In Pursuit of Happiness

I quit.

I’m done.

I can’t take more of this chaos, this insanity, this week , this year . . .

I refuse to accept that human beings have nothing more to offer each other than clinging  to stupidity in the name of the perception of freedom, and allowing a minority ignore the will of the majority who just want to feel safe from the brutality of those who see violence as the answer to everything.

I refuse to believe that we cannot find our way past fear and the perception of difference to live in  a world full of peace, kindness, and love.

I can’t continue to gather the pain and anger that fills this world, and feel so helpless. I can’t watch as media agencies care more about being first than about reporting news properly.

I can’t take any more.

It’s time to make change . . . inside myself, in society, in this world.

I don’t like walking around feeling angry, sad, frustrated, tired, and hopeless. But, I realize, that I’m the only one who can change that for myself, and maybe making the  internal changes will somehow create chain reaction that will grow into others.

Today is the day that I am going to close my eyes and ears to all the negativity in the world, and focus on happiness.

This doesn’t mean I will stop caring, but that I simply cannot take anymore in. The  only way I’m ever going to make a difference. The only way we are ever going to make change, is for each and every individual to say “Enough! This insanity has gone on for too long! We want  a better life for everyone!” And then they have to start . . . with themselves.

“Your personal contentment is more than a feel-good story. New research shows it can have a profound effect on your health. . . It’s not too late to pursue your own happiness today.” (Ronald Siegel “Why You Need to Pursue Happiness”

Today I choose to pursue happiness and love, because if I don’t I think I’m going to lose myself into a darkness m which I’ll never escape.

Today I choose pursue happiness because I cannot accept that humans cannot rise above the darkness, despite all evidence to the contrary.

Today I choose to pursue happiness and hope.

Does anyone want to join me? If we do, maybe we can change the world, one step at a time.

Yellow and purple flowers make me happy.

Yellow and purple flowers make me happy.

UPDATE (a few moments later): I’m going to learn from the wisdom of the incredible “word hermit” Andra Watkins . . . visit her post to find out more.

Wishing for Internal Harmony

I bet you thought my next wish would be for world peace.

I don’t want to waste birthday wish  magic on something that, at our present stage, is impossible. It’s not that I don’t want some kind of peaceful resolution to the conflicts that plague us, but that I simply don’t believe that humankind has developed enough to be able  to overcome our innate greed, protectiveness, war-like sensibilities, or our desire to define ourselves by an “us and them” mentality.

On an individual basis, however, I believe we can work toward peace and harmony. I believe that peace begins within. If individuals have confidence in who they are, what they believe, and where they fit in this world without trying to force those same thoughts and beliefs onto others, then they have taken a step toward creating a more peaceful world.

Today another good friend is celebrating her birthday. Tanya is an amazing woman who impresses me with her own inner confidence and  faith in herself. I wouldn’t describe her as peaceful (she’s more like lightning contained in a bottle), but her inner peace always gives me hope. So today I borrow from her birthday wish magic to wish for internal harmony for all.

Tanya and her son Eli two years ago, finding peace in the pool.

Tanya and her son Eli two years ago, finding peace in the pool.

This wish actually comes from reading a comment on my post yesterday, a comment that made me ask some serious questions about myself. Am I too close minded when it comes to religious extremists? Do I practice what I preach when it comes to not trying to force my opinion onto others?

The comment refers to a post I wrote a long time ago called “Hell is Living in the Bible Belt” where I express my disdain for the religious road signs that dot  the highways throughout Kansas and Indiana. I re-read my own post to ask myself these difficult questions. In the post I say that I believe in freedom of speech as well as freedom of religion. I also say that I envy people who have true faith because I’m not sure what I believe. In reality, I have no problem with the signs that say things like “Trust Jesus” or “Jesus is  love” or contain actual quotes from his words.

I have more of a problem with signs that say “If you don’t find Jesus you will burn in the  boiling fire pits of hell for all eternity!!!!!!” (Okay, I never saw a sign with those exact words, but you know what I mean).

I find those signs especially unappealing when hurtling  down  the highway in a machine. (Did I mention that Nathan, Sarah and I had a very near miss the other day, when an  accident  happened right next to us?)

I have the same problem when a fellow Jew tells me that I am not Jewish enough if I don’t ___________. In other words, I have no problem with people believing what they believe and talking about what they believe, but I do have a problem with being cursed or told I’m going to hell or told I am inferior because I do not believe the same thing.

I try not to do that with my own words.

Today a friend posted this on Facebook.

