Where’s The Freedom?

Fight and you may die, run and you will certainly live at least for a while and dying in your beds many years from now would you be willing to trade all the days from this day to that for one chance, just one chance to come back here and tell our enemies that they may take our lives, but they’ll never take our freedom.

What are you fighting for?

What are you fighting against?

Marriage equality or DOMA?

Corporate entitlement disguised as “religious freedom” or do you believe that Corporations are people.

The Affordable Healthcare Act.

Women’s rights pro or con?

The poor.

Creation

Evolution

Birth control

Maybe you are fighting Monsanto.

Maybe not.

Maybe you are fighting to save your marriage.

Maybe you are fighting to end a bad marriage.

Maybe you are fighting cancer.

Or terrorism either from within or without.

Addiction

Codependency.

Anything?

Or maybe, just maybe, you’ve buried your head in the sand and aren’t fighting anything at all, but just surviving. Maybe all you want is to go home and live because you are afraid of the cost.

My question though is, is that really living?

Running away.

Hiding the truth.

Fighting nothing.

We all want freedom.

Freedom from  tyranny – where ever we find it. We want the freedom to make our own choices, live our own lives, and express our opinions without fear of retribution.

If the truth really does set us free as they say, why do we live in the land of the free and the brave, yet want freedom at the expense of another?

Freedom has a cost.

It carries a price.

So does hiding.

We can sleep in our beds and live (and lie) or we can fight.

“Careful ladies, the saints are watching.”

To which I reply,

Thank you for the warning.

Let them watch.

 

 

 

 

Where Were You When You First Met Anne?

anne-lamott-credit-sam-lamott-final-small_custom-508ad61ad7cd1860a90521caedf65c1aeb330750-s6-c10It’s not like I’ve never heard of her. I have. “If you want to learn how to write, read Bird by Bird.” my friends say. I own Bird by Bird and while I’m not entirely certain as to whether or not I’ve read it, I know it’s here in my home somewhere.  I put it away for safe keeping — along with all of my other safe keeping dreams.

Time and busyness of life have relegated the book to one of my piles of things that stack up when unattended. Sometimes my piles of things include tangible things like books and papers, other times they are more reminiscent of Pandora’s box — this dream, that lust, this need, that resentment. Which box or which pile or room I’ve relegated that book to, has yet to be determined. In many ways, I’m still sifting through yesterday’s hopes, and clearing out some wreckage in order to make room for the good stuff. Only recently am I starting to remove the bandages on my wings and testing their muscle. I do notice that while they tire easily, they grow stronger every day.

I could simply go buy it again. It’s not like I can’t afford to. And maybe I will, maybe I won’t. It doesn’t matter at the moment because in all honesty I didn’t meet Anne in Bird by Bird. Maybe I sensed something when I held that book in my hands that I was just wasn’t ready to face. I think I was afraid. Afraid of change. Afraid of truth. And maybe even a little afraid of meeting myself.

Because the truth is, you cannot  meet Anne and not be changed. I wasn’t ready to meet me yet. Sweet little,dishonest to a fault,  people pleasing, just give me the rules and I’ll follow them so you’ll like me, me — standing on my branch and rather than flying choosing to climb back down for a while. The clamor of life: laundry, dishes, dirty floors, homework, sex, obligations, gardens that keep dying cover the voices screaming in my head that there has got to be more.

More to this recovery thing.

More to this God stuff and service.

More to writing and family.

More to life.

More to me.

Anne’s is a name that is sometimes spoken in hushed whispers in my somewhat conservative circles. Even in AlAnon, she is considered contraband  “Non Conference Approved Literature” and all. It’s not as if she’s Voldemort or anything. I mean she’s just a woman like me – except for the dreadlocks. Oh how I love the freedom in those.

