with My Cell Phone, and be The Inhuman Zombies who no longer act human except for the fact they can still locomote.  My family laughs at me for being a “stranger- magnet”, and I hope if I survive this illness, that I will continue to be that person who considers another human being important enough to take note of, even if they don’t take any notice of me. I hope I will still find even a stranger within six feet of me,  more valuable than anything but the most important of cell phone calls. I hope I will not give up my humanity, even when we are all back to long lines at stores and jam-packed freeways.
  3. When and if, I get to be one of the privileged ones to return to normal, I hope I will continue to think about dying soon. I hope I will, as the ancient monks used to do, “keep death daily before my eyes”.   Some monks used to have a real human skull kept on a shelf in their bedrooms to remind them that death is only a heartbeat away, and that we are to “die daily” to the bad things and live for Good. Thinking that today is possibly my last, is a good way to embrace life. But I want to embrace a life worth living – more worth living that my life was yesterday.   I want to live for Good. I really want a more normal view of the importance of a life that strives for truth and love in equal parts, that speaks out against injustice, ignorance, and lies, that is kind and forgiving without expecting anything in return, that is spiritual without being proud or hypocritical, and a life in this very moment, that is humbly accepted with joy – a momentary gift that is given, not as something I am owed, but as a great and miraculous gift for this glorious day.
  4. In the new normal, I want to remember this time as the time I learned that you have to care for others if you want to survive. I want my new normal to be putting others before myself. I want to understand that the World’s Great Golden Rule, is exactly that:  a rule. Loving others as I would have others love me, is a rule like sheltering in place, like washing my hands, like coughing into my elbow, like only taking essentials and not hoarding, like taking better care of  first-responders and medical personnel, like caring for the least of the least, like old people, and homeless people, and like giving up something I merely want to do or have, for the good of others, to protect them and care for them, and treat them with the respect for their lives,  hearts, souls, and health, that I would like others to do for me – living into the idea of a perfect world for myself as I do for others.

This Great Golden Rule is meant to be a rule, like our communal rules for survival during this pandemic. I wish that religious people had been living according to The Great Rule, but now we may understand that the Great, True Rules of all Beliefs, All Peoples, and for Eternity are not rules for religious reasons. Just like rules during a pandemic cross all political and religious barriers and lines, so must I believe that the rule of “Loving God and Loving Others as I would be Loved” are not held uniquely by any belief system but by a Reality that crosses all Time, all History, all Space, all peoples –All . We are not following rules right now for our own selfish gain,  but for survival reasons. And that is what the new normal must realize– that  true, even sacrificial, loving is necessary for the survival of the planet, for the survival of our very lives, and, if one does believe in a spiritual world,  for the survival of our very human souls.

 

  1. I want my new normal to be as slowed down as these quarantined days and I want the world’s children and this young generation to realize they can – must!—slow down. There is nothing worth more than this very day and this very day is all there is. I hope the metaphoric treadmills across this nation will stay as still as the gym treadmills have been during our stay at home times. I hope this time of enforced slow-down, will make a new generation (and my old one) realize that we have been speeding our lives along to no purpose; we have allowed ourselves to work too much and take play too seriously. We have forgotten how to live as we work ourselves to zombie-like existence.  I hope when we all return to normal, that we won’t allow power and money and fear to keep telling us how we have to live to get ahead. I hope we will value much more the people and professions that truly add value to all of our lives.  I hope resistance will be the new norm, and that by resisting together, we may find rest together.
  2. There is actually a town I used to live near, called Normal, Illinois. I want to think of the future as a place as real as that city of Normal in that Midwestern State.  I want to think of Normal, America (or whatever country one finds oneself in) as a place that we will make better, clean up, care for, think of as our home that we share with others. I want to make a home in Normal, The World, and help others realize it can no longer be a place where living as a loner is accepted, or where being an individualist, while it may take you far in terms of money and position, will not protect you from pandemics, from loneliness, from unhappiness or despair, and will not protect a single human being from the inevitability of death. I want Normal, The World, to be a place where we love our community and realize how much we all need each other.  I want the tombstones in Normal, to all have this epitaph: “We Cared for Each Other. We Put Love First. We Live-On Forever Because We Loved.”

