Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Crazy Faith: A Surprising Journey Part 5

When I last left you, Greta and I were in a log cabin in Woodinville, Washington, buried under several inches of snow. And lovin' it.

If that was the end of the journey, it would still be pretty awesome. But there's actually more. Moving here did not magically make my final settlement appear. It did not instantly give me a source of income. It did not miraculously make everything in my life alright. However, it did allow me to really see how incredible my life is, and give it space to become more so.

I grew close to my housemates pretty quickly. They were all talented, wonderful individuals, and all strong personalities (which had its issues as well). In addition, I found something that I didn't find in the Bay Area, something that I cherished, and something I didn't think I'd ever find unless I went back to Santa Barbara. I found a church home.

So much of St. Paul Orthodox Church in Lynnwood reminded me of my home parish in Santa Barbara. The people were genuinely wonderful, warm, and welcoming. Not that other churches hadn't been. There was just something...intangible. But it felt like home. I had a spiritual support system again.

My legal struggle with the insurance company for my old job seemed to come to a resolution when they offered me a really tiny settlement. Mind you, they'd speculated that I would someday need a surgery (spinal fusion) that runs usually around $100,000. And the medical coverage would have covered that. However, I didn't want a spinal fusion. I wanted preventative care that would keep me from getting a spinal fusion, because a spinal fusion should be the last resort. Right?

I don't understand the logic (if we can call it that) of insurance companies. Rather than pay a smaller amount of money to prevent a procedure, they'd rather pay 10 times that amount to actually get the procedure. It makes no sense! I'd already begun a preventative measure of my own, and was paying for it out of pocket. My work with the brilliant Dr. Matthew Howe was already healing me, but to pay for the remainder of it would take a good portion of this settlement. Part of this work - called Network Spinal Analysis - is about helping one's body heal itself, about reconnecting ourselves to our body's innate intelligence about what it needs. And part of that was recognizing that I had been so traumatized by my last job that I could not go back into a job that would take so much out of me, even if I did love the clients.

This insurance company was willing to pay me about 10% of what that surgery would have cost, and I was too sick and tired of them to argue. When I first heard about it, I thought it was 30%. A month later, my attorney explained it to me (which he'd evidently done inadequately before), and I took it anyway. I was just done.

Of course, this was not easy. My aspirations of starting a dog food company were shattered, and I engaged in a full blown, panic-induced tantrum that would have made a three-year-old proud. I scared one of my housemates, as well as the dogs. Strangely, a few days earlier, I'd gotten an email out of the blue from an organization with whom I'd interviewed, asking me if I'd be interested in a position that was about to come available. At the time, I still thought I was going forward with the dog food business, and I told them no.

After getting this news from my attorney, I second-guessed myself. Was this the right thing to do?

When my emotions calmed down, I settled into a feeling that surprised me: peace. It was the oddest thing. I had a peaceful acceptance of this situation, and I had total faith that God was still there, still working, and still taking care of me. It wasn't in the way that I'd envisioned, but He was still there.

Perhaps more than landing in a beautiful log cabin in the woods, even more than finding a church that felt so much like home to me, this is what surprised me. I felt peaceful. I had faith.

For someone who'd been a practicing Wiccan just a few years before, this was quite a shock. I didn't know I was capable of this.

Meanwhile, my mom very sternly told me that I should have taken that job, and that I needed to be sending out resumes everywhere I could.

But I'd done that. I did it for three years in the Bay Area, and had done it quite a bit in Seattle as well. All to no avail. Most people wouldn't even call me back. It had become clear to me that this was not the right way to go about supporting myself. I needed to look for a different way.

Two days after finding out about how small the settlement would be, one day after discovering this strange sense of peace, two things happened: one which would affirm my faith, and one which would challenge it.

On the morning of April 29th, five days after Pascha (Orthodox Easter), I woke up to an email from an online university, offering me a course to teach. I'd gotten this job three years ago, but they never had a course to assign to me since I completed my training just as the economy was tanking. Three years of campaigning by a good friend of mine who worked there led to this offer, just in the nick of time. I was flabbergasted that my faith, once again, had yielded such results. God really was taking care of me.

One of the things that made me move from a religious practice like Wicca/Paganism and into Orthodoxy (via a long, circuitous, and frequently painful route) was the fact that the Orthodox faith was a path of devotion. I didn't get that from Wicca. Wicca taught me lots of things, things like empowerment and personal will and strength. I needed those at one time. But when it came down to it, I saw too much personal will and much less of a deep wonder of the Divine in that environment. And also...well, I think God was waiting for me. He'd sent me on a journey that would prepare me for Orthodoxy, oddly through Buddhism and Wicca. But He was ready for me to arrive where He meant me to be. Moving into Orthodoxy was, for me, a way to move into surrender and devotion that were somehow still empowering. There are many forms of Christianity, and I do not find these elements in all of them. I have never been called to surrender my will like I have as an Orthodox Christian. I have never experienced a sense of devotion in any other church as I have when in an Orthodox Church.

I was humbled beyond words that my clumsy attempts at faith and devotion left me open to experience this incredible sense of being cared for in ways I never would have imagined.

But then, the other shoe dropped. That afternoon, I got other news.

A good friend of mine from Santa Barbara, the lovely Erin Glaser Hall, died that day. She had a rare form of cancer that took her life in just a couple of years. She'd been married less than two years. She was 28 years old.

I went from elation to a broken heart in a matter of seconds. How could God, Who could take such good care of me, allow this incredible woman to pass from the world so soon before her time? How could He take her from all of us, from her loving husband? Remember what I said about surrendering my will? Yeah. That again. Part of that surrender is the willingness to not have to figure it all out. To (gulp) trust.

I got this news just before I was to go to the home of a family I met just a few days before, at Pascha. On Pascha morning, after waking up hours past the time for which I'd set my clock, I arrived at church dreadfully late, and plopped my basket full of meat (and other goodies I'd denied myself all through Lent) at a table that looked not-quite-full, and then bolted up the stairs just in time for the Gospel reading and the Paschal Homily. Afterwards, I discovered I'd invaded the table of the McGinnises (or, as I call them, the McGinnii), who lived only 10 minutes away from me, also in Woodinville. They invited me to stay at their table, and share the lovely Pascha morning with them.

Now, five days later and awash in grief (with the incongruous backdrop of relief and elation at the earlier news), I could have opted to stay home. Strangely, I still felt compelled to go spend the evening with this family. I pulled myself together and drove to their house.