The message against bullying is one that I believe. I don’t think its right to make fun of others. I don’t think its right to make jokes about others. I don’t think its right to judge others based off of one aspect of their personality or appearance. However, I wouldn’t share this post on Facebook because of the last line. Telling someone they will be heartless if they don’t share the post is bullying.

Telling someone they are going to hell if they have doubts or don’t believe the same thing as you do, is bullying and threatening.

Telling someone that their love is going to damn everyone simply because you believe it is sinful, is bullying, and threatening, and unfair.

What does all of this have to do with inner harmony or peace? I think that believing in something is important. Having a moral compass and following  it with confidence is priceless. Having faith  in yourself and your thoughts and dreams is invaluable. However, if you feel the need to push those beliefs on someone else in order to validate them, then you have not achieved inner peace or harmony.

I suppose that simply writing about these things could be seen as an act of trying to push my beliefs onto someone else. Or teaching about arts and  theatre and their value to society could be seen as trying to validate my own belief system.

The difference lies in expectations. I don’t expect my words to change people’s minds or thoughts. I don’t expect everyone to leave my classroom passionate advocates for the arts. I do hope that my words or my lessons encourage people to think, or question, or wonder.

I don’t ask people  to think the way I think in order to be my friend or to achieve some specific goal in the after life. I don’t say “If you think differently than I,  then I will not talk to you, tolerate you, or have anything to do with you.”

Inner peace comes from the  ability to say, “I believe this, they believe something different. Their belief doesn’t hurt me, my belief doesn’t hurt them. That is all.”

Now, I’m not saying I’ve achieved this inner peace. If I had, I wouldn’t have worried about the comment on my post, or worry at all about what other people think of me. I would just be who I am.

That is why I make this wish today. I wish for all of us to achieve inner harmony. To find that place inside ourselves where we can be content with who we are without trying to change anyone else or justify our beliefs on the backs of someone else. Only through that could we ever hope for world peace.

 

 

Today We Mourn

Another tragedy brought on
by a world that has lost its way
clinging to outdated freedoms
like the right to buy and own
weapons that kill.

What about the right to live in peace?
Without fear of being struck down
senselessly
in the middle of an innocent outing
to watch the movies.

Some say guns protect us
and weapons secure us.
I say the only protection
lies within ourselves
within our power to think and recognize
that peace begins only
when we put our weapons down.

My Fatal Flaw

I think too much!

Thinking is getting in my way of accomplishing anything.

Why is this a fatal flaw? Because my thinking gets in the way of my doing.

Every day I read another story that makes me think, “Why is this world so insane?” This morning I started crying after reading a story about Trayvon Martin, shot and killed by someone who has not been charged, even though it sounds suspicious and like racial profiling.

“Why is our world filled with so much hate?” I thought. But, my thinking led me nowhere.

Every day I hear about more of the craziness of this upcoming election and the War on Women and the possibility of war with Iran and so on . . . and my head begins to spin with all the thoughts in it.

I can’t silence the thoughts.

The more thoughts that creep into my head, the less capable I seem to be about getting anything written or doing anything. I just sit and think, and think some more.

Today, in a feeble attempt to get out of my head, I went for a walk, carrying my weights in my hands for extra exercise. That helped, as I did some arm work walking down the street and counted in my head, only alert for cars coming so I didn’t look like a complete fool. You can’t think when you are counting and trying to avoid embarrassment.

Tired of that, I put my weights in my bag and kept walking, trying to focus on my steps and the conversations of the birds around me.

A car pulled into a driveway in front of me. It looked like my friend Jackie’s car, so of course my thoughts wandered to missing her and wondering how to make new friends here. As I approached the driveway, I noticed men in suits walking back to the car. These were older men, probably in their 50s or 60s. One of them approached me and offered me an invitation to a “celebration of Jesus’ death” including a nicely printed pamphlet.

Yes folks, the Jehovah’s Witnesses managed to find me even when I wasn’t home.

This, of course, led me to thinking about how so many of the problems of the world come from religion. They come from the desire for people to THINK that somehow we are special, unique, designed by a higher power to fulfill a specific purpose, one that makes us superior to everything else on earth.

As I was thinking these deep thoughts, a gray creature crossed the road in front of me. I stopped and tried to quickly and quietly pull my camera out so I could get a picture. The creature turned its face toward me, saw me in the distance, and casually walked away before I had my camera fully out.

I think it was a gray fox.

Urocyon cinereoargenteus, Panama English: Gray fox

Urocyon cinereoargenteus, Panama English: Gray fox (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I walked up to where the animal had been, hoping to see some evidence and be able to get a picture. Nothing. As I turned away, my friends the JW’s pulled into the driveway near me.

“Is this your house?” They asked.

