Monday, January 30, 2012

Singin' With Etta

This photo of Etta James isn't mine.  I don't know who owns the rights to it, but I don't, and I don't want to.  It isn't mine.  I'm just passing it forward, sharing it.  'Cuz that's what makes the world go 'round...connects us.



When I heard that Etta James had passed from this world, it stirred within me memories of when I was a teenage girl, when I dreamed of being a singer.  I loved the blues...the way they reached deep, and spoke to me there, evoking my heart and soul.  I began practicing daily, singing along with my favorite blues singers - Etta James being one of them.  I'd set my little recorder next to me, start the record up, ( yes, they really did exist ), and practice for hours trying to capture that soulful sound. 

There was a lot I didn't know then, understandably.  Like, I didn't know why I couldn't produce that rich quality of sound in my voice.  It frustrated me.  On playback, my voice sounded shallow, lacking depth, like it was just skipping stones along the surface of the water. 

I didn't know that to sing with soul, we have to bring our own soul forth from the depths of our being.  I didn't know that we must put our heart out there, take risks, express the love found within, live it.  I didn't know it was I who was holding that expression back, not feeling safe to express what lay deep within me.  I didn't know I was the one keeping my love inside me, hiding it, trying to protect something that didn't need protection.  My heart and soul yearned to express the love inside.  I didn't know that to be loved, I had to love.  I didn't know...I was the one who needed to set love free from within me.

I also didn't know that singing into a recorder was, for me, the same as writing here on this blog.  Yes, I'm the only one in the room, singing, or writing, but it's me singing and writing with the intention of sharing what I have inside me with you.  It's me bringing my heart and soul forth, from the depths of my being, expressing it here on a page, or singing it out to the world, to be seen and heard. 

I am here.  Singing.  Writing.  Loving.

Yes, I think back on that young girl that I was, who isn't much different than who I am now.  The only difference is now I have practiced living my song.  I've practiced bringing forth what has always lived there inside me.  I dived deep, bringing back another piece of what I found to the surface, until all the pieces came together in one glorious song. 

There were moments, flashes of who I am, peeks into who I would grow to be.  There were many nights, when I climbed a hill that looked over a lake, where I'd sit alone, on top of a big stone, under a starry night sky, my heart full of yearning, and I'd sing.  I'd sing Etta James' songs, Billie Holiday, Carla Thomas, Dinah Washington...I'd sing the words from my heart, setting it free, feeling safe to let it all out in a song.  No voice recorder, no audience.  Just me and my voice, full of soul, singing out to the big sky. 

I now see I grew into my yearning heart.  At last.  Thank you Etta, for singing your song, for singing with heart and soul, and allowing me to sing along with you until I found mine.




( video belongs to and made by xtinaroma.  She says it was her "first video made with Movie Maker!"  It's perfect.  The song belongs to neither one of us.  We just like Etta :)

-----

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Faith ~ The Gray Area of Doing (Pt. 1)

"Faith is not something to grasp, it is a state to grow into."  Mahatma Gandhi
 "Faith and doubt both are needed - not as antagonists, but working side by side to take us around the unknown curve."                 Lillian Smith

After my mother had a stroke, I sat beside her hospital bed listening to her spirit.  I waited.  She would either leave this earth, or stay.  It was out of my hands.  Within that place, that time in between, waiting to see which way the scales would tip, images ran amok in my head, where past, present and future collided.  I found myself projecting into a future where the outcome was unsure, with possible scenarios playing out for each vision.  I didn't even know how to feel in that place, where nothing was yet decided.  I was happy my mother was still alive, but so sad she was alive where she was.  So I surrendered, again and again, into the moment.  What would be, would be, and I'd cross that future bridge, whatever the outcome, when I got there.  I waited.

It was many weeks later when I finally felt her spirit return.  She'd been conscious for awhile, but that wasn't my mother.  I don't know who that was.  Even one of her friends, while visiting with her in hospice, said to my mother, "I don't know you.  Some stranger sits in the place of my friend."  Yet finally, one morning, I walked into her room, looked into her eyes, and saw my mother looking back at me.  Later, I told her, "This is going to be the hardest thing you've ever done in your life...standing back up.  But stand, you will.  I'll help you."  I didn't know how I was going to do that, for I had no support, no job, issues of my own, but I meant what I said.  I'd help.   