I didn’t meet Anne in Bird by Bird. I met Anne in Sunday School while teaching a safe and Board of Education approved class on Spiritual Disciplines. Not a bad study really. We talked about the importance of prayer, and meditation, forgiveness, and walking in the Spirit. Strong, spiritual Godly stuff. Stuff fit for women taught to serve and not ask questions. Problem is, I had a lot of questions. I still do.

Two visitors wandered in one day and joined my class. After a month or so one of the ladies torn over the ultra conservative nature of our church and her own personal beliefs, offered me a book on loan. “Read this and give it back to my friend when you are finished. I’m not coming back.” –

The book is Traveling Mercies.

This is where I met Anne.

This is where I learned that it is okay to have a crazy family, a messed up testimony,and a messy faith that is wholly mine and no one else’s. It’s okay not to have all the answers, have teeny tiny control issues, and I learned that thinking things that would make Jesus want to drink gin straight out of a cat dish is a starting place for forgiveness sometimes. It’s okay to tell the truth. To stand up for women. To be ourselves, without apology. It’s okay not to believe everything people believe and to think for yourself.

It’s okay to find your own music and purpose in life.

We listen to the same radio station, (K-FKD) only I was too embarrassed to admit it. Not Anne – she called it was it is and dropped the F-Bomb right there in black and white. I giggled out loud and looked around the room to see if anyone had heard what I just read. Feeling safe in my overstuffed green chair, certain that no one had overheard,  I sank in deeper and read the book through the night. By the end of the book, I wanted dreadlocks as well.

I don’t have them. Frankly they would look foolish on me.

Being the only daughter of an alcoholic mother myself, I run the gamut of loving and hating Anne. Sometimes I feel jealous and fall into traps of self-pity and wonder what my life would be like had my mother stayed in the program. Other times, I feel alive and torn between conviction and reassurance that I am indeed on the right path.

Anne is to me what women like Gloria Steinem were to my mother — an awakening. A voice to be heard and digested. A reminder that I am a child of God first, as well as a woman and a sister to others. All of my roles, wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend MATTER.  I too have a responsibility to wake up and keep the fight that the women before me fought. Freedom does not come from passively enjoying the benefits bestowed upon my generation by my Grand Mother’s and Mother’s generation or by assuming they will always remain. Simple things like credit, workplace equity,educational equality,  peace in this world, caring for the poor, all of those things matter and can go away with the very next generation if we don’t speak up.

This world needs voices.

This world needs women.

This world needs you and it needs me.

I’ve been asking Anne (via Facebook, I know weird right?) if she’d please include Tulsa in her book tours. That hasn’t happened yet. She is however on tour again discussing Some Assembly Required: A Journal of My Son’s First Son and is coming to Kansas City MO in April. The church she’ll be speaking at is only four hours from my house — I’m going. Bought my ticket already and everything.

I just want to meet her and say thank you.

Hopefully I won’t gush. That would be embarrassing really —

She’s influences me as a woman and that influences me as a writer.

She is just a mirror really — because the truth is – you spot it, you got it.

That which is we dislike in others are things we usually dislike in ourselves

AND JUST AS TRUE

Those things we hold up and admire in others are also those same things that exist in ourselves.

So, where were you when you met Anne? Have you? If not — let me introduce you — I think you’ll like her. I do.  — ANNE LAMOTT FACEBOOK PAGE

Robert Downey Jr is a Class Act All the Way Around and I’m a Puddle of Tears

I’ll be honest, when my friend shared this video (via his blog – Save a Cactus Hugger) with me last week, I sat down and cried.

I didn’t cry because I’m such a fan of these two men. I am (and you my readers know that, probably ad nauseum I’m sure.) but that’s not the point. I think this video shows courage, and great humility. Robert Downey Jr has proven himself to be a class act all the way around.

