Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Popcorn and jellybeans

Popcorn and jellybeans
Originally published on November 6, 2014

One of the most lovely and haunting sights at the park this season is the bittersweet bursting with oranges, reds, and yellows as it finally has the opportunity to show off a little.  Autumnal weather has withered my garden and with it, my chores have changed.  No longer needing to weed and water, I've been pruning and purging and raking for the past several weeks. Wrapping burlap around the shrubs.  Covering the flower beds with a blanket of mulch. This season, I saved the biggest job for last, or rather, I waited for the bitter north winds to do half of the job for me, transforming the wild trumpet vine that grows along the backyard fence from a lush and vibrant privacy hedge into spindly twigs and woody stems.
Last year I was incredibly busy, so my neighbor, Dean, was kind enough to do the honors of taking the vine down to the studs.  This year, I repaid his kindness and did the job myself.  After two and a half days, the work is finally done, and I've said a sad good-night to my gardens which are ready to sleep the winter away until next spring.
Still, November has its charms as my favorite holiday is just around the corner.
At the grocery this past Friday I happened past an older woman who was perusing the Christmas displays.  "I'm all for getting my shopping done early," I admitted.  "But I sure do wish there was more attention paid to Thanksgiving."
"I do, too," the woman nodded.  "It seems like it's just getting swept more under the rug each year.  Too bad our culture can't take even one day to be truly thankful."
"I couldn't agree more," I smiled.
The woman patted my hand.  "It's good to see young people with that attitude," she said.  "It seems everyone nowadays is only interested in buying more of this or that instead of taking time to just enjoy what they already have."
The United States was the first country in the world to establish a national holiday to give thanks.  But it seems our country's great expectations for Thanksgiving have shifted from "Where's the turkey, stuffing, and yams?" to "How many stores are going to be opening early so I can get Black Friday deals that much earlier?"
Over the weekend I watched A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving.  Curled up in bed with the electric blanket toasting my toes and a mug of hot tea on the bedside table, I had much to be thankful for already.  Yoga classes are going well.  The novel I started this fall is beginning to take shape.  My health is good.  I have a warm and comfortable home.  I'm content with who and where I am in life, so in watching this show from my past (I was only seven when it was first broadcast on CBS), it was effortless to see it from a different perspective and still enjoy the whimsical story of Charlie Brown sharing an unusual holiday dinner with his friends.              
When I was little, we didn't have VCRs or DVD players.  I can distinctly remember taping Happy Days and other shows I didn't want to miss with a small cassette player situated as close as possible to the speakers of our huge cabinet set in the basement.  Each year when the Charlie Brown holidays specials were shown (usually on Fridays or Saturdays), my sisters and I would take our baths early, make a pan of Jiffy Pop on the stove, and eagerly wait through the Dolly Madison snack commercials until Vince Guaraldi's memorable music would fill the room. 
Then and now, it's great fun to watch Snoopy commandeer the kitchen, joyfully toasting up bread and enthusiastically popping a mountain of popcorn.  When he proudly serves the eclectic meal to a bewildered Peppermint Patty, I feel for him when she bitterly complains, "Look at this! Is this what you call a Thanksgiving day dinner?"
Of course, the message of the show is to be thankful for friends and for what we already have.  To know that our expectations of what a holiday is "supposed to look like" can't truly be met, particularly if we put no effort into the process.  And perhaps most importantly, to understand that while Norman Rockwell might have meant well, I doubt that even his family had the type of fictional holiday experiences he often painted on canvas. 