Sometimes, most times, I think it's a good thing when we don't have a clue what we're stepping into.  Love rules the day when it's the motivating factor behind all our decisions in the moment.  I certainly had fear, and felt zero confidence in my ability to cope with all that was transpiring, much less in actually coming up with what I'd do about helping my mother stand back up.  But I was in it...there...standing knee deep in a situation that demanded courage.  I suppose I could've given up, thrown in the towel, and it wasn't like it didn't occur to me, but what does that really look like?  I'd still be where I was...may as well deal with it head on.  What I didn't know then, was that I would also be learning how to stand back up again.  An old way of living and being was being done away with, and I, we, were the determining factor of our own outcome with every step taken, every decision made.

I look back at all of us then - myself, my daughter and her husband, my mother - a small family who literally felt like it was us against the world.  So much happened...so much.  My mother's stroke worked as a kind of wake up call.  It was hard.  We faced one hard truth after another.  And there isn't a one of us who didn't feel the horrendous bite of poverty.  We lost so much, had to give up, and let go of so much.  I had moments of despair, when I'd look at my mother, and know, I knew, she was not getting the care she needed.  I felt I was failing her.  I felt we were all failing her.  What made it worse is, by the same token, she also fought it.  Like a part of her didn't want to stand back up.  What is that thing in us, when we've taken a fall, and feel so debilitated, and the thing we're fighting the most is that thing inside us that says, "I don't want to."  The other part eggs us on, saying, "You must."  It's either that or die.  But the reality is we don't die.  Then we're struck with the knowledge that life is a bitch...and then you live.  We picture it never ending.  I gotta live this way?  I didn't sign up for this. 

I don't want to.

You must.

It could have torn us apart.  Shadows rose from all sides, inside us and out.  We bitched and moaned and cried and held on to each other.  We threatened, bit at each other.  We went insane.  Yet underlying every bit of it was a love for each other that would win the day.  Oh, we didn't know it then, we just kept choosing it, day in and day out, hanging in there with each other, holding each other up, holding up our hopes and dreams, reminding each other of them when one of us slipped into the dark.

We kept walking, sometimes feeling like we were pulling white rabbits out of a hat as we went.  Maybe this will work...only to discover it was a dead end.  One dead end after another.  A magical rabbit that wasn't magical at all.  It was just an ordinary rabbit.  I'm amazed at us, how we kept going, kept doing, kept trying, forcing our trembling selves to reach way beyond what we thought we were capable of doing, of being.  We don't know that until we do it.  And sometimes we lose our eyesight in the doing.  We lose sight of the fact that we are literally, moment by moment, day by day, walking in faith by the doing.  Blind, we think we've lost our way, only to come to the point, like now, that we realize, no, we found our way.  Our blindness is healed, our limbs are restored when we keep walking anyway. 

He said, again and again, "Your faith has healed you."  Your faith, He said.  He simply provided the mirror.  "You did that.  I, of myself, can do nothing...for you, until you walk your faith.  Live it."

Yes, I am in awe of us, and oh so proud.  We were so deeply impacted, and are still healing, slowly, in many ways, but when talking to my mother, or daughter on the phone, I make sure and point out, "we did it, and are continuing to do it."  What was born from a devastating, and desperate place is taking a beautiful shape.  We're walking our hope, our dream, one gray step at a time.  We all learned to stand back up again, and it was the hardest thing we ever did, and we remain standing...with love winning the day.

---
 

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Dangling Carrots

"..and you can dangle your carrot
but I ain't gunna reach for it
cuz I need both my hands
to play my guitar.."


Ani Difranco
lyrics from "The Million You Never Made"

I once had a conversation with a man who was trying to overcome a terrible drug addiction.  We sat in the dark, and he suddenly asked me what I hoped for in my life.  At the time, he had been clean for almost a month, but he pointed out there had been other times, other attempts made, when he had abstained from his drug of choice only to find himself using again.  It wasn't only the drugs, he said, it was an entire way of living.  His "friends" would call, voices of temptation...people who knew what he was trying to do, but they'd make fun of him, or get angry, silkily attacking his manhood, making him out to be a coward.  He said he knew he needed to remove himself from them, find new people to be with.  Yet all he felt when he did so was lonely. 

