Friday, August 29, 2014


I had to let go of a friendship this week. It's opened me to so many new levels of understanding about myself. I've discovered a few things that are really important when deciding how much to invest in a relationship, and when to move on. I wonder if they might be useful for others to consider?

#1 Compatibility of Core Values
There are certain things so fundamentally true or important for me, that disagreement in those areas ruins my interest in getting to know a person better. It's inevitable that I will clash on these areas. So, if I'm hoping to minimize conflict, the friendships I pursue will be among those who honour my core values, or hold those values themselves. Identifying and understanding my fundamental, core values becomes crucial.

#2 Compatibility of Conflict Style
It's inevitable that any relationship of depth will provide a chance to work through conflict together. There WILL be an argument, about something, sometime. Certain styles of conflict really trigger my animal fight-or-flight. Specifically, passive aggressive ignoring, dismissive/excusing, throwing in irrelevant accusations, bringing up old stuff, and denying the conflict is important enough to deal with. These particular styles drive me CRAZY - they set me off, leaving me too angry to be nice enough to resolve the conflict effectively. If I'm hoping to minimize the stress and negativity of conflict, avoiding people who use these as their primary conflict styles becomes important.

I think I can probably handle a lack of compatibility on core values when our conflict styles mesh well - logic, reason and openness to support each other's needs allows disagreement to resolve into understanding. I think I can probably handle a lack of compatibility on conflict style where core values match up, since conflict will be about things that are not core or fundamental, allowing me to maintain an emotional distance and move through to resolution. But when both core values and conflict style are in opposition, the amount of time and energy required to maintain the friendship may be more than I can spare. It may be more than I choose to spare. The distance to common ground may be further than I am willing to stretch right now. And I might not have the capacity, despite will.

The process of being myself, and investing in relationships and community from that place of "selfness" that will turn off some people while attracting others, this process is hard. And painful. It was easier when I could just be what people expected, and get most people to "like" me by only showing them what they liked. It's harder to admit that aspects of what I am are simply unpalatable to others, and aspects of what they are, are unpalatable to me. There are hurt feelings, maybe anger or resentment. "Unfriending" in real life is not clean or simple.

And, in my quest for balance in my life, there are hard decisions, hard conversations, that depend on my clarity of values. To those values, I cleave. And the people who matter most are right there with me.

I am grateful.

Not my job

People don't like it when I say I'm not nice. Like I'm admitting to murder. It's kind of the same thing, really.

But what I mean is this: I don't see it as my job to make everyone else around me comfortable with what's happening. I'm not comfortable with what's happening. They can damn well be uncomfortable with it, too. Let's be uncomfortable together. To a point. I'd rather be comfortable together, but that's not always possible, and when discomfort and conflict happens, I don't see it as my job to make anyone else safe *(note: except when I'm being paid - when I'm being paid, it is my job, and I've proven very good at it).

I don't see as my job, as a person in conversation with you, to keep you safe. You may be a person uncomfortable with conflicting opinions, preferring the polite cover of niceness to displaying an honest reaction. You may be a person who doesn't like to see honesty displayed with vigor - it feels rude, invasive, threatening. In that case, I imagine we won't talk long or often. I will make you uncomfortable at some point, despite my best efforts.

I don't see as my job, as a person in conflict with you, to keep you safe. I am responsible to choose what I say and control my responses to avoid physical and psychic wounds, but conflict is a messy thing and I am not pleased to find myself in it. I would not choose conflict, so if we are in conflict, it must be important to me, or you must be pushing the point, which I'm irritated by. I will engage to the best of my capacity not to hurt you, but if you become hurtful or disrespectful, I have a sharp blade myself. I can't promise my temper won't make me use it, beyond my best efforts at nice and polite. I can't promise I'll be in control of the anger to keep you feeling safe and appreciated.

And in fact, that's not something I'm even trying for. I'm not trying to be better. I try to stay out of direct conflict (though I'm sometimes a magnet). I engage conversation with people who find me engaging, and leave those who seem intimidated alone. I live out loud for my kids to see and ask me questions, and give them honest answers, giving my family the bulk of my patience and love.

There is so little time, we have no idea.

I don't want to waste it on people who only like my potential, who only want me in the most polite and nicest package I can display. It takes a lot of effort, time and energy to keep that display up, and I've turned that energy inward and funneled it outward through creation. I don't have it to give away for free. I don't even have it to draw on - it's engaged.

Luckily, I don't have to be teacher for every person who needs a lesson. Sometimes, I just need to deliver the message and let them take it in how they do or don't. Sometimes, that's as much as I'm willing to give to someone.

That doesn't give me permission to be mean. I am responsible for at least trying to avoid that. But I'm not very practiced at keeping my passion tamped down, since I don't like conflict - I'm graceless. That's how I am, and that's as good as I'm going to be for awhile. I can't spend my energy feeling ashamed about it. I have lots to do and time is flowing like a river, to the sea...(thank you, Alan Parsons).