Great expectations aren't reserved for those who buy into media-based ideas of what a perfect family life is meant to be.  And of course, the American family is changing rapidly.  As a single woman, I know what it means to be on the outside looking in on my friends' experiences with their husbands, wives, and children.  As someone who has been estranged from my parents and sisters for over five years, I've had to redefine what it means to be a part of a family.  Not that it's been easy.
Like the wild and gnarly trumpet vine that needs a thorough pruning every autumn, my expectations of who I am and what I should be doing this time of year have had to be taken down to the studs...again and again and again.  There have been those who don't understand my choices.  Those who pity me or project how they might feel if they had to face the holiday season alone.  But I don't know any different, and over the years, I've redefined what this time of year means to me.
Last week, one of my friends asked, "What are you doing for Thanksgiving?"
I smiled.  "Well, I'll probably take a walk at the park and then sit in silence for a while.  I may write in my journal or do a little yoga.  Usually I think about the year gone by...and all of the things that have happened and not happened.  All of the things I have to be thankful for -- mostly the things you can't really see with your eyes."
"That's really what the day's all about, isn't it?" my friend said kindheartedly.
I don't eat a traditional Thanksgiving meal anyway...and haven't for years, so when friends invite me to their homes for dinner, I gently decline, saying I'm perfectly content to be alone.  However, I do remember a Thanksgiving meal I shared with my friend, Sandy, in the late nineties.  Colleagues at Greenwood, we had just finished the very long and tedious process of putting together the annual First Grade Feast.  The celebration went off without a hitch on Wednesday and we decided to spend a quiet day on Thanksgiving sipping tea and talking about anything but schoolwork.  Sitting in Sandy's kitchen, we watched the sunset through the darkening window.
"Do you want anything for dinner?" she asked.
The year before I had made a pot of vegetarian chili and this time it was her turn to cook, although we had been having so much fun doing nothing, the day slipped by.
"Sure...but don't bother to make anything," I said, grabbing my coat.  "Let's head over to Food Town and see what they've got left."
Fifteen minutes later we were back in her home.  Sandy enjoyed a warm and wonderful meal of turkey, mashed potatoes, and stuffing.  And what did I have?  A very memorable meal of baby carrots, hummus, and a little bag of chocolate-covered almonds.  It was the best Thanksgiving Feast imaginable.  At least for me.
"Spending time with good friends...and sharing a quiet day," I said, smiling at Sandy.  "This is what Thanksgiving is all about."

Sandy's since moved away, but sometimes my friend, Barb, comes over for Thanksgiving breakfast.  I'm not sure what I made the last time around, but while I'm writing this blog, a loaf of gluten-free banana bread is baking in the oven -- a test run for the big day in a couple of weeks.  I'm trying out a new brand of flour and pray the bread turns out a lot better than the hard-as-shoe-leather cookies I made a month ago that my friend ended up feeding to her eager and happy dogs.  
But even if it's not perfect, I'm sure Barb won't mind.
I look forward to decorating the table with simple place settings.  Brewing a pot of tea.  Creating a light and delicious breakfast for a friend who has been a great support this past year.  We may not be sitting at a ping-pong table enjoying a plate of popcorn and jellybeans, but the sentiment will be the same.  For as Marcie said to Charlie Brown, "We should just be thankful for being together. I think that's what they mean by Thanksgiving."
 So this year, I'm thankful for Dean who took the time last November to do an incredibly difficult job that made this year's fall clean-up that much easier.  I'm thankful for yoga students who grace my own house with love and light.  For my health and my pets and work that allows me to heal and become more whole.  For all the quiet and unseen aspects of my life that I no longer take for granted.
Mostly I'm thankful for my friends.  Near and far, they're all a part of my wonderfully eclectic extended family. 

