The Child-Catching Monster

A tall, thin man with dark, stringy hair, hollow cheeks, and a long nose haunts my childhood nightmares. He gleefully goes about his job catching children. Once captured the children go into a cage and are spirited off to parts unknown. As a kid, I was terrified of this monster and comforted in the knowledge that such an evil creature only existed in the movies. I am not alone in my assessment of the evildoer. Entertainment Weekly placed the depiction of the child-catcher in the 1968 film Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, on their “50 Most Vile Villains” list.

So how did this monstrous fiend rise to the surface of my current nightmares? I turned on the news. My country, the United States of America, has an entire team of child-catchers who take children away from their parents, put them in cages then sends them to hidden locations.

These children are living the terror that I could only experience at the movies. And the response from the lawmakers in power has been a deafening silence. Even worse, from my fellow Americans who look away or shrug and say it’s the law. Some (Jeff Sessions and Sarah Huckabee Sanders) even try to justify their actions using the Bible.

I’ve always wondered how regular people in Nazi Germany stood by while atrocities took place all around them. But the more relevant question is what am I doing? How am I any different than those who stood by eighty years ago. They too probably felt helpless to do much. Maybe some felt indifference and some even felt a sense of national pride.

I’m not trying to compare the Holocaust to events taking place at the U.S. border. I am only looking to this time in history as a means of trying to understand human nature. Anyone who has studied this period has asked themselves what they would do in similar circumstances. Well now’s your chance.

Here are some concrete things, short of building a flying car that you can do right now.

First, make your voice heard. Call or write your representative. You can call the U.S. Capitol Switchboard directly at 202-224-3121 or follow the link to get their name and address.

You can also donate to organizations that are actively working to help. Here are just a few:

American Immigration Representative Project fights for due process and justice for detained immigrants as well as trains and coordinates lawyers willing to donate their time:

Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights champions the rights and best interests of unaccompanied immigrant children.

Kino Border Initiative provides humanitarian relief on both sides of the border

The National Immigrant Justice Center provides comprehensive legal services to low-income immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers

Removing children from their parents and siblings is not a Republican or Democrat issue. It’s a human issue. We can point fingers and debate who’s to blame for laws and policy, but the monstrous treatment of innocent children at our borders is being done on behalf of all Americans. If you don’t like the message, it sends, speak out, donate or protest. Children should be afraid of monsters, flying monkeys, giant lizards, or clowns, not Americans.

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A Time For Nothing: How Doing Nothing May Be the Best Form of Resistance

A Time For Nothing: How Doing Nothing May Be the Best Form of Resistance

There is a thief who robs me of my happiness every time I see him. Yet every morning, I open my door via television or social media and let him in. Which one of us is the bigger fool? This individual is one of the most powerful people in the world. Why should I give him any of my power?

I can march, I can donate, I can call, I can write. But at some point, all the resistance in the world doesn’t change the fact that the party I align myself with has very little power right now. This leaves me feeling powerless in the face of what I see as a series of injustices. I won’t list them all. The exercise will only compound my worries, but I won’t forget about them either.

Do I give in to despair, ignore the news, or stay permanently agitated? None of these are viable options. That’s why I choose to do what may be the hardest thing of all: nothing.

This is difficult because it goes against every fiber of my being. I believe doing something is always better than doing nothing. But, doing nothing is what is required.

Doing nothing doesn’t mean giving up. Quite the contrary, I must do whatever I can to stay informed and make my voice heard. But yelling at the TV, pulling my hair out and waking every morning in a state of fear, does nothing to further my cause. That’s why doing nothing may be the most important thing I can do.

When I was a kid my parents warned me about what to do if I ever became lost. They said the first thing you should do is stand still. If you want to be found, stop running around in circles.

I take a deep breath. Stillness feels incredible after weeks of frenetic activity. I inhale knowing that I alone have the power to determine how I feel right now. I exhale my worry about the future. I inhale the love I have for myself and my fellow human beings. I exhale the frustration I have with the people who don’t see the world as I do.