I wish I could describe the feeling of being gently welcomed into their lives, just as a part of my life was falling away. It was an immeasurable comfort to sit in their home, share a meal, and simply watch a movie. They didn't make all the pain and confusion go away. They didn't make a big deal out of anything. They couldn't possibly replace Erin or bring her back. It's hard to say exactly what made that evening so comforting, but maybe it was just their presence. I felt safe there, as if all this struggle had a purpose, and the purpose was to heighten moments like these, where a simple show of love and support can keep faith from taking too big a hit. God really does show up everywhere, and tonight He was working through the McGinnii.
It is from this broken-hearted moment that the title of this series comes.

You see, I think having faith is just a little bit nuts.

I think it's a little bit nuts to have faith that I will be taken care of when the settlement that would have given me a cushion turns out to be only a third of what I thought it was. How is it not nuts to have faith that despite my love for the clients, the sweet job opportunity that was presented to me is not what I'm supposed to be doing? And sometimes I think I'm off my rocker to believe that God took a beautiful young woman from this Earth, but left me here, all for good reason.

But I do have faith in that. I don't know what the reasons are. I don't know where this path will take me. But I have faith that I am being guided, no matter how much my mom or anyone else thinks I'm crazy for not doing what seems most sensible, and for taking the risk that God has something else, something really cool, planned that is just right for me. I have faith that there is a reason for all of this, for my grief over Erin, for my confusion and rage when the rug gets pulled out from under me, and also for my joy and my stubborn hope. Just because I don't know the reason doesn't mean there isn't one. So I have to have faith that this will all make sense one day.

See? Faith seems like insanity sometimes.

In the Orthodox Church, there are saints known as Fools for Christ. They're called this based on I Corinthians 3:18, which states, "Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you seems to be wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise" (Orthodox Study Bible). Some well-known Fools for Christ have been Blessed St. Xenia of Petersburg, Russia, St. Basil the Blessed of Moscow, and St. Simeon of Emesa.

The thing about Fools for Christ is that people thought they were out of their minds. They did things that made no sense to the people around them, but they did them anyway. And often, this craziness turned out to be precognitive, or healing, or some other form of blessing. They were dialed in to God at a level that most of us can't even imagine. And in fact, most people in the times that they lived thought they were insane...until prayers were answered, until people were healed, until their ramblings started to make sense.

Now I'm not saying that I'm dialed in at that level, and I'm nowhere close to being holy. But I do get that in this environment where we're supposed to have the next several years planned out, where we are supposed to have reasons for everything we do, where we're supposed to be looking for jobs that are full time and provide health benefits, it is sheer lunacy to turn away from the sure thing and say, "No. I know God has something else for me."

I have not moved through this journey gracefully. Grace has happened to me and all around me, as I stagger around trying to make sense of it all.  Maybe I'm more of a Stumbling Idiot for Christ, blundering through a new habit of faith like I'm in a Molly Shannon skit (only without the armpit schtick). What I have to show for it are simple moments of joy and well-being that prove to me that I have been visited by Grace and led by God to such moments, in spite of myself. Some of these moments here in Washington have been:

  • waking up to peer out the window through the trees into the morning sky (grey as it may be), a soft brown dog snuggled up against me, the sound and smell of rain filling the room
  • hearing my church's choir sing The Beatitudes, and the smell of incense permeating that peaceful place
  • reading a thank you email from a student
  • teaching swing dancing at St Paul's
  • playing Dungeons & Dragons with new friends (and some old ones)
  • visiting a monastery on a nearby island, and having a long talk with a Norwegian monk over a cup of good coffee
  • going to a holiday barbeque at Castle McGinnis
  • laughing with my housemates
  • swing dancing (and watching Battlestar Galactica, though not at the same time) with a really good new friend from church - one who's reckless enough to do aerials with me
  • driving down the road and seeing the clouds suddenly break to reveal an ice-capped mountain range, or Mt Rainier looming over the city
  • standing in relative silence in the rain, on the property where I live, hearing raindrops land, and noting the exquisite color of green on the cedar trees
  • watching Greta frolic in the tall grass
Huh. Maybe faith isn't so crazy.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Crazy Faith: A Surprising Journey Part 4

So, when we left off, I'd gotten to the part where finally, FINALLY, God answered the first part of my prayer. I asked Him where I should go, and He finally told me: go North, to the temperate rainforest of Seattle, Washington.

Yes Sir!! Thank You, Sir! Seattle - home of the Science Fiction Museum, plenty of salmon, beautiful rainy days, trees everywhere, and Camp Jitterbug, not to mention the location of several friends and in close proximity to many others. I spent a few days in awe during my prayer time. Yeah? I get to live there? Sweet!!

But then I had the second half of my ... demand ... to think about: "...and how to get there." That was going to be a problem.

As I mentioned earlier, my lucrative job as a therapist got less and less lucrative with pay cuts due to the recession, as well as pay cuts for me because of my injuries, until I was just barely hanging on. As you might expect, "barely hanging on" isn't exactly a strong position from which to launch a move over two state lines.

So, back on my knees I went, praying simply but fervently, "I have no idea how You're going to manage this, but if this is where You want me, then I'm going to need help."

Two things happened then. The first was that a medical issue that I thought had been taken care of two years before resurfaced (aside from the work injury). It was a terrifying experience, but the reaction I had to it was the most interesting part.

I knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that this was insurance.

God knows me. He knows that without something to drive me, I do have the capacity to get complacent...or discouraged. He needed my full commitment, and my total trust. And in order to get that, He needed to convince me that staying in California would be the Worst Idea Ever In The History of Bad Ideas. It worked. Something inside me felt strongly and intuitively that if I stayed in California, I would die. If not with a GMC truck killing me instantly, then with the slow deterioration of my body; and I was not ok with that.

I was strong...am strong. I'd always been tough, but beginning with that first injury, my body had gotten weaker. When I was first injured, I drove away from the child's home, tears of fury burning my eyes. I'm tougher than this, I kept thinking. I'm stronger than this. I'd survived graver injuries than this. But I kept taking hit after hit, and this was the final one: a tumor. A benign tumor in my uterus, a place that was designed to harbor life, had returned from two years ago, when I'd had surgery to remove it. My doctor discussed options with me, one of which was a hysterectomy. WHAT? No. Freaking. Way. Just because I don't have children yet doesn't mean I don't want them. And it doesn't mean I want to be cut open and have parts of me removed, like bad plumbing. We settled on another surgery. And I knew I had to get out of there.

(God, in His infinite brilliance, knew I would not miss the glaring symbolism in this latest development - that this place would destroy me from the inside out, from my very core, and destroy the possibility I had to create newness, wonder, and joy. How long had He been trying to tell me this, and I just couldn't hear Him? I swear, if I get any more dense, an anvil will have to fall from the sky just like this dude.)

