A Rumi Mood

As I attempt to process the pain and chaos reigning in my country – over 100,000 citizens dead from COVID-19, near-record unemployment, relentless racial injustice, and as many different opinions about these things as there are people – I find myself drawn to Rumi to make sense of it all.  Doing so has helped me realize some things:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I no longer feel responsible for saving people from their own willful ignorance, or for educating them about things they don’t want to learn.  I will save my energy for people who want to learn, grow, and change.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I am in no position to change the world if I overlook my own internal biases, prejudices, and conditioning. Self-work, self-examination, and self-awareness are great tools to start this process. So is exposing myself to conversations and situations that might be uncomfortable.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I am done trying to make people understand, whether an alternate opinion or perspective, my feelings, decisions I or others make, etc. If after an exchange or two it’s apparent that they don’t, or won’t, understand, my next reply is silence.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pain is where change begins. When we hurt, we want to heal. When we see others hurt, we want to help. Through the process of healing or helping, we awaken.

 

 

 

 

 

Life is short. Seize the day.

 

Isn’t She Lovely?

This photo makes me smile, mostly because I want to be that old woman. I have always believed that the ultimate freedom is being yourself. It is a freedom many of us will never fully know. Yet with this freedom comes power. In this old, eccentric lady, I see power that no one can take away. It’s the kind of power that comes with loving and accepting yourself as you are, and expressing who you are, without apologies, excuses, or justification.

Wouldn’t that be lovely?

I think it would, which got me humming this old Stevie Wonder tune. Hope you enjoy!

The Ultimate Sacrifice

Omaha Beach, Normandy, France

With Memorial Day on the horizon, it felt right to share these photos of my 2019 visit to Normandy, France to see the D-Day beaches. I was blessed to be able to cross off this bucket list item when I stepped foot on Omaha Beach that rainy day in October. The visit to Paris, and the day trip to Normandy, was a gift from my mother for my 50th birthday, a once-in-a-lifetime mother/daughter trip, for which I will always be grateful.

Standing on Omaha Beach was a bucket list item

Standing on that beautiful, sacred ground, it was hard to imagine that 75 years before, thousands of Allied troops, many in their teens, stormed the beach at dawn, not knowing if they would live or die. Hitler was asleep when they landed, having given orders not to be disturbed before noon. His general in charge of Normandy had gone to Germany to celebrate his wife’s birthday. Though they had been anticipating an attack, they weren’t sure where, and it never occurred to them that the Allies would risk stormy weather to catch them off guard.

Juno Beach, Normandy, France

With the rain falling lightly on my face, the waves lapping at my boots, and the  delicious scent of salt air filling my nostrils, I closed my eyes for a moment. I wanted to take it all in; the sacred energy of the place, the overpowering feeling of being humbled and inspired at once, the sadness over the loss of life, the gratitude for their courage, and the freedom I had to be able to stand there, safe, protected, privileged.

To all the men and women who have served and died so that we and our allies might be free from tyranny, merci.

Sand from Omaha Beach, rocks and shell from Juno Beach, Normandy, France

Living Our Values

When a former student of mine, now a young woman in her late twenties who is bi-racial (black and white), shared this question on Facebook last week, I had a choice: respond or keep scrolling.

It was a provocative question. I might have passed over it, if not for her adding: This is not a rhetorical question, I really want to hear.

I didn’t want to respond. Matters of race can be contentious. Especially for white people who want to pretend they don’t exist, or who just don’t know what to say and figure saying nothing is better than saying the wrong thing.

My finger hovered over the post. I knew she was hurting from yet another senseless murder of a black American man. Many of my colleagues of color were hurting, too, as was clear in their posts. Responding with a sad or angry emoji seemed wholly  inadequate.

Though I was afraid of saying the wrong thing, I placed my finger in the comment box and began to type: We live in a diverse neighborhood and I value this. My little street has every race and multiple ethnicities within the races represented. We also have an interracial couple, a lesbian couple, and the black family across the street adopted two white kids….I truly value diversity and feel it is a strength of our country.

I said more, but I want to focus on this part because I think many people talk a good talk, but don’t walk the talk. Normally, I would consider this none of my business, but lately I’ve noticed a lot of people saying one thing with their words, and another with their actions (or memes) which, as the cliche states, speak louder than words.

I know people that claim to value diversity, but live in neighborhoods where everyone looks and sounds like them. They send their kids to schools where everyone looks and sounds like them. All of their friends look and sound like them.

I know people who would never consider themselves xenophobic, yet post memes that say things like Don’t buy from China. One person I know who did this forgot that the American daughter of her good friend is married to a Chinese man, lives in China with him, and that their toddler,  the friend’s granddaughter, is half-Chinese. She forgot that she is Facebook friends with the daughter and the husband until he, not unkindly, wished her good luck trying to buy anything, for example her car, that doesn’t contain some parts made in China.

One might argue it is the Chinese government the woman has a beef with, not the Chinese people. Tell that to the husband, his wife, his child, and the friend.

Things get ugly fast when we don’t live by the values we claim to possess.

I know people who value Christianity, yet their values seem not to extend  to loving their neighbors as themselves, not if the neighbors don’t look like them or practice their religion or come from another country.

I know people who claim to value children and family, just not when they come to America seeking asylum. Then it’s okay for them to be separated and placed in cages indefinitely.