 

Seeing the future as a real place is a little like people used to see Heaven or Shangri-la.  I say used to, because now people see Heaven as a reward for certain beliefs, rather than a place we are meant to work for.  I want to believe that this Earth is also meant to be, as the prophets say, “The Kingdom of God” and I am meant to work for it, in it, and for all those here, now as if they too, are meant to be in a different kind of Kingdom, a different kind of Normal.

 

If we can learn anything from this pandemic, shouldn’t we learn that we are all connected, all in this together, all worthy of life and love and all a part of making the world a better place?  And most importantly, can we not at least remember what is truly better – what we truly need for a better world, what we need to start doing? Can remembering what was good and best about this difficult time, not help us take that good and best into a new normal? Can keeping the new normal of our sheltering, quarantined days, please help us create a New Normal that, with a bit of imagination and individual sacrifice for communal survival, can be a Real Place? Wouldn’t it be a wonderful thing to walk out of these dark days into A Kingdom of Heaven here, among us, a new normal of love and light and kindness and hope and joy and sharing and peace?

 

My List of Items Today for a Better Normal:

Joy in the Journey.

Gratitude.

Care-full-ness.

Giving-heart.

Hope.

Resistance.

Simplicity.

Truth.

Love.

 

What will be my new Normal if we survive?

love

 

And now, for the closing “ditty” to lighten your load perhaps.

 

I’ve found myself uprooted,

Cuz going out’s been booted,

Not to the curb exactly,

But since matter-of-factly,

We have to shelter in,

If Life is going to win,

Rather than think this strange,

We must decide to change.

 

Let’s buckle up and live right,

And let this dark, sad night,

Help us to stop our moping,

And get-on some group hoping.

 

It hasn’t been too easy,

And most of us feel queasy,

From fear and boring pursuits,

But let’s put down some deep roots.

Let’s plant seeds in our souls and hearts,

And make some headway, or a start,

In caring for each other,

And for the Earth, Our Mother.

 

And while we talk morality,

Is that the same normalcy,

We really want to have again,

For future X, Y and Z Gens?

 

This is it —  our only time.

So please forgive this silly rhyme,

But please find ways among these days,

To toss the bad, and keep the good always.

And may your best loves guide you,

And when I hope you’ve got through,

I’ll see you on the other side of sorrow,

To make together, a better Tomorrow.

Stay strong. Stay sane. Seek love and joy. Seek change. Be healthy and hopeful. And care for others in the way you would like the future world to care for you.

With Love, From, Never Exactly Normal Jane

 

 

 

 

If It Were the Last

Recorta Renova

“Recorta Renova” by Gui Silva is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 4.0

 

If It Were the Last

By Jane Tawel

March 26, 2020

About a year ago, before this “WHOLE THING”, you know, before the pandemic that shook the foundations of everyone’s world, I started giving myself little talks about how I should live if this “were the last”.  As an old-school grammarian, I find it best to use the combo of “IF- WERE”, as good grammar used to have it, because using the subjunctive form  ie the hypothetical philosophy of projecting things onto the future of my dreams, desires, or hypotheses suites my worldview best.  And I think especially this idea of using the plural form of a verb implies that this is just a hypothesis – IF – and not a done deal. There could be many things that happen in the future, IF. But I digress…

 