(Hey God? J/k...lol. No anvil pretty please.)

The second thing that happened was a piece of mail, a very interesting piece of mail that scolded me for missing a court hearing about my worker's compensation case. Huh? This was the first I'd heard about it. I placed a few phone calls and finally discovered that the worker's comp judge was supposed to close the case, but he found a discrepancy and re-opened it. I have never heard of this happening. So, I rescheduled the hearing, got the time off, and went in July.

The judge said this: if I could no longer work as a therapist with children, then I certainly had more than a 0% disability rating. And if that was the case, he said, then I deserved compensation. Counsel for the insurance company nodded in agreement. The judge very strongly suggested to me that I get an attorney. Mr Opposing Counsel helped me find one, right then and there in the courthouse.

Now, my attitude at the time was that anything I got from this would be a bonus. Anything at all would be good. I would be called to remember that as the months went by.

At that point, the ball was definitely rolling. I did research regarding this tumor I had, and discovered that eating food tainted with toxic chemicals like pesticides and herbicides strongly contributed to the problem. While I'd always known that eating organic food was good for me, I didn't realize quite how much or exactly why. I educated myself on the growing food revolution, and radically changed my diet to include fewer grains, a lot of organic, locally grown vegetables, and humanely raised meat. My dog's diet changed right with mine. I'd been making her food for quite some time, but I couldn't bear the thought of losing her to a disease I could have prevented.

Mind you, there was quite an undercurrent of anger and frustration with all this. I was livid...which was the alter ego of actually being terrified. Learning more about the viability of our food supply did nothing to alleviate the fear, either. But it all demanded that I get out of California and FAST.

Two months after I got my marching orders, I had an interview in Seattle (Redmond, actually). It went swimmingly, until the part where they gave the position to someone else. I had some other promising leads, but the process was slow-going. I started feeling an urgency that bordered on panic.

An old friend from high school - a woman I dearly love - and her husband lived just south of Portland, Oregon, and they offered me a place to land if I needed to flee before I had a job. I jumped at the chance.

On September 30, 2010, I left my hellish job, said goodbye to a few coworkers I really cared about, and never looked back. Two days later, I left San Mateo, California, dog in my lap, with the vision of my beloved housemate Elizabeth standing in the driveway. Within 30 minutes, she sent me an email, telling me that a thousand crows flew over the house just after I left. She also said the raccoons must have been watching Greta leave with me, because they invaded the yard that evening. The email made me smile until I got to the end. "I will miss you more than you know," she said. I arrived in Santa Cruz sobbing.

My friends in Santa Cruz helped me celebrate my time in the Bay Area, and celebrate the beginning of my new life. The next day, one of those friends set out with me, to navigate and keep Greta comfortable (Justin's official job was "dog furniture") while I drove the Uhaul (towing my car) to Vancouver, Washington.

The next four months were spent learning how to just breathe again. I was among friends. Family, really. They harbored me, while I learned how to be human, and while I waited for the results of my settlement. I reacquainted myself with restful sleep. In exchange for the safe haven, I walked all the dogs, and made their food. I loved my friends and their sweet family. The four months I spent there saw two holidays, a wedding, and atrip back to the South, to visit my family.

Some compensation began to arrive in late November. It made me a little bit afraid, to have this money in the bank. I hadn't had a real cushion in the entire time I lived in California, and I almost didn't trust it. My attorney was also working on a buyout that would give me more compensation in lieu of medical treatment. The treatment they said I might need had a 50% failure rate (as in, the condition got worse), and I would have nothing to do with it. My buddy Matthew Howe, D.C., one of the ones who convinced me to come to Seattle, said it was unnecessary, and the work he did had a much better chance of healing me for a fraction of the cost. I went with that.

Just after Christmas last year, I discovered my friends in Newberg, OR (the friends who were harboring me) were moving to Idaho. Cross got a job (Intel laid him off a year prior), and they were leaving by the end of January.

God knows me so well. Again, I could have gotten comfy and just stayed in Oregon. It would have been easy. It was pretty close to Seattle, right? Ha! So He pulled the rug out from under me. Pure genius! It was a clear message: it was time. (And I'm so glad part of the message involved Cross getting a sweet job!)

Ever since I'd started thinking about moving to Seattle, I repeatedly saw an ad on Craigslist for a room for rent in a beautiful cabin. It seemed a bit far away from Seattle, but it was gorgeous. The ad would disappear for a while, then reappear. And when I finally was ready to move to the area, the ad popped up again.

I drove to Woodinville, Washington (about 40 minutes from downtown Seattle - close by Bay Area standards) to meet Stephanie, the owner of the place. I got solidly lost along the way, but it was well worth it. As soon as I saw the place, I was hooked. It was a dream come true: a log cabin on 5 acres of partially wooded land. Stephanie and I shared a number of passions: feeding dogs healthy food, learning beekeeping, rescuing dogs, saving the planet, helping the food revolution along. We talked for hours on our first visit.

On my next visit, I brought Greta, and her three large dogs loved her (the biggest of them - about 85 pounds - followed her around adoringly). It was settled. Woodinville would be my new home.

I arrived here on February 1, 2011. Within a month, we had a winter storm that snowed us in for a couple of days. I took Greta out every morning, beholding the land under a blanket of snow. The air was cold and still and perfect. Glorious!! I could have wept with the loveliness of it.

I will only drag you through one more part, but not now. Now I leave you with a snow-covered cabin among tall evergreens, a little brown dog leaping through the snow, and my complete awe at the humbling place to which God led me, both within my heart, and here in the world.

Who knew? Who knew that I could trust God enough to experience this?

Yeah, well, besides Him....

Next time, it gets better...and at times, worse.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Crazy Faith: A Surprising Journey Part 3

This is part 3 of the saga of how I got here to Washington, so if you'd like to catch up, you can read Part 1 and/or Part 2, just so this makes sense (as much sense as it can make anyway).

So where were we? Oh yes, almost dying, and having things explode.

I entered the new year of 2010 knowing, just knowing, that something big was about to happen in my life. There would be a major change. I was able to recognize that God had severed some bonds to people that would have kept me where I was, which told me that God no longer wanted me where I was.

Of course, this did not mean that God severed all the bonds I had to the Bay Area. In fact, He managed to keep intact the bonds that would withstand distance. Friends with whom I danced, or gamed, or were housemates - all of these bonds held strong. In addition, I felt intuitively that I needed a dash of home before I could move on. So I went back to my home parish in Goleta, CA - St. Athanasius Orthodox Church. I saw them near the end of that painful struggle, when I was so spiritually exhausted that it was all I could do to get down there and collapse in their embrace. I didn't even have the words to tell them how their love and guidance supported me from hundreds of miles away, or how their love and presence healed me now.