“No, I was just trying to get a picture of something I saw. I’m not sure what it was.”

“I had to buy a camera because we saw a turkey vulture,” the driver said. “How often do you get to see one of those?”

We talked for a few more minutes about seeing animals in nature, and the fact that this mysterious creature was heading over the ridge toward this man’s house. We did not discuss Jesus.

“Don’t get eaten,” I joked as I wandered along my merry way.

As I continued to walk, with my camera out and ready for anything I might see, I realized that for a moment I wished I were that fox, or one of the birds that seemed to be having delightful conversations all around me. They weren’t worried about women’s rights or religion or racism. They didn’t think about whether or not they were successful, or were talented enough to write a book, or would ever feel like they were achieving their goals.

The fox’s life is simple, I thought. Eat, drink, find places to be safe. Kill or be killed. Lie in the sun, or curl up in a warm den. They don’t have to think all the time.

The birds’ goals were simple, to live each moment, to enjoy the gorgeous day, to find food and/or a mate, and perhaps to sing their lovely songs.

I came back, hoping I had found a sense of peace, a place where thinking did not interfere. But then I began catching up on some reading for this writing course I am taking. And of course, the inevitable happened: my thinking brain and inner critic started saying wicked things like, “You will never be a writer. You could never be as good as this person. This is all just a waste of time.

See, I told you, I think too much.

Maybe I need to stop thinking and go watch some more birds.

Today is the Day I Wish I Didn’t Have to Say “Thank You”

Poppies

Image by Katariina Järvinen via Flickr

Veterans Day.

Armistice Day.

Remembrance Day.

No matter what it is called, today is the day we are asked to thank Veterans for their service to our country. Today is a day to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice of their lives fighting for something  they believe in, in the name of god or country or Democracy or something else.

Is it wrong that I wish I didn’t have to say thank you?

I do thank them. I have met many wonderful men and women who have served in the military and showed me what that means to them. I have talked to many people who have lost friends, husbands, wives and parents to the cause.  I recognize that what they do takes  a form of courage that I do not have.

Yet still I wish I didn’t have to say thank you.

I wish we lived in a world where we did not need to sacrifice loved ones in the name of killing others. I wish we lived in a world where words, diplomacy, fairness and acceptance truly ruled, rather than guns and hatred. I wish I lived in a world where the military did not have to exist.

I wish I lived in a place where service to one’s country meant helping build better schools, giving people shelter, providing healthy food, taking care of the elderly and the sick, celebrating difference, and embracing discussion.

But I don’t.

So instead, today I must simply  say “Thank you.”

Let’s hope for a better future.

Young County Veterans Memorial

Image by Pierce Place via Flickr

Everyday Fairy Tales

This picture has nothing to do with today's post, it just makes me happy.

 

In response to SideView’s weekend theme I thought I’d weave a fairy tale today, and become the Storyteller.

Once upon a time some children were born. They weren’t princes and princesses. As a matter of fact, there wasn’t anything obviously special about them. They all had good points and bad points. Some of them were handsome, some plain, some beautiful, some merely pretty. Some showed skills at thinking, some showed skills at creating. Some were smarter at one thing while some were smarter at others. Their differences didn’t matter, because as children their main purposes was to have fun.

They all laughed, they all cried, they all ate, they all dreamed. Some were raised by strict parents, some were raised by silly parents. Some of them worshiped one way, some of them worshiped another, and some of them didn’t believe in anything at all.

As they grew older, they each became more and more individual. They all enjoyed different things. Some liked to study and learn everything they could. Some preferred to build things out of wood and stone. Some wove fabric to make clothes. Some played with numbers and liked to watch money pile up. They all grew and changed. Some struggled. Others soared. Sometimes they met and fell in love. Sometimes the love turned to pain.

As they grew older, life changed. Some faced challenges like health problems or money issues. Some shot for fame and glory, but found loneliness with it. Some settled into cozy homes surrounded by books and family, and quietly pursued dreams.

Sometimes they fought with each other. Those were dark times. Fighting would bring about pain, death, sadness, and the end of people’s stories. So one day, a group of these children, now grown, got together and realized that the fighting had to stop. What were they fighting about after all? So what if people believed in different things and had different dreams. What was the real basis for the animosity?

This small group discussed the issue at great length. They debated and questioned. They argued (without weapons) and negotiated. Eventually, they came to an understanding, and sent out a list for all to see, some simple rules to live by:

  • It does not matter what you believe or how you worship as long as you believe in something.
  • Without life, money and power become meaningless. If you live your life for money and power alone then what kind of life do you live?
  • Everyone has the right to food, shelter, health, beauty and love.

