not the only one…

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Why don’t I write more?

I have a blog. I should use it. I don’t know why I don’t write more, and specifically why I don’t use my blog. Maybe I worry about not having enough material, that I’ll run out of things to say. But I have thousands of thoughts per day, not that they are all writing “gold” but why should I be so concerned? A blog can just be a place to work my ideas out, to express my thoughts and wrestle with daily emotions.

Am I too buttoned up? I do feel something holding me back… what is it? Is there a secret I’m keeping from myself? Something I’m denying? So strange this feeling is. My partner picks up on it too. Maybe I’m not comfortable sharing my whole self with the world, or with myself! Maybe I worry I won’t be accepted or I’ll be unable to explain myself. That’s a terrible thought – having to explain myself. I think I have anxiety about explaining myself to others who do not understand how I feel or act. Like I have to justify myself to others. maybe i would just rather get along? Like when I dated a girl and I had to explain why to people who claimed I “wasn’t acting like myself.” The thing is, I am always myself, on my better days I’m more conscious of my self, my actions and my words. On my bad days, I’m less careful and I react instead of listening. But this is probably getting off track. Either way, there is a part of me that I am hiding, I feel a part of me inside that is screaming to get out but doesn’t know how. I have lots of thoughts I hold back because I just get push back and I’m not sure to have a dialogue about them with others. Which is probably why writing is a beautiful medium for me. I get to put my thoughts out there, and maybe through writing I can start the difficult dialogues I’d like to have…

Lately, I’ve been identifying with my 6 year old self — it’s joyful and fun. I have been practicing relaxing and slowing down and listening. Its really fun. I talk too much anyway. Slowing down is very eye opening and I find life slows down when I slow down, when I choose to savor moments and observe. In slowing down observation becomes easier and life becomes more clear. Changes in energy and emotion are easier to pick up. My view of the world broadens and I’m able to take in and see much, much more. When I am stressed and obsessed with tiny troubles in my life, always worrying about the future or the past, I missed so much. I missed reactions from others that I am better at picking up. I missed gentleness. I’m now able to pick up changes in energy across a room in a deeper way and I’m learning to see the world and people in a more layered reality. There have always been multiple ideas, emotions, and agendas occurring at once and it’s refreshing to learn that I am now seeing and understanding more than I used to. It’s intriguing and it makes me want to slow down even more.

I will commit to writing more. I don’t know how often. I do not wish to make a wild claim like, “I’ll write everyday,” but I probably should, and I should probably stick to it. I’m starting a writing group in Edmonds. Something for people who work during the day like I do. My plan is for the group to meet every other week. One week we do a writing prompt and write and the next week we share and receive feedback, and then we alternate. I’d like to create more space for writing in my life and to connect with other writers to help myself improve.

I’m working on my first children’s book. I think its pretty good. Next step is to edit and find feedback and then start searching for a publishing company I might like to work with… and then it’s judgement day.

And here we go, I have my first blog post in a long time. Now, that wasn’t so hard.

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I’m a good robot

I’m a good robot. I’m really good at doing things I “have” to do but not very good at taking care of me nor investing in my mental and physical health. I’ve been trained to be motivated to “go to job” and “clean house” and “be a good hostess” and “make other people feel comfortable” (even when I feel uncomfortable). I’m really good at these things. And, I’m really not good at motivating myself to do things that will make me happy or to investigate and spend time pondering what will “make me happy.” It’s just easier and less invasive to do things for others or to work that job to pay the bills and pay for happy hour drinks so I don’t actually have to think about me and what will make me happy.

And then I feel like a failure every time my partner sincerely asks me “what do you want?,” in an effort to push me towards my utmost potential, and I’ve been asked the question so many times I already feel defeated. I dejectedly say, “I don’t know.” But I do know! And I’ve already told him a hundred times, but here I am still not doing anything I say. “I want to write and sing and make the world a better place!” Why does he keep asking me? Why don’t I take action? And the world turns…

Well, I heard recently that to become a master at something, one must put 10,000 of work toward that one thing. Now, here is something I can work with. Under that logic, I’m a master at two things so far: fundraising (my day job which I’ve been doing for almost 7 years, which equals about 14,000 hours) and I earned a Master of Arts Degree in English Literature (before I fell into my current career of non-profit fundraising). So, I’m not a total failure! But, that’s really not the point, and no one is keeping score anyway (or are they?).