Things get ugly fast when you point these inconsistencies out to people.

In all fairness, some people may value the rule of law more than their Christian values. But who is making the laws and what are their values? What is government anyway at its core, but a set of values that guide a nation?

I responded to my former student’s post instead of scrolling by it because I want to live my values. I responded to the question because I want to be part of the solution, even if it means being uncomfortable or vulnerable. I knew no matter what I said, she wouldn’t be unkind, but there was a risk. I could lose her respect forever.

She loved my comment and thanked me for standing in the gap. I hadn’t lost her respect, or even her love, but I was appropriately humbled, and saddened to realize that standing in the gap was probably the most I would be able to offer.

I believe that one of the reasons matters of race, religion, sexism, xenophobia, and politics get so contentious is because they force us to reckon with our values. When the values we believe we have and the values we actually live don’t align, we become defensive.

We owe it to ourselves, our neighbors, our colleagues, our students, and especially to our children to conduct a thorough inventory and examination of our values. Are we really living what we say we believe or is it possible that our actual lives are truer reflections of our deepest beliefs?

Coronavirus Calories

When it comes to diet and exercise, my motto is moderation. I don’t believe in extremes or in deprivation. Exceptions to this are fast food burgers, because God only knows where the meat comes from,  soda, never liked it, and anything labeled diet, sugar-free or low-calorie, all gimmicks in my view. Otherwise, I enjoy most foods and indulge in sweets a few times a week, because life is too short to go without chocolate.

My usual exercise routine includes power yoga, brisk walks, and twice weekly gym workouts. I never owned a scale until my mother bought me one two years ago. Though I think she really bought it for her. She’d just retired and moved to another state, and so started staying with us during holidays and visits. She’s always been scale-obsessed. I receive regular text updates whenever she gains or loses a pound, which means near-daily. I stopped telling her that it’s probably water weight.

Typically, I maintain a healthy weight for my 5’4″ frame, with one bout of weight gain several years ago when I was stressed from pursuing an advanced degree while working full-time. I worked hard to lose the 10 pounds by restricting calories for the first time in my life and ramping up exercise. It was torture, and I never wanted to do that again.

Enter COVID-19.

In the six weeks I’ve been working from home, I’ve gained six pounds. At a pound a week, I’m in big trouble if our state’s stay home, stay safe order lasts much longer, as it likely will. This on top of the four pounds I gained over winter.

Though I’ve been walking, doing moderate yoga, and even running up and down a steep hill a couple times a week, being glued to a screen all day and stuck home has made for a far more sedentary lifestyle. Being over 50 doesn’t help. My metabolism is slowing, I’m sleeping poorly, likely because of pre-menopause and increased work-related stress, and as a Gen Xer, I’m sandwiched between two generations that need me.

But the real story is, I’m eating way too much, and too much of the wrong kinds of food.

To begin with, the refrigerator is always there. One little rumbly in my tumbly and it’s off to the kitchen. Then there is the panic grocery shopping I did in the first weeks of the pandemic. I spent inordinate amounts of money on food, fearing a shelter-in-place order any moment. I started buying things I never usually do, like bread flour and yeast in case I had to bake bread (which I actually did a few times and it was so good). I definitely suffered deprivation mentality for a while.

Another challenge is having two sons hunkered down with us. Our 21 year old sleeps most of the day and, like a vampire, stays up all night, eating everything in sight, healthy or unhealthy. There’s my 13 year old who, God love him, has become a vegetarian and overall health nut. He eats everything healthy in the house like a vulture. Between these two, I wake up most mornings to an empty fridge and a full sink, forced to resort to high-fat, carb-packed meals like grilled cheese sandwiches and potato pancakes.

I’m also bored. Doing the same things day after day and never being able to go out gets tiresome. Daily sweet and salty snacks make life more exciting. So does wine. I’m drinking it nearly every evening now, even on work nights, which is usually a no-no for me.

Summer is coming. I don’t know if beaches will be open, but I am determined to get my body bathing suit ready, or as ready as a 51 year old woman can. I did it once, and I can do it again.

This means saying no to sweets, bread, pasta, and heavy cheeses on weekdays. Choosing hard-boiled eggs and bananas for breakfast, salads for lunch, and rice, vegetables, and lean proteins for dinner. The only snacks will be nuts and pineapple, because the latter is so sweet it takes away my chocolate cravings. When my belly rumbles, I will remind myself that I’m eating three meals a day plus snacks, and therefore I am absolutely not starving to death.

On weekends, anything will go. Calorie restriction during the week, and then eating what you want on weekends (within reason), tricks the body, which would normally start storing fat if calorie-deprived, into restarting burning calories. I don’t have proof of this, other than it worked last time.

I admit that weight gain is a small price to pay compared to what some folks are going through during this pandemic. This isn’t just about my physical appearance, though. It’s about how I feel. Right now, I feel physically, mentally, and energetically heavy and drained. I want to feel light, nimble, and strong in every way. I have always believed that our physical bodies are reflections of our inner state, and vice-versa.

Someday, hopefully sooner rather than later, this pandemic will end. In the meantime, I’ve warned the boys that beginning this week, I’m labeling a drawer in the fridge and a cabinet just for my food, and they are under strict hands-off orders.