I know. What does MLK have to do with relationship? Pardon me while I meander today….
Today is MLK Day. People are off work. Some of us are out in community today. Some of us are out in community much of the time, while others come out this one day every year. Some of us are doing whatever it is we are doing and just glad to have a day off from work. Some of us only get into action when there is a chance to quote Dr. King in some way that serves our interests, but not necessarily the interests for which the quote was originally penned.
Anyway, this is what is on my mind today, and as usual, my thoughts meandered beyond that one point. I am usually out in community on this holiday, and many times during the year, but here I am at home recovering from COVID-19. So, I got to thinking about Dr. King, how this radical civil rights leader has been smoothed down over time — made to look more “acceptable” to the masses vs. who he really was and why he fought so hard and for which he gave his life over. I got to thinking about how some of us are in agreement with what he stood for, his actions, his thoughts. I got to thinking how that is very typical, actually, for a lot of different kinds of relationships, i.e., romantic relationships, friends, business, supervisor/subordinate, parent/children, etc.
Consciously or unconsciously we go through life creating and even undoing. Sometimes it’s on or with a purpose. We set out to create, change, or undo something. Other times we are just on autopilot or may not even be paying attention, yet we are still creating, changing, or undoing by our actions and/or participation. Some of these have ripples that carry out so far we may not even realize the motion is still in action, and long-forgotten by us. A lot of the time we don’t want to add our name to the co-creator’s list because the situation isn’t really a good one, and while we wish it were otherwise, we are a part of it still.
I believe that most of the time we are co-creating. We are in agreement by our participation, and even by inaction to reverse or change a course set upon. We participate consciously or unconsciously. As I said above, this is no different for a lot of different kinds of relationships. Supposedly there is a reaction for every action taken under the sun, which makes me wonder how much of those are done consciously or unconsciously.
I tried but couldn’t find this quote or story that someone once read to me, but it was something like this: In a romantic relationship where both people are assholes, they stay together because they each are in agreement to stay together so they can continue to be assholes. In other words, one of them started out as an asshole, and the response by the other (whether on purpose or not) was to also turn into an asshole. Therefore, they didn’t have to face the situation and the faults, it just gave each permission to continue on without recourse (or so they think). It was never talked about. (Or it could have been, but to no avail.) They just continued on being assholes, and one couldn’t call the other out for they would then be called out for their asshole behavior. One’s poor behavior was more important to them than talking about it, apologizing for it, and for sure more important than changing it. Whether it was verbalized or not, a written plan or not, or even if one or both were cognizant of it or not, what they got was something they co-created. They were in agreement, and the agreement was signed off by their actions (or inaction).
What could have been created had one of them changed course? ‘Doesn’t matter what change — any change. You can always interrupt the ripple effect by just causing a change in the ripples.
What about the mother that can’t accept that her son is gay? Now the son doesn’t come around because he doesn’t want to be ostracized or feel uncomfortable. It may be understandable why the son doesn’t come around, and maybe even necessary. Something is still co-created here. Co-creation isn’t just negative. Sometimes it’s positive, sometimes flat out necessary, but it’s still a co-creation. The parent in this staging set an energy in motion and the other responded.
Dr. King set out to co-create a movement, one that is still creating, moving and evolving to this day. Some of us are in agreement with what his intentions were, while some of us speak about it but never take on the lessons for ourselves, as if it’s meant for someone else out there somewhere. That’s still creating something (or possibly undoing), and others will fall into that and now an atmosphere of moderation or apathy is being co-created. There is an agreement — a co-creation.
Friends are friends because they are in agreement in enough ways that they can remain friends. The extent of your friendship with someone is the extent to which you are in agreement. This is universal, and it also applies to more than friendships. Again, this is seen in romantic partnerships, business, church, government, schools, etc.
Our agreements are about creating something together (good or bad), or undoing someting together. True enough that there are times when we don’t have a say in the matter, but then those aren’t the ones we are in agreement with.
How do you suppose this inter-relatedness, this agreement, is found in politics? In business? In friendships?
Whenever there is mutual participation (and even inaction is a type of participation, a type of agreement), something is created. Have it be something that’s good for you. Have it be something that is good for us.
