The Power of Re-Calculating

I love my GPS; I use it whenever I am going to a new place and it is extremely funny when I don’t follow directions and it is as if the GPS sighs and murmurs to itself because it has to recalculate a new route. You know. create a new normal.

I have come to understand that “new normals” are a part of  life, even if we do not like them. I read Iyanla Vanzant‘s book, Peace from Broken Pieces: How to Get through What you’re Going Through,” and marveled at how many times there has been a “recalculation” in her life and how many times her “normal” has changed.  Another book of hers, The Value in the Valley speaks of the place we find ourselves before we climb up and out of our valleys into a new space…but what is clear is that once in a valley, if we use the valley experience correctly, our lives, upon emerging, will be different. Our inner beings, our personalities, our spirits, will have “recalculated” because our valley experience is meant to be a place where old experiences and thinking patterns and even old relationships are meant to be discarded. There is a better way to get to where we need to be, and it is the valley that we begin to realize that.  We don’t willingly go into valleys. Life takes us there, over and over. It might be a diagnosis of cancer, a death in the family, a divorce, betrayal by a friend, being laid off or being fired …Stuff happens, and when it does, it seems to take us to valleys that we do not want to be in.

So recalculating is always going on in our lives.

I hear that Tony Robbins said that when he had valley experiences in his life, the way he got through them was to pour positive energy – and a lot of it – into work or projects that he believed in.  It is while we are in a valley that we don’t want to do anything – not eat, not read, not even enjoy the beauty of a new day – but when we succumb to the tendency to wallow in the valley, we waste the experience. It is too valuable an experience to be wasted.

Valley experiences are meant to strengthen and encourage us. I have always taught my students the words of Psalm 30: “Weeping endures for a night, but joy comes in the morning!” but have added my own two cents’ worth …”and morning always comes!”  No matter how dark and long the night, morning will push through. The goal should be, while we are in a valley, to make sure than when morning comes, we are not the same as we were when dark descended.  It seems that our spirits cry out to us to let them (our spirits) do their work, to let them reshape, reform, retry, recalculate – so that we can live lives that are optimally meaningful for us.

That’s what our spirits yearn to do, I think.

My spirit is in recalculate mode. I think I’m going to let her do her work.

A candid observation …

 

 

The Consistency of Discrimination

Discrimination is a remarkably consistent phenomenon.

In the area of racial discrimination, history shows that blacks were tolerated as long as they stayed “in their place.” Because of the assumed second-class citizenship of African-Americans, whites felt justified in treating them as such, even though many said they “loved” their “nigras.”‘ Nobody, however, wanted an “uppity” Negro; blacks couldn’t hide who they were by virtue of the color of their skin, so they had no choice but to learn how to survive and “stay in their place.”

For gays and lesbians, and indeed people of the LGBT community in general, there has been, again, a feeling that “they” are all right as long as they stay in their place. In the black church, that “place” has historically been in the role of musician – either choir director or accompanist or both. People in these positions might be noticeably gay, but no person in the church would say anything; they were “in their place,” and therefore, tolerable.

But let a member of the LGBT community try to step out of that prescriptive place, and, say, try to work as Director of Christian Education, or perhaps as a Sunday School teacher, deep protest, borne out of deep bias against gays and lesbians, would rise like a phoenix out of the ashes of scriptural righteousness. All of a sudden, “what was right was wrong,” meaning, it was all right for a gay person to be an amazing musician, but it was blasphemous and unconscionable that a person might want to do anything else.

Women in the black church have always had their “place.” Though the majority of membership of most churches tends to be female, the church is still a bastion of male supremacy…and so a woman might be a “deaconess” or she might be relegated to teaching Sunday School or changing the flowers on the altar, but preaching and being a pastor was a no-no. Such a woman had …stepped out of her place.

Older people have their “place.” Employers, too many of them, will look at a person’s age and without even thinking about it, discard him or her as a viable new employee. Old people are OK if they (we!) stay in their place, and their place, apparently, is out of sight, out of mind. Age discrimination is rampant, but we really don’t want to talk about it.

As the comments, commentaries and conversations have escalated since President Obama made his statement in support of gay marriage, I began to think about how successful discrimination depends not only upon the beliefs and determination of another’s status of those who oppress but upon acceptance of that relegation on the part of the oppressed. Discrimination is rather cowardly; it bullies people, but the bullying stops or abates when those being bullied say “enough.”

In the instance of African-Americans and women, the discrimination and relegation to the “back of the bus” has eased up some because people in those groups have pushed back. They have refused to stay “in their place.”  Women and members of the LGBT community, I think, learned much about how to push back against discrimination by watching African-Americans fight for their rights and thus, the feminist and womanist movements changed the lives of women, and the movement for LGBT rights is changing not only the lives of people of that community but also lives of people who have nestled in and taken comfort in their ability to discriminate.