Monday, November 21, 2016

Inside out

Inside out
Originally published on June 27, 2013

  I have a decision to make.  It's not important to give you the details, but suffice it to say, I've lost some sleep over this one.  While not earth shattering or difficult, it would be joyfully life changing if I tipped the scales in one direction.  And yet, if I leave well enough alone, life would still be comfortable.  For now, I'm sitting in the middle of two realities, both of which are desirable.  It's in moments like this that I have the opportunity to walk my talk.  To sit back and detach.  To see the bigger picture, let it breathe and then when the timing is right, make my move. 
Or not. 
When I was younger, I needed to have all my ducks in a row -- the sooner, the better.  I made quick decisions, pivoted easily toward one direction or another and moved on.  Looking back, it's no wonder I was often faced with the same type of choice again and again.  Which job should I take?  Which group should I join?  Which person should I become involved with this time around?  I often made a choice so quickly, I missed the clarity within the details and because steps were missed, I needed to go back and retrace them in order to make more conscious assessments.
I still like to have some sense of structure in my life, but am more content to let things rise, to wait for the eggs to hatch, and to live in the mystery of "what next?"  I just came in from gardening and needed to prune back a lot of growth that's sprouted up this past week.  We've had a lot of rainfall in the Midwest and along with it, a plethora of beautiful blossoms.  The day lilies surprised me this morning, their trumpets wide open, ready to soak in the sun while it lasts.  As I was clipped errant trumpet vine that loves to gnarl its way around their long stems, I told them, "It's your turn to bloom."  For I know they only get one opportunity a year to strut their stuff and shine.  Next month the hydrangea will flourish, and then the lavender and then the sedum in August. 
Everything has its time.
The same is true for many of the choices we all must make.  Life's circumstances are often thrust upon us and we have to respond instantly -- in a traffic jam, when dealing with home repairs, or enduring power loss during a thunderstorm.  And so I find it comforting to be visited once again with a down-to-earth life decision that doesn't need immediate response, that can evolve over time.  I can sit with both sides of the coin, knowing that if I allow it, more will be revealed so that I can make a wiser choice.

One of my favorite responsibilities while working in the garden at Esalen was taking care of the chickens.  Each morning I would arrive early so I could let them scamper around the hen house with Henry, the cocky old rooster, calling the shots.  If there were any eggs laid overnight, I would carefully gather them and take them to the lodge where they would be stockpiled in the walk-in refrigerator until we had enough to feed the whole garden crew. 
In the summer, my boss allowed us to leave a few eggs in the nests and see what would happen.  We were blessed with several tiny fuzz balls that hatched, then celebrated their new life by making "bee bee bee bee bee" sounds all day long.  We were never quite sure if an egg would result in a chick, but it was always exciting to feel the anticipation as I walked through the farm and across the bridge every morning on my way to the garden to see if a new baby had arrived.  Perhaps it was then that I learned to enjoy the spaces in-between an initial intention and the providential result.
As for now, I'm content to sit in the middle.  To let things evolve.  To cradle both eggs in my hands and watch for signs of possibility and new life.  I'm curious to see which one will emerge first to guide me onward.
For it's in moving from the inside out that I make my best choices.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Prince Dustin and the Lady in Red

"Prince Dustin and the Lady in Red"
an excerpt from my memoir, OPEN ROAD: A LIFE WORTH WAITING FOR