Thanks for strolling through a maze that is my mind today.
What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell just as sweet. Romeo and Juliet, William Shakespeare
So, what IS in a name?
Some people don’t like their own given name, and sometimes we don’t like someone else’s name. Sometimes we are in wonderment at how someone might have arrived at a particular name, or notice that a name has a funny ring to it, or sounds like it might be from another language than our own, etc. I remember disliking my name when I was young. I much preferred nicknames to my own given name when I was a teenager. That changed as I grew into an adult, but not necessarily for the reasons this post is about… until now.
Our family has another grandbaby on the way — our third. So it’s an exciting time! I was teasing the kids about naming the baby after me — even if it was a boy — or combining mine and mother’s names — DeboRosa. Yeah, I know how it sounds. My former husband says it sounds too much like “ambrosia,” which I still feel qualifies it for the possibility list. (I’m seriously just kidding.)
When I was out for my walk the other day, I was chuckling to myself about that conversation. Then I started thinking about our children’s names. All three boys are named after beloved family members who are not only loved, but strong in character. The lone girl’s name was chosen because it sounded pretty (and it is — almost as pretty as her). Our first granddaughter is named the same way, and our first grandson is named after his father and has a middle name with a very special meaning in Spanish. Anyway, that’s the context for this post.
As I and my thoughts meandered around the neighborhood, it occurred to me just how much I love our kids’ names, and how much they mean to me. I started thinking about the things I mentioned above about my own name, about times when I couldn’t imagine why someone would name a child “that,” or when I heard someone making fun of a name because it sounded “foreign.” I know people who have changed their names because they didn’t like them, and others because the name they were given at birth did not match their gender identity. I know some who have changed their names because they wanted a more American-sounding name. (That makes me sad for a few reasons.) I also recalled some people whose names make me personally feel a particular way — upset, angry, sad, fearful, anxious. And there are still others when I hear them, I feel joy, love, warmth, happiness. But I couldn’t recall ever hearing a parent say that they regretted giving a particular name to their child/ren.
I worked in various positions in healthcare, primarily women’s health for many years. Names were important, and spellings of those names were extremely important. I used to keep a list in my drawer of the peculiar or unusual ones. Some seemed thoughtful, but others still have me scratching my head to this day. Nonetheless, someone cared about those names enough and whatever was behind them to dole them out to a most precious gift.
How do people respond to your name? How do they feel when they hear it? How do you feel about your own name? How will you hear names after this?
When your parent/s gave you your name, it sounded like love in their soul, like music to their ears, a song etched in their heart, or a sweet memory worthy of sharing. It meant something to the person that thoughtfully gave you your name, and they heard something in it, knew someting about it no one else could hear, see, or feel quite the same.
When you set out to cause suffering in another, you double your own and invite more of it. You cannot escape the suffering you put on others until you give up the practice of causing it, and give up your addiction to that savage, satiating feeling you think fixes you when you cause it.
This manufacturing of suffering is a vicious cycle for all involved. Life brings suffering at times on its own, this is a fact. But the manufacturing of it is something else. It’s abuse, for one thing, and manipulation. But more than that, it’s a whole cycle. The one inflicting the suffering circumstances (manipulator, abuser) is already suffering. What a horrid way to go through life — perpetrating hurt and pain on others. I’ve heard victims say that they don’t understand how the abuser lives such a good life, or gets away with their behavior. I can see how it appears that way, but I think this is mostly false.
Once the cycle starts, the target will find ways to avoid the circumstances and abusers will double-down on their victims, but the suffering continues to return to the manipulator and multiplies by a factor of their own and the person/s they’re hurting. One’s own suffering can’t actually be cured or satiated by inflicting more suffering. And if you’re the abuser, frankly, you give up your right to be angry at the change in people caused by your endless refusal or inability to be decent, or their willingness to go to great lengths to stay out of your line of fire. That’s part of the price you pay. So… more suffering.
