Public Display of Excrementing

In China, I saw more than my fair share of people unleashing their bowels in open areas. I’ve pointed and howled with judgment. But today I realized that I do the same thing, except I don’t drop my pants, I drop my jaw.  I’ve been “shoulding” all over the place.

Lately, I’ve been in a foul mood. I feel like all I can see is the negative in situations and in others, especially in myself. It’s felt like the very worst verbal snowball that I have ever created, as one crappy thought sticks to another flake of criticism and complaint. And the worst part of it is that this snowball has been gaining speed and growing, as my only hope is that it reaches the bottom of the hill and stops. But how much negativity can I really generate and collect in my mind, I do not know? It is an incredibly unpleasant experience, especially when I am conscious enough to observe it, yet not disciplined to stop it from exiting my mouth, to begin with.

The irony, of course, is that I have been setting this intention to find more good in life so I can open up to awe. Yet the more I dig into this, the more I see what is wrong and the beauty and joy of life seem to hover beyond this dark cloud, blocking my sun.

This is the worst thought of them all is that something beyond my control is creating this worry and despair, that this mood will stay and become a part of my personality–that I am becoming less agreeable and cheerful with age. No frickin’ way do I want these crappy thoughts to take up permanent residence in my head. I gotta kick these unwanted guests out!!

But what if I am changing? What if I was to embrace my inner-grumpy, to become more curious and kind towards these unloveable thoughts? To look at me as you might see a toddler having a cry over dropping their cracker–despite this absolute trivial brooding, there is an opportunity to have a laugh over the ridiculous self-imposed helplessness of the situation and extend a hand to pick up the cracker.

Change does not have to be about becoming someone else, but about rearranging the pieces of the puzzle in your life in a way that better serves your purpose. Maybe it is not ‘something’ that is missing from your life – it is how everything fits in the bigger picture of your life that makes the difference -Astro Butterfly-

I read that quote the other day and have been examining my mood to see how perhaps this is serving me, that, perhaps I am in the midst of a wonderful transformation, as the pieces of who I am, shift into new positions and will create a new picture of Who I Am. Perhaps what I am experiencing is what people call a “dark night of the soul.” And, although it is awful to swell with such feelings and have a lot of diarrhea of the mouth, the mental muscle I am gaining in overcoming this and the faith that I am developing is creating the most delicious experience of renewal.

And with this insight, although I stand in a gloomy place, there is now an opening, a crack, in which I can put a wedge into to let some light enter, recognizing that this moment can be ethereal if I give it permission to be present in my life. Yes, I can accept this phase, while simultaneously attending my gaze towards the light. There is good in this experience and I have the capacity to find it.

This weekend we intend to drive to Vien Viang, a riverside town in central Laos. We intend to go tubing on the Nam Song River and explore caves in the area. Even though it is impossible to predict the end of this “shoulding”,  I am hopeful that this respite will accelerate the demise of my funk and give birth to a more content and hopeful version of me. If nature is really an antidote to unease, then there stands a chance that I may be injected with revelation and joy, as this dark cloud comes to pass. And, although I feel mentally feeble,  Inshallah, God willing,  I will hold on to the prospect of this possibility.

 

….. Enough 

When I was 14 years old, I ran away and lived on the streets in Atlanta, Georgia for several weeks with my best friend at time. Thinking of all the terrible things that could have become of me is baffling and nothing short of miraculous, however we were taken in by a couple of neo-nazi skinheads who sheltered and fed us during this time. (Yes, even neo nazi skinheads can be caring)One night we went to a skinhead party with them and I met a “white power” skinhead named Christopher and we talked until a fight broke out. What intrigued me most about Christopher was that he was a young African-American who believed that something was inherently wrong with him and that he should be subservient to white people. I was confused by him. Up until then, I had never really thought much about race, but after that, I absolutely knew that I was in the wrong crowd and I needed to get away from these skinheads.

Although this part of my life story is embarrassing, interesting and complicated, I have to leave it there. Obviously, it left an indelible mark on me. And my story has a happy ending since I am writing this today. Clearly, I am lucky to have a loving family who has always supported me through my troubled times.

Although it may not be as obvious in places like America, it is blatantly clear in countries like South Africa in which race inequality is apparent.

However, it was the first time I became aware of my white privilege. I wouldn’t expect most white people to identify it let alone acknowledge it, but I know it’s a real thing. Not only have I experienced it first hand but I’ve lived its opposite vicariously through my husband, an Indo-Guyanese, and witnessed it with others. And no matter where I go, in South America, the Middle East, Asia or now in Africa, the attitudes toward race are consistent: the paler your skin is, the better. This attitude that was imprinted during imperialistic times still is in different cultures today.