It's a snowy Christmas Eve and I've just arrived at my parents' house.  Earlier in the day we had lunch at Greta's.  Then I drove home, quickly fed the cats, showered, dressed, and drove through the falling snow to Mom and Dad's where I was expected to arrive at five o'clock on the dot so we can take pictures before we go out to eat.
I'm early.
Of course, only my father is downstairs, calling for the dogs that are playing in the backyard.  I can hear the rest of them upstairs in the bathroom, in their bedrooms, talking to one another:  "Elise....get your tights."  "Greta...can I borrow your hairspray?"  "Josh....let Daddy help you with your tie."  " you know where I left my purse?" 
Joe and Patricia have brought their two Terriers; Greta is spending the night along with her Golden Doodle as well.  After Dad lets the dogs in, they sniff my shoes and pantyhose for the lingering scent of my cats, then flop on the floor by the fireplace in the family room, blissfully oblivious to the mayhem upstairs. 
I stand in Mom's kitchen, the counter decorated with lively tins of cookies and candies she and Greta bake every holiday season.  Christmas carols play on the stereo and the tree is lit in the corner of the living room creating a lovely background for our family photos.  I glance at the clock.  It's five-fifteen and they're still not ready. 
Sighing, I walk to Mom's desk where I pull out the chair and sit down.  Her small table is clean except for a photograph taken in the late 1950s.  Four teenage girls beam for the camera, three of them wearing white, chiffon-like dresses.  They look plain compared to the other one who is dressed in a stunning fire-engine red dress with a tight bodice and off-the-shoulder sleeves.  All the girls are pretty, but the lady in red is absolutely gorgeous with her dark hair, smiling eyes, and bright lips shaded in the same crimson color as her dress. 
I study the photograph for a while and wonder who they are.  Mom and Dad have boxes of yearbooks and pictures from their high school days, but none of these girls look familiar.  Shrugging, I put the photo back where I found it and wait.
A few minutes later, Mom walks in dressed in a woolen skirt and jacket.  She looks nice and I tell her so.  As she checks her purse to make sure she has all the essentials, I ask, "Hey...who are these girls in this picture?"
She beams as she replies, "I found that today and left it on my desk so you could see it."
"I don't recognize any of them," I tell her.  "Are they high school friends?"
Mom nods.  "That was taken at a school dance."
"Who's that gorgeous one in red?"
"That's me."
Stunned, I take a closer look.  I've never seen a picture of Mom without her glasses, but now I can clearly see her lovely face smiling back at me.  "You looked really hot, Mom!"           
She laughs.  "Well, I thought that looked just like you, Kate," she says.  "Don't you think so?"
I'm startled by her comment.  I've always been told how much I resemble my mother, but never in such a complimentary way.  I've never been called gorgeous or stunning or beautiful by anyone.  
"Seriously?" I ask her. 
"Oh, yes," she says, picking up the picture.  "I remember shopping for that dress with Mother.  I had to have the red one."
"You look like Scarlett O'Hara!" I tell her.
She smiles and hands it to me.  "Don't you think that looks like you?"
"I don't know," I reply, knowing I never would have worn something so daring in high school, or even now for that matter.  I haven't felt attractive to anyone for so long I'm starting to get used to it. 
That scares me a little.
Moments later, everyone thunders down the stairs and we have our pictures taken by the tree.  I watch Mom pose first with my father, then my sister and her family, then, finally, I stand next to her while my brother-in-law snaps the camera.  Even in her sixties, my mother is still beautiful with her olive skin and brown hair peppered with white.  She beams for the camera and I wonder how it happened that that lovely lady in red soon transformed into a Midwestern housewife, a mother, and now a grandmother.  I wonder what she had dreamed of all those years ago.  What she wanted from her life, all the things she might have needed, yet never received.
I think I know who I am, what I want, where I want to be.  But in light of all the things I'm discovering about myself in therapy, on my yoga mat, and on the massage table, I'm not sure who I am anymore.  Still, it's a strange comfort to know that somewhere deep inside, deep in the quiet parts of my spirit, there lays in wait a lovely lady in red who is patient enough for her time to shine, for her turn to emerge and bloom as she vigilantly clears the pathway for her resurrection.