We're all here, on this planet in the middle of nowhere, living in a giant socio-economic experiment controlled by Power, while Love tries to shore things up from the bottom. I'm putting my energy where I feel it has the most use, and when it gets diverted into the muddy mires of  polite niceness and my failure to comply, maybe cutting that short with rudeness or a flash of anger is just the ticket to let me move along.

It's hard to be a human body and an eternal spirit and a good person and a good parent and a good student and a good teacher and a good employee and a good citizen and a good everything. I'm in the trenches and I'm not that strong. I'm not that confident. I'm not that good.

Thank god it's not my job to keep you safe.

(musical interlude by They Might Be Giants: Cyclops Rock. feels relevant somehow http://grooveshark.com/s/Cyclops+Rock/2fSZcO?src=5)

Thursday, August 21, 2014

I feel what I feel; I choose what I do

For me, it seems perfectly natural that my body sometimes responds to the billions of factors of life with emotional fear-based responses that feel like what gets diagnosed as anxiety and depression. Just like labour pains don't indicate something is wrong, but instead indicate that the body is working perfectly, so the darkness has its place in healthy emotional experience of life, when it can be kept in balance.

My body sometimes gives me pain, fatigue, depression, anxiety, anger, frustration, a sense of futility. Given the state of world peace and the hands in which power sits, that's not unreasonable. I may look around and see current circumstances in my life that I can blame, but my body would give me these feelings about whatever negative aspects existed for whatever circumstances I was in. That's how it works. Blaming the present masks the real, underlying system - which, remember, is behaving reasonably given the insanely dangerous proposition of being alive as a human on planet earth, alone in the Universe except for the crazy creatures around us.

The darkness can fuel my curiosity, my burning desire to understand how all this works and why it's allowed. It can force words out of me into this blog, alerting other people to ways of seeing the world's systems, ways that they wouldn't have time to develop themselves. It can force me to give my body time to hold itself and grieve its losses and traumas. It can give my meditation depth, letting me process out gunk that doesn't serve me. It can push me to stretch and pump my heart and lungs with movement, or it can drop me into rest so my organs can regenerate.

When the darkness descends, I call it by name. I remind myself that my brain is seeing just one lens, one way, and it's blocked out all the others. That doesn't mean they aren't there. The sky is clear behind those grey clouds between us and space. It's clear but all we see is the rolling grey; all we feel is the thunderstorm. And then it passes. The sky didn't really change, up there. My body's weather doesn't need to be fixed or overcome or even milked for understanding. It can simply be experienced, while I keep my eye on the things that matter most to me and take a step or two each day to serve those things, to the best of my ability.

When I know what matters to me, everything else is the experience of me living my life, serving those things. Minimizing what doesn't serve. Maximizing what does.

If my brain sees futility in my actions, if my brain predicts failure or humiliation, I may find I can't argue against those points, and get depressed. But that doesn't serve what matters to me. What I know in my mind doesn't always translate to emotion, but I can at least acknowledge that it's only one lens, that I have seen other lenses in the past.

I can decide that this lens in front of my eyes does not control my actions. Thoughts and feelings about futility require no action from me. They require inaction. I can sit with them, in inaction, and say, yeah, so? I can let myself feel them, slow myself down, ask what message they have for me. I can spill their story into language or cry their story with song. I can pet them or feed them. I can create works of art with their universal truths.

If I can make the time.

When I don't have time to process, those feelings can feel like an intruder, an unwanted guest demanding and destroying. I can't always give way to the energy. When the kids need me, when a client needs me, when I am committed to an outcome by a certain time. For those times, I rely on my commitments to myself.

It takes practice to find the personal strength, resilience, stick-to-it-iveness to do something even when it feels too hard and totally futile, too small to matter and not good enough. It takes practice to recognize the difference between giving myself care and caretaking myself as a diversion from hard work. It takes discipline to slow my pace so that I can maintain balance and be effective. It takes honesty and vulnerability to set only expectations that I can meet when the world wants to rush and roll. It takes determination to keep my commitments to the critical when the whole world is calling or nothing is calling at all. It takes humility and pride to hand off commitments I just can't make, and even more to hand off the commitments I made and can't keep. So I commit to myself that I will practice these elements of character and live as though they matter, regardless of whether anything matters at all.

I feel what I feel, and I choose what I do.


So what if there's never time? If I'm always committed and I run out of all the stores I'm building of strength of character? What if my character muscles start to give under the strain?

If that happens, my darling me, it's once again time for something to change.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Employable (a start)


By 2089, most people will be unemployable by the Private Sector. Probably much sooner.

Wait, did you think full employment was some sort of immutable law of nature? It's not.

It's not the Transformers' fault. The Private Sector is regulated to serve its primary function of transforming raw materials from the earth into value useful to humans. Inevitably, removing humans from the transformation chain becomes cheaper than employing them.

Full employment was a lucky co-incidence that happened at particular moments in history. Agriculture, War, Socialization, the Industrial Revolution – these shifts needed labour, and humans were the best machines around. Those days are in their final spasms.