In January, God pretty much guaranteed that I'd flee California by having my employer change my job description. Since I couldn't be a therapist with children, they had me doing administrative work in all three of the offices in the area since the previous summer (and for a wage that kept me only barely above the poverty line). After the new year, they kept me in San Mateo (the closest office to my home), and created a position for me as a scheduler.

It was a new position, so I was inventing the wheel here. Initially I had 100 clients to schedule, for two offices, and with about 45 therapists to serve those client sessions. For some of those clients, I had to schedule up to 25 hours of therapy around school commitments, doctor appointments, staff vacations, and other obligations. It was overwhelming.

This might be when the insomnia began. I had to be at work at 7:30 AM, but usually couldn't get to sleep until around 2 or 3 AM. I had to develop a system to collect scheduling information from schools, therapy teams, and families, and then assemble all of it into a coherent schedule for each client. At night, when I could sleep, I dreamed about the scheduling software, which was full of bugs. In March, the bugs got worse. For months, I had to deal with schedules where sessions just disappeared before my eyes. As if that wasn't bad enough, the management was only intermittently supportive. Our regional director once chased a parent away from my desk while she was talking to me about her scheduling needs. In her words, "You can't talk to Tanya while she's working." Since when had my indentured servitude begun? I worked long hours, often staying until midnight when schedules were due, and returning a few hours later. When my dad came to visit me in May, I had to fight my managers just to spend two days with him.

And all the while, I endured by remembering that God was sending me elsewhere, at some point. I knew I'd asked Him to "show me where to go," although I really just thought I was talking about my job, and not my actual location. I also realized, by this point, that before He was able to tell me where to go, He had to cut the ties that bound me to this place or I would never have listened. Now that those ties were severed, I was waiting for my marching orders. So I waited...

And waited...

And mused, and pondered, and grumbled. And waited...

I began to wonder if I'd somehow missed the message, if perhaps the email had ended up in the Spam folder or something. Was I missing something? Where was I supposed to go? In the absence of clear direction, I began to try figuring it out on my own.

I know. Bad idea. I ran through the options. I could go back to Santa Barbara. I definitely had community there. My home parish awaited me, as did a thriving dance community, and wonderful friends who had become family in my heart. But jobs were terribly scarce, and the cost of living was through the roof. Another option was to return to the Deep South to be with my family.

The Deep South. The very thought was oppressive. It's not the heat, it's the humidity combined with extreme heat, alligators, mosquitoes as big as my dog, fleas, roaches as big as my hand THAT FLY (and they move into your house no matter how clean you are), racism, intolerance, very few Orthodox churches, red states.

And that's when I developed compassion for Jonah when God sent him to Nineveh. Nineveh? Are you kidding me? I could hear Jonah asking. Maybe the bugs were bad there, too.

At the same time, the presence of my niece made The Deep South almost attractive. My family had always been the best part of the South for me. We are closely knit, and get along almost all the time. Kind of unheard-of in modern family dynamics. My parents are crazy in love with each other (it took a LOT of hard work from both of them to get to that point, but still...); my sister and brother in law were beginning a new life, and my niece was growing into a brilliant, hilarious little girl. My family made the South almost tempting.

But this idea came from my own logical reasoning, which had thus far landed me in one of the most expensive locations in the country, with a job where my pay had been reduced by over $7/hour after all was said and done, and where I was now a stress zombie. So, I wasn't likely to put too much stock in my own seemingly brilliant ideas.

Still, I was waiting. I waited for God's direction for five months.

Back in February, giddy from finding my tax refund in my bank account, I'd had the foresight to purchase a plane ticket to Seattle, and the entry fee for Camp Jitterbug - three days of lindy hop instruction and celebration. I went three years before and knew that it would be amazing. I knew I'd need this, and I did. On Thursday night, just before Memorial Day weekend, I boarded a plane for the Emerald City.

Matthew Howe, a gifted chiropractor and one of my dearest friends from way back in Florida, and his gorgeous fiance Carrie picked me up from the airport, and the mantra began:

You should move to Seattle.

I smiled politely at first, but they kept at me, taking me by the Lenin statue in Fremont after breakfast the next day, and then to Matthew's office for a quick tune-up before all the dancing began. I adored Carrie immediately (it was my first time meeting her) and she gushed about how wonderful Seattle was as she took me around to run errands, while I sat in the passenger seat quietly grateful that Matthew had found her.

I was staying with a hostess this time, and I discovered that she had mastered the public transit system, and was willing to share this arcane knowledge with me. She also joined the chorus Matthew and Carrie started.

No really, you should move here. You'd love it.

And of course, there was Camp Jitterbug itself. More on that some other time. Let's just say, it was blissful.

At the end of Camp Jitterbug, I met another friend of mine, a recent transplant from the Bay Area and a gaming buddy. He drove me around the east side of Lake Washington, showing me another side of this green city. I marveled at the trees that were everywhere, how lush it all looked, while Trey told me about his life here. We grabbed a sandwich for lunch, and it was at this time that he began his own campaign.

You should look for a job here. I swear he must have said it a dozen times in the course of a single afternoon before he dropped me off at SeaTac.

Now, I'm pretty astute about a lot of things. But when it comes to subtle communication directed at me, I'm a little slow. I can see it in hindsight, but in the moment, I just can't always read the message. It's part of my charm, I'm told, that people can watch a guy flirt with me and I can just be absolutely oblivious; or I can miss little clues that everyone else can see about situations I'm in. I do know this about myself. It's why I'd been worried that I missed God's marching orders. I actually remember praying, "You're going to have to make this really obvious, You know. I don't want to miss this."

I guess that's why God decided to do away with subtlety altogether and just flash a bright neon sign at me. After an entire weekend of different people chanting the same thing at me, I sat on the plane on the way home and thought, "Seattle, huh? It would be cool to live in a temperate rainforest...."

Maybe I wouldn't have to go to Nineveh after all, even if my family was there. At least in Seattle I'd be able to breathe and go outside.

And this is where things got really cool. Next time, I'll tell you just how cool.

For now, I leave you with this: on that trip back to the Bay Area, I became aware of the first inkling of a hint of a Plan. I began to see the past 9 months in perspective, and realize the genius of how it all played out, painful as it was. I realized that God answered me when I called out to him with my broken heart and my desperation. With the exception of the weird and wondrous way I found the Orthodox Church, I don't know if I ever really realized that God was listening that closely to me. Maybe He had a hard time hearing me through the walls I'd built around myself. Maybe He could hear me just fine, but I couldn't hear His responses for those very walls, and then resented the silence. Nevertheless, a hint of wonder crept into my being, and for the first time in a while, the possibilities before me made me smile.