For the majority of my twenties, I lived in a fantasy world of television, movies, and music.  Outside of teaching, I lived alone as the proverbial introvert, a reluctant hermit.  In my head, I was the damsel, living in a tower of my own making, longing and waiting for Prince Charming to come and rescue me.  In reality, I became what Bowsher's High School's class of 1984 had voted me to be:  Second Most Likely to Become a Nun. 
Some people called me Sister Catherine...and I'm not even Catholic.
Caught between who I thought I was and who I wanted to become, mirrors were the enemy.  I knew who was the fairest of them all, and it certainly was not me.   So I spent most of my time teaching.  Working with children kept me busy from sunrise until sunset.  In the evenings I often sat at my kitchen table grading papers or planning lessons late into the night.  It was rare for me to go out with friends on the weekends, and when I did, I wore overalls, baggy turtlenecks and clothes that covered every inch of what I didn't want anyone to see. 
Time wore on and my unflattering style of dress wore out.  Through uncovering the secrets of my past, I was able to strip off the layers of fear and shame, and doing so, completely transformed my closet.  Out went the turtlenecks, the drop-waisted jumpers, and any sweater that hung to my knees.  I started wearing more fitted shirts, vests, pants and sometimes a nice skirt.  Looking in the mirror, I began to see a reflection of the person I had always been beneath the layers and I liked it...a lot. 
One of the reasons I enjoyed spending time with primary children was the unabashed way they would speak to each another.  Compliments were doled out just as easily as insults, and while I did my best to intercede in the latter, I highly encouraged the former.  There were many times I walked around the classroom and listened to my students’ unblemished conversations.  How wonderful to hear them talk about their work, their parents, and their interests…free of judgment. 
On a cool September morning in 1995, one of my first graders came into the room and peeled off his light jacket.  Beneath it Dustin wore an adorable suit, complete with a collarless blue jacket and white shirt with matching accents. 
He grinned at me when I bounced my eyebrows.  "Nice suit," I told him.  "You look awesome for picture day!"
One of the girls was standing next to me, sharpening her pencil.  "Yeah, look like a prince!" 
The name stuck.  For the rest of the year, whenever my little friend with blonde hair and brown eyes wore a fancy outfit, we all called him "Prince Dustin," much to his delight.  It was a joy to watch him soak in the compliments, especially when a lot of the boys shot him unsure glances.  Dustin was a free and endearing spirit who brought his sister's Polly Pockets to school for Show and Tell.  Who loved to draw pictures, and tell stories or entertain the class by reading the morning message in a variety of newscaster voices. 
As long as they didn't hurt someone's feelings, I encouraged the kids to express themselves openly.  Over my nine year tenure as a first grade teacher, I was blessed to be with hundreds of little ones who taught me how to be natural and playful, to see things from a more open-hearted perspective, and to be silly and spontaneous.  Dustin, in particular, was a wonder to see each morning when he would enter the room with a bright and vivacious, "Hello, Miss Ingersoll!" as he gave me a big hug.
Even when I left the classroom, I followed Dustin's progress through school.  Throughout junior and senior high school, he was an excellent student and was well liked by many. 
And then he came out. 
I didn't know until recently that he had been teased mercilessly, that the boys in particular were unusually brutal.  Later, Dustin revealed to me his long journey of finding and accepting his identity, not as a choice, but as a freedom to be completely who he has been created to be.  His unbridled courage and drive to engage the world from his vibrant center never ceases to amaze me.  Not held back by fear or the judgments of others, Dustin walks on, ever mindful to bring his talents and gifts to the world.  He soaks in what life has to offer and offers his light in return.
I told him I saw it all along.  "From the moment you beamed when we called you 'Prince Dustin,' I knew there was something wonderfully unique about you."
"Did you know I was gay?" he asked.
"Yeah...I suspected it," I replied. 
"When I was in your class, I always felt loved and accepted by you," he said, smiling.
I smiled back.  "And you always will be."
It's taken a long, long time before I ever felt grown up, before I felt like a real woman.  I went from being a little girl, to a pre-teen, a teenager, a college girl, and...then what?  When I moved out of my parents' house I felt stuck.  It seemed I would always be twenty-two, endlessly jammed in a place that didn't allow me to mature socially, emotionally, or otherwise. 
My inner and outer worlds were completely incongruent.  I used to be a pilot light, tiny and flickering, in the hopes that someone else would come along and ignite that which lay in wait.  Then I became a bonfire, blasting my way through life, burning through my self-imposed barricades.  Through it all, my head wanted to stay mired in fantasy while my heart longed for freedom.   But I knew deep down that stepping outside the fairy-tale meant I had to discard my fantasy and embrace reality.   Having been afraid of my feminine energy for most of my life, I'm certain that is one of the reasons I hesitated to disclose my true feelings and risk either rejection or the possibility of something else I wasn't yet ready to embrace. 
In comparing me to her electrifying teenage self, my mother must have seen something in me that I had never recognized.  Having the courage to wear red when everyone around her was in white showed Mom's energetic spirit, her boldness in deflecting what was expected.  I imagine there were plenty of boys who asked her to dance that night and I'd like to think that she, unlike Cinderella, danced until well after midnight, no glass slippers necessary.
I'm incredibly thankful that I have reclaimed my own Lady in Red.  I'm bolder in the way I dress, the way I speak, and what I want to share with the world.  No longer a hopeful damsel waiting for my prince to come, I can now see the huge ransom I've paid for locking myself in a tower of my own making.
Besides, I have better things to do.
There is no happy ending.  No magical moment or man that will make my dreams come true.  Still, I find it curious that in the last few years, I've been noticed by men half my age, often when I'm wearing a ball cap and not a stitch of make-up.  I wonder what they see in me now.  I'm certainly no fairy-tale princess while riding my bike or hiking at the park.  And yet, I'm cheerfully content with being who I am.    
This Lady in Red doesn't need to apologize for being strong and independent, so perhaps my sheer presence reveals the fire within.  No longer a pilot light or a raging bonfire, I hope to be a benevolent hearth for those with whom I resonate.  I welcome them to gather in my warmth, feeding the fire of my enthusiasm with their joy and grace.
Maybe that's my happily ever after...after all.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Who we all are

