The Twelve Deeds of Christmas, #1 and #2

Last week, I completed the first two deeds of my Twelve Deeds of Christmas. 

#1 Donations to Standing Rock: I had read that the protesters at Standing Rock were looking to gear up for winter, and needed supplies such as coats, hats, scarves, etc. I have been a collector scarves for many years, and have grown bored of many of the scarves in my collection. I knew that I had at least a few I could donate. I went to Five Below and bought a couple of hats and some gloves to throw in the package as well. Batteries were on the Sacred Stoned Camp Amazon wishlist, and I had a spare pack, so I threw those in, too. I packed it all up and sent it out to North Dakota. Based on the way things are going out there, I might be sending another package to the Sacred Stones camp before my project is over.

#2: Canned food donations: There was a collection box at church for holiday meal donations for a local family. I had planned on dropping a couple of cans in there with one Sunday. Giant was having an excellent sale on canned vegetables- 39 cents a can! So I bought some for myself, and then twice as many cans to donate! 10 cans for less than $5! Last Sunday, I added my cans to the heaping food box. 

Fall Changes

photo credit: Wanderung Hombourg via photopin (license)
photo credit: Wanderung Hombourg via photopin (license)

It feels like fall has come early this year. All the talk of pumpkin spice doesn’t feel out of place like it did last year at this time. Although it is 90 degrees today, the Pennsylvania breeze carries a chill as it stirs the air. Early leaves have begun to scatter gracefully across the pavement. Usually, I want to fight to hold onto the summer, but this year, I welcome the change.

This year, something feels different. It could be that I’m in a much different place than I was last fall. I had just moved back in with my parents after quitting a soul-sucking job. I was applying and interviewing to everything I could think of, to no avail. (I even got turned down for a job at Starbucks.) I almost regretted leaving my suffereable but secure master’s level job.

I’m in a far different place than I was three falls ago. This time in 2012, I was devastated after a misunderstanding at my internship that almost resulted in disciplinary action. I was completely questioning my chosen career path.Every day, I became more an more hopeless and depressed until my last day at the site in December.

This year, my goals feel closer than they did before. The part-time job I started in January has turned into a full-time opportunity, with me switching roles from caregiver to activities assistant. It’s not music therapy, but it’s much closer. It’s still a job that requires much less education than I have, but its a step in the right direction. The part that excites me the most, though, is that once I start receiving healthcare benefits from work, I will be able to afford to move into my own apartment. I already have a place picked out, and I’ve begun dreaming about how I want to decorate it.

I don’t know why things are so hard. I thought that once I completed my master’s degree, I’d have the key to an instantly successful life. Any job I wanted would be open to me. I had certainly labored enough for it. Fighting for jobs that I am underqualified for has felt demeaning. I’ve struggled to not connect my pay or my job title to my self worth.

I see my friends struggling too, many buried under insurmountable student loans. It’s hard to not feel like the millenials have gotten the short end of the stick. We did everything they told us to do in school and it’s not paying off.

What am I going to do? I’m going to keep trying, because that’s the only thing I know how to do. After I get settled in my new job and my new home, I plan to pursue my teaching certification, in hopes that it will open me up to a wider range of job possibilities and give me more opportunities to move up in the world.

For now, I’ll have to settle with moving through life one small step at a time.

On Feeling Your Feelings

photo credit: Sit and watch via photopin (license)
photo credit: Sit and watch via photopin (license)

One of the most important things that we can learn is how to sit and be present with our emotions. That, if we take the time to experience them fully, and locate where they live in our body, not only will they not hurt us, but they will go away.

Our feelings are begging to be felt- not ignored. If we ignore the uncomfortable ones, they’ll keep intensifying, nagging at us to get our attention, until finally they’ll begin find a home in our body where they’ll cause us physical pain and discomfort rather than emotional pain and discomfort.

Peace,

Mary

There is Good in the World

photo credit: greenplasticamy via photopin cc
photo credit: greenplasticamy via photopin cc

When I was a senior in college, I took a politics course, entitled “The Way the World Works.” On the first day of class, the professor had us divide up into groups and debate the following: are people innately good or are people innately bad? As quiet as I was, I found myself in quite the fierce battle between myself and the three gentlemen in my group, who were all convinced that humans were inherently evil. When the professor brought the class back together, I was tired and frustrated from arguing. Certainly someone else could pick up my crusade in the full class discussion so the introvert that I am could relax. But then, he asked us to raise our hands for which side we thought had won the debates. The entire class had been convinced that people are evil. Myself and the professor were the only people who disagreed.

The other night, over dinner, my mother said, “I think the world is the worst off it’s ever been.” In some ways, I can see how it’s easy to say that. 2014 was certainly a year for scary news: ebola, the abduction of schoolgirls from Nigeria, instability in Gaza and Crimea, racial unrest in the US, and quite an array of national and international terrorism. Yet, I still disagree. To explain, I will defer to Mr. Fred Rogers (Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood was a favorite show when I was a young child):

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things on the news, my mother would say to me, ‘look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ To this day, especially in times of ‘disaster,’ I remember my mother’s words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers- so many caring people in this world.”