Imagine if everyone could take some time out to do nothing. We could renew our sense of well being. We could check in with our source in search of guidance. We could see more clearly the best options for tomorrow even if those options include more of doing nothing.

If you think doing nothing will make you feel powerless, think again. Have you ever been thinking of a friend or loved one, when they inexplicably call? Have you ever walked into a room where people have been exchanging angry words and without hearing or seeing what happened, you pick up on the bad vibes? Have you ever spent time with someone who is so perpetually happy and fun to be around they boost your spirits, or felt depleted around someone who is angry or depressed?

We are Energetic Beings

We emit energy; some at high frequency (loving and altruistic thoughts), some at low frequency (base, primal, and fear based). If we hang out with a bunch of angry agitated people, we in turn begin to feel the same. If we spend time with people who are genuinely optimistic and light-hearted, it can’t help but affect you.

This is the hard part. Some of your favorite people, yourself included, may be pissed off, angry and agitated right now. It doesn’t matter if the anger is justified. If it’s not directed to specific action in a focused manner, it will burn itself out leaving everyone in its wake feeling depleted. It becomes a vicious cycle where we spread negativity to the people we’d most like to help.

I’m not proposing we all hold hands and sing Kumbaya together. But if enough people concentrated on the work of doing nothing. I believe we could harness a power capable of creating the change we so desperately seek.

I say doing nothing is work, because it is. Tuning into the super powers within requires discipline. When I’m tired, and disheartened, it’s even harder. My base instinct is to scavenge for more and more information confirming my fear that the world is going to hell in a hand basket. The availability of news makes this task seem effortless. But stepping away from that exercise and seeking peace internally is in fact the easiest and most effective method of working toward the common goal for us all to know peace.

This sounds a little “woo-woo” even to my ears. But I swear, if everyone could take a collective time out, we could at least begin to crawl out of the muck we’ve been drowning in. Peace is contagious. But it has to begin individually.

Here’s a Five-Minute Exercise to Get Started:

– Take several deep breaths, enough to center yourself.

– Imagine someone you love deeply: a spouse, a child, a parent a friend, even a pet. Allow the love you feel for that person to fill your heart with warmth. Send them the following loving phrases: May you be happy. May you feel safe. May you experience good health. May good things come to you. May your life be free of pain. May you feel love.

– Take those warm feelings and thoughts and direct them toward yourself. May I be happy, may I feel safe. May I experience good health. May good things come to me. May my life be free of pain. May I feel love.

– Picture a neutral person: a neighbor you don’t know well, someone you saw on the news, someone you see at the grocery store. Cultivate the warm feelings you wished for yourself and direct them towards this person. Just as I want to be happy, may they also be happy. Just as I want to feel safe, may they also feel safe. Just as I want good health, may they enjoy good health as well. May good things come to them. May their life be free of pain. May they feel love.

– Think of someone who causes you distress. Offer that person the same loving thoughts you sent to the person you love, yourself and a stranger. May they be happy. May they feel safe. May they experience good health. May good things come to them. May their life be free of pain. May they feel love.

– You can even direct these warm thoughts to your community, your nation and the wider world. May all beings be happy. May all beings feel safe. May they experience good health. May good things come to them. May their life be free of pain. May they feel love.

Meditation Doesn’t Have to be Difficult

This is a metta meditation that will absolutely make you feel better immediately after doing the exercise. You can spend as long as you like practicing this in a formal meditation. But it can be just as effective, certainly more so than not doing it at all, by slipping it into your life where you can. You can do it upon waking, while you lie in bed, or even, while you’re brushing your teeth. You can do it when you’re stuck in traffic. Or you can do it, just as you drift off to sleep.

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Losing My Religion – How Maya Angelou Saved Me From Post Election Grief

Losing My Religion – How Maya Angelou Saved Me From Post Election Grief

As someone who has a rather tenuous grasp on faith, I find it is tested on a regular basis. It’s as if God gets a kick out of watching my histrionics. I’m at least learning from the pattern though. As soon as I feel like I’ve got it all figured out, something horrible happens to completely rock my world. When it does, my immediate reaction is to shout, “Screw this and screw God! All this magic belief crap is bullshit and I should accept reality. You live, you die, and you become worm food.”