Lately the international news is full of all things American- mostly the social discord brought about by Trump’s presidency. In particular, women are protesting him and his vision of “greatness”. However this has struck a chord with women around the world and these protests went global. Undoubtedly this confuses Trump supporters, men and women alike, with them thinking that he has been fair enough to women. Perhaps white women are “privileged enough” but what about the women of color- whether black, brown, yellow or red?-maybe they are tired of slathering on whitening cream and putting on pants to justify that they deserve a fair shake at the benefits afforded by men-especially white men- men like Donald Trump- who never had to make difficult choices about whether to buy food or diapers for his children. It seems clear to me that there is another perspective to this reality tv show called American politics that is being reflected across the oceans,  and ideas about race and gender are being challenged.

All I know is there seems to be a day of reckoning that is upon us as we hold our collective cultural beliefs up to the light.  This is a time for reconciliation, courage and thoughtful action. To be unaffected by these events seems impossible and it has definitely stirred up a lot of emotion, even for non-Americans. As I am a tourist here in South Africa, a nation still grappling with its recent past of apartheid, I am wondering if I treat my fellow humans with the dignity and kindness that should be afforded to all people, or am I just being “good enough” to them.

From my Christian background, this is one of those bible verses that clings to my heart and reminds me that kindness and understanding should be my compass as I encounter others.

I know that I can’t change the inequities of the world but I can change my behavior as I interact with others. I can see others in their humanity and embrace the differences between us. I can acknowledge that their struggles are real and offer them genuine compassion- not pity or indifference- but respect for who they are and encourage them. We are all one. I truly know that with every fiber of my being. The Catholic faith taught me that first and my life experience continues these lessons. I can be more forgiving, more patient, more willing to see others’ perspectives.

I do not know if this “enough” but I feel that this is the soundest action to take in the moment.

The End of Suffering?

Lately I’ve been suffering. Not from physical pain but from emotional pain. A couple of weeks ago we went to Barcelona to get a feel for our soon to be new home. During that time, I went on a few interviews for teaching positions, but I didn’t walk away bounding with joyful anticipation since I may be too progressive of an educator for their traditional institutions. (In one of my interviews, I asked if they do inquiry-based levictor-franklarning, and the lady looked at me as if I had asked her if they “give the children poison”. Awkward, to say the least.) So now I’ve written my thank-you emails and haven’t heard a word since. Surprised?…Well, I shouldn’t be, but the sting of apparent rejection still hurts. And the question is beginning to penetrate my thoughts: If I am not going to be a teacher, then Who Am I? This potential identity crisis is the basis of my suffering, as I recognize how my self-worth is wrapped up in my job description.

I’ve heard it said that that your worst day can actually become your best day if you can see it that way. Well, I’m open to seeing the gift in this experience, but let’s be honest here, that is easier said than done.

As a practice, when my mind starts to go dark and I begin ruminating and singing that song, “Nobody likes, everybody hates me, I think I’ll go eat worms”, I  dig in and do the work to shift my mindset:

  1. Observe and attend more consciously to my breathing
  2. Engage in more physical exercise that challenges me
  3. Practice more “mindful moments” when I can feel gratitude and enjoy the  subtleties and essence of my human experience–like a hug from my daughter or the smell of coffee or the beauty of the moon.
  4. Read and listen to more encouraging and inspirational things.

offer-life

This post is mostly about #4.

So about a month ago I got introduced to a show call Inside Quest (the host kinda reminds me of one of my nephews) on YouTube and so I decided to check out their directory of episodes. Well,  I came across this interview with Tony Robbins and it resonated deeply, making me realize what my suffering is about but also how it can be cured. Here are some thoughts shared by Tony Robbins that shook me out of my self-pity stupor:

The way you suffer is to focus on yourself. Suffering comes from when we are obsessing about ourselves: what we are getting or not getting; what we should have done, what others should have done for us. Its’ the Me, Me, Me, Me, Me Game.

Suffering can be worry, can be anger, can be frustration–anything that takes you out of a ‘beautiful state’…..but you can end suffering by stop focusing on yourself and start focusing on something you want to serve that is greater than yourself.

-Tony Robbins-

When I stop to consider these words, I feel a tremendous amount of gratitude, thinking about how liberating this experience can be for me. Perhaps this might be the time to develop some new skills and an opportunity to explore some new career paths. What is my new “WHY”? Who can I help and how can I serve the world in a bigger way?

Because I have so many interests, I don’t know the answer to this question yet, but what I do love is the potential to now choose my mission in life and the freedom to explore it without feeling shackled to the expectation of being “the bread-winner”.  Right now, in this moment of awareness, I can decide to trade my expectations for appreciation. In this instant, I am willing to stretch my mind in a new direction.

(God HELP me–I need it!)

And I decided to write about this in a public forum because I am hoping that people like you (known or unknown to me) will hold me accountable to thinking bigger and acting greater than ever before.

In advance, I want to thank you for that!

Until next time….Keep breathing.