Beginner's Heart

Beginner's Heart

Sunday runaways ~

sunday runaway dogWe found a dog today. She was romping in our driveway as my two sisters and I loaded the car to go to breakfast. Friendly as a politician, she came up and promptly rolled over for a belly rub (warning: do not attempt this on the campaign trail…). Of course I obliged.

Since it’s hot today (already 97 degrees!), and we live on a very busy street, we let her in the air-conditioned car with us. Had I normal, friendly dogs myself, I could have just taken her into the house. But noooo; my older Frenchie would have her hide. Or at least pieces of it…

So we called her owner. No response. We called again, and texted. Sure ’nuff, Owner replied to the text. After an exchange of where and what, we were able to off-load the very friendly dog at her home. No one answered our knock, so we did the Okie thing and just opened the unlocked door and let her in. Another text confirmed that was fine.

Breakfast seemed sooo much nicer! We’d possibly saved a life! We’d made a canine friend! (I have the short white-hair-covered slacks to prove it :) ) And that, I think, is beginner’s heart 101: do something nice that has no possibility of helping you. And you’ll reap untold good feelings. It’s really that simple. At least it was today. :)

race in America, and the dilemma of forgiveness ~

black-white-handsI’ve never cared for Paula Deen. Didn’t watch her on TV more than once or twice. Didn’t buy her cookbooks. Don’t even care for her kind of cooking, these days. I also think that people need to NOT use the n-word. And that the ‘lost days of the Confederacy’ are unlamented.

So I was flabbergasted to realise I feel sorry for her. WHY, in the name of tweet? (I’m reverting to my grandmother’s idioms here; sign of my discomfort?)

If you haven’t read about her fall from grace, Google it. Suffice to say that she used the N-word many years ago (and possibly more recently), and evinced the legacy of the Confederate South we all wish were interred with Lincoln.

But here’s the deal: does Deen deserve to be ruined for this? And would we have been as quick if she was a man (I’m remembering the sexism explicit in Martha Stewart’s conviction for ill-doing)? The Supreme Court just said we’re not racist anymore (to justify its own refusal to acknowledge the very real issues of race in this country). So what to do about Paula Deen?

Does having her cooking empire crumble around her serve any purpose? WalMart, Smithfield, et al.; Random House isn’t even going to release her book, even though it has projected great sales!

What’s the deal? Just what does this dog-pile-on-the-chef-rabbit gain us? Will it make Paula Deen less racist? Does it make Walmart — home of longterm allegations of sexism and labour inequitites — somehow a ‘better’ company? What if Deen really IS sorry? racism ruins lives

I HATE racism. And I hate even more — if possible — the N-word. It was never said in our home when I was a child, and my own son didn’t know what it meant until he was at least 9. He’d never heard it. I count that as a small victory, considering we live in the city w/ the 5th worst race riot  in Amerian history.

The corporate reactions to Deen’s ignorance seems … well, a bit smug. But in truth? I figure ALL white people are racist until they prove otherwise. I also assume that even the best -intentioned of peoples — regardless of  race, religion, ethnicity, et al — harbour forms of ignorance. Myself included.

Certainly Paula Deen used the N-word. She said so (and give her credit, folks: she was under oath). Certainly there’s no excuse for that. But what happened to forgiveness? What happened to grace? What happened to conversation about the whole thing?

A couple of years ago, a student in my class said that when she was in high school a white female student came in blackface to a school costume party. A black male student came in white face. Those are the salient facts. The white student was suspended, and lost her pending scholarship to a prestigious university. The black student was valourised in the student yearbook.

blackfaceWho among us thinks the way the school handled this situation was well-considered? What a lost opportunity to open a conversation among the students, the faculty. Think of the ways in which students might have learned — from each other, from speakers brought in — about race, and the history of blackface and race in this country. I had students who had no idea that blackface was insulting, nor why.

What if this country had used the Paula Deen incident to talk about race, and the history of the N-word? Might we at least have had a flying hope that Paula Deen might ‘get it’? Because I sincerely doubt that ruining the woman financially has accomplished anything positive at all. Unless you count the smug feeling of self-congratulation a few corporations may be feeling…

Regardless, my beginner’s heart is deeply saddened by the whole thing. What Paula Deen did — and said — was wrong. And yet… When is the annihilation of someone’s livelihood — hard-won as hers has been — ever okay? I can’t help but think we accomplished nothing at all. Except to ruin Paula Deen…

 

 

 

 

 

wonder, and loving strangers (even mean ones??) ~

imageMy grandson — one month old, today! — cries when I hold him. A LOT of the time. It’s embarrassing. Not to mention depressing. I do NOT have this grandmother thing down. Tonight my son & DIL are out to dinner. I have Trinidad. And after a devastating explosion of screaming, he finally let me rock him to sleep. We’re both exhausted…

So what do I do when he cries? Well, I practice beginner’s heart. Really. I think love at him, try to breathe through my spiralling heartbeat, and rock him gently. Listen to my son & DIL for advice about what works for them. Try to find m own way. And it’s HARD.