Yeah, it stinks bad.  And we all covered up in it, too.
Ain’t nobody clean.  Be nice to get clean though.
from the Civil War film, “Glory”

Years ago, I heard a wonderful story about an anthropologist who worked with children in an African tribe.  He proposed a game in which he placed a basket of fruit near a tree and told the children that whoever got there first won the sweet reward.  Then, when he told them to run, the children joined hands and ran together so that they might reach the reward at the same time. 
While they sat in a circle, enjoying the fruit, the anthropologist asked them, “Why did you run like that when one of you could have had all of the fruit for yourself?”
They replied, “Ubuntu…it means I am what I am because of who we are.  How can one of us be happy when the other ones are sad?”
When I teach yoga classes to children, we sit in circle, partly because of what I’ve gleaned from this incredible story, but mostly because a circle has no beginning and no end.  No hierarchy.  No pecking order.  What our circle embodies is a sense of equality, a way for the children to see everyone’s place in the group as valuable and necessary; that without one person, the sphere would not be complete.  While every child is encouraged to speak, to voice an opinion, to contribute to the group from their own experience and perspective, I also encourage them to remember that we are stronger as a whole.
When I teach new groups of kids, we play the “spider web” game in which I hold a ball of yarn and ask the question of the day.  Sometimes it’s as simple as “What’s your name and how old are you?”  Other times I’ll ask, “What’s your favorite comfort food?” or “How do you spend time with your family on the weekends?”  As each child answers, the ball of yarn is rolled to him or her while the person who just spoke holds onto a part of the unwinding thread.  At the end of the game, our little circle has created a spider web, connecting us all through the cord of the question.
“Now, I’m going to gently pull on my string,” I’ll tell them.  “Who can feel that?”
The children more closely connected to me nod their heads. 
Then I invite other children to pull on their string and ask, “Who felt it that?”
Other children will nod.
“So what each one of us does affects other people,” I’ll say.  “What I do affects you and what you do affects me, too.  Now, let’s all relax our hands and see what happens.”
“The spider web gets loose!” someone always replies.
“Right,” I nod.  “Now, let’s all gently pull together.”
“Hey!” they smile.  “The web gets stronger!”
“That’s right,” I tell them.  “When we all work together, we’re stronger as a group.  We need everyone to make our little web because no one could make this on their own.”