Soon, much sooner than we're ready to face, the cracks and fissures of high unemployment will become a gaping chasm, as the Transformers require fewer humans and the population grows. The Transformers just don't need those human machines anymore. They have computers, and robots, and when they do need humans, humans come cheaper in countries with fewer scruples about human rights than Canada.

Not that the Transformers won't need people. They just won't need the Assembly Line people they were using before the computers and robots took over manual labour and repetitive tasks. They don't need humans raised and educated in the social systems we've created. Those humans can rot on the streets, for all the Private Sector is allowed (through regulation) to care.

While all those useless people rot out the foundations of our cities, and cities go bankrupt trying to stave it off, the Transformers will still whine that they can't find good employees. That's because they don't need Assembly Line employees, they need Custom Built employees.

The only people eligible for Private Sector Employment in the future will be those who can do what robots and computers can't do, an arms race the humans are poised to lose. Right now, most of the population can find some form of employment for money. That won't be the case for long. What will we do with all the Assembly Line humans, when all our systems and social norms require hard work in exchange for basic necessities and the dignity of comfort? What will they be doing, and who will pay them to do it?

When the Information Age gives way to the Age of Understanding, humans may begin frantically trying to fix what is broken beyond repair, turn the ship after the crash. If society wants to flourish when full employment is no longer necessary, with happiness almost close enough to grasp, the humans will need another way to earn.

At the same time, if Society wants to continue to sell its human resources to Transformers, it will grow the social, family and education systems that allow custom-built humans to rise into Private Sector employment. Who will pay the humans to re-make their societies to value the work of nurture and care in the fruition of individual potential? Where does this value get tracked and assessed?

Before we ask who will pay, there are more fundamental questions to answer.

At some point, the current technological and global shifts will push the majority of people below the entire capitalist system. Local, barter-based, gang and guild-based economy will operate below the financial consumption economy, allowing the rich to deal primarily among themselves. Instead of having more consumers, there will be fewer consumers with more money, reducing the breadth and depth of innovation to the tastes of those few, from the perspective of their socio-economic bubble.

What is society? Who is part? And what do we deserve as members when our only means of earning our keep is no longer required, on a wide scale? When the transformers don't need very many humans to advance innovation through the capitalist consumption model,  how will people earn their keep? Should they have to?

Perhaps they can earn their keep in a symbiotic system that feeds the Private Sector Transformers with the only resource that we, as society, have left in abundance – Human Resources. Better Human Resources. Custom Built.

The Unemployable (who will increasingly be most people) can focus their understanding on the problems of society, rather than the problems of commerce. They can focus their efforts on creating the systems – education, family, neighbourhood – that support children in becoming Employable Adults, and Adults in being participatory citizens regardless of their employment.

How is that work valued? Currently, at $0.00. So we get what we get. Assembly Line Humans increasingly unemployed and unable to earn the basics or the dignity of comfort. Kids living in stress-filled environments with limited access to their parents, often skating through a system that was never designed to bring their best forward in the first place.

We get what we pay for, and all the Transformers whining about lack of talent – you get what we pay for, too.

Sunday, August 17, 2014


Offering (2014)

I should be able to stand here
close my eyes
and all the truth of the universe will flow through these sliding fingers
onto screen, ready to be seen
and understood.

And still

I stumble over words obscured
meaning less meaning
stranger and stranger repeated into pure sound of musical jibberish
divorced from meaning, like most reason
logically concluded.

I have nothing to say that you haven't heard before
and who has the patience to hear a thing again?

Certainly not me.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Goodbye, Mork

Should I be crying?

Why does one celebrity's failure to stay the course on earth affect me so?

People die every day. People engage in cruel, barbarous acts against one another. People slink along the edges of community and drop off into oblivion. Every day.

I didn't know this man. Any connection I felt to him was incidental and one-sided. The way he changed how I looked at grownups. They way his energy leaped and he was admired, the whole time I was shoving my leaping spirit deep because it was not admired. They way he was what he was, out loud, for everyone to see.

Except he wasn't, was he?

He was underground, too.

And I feel like, if our connection had not been incidental and one-sided, maybe he would have made it. He would have known he wasn't alone.

Which is, of course, the most ego-centric response possible.

Should I be crying?

If that bright spirit couldn't see its way to continuing here among the humans, I don't cry for him, I cry for us. For this world and all the blocked and polluted consciousness that is hurtling us towards a cruel, calculated starkness that might not be worth living in, after all. Is that what he saw?

Or did he see nothing at all?

My tears stick in my throat.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

A Nice Death

Sun Sets Daily (May, 2014)

A Nice Death

It could be nice, at the end,
side by side on the porch swing
sipping tea, swapping tales
laughing and sighing and sitting quietly alone

while the sun moves and the clouds move and the sky stays perfectly still

and the moment stays perfectly still
sweet, drippy-ripe now

after each and all and everything
after the bustle we call mine
making our own way
after the hey day and the sunshine
of doing
while we're waiting for
that will come too soon whenever it comes but never soon enough
to thwart the last moment of finally knowing
what we always knew

split-wide heart releases spirit into moment

Split Wide (2014)