Not because I don’t adore my grandson, obviously. Just today I watched him as we sat outside, in the misty Portland morning. His large eyes followed the watery sunlight, full of wonder. That’s a whole other lesson

No, it’s hard because I want to fix it. I want to save the day. Make him happy. Instead, I can offer him a bottle of mother’s milk. But he’s way smart enough to realise that I’m not his mother. Or his dad, a close second. And Mom & Dad are  what he wants. He can go from a sweet puddle on his mother’s lap, or a smiling coo in his daddy’s arms, to a stiff howling monkey prince in mine, arms & legs whirling. Again, talk about embarrassing…(and did I mention depressing?)image

Digression: My son says I like everyone. But he’s crazy :). I do NOT love everyone. No way, not even close.  I do try to have compassion for them. Even the mean, horrible ones (knowing even as I write this – who am I to judge? But I do. I think people who want to cut education and the arts and help for the less blessed are mean-spirited. Cut war, folks. Cut your salaries, if you make more than $200,000.00 annually. Who NEEDS more than that??

See? I just go off…

So today’s post is about how I work on that. Because it’s HARD. Even HARDER than being calm for Trinidad, and not taking a baby’s vagaries personally — just trying to be there, and learn. And I forget ALL THE TIME. What helps most — with Trinidad and the world at large — is tonglen. Breathing — both for Trinidad and for folks I can’t stand. Remembering (in the case of my beloved grandson) that he will grow, and that I’m NOT his mother. I am only who I am, and  sometimes that’s just not what’s needed. :)

imageAs for folks who make me crazy? Who can’t stand my beliefs, whose values war with my own? Well, I can’t stand them either. So I think about how that makes me feel. Because when I breathe for others, what happens is that I really heal myself. Ideally I’m healing all of us, breathing in the pain and dislike and fear that feeds on polarisation. Breathing out compassion, peace. Balance.

With Trinidad, it’s hard enough. Not because I don’t love him enough ( :) ). But because of my own ego, my fears, my baggage. So when I hold him, and he howls, I breathe. Deeply. Steady. Reminding myself that I may not be what he wants, but I can still be here. Full of love, breathing. I think that’s excellent beginner’s heart ~

life budgets ~ or, the rocks in the jar…

imageIf you haven’t heard the story about the rocks in the jar, you only need to know that the big rocks go in first, or you can’t put in the pebbles & sand. And that the big rocks are what we value most. For most of us, that’s family, friends, our interests.

My husband — now that we have a bigger jar, as it were (retirement lends itself to the BEST metaphors!) — are thinking about rocks. Think of us as geologists, in a way: trying to figure out which rocks are which, and which are most valuable. Certainly our family is high.

So is financial security, of course. And right now, we’re trying to figure out how those two will intersect, as my elder son, my daughter-in-law, and their weeks-old son plan to move across the continent. My younger son will stay in Portland, where I suspect he will remain for a long time. We’re still in Oklahoma, smack-dab in the middle of nowhere, so far as our sons are concerned. :)

Apparent digression (that connects, I promise): I came out to Oregon to see my new grandson. But also to see my sons, my daughter-in-law, and my BFF (who lives about 90 minutes from Portland, in the cheese capitol of America — Tillamook). It’s not cheap to fly anywhere if you start in Tulsa. And if my family & BFF aren’t all conveniently located in one-stop flight tickets, it becomes even more expensive… Here’s where the budgets come in.

I will do without a lot to see my sons and DIL and grandson. Folks expect that, and we budget for those kinds of ‘rocks.’ There’s space in both the life jar and the budget jar. It’s harder for some folks to understand that I also will budget to see my BFF. And it’s not because she’s my only girlfriend: I have three amazing sisters, two wonderful sister-in-laws, and other dear friends who live closer. But none of them is Pat. So  we have to budget $$ for me to see Pat. AT LEAST a couple of times a year! :) image

Because friendships need ‘feeding.’ They need tea, and watching dumb movies together, and sitting in the front yard ruining your dinner w/ good Tillamook cheese and grapes. They need sufficient time for there to be ‘quality’ time. And you have to make sure that happens.

Years ago, the project I was working on was talking about planning a classroom syllabus, or schedule. And we said something that has stayed with me since: if your class schedule doesn’t show it, you don’t really value it. You say you value writing? we’d ask them. Does it show up in your daily schedule? Because if it doesn’t, you don’t. You only pay it lip service.

There’s a lot of ‘lip service’ paid out in the world today, especially in terms of what our real values are. If you say you care about others, and you do nothing concrete to help them? It’s lip service. And going to a Friday/ Saturday/ or Sunday ‘service’ is just lip service. Where are your $$ going? Where does your time go? And your words — do they reflect those values?

imageLately, with this transformative gift of time to think, I’ve been thinking about rocks. Wondering what it is I want to fill my next 15 years with. Because my mother had Alzheimer’s, and my father senile dementia, I know my jar may be  a bit smaller than others. Or maybe it just may crack earlier?

Whatever the image you choose, I’m thinking hard about what I will spend my time, $$, and energy doing. What my core values are. My perfect husband, my incredible family. My best friends. Healthy living so I can enjoy them longer — and fully. :) Writing is another rock, although certainly not as large a one as friends & family. I heard the Buddhist poet Jane Hirschfield say that she gave up poetry — gave up writing — when she entered the Buddhist monastery where she spent several years. She said she didn’t know if she’d ever write again, and that was okay. Some days, watching my grandson stretch his arms out to the world, or a Western blue jay circle me warily, or the drifting play of sunlight over grass, I understand. Writing is not a big rock. These others? Oh yeah.

So in my journal, I’m going to make a pie chart w/ my aquarelles. Bright colours. And then I’m going to draw a jar, putting brightly coloured rocks inside. Rocks with words written on them, like the one in my garden that says breathe. Maybe I’ll even start with that one…

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