My temper tantrum doesn’t alleviate my pain and I’m left to stew in my thoughts. My misery does not lift right away, but eventually, I get tired of wallowing. I begin to consider my options of either changing my circumstances or changing my attitude – often a combination of both. Then the clouds slowly lift and life goes on.

There’s a moment between the time when my dark thoughts end and the tiniest bit of optimism creeps in, that I feel as if someone or something has had a hand in the shift. Sometimes it’s almost tangible. I’ll hear a song on the radio, or something will catch my eye, which causes me to stop in my tracks and break the endless soundtrack in my head. That’s when the change comes and I know it’s attributable to something greater than myself. When I can recognize that grace for what it is, I am filled with awe at its magnificence. I wish I could bottle it to save for later or for the next disaster. But I can’t; it’s like a dream that fades from my memory. Before long, my ego takes all the credit for my change in attitude and outlook.

After the election, I felt abandoned by my faith. The concept of grace seemed like a figment of my imagination. How could such a horrid, misogynist, racist, xenophobic person be elected by my fellow Americans? It must mean they too are equally horrid and everything I believe about there being goodness in the world is wrong. How could God let this happen?

Maybe there is no God. Maybe God is dead. My anger, frustration, and loss of faith has me contemplating liposuction, a boob job, and partial lobotomy to better fit into the new world order. I roll racist words around in my mouth to see what they taste like. They are bitter and it doesn’t take long before I realize the “If you can’t beat em join em” strategy isn’t going to work for me.

My tears fall, darkness looms, and I see no way of lifting myself, when I hear a voice. It’s not the voice of God, or my guardian angel – although I don’t know that I’d recognize their voices. Besides they’re both pissed at me for the “God is dead” thing. No, the voice I hear is that of Maya Angelou saying,

“Stop it! Stop it and be grateful.”

I’d heard her say that in an interview once and now her voice rings clearly in my head.

sad woman sitting alone in a empty room

I do stop it, more out of shock than of reverence. I answer the voice, “Are you freaking kidding me? You have no idea how bad things are right now.” I don’t say it out loud, but I wonder if this is how people felt when Hitler came into power. Did good people learn to put up and shut up before being rolled up into the wrong side of history.

I try to tell myself I’m being overly dramatic. I know plenty of people who aren’t horrible; certainly not Nazi sympathizers, who voted for trump. Maybe I’m the crazy one. Then I think about the threats of mass deportations, the Muslim ban, the pussy grabbing and now the cabinet appointees, ugh!  How can I live in a world where this kind of garbage passes for leadership?

Again the wise poet says with firmness,

“Stop it and be grateful.”

“For what,” I rail, “My whiteness? Do you want me to hide behind my race and privilege while the world around me burns? You, of all people should understand how wrong this is.” Her prose echo in my head,

“I note the obvious differences, between each sort and type, but we are more alike, my friends, than we are unalike.”

“That’s right. That’s why this is such a disaster. Now, get out of my head, you crazy ghost.” I’m not in the mood for inspiration.”

“What I pray for is humility to know that there is something greater than “I”. And I have to know that the brute, the bigot, and the batterer are all children of God, whether they know it or not, and I’m supposed to treat them accordingly.” 

I take a deep breath. I’m not good enough or wise enough, certainly not strong enough to keep up with the great Maya Angelou. Besides. I’m just one person. I think about the challenges she had to face, and feel embarrassed for my weakness. I hear the ping of my phone; a text from a friend about a gathering of women who plan to organize, fund raise and stay vigilant against the coming tide of injustice. I shake my head wondering how this tiny group can do anything, but respond, “count me in.”

I hear Maya’s voice one more time,

“You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may tread me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.”

I drag my sorry butt to a yoga class, eager to distract myself and quiet my mind. When I start the car I hear Andre Day’s voice belting out the chorus to her song, “I rise up.”

“Ugh.” I shout to the heavens. “All right already, I get it.”