Back to me. I want to write, sing and sew. Yes, I really do want to sew! It’s part of this craving I have to create and produce. I started crocheting a couple years ago and it was thrilling. Seriously! Thrilling to create useful items like really warm hats, scarves and blankets to give as gifts and to use on myself during our lovely, gray, Seattle days.

But I really want to write. And I realize I NEED to. Why is something so good for me, so hard for me to actualize? Its so easy for me to get stuck. To distract myself. To start pleasing others or just doing “tasks” that need to get done instead of working on my heart and soul. I need to push through. I need to make myself write every day. I just need to. What’s it going to take? Every time I write, I feel better, but most days I just want to push the urge to write away like a pesky fly. As if I’m waging a battle against myself, resisting my true self at every turn. What am I so afraid of? Rejection, probably. And yet, I work in a field filled with constant rejection — nonprofit fundraising! People say no to me almost daily, and sometimes two or three times a day. Is this a cruel trick? Is fate testing me, trying to toughen me up? I know I have powerful words inside me. I know I can make a difference through my pen. Why must i fight myself so? “I should be happy to share my gifts with the world,” a friend of mine tells me.

Resist the robot. How do you resist?


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Poor and Rich share the same America

The American life is a constant balance between having enough $ to “live” in our inflated, over-priced society and giving enough to support the many people left behind by colonial capitalism. I put the word “live” in quotes because that is a highly relative term in today’s America. The stratifications within our society are so stark that one wealthy American may find it hard to “live” without their iPhone, organic food, or designer car(s), while another American, hidden in the woods behind million dollar mansions, finds it hard to “live” on change from pan handling, food from dumpsters or food banks, and one pair of old worn out shoes.

The divide between poor and rich continues to grow. Just yesterday, I was doorbelling for my husband’s campaign for state representative in a middle- to upper-class neighborhood and learned about another encampment of people living in the woods. Part of this neighborhood is filled with million dollar homes that wind down the hillside with gorgeous panoramic views of the beautiful Puget Sound and Olympic Mountains. I met an older woman in her yard and after we’d talked a bit about why my husband is running… fully funding public schools, restoring our social safety net and ending homelessness… she stopped me and said she was worried about me walking alone out here in this neighborhood. She said “its a nice neighborhood, so you wouldn’t guess its a problem, but we have a ton of homeless people living on the 15 acres over on the other side of my street. And, just last week they found a woman strangled to death. And that’s not the first time.” I thanked her for letting me know and called my husband to let him know. He was doorbelling not too far from me, so he came by and met the woman and her nephew to learn more. And as we talked to more people in the neighborhood, they were all very aware, and had varying responses, but all were concerned for the safety of the neighborhood.

Of course, this isn’t the first time we’ve heard about people living in the woods or parks. It happens everywhere but we notice that it’s happening more and more, in every city and suburb and in rural towns too. Its a problem, but its not just a problem because homeowners feel unsafe or because crimes are occurring, its also a problem because there are people “living” without homes.

Homeowners don’t know what to do so they call the police. Terrible crimes like murders are happening, so the police should be alerted. That’s the first layer to the problem:  stop the violence.  But what happens next?  Why are there people living in the woods in the first place?

In America, as competition over resources increases, our capitalist system creates more “casualties.” The “casualties” of capitalism are people without access to money. If you’ve paid attention to the social and economic history of America, you’ve seen that chattel slavery is the root of our economic system.  Even after chattel slavery of Africans was abolished a century after the birth of America, the economic model continued in the form of feudalism where Africans and poor whites could rent land from landowners only to be charged high interest rates so it was not possible to accumulate wealth. Many Africans were enslaved again. This is not unlike today, where a majority of all Americans live with debt that hinders them from living them a life of their own making. Many Americans are so strapped with debt, they are forced to get a job with corporations like Wal-Mart or fast food chains who contribute to the poverty and homelessness problem in our country because they game the system to escape paying taxes. Jobs With Justice has a great info graphic that perfectly sums up how Wal Mart simultaneously scams its workers, the US Government, and US taxpayers to put more profits in their pockets. WalMart, in its never ending search for profits, exemplifies the perfect implementation of capitalism and exactly how capitalism destroys and disregards human life in the name of profit. They would rather have their workers on food stamps than loose a tiny bit of profit.