Some of the people who were not part of the discussion did not like this list. But eventually more and more people recognized the truth, and they came together to celebrate a world of difference.

And they all LIVED happily ever after.

The Journey as Sestina

 I felt like writing poetry today, and decided to challenge myself by writing in a form called Sestina. I’ve only used this form once before, in a poem I wrote years ago for my sister called “A Sestina from the Heart”

MOVING INTO THE UNKNOWN

Box by box, item by item, I pack for our move
to a place both familiar and yet unknown
pursuing a life or perhaps a dream
of days filled with fulfilling work and challenges
met with a smile, a laugh, and joy
and evenings filled with stars, friends, and peace.

What will it take to find that peace?
Does the solution lie with this next move?
Or does the truth lie with inner joy
and acceptance that life is a journey into the unknown
with every day bringing new challenges
as we pursue our ever-changing dream?

What happens when we become unsure and dream-
less, tossing and turning at night in search of elusive peace?
Perhaps the search for a new dream becomes one of the challenges
which keeps a soul vibrant and constantly on the move
always  embracing the unexpected and the unknown
which will sometimes bring sadness but more often joy.

What if you find life is not filled with joy?
Or that everything you hope for is only a dream?
Then the next step becomes another unknown
followed by another, and another, and another until you find the peace-
ful place inside your heart which encourages a move
toward other dreams, other stories, other challenges.

Unless, of course, you wish for a life without challenges,
but for me that seems like a life without joy.
For me a successful challenge is a move
toward the next step of the journey and piece of the dream.
Knowing I can handle what comes gives me a sense of peace
even as I journey into the unknown.

I knowingly take steps toward the unknown
trusting that life will not give me any challenges
I cannot face. Knowing that even days not filled with peace,
can still be filled with joy.
As long as I keep working toward a dream
then nothing bad will happen on this, or any,  move.

While I don’t know what challenges this move
will bring, I believe that the unknown dream
is the one that will bring me peace and joy.

Dear Friends Old and New

I have been wandering through darkness for the past few weeks: unable to write a single word that had meaning; unable to think a creative thought; unable to perceive myself with any positive light; unable to express my feelings.

Yesterday, with trepidation, I felt that I had to speak again. I had to say out loud (in the voice of the blog at least) how horrified I am by our country’s celebratory reaction to someone’s death. I was afraid, because so often I feel like my beliefs and ideas separate me from others. But I had to speak.

Then a wonderful thing happened. People read my words and understood. People I’ve met in the real world. People I’ve only known through words. People who visited for the first time. And now I have a new feeling inside, and it is a strange one–HOPE.

As Mark (who is so not an Idiot) pointed out to me yesterday “Millions are thinking the exact same thing.” Millions. I am not alone. And the responses each of you gave showed me that in those millions are people with powerful voices who could truly change the world if we helped each other some how. If we join our voices together in protest–not in a form of violence but in a protest of peace. The more voices we join together the louder we get and the more we cannot be ignored.

So thank you friends, for giving me back a feeling of hope. I don’t know what the next step will be, but I ask that you all keep writing for change. Writing for peace. Writing for humanity. Keep your words flowing so that eventually they will be heard with MIGHTY ROAR that brings sanity to our world.

Thank you for reading. Thank you for the gift.

❤ Lisa

Locations of Peace

 

MISTY CANOE Photograph by Steve Kramer http://taochild.wordpress.com/

 

I search for peace.

I know I must find it inside myself but the location seems locked away behind walls and memories.

Yesterday, my brother posted pictures from a canoe trip we took years ago. That trip challenged me in many ways. It was exhausting. It was fun. It was aggravating. It was exhilarating. It was also filled with beauty, and silence, and the call of the loons.

In other words, it held moments of peace.

I need to remember those moments, and search for new ones. My most peaceful moments often come with a sense of beauty. Not always in nature, but often. Sometimes I find them in a warm cup of chai, the sun streaming early golden light through the curtains.

Sometimes I find peace watching my daughter play joyfully with friends.

I often find peace looking at fish, in the ocean or the aquarium, or in this case a whale at Mystic Aquarium:

 

Sometimes I find peace reading a good book or listening to beautiful  music.

But ultimately I know that the one place I have to find peace is the one where the search is the hardest–I need to find the peace inside myself.

How do I do that?

Chaotic Silence

Taken in Megeve, France

Image via Wikipedia

The snow is coming down

Sticking to trees and earth

In its usual peaceful way.

Yet I am not at peace

The silence of the snowfall

screams loudly of a world

falling apart.

My own world

but also

the world surrounding us.

In December

when snow falls

the world is full of magic.

In April

when snow falls

chaos ensues.

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