I say a silent prayer of gratitude for whatever force enabled me to see things from a different perspective and apologize for losing my faith. I also give a shout out to Maya Angelou whose words never fail to enlighten and inspire. Then I vow to remember the grace I felt today and to learn to trust that it will show up tomorrow as well.

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The Day After – How to Deal After the Election

The Day After – How to Deal After the Election

The rhetoric and negative energy that fills our airwaves during election season is toxic and we’ve been swimming in a sea of it. If someone intentionally set out to make a person sick at heart, the plan would include a daily dose of the type of language we hear from campaign ads and stump speeches.

Still, I believe it’s important to participate in the political process. I eagerly absorb all the information I can. But I know that, like a steady diet of nothing but carbs, it’s not healthy. I’m going to feel depleted when it’s all over. I feel passionate about the historic nature of this election, but nervous about the unusually high levels of hatred and vitriol. We’re going to need a big, community hug after it’s all over.

Now that my vote has been cast, all I can do is pray that it all works out for the best. I try not to pray for a specific candidate; God hears enough of that. Instead, I pray for the wisdom to accept the outcome whatever that may be, even though I desperately want my candidate to win and the other candidate to drop off the face of the planet.

Can we go back to our normal lives and live peacefully among neighbors regardless of what names were prominently displayed on yard signs and bumper stickers? I believe we can. Don’t get me wrong, I hope I get to spend Tuesday evening of doing an end zone dance and rejoicing that my candidate won. If that’s not the case, Wednesday is going to suck. But, painful as it might be, life will go on.

Thinking about how I will react to either scenario, I made a list to help me deal with whatever the election brings. It’s a note to myself for after the election.

If the worst happens and your candidate loses:

1.) Deep breaths my dear; inhale trust and exhale fear. All is well; everything will be okay.

2.) Now, turn the TV off. Step away from all media displaying victory celebrations as well as images of your fellow supporters filled with sadness, anger, and disbelief. Your media diet should consist solely of babies, kittens and puppies, nothing more.

3.) Think of it this way, the job you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy has just been given to your worst enemy. This poor soul will age dramatically over the next four years.

4.) Look out the window. The sun has risen, birds continue to sing, and people are going about their daily lives. The world has not come to an end after all. Now stop your whining and know this. You have the choice of whether or not to be miserable. Do you really want to choose misery?

5.) We live in a democracy that has survived worse i.e. the civil war, not to mention a few bad Presidents. Plus, if the majority of Americans, ignorant as they may seem to you, voted for this person, it’s possible you might have been wrong.

6.) Reach out to someone who supported the winning candidate. This is a tough one, I know, but you do know people, who aren’t horrible, yet voted for the winner. Put away thoughts that these folks are uninformed and consider the notion that they may know something you don’t. See if they can point out one positive outcome from their victory. Now hug it out.

7.) Send loving thoughts to the new President. If you really believe this person is an idiot, he or she, not to mention our country is going to need all the positivity you can muster.

8.) Take comfort in knowing that events are unfolding in precisely the right way and at the right time even if you may not be able to understand how or why.

If you spent the night celebrating:

1.) First of all, drink some water, and make sure no one has video of your dance moves. No one needs to see your “dab” or “stanky leg,” no matter what the champagne might have been telling you.

2.) Once you’ve had your fill of reveling, you might consider going on a media diet. Step away from news sources that confirm your own beliefs. Ask yourself how wise it is to gorge solely on thoughts and ideas that match your own. Diversity improves intelligence.

3.) Don’t forget that a good chunk of the country disagrees with this new President’s vision. Remember progress in Washington is often achieved through compromise and nothing happens overnight.

4.) Reach out to someone who supported the other candidate. Ask them what, aside from immediate impeachment, they would like to see come out of a new administration. I know this is hard and probably only achievable with someone you respect. But, certainly the two of you can come up with one common desire for our future. Now hug it out.

5.) Send loving thoughts to the new President as well as the loser and his or her supporters.

6.) Think about the time and energy you’ve spent worrying about the election. Now see if you can fill that newly freed space with a more positive outlet.

7.) Schedule a massage.

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