I belong to a particular group of worldview enthusiasts who have this idea that we should live each day as if it could be the last day.  Well, yes, and no.   This “as if it could be your last day on earth” doesn’t really mean you take unacceptable risks with your life or anyone else’s. It also doesn’t mean you waste all your money on a frivolous pursuit or go skydiving if you really hate the idea of falling from any height at all, especially with only an oversized handkerchief inflating above you – hopefully.  But there are many, many good attitudes one can adopt towards oneself and towards others, if we really live as if the end of the, or at least our world could come at any time. Living as if it could all be taken from us  “like a thief in the night”, as  the wise Teacher said, has many advantages.  And doesn’t it seem, really as if this latest thing, this corona virus, has snuck-up on us suddenly and caught us completely unaware with our moral, ecological pants down and our treasures stored away with Wall Street con artists rather than in things that really might last and stand the test of eternity?  Just like a thief in the night, this virus has robbed us of what we were literally banking on and figuratively secure in. Our treasure ended up being stored in plain sight and rather useless and flimsily secured against the thief. Indeed, it seems to make a bit more sense now to meditate on the truth that where our treasure it, there our heart is also.

What I have done over the past year, though is more in the  practical arena than the philosophical.  I have tried to live a more aware and caring life in relationship to the planet I love, and the home I inhabit and love, because long before the virus, I began to realize that I am responsible for how I live my life, my day.  And if I lived my day as if something could be the last of something, then maybe the naysayers are right, and while I wouldn’t exactly save the planet, — I could possibly save my soul. And who knows, maybe just one person or a few persons, doing the right things, doing the moral things, doing the things that need to be done, will save the whole world. After all, it’s been done before.

 

There are a few people in the world who are connecting this horrible pandemic to the ills we have long foisted on our Mother Nature and on the Earth, but it’s hard to hear them when you are afraid you personally are going to die.  But we are all going to die, aren’t we?  Or did we forget that?  But should we be allowed to keep ruining the planet for the people and animals and fruits and vegetables and flowers and insects who want to live after we are dead?  Should that be an option for any one, no matter their age, nation, income, religion, politics, or worldview?  If  nothing else, this whole thing about toilet paper, should surely make some kind of dim light-bulb go on in everyone’s faulty-wired, blinking chandelier. Shouldn’t it?

 

So, as I said, about a year or so ago, I started doing some things as if they were the last – not everything – mea culpa, pleaseforgiveme, really I feel truly sorry and I need to apologize to the future children of the world who hopefully will have a world to inhabit.  But I did start to do some things as if they were the last. And it sort of began, ironically with toilet paper.

 

I have a friend and long, long ago before either of us married or had kids, she told me about how her father would make her, my friend and her five siblings count the sheets of toilet paper they were allowed to take in to do their business in the bathroom.  If their business was the Number 1 kind, then they got two sheets of T.P.  If their business was the Number 2 kind, they got four sheets.  Now, this family was rich, but the dad I guess still believed that even if you are rich, there is no need to waste either money or toilet paper. He also really believed in that old adage of “waste not, want not”.  Might be how he got so rich even with that many kids.  He wasn’t an environmentalist or a religious person at all —  he simply thought that his family should do what he considered to be the right thing to do – for the family.

 

Now – aren’t you wondering if all those people out there hoarding toilet paper for some godforsaken reason or other, are at least, for God’s Sake (and I mean that, For Her Sake), making sure every one is using only enough TP to do their business? Are you a little bit wishing that everyone out there who bought up all the toilet paper will conserve it, use it wisely, not waste it – so that if there really is a shortage, they might be convinced it is in their best interests to share it with the rest of us? Aren’t you hoping that if we really have seen the last of the toilet paper, that people will conserve it and use it wisely?

 

The real question  that I started asking myself about a year ago, and that maybe we all need to ask ourselves as we take a closer look into our own hearts is this –

What am I hoarding or wasting?  And how do I stop doing it?