In other words, bad things are going to happen, but the way I know that the world is an ok place because when bad things happen, more people step up to help than there are that caused the situation in the first place.

And if you’re still not convinced the world is an ok place, watch this commercial from a Thai life insurance company:

 

Suggested Reading: 26 Charts That Show the World is Getting Much, Much Better

The World is Not Falling Apart

Are These Dangerous Times, or Do They Just Feel That Way?

Mary

On Not Settling

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Lately, my facebook newsfeed has been blowing up with posts from friends and acquaintances who are experiencing the sorts of big changes in their lives that can only be expected of  adults in their mid-twenties to early thirties.  Proposals, engagements, and marriages. Pregnancies and births. It’s easy to think that everyone is entering a new stage of their lives and that I’m being left behind.

But, the other day, as I logged on to a flurry of these posts, I thought of it a different way.

What if all of this extra time was a gift?

When you’re in a romantic relationship, your focus shifts from yourself to your partner. When you have children, it shifts to them. As you start a family, it seems as if it is very easy to lose connection with yourself.

I have a friend who got married soon after college and who has two beautiful children. She posts images of her happy family, but then writes about how she’s felt like she’s lost touch with herself. When she was in school, her hobbies were to sing and dance- that’s what brought her joy. Since she had gotten married, and definitely since she had children, she has not been able to do these things. She feels like she’s lost touch with herself.

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I can say the opposite is true for me. Over the past 5-10 years, not only have I gotten better at my favorite hobbies, but I’ve found new ones as well. I’ve put a lot of work into myself, and I have become braver, stronger, and more assertive. With every year that passes, I’ve pushed and challenged myself more. I’ve become more and more connected with myself, and as that connection strengthens, it will become harder and harder to break, no matter what life delivers me.

I’ve been fortunate enough to have been able to keep the focus on myself this entire time. I have had so much time to grow and evolve . . . and I can say with confidence that I’ve been making the best of it.

Mary

Our Time is Now

Flower Power
Flower Power

I used to say that I wished I had been born earlier, so that I could participate in all of the great social movements of the 1960s and 1970s: the civil rights movement, women’s rights movement, protests against the war in Vietnam, the environmental movement that gave us Earth Day . . . and it would’ve been fun to have been around for Woodstock, too. There’s something exciting about the idea of being a part of a powerful movement for change.

The more I see of current events, the more I realize that those dramatic opportunities for progress are not a thing of the past. We have just as many high stakes battles to fight now:

  • We need to battle the denial and apathy that are holding us back from taking action to fight global climate change.
  • Women are still not being taken seriously, as we are being prevented from being able to make some of our own healthcare decisions.
  • Children and teens are dying as a result of unnecessary gun violence almost every day.
  • Gay and lesbian people are not yet permitted to marry in every state, and transgender people are frequently the target of bullying and terrorist acts.
  • We need to question US military presence in many other countries, most particularly those in the Middle East, as well as the militarization of the police force within our borders.
  • The middle class is rapidly shrinking due to inflation and income inequality. Corporations need to be held accountable.
  • The members of our government need to learn how to put partisan politics aside, to compromise, and to treat each other like adults.
  • And, despite what anyone may say, the battle for civil rights is clearly not over.

These movements, too, can make the history books if we play our cards right. But, we need to put our smartphones down, get outside, and actually do something.

The time to act is now. 

Will we seize it?

Mary

Presence vs. Presents

photo credit: jDevaun.Photography via photopin cc
photo credit: jDevaun.Photography via photopin cc

In a Walmart commercial I saw today, Anthony Anderson proudly exclaims, “the holiday season starts right now!”

It’s November 3rd.

And that’s not the only holiday commercial I’ve seen today. In the past hour, I’ve counted 5. The only reason I think the number was that low is because tomorrow is election day and the airwaves are being dominated by political pleas. (I won’t miss those, either.)

Earlier this afternoon, I went out to get a few things that I need for a trip I’m taking this week. The pharmacy was already decked out in red and green, and the Christmas cards were featured in a prominent display at the grocery store. My sister works in a department store, and she tells me that the tree went up in September.

It’s November 3rd. This just isn’t right.

Maybe it sounds like I don’t like the winter holidays, but that’s not true. I love them. I just prefer them to stay in December. The holiday season seems to start earlier and earlier every year. To me, that illustrates a fundamental problem with society: we seem to have an inability to be in the present moment. We always have to sprint ahead to something else.

Why are we running? What are we running from?

Perhaps it is that the holiday festivities feel like a vacation from the norm.

So why are we living lives that we need to take breaks from? What if we could incorporate elements of rest into our daily or weekly lives?

We need to examine the way we live. If we are looking for calm, for relaxation, for peace of mind, we won’t find it somewhere out there in the future. But, we can have it now, if we allow ourselves a moment of pause.

Take some time to acknowledge and appreciate the fall. We still have a whole month of it left.

Love and light,

Mary