Stepping out of one’s “place”  is risky and painful; power concedes nothing without a struggle and the power that has always been fights against the power that is fighting “to be.” But once someone realizes that the place someone else has relegated to him or her is not all there is and does not have to be permanent if one realizes his or her own worth, in spite of what the common opinion is, the mere urge for a new life and a new reality creates a power that cannot be stopped.

I am guilty of being an idealist; I wish we as humans did not have the capacity to discriminate against each other so easily, but discrimination is not going to end. Perhaps, though, if we understand how consistent are the principles that feed discriminatory behavior, there might be less of it as time goes on, leaving room for people to be who God created them to be, without all the drama.

A candid observation…

 

Girl Talk: Losing A Friend but Not Really

I don’t even know what to title this piece for us “girls.” I know, though, that this thing, whatever it is, is widespread among us.

I am talking about the situation where two women are friends, and then one of the pair gets a boyfriend (or girlfriend) and the other person in the friendrelationship feels abandoned.

The woman who has the new relationship begins a whole new life with the love of her life …and leaves her friend behind, all the while insisting that nothing has changed.

But the one left behind knows all too well that much has changed. Maybe her friend, now in a relationship, feels the same love for her that she did, but the thing that matters most – the time spent together – has been altogether changed, and the friend left behind …feels left behind.

I had an amazing friend. We did everything together; we talked on the phone several times a day, about nothing. We had always been friends, but then her husband died and our friendship deepened. When her husband died, I was with her as much as I could be, both as friend and pastor. She and her husband had had an amazing relationship, and her pain was beyond belief.

The fun we had! Even while her husband was alive, we really “hung out.” She was there for me when I was divorced. I went into a shell and hid myself in my house. I wouldn’t talk, wouldn’t answer my door, but there she was, outside my house, in her car, patiently waiting. She later told me that she would have sat there all evening until I opened the door.  When I saw that she was not going to leave, I opened the door for her, pissed. She said not a word and was not at all bothered by my  “pissness.” She came in, fixed me some tea, got herself some, and sat down. We said nothing, but she was there …and silently, I was so glad. When my divorce was made final, she was there. We went out to “celebrate” after the pronouncement was made.

She coached me in how to look more “like a pastor.” She had (and has) a great sense of style and gently reminded me that blue jeans and tee shirts probably wouldn’t cut it in the work I was doing. She took care of me and I took care of her. She met my family and became part of my family, as I did hers. She would cook ribs for me (she is an amazing cook) just because she knew I loved them.  As a member of the church, she would not let anyone say anything negative about me, not in her presence. She put up with me, which took a lot.

I am not sure of what I did for her, except “be there” for her when her husband died. I would call her every morning just to see how she was, long after her husband died. When she had a cold, I “tended” to her, making her take meds I deemed necessary for her. We would take road trips together, and I would drive; she was worthless on the road as a driver, but was great company as I drove. We would laugh at her music selections on those road trips. Mellow jazz, I would tell her wryly, is probably NOT the best music to listen to when you’ve been driving 8 hours … She took my jabs with grace.

She traveled with me when I took my daughter to college,settling her into her dorms and getting her out for the summer. She and I laughed together and cried together. She was a protector of me in church; I was the pastor, but she was the guard. I always knew she had my back.

And then she got a boyfriend who took her all over the world, took her to the nicest restaurants, treated her like she deserved to be treated, and I felt left behind and left out.  If I called her, I was not able to get her. From talking every day we went to talking “whenever.”  She was going all over the place: to the Superbowl, to opening nights of plays in New York. She said once that, while in New York, when she and her boyfriend were in some fancy hotel, that she thought of me, knowing I would have LOVED the hotel and the play.

I had to get it into my craw that things had changed. I never doubted she loved or cared for me, but I had to accept that her life was different, and that we would no longer be the “hanging buddies” that we had been. It was immensely painful, but it was the new reality.

We have stayed in touch. We occasionally talk, albeit very briefly. She sends me emails from time to time; I have to admit, I don’t send her many, but I do respond to the emails she sends. She is still very precious to me, and always will be.

We will make our way back to each other, or, rather, I will make my way back to her, with the new reality of her new life smack in front of me. This whole situation is hard because I love her so much and want her to be happy, which she is. I just didn’t like feeling like I had been pushed to the curb. I’m not even sure I WAS pushed to the curb, but I felt like it.

I think a lot of women know this scenario well.

Though I have given myself time to heal, I have not pushed her all the way out of my life. She was and is a real friend. Even now, were I to be in trouble, I know she’d be there, no questions asked. Friends are precious; even as our relationship changed, I would tell her that. And because she will always be a friend, I will never completely let go of her or the friendship.

I don’t have any advice to anyone on this. I just wanted to share. As I get older, I realize even more how precious are friends. There is nothing quite so precious as a friendship.

A candid observation …

Debulk the Congress?

I wonder what America would be like if it were “debulked”  of  its political system, or, more specifically, of its Congress?