 

Isn’t is horribly strange that many of us live in nations and cultures who think nothing – NOTHING!—of hoarding or wasting?  We hoard money, we waste food. We hoard space, we waste time. We hoard stuff, we waste relationships.  What kind of insane, unbalanced Society? Community? Culture?  Worldview does those things?  Shouldn’t we have figured out a while back that any group of people who do that for long, won’t exist forever? That any species, any planet that does that for long won’t exist forever? Shouldn’t we have figured out that “like a thief in the night”, death eventually comes and all those things will one day be taken from us? And then what? Have we really become so amoral, so heartless, so short-sighted, that we really don’t care what happens to anyone else after we ourselves die?

I do believe it is important to do the BIG MATH IF’s.  Those are the “If this were my last moment with this person, what would I want them to know?”  or “If this were my last day at work, how would I want my coworkers to remember me?”  or “If tomorrow is Judgement Day, what should I change about myself today?”  Those are good ways to live, indeed, and we should all take more time to live by them, and waste less time on the things that get in the way of the BIG MATH IF’s.  We need to.  BUT – we also need to realize that the LITTLE MATH IF’s  are actually just the yin  of the yang, the flip side of the coin, the reverse view in the mirror of all those BIG IF’S.  What I do with my time  and money– and my metaphoric and literal toilet paper– may some days seem small potatoes to me, but it’s really at the heart of all my Big Worldview Answers to Life’s Big Questions.

 

When I am more aware and mindful of what I do in relationship to the small things around me, things that on a daily basis might seem small in comparison to the Big Things, then I am in fact, doing what humans are truly meant to do as beings with souls and spiritual essence. When I think about how much toilet paper I really need to go Number 1, then I am actually practicing a spiritual discipline in order to form a habit  in order to create a self-sustaining worldview about how important I think a single human being is to the planet, to other people, and possibly even to Whatever, Whoever is Out There in The Universe.

Imagine?! What I do with the small things has endless significance and importance to the Big Things. This is the Butterfly Effect Theory, the small pebble in the shoe of the king or the fork in the road, the drip of water that starts a flood, or the stone that kills a giant. Or maybe the virus cell that changes the heart of the world.

This reminds me of a book I read long ago, and whose title I will riff and satirize here – Imagine – “The Unbearable Lightness of Toilet Paper”.

 

So now for the nitty-gritty.  Here is the way I have tried to change my way of seeing my life, my things, my belief system:  By asking What – If questions about The Last Days. It works for me, a strange nerdy, geeky  lover of Literature and Writing and as a believer in an ancient and ever-evolving worldview that There is Something / Someone Important – more important than I, but also that makes me more important – “Out There”.  Whatever you call that “More Important” thing – please find it – Whether it is your God, your loved ones, your future, your planet, your people – please find that which motivates you to be better than you were yesterday and less better than you hope to live to be tomorrow. I find asking myself these If-Then Questions helps me. I hope they do you, too.

 

  1. If this were my last roll of toilet paper, how much would I use right now to go pee?
  2. If this were my last loaf of bread, how much would I snarf down now and how much would I save for tomorrow or for someone else, and how much would I enjoy each bite while I eat it?
  3. If this were my last light-bulb, would I turn the light off when I didn’t need it? Do I need it on right now?
  4. If I were only allowed a few gallons of water per day to use, how long would this shower be? How would I wash my dishes? How much do my clothes really need to be cleaned? How long would I let the water run to get hot? Or cold?

    How much would I enjoy drinking this glass of water, this cup of tea? How sure would I be to drink it to the dregs and not waste one drop?

  5. If I were only allowed to be on the computer, online, on my cell phone for one hour per day, what would I do with that time? Or if my computer or cell phone was on a timer and if it were left on for ten minutes when no one was in front of it using it, it would self-destruct, would I remember to turn it off when I walked away?
  6. If I had the choice to walk to the store and get all the benefits of being outside moving, to slow down and enjoy the journey, and reduce my carbon footprint just a little bit – would I do it? Don’t I often have that choice, if I’m honest? Shouldn’t I make that choice whenever and wherever I can? What if this were the last time I could use my legs, my eyes, my body to walk somewhere?
  7. What questions can you add? And how can you let those questions inform your choices in order to create habits in order to create character in order to live a more meaningful life?