This is a shout out to all of the volunteers in the world. I’m so glad to have so many of my friends in as well as outside of my church home with volunteer’s hearts. I have met THE most phenomenal, hard-working, and caring people. I have come to realize over the many years that you’re either in it for the love of what you are doing and the cause or outcome, or you probably won’t last very long. I have volunteered in many different ways my whole life, and honestly can’t imagine not doing it.
Social media being so prevalent, I have noticed on different posts some comments that suggest volunteers must not have anything better to do, or that we’re lazy (which doesn’t even make sense), that we’re wasting our time because we don’t get paid for it, or how we probably don’t even have jobs. (I see that last one especially when it is a protest for some kind of social justice issue for better or more human rights.) For what it’s worth, many — but probably most — volunteers have jobs, and still find time to make the world a better place and take care of issues that they love and are meaningful.
I have heard the aggravation or judgement in the voices of non-volunteers (or reluctant volunteers) with the amount of time that might be spent volunteering and not getting paid for work done. I am sure that every volunteer would love to get paid something if that was even a possibility, but that generally isn’t the case, nor is it the reason for volunteering.
Speaking of getting paid, volunteering is also not like being an employee either, and you cannot treat volunteers like employees — even though sometimes expected outcomes may be similar to that of an employee. The investment is quite different though. There is sometimes great joy in volunteering, sometimes even great sadness, sometimes frustration. Regardless, it is food for the soul and it’s not just the volunteer’s soul that I’m talking about. That is the payment that some can’t understand.
Volunteers often go unnoticed, unrecognized, and even under or unappreciated — not always of course, but it does happen. Volunteers will usually volunteer right through that anyway. Many volunteers are happy being unnoticed even. There is a fine line there, however. If that is the consistent or perpetual case, volunteers will start to dwindle and this is where a lead organizer or organization may wonder why they are having a hard time keeping consistent volunteers. I have even heard on occasion the volunteers themselves being blamed for the lack of volunteers. But I know this opinion is a lack of insight in most cases. Just like any other organizing or management, when you cannot seem to keep a position filled, then it is time to look within, NOT over there somewhere, and examine honestly what is going on.
If I were to give any advice at all on being a volunteer, it would be about two things.1: Don’t allow other people to steal your joy of volunteering. Some people just cannot understand it, but maybe it is just not for them to understand. Whatever you do, and for whatever reason you do it, if it is your joy to be in service, remember that no one has the right to steal your joy of it. The world needs you. Community needs you. 2: To be a volunteer does not require inordinate amounts of time. Not everyone has countless hours to offer or even the energy. You must know that even if all you have is one hour per month, or week, or anything at all that it absolutely makes a difference. So don’t be afraid or reluctant to volunteer if you can’t do it on a regular basis or if you only have a small amount of time to donate. It ALL contributes!
The last thing I want to shed a little light on is that volunteering is a form of activism. A lot of people don’t realize that. But volunteers address needs and shed light on them, they organize around them and cause and get into action.
Find your cause. Share some time. Something you care about needs you.
We often stop to think, contemplate, plan about and for our child’s future. But do we do the same for the future of others from the standpoint of how our children will affect them, affect the rest of the world? If not, why not?
I remember being bullied as a kid by a jerk down the street for years — he was such a mean kid, by “mean girls” in my neighborhood, and by some in school who just didn’t like the way I looked or who my friends were. I struggle to believe that their parents didn’t know how mean and even abusive some were, and I often wonder how some of them are now as adults. In the workplace I would imagine which employees and managers had been bullied as kids or were the bullies. We see and hear about abusive relationships with spouses, with children, even with elderly parents. I can recall even a few teachers that definitely were. Can you imagine — the people responsible for educating our children? We don’t like to talk about it. We don’t like to ask about it or get involved. Sometimes we even shame the victim (another abuse). We even deny it when we’re the one with the personality problem (so it continues). We don’t want to admit when it’s an issue in our families or how we might be affected by it. So, when does it STOP? Where does it END? No type of abuse is acceptable, or so we like to say. Verbal, sexual, physical, and even schoolyard bullying — all types are VIOLENCE.
