I Want to Be Peace…or Politics on a Daily Basis

For me, politics in this election started with Bernie Sanders. I was so excited by him! But as I argued with people on Facebook, I started to realize that some people knew a great deal more than I did about the political system and our governing history. I started to realize that I had very strong opinions that were based on only partial knowledge. I was convinced I was right, and I didn’t have all the facts.

This embarrassed me.

Plus, I hate to lose arguments.

More education seemed like a good idea.

But as I read about Hillary Clinton’s voting record, her work internationally with women and children, as I read the horse race who-is-more-likely-to-win stats, as I read, for the first time (I’m embarrassed to say), Noam Chomsky, I started to notice that I was far from the only person who had strong opinions based on far too few facts.

Most people seemed to fall in the camp of I-am-right-though-I-do-not-really-know-my-facts-and-don’t-want-to-learn-them-from-you-unless-you-agree-with-me-about-everything. (Me on a very bad day, I have to admit.)

The rhetoric heated up. Name calling, explicit or implicit. Blogs that told only a small piece of any story. Misinformation. Quotes from the Huffington Post that contradicted other quotes from the Huffington Post. Siting of political web sites. Accusations of voting tampering. Accusations that anyone who believed there had ever been voting tampering was a conspiracy theorist.

It seemed that the hotter the temperature, the less facts mattered. It seemed it was all about who could be more insulting. Courtesy and basic respect fell by the wayside. Swearing and name-calling became a way of winning. Tone! Sometimes, it was humor. Sometimes, just attacks.

My own pseudo Buddhism started ringing in my head, so I tried to understand, to find compassion for all these shouting people. The common denominator was clearly emotion. Rational discourse was rare, and especially rare if people disagreed.

We are all so scared right now. The world seems unsafe. Survival. Opportunity. Care. Safety. How can I protect me and mine?

On my best days, I want to speak to this. I’m not a political theorist. I’m an artist who seeks the center of the human experience, who writes about being an outsider, who writes about loneliness, absurdity and redemption. I believe in social justice, but mostly I believe in the power of kindness. I believe in welcome. I believe in truth and witnessing. I believe there is nothing stronger than love.

I occasionally find these things in FB political discussions if you can believe it…but rarely. I love it when it happens, when I am humble, when I learn, but much more often I’m doing my own version of heating up the fire by posting as many different points of view as possible just to freak people out. Or make them think. (It’s unclear.) This entertains the imp in me, but doesn’t necessarily help anyone. Because people are so scared they can’t listen to anything but that one answer that the emotional voice in their heads says is going to fix this dangerous world.

An answer they’ve found based on…well…emotion. More than anything else, that’s what we do. We call ourselves thinking beings, but we are emotion first. We really are.

This morning my partner showed me a clip of Trump demanding a baby be removed from an auditorium. She crowed with delight at what a jerk he was. I’m looking up at her and I’m like, “Um, I think this is funny.”

I thought it was funny that he talked about loving babies then did this reversal about of course he doesn’t love a baby crying when he’s trying to speak. His communication wasn’t at all skillful, but I understood exactly how he felt (having had my own crying baby experience while performing), and his bluntness made me like him. Of course I don’t want him to be president, but I totally got and get his appeal. His supporters say, “He tells it like it is.” And he does. No filter, no finesse, but there’s an honesty in that. There’s a relief. If you’re pissed off and scared and not thinking.

Here’s my heresy for the day: people here in the liberal Northeast are just as scared and filled with emotion as people in the Heartland. People in the Heartland see themselves in Donald Trump–in his take-no-shit-tell-it-like-it-is attitudes. In his paternalistic promises. I understand his appeal. Of course I don’t want him to be president. That doesn’t mean I can’t see, with compassion, that to which he speaks. I don’t need to look down. I get it right from where I’m sitting.