I’m not sure why it made me cry really. My reaction was so strong emotionally that I’m forced to look at it and find out. Yeah me, another Fantastic Growth Opportunity. (AFGO as my friend calls it) – I know that I’ve had many periods in my life where I’ve been overcome with a severe case of dumb-butt and have needed to face that in myself. And while I’ve been blacklisted for serious infractions like admitting I’m a more of a Ben and Jerry’s Fan than a Dairy Queen Gal, I have fortunately been spared the limelight of these two men’s lives.

Not that I haven’t necessarily done worse.

I just never got caught. Or if I did, it never made the nightly news or cover of People Magazine.

Maybe I cried because I’m one of those women who loves alcoholics to death — literally sometimes. (To point, if our eyes meet across a crowded room and my heart starts doing 280, chances are pretty good they either have a flask in their pocket or a criminal record. Which is in all honesty how I landed up in a 12 step room to begin with. I was raised to believe that I am personally responsible for other people’s bologna and it took a few years to let go of that responsibility, one clutched controlling finger at a time.)

Maybe I cried out of self pity? I have several alcoholics in my life who have yet to accomplish (on a personal level) what I witnessed here.

Maybe I cried because I know so many who left the room before reaching this place of hope and real forgiveness.

Or maybe I cried because I’ve been around 12 step rooms for so long and I honesty wish church were more like this and it isn’t always.

No matter, I love the video and believe that Robert’s actions show great class, love, and humility – not to mention courage and so do Mel’s. These men are a great example of true friendship — we should all be so blessed.

Happy 2013 Some Random Thoughts from little ole me.

When writing the story of your life,

don’t let anyone else hold the pen. – Harley Davidson

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It doesn’t matter how 2012 ended.

It does not matter if you kept last year’s resolutions or not.

You have the power to decide where to go next. You always have.

I usually end the year with an inventory of some kind. I list what went well, what did not go well, what I learned, what I still need to learn and then once finished, I declare the year complete. 2012 was a year of challenges and great growth for me. Instead of making resolutions, I followed the advice of several writer friends. I chose to live a great story (Donald Miller) and picked a word for the year to focus on. 2012 turned out to be one of the best years I’ve had in a while. I even chose to follow Ken Davis’s advice and live a year that is Fully Alive and what a difference that makes. Living a great story Fully Alive is not an easy road — you get skinned knees and bruised hearts along the way. It requires honesty with yourself and others. It’s hard work. Sometimes you say as many goodbyes as you do hellos and that is okay.

Some highlights from 2012

  • My youngest graduated high school and started college as well as a part-time job. — He has epilepsy and a great deal of my life and his childhood has revolved around taking care of him and being his advocate. Now I get to watch him spread his wings and I could not be more proud. (My oldest is in his 4th year of college with one more to go — my life is changing fast)
  • I’m in two movies as a paid extra, Cowgirls N Angels and So This is Christmas — I am at a loss of words trying to explain the emotional impact of seeing myself on the big screen had on me. The best I can come up with is “it rocked!” I want to do more of that.
  • I rode the Tulsa Tour De Cure for the first time and will definitely raise the challenge bar and do it again.
  • I started playing the banjo.
  • I emceed a local youth rock concert.
  • Attended the Christian Comedy Association Conference in Nashville and had a blast.
  • The political climate caused some attrition in my friendships. Sorry to see that happen, learning to let go.
  • Made new friends.
  • I said goodbye to the church I’ve attended for ten years and hello to a new one that has women’s ministries and bible studies, two things that are important to me. This was a hard choice, but one that needed to be made.
  • In 2013, I plan to ride more, participate in the Route 66 Marathon, return to Nashville for the CCA Conference. My word for the year is Resolve and I plan to continue writing and living a story that keeps me alive.