 

How can we help each other, see the world differently, even after this whole pandemic has, I hope, receded into the past? I am hoping that we do remember, that though this time may pass, and this danger may recede, there is never an end to the real Human Condition. But alas,  there is also  never an end to the dangers to our health and our souls and the dangers to the health and the soul of our planet. Can we ensure, can we plan, can we be practical, can we be in this together, and can we try to also make sure that there is never an end to what we of faith, hope and love, and some good old practical uses and conservation of our stuff and our time — are willing to do to make all things better. Just better. Not perfect, no, but surely, truly, oh please yes — better. Here is to a renewed joy in the journey in this present age and present danger. Here is to many people grasping the “IF I’s” so that the “Then We’s” will thrive for a better brighter and healthier future for everyone – now and for our children’s children’s children.

 

I have long pondered the questions that Cat Stevens raised in his iconic song,  “Moonshadow”.  I am quite partial to my sight and being able to see the world around me and to read books with words and watch my loved one’s faces.  But I confess, I often take my sight for granted for most of the day. I am wrong and wronging, sinful and sinning, and guilty and judged of taking so many, many things for granted. Let’s start with owning up, with confession to each other, and then let’s humbly help each other do better.

 

I had a high school friend who was born without one arm due to her mother’s taking thalidomide before anyone knew it was dangerous. Her poor mom didn’t know, she is guilty of nothing but bad luck. My own mother had an old-school doctor who didn’t believe in giving drugs for natural things like pregnant nausea so that is the reason I and my siblings lucked out. This friend learned to do many amazing things with one arm, and she could actually snap her toes really loudly – a “feat of feet” we all thought pretty cool. She had a great life, married with kids, but I won’t ever let myself think that if she had had a choice, she wouldn’t have chosen to have been born with two arms and hands. So if her mother had known about the dangers of thalidomide, there is no doubt in my mind she would never, ever, ever have taken it for what ailed her.

 

People, we know about the dangers of thinking that we can take whatever we want for what “ails us”. We can not plead ignorance that what we are continuing to do to the planet and to other humans is not dangerous and just as life-changing as if we lopped off all our limbs. We must stop. Change. Turn Around. Make Better Choices. We must ask ourselves the Big Questions and make all the Big People hear us when we ask them to do the Big Things. And we must ask ourselves the small questions and we small people must do all the small things, daily, “never growing weary in doing good”. And then maybe, just maybe, the children of the future will be born with all the advantages for living on this planet that children have always deserved. We must suffer the pains of first-semester nausea, now, while we give up dangerous habits and practices, and we must know that even though child-birth is painful, at the end there is the joy of healthy  birth and thriving life for someone that we suddenly realize — hopefully not too late — someone — our child –that we love more than anything. Someone we would do anything for. Maybe even stop hoarding and wasting toilet paper for?

 

While you are stuck sheltering and maybe feeling irritable or scared today, think about all the things you have right now – at your fingertips, in your sight lines – and yes, these are real physical blessings most of us have as well as metaphors for how we should be more mindful and aware of all our gifts, joys, abilities, etc. We must ask ourselves what it would mean to have them taken from us and what it means about our responsibilities to them, and to each other.

Enjoy and Seize the Importance in what you have today, and if you are willing, enjoy your stuff as if it might all be gone tomorrow. Enjoy and Seize the Importance in the world around you today, and if you are willing, enjoy it as if you were put on the earth to take care of it wisely. Enjoy and Seize the Importance in your time today, and if you are willing, use each moment as if it could be your last. Enjoy and Seize the Importance in your people today and everyone in it, and if you are willing, treat them importantly enough, as if tomorrow you might wake up to find them gone, or they find you are gone. Enjoy and Seize the Importance in your very own life today, and if you are willing, understand solemnly, as true (and if anything is true, this is), as if someday your life will be robbed from you like a thief in the night — so ask yourself — Where shall I store my Treasure? What if this were the last day on earth?