It was a terrible battle he waged.  One in which, I knew, he secretly despaired of ever winning.  I felt the weariness in his soul, a spirit of hopelessness laying in wait, hanging out on the edges with clutching fingers, ready to consume.  I asked him, "What is your dream.  What is your hope?"  Without any hesitation he answered, "I want gray hair."  I faced him then and asked, "Gray hair?  That is your hope?"  He cast his eyes down, suddenly embarrassed, and quietly said, "My dream is to someday see gray hair on my head when I look in the mirror, because that will mean I made it.  It'll mean I overcame these drugs, and lived to be an old man." 

Like stars, his words hung in the dark.  I knew they had been uttered from the depth of his heart.  I felt the innocent truth of them take wing like delicate wisps.  I caught them, and held them gently in my hand, added the strength of my faith to them, and whispered, "Let it be," then blew them upward to Spirit.

I knew this man for only a day, our ships passing by each other for one brief moment.  But he lives on in my heart, periodically coming to mind, and when I think of him, I renew my faith in his vision.  Let it be.

Our hopes, our dreams, are so precious.  I wonder sometimes how humanity can either disregard them in another and in themselves, so blatantly, devaluing the person they live in, or play on them, try to use them for their own benefit.  There are those who know of our hope, from individuals and families, to corporations, and will present themselves in such a way as to dangle the fulfillment of that hope before us, using our hope against us, playing it.  Treating our hope like a drug, and they are the dealer, cheapening it, while in the background, in secret, they have no intention of fulfilling it.  They say all the right words, drawing us in, while never quite giving anything back.  The only time they give is when their instincts tell them their control over us is slipping.  They rush in with goodwill, or hurt feelings, talking beautiful, empty words.. effectively.  Working it, making it appear as if it is we who are in the wrong.  Undermining.  And so we doubt.

I walk this world, and see people, fellow humans, who are struggling, trying to survive, while a corporation offers work, temporarily.  They reel them in, these people who need work, who are so willing to work, dangling the carrot of a permanent position, while having a system in play that sets up failure.  "Aw, you didn't make it?  Well, come back the next time we're hiring...you're a good worker.  We'd love to have you back."  Meanwhile, they give the barest minimum, while asking us to give our all.  And we do, because we need the work, and want that steady paycheck coming in.  While the corporation steadily makes millions off our back.

I see a young couple, trying to make it on their own, struggling, with their extended family not talking to them, or not willing to help, because they didn't do what the family wanted.  In the background is the message, and has always been the message, "Do what we want you to do, be who we want you to be, and we'll give you all our love, and all the material good that goes with it"...yet never quite doing it, never quite giving it... The young couple made a different choice, their hopes and dreams lay elsewhere, and the family seeks to punish.  Now and again, the family dangles a carrot, "If you come back, we'll help you, we'll give to you."  The family wants them to fail.  How can that be?

Is it any wonder we are tempted to lose hope?  Is it any wonder we begin to feel beaten down, and go to the "fuck it" place when it appears there is no one who gives a rats ass to support our hopes and dreams?  Is it any wonder we turn around and become that which we hate?  When in Rome...do as the Romans do.

Don't you see?  Our hope is the most valuable, and powerful thing we have.  The drug dealers recognize it, the corporations recognize it, our screwed up families recognize it, and either feel threatened by it, or seek to benefit from it.  Love and hope are so closely bound, there is no separating them.  Grab hold with both hands, and care for your hope.  Treat it as you would a baby.  Safe guard it, bundle it up and keep it warm, feed it, nurture it, until one day it grows up to be set loose on the world.  And when it is, when the potential of it becomes noticed, don't sell it.  Don't ever sell it.  It is your inheritance.  Treat the vision of it as a promise given to you...and now go put effort in fulfilling it.  Only you can. 

Let it be.

---

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Hope

 "The person who says it cannot be done should not interrupt the person doing it."
--Chinese Proverb

"Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen."  Hebrews 11:1

I read something yesterday morning that disturbed me greatly.  As I read it, I heard a big, loud NO rise up inside me, and felt a whoosh of determination spring to action on it's tail.  The subject was hope, and while I understand where the writer is coming from, and what she's trying to convey, which is good, because it had to do with having faith, she was basically minimizing hope's role in the whole scheme of things.  In fact, her message was, in a nut shell, do away with hope.  "Hope is for sissies." 

Wrong.