I watched the DNC because my partner was so into it, and I was genuinely moved by the video about Hillary Clinton. In it, she reminded me of women I’ve met in the last year, all of whom are white, straight and privileged. I understood how they saw themselves in her. She represents them, she is them, and they look at her and see all the sexism they have ever faced. And, let’s get real…Hillary has battled vicious misogyny her entire public life.

I don’t know if I want her to be president. But that’s not the point, is it? I get how women see themselves in her, and since I have lived with misogyny, since I have been a victim of violence against women, since I have been sexually harassed in the workplace when I was very young, I understand the emotion, too. I cried when they did the shattering of the glass ceiling. I cried when Chelsey talked about her pride in her mother.

I have these emotions. But I don’t see myself in Hillary. I’m white and female and a feminist, but I am also strongly queer-identified, have been poor and on food stamps, among other differences. I don’t see myself in white, straight women in general. I feel like an other when I’m around them. Pulse made this incredibly clear. Right or wrong, I don’t think white, upper middle and upper class women have it so bad. Most of them have never worked for my rights as a queer person, and they don’t ask about my life either, so I have a ton of emotion about the barriers between us, barriers I don’t think they see. Hillary flip-flopped on gay marriage like a crazy person. I have EMOTION about this.

I can’t escape my own emotion. I’m human.

We feel way before we think. We feel…and then we think to justify how we feel. I can’t help this more than anyone else can.

But I want to be peace. I’m terrified about the world. If I run, can I run far enough? These are my old questions. But with the shootings, terrorism, economic fears, bigotry, police persecution of African-Americans, laws targeting LGBTQ in the South…somehow we’ve passed business as usual and with climate change there may be nowhere to run to at all.

I want to be peace.

And, old strategy of mine, welcome any time…I want to know. I want to understand. I want to learn everything I can. I believe in education as an answer.

I wish we would stop, consider other points-of-view, before we post, before we speak.

I want to be peace.

I don’t always know how to find peace, though I have studied, though I have, as the Indigo Girls have sung, gone to the temple, the mountain, the ashram, the ocean, the doctor, the poetry, the bodies of women, men and trans people, though I have loved, though I have raged, though I have gone quiet, though I have sung my one and only song, with no idea if anyone would want to listen.

I want to be peace.

Feel and do nothing about feeling.

Think and do nothing about thinking.

Until I am moved by something wiser than passion, fear or anger.

Until I can simply love, listen, hear.

Until my song is compassion, and nothing else.

I’m Crazy, You’re Crazy: What are my partner and I doing now?

Yes, I may fall over dead from admitting this.

We are doing a couples spiritual practice.

Here I go.  Falling over.  Bleck.  Urgh.  Uck.

Why, you may ask, do I fall over from admitting this?


And I get up every morning and do this thing called a renewal with my partner.

Who, by the way, I love.  I am also too cool to admit how much, but I suspect she knows just from the way she looks at me.

And get this, the renewal practice really helps me.  Not only be closer to her, but to live better.


I’m still going to do it, though, because it makes us both happy.

Here’s the practice–

We get up.  I refrain from commenting on her breath.  We lie there in some kind of stupor with two hot water bottles and several Buckies (pseudo hot water bottles) all on my side of the Sleep Number Bed because I am always cold.  I pull on my Snoopy fleece pajama bottoms.  She puts on her glasses.  Then we lie in a stupor until one of us says, “So, you want to do it?”

We answer four questions:

What can you admit you’re powerless over today?

How can you turn this over to some spiritual deity you don’t believe in for the next 24 hours?  (Okay, that’s not exactly it, but the whole letting go and trusting that you don’t have to know thing…that’s the idea.)

What do you need to bring to the Light?  (We take turns talking about things we’re ashamed of, which is always fun.)  (Sometimes I like to talk about how great I am in this section, because, well, I mostly like to talk about how great I am.)

Do you recognize that whatever/whoever or some wise part of yourself knows all this about you and loves you just as you are?  (Some days, the answer is a flat out no.  This indicates staying in bed for at least 24 hours.)