 

If you like, listen to Cat Stevens while you love your life, and I hope, while you begin to use less toilet paper.

 

And back to good grammar, which I guess isn’t a digression after all — If It Were — the Last…… then subjunctively, hypothetically, with all the options still on the table — How Shall We Live Today? Because this is not (yet) a done deal, people. There is hope and a dream for tomorrow — IF?

Image result for image for IF

Oh, I’m bein’ followed by a moonshadow, moon shadow, moonshadow
Leapin and hoppin’ on a moonshadow, moonshadow, moonshadow

And if I ever lose my hands, lose my plough, lose my land
Oh if I ever lose my hands, Oh if I won’t have to work no more

And if I ever lose my eyes, if my colours all run dry
Yes if I ever lose my eyes, Oh if I won’t have to cry no more

Oh, I’m bein’ followed by a moonshadow, moon shadow, moonshadow
Leapin and hoppin’ on a moonshadow, moonshadow, moonshadow

And if I ever lose my legs, I won’t moan, and I won’t beg
Yes if I ever lose my legs, Oh if I won’t have to walk no more

And if I ever lose my mouth, all my teeth, north and south
Yes if I ever lose my mouth, Oh if I won’t have to talk

 

 

 

Seeking: The Awe

Thank you for joining me here.  Please click on the link below to read my latest very long read on Medium.com. It is a long essay and meditation on finding awe in the world through other human beings.  Thank you to all of you out there in WordPress-Land for finding your own inlets into awesome creation. I appreciate and admire you.  ~~Jane

View at Medium.com

Random Responses (But are they really?) to Things We Think About

Random Responses (But are they, really?) to Things We Think About

Like Labeling and Bullying and Russian Trolls

By Jane Tawel

January 13, 2020

 

On Bullying

 

I have been both a bully and a victim of bullies. Don’t demure on my behalf; I have sisters and friends from Junior High who will tell you about what a bully I could be at times, and claiming I didn’t realize it or was “messed up” doesn’t change the truth.  And I have definitely as a woman, been often the target of bullies who were either “just” attracted to me at the time or other times, were “just doing their job as a boss”.

But it intrigues me to observe the many and latest attempts to deal with bullying in our schools,  and with our children, when we don’t seem all that concerned about bullying among adults or as represented as entertainment on our “boob-tubes” or big screens.   I am concerned that we think we can teach children about not bullying when many of us are such bullies ourselves or support bullies who promise they will drag us along with them if we stand aside and watch, rather than protest or stop them.  There are Hallmark-ish  trending posts about teachers and adults doing things to help victims of bullies– so sweet, like all useless self-medicating panaceas — and what I think is this.  All this save the children malarkey is just more smoke and mirrors to keep us from addressing the real bullies. The real bullies are the supposed “adults” in the room.

 

Unfortunately, there are so many adults who are bullies, and are either unaware or so used to calling their bullying something else that we have allowed ourselves the false hopes of justification in supporting these bullies. Bullies who are adults are everywhere, not just in governments, including  those who are supposed to be teaching children, such as teachers, parents, and preachers. We need to start doing something about the adults who bully others by using their community-sponsored power for gain or just because they can bully others. And we desperately need to address those who make rules or treat others inappropriately and are still considered “nice” or “an authority” to be heeded or are just part of  the “in-crowd”.

We need to stop lying to ourselves about guns and violence and prejudice that lead to racial profiling – all types of bullying. And in terms of school shootings, the big bully in the room of course, is the NRA and others who gain financially through a love of violence and greed, masquerading as freedom. This is the truth of American bullying today in schools, churches or government — it’s the adults, folks.