People who embody Ubuntu know there exists a common bond in all humanity.  Desmond Tutu eloquently them as “open and available to others, affirming of others”.  They do not feel threatened that others are able and good, based from a self-assurance that comes from knowing “he or she belongs to a greater whole and is diminished when others are humiliated or diminished, when others are tortured or oppressed.”
On Tuesday night, I spent the evening with Satish and Danta, watching the election returns with their mother and older sister.  The boys could earn extra credit at school if they colored in a map of the electoral college, so we kept our eyes glued to the television for updates.  As Danta filled in state after state with the color red, he started to look anxious.
“I know this is hard,” I told him.  “But American elections teach us that every voice counts…even the ones that we don’t agree with.”
Danta dejectedly nodded.  Then an hour later, his eyes filled with tears when we all took in the grim reality of what was happening.
I gave him a sad smile, “Danta, don’t worry…the United States has been around for over two hundred years.  And in all that time, we’ve had some horrible presidents and some wonderful ones, too.  No matter what happens, time will move on.”
That night, like so many other Americans, I was unable to sleep, tossing and turning until four in the morning.  I thought about the year and a half I spent researching the Civil War and the Holocaust, grimly realizing that history is beginning to repeat itself in ways we won’t fully recognize until the future unfolds.  When I finally accepted the outcome of the election, I burst into tears, not because the candidate for whom I had voted was defeated, but because of the undeniable rift in our country’s soul. The hatred and anger that motivated people on either side to make their choices.  The endless rhetoric, hypocrisy, fearmongering, and “my way is the only way” mentality of the president-elect that will continue to echo in our culture for years to come. 
However, my grief is not from fear.
I’m deeply saddened in much the same way I felt on the morning of 9/11, for when the Twin Towers fell to the ground, I burst into tears for our country, knowing that our nation would never be the same.  Now I think about Lincoln's famous quote, "A house divided against itself cannot stand."  I’m concerned about Satish and Danta.  About their family and families of the people I love who come from different cultures and backgrounds.  My heart goes out to people in their extended circles who have been attacked, demeaned, and verbally abused because their skin is a different color or they worship differently.   I’m deeply concerned for women's rights, for my LGBTG friends, for international relations, for our fragile environment, for a host of other things that connect us as human beings. 
It’s not been easy to teach yoga this week when I’m in this state of heartache, but I’m doing the best I can to be a calming presence for my students.  I’m infinitely thankful for my meditation practice which allows me to connect to the peace that eternally resides deep within, a place that we all have, no matter our politics, our religion, our color or creed. 
At the end of class yesterday, I said to my students, “It’s good to be with people of like-heart.”
After they had left, a text message arrived from a dear friend who has differing political views.  I love you, Katie Belle Angie wrote.
Tears filled my eyes as sent back heart emojis and wrote You, too, for she and I know that love means we respect and embrace each other, even if we don’t see eye-to-eye. That we don’t have to agree to be kind.  That we can be of like-heart, even during the times when we may not be of like-mind. 
Now, more than ever, I know more fully I am what I am because of who we are in relationship to each other.

There have been many times in the past year when I’ve wanted to write commentary about the state of our political nation.  I’ve wanted to put my two cents in on a host of issues that have been talked to death.  Time and again I made the decision to remain quiet, not because I didn’t have anything to say, but because it wasn’t necessary. 
After 9/11, many of my friends went to New York City to march in funerals for the fallen, to work as massage therapists for the rescue workers, to serve with the Red Cross.  I sent donations and sent my prayers, knowing that my time to serve would be in the future when all the others had left and the healing process was still in progress.  In 2003 I flew to New York and stood at Ground Zero, feeling everything all at once…grief and sorrow and a tentative hope.  Since that time, I’ve worked for peace in all areas in my life, not that it’s always been well-received.  
Not that I’m at all surprised.
I was raised in close proximity to a man eerily similar to the president-elect.   I worked for people who echoed his arrogance and entitlement.  I’ve been assaulted by one who refused to be accountable for his actions.  What I’ve discovered is that bullies often get their way.  That money greases the palms of injustice.  That political napalm is often heralded as a fresh start. 
But the story is not over yet…for more will always be revealed.  As I grieve for the state of our nation, it’s not only for those who are mourning the loss of the candidate who won the popular vote.  I’m deeply saddened by the generations of frustration, of anger and fear that brought us to this time in history when many of us will soon make the choice between what is easy and what is right.
I only pray that there are enough people, no matter their color, creed, or religion, who are brave enough to join hands and work together, knowing that the fruits of compassion and human kindness can heal even the deepest wound.