Then we say metta for ourselves.  Occasionally we actually get up and meditate.

And yes, there have been 12 step programs in my life.  It took a lot for me to admit I wasn’t a deity myself, but eventually I had to do it because LIFE WAS KICKING MY BUTT.

Anyhow, I feel a very uncool tenderness for my partner these days.  The life in her, the struggle, the uncertainty, the goodness…so much goodness.  And my hope that she sees it.

Which does not mean I always refrain from talking about her bad breath.  I mean, since I’m not a deity, I have to have some compensation.

I’m Crazy, You’re Crazy, Let’s Get Married

I’m writing a book with this title. It’s all about getting to know and love your crazy, and then putting out the welcome mat for another person’s crazy, either the one you don’t yet have, or the one who is sleeping next to you, snoring her head off.  Sorry for the tease, but not yet ready to share!

Tongue out

I will say this–we’ve been having some conflict about an impasse issue, and I’ve been trying to take space and contain my irritation and criticism of my partner.  (She says she can hear every word, whether I open my mouth or not.)  But I miss her.  So today I had this full body fit, trying not to hug her, because once that happens all bets are off.  I end up in the bathroom, where I say, “Let’s fist fight.”  So she puts up her palms (standing there in her sports bra and jeans, hair wet and sticking up like Alfalfa), and I baby punch them, screwing up my face as hard as I can like a mad cartoon character.  Then I put up my hands and she baby slaps them until I tell her a slap fight isn’t a fist fight and then she baby punches them, finally doing it right (I do make the rules here, at least about important things).  And then she holds out her pinky, this soft compassionate look on her face, and I hold out mine, but I don’t touch her (still trying to take space).  And I say, “ET phone home.”  She looks at me.  I say, “But I can’t get a connection.”  And then, almost at the same moment, we both take our hands to our ears in fake cell phones and say, “Can you hear me now?”

This is what passes for sanity around here.  Just saying.

What I Know About Marriage and Homicide (For a friend, on her recent nuptials)

1. Being known is great. Except when it’s not.

2. After 26 years, I’m still waiting for her to turn into the suave, handsome, rich doctor or lawyer I was supposed to marry, instead of this completely authentic, loving, neurotic putz who makes me laugh.

3. Loving her so much challenges all my fears. So I try to be friends and keep getting back on the same side. Otherwise I might kill her.

4. I can only do as much intimacy as I can tolerate—so I don’t open my heart all at once. Or I might kill her.

5. It’s better to tell on myself than to confront my partner. Because then she won’t kill me.

6. I have so many parts of me that see her as every monster from every nightmare and think my survival is threatened. When this happens, it’s time to go in my room and hide. And then try to soothe myself. So I don’t kill her.

7. Marriage is a disappointment factory. I keep creating expectations or recycling old ones, just so I can learn that she’s not here to take care of me. (This makes me want to kill her.)

8. For 26 years, she has told me, over and over again, that we don’t have to do anything I don’t want to, that we can go as slow as I need, that she never wants to hurt me (even though she does), and I forget this the minute she says something stupid. (And then I want to kill her.)

9. When the voice that tells me I’m better than her, and she doesn’t deserve me, gets activated, it’s better if I don’t share that with her (so she doesn’t kill me), or believe what that part of me is telling me (so I don’t kill her).

10. Once in a while, we get close, and no one freaks out, and I notice, one moment at a time, the way her hands seeks for me, the way she touches me as if I am the most precious person in the world, and the way I explode with joy (and make inappropriate jokes) at all of it, so grateful to be alive and know what this feels like.

Family Legacies

I don’t know how people do families.  I mean, seriously.

Take me, for example.  I don’t do family well AT ALL.  I barely do my in-laws.  I find all the relationships and intersections and anger and history so overwhelming.