If there is anything I've witnessed in myself, and in others, it's the fact that it takes almost herculean effort to hang onto hope.  Sometimes...hope is all we've got.  I've witnessed, and had countless conversations with folks who are afraid to hope, and will distance themselves from it, when hope is what they need to grab hold of.  And all of them voice the same reason for not hoping..."I'm tired of having my hopes dashed, trampled.  I'm tired of feeling disappointment.  It's better not to hope."

Wrong again.

For hope itself isn't the problem.  Hope is the water, the sun, the fuel that generates the seed of vision within us.  It's the first, oh so tender touch of love reaching tentatively toward a vision.  In some, it's not so much hope that is the problem, but what they're pinning their hope on, what they're watering, trying to make grow.  If we pin our hope on anything outside ourselves, it won't work.  I'll say it again, because this is important -- if we pin hope on anything outside ourselves, it will not work.  I'll give an example:

I can hope all day long, all year long, all lifelong, that my loved one will stop drinking himself to oblivion, or my husband will stop beating me, or a particular person will love me, or that mankind will suddenly stop warring and be at peace.  I can pin my hope there, focus on that desire, that vision, and I'll be disappointed every single time.  In fact, wouldn't I be setting myself up for disappointment?  I would be setting myself up for it because we can't get in the way of another person's choices.  Literally, we can't.  We can try, and do try, but it is a wasted effort.  They'll do what they do until they know better.  We can't make them be any different than what they already are.  It is we who need to come to an acceptance that that is who they are right now, then make our own choices from there.  But we can't make a person love us, or behave differently, ever.  We aren't the one's to do that.  They are.  It can only come when they decide they want to change, or be different.  And I'm tellin' you right now, for that to happen, they'll need a whole lot of hope to bring it into being, to manifest it, demonstrate it.  Because the hope they'll need to hang onto is the new, more loving, vision of themselves. That it's possible, and even allowed in some cases.  That they're not stuck being an asshole. 

Each of us, individually, and collectively, have a vision of something beautiful inside us.  It begins as nothing more than a tiny seed, an idea, that needs the spark of hope to quicken it, start it growing.  It is a seed of contribution, what we are here for, to give our own brand of art, or beauty, or voice, or heart.  Gandhi said, "You must be the change you want to see in the world." Your vision is important.  It all begins there.  It means something.  What you are seeing, and would like to see change, is the very thing you need to be.  You are the one that needs to bring it here, otherwise you wouldn't see it.  It's why the vision was given to you.  It isn't your job to change others.  It's your job to be that change, therefore bringing it to the world.  The greatest impact you can make, the greatest change you can make, is when you decide to be that vision you hold within you.  When you decide to enact it.  No matter how small it is, it will wing it's way out from you, create a ripple effect, that will impact an entire world, no matter how seemingly small the dream.   

And that is where faith steps in.  Hope turns into belief, matures into faith, and faith generates action.  Hope is closely tied our vision, and helps it grow when we gear our mind toward believing it, seeing the potential, allowing the possibility of it.  Most folks stop right there, get caught up in their doubt, their fear, their guilt, worry, whatever. Then they look outward to try to find someone who supports their hope.  Don't do that.  Because more likely than not, you'll come across the naysayers.  Unfortunately, the ones who claim to love you will be the ones who will have the loudest voices, because they know, instinctively, things are about to change.  And they may not want to change.  They may not want you to change, because if you change, they'll have to change.  Change may scare them.  Even though the thing you are desiring to bring is all about you, not them, and would benefit all.  So if you start talking about your hope, when the seed of vision is so tender, before hope has had it's season to generate growth to make it stronger, you'll more than likely find your seed dying before it even has a chance to grow roots. 

You'll know when your seed is ready when your hope in the vision has finally matured into faith, and requires action.  That moment right there is another vulnerable time, because now you're bringing what was unseen, the vision inside, into manifestation by your action.  Now you are bringing what was made in spirit to the earth, through you.  More often than not, the journey of that vision from spirit to earth is going to be rocky, like a space ship entering our earth's atmosphere.  That time is delicate, and we can experience long suffering, as we walk our talk, walk our vision, having to hang on to it with everything in us.  Because now the ball is rolling, there ain't no going back, until the vision has been fulfilled, manifested.  Until the evidence of the thing made inside us is seen.  It's just like a baby's journey into the world.  It's exactly like that.   

Hope is inception.  An immaculate conception.  It is holy and sacred.  And it is the very beginning of creation.