"We are so blind and deaf. The world is transparent. God is everywhere whispering to us, talking to us, shouting at us. Usually we do not hear. Sometimes we do. Then we know that everything is grace." ~ Rev. Fr. Andrew M. Greeley

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Crazy Faith: A Surprising Journey Part 2

In Crazy Faith Part 1, I set up this insane journey I'm about to tell you about, by telling you how I threw a challenge out to God, and inexplicably, He answered me.

Now, some people are mortified that I did this, that I spoke this way to Him. I mean, He's God. He could, you know, smite me and stuff.

Now that I put it that way, I guess He kind of did.

The hubris of issuing demands like this to God notwithstanding, it really wasn't such a bad request. The terrible, wonderful magic of it all is that in my sheer desperation, in my certainty that my life was meant to contain more joy and less stress than this, a tiny crack appeared in my prideful heart. I mean, it was itty bitty, a hairline fracture, really. But it was evidently enough for God's Big Toe to wiggle in and force open the door. "For if You desired sacrifice, I would give it; You will not be pleased with whole burnt offerings. A sacrifice to God is a broken spirit. A broken and humbled heart God will not despise." (Psalm 50:18-19, Orthodox Study Bible)

Thank God for desperation profound enough to make me vulnerable. Thank God that it found a way for the walls around my life, my ideas, my heart, my firmly-held beliefs around who I thought I was supposed to be, to crack and subsequently crumble. Incidentally, these were walls that I built, or chose to have built, around my life. And He showed me unequivocally where those battlements were weak.

Once God kicked in my door, with Love in his eyes and with a gentle "You wanted Me to do this," He set fire to my life. He created the very sacrifice He needed from me.

It was far more brutal than I imagined it could be. Two days after issuing that demand, my most recent work injury was exacerbated by an incident on the job in which a sweet 4 year old Indian boy begged me with tearful eyes to "hold [him] tight" while his mother and a case director pulled thorns out of his bare feet, which he acquired while exuberantly playing Scavenger Hunt. As requested, I held him tightly and tried to distract him with silly questions ("How many eyes to do I have?"), as he struggled against me in reaction to the pain. By the following day, I could no longer work. My neck injury was simply too painful.

Once again, the doctor put me on limited work status, and gradually my clients disappeared from my schedule. The final straw was losing my favorite client, again without a chance to say good-bye. (They finally relented and let me say good-bye a month later, which was still horrifically painful.)

But in addition to that, one of my best friends, a woman with whom I shared a loving and soulful bond (we were the Dancing Depth Psychologists) moved to Boston. And two weeks after that, the person I was seeing, with whom I thought there was a deep bond, dissolved our relationship. Within 6 weeks of asking God to radically change my life, He had done so in an immensely painful way. I fell into a deep grief that lasted until the new year.

The thing is, at the time, I knew this was answered prayer. I just knew it. I knew God was trying to get through my thick skull...something. But I couldn't figure out what He was trying to say. I understood that transformation was occurring. Of that I had no doubt. It just hurt so much.

I don't remember a whole lot from that time. I didn't dance much, because of my injury, so I lost that conduit to joy. I hadn't found a parish that felt like home to me, although I'd visited a few. I wrote dark poetry to try to express some of my turmoil, but mostly I remember waking up every day and trudging to work, then coming home to either sit numbly in my room, or hang out with a few friends, including my housemate, Elizabeth.

Elizabeth was a blessing to me. Anyone who thinks that God only blesses us with people who share our religious practices is missing out. Elizabeth is a professional astrologer, a wonderful massage therapist, and a spiritual leader in her community. We were an unlikely pair - me with my icons of saints, her with her crystals - but we worked. I firmly believe that God knew I'd need someone strong enough to live in the same house with me while I went through my painful struggle, and loving enough to nurture me through it. We would take walks with my dog late at night, after she returned from work, and talk. We only ever encountered one other person playing with his dog that late at night (it was usually around midnight), a friendly man with a Russian accent, and we'd jokingly speculate that only Canadians and Eastern Europeans would ever be out that late acting for all the world as if it was daylight. Silly dayfolk, thinking the day ended when the sky turned dark. Sometimes we watched Firefly or V on her computer, drinking beer and eating popcorn. Elizabeth's friendship and love created a space that allowed me to feel all of this without judgment. And when I needed it, she could make me laugh until we both snorted.

My grief, while punctuated by pain (and also joy), was mostly characterized by a terrifying numbness. It ended when a few things happened within days of each other.

1. I almost died on Christmas Eve.
2. I went to a performance of the band to which my former romantic interest belonged. Misunderstandings ensued.
3. Things started exploding in my purse and backpack.

After visiting some friends on Christmas Eve in The City (San Francisco), I was on my way home when a giant GMC pickup (a 2-ton truck maybe? - it was beastly), started to turn left, apparently not seeing me in the intersection (I had the green light). The driver stopped his vehicle less than 6 inches from my driver's side door. I looked past the great big GMC on the grill into the mortified faces of the people in the cab of the truck, and realized I was flinching, waiting for the impact. I kept on driving, numbly realizing that I had been spared, but not knowing why. I just kept muttering, "Why did You spare me? Why didn't You take me?" The only thing I could think of was that there was still some purpose to me being on the planet, although I couldn't possibly fathom what it was. The previous few months had all but convinced me that what I should really do is close up my heart for good, so that nothing and no one could get through, except for my family and a few close friends. If I got a better job, I'd make sure I didn't open up to clients or form any deep connections. It was safer that way.

A few days later, I decided to attend the musical performance of my former romantic interest's band. He played guitar for the band, and I really enjoyed hearing them play again. As I watched him, I realized that I absolutely adored hearing him play. It was wonderful to be able to share that again, and it made me feel good to know that our struggle to maintain a friendship in the aftermath of the breakup at least resulted in my being able to enjoy this once again. He really was brilliant at what he did. I barely talked to him after the show. I was more engrossed in talking to my friend, Tiffany, who was also there, so I gave him a quick hug good-bye, and he told me it was good to see me.

A few people mistook my attendance there, and my joy at hearing the band, for an inability to let go. However, for me it felt like the beginning of real release - from him, from grief, from what my expectations had been. I could just go and enjoy the music, and appreciate him for his gifts.

Or not. Two days after that, he banned me from attending all future performances, for fear that it would upset his new girlfriend. He didn't even have the guts to introduce us. Release complete. I don't like cowards.

Just after the new year, I opened my purse to find a bottle of ibuprofen had popped open, spilling its contents all over my purse. A day later, the same thing happened in my backpack with a container of chocolate covered raisins.