Random Thoughts:

  • It’s easier to tell the truth the first time than to have to remember a lie.
  • Hidden things have a way of coming back to bite you — deal with your closet before it deals with you. (Just trust me on this one.)
  • You can’t have everything you want.
  • Don’t take what isn’t yours.
  • Don’t do something permanently stupid just because you are temporarily upset. – Temper your temper.
  • Always strive to leave people and things better than you found them.
  • Own who you are.
  • Don’t blame others for your choices.
  • Try new things.
  • Fail as often as you need to before you succeed.
  • Gratitude is a choice.
  • Write your own story.
  • Find your catalyst and be the person worthy of love, trust, and respect that looks back at you in the mirror every day.
  • LIVE a life that is UNDAUNTED.

One Person’s Trash is another Person’s Treasure

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I’ll never forget my first winter in Chicago and the time I tried to give a homeless person my coat. My boss stopped me and made me get on the train. I did not understand why he stopped me and I cried the whole way back to the office.  He was protecting me. My kind heart over-rode common sense. 

I moved to Tulsa seven years later and worked in the Bank of Oklahoma building on the 27th floor. They had an ice rink back in the 90’s and I’d go down there for coffee and breakfast. Every morning I’d see the same man with ragged clothes and I’d buy him breakfast. At lunch I’d sit by myself in the square and share my lunch and cigarettes with a few of the homeless men that hung around. My boss found out about it and made me stop. He said it wasn’t safe for a nice girl like me to be alone with these men. He thought I was putting myself in danger.

I shared that story recently with the wrong person and their response surprised me.

“Your boss was wrong. I mean you smoked. Obviously you weren’t a nice girl.”

They were so proud of their comment that they laughed. This wasn’t a heckler, I wasn’t even on stage when he said this. We were sitting at a kitchen table sharing dinner with friends. A heckler I can handle, this — I just smiled and changed the subject before getting really quiet and letting other people control the conversation. It’s an old survival skill from childhood, if you let them know they got to you they come back for more. I’ve learned how to hide crumbling.

Just because I can hide it doesn’t mean I don’t crumble sometimes.

Knowing what this man said is a lie doesn’t change the impact of his words. The committee in my brain is now in high gear, passing those words around like a cheap bottle of wine. “You’ll never fit in.”, “You can’t trust people.”, “He’s right you know. You are trash.”, “I’m never coming back here again.”

Every fiber of my being now wants to show this man how “not nice” I’m capable of being. Oh you think smoking is bad, wait until I tell you about the time I did thus and such! The committee is also offering up questions on his mother’s marital status when he was born as well as her emotional temperament. In 24 hours I ruminate every possible come back. They are wonderful come backs by the way, I’m always brilliant after the fact. The problem is those comebacks do nothing for my heart and just keep the hurt feelings going while Mr Idiot has no idea that I’m even wounded.

At this point, I’m the one wounding myself by repeatedly hitting the replay button on the DVD in my brain.

I want to stop the spiral. I try to read. I pray. I stare at my phone to call a friend, but it’s too heavy and then an amazing thing happens, I receive a Christmas card from a friend. Inside the card is a puzzle piece with these words:

“YOU GLOW and you do more than light up a room — you light up the hearts of all who are in it.”

Her card is postmarked several days earlier, and arrives just in time to soothe my heart and my brain.  She doesn’t even know about the incident yet.  I now have a choice, I can hit the replay button on the remarks that hurt me OR I can choose to believe my friend and her words of encouragement. So what if one man thinks I’m trash. He’s an idiot.  I have a wealth of friends who think otherwise and their voices are loud enough to put the committee to rest.

It is said that silence equals approval. I neither agreed with nor approved of his comment and yet I remained silent.  I don’t have to be quiet just to prove I’m nice. There is nothing to be gained by staying silent when someone lies about my value to my face. There are a number of acceptable responses that I could have used. My therapist says when someone throws a prickly pear at us (an insult), we don’t have to catch it nor do we need to throw it back. We can simply say things like “ouch” or calmly speak truth, “that’s not true about me.” Simple phrases like that stop most people in their tracks and give them the chance to clean it up.