In the midst of capitalism we find Americans hungry or stuffed, living without homes on the street or in million dollar mansions, in designer shoes or shoe-less, dropping out of high school or graduating from ivy league schools, living as inmates or celebrities, as workers or CEOs, as over-burdened, underpaid teachers or overpaid, tax-evading wall street bankers, and so on.

Even though there are days when I complain and wish we had more space or a more reliable vehicle, I’m thankful to have our one bedroom apartment and our 20 year old car. Living in America is very strange. In the richest country in the world, we find people without money living right next to people with lots of money and it seems like all the rich people want to do is banish the poor people from sight. I’m appalled at the disparity of wealth in our country. It makes me very angry. I’m appalled and dismayed that the only solution cities can find is to sweep poor people out of the woods and shoo them off to somewhere else. Well, the world isn’t so small. We have too many people to keep sweeping the problem to the next zip code. When they are pushed into another suburb, its going to be the same in that community.

We need to address the root causes of homelessness. We need more affordable homes, we need more living-wage jobs and every person needs access to quality affordable education. Or, maybe we need a new economic system???  We’ve tried capitalism for centuries and its not working for most people. Only the top 1-10% thrive/hoard all the wealth, while most of us run in hamster wheels, and about 1% of Americans go to jail. Its pretty depressing and we need to make a change. Ideas encouraged. Discuss.

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Will America ever really share the wealth?

Talked with a good friend yesterday about the drug war, specifically about marijuana legalization in our home state of Washington. My husband worked on the initiative 502 campaign to legalize. Our friend, a black woman, expressed her concerns about how legalization will hurt black people in our state while white people will profit from legalization. She understands why we support ending the drug war (because it issues arbitrary long sentences for possession of an illegal substance, destroys families and communities, and is racist in its implementation), but she is fearful of the repercussions this new law may have on the black community. We talked about how new laws that aim to “level the playing field” or “end racist policy” can sometimes create new oppressive systems and how white people can end up benefiting more than black people. And just to be clear, its this whole “white people benefit more than black people” thing that keeps racism in American (and is the definition of racism!).

The prison system in our country is very profitable. This system relies upon people filling the jail cells to make money. Our jails are overcrowded and filled with people who have non-violent drug charges, and a disproportionate number of these people are black and brown. The owners of private prison companies and the many companies who rely on “prisoner labor” will not stand to lose profits because a state or two has legalized marijuana. With a history of chattle slavery, Jim Crow segregation, red-lining by banks to withhold capital from black families, sub-prime mortgages and pay-day lenders preying on communities of color… what will our country do next to disenfranchise black Americans?

If we look at the new emerging marijuana market in Washington state, the recipients of retail licenses are overwhelmingly male and almost exclusively white. When will we have an economic market that is available and profitable for black women and men? When we compare the net worth of households in the USA along racial and ethnic lines, the wealth of black families has remained stagnant since the 1980’s, while wealth amongst white families has risen by almost 11%. With this wealth gap between white and black communities, its no wonder that black individuals and families are starting fewer businesses. Fewer young black men and women have wealthy family members who can lend or invest start up funds for new ventures… such as, a new pot selling store!

I’m not hating on the many people who have received licenses in Washington, I’m happy for you and I’m even happier about the revenue our state will collect from this new market. But I do want to call attention to the ongoing “white supremacy” within America’s economic markets and I am calling for it to end. We will never “level the playing field” and close the “opportunity gap” if we do not address the heart of the matter, which is money and wealth. Access to capital is the only way to “succeed” in “capitalism.” When large communities within our society are consistently stepped on and ignored when it comes to “wealth gaining” activities, these groups will never “rise” within this system. When 50% of all African American boys do not graduate high school, these individuals do not have access to wealth, and may never access a living wage job. Thus, their families will remain without wealth and will struggle financially. Half of black American boys do not graduate high school!  That has a ripple effect and will affect all members of their community and their families. That is roughly a quarter of the black community that is not getting an education. Education is supposed to be the “ticket out of poverty.” A third of all black men will likely see the inside of a jail cell at some point in their life. Where is the effing outrage?!?

“Embrace your inner girl”

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I’m so happy to have women in the world like Eve Ensler dedicating her life to ending violence every day. (If you are reading this post in your email, go to my blog site online to see the video of Eve I posted.)