Now, being trained in depth psychology, I tend to look at events like this with an eye toward symbolism. It's like reading your life the way you would a dream (Carl Jung advocated this approach). If these two events had been in a dream, how I would I look at them?

I wrestled with this elsewhere, and this is what I came up with:

"On the second and third days of a brand new year, something in the dark places I carry around with me has opened up. The words that came into my head when I started to make the connection were:

Emergence, eruption, uncontained, contents under pressure, opening, it's time, overflowing vessel, I’m ready, spilling over, burst container, energy, matter, what matters, this brings something new in its wake….

Medicine and sweetness. Something that heals, and something that rewards. These are the potentials for this new year. Something is waiting to burst from me, to emerge from my depths and darknesses. Something in me will be contained no longer.  ...This seems to imply that 2010 will bring healing."
That year, 2009, had certainly contained a lot of love. My friends were amazing, and I had a housemate who had created a home in which I could truly be myself. I was able to see the deep love that existed, despite the radical transformation my life had undergone. I finally started looking forward to 2010, to see what would erupt from my own depths.
And with that, I've decided this post is long enough. You'll have to wait for Part 3 to see how all this manifested, where I had some insight into what Jonah must have experienced ("Nineveh? Are You serious?").

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Crazy Faith: A Surprising Journey Part 1

You know the old Chinese curse: May you live in interesting times. Well, I don't know that I'm cursed, but I'm certainly blessed with lots of excitement.

In the past few weeks, I've experienced amazing triumph, and right along with it has come terrible news. At times like these, I wonder if I should hold on tightly or thrust my hands into the air and just enjoy the ride. But as I think about it, this has been going on for two years now.

In October 2009, I wrote a post called Burning, that I reread today, just to see what I was going through, to remember how I felt in the beginning of this journey I'm about to tell you about. It describes what was going on from the inside, from someone going through it.

But first, let me set this up.

I moved to the San Francisco Bay Area in December 2007 having just been hired for a job. I missed working with kids. I used to work with at risk youth in Santa Barbara, and really wanted to do something that would help kids again. So I took a job working with autistic children.

Unfortunately this entailed me moving away from a community I adored. Sometimes I wonder why I left. I had a good job (as an accounting assistant), with a great boss. I had a strong swing dance community with people I really loved, and friends who loved and supported me. And I belonged to a parish that was so wonderful and so fulfilling, I couldn't really imagine going to Church anywhere else.

In a way, looking back at it, that is exactly the kind of environment that can support a big move to a scary new big city. I felt completely loved, supported, and cherished. As it turns out, I would need that.

I began a job that taxed my reserves almost immediately. I was working long days, learning a lot of new things, and working with very challenging individuals. I've written about the autism industry before, and while I adored the children with whom I worked, I detested the industry. It can be abusive and counter-productive. But I'm a stubborn Celtic woman. I don't run from a challenge.

I probably should have.

Four months into my new job, I was injured while working with a child. He was a big kid, granted, and he was rather frustrated and angry. I was attempting a strategy that was supposed to calm him down. It wasn't working, and he injured my neck.

Now, I don't really blame the kid. He was in his own bad space, couldn't verbalize his frustration, couldn't even tell me what was wrong. I blame a company that thought it should send a newbie in to work with a kid who had so many challenges. It was my first warning that I was just a warm body to them, a name that filled up the schedule.

After a few months of physical therapy and some chiropractic work, I went back to working with autistic clients, with the caveat that I shouldn't work with kids who required a lot of physical play. Usually that meant I'd work with older children, which was fine.

In the meantime, the economy tanked. I mean, TANKED. I'd gotten a part-time job teaching sociology online and finished my training just in time for enrollment to drop. I had no courses to teach because students weren't signing up. But hey, I still had my job working with autistic kids, right? Then, in the beginning of 2009, that entire company received a 5% pay cut. This reduced my pay by $3/hour. Great. They also wanted to reduce overtime and other sorts of spending, so my hours were reduced as well. Even better.

In June 2009, I was at an elementary school graduation with a client with whom I'd worked for the last year. He was non-verbal, but very animated. He watched his best friend walk across the stage, and he began to cry. Since this young man couldn't talk, he spoke through an electronic communication device. Through that device, he eventually told me that he was sad because he would miss his best friend. He understood what was happening! I did my best to comfort him.

When I told my supervisor this, she dismissed it completely. She refused to acknowledge his awareness of what was happening that day. This was not new. All throughout the year, this sweet boy (well, sweet and mischievous) would push his own envelope, expanding way beyond what he had done before, enjoying activities everyone else thought he didn't enjoy, doing things people didn't think he could do. And all throughout the year, I tried to convince people that this was what he was doing. His case supervisor and director couldn't accept some of what he was showing me, and they considered me naive. It still breaks my heart.

(Of course, now there is a spokesperson for the autistic community, a young woman named Carly Fleishmann who behaved similarly to this young man, but then discovered that she could type, and once she began, she couldn't be stopped. Yet the autism industry relentlessly doubts this girl and her ability. Now she writes a blog, and tells the world how much she feels, hears, sees, and most importantly, understands. Thank you, Carly.)

Anyway, the school year ended, and I had a couple of weeks before the summer session began.

During that time, I was assigned to one of my old clients. He recently turned 6 years old, and had gotten taller. He was still adorable and still a handful. He remembered me, I suppose, which is wonderful. But on my first day back with him, as I was kneeling in the tiny apartment in which he lived, he became excited and jumped right on my back.


My doctor said to take a week off work (this was without pay) and rest a little. Then, I was basically told to suck it up.

Meanwhile, back in the office, I'd gotten my schedule for July and noticed I wasn't assigned any time with my school client (the one who cried at his friend's graduation). I asked the director if there was an error and she said:

"No. You're off his case."

Just like that. I was in total shock. I stared at this director, and then noticed another director watching this interchange. She had compassion in her eyes. Dumbfounded and griefstricken, I stumbled away from them and toward the front desk. Once there, the tears began to fall.

Memories of the last year with this boy flooded my mind: his coy little smiles, his temper tantrums, the joy on his face when I would spin him around, the smile of pride when we jumped rope together. And now, coldly, dispassionately, I was dismissed from his life and he from mine, without a second thought, without so much as a good-bye. It was indicative of how the industry worked. I was a commodity and nothing else. And when a more convenient (or less emphatic) commodity presented itself, I was cut off. But that didn't make it feel any better.

In another post, I wrote about this industry, if not about this particular event (that blog post was about another similar event). In following this business model, the industry undermines its efforts with autistic clients, who have a hard enough time forming relationships without the industry wiping out their existing ones.