I have always admired Thoreau.  And anyone else who takes off and lives alone for years.  (Though his mother did bring him food.  I love the idea of being a hermit who gets free takeout.  I could fully embrace the idea, especially if my partner had the next cave over, because she is the one person I don’t care to do without for more than say,  5-10 days at the outside.  When we’re getting along, that is.  But adjoining caves with free takeout?  Sign me up.)

Anyhow, I have recently had the opportunity to see myself reflected in my family members, and I am struck, more than anything else, by our competition and arrogance.  I mean, first of all, I have known for at least a decade that competition, constant comparing and keeping a score sheet, and thinking I’m better than other people, were persistent problems in the way I construct the world.  And, okay, I’m one of six, so the competition was going to be a given under the best of circumstances…and it wasn’t the best of circumstances, believe me.

I will say, speaking of my own arrogance and my struggle to get a lot more honest about what it covers up, that the piece I can’t let go of is thinking that I’m the smartest person in the room.  Well, the city, probably.  Maybe the state.  Who knows.  The universe?  It’s not out of the question.

And my ridiculous memory makes it look that way a lot.  My partner has no memory to speak of (although she has an incredible talent for finding things I’ve lost), but what I’ve learned is that she is often wise, caring and decent.  She’s also much more intelligent than she gives herself credit for.  I find that while we laugh at my arrogance and are able to hold it lightly, this is only possible because I respect her kindness and really want to know her view on things.  There are many kinds of intelligence.  My partner is a deeply emotionally intelligent person.  (Except when she’s not, and boy do I remember every single one of those times.)

Anyhow, I am beginning to see that the sibling competition(which comes from wanting love and attention that was just plain unavailable) leads to arrogance.  Basically, in my family, everyone thinks they’re better than everyone else.  The sober ones think they’re better than the drinkers, and the drinkers think the sober ones are conformist bores, and the religious ones think they are morally superior, and the ones in therapy think they’re better than the ones not in therapy and the thin ones think they’re better than the heavy ones and for all I know the men with hair think they’re better than the bald ones.  Any excuse.  The comparisons never end.

Because I have avoided my family so assiduously, I thought I was the only one who was so ridiculously screwed up and arrogant, but with just a little bit of contact in the last 6 weeks, I’ve learned it really is a family condition.  I’d love to write a play in which there was a multi-media component advertising the thoughts of all members of this huge family in which they’re secretly comparing and judging.  Only of course it’s not a secret and everyone’s hurt that they’re being judged and judging each other even worse to defend themselves against the hurt of feeling judged.

Human beings are truly insane.  All of us.

I would like to cop to the fact that with my family, I have a lot of one-up thinking.  And yet I can see that some of my relatives have good things in their lives that I wish I had–even if I don’t like their behavior otherwise.  And I can certainly see that when it comes to being complicated, difficult and high maintenance, I can hang in with the best of them.  Especially the complicated part, I like to think, but here it is, me constructing the world, so who knows what is true and where I’m letting myself off the hook.

I don’t know how we do families.  Maybe people just love each other without the pain and angst that fuel the competition and arrogance in my family.  I don’t know.  I kind of doubt it.  So I am just grateful, every day, that I am allowed not to know, and that I can watch myself constructing the universe and laugh about it enough that in the end I have a brief opportunity to just get present and know one right thing at a time.

On my good days, that is.  I’m hoping this is one of them.

Metta for all of us, in and out of families, doing our best to find love instead of competition, wanting so much to belong to something that we hope will last.

Metta.  I can’t change any of it, maybe not even myself, but still, metta.  Peace.

Letting Go of Fear, Class 3…or, Coping with Boston’s Sports Teams

So, after 2 weeks of finding out that I’m scared of, well, everything, I now get to do a calming practice.  This is good news.  Because sensing into my body during Pat’s games to stop my racing heart from Tom Brady’s f#$%ing interceptions, thereby preventing a heart attack ala football, will be a good thing.  I mean, what is it with the Pats this year?  Are they competing with the Red Sox for biggest roller coaster ride in history?  Not that I think the Pats will embarrass the city of Boston as badly as the Red Sox did.  I recognize that as a near impossibility.