When does one finally look at it honestly and squarely and say, “THIS ENDS WITH ME RIGHT NOW?” We don’t have to be the abuser, necessarily, to change it and turn it around. You know how some of us like to pretend that there’s nothing wrong in our family dynamics. We might have responsibility because we know it’s happening. Yes, if we know, we are responsible. And if you are the abuser — how miserable you must be stuck in that way. Don’t you want more for yourself, for your kids, for others that you affect?
The saying goes, “Hurt people hurt people.” I prefer, “Miserable people make other miserable people who turn around and make other people miserable.”
Naomi Osaka and Simone Biles have made me look harder at what grace really means lately, or at least what it can look like. Each has pulled out of major athletic events recently to tend to their own mental health and safety, and they have been widely publicized and scrutinized. Each was dragged on social, print, television, and radio media. But even more importantly, each was revered, lauded and applauded, and supported by so many more, and even defended on those platforms. Perhaps you are one of the people coming to stand with and behind Osaka’s and Biles’ decisions to back out of competition – or you had negative feelings when Osaka did it, but after hearing favorable commentary on what she did, you came around to a new way of thinking when Biles made a similar choice. I have no argument with those reactions whatsoever. In fact, I feel like that is progress that so many of us are showing that kind of love and support – grace, if you will. That is the loving response, and certainly the God-centered one. We should remember that their bodies and minds are sacred temples unto themselves, and do not belong to anyone other.
St. Augustine said, “What is grace? I know until you ask me; when you ask me, I do not know.” As spiritual beings we know grace to be favor or even sincere kindness and allowance from our God-source that we grant. It is not something only God can grant. Because we have the source within, it is a choice we can make. It is at once an understanding, while we may not yet totally understand. It is a conscious choice and action that begins within rather than from factors without. Was St. Augustine correct in his assessment of grace? It is my opinion that he was, in that we sometimes forget that we have choice over this and forget from where grace begins. Romans 3:24 talks about the grace of God being given freely. Therefore, it is not a stretch to understand that it is also ours to give. We are creative expressions of the Oneness within… so let us examine where we fall short when we just forget.
These young women’s very public and personal situations bring forward important questions for us personally. First, are you showing grace to the people in your life – your spouse, neighbor, parent, child (young or grown), best friend, student, employee or subordinate, etc. – are you also giving them the same allowances, favor, and grace as you have given the famous and very public Osaka and Biles? ‘Just something to think about. Everyone has problems, difficulties, struggles. No one is immune. It might be financial disparities, physical or mental health issues, relationship struggles… there is a myriad of possibilities here. If their response does not align with what we think, or they are taking too long (in our opinions) to resolve it, or we are tired of hearing about it, what then is our response? Grace does not have to look like agreement or even complete understanding, but it will always look like support and the space for that person to be where they are while being covered in our love.
Finally, and extremely important, are you also standing up for yourself? Are you giving your own sacred self the same grace that you are giving these very gifted athletes and others in your life? We often see a bit of our own humanity in others when they go through some ordeal publicly, or when someone we love is in the middle of maneuvering complex decisions. Yet, there are times when we assign more importance to someone else’s plight. There are times when it feels easier to publicly give someone outside of us grace and then walk back into our own lives and drop that mantle outside our own front door. We may not even realize we do that. Self-deprecating actions can be unconscious and habitual. Remember that you are deserving of no less grace than our Wayshower and brother, Jesus the Christ, exampled for us and that which is a constant from God.
Let us fine-tune the way we think of grace. Grace is not an award to grant. It is the truth, the reminder, and the acceptance that we are one with God, and one with each other. We are each but one part of the whole. It is an active admission that we are connected and different (not separate) at the same time – interconnected – and that not one of us deserves less or more of anything. If we can find it within ourselves to grant it when public or celebrity calls are made for it, we need only to reach nearer and harder and put it into practice for ourselves and those in our circles (1Peter 4:8). Imagine the world that will show up out of that.
Today, I am going to get personal. I often talk about things “out there,” or I am ambiguous on purpose because what I’m writing about can have more than one meaning. I usually want the reader to find the one that resonates with them. So I’m going to do something in this post that I don’t frequently do — get personal.