But that's another rant.

As my heart ached, my back and neck felt worse and worse. Each day I went to work, I ended up in more and more pain. I started taking ibuprofen almost daily. I had no energy to do anything but work and collapse in a heap at the end of the day. I was weary and frustrated.

Finally, the day before my birthday in 2009, I was saying my daily prayers, and it all just boiled up inside of me. I railed at God for bringing me to this place that contained so much pain for me. I hated my job and knew that I deserved so much more. And then finally, knowing God had a better idea for my career than this, I shouted at Him:

"Just show me where to go and how to get there, and I'll GO!!!"

Note to self: NEVER say this to God, unless you really mean it.

Tune in next time when I tell you about God's answer, and how I survived it.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

When Worlds Collide: Confessions from the Liberal Environmentalist Subculture

I run in some pretty leftist circles. Yeah, that's right. I'm that hippie tree-hugging chick, wondering why you're poisoning your body with diet soda and conventionally grown vegetables. I'm that crazy lady surrounded by dogs (not all my own) who's excited about growing her own food. I'm that pain in the butt who keeps writing to her congressional representatives, the ones who are supposed to represent her views, her wishes, her hopes for our nation, and demanding that they actually do so. I'm also that odd girl who aspires to go to church during all of Holy Week (and all of Bright Week as well) if it wasn't for the fact that gas is just so darned expensive and she's too new to the community to know anyone to carpool with. Oh, right, and I'm that annoying girl on Facebook who keeps getting on the soapbox about how terrified she is about the bees dying, the possibility of food shortages, the criminal abuses of government agencies like the FDA, and wondering how in the world we're going to have a peaceful revolution.

I'm kind of active in these circles, and I believe in the changes we all want to make, both on a large scale within the culture, and in small doses in our individual lives. But there's something most of them don't know about me. It's my dirty little secret.

I... am a gamer.

Yes, that's right. A gamer. I play Dungeons & Dragons and other fantasy/science fiction role-playing games, using my imagination and a handful of dice. I also play computer games and console games, although without a console system, I limit those games to when I visit friends. I have played MMORPGs (massively multiplayer online role playing games; my game of choice was Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning) with people I've never met, typing in my comments or coordinating with other players using Ventrilo, a voice-over internet protocol software widely used by gamers. I like board games and card games too, especially when they have a science fiction theme.

I have heard gaming vilified in my more hippie-type communities (think all the social change without the drugs and the indiscriminate sex), and I usually end up keeping my mouth shut. I'm new in my community, and alienating people right off the bat is not my intention. But I just feel like they are speaking out of turn, not out of experience but from the outside looking in.

So I want to set some things straight about gaming, about the myths surrounding it, and also about its benefits.

Gaming, both tabletop (D&D) and video, does not simply attract introverted nerds lacking in social graces. While some people meeting this description also happen to game, they also happen to practice law and medicine and run businesses, perhaps even run for political office. Gamers are actually quite often open, fun people who also happen to be creative and intelligent, who enjoy engaging in play-based problem solving sessions.

Gaming also does not lead to violence. While some people who become violent may game, it is not necessarily a causal relationship. It's kind of like saying "All these violent people ate pickles, therefore pickles must make people violent." The pickle isn't the culprit, and the explanation of course doesn't explain the millions of pickle-eaters (and gamers) who don't turn out to be violent.

(What is far more frightening is that a lot of the teens and young adults who have become violent in public places like schools have been on psychotropic medications such as antidepressants, which are known to change brain chemistry, but which were not tested on adolescent patients to determine their effect. Interestingly, those medications have been subsequently found to make young subjects more violent to themselves and others. But Heaven forbid we anger the monstrosity that is Big Pharma by calling attention to these side effects they think should remain in obscurity.)

What I propose is that gaming is more of a psychological exercise that allows people to explore patterns of behavior in a safe context. Tabletop RPGs (role-playing games) are particularly good at this. One plays a character and behaves as that character would in all sorts of situations, from diplomatic discussion to combat. Does this character have loyalty as a core value, and in that case, how will she behave in a combat situation where one of her comrades falls? Because actual people inhabit and play the characters, it permits the player to experience these ethical situations in proxy. In D&D, a chaotic neutral character will act only in his own interest and will only take others into consideration if he profits from it. Lawful evil characters will work toward destruction, domination, and oppression, but they will at least follow a code of conduct. (Chaotic evil will not - think Blackwater, or the Bush administration). From a Jungian psychological standpoint, it is an excellent time to encounter and familiarize ourselves with aspects of our psyche that may be hidden or suppressed, or that may be just beginning to grow and develop. It would even be a good chance to explore some of the dynamics of a very familiar archetypal pattern, and to maybe play out and bring to light the reasons why this pattern so attracts us.

(Incidentally, I know few people who have played an evil character in D&D, except for DMs - dungeon masters - who had evil characters interacting with the players in his/her game. People are generally pretty decent and want to play decent, if flawed, characters.)

Even video games can help us experience things we would not have encountered in our daily lives. Console games (and their PC versions) give us visceral feelings of empathy and involvement in the worlds they create for us. Jane McGonigal gave a TEDtalk recently where she talked about gamers being a huge human resource for problem-solving skills. The problem, and McGonigal seems to agree, is that gamers (and not just gamers but lots of other people too) find this world rather meaningless.

See, we are completely alienated from any feeling of agency in our world. We can work our buns off, go into debt, pay off some debt (maybe), go to school, have families, and still not feel as if our lives have had an impact on the world. No matter how hard we work, most of us still see our politicians ignoring our needs, our government becoming ever more corrupt, and the social fabric of our lives deteriorate. And where many would try to find solace, in their religious institutions, they so often find more corruption, and hateful rhetoric that discourages us from hope, from connection with others, from love. (I am grateful that my Church does not do this, but I have been in churches where hateful speech is used frequently, and the news is full of the transgressions of religious leaders.) Is it any wonder that people retreat into gaming worlds?

Gamers are amazing in that they will engage in, and even create, worlds that have meaning for them. I am happily one of them. I am happy to play a character who, like myself, wants to change his or her world but, unlike myself, has a particular skill set which allows him or her to actually do so.

As Jane McGonigal suggests, what we need to do now, is reintroduce all that talent, hope, creativity, innovation, and meaning back into the "real" world.

In other posts, I may talk about specific games I play and enjoy, because I want people to understand the possibilities of gaming. But for right now, I'm just going to disclose this dirty little secret of mine. I love gaming, and I'm proud of it. I have the ability to use my imagination to inhabit characters who can positively impact their worlds. I have the motivation to remain with a quest that might help the world and the people around me, as long as I have the hope that I can have an impact.