I’ll try and remember that next time. In the mean time, I’m taking my puzzle piece from my friend and posting on my bathroom mirror. I glow, not only do I light up a room, I light up the hearts of all who are in it. — And so do you.

Question: How do you respond to thoughtless (or maybe not so thoughtless) comments? I’d love to hear from you.

Recalculating

I used to think I had 1,001 reasons to hate men, turns out I have 1,001 reasons to hate one man and the rest of the poor saps just caught the shrapnel. — Fisher’s of Men.

Fisher’s of Men is not a new story that woke me up one night wanting to be written. It’s a story that really began in a home for unwed mothers in Utica NY in 1965 and is working it’s way to resolution with every new step, every new discovery and every word I write. It’s a story that has to be written and desires to be told. It’s a story that is almost universal in nature and bigger than me. It’s story that I have been asked to share on stage since I was 14. It’s also a story that I thought I could write during National Novel Writers Month. 50,000 words. Piece of cake I thought.  I’ve discovered it’s also a story that can’t be wrapped up that neatly yet.

The first few days, the first week even the words flew off my finger tips onto my keyboard and into my hard drive. I know everything there is to know about her, after all I created her. I’ve eaten, slept, and breathed her into existence for over 47 years. I know her inside out and backwards. She’s a mix of things, sinner and saint, lover and fighter. Porcupine and Pollyanna. She’s full of self-knowledge and yet it avails me nothing. My protagonist doesn’t resolve. Every story has a beginning, a catalyst and resolution.  She needs to resolve in order for the story to be complete.

When I couldn’t make her resolve, I ran to my cove in order to be alone and find my ending. I firmly believe that every writer should have a body of water to live near or at least visit. There is truth in water and it’s boundaries. And if you are lucky and listen closely the wind will catch it’s truth and carry it to you.  I spent the weekend wandering the boundaries of my cove hoping to find clarity when the truth hit me square in my gut with such force it almost took my breath away. My protagonist doesn’t resolve because I don’t. Fisher’s of Men isn’t a piece of fiction, it’s my life story. It’s me. Until I resolve, my story will remain in a state of crux.

One of my writing buddies spoke this weekend about how her word for 2013 flew in the window and jumped up and bit her. Much like the wands in Harry Potter that choose the wizard, certain words choose the author, not the other way around. That’s what happened to me. I’m not ready for it, I have no idea what to do with it, but here it is. My word for 2013 is RESOLVE.

This will be a word of rich depth, broad meaning, and many layers. I looked it up. Like me, it’s meanings are wide and varied. One of my favorite definitions so far the the transitive verb, to solve an equation again with new values. That has a nice ring to it, don’t you think? Maybe the whole reason Kat(that was her name) and I don’t resolve is because we’ve been using the incorrect values in the equation.

2013 – is going to be a year of recalculating.

From Wikidictionary.com
Verb
resolve (third-person singular simple present resolvespresent participle resolvingsimple past and past participle resolved)
  1. (transitive) To find a solution to (a problem).
  2. (transitive) To solve again.
    I’ll have to resolve the equation with the new values.
  3. (intransitive) To make a firm decision to do something.
    resolve to finish this work before I go home.
  4. To come to an agreement or make peace; patch up relationship, settle differences, bury the hatchet.
    After two weeks of bickering, they finally resolved their differences.
  5. (transitiveintransitivereflexive) To break down into constituent parts; to decompose; to disintegrate; to return to a simpler constitution or a primeval state.
  6. (music) to cause a chord to go from dissonance to consonance

Speaking Truth, The Value of Friendship

Great advice from a comic friend — “Honey if you don’t have people you can tell the truth to, your safe circle is too small.” –

We all need people in our lives with whom we can be just ourselves. People we can tell the truth to and people who will tell us the truth in return. We need to cherish those relationships. 

I really don’t have more to add to that right now. I think it’s enough.

Cherish your inner circle.

Create one if you must.

And then protect it with everything you have.