---

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Feedback

I was having a conversation last night with an online acquaintance about writing.  Specifically, we chatted briefly about my blog, my writing.  We've been chatting off and on for the last couple of years.  I never knew he was a writer until recently, and vice versa.  After a long absence from being in touch, we recently connected again in online conversation, asking and answering the usual questions about how our lives had been going.  I told him I'd been writing, that I created a blog, and it was then he shared that he is a writer as well.  He asked for my blog address, and I gave it to him, then let it go, with no expectation whatsoever that he'd take a look.

He looked.

Not only did he look, he gave some feedback.   

I'll be honest...when I saw him online last night, the farthest thing from my mind was whether he'd read my blog.  It wasn't even a thought.  So when I reached out to say howdy, the last thing I expected was his response to be that he'd read my blog.  With that one statement, everything in me came to a halt.  I found myself suddenly feeling suspended.  I almost didn't want to talk to him anymore...forever.  Yet there I was, caught between a desire to know what he thought, or to slam that door shut, or better yet, not answer it at all.  I waited, to see if he had more to say, but that's all he said, that he read my blog...and a huge part of me was like....AND...?  How can someone just make a statement like that with nothing else following?  Was he waiting for a response?  I didn't want to give it.  I didn't know what to give!  The silence within that moment was agonizing as I struggled with deciding what to do with him.  It crossed my mind that he might be over there wondering how he himself was going to get out of the moment?  Was he saying to himself, "Shit, I knocked on that door, now what do I tell her if she opens it?"

Finally, I decided to go with the simple truth, and told him I didn't know how to respond, because I felt surprised he'd read my blog at all, which in turn surprised him.  He asked about my reaction, and with me still feeling hedgey, I felt my brain start to hurt, because the conversation was beginning to lean toward tricky ground.  I didn't understand why it was tricky ground, I just knew it was.  Again, I decided for honesty, took a deep breath, and plunged in by answering that I don't receive a whole lot of support for this particular endeavor, from friends, family, or strangers alike.  With the exception of maybe one or two, it's viewed more like a fluffy hobby among the people I know, who haven't even bothered to read it, much less give me any feedback.  So being in that type of environment, I told him, kind of forced me to do away with expectations, which I found made me feel better, because I experienced less disappointment that way.  He understood, as any fellow writer would, and said feedback was like food for a writer.

And that's when I understood my initial reaction to his statement that he'd read my blog. 

I was more hungry than I thought.  I didn't realize how hungry I was until that very moment.  I'd been putting that hunger on the backburner, ignoring it, denying it's existence within me, in an attempt to deal with the lack of response I've received to whatever I put out here.  I know I have readers.  Anyone who blogs knows they have readers, because we all have basic meters giving us stats on the traffic we get to our blogs.  While I'm happy, and grateful I have readers who follow my blog, and a handful of subscribers, I wonder at times why I don't hear from them.  In fact, if not for Estrella, from Life's A Stage, unknowingly saving the day with a comment here, this blog would have been deleted several times over.  Yet those are folks I don't know up close and personal, and I understand I have to earn my way into this field.  So I haven't wondered about them as much as I've wondered about the complete lack of support I've received from those who claim to know and love me.  As soon as I get a "real" job, they're all over that, as if I suddenly joined the ranks of the living again after a long absence of being ill. 

Truthfully, I suddenly didn't care if my online friend liked my blog or not.  He was at least going to give me some feedback, anything.  I've been running across this kind of scenario often of late.  And it's not just about writing.  I've encountered it at work, ( my "real" job ), and in personal relationships.  And it's not just about me.  I've been hearing others talk about it.  What is this lack of reflection?  What is this lack of response, feedback, like their voices, their very being, their presence isn't even noticed.

It's dreams.  They aren't feeling seen, or heard, when the dream tucked in their heart isn't supported, or when it's treated with disdain, or worse, apathy.  Dreams have always been important to me.  Connecting with them, doing them.  I had a recent conversation with my daughter, and was sharing with her my decision to give my roommate some money toward his dream for his birthday.  I noticed he wasn't getting a lot of support toward it, and I saw that, in his spirit, he was beginning to go to the "fuck it" place.  That's a no go place for me.  And can kill a person's spirit faster than anything else on the planet.  May as well put up cross bones and a skull, with the word poison on that particular area within us.  He was so grateful, and I felt grateful that I had the money to give.  My daughter's response to it was simply, "Thank you, Mama."  I have to admit her response confused me, so I asked her why it was she was thanking me.  She said, "Because you supported his dream.  You did something about it.  It's important."  I still don't quite understand her gratitude, but the message is clear...we all need support with our dreams.  We need to know someone finds it just as important as we do.  We need it recognized by others, and uplifted.  We need that. 