Wouldn't anyone do the same?

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Change Begins in the Imagination

I am watching something amazing happening in American society.

Wednesday night, there was a protest at the Washington State Capitol Building. Thousands of protesters peacefully occupied the rotunda, demanding that we no longer kow-tow to corporate interests, and that corporations be taxed according to their income, just as we regular citizens are.

In Wisconsin, thousands protested when unionized teachers' ability to negotiate with the state was threatened. And finally, one brave judge signed an order for the legislation, which was passed without the state's Democrats present, to be stopped because it was unconstitutional. Unthinkably, the governor of that state went ahead anyway, until the judge finally had to say, "No means NO!"

After decades of passive complacency and blind trust in our government, the people are standing up once again to tell the government - this time their own and not one located across the ocean - that we are not going to have corporate interests usurp our own rights.

The actions of multinational corporations have ticked us off since before we were even a country! The original Boston Tea Party was about the colonists protesting the British government's tax subsidies to the British East India Company, while regular citizens were taxed mercilessly. (Thank you to Thom Hartmann's show for a beautiful explanation of this.) And here we are again, with a government (this time our own) bowing down to the whims of multinational corps while we lose public services like Medicare and veteran's assistance. I mean, is it not enough that some people dedicate their entire lives to our economy (our elders) and that some even put themselves in harm's way for our nation's security agenda (our veterans)? Now they're going to get screwed as well?

This particular budget crisis has been brought to you by the Republican Party (the politicians my parents vote for - I hope my folks are re-thinking THAT decision). But really, this isn't about one party being better then the other. This is about both parties being really corrupt, and the corruption of one being highlighted on this occasion. I don't think for a moment that Democratic Party politicians don't take bribes or turn their noses up at corporate lobbyists. The reality of the situation is that the system itself is rotten.

This political process, this entire system, is a meat grinder. People love to tell us how Obama has failed this and failed that. My Republican friends (and family) like to tell me that he was a bad egg from the beginning, and my Democratic friends wring their hands in disappointment and despair at this man. For what it's worth, here's what I think:

I think Barack Obama had big dreams for reforming this nation. The Bush administration did their level best to end any goodwill Americans might experience elsewhere in the world by behaving like an overgrown teenaged bully on the global playground. Bush wrote NO legislation while in office, and sat back while corporate interests had a field day getting tax cuts and subsidies, while our economy plummeted. A budget surplus left by Bill Clinton was immediately obliterated by Bush and his cronies. And this brave man, Barack Obama, thought he might be able to bring some hope.

On the promise of that hope, he was elected into office. And as if the meat grinder of a corrupt election process wasn't enough, Obama then entered office and discovered the miasma of degeneration, corruption, and greed that currently masquerades as our government. I think that anyone that hopeful, and that able to inspire others, will be met with the vilest of attacks on his character because that's all the opposition (the system) really has as a weapon. And boy did they attack.

Some are saying that he's a foreign national, others that he's not a Christian (what First Amendment?), and others even go so far as to say he's the Antichrist. I have heard this from the mouths of people I love dearly and it only proves to me the corruption of the beast that is our political system. Barack Obama is the Antichrist ONLY if Jesus is a rich, white CEO filthying up our oceans, air and land, robbing the poorest and bravest of us, poisoning our food, and tossing the elderly overboard. I'm sorry, but that's not the Jesus I worship.

Bottom line: I think poor Barack got into the Oval Office and saw that it was a rabbit hole that went way deeper than anyone realized.

But now, things are turning. We the People have not forgotten about Obama's promise of hope and change. And now, after a budget proposal that pretty much craps on regular citizens and coddles the very wealthy, people are beginning to remember that promise. They are taking it to state capitols right now, this very minute, and they are demanding change. I am so proud of my nation right now. I am so proud of the people of this nation, who are writing letters to their congresspeople, praying to whomever they pray that this will actually do some good. They are forming communities and gathering to find out how they can change the very system that threatens their well-being. One group tried this and ended up being co-opted into the very system they said they wanted to fight. Now another is trying. Let's get this one right. But even if we don't, we'll keep trying.

I have to remember, however, that revolution must happen inside each of us before it can happen outside of us. Robert Ohotto, a brilliant intuitive life strategist and excellent public speaker, recently did a radio show in which he outlined the difference between rebellion and revolution. As Ohotto explains, rebellion always exists in opposition to an adversary, but revolution takes us out of the equation of that polar opposition and forms a new system altogether. Revolutionaries are able to say, "This isn't working. Let's try something else." (Thank you, Robert. I just listened to that download TODAY and it was perfect for this post.)

That revolutionary change begins within us, as soon as we are able to imagine, as individuals and as a culture, that we can have leadership that is honest, strong, wise, and full of integrity. And we have done this. There have been movies and television shows for decades now, that have described this revolution (they're tough to find amongst some of the mind-numbing garbage we usually see). As we watch these imaginal heroes create a better world, we take some of that in, and make it a part of ourselves.

One such television series was a science fiction show called Babylon 5. Written by J. Michael Straczynski, it is almost prophetic with its story arc of movement from rebellion to revolution. I will end with a quote that Straczynski used in a Season One episode ("Mind War") about a revolutionary named Jason Ironheart. Ironheart quotes a Sioux poem as he faces the old regime:

"You cannot harm me.
You cannot harm one who has dreamed a dream like mine."
~Sioux Shaman song

Let us dream dreams of freedom, integrity, and a life lived in compassion and wisdom. Let us dream dreams of hope and unity, and a future that is bright and healthy.

Viva la Revolution!!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

New Beginnings

Wow, it's been a year and a half since I published here. Bad Tanya....

So, to anyone who follows this and doesn't already know, I have moved to Woodinville, Washington, where I rent a room in a log cabin that sits on 5 lovely acres of land. The cabin's owner is my new business partner, Stephanie. We have formed a company called Into the Wild Dog Food, and we make raw, organic dog food.

I am currently waiting to hear about a medical buyout for my work injury, and hopefully that will help provide seed money for the company, plus allow me to live while the business takes off.

We will also be raising bees, which is something we want to do for the planet. We have big plans for the land, and we want to make this an organic haven for our dogs and for ourselves.

But today...today I feel a little anxious. My feelers are out in many different directions and it's time to focus. Also, it's the second day of Lent, and this also is a time for focus and meditation. There is so much out of my hands right now, and I need to concentrate of the little slice of the pie that I can do something about.

All I can do is just extend my faith - in God, in myself, in my community and my family - and know that I will get the support and resources I need.

I will write more about the journey of the last year and a half later. Thanks to all five of my followers who have stayed with me up until now.

In the meantime, have a most excellent day!