I wish I liked watching hockey or basketball.  Well, actually, I don’t.  When my partner suggests we take an interest in the Celtics or the Bruins, I start talking about my early demise ala sports teams or her early demise ala not paying enough attention to me.

I definitely need a calming practice.

I should say that I did sense into my body to figure out how fear was expressing itself during a near interception in last Sunday’s game, and my heart beat super fast and my breathing went all shallow.  I must be having clinging to winning with sports games.  Why else would I watch?  But I must admit that my tendency toward extremes leads to…well, extreme and unpleasant bodily sensations during losing football games.

And, sports teams aside, I found that the lion statue on Huntington Avenue scared the shit out of me yesterday, partly because my partner and I had been talking about lions and I’d had a dream about lions, so, being Catholic, the statue seemed like a sign (anything that appears 3 times is a sign, not that I’m superstitious) of my early demise and when I sensed into my body my entire shoulder girdle, upper arms and upper back were tingling and tense.  That is how fear expresses itself in the jungle.  On Huntington Ave.

Once, when I was twelve and huddled in my bed late at night with abdominal pains, my father took me to the emergency room, where they did an x-ray.  They found I was very constipated, did an enema, and sent me home.  My father went around for two weeks afterward saying, “I had to pay X dollars to find out she was full of shit, which I knew anyhow.”  I still resent this, by the way.  He was way more full of shit than me, and it wasn’t a good joke and thankfully some of the people he told didn’t laugh.  I am remembering or constructing the women looking at me with sympathy.  I don’t know if they looked at me like that or not, but it’s a nice thought.

Anyhow, the point is, Buddhism is kind of like a spiritual enema.  (Am I actually saying this?)  You get the 1st x-ray.  You find out you’re afraid of way more things than you could possibly imagine.  You get the 2nd x-ray, and find out the ridiculous behaviors you have in trying to avoid said fears (including, disturbingly, a tendency to exaggerate and backtrack so you seem less powerful than you actually are…and that would be me).  Then you walk around disturbed with yourself.  Then you calm yourself down.  Finally, at some point, you investigate the fears, which has the potential purging (ha-ha) effect (I’ve done some of this, which is why I know what’s coming).

Anyhow, in Catholicism, you confess your sins, assuming you know what they are through self-analysis, and then the priest makes you say a bunch of boring prayers.  In yoga, you try to figure out what satya is, and what lies you’re missing…not the egregious lies, but the ones you tell yourself, the way you misrepresent your feelings and desires, and then you seek self-correction.  In Buddhism, you notice, sense into your body, track your behaviors and crazy thoughts, and then try to accept it all.  You do self-correct (the Noble Eightfold Path).

Here is my long-term self-correction: I do not watch Browns/Steelers games because I am from Cleveland and my partner is from Pittsburgh.  This helps us not kill each other.

I would like to only watch Pats games in which Tom Brady throws no interceptions and wins early in the first half.

I avoided most Red Sox games this year for obvious reasons.  Though we won the only one I attended, and I did enjoy, as usual, singing Sweet Caroline.  (Total tangent:  Does Neil Diamond wear a toupee?  Or is his hair just like that?)

I will now walk through my day noticing fears and using my calming practice.  There will be no analysis, especially since Buddhism has taught me that my analysis is usually fiction.

Life is full of surprises.  I have been forced by the sheer power of Buddhist self-awareness to admit I am not the most self-aware woman on the planet.  In fact, I know nearly nothing.  This, for some reason, makes me kind of happy.

I am now, at this moment, doing my calming practice, because I had a thought float in that my stupid father with his inappropriate jokes may have had a point.  I reject that thought as a fear, and I calm, calm, calm.