Not long ago, I said to a friend regarding my writing,

"I don't know who I'm speaking to anymore.  I like a two way conversation.  I like connecting.  If one person is doing all the talking, then how is that a conversation?  I feel like I'm just talking to myself on my blog.  Not really reaching anyone, connecting with anyone.  I could talk to myself all day long if that's what it was all about for me.  But it isn't.  Never has been.  What good is that?  I'm in a conundrum."

We need feedback.  We need support for our dreams.  We need that reflection, or our dreams just die a slow death, and we find ourselves wandering, doing jobs we don't want to do, feeling divided.  No one realizes, or manifests, a dream all by himself.  There is always support and encouragement along the way, whether they choose to recognize it or not. 

What did my online friend say?  He said he liked it, and named a particular poem I wrote.  It may seem a small thing, a small remark from someone I haven't even met, but it's enough to keep me going in my dream.  It's enough to keep me walking one more mile.

---

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Building From What Remains

Nuremberg before WWII. Photo from Nuremberg_Scrapbooks collection of Boston Public Library and edited by Pirkheimer via Wikipedia
The last few months, as I've considered my future, and what I desire to do with it, I've been thinking a lot about my stint in the Army.  I was stationed for 2 years in F├╝rth, just outside Nuremberg, Germany.  On my days off I'd take a cab to the city, then get out and walk to explore all it had to offer.  The city and it's history fascinated me.  I'd never been to a place outside the U.S. except for a quick jaunt into Mexico when I was 18, and I certainly had never lived, for any extended period of time, outside my own culture.  As I became familiar with the city and it's people, my favorite places to haunt ended up being one of the cathedrals, the railway station, and a small pub I discovered, tucked in a little hidey hole located not far from my favorite cathedral.

As I walked the city, I noticed many of the buildings had patterns of small holes in them, all of them around shoulder height.  In fact, the scars were so prevalent that my curiosity finally got the better of me, and I had to ask someone what the story was behind them.  The answer to that question ( bullet holes ) began opening a door in my mind to understanding a culture and a people whom I grew to greatly admire and respect for their resilience, perseverance, and spirit of renewal.  I'd read a bit about Germany's history, of course, in high school; dry, distant, factual accounts, mainly surrounding the subject of WWII.  But it's quite a different experience living there, immersed in their culture, having conversations with folks who bring with them the living memories of devastation, and the ability to find within themselves what it takes to rebuild again from what remains. 

Photo from ushmm.org
Only 40 years had gone by since the city and it's people had been bombed continuously by the Americans, brought low, to nothing more than rubble, with the skeletons of some buildings remaining.  The hostility I felt at times, coming from the people, began to make sense to me.  In some, the memory of it was still fresh, they'd lived it, and seeing American soldiers still occupying their land and city was an insult that asked too much of them to be able to forgive.  My main haunts became my favorite places because that is where I found people who willingly shared their stories.  I had 100's of conversations with young and old alike, each carrying a different perspective, bringing a unique view, yet each affected by the history and occupation of Germany.  The majority of them played no part in the war, yet were nevertheless caught up in the effects of it.  Like children standing helplessly between two arguing parents, they were the ones who were the most deeply impacted. 

I've never been much of a victim.  That is, to say, I've never thought of myself as a victim.  I actually considered, at one time, that there was no such thing.  I was wrong.  Yes, I've had horrible things happen to me that were beyond my control, and while I desired to pretend I wasn't affected, I discovered there is no way I could not have been impacted from the choices made by others.  Choices that changed the picture of my life in such a way to at least feel like the difference depicted in those two pictures above of a city before and after those choices were enacted. 