 

Children learn by watching and they model what we do. Children imitate us. We all need to start working on our own inner bullies and call other adults out on it. And for God’s sake, if you don’t want children to become bullies or victims of bullies, don’t vote for bullies.

 

On Labeling Others and Ourselves:

When I eat something, like a piece of fresh fruit or a vegetable, I TEAR OFF THE LABEL FIRST.  Labels are not nourishing.  Labels are not even real – they are symbols, representative of something that comes in from the outside and determines the worth of what is inside the label.

 

Labels are for products not people.

 

Labels are put on things to define them and to tell you their worth.  I have never met a person who was either labeled or who labeled themselves that was, in fact, defined by that label.  I have never met a “liberal” or a “conservative” or a “feminist” or an “evangelical” who WAS that label, part and parcel, from head to toe, and from mind to heart.  Humans are far too complicated and messy and wonderful!– to be labeled with one word that defines them, or even by a couple of imprisoning words. People are as messy and metaphoric and as incredibly complex and un-label-able as the imagination can, well, imagine. People are as encyclopedic as words themselves.

 

If you are defining yourself with a single word or maybe a word for your politics and a word for your religion and a word for your status or personality or culture, then you are letting the marketplace define your worth with a label.  You are selling yourself short.

 

I am not any label stuck on my outside. My roles of mother, partner, friend, teacher, worker, seeker, woman, etc., are far too large to be one and only one thing.

 

I am not the label, I am the piece of fruit. I am sometimes lovely, sometimes bruised; sometimes tart, sometimes sweet; sometimes healthy and nourishing and sometimes still hanging for dear-life onto the Tree of Life, hanging from my little brain stem, un-yet, unformed into wholeness, still waiting to grow into ripeness.

 

Labeling allows us to box someone in, to  put them on a shelf. Labeling is too flimsy, too sticky, to contain the reality of all that I am, and of all that you are meant to be to yourself and to me. We like to box up and define people so they aren’t as messy and scary and irritating as they often are. But by labeling someone – by labeling myself—I also separate my reality from how completely awe-some and incredible each human being really is. Or can be, if we stop labeling people and putting them into neat little boxes, never peeling off the sticky labels. We need to stop feeding ourselves the fast-food garbage of labeling and start nourishing ourselves with true friendships and honest relationships.

 

On Liking Your Page and Donating to Your Cause on Your Birthday.

No.

Just no.

I apologize to all of you, everywhere, herein and henceforth, but –

No.

Friendship means if I want to give you a birthday gift, I will, but I won’t be guilted into giving you a gift on your birthday because it is for a “bigger, better cause”.  There is nothing bigger and better in our relationship than the cause of YOU!

If you don’t need a gift, I am happy for you; you are rich and self-sufficient. But please know that I am capable of choosing the groups and people that I think need my money, my time, and my donations. By all means, I love hearing about where you give your donations and may even consider checking them out to give to them myself. But not because it is a guilt-induced gift to you on your birthday, but because I respect your opinion as my friend.

 

Friendship, even on Facebook or Twitter is not about liking what you like or donating to whom you donate.

Friendship is about getting to know each other and hopefully, sharing the load as we walk this journey together for either a short time or a long time, for either the easy parts of the road, or the really tough, treacherous parts.

Friendship is about supporting, arguing, sharing pain and joy, showing each other a few pictures now and then, hashing through what is happening in the world at large and the neighborhood “at small”, and saying, for however long our journey together lasts, I’m in this with you, My Friend.

And One Last Thing….

I will “like” all your personal posts, but I don’t hit “like” on other people’s public-sponsored pages because frankly, I just assume they are really portals to Russian Trolls. I used to have a troll doll and I still have nightmares about it.

I’m sorry about that, I know it’s silly of me. But no one is perfect; not even this miss-labeled apple in the bunch.

Wanna’ be my friend anyway? Let’s do lunch.

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“Lunch Date” by Brian Blythe is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0