PS–Yes, of course I know that Buddhism isn’t about purging and the ridiculous enema simile is ridiculous.  I am ridiculous and I am doing my calming practice and accepting my ridiculousness and the fact that most of the time this blog is my playground on paper…without paper.

Buddhism Is All About Realizing You Are More Insane than You Could Have Imagined

So, my partner and I had a fight.  An argument.  A discussion of whose fault it was (this makes it a fight).  I blamed her.  She blamed me.  We both tried not to do this, but we failed.  I hung up on her.  She threw a comment at me.

Then, I went away to hang out with my enlightened friends from NYC, so my partner and I couldn’t really talk about it.  Giving me plenty of material for the Letting Go of Fear meditation practice group homework.

I tracked my fears.  I wrote them down, and then tried to sense where they happened in my body and how they changed my behavior.  My behavior was mostly not calling my partner, though I did send a text message, “metta,” spelled, “Meta,” because Siri inappropriately corrected me.  (Incidentally, I asked Siri if she loved me, and she said, “You’re looking for love in all the wrong places.”  This made my NYC friends howl.)

Among my fears appeared a kind of panic that my partner’s friends would tell her to leave me.  Also, that I would cave first and therefore not win the game of chicken I’d created in my insane mind.  (It goes like this–my partner tries to have the make up talk a couple times, but I don’t like her sallies into the game, so I say no.  Then she gets really mad because I won’t play, and when I try to have the make up talk, she says no.  So I decided I wouldn’t try to have the make up talk and see if she’d crack first.  (She didn’t, but I started the make up talk with a question so she had to be vulnerable first, which came a close second.))

In case you were wondering, this falls under the category of “More Insane than I Could Have Imagined.”  It falls under this category because Buddhism has made me capable of realizing that I’m doing these things, whereas before I just thought I was right and justified…or needy if I wanted to make up really badly.  Now I know I’m crazy.  My partner seems to prefer this…though I think she could have skipped the 3 days of playing chicken.

Anyhow, the good news is that when we had the make up talk, about, one might add, the same issue we’ve been arguing about for 25 years (is she being passive-aggressive, am I invasively describing what’s happening inside her head and is either one of us being really, really, really bad…or, even further, are we reminding each other of our mothers (answer to all questions, yes, yes, yes, and yes))…we actually made some F%$#ing headway!  After 25 years!  We are aiming for satya…you know, some relentless honesty about what we do, what we’re up to, and how much we’re defending ourselves when we want to just love and be close but are, guess what?  scared of being hurt.

My partner said, “I’m trying so hard to hear you and be honest,” and I really believed her, and I was trying, too, and we both do know the score, after 25 years.  I always say that the script is really well memorized for these arguments, and I could say her lines, in order, just as she could say mine.  There are, apparently, couples who don’t argue, and instead don’t talk at all and just resent each other endlessly.  We talk, resent each other, talk some more, resent each other some more, confess we’re scared, especially now, as we’re taking this Letting Go of Fear workshop together.

Tonight, at dinner, my partner was like, “I really hated the middle of this fight.”

I was like, “You know, I just started watching the procession of my own reactions, and I got really interested in them, and then curious, because I hadn’t seen it this way before, so it wasn’t that bad for me.”

She started laughing really hard.

I was like, “I’m just like that.  I get curious, and then it’s like, ‘Hey, someone just cut off my leg.  I’ve never had my leg cut off before.  It’s really painful.  But I didn’t know it felt like this.'”

She’s like, “I know.  I know what you’re like.”

Which is, in the end, the sum up of being married for 25 years.

I can say, for example, that I know since I didn’t print her out a check sheet for the fear homework (because we were fighting) she probably didn’t do it.

Here’s the surprise–I didn’t do it perfectly.
I only did 1-2 most days, not 3, because I was too busy being with my friends from NYC.

Miracles happen.  All the time.  We just have to stop moving and see them.

Metta for my partner.  Who I love, who I love, who I love.