The past few years I have been impacted by choices made by others, caught up in a wind of change that brought it's own kind of devastation to my life, and to those I love.  We've all felt, from one degree to another, the effects from choices made in the past, creating the state of economy in this society as it stands right now.  Nothing just suddenly happens.  It is created over time, oftentimes mindlessly, without thought or care to who it will impact, or it's far reaching effects.  And those of us who remain in the wake of the choices made by those who created it, are left having to decide what to do with the rubble and skeletons left standing.  Starting all over is never easy, and I know I have been tempted to seek someone to blame, and to point my finger at them, as if that would change one thing as it stands right now.  As if that would make it all not so.  As if finding the culprit, the evil doer, would act like some sort of magic button to take it all back. 

There is no taking it back.  What was done, is done.  What was made, is made.  I stand in the results of it.  We are all standing in the effects...impacted.

So, I've been thinking a lot about my time in Germany.  Looking at, and considering what the folks who lived in Nuremberg did.  How did it feel looking out over the rubble of their once great, beautiful city.  Or looking at what once was their lives, and their livelihood.  I'm sure many felt like giving up, too tired and weary to go on, after too many years of coping with the horrors of war.  It's the shock, I think, more than anything else, that can be our undoing.  Or a series of shocks, brought on slowly, one after the other, to finally fray our nerve endings to the point we no longer feel anything like wonder, or the blessings of the sun on our face.  For some, living in the memories of what used to be feels safer than finding acceptance in what stands before them now. 

Photo by Manfred Braun via Wikipedia
Yet the people of Nuremberg somehow found within themselves a way to shake off the debilitating shock and grief, or at least the ability to stand and walk through it, and saw something of value still remained in the rubble.  They saw foundations of buildings that once stood tall, and began to build again from them.  They didn't graze the ground to start over from scratch, nor leave to start all over somewhere else.  They didn't fold up and die in the rubble, to become skeletons themselves.  They didn't allow ruin to stand in remembrance, other than the scars left in evidence from harder times.  Instead, they took stock of what they had, of what remained, and used it to build again. The people who live there now are also affected, and greatly benefited, by those who made the choice to rebuild.  It works both ways, the choices we make.  We have the power to create or destroy, leaving in our wake the effects to be felt by those who come after us. 

The past few months, after finally finding a measure of peace in my heart, and in my life once again, slowly awakening to the fact that the tides have finally changed again, the bombs have stopped falling, I've been taking stock of what remains in my life, and as I've sorted through the rubble, I've discovered a different kind of foundation still stands.  I can honestly say I was never consciously aware of it before, never having experiences that brought it to the fore.  Or so I thought.  We take ourselves for granted, I think, as much as we do each other, never fully knowing what we are made of until we are up against the winds of such drastic change.  I was just as weary and tired of battle as those folks in Nuremberg must have felt after their city was left in ruins.  But the choice to rebuild came from somewhere deep within them.  I'm sure many, at the time, discovered a love for their city, for their people, their culture, that they never knew existed within them, and with the discovery, they brought forth what was good, and rebuilt from there, instead of allowing a few to destroy it.  They did it for themselves and generations to come.  From that place bloomed vision once again, and from there they found the courage to rebuild...brick by brick.  That spirit, from the love in their hearts for good, was their foundation, and is the only way they could have even seen and valued the foundations that remained before them.  The enemy, the warmongers, didn't destroy everything. 

And I have found the same in me.  After all the bombs, after all the devastation, after all the grief, and shock, from being knocked sideways again and again...not everything was destroyed, or even can be...for it is within me.  A foundation set long ago, by a family of men and women who didn't give up, who wouldn't quit, who kept moving, who kept going until they found what they were looking for, their focus pinned on it, unwavering, holding on to a vision of good.  If I fold, if I quit, if I give up, I leave a legacy of hopelessness that has already taken too many.  I won't leave that legacy with my daughter, or my grandson, or anyone who I eventually leave behind.  I'll hold on to what is good...and build from there.

In my mind and heart I've been building again.  A vision slowly takes shape of what I'd like to do, and merely awaits my fulfillment of it, to set it into form by moving on it.  Nothing is rebuilt without first having a vision of what we are building.  What remains is good, and creative, and may look similar to what stood before, with scars leftover from harder times, but no one knows what it really takes, to have it all, then have it go to rubble, then rebuild it all over again.  That takes grit.  And apparently, I'm made of much more of the stuff than I thought I had in me. 

With my eyes pinned on the horizons of a future yet to be, I've started building again, brick by brick, from what remains, choosing to create, having found the creator in me, rather than destroy, with my choices.  And hopefully, what I leave in my wake, will come to benefit those who follow. 

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