I just picked up the term, “debulk,” while reading a review of a book, Memoir of a Debulked Woman: Enduring Ovarian Cancer, by Susan Gubar. The review, written by Elsa Dixler and which appeared in The New York Times Book Review this week, describes debulking as “evisceration or vivisection or disembowelment, but performed on a live human being.”  Gubar, a feminist scholar who describes her bout with ovarian cancer in the reviewed book, underwent surgery to be “debulked” after her cancer was discovered.  This surgery involves trying to get out as much of the cancerous tissue by taking as much of it out as possible, as well as affected organs. The operation, said the article, is thought to extend the life of the cancer patient, but does not cure the disease.

I thought of the term as I listened to a news report about the senate race in Indiana, where veteran Republican Senator Dick Lugar is being challenged by a Tea Party opponent, Richard Mourdock, who is apparently going after Lugar mostly for his ability and record to have “reached across the aisle” to reach compromise in his role as a legislator of this country. Lugar is the nation’s longest-serving Republican senator.

There seems that the lack of desire to compromise is at the core of this nation’s political gut, and it spreads, or has spread, an ugly spirit throughout the nation. If I understand the lessons of my elementary, middle and high school civics classes, the three branches of government were put into place so as to prevent the monopoly of any political party or individual in terms of policy or ideology, thereby assuring a more fair government for “we the people,” as opposed to for “we, some of the people.” Compromise helps that ideal to be realized, right?

The desire for compromise, however, has been viciously opposed.  Reluctance to compromise has  been at our core for a while but it has gotten so much worse since 2008, and the vitriol which has accompanied it has seemingly metastasized in mammoth proportions.  Our nation’s Congress has argued and quibbled over the most basic things, at the expense of the country,and the refusal to compromise and look for common ground has created a rancid atmosphere of political disease which really threatens the very life of this nation.

This diseased body politic is completely impotent to deal with our nation’s issues. All that it has done for the past four years is stirred the pots of its own dysfunction, despite rhetoric that it is concerned with “the American people.” Which American people would that be? The 42 million who live in poverty? The women whose health care needs are being threatened by disastrous policies? The students whose student loan debt is keeping them in perpetual debt?

What if the nation were debulked of its Congress? What if all three branches of government were excised, as it were, and a whole new set of legislators and jurists were put into place, along with a new executive branch? Maybe what has happened is that the Congress has been diseased by members having been in place for too long. Doctors say that much cancer comes from bad diets and lack of exercise. Maybe the Congress became cancerous a while ago, because of inaction and resultant complacency. Maybe the Congress needs to be debulked, and the government needs some political chemotherapy, to rid the nation of any residual ideology which results in such impassivity and rancor.

Like the treatment for ovarian cancer, the debulking will not cure the disease…but it may prolong the life of these United States.

A candid observation…

Girl Talk: After Divorce

It hit me that we girls don’t talk a lot about something that happens when we go through divorce: people we used to be friends with stop talking to us.

I have been divorced for many years, but I can still remember when, after the divorce was final, how the friends I thought I had stopped inviting me to their houses, to their parties and picnics. Friends with whom both my husband and I had shared really precious times sort of, it seemed, erased me from their lives.

It wasn’t only friends, either. It was people like the guy who had been keeping our furnace and air conditioner in shape for years. All of a sudden, when I’d call him, he wasn’t available. No matter how many times I called, he never called back.

Needless to say, some of the people in the church regarded me as a sinful woman. I was a pastor, after all. How in the world could I be trusted to preach to my people, and even more be trusted to give marital and pre-marital counseling, when obviously, I was lacking in character and in knowing how to keep a man?

I couldn’t figure it out. Some friends who were divorced stop speaking, but more, it was friends, my lady friends, who were NOT divorced whose silence and distance puzzled me. Was it because I was now viewed as a threat? Were they afraid that my failure as a wife was somehow contagious, and that they would get “the illness” if they remained close? I only ask because years after the divorce, some of those friends, all of whom are now divorced themselves, have been gingerly moving back toward me, making contact.

Seriously?

As I have listened to women over the years go through divorce, I realize that it isn’t just me; too many women have the same story, but it would be great if we women wouldn’t back away from each other at such an awful time. It’s precisely at times like that, when your life is falling apart and the ground on which you’ve always stood falls from under your feet – no, more accurately, crumbles as you stand there, that you need your sister friends most.

I ached as I read the story of how the late Elizabeth Edwards, betrayed by her husband, was so crushed by his affair that she yelled at him in public and bared her chest, which showed the scars of breast cancer. How horrible for her to feel that depth of pain! I found myself wondering if her pain was exacerbated by friends who simply disappeared as she and her husband went through their pain, oh so publicly.

I don’t know what it is about us that makes us shy away from each other in critical moments, any more than I understand why we so often stab each other in the heart and/or back when it comes to getting a mate, but I can say that, during divorce, the friend who is real is the friend who sticks with  you through it all.

A candid observation …