Women like Eve inspire me. I hope to find the self-confidence to be my true, emotional, compassionate self. To be comfortable enough with vulnerability that I am able to be loving and compassionate to every person I know, everyday. The temptation to be “smart” and “strong” all the time so I can fight against the stereotype that “women are meek and mild” is exhausting. I want to just be free enough to be myself on any given day without feeling like I have to “hold it together” or I have to “not take it personally” or I have to “fake it till I make it.” I want to be my authentic self more by allowing myself to be more emotional, more humorous, to take in and enjoy the world, more. To be less serious, less concerned with being always a “smart, strong, leader” of a woman, and just be me. Be more outspoken. Yes, more! Be more open about who I am and what I need and want. Listen and hear more. Respect others for being human. Love people, animals and plants more. I want to be me, uncensored.

Gandhi says, “we must be the change we want to see in the world.” I want everyone to be their true, vulnerable, happy, curious, funny, loving selves. Because it is only when we make ourselves happy and fulfilled, will we make the people in our lives happy too. Love yourself so you can love the world, and the world will love you back.

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love & community w/o religion?

Today, I responded on facebook to a local pastor at a liberal church who was talking about why he thinks christian liberal churches are in decline but conservative churches thrive. His answer: christian liberals have given up and conservative churches simplify their message so much that it provides a safe haven in a world that is often overly-complex.

Here is my response:

Hi [pastor], I was raised as a member of the UCC 1st congregationalist church of Bellevue and I share your world view, and that of the church, that life is good and so are humans. I still have respect for all UCC and liberal churches. I have thought about returning in recent years (its been about 12 years since i’ve been involved) because I believe that community and love are missing from our world, missing from local communities and missing in everyday interactions. But there is something keeping me from re-engaging with a church. I work for social justice in my non-profit job everyday and volunteer for several organizations working for justice, dignity and equity for all. I would like to push back against the idea the “christian liberals” have given up, and instead offer the idea that liberals are dropping the title of “christian” because it no longer resonates with them. So many horrible things have happened in the name of organized religion, that, for me, I would like to find a new way to express love and community to the people around me. A new path to justice that welcomes all people, but is not rooted in a dedication to any deity. Instead, to work toward justice, peace, love and community because they are well worth fighting for on their own. In peace, Natalia

I am happy for this opportunity to express my views in this area because I have been recently struggling with the idea of returning to a church, but something is just holding me back. I am very interested in the idea of finding truth, peace, love, community and justice without having to under-pin this work in a faith that is rooted in a man-made persona, named god or jesus christ.

I believe there is a strong spiritual force in the universe that surrounds us and I believe that nature is a powerful force. I believe that if we listen closely and pay close attention to the present, we will learn much about the pulse of our world. There is so much happening every second. If we are too loud or distracted or focused on the tiny material details of our consumerist culture, we miss so much beauty, truth and love. I believe that putting our faith in the universe and acknowledging there is a force running through us and everything surrounding us that is much, much larger than we are is necessary if we are ever going to find peace as a society. In this sense, what Christians call “prayer” is a powerful force, because it is a recognition that something larger then us is pulling the strings. Writing is a form of “prayer” for me. Its my way of putting my concerns into the universe, letting go of my anxieties so I can slow down and realize all the beauty and goodness in my life. And, I do talk to the universe too. Christians would say, we are all “blessed.” Seculars like me say, we are “lucky.”  I believe we are addressing similar phenomena but just in different, and often separate, paradigms, complete with separate language.

I realize I have been speaking in a “christian context” because that was the context of my interaction above. But I would like to acknowledge all religions and wish for all religious and secular people to come together to realize that one way is not better than the other. We are all on this planet so we should do our best to enjoy each other and make our world the best we can for everyone. To me, we are put here to learn how to trust and love each other — and, it can seem like at every turn society is trying to block this from happening: stereotypes, competing religions, corporate profits valued over people, classism, hatred, war, fear, and our constant desire to divide ourselves by groups (gender, race, sexual orientation, class, ethnic origin, age, ability, religious affiliation, political party and on and on).

My wish is for people to slow down, get to know each other better and learn to love each other more because of our differences as well as our similarities. After all, humans are much more similar than we are different.