The hubs and I have one of our best friends coming to visit for a quick overnight stay. We haven’t seen her in two years, where we normally would see her and her family three to four times a year. She and her husband moved out of the state a couple years ago and, thanks to COVID-19, we haven’t had the chance to see them or their kids. She’s “home” for a spell and is making the two hour+ drive to see us. Because of this, there has been an amount of “getting ready” happening in our home.
Something about tidying up and rushing around the house reminds me of my father. He was a tyrant. He was fastidious, to say the kindest and the least, about everything, and definitely about the inside as well as the outside of the home. The majority of my chores were outside for some reason (no clue why). It’s probably no shock that I’m way better at taking care of the outside of the house than I am the inside. But there’s more to it than that. I actually get sort of frozen-in-place when a project inside is a giant one, or when someone decides they want to rush me around. Nothing was ever good enough for him, and he never cared how hard you tried.
So, back to our friend that’s coming over. I got up this morning with a migraine and tallied up the things that I felt needed to be done before her arrival this evening. There weren’t many, and even those were pretty simple things. I had already washed sheets, dusted and cleaned the bedroom, and made the bed. I dusted the living and dining rooms a couple days ago. But there are dog nose-prints on the front window and mulberries squished on the floor from dogs that run around the backyard and then track them inside. The mulberries are a several-times-a-day project until the tree stops dropping them. Well, shoot, my vitamins are out on the counter in the kitchen and the kitchen rugs could use another wash. Some of the placemats on the dining table don’t match. Recyclable trash needs to be emptied, and there’s a stack of mail on the dining room table. My desk – well my desk has always had a life of its own! Laundry is in the dryer, so that means it probably won’t get folded and put away before she gets here. I sort of sat there with my cup of coffee in a trance, frozen-ish, headachy.
By the time I finished my cup of coffee and cottage cheese with blueberries, I was over it — not over our friend’s visit, but over being overly-concerned about what there was to do. First of all, we love her and she loves us, and I know for a fact that she is not going to come into my home and begin examining everything, and I already know she has no expectation of walking into a showroom model home. Secondly, I’m not going to have friends who are that judgy anyway. (If you are, I might just hand you some spray and paper towels and invite you to clean the dog nose-marks yourself.)
I realize that my first reaction this morning was really coming from someone/somewhere else, and not from me. I just happened to let it in. It was coming from people who have been in my life who really need to do as much heart work as they do in other areas of their lives. My heart is full of love for our friend, and I know it’s returned. My home is clean, comfortable, and welcoming. Save my desk and a set of shelves in my bedroom, my home is orderly. You can open my cupboards and look under the rugs and furniture.
I know some people who insist on a spotless home who are actually not great at being good humans, or whose lives are in complete disarray. (That’s not to say that everyone who has a spotless home IS a terrible human, so don’t email me.) But it occurred to me today that we can work so hard at looking good, appearing competent, acting organized, etc., but forget or refuse to give as much attention to becoming the person our exteriors claim we are. We may have a clean home, pressed clothes, a nice physique… but a messy heart. Take for example the person whose home looks clean and tidy when you walk in, but you better not open a drawer or a cupboard because the mess was never really cleaned, it was just stuffed away out of sight. A funny thing about that process is that even we forget sometimes that the stuff is in there or forget where we even put something!
Things become lost – like souls.
I’m not at all saying that someone cannot master both home and heart. What I am saying is this: Be kind and loving to your people, especially if you’re raising children. Our children grow up to be other versions of us, or worse, versions of the mess we stuff away in cupboards or sweep under the rug, and you never know how that’s going to come out. For me, it comes out as anxiety, a kind of frozen, soft-serve mess. For others it might come out like a spotless home, but a frozen heart, and for still others it might look like abuse. We raise these little people sometimes without remembering that other people have to deal with them after they leave our care or we leave this world. If you’re going to leave a mess behind, let it be the dog nose-print on the window kind, or the home overflowing with fun kind — not a person, or not the mean-spirited, heartless, not enough, or anxiety-in-skin kind that hides away or projects onto others. Your spotless home might be something to be proud of, but don’t make it meaningless in the grand scheme of it all, or a miserable place to be for those with whom you share it.
Appearances are just that – something to see; but a kind and giving heart is something to behold and cherish.