Thursday, January 28, 2010

Pope John Paul II was a flagellator

The news has come out that Pope John Paul regularly whipped himself as a penance.

In a new book, "Why a Saint?," Monsignor Slawomir Oder, a Vatican official, confirmed that the late pope regularly whipped himself as an act of penance to feel closer to God.
"In his wardrobe, among his vestments, there hung on a clothes hanger a special belt for trousers which he used as a whip," Oder says. The self-flagellation was "an instrument of Christian perfection," Oder adds, emulating the sufferings of Jesus Christ.

I hardly know where to begin. I am sitting at my keyboard shaking my head. This self-punishment, this loathing of the body as though its very existence poisoned the beauty of the spirit, is heinous. yet it is mentioned frequently as an attribute of those who are considered saintly -- Mother Teresa also was said to beat herself as punishment.

This confusion between pain and righteousness always troubled me as a young Catholic girl in the 1950's and 60's. Suffering was the ideal, because it was like emulating Jesus.

It seems to me that other Christlike qualities might have worked their way to the top of the emulation list -- like kindness, love, compassion, inclusion. It would be lovely to have any religious group think of kindness or gentleness or generosity as truly noble qualities.

The problem with the idealization of suffering is that it focuses the life of Christ wrongly on the pre-Ressurective moment. It is not the message of life beyond suffering. So it makes it easier to accept the suffering of others around us. They should appreciate and offer up their suffering to God. Mother Tresa even said "I was talking to our lepers and telling them that leprosy is a gift from God, that God can trust them so much that he gives them this terrible suffering. "

I think the Catholic church has the idea of suffering all gnarled up and twisted into knots. If suffering is such a great gift, why move to eradicate it?

It seems to me that God wants us to heal suffering, that he does not send it as some sort of agonizing gift. I would say that God is with us in our suffering, but also that He is also always pointing to something beyond suffering, willing us to move ourselves and others toward wholeness in this life as He will in the next.

Why did the Pope or Mother Teresa or certain sects in central and South America engage in flagellation as an act of holiness? And what incredible harm does that bring to a worldview?

Is self-punishment a way to remove sexual thoughts and desires? I do not even want to imagine the psyche beneath that -- the same psyche that does marriage counseling or ministers to young children.

Enough enough enough!! When will we learn to love ourselves and others?

Howard Zinn died. America has lost a champion.

Howard Zinn, progressive, radical, teacher, activist, historian, has died at age 88. Zinn is widely published, but perhaps best known for his work A People's History of the United States. This book changed the way people viewed American history, unmasking the founding fathers as slaveholders, and pointing to the post-occupation history of America as the history of groups rising up for change - from early labor movements to sharecroppers uprisings. A People's History of the United States Online Version gives a good way to leaf through one of the most important books on history of the 20th century. It was originally published in 1980, and has been updated through 2003. Zinn faces honestly the slave-holding and violence of Columbus, the position of women, the plots to eliminate Native Americans.

Every history is written with the author's own perspective. Zinn removed the perspective of established histories to see events through the eyes of the people, not the politicians.

Howard Zinn removed more of the trappings that had literally "whitewashed" American history. Her is a list of quotes for those of you who may not have known Zinn. He was a teacher at Boston University, a fiercely anti-war activist, and a man who stood up for the truth. He was arrested and beaten in demonstrations against Vietnam, threatened with ouster from his teaching position, and denounced by conservatives everywhere. Howard Zinn believed passionately in the cultivation of critical thought, and in the development of an activist citizenry.

“In the United States today, the Declaration of Independence hangs on schoolroom walls, but foreign policy follows Machiavelli.”

“I'm worried that students will take their obedient place in society and look to become successful cogs in the wheel - let the wheel spin them around as it wants without taking a look at what they're doing. I'm concerned that students not become passive acceptors of the official doctrine that's handed down to them from the White House, the media, textbooks, teachers and preachers.”

“Small acts, when multiplied by millions of people, can transform the world.”

“The UN should arrange, as US forces leave, for an international group of peacekeepers and negotiators from the Arab countries to bring together Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds, and work out a solution for self-governance that would give all three groups a share in political power. Simultaneously, the UN should arrange for shipments of food and medicine, from the United States and other countries, as well as engineers to help rebuild the country.”

“He said, 'Remember this: Even if you win the rat race, you're still a rat.”

"TO BE HOPEFUL in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty, but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness.
What we choose to emphasize in this complex history will determine our lives. If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something. If we remember those times and places—and there are so many—where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act, and at least the possibility of sending this spinning top of a world in a different direction.
And if we do act, in however small a way, we don’t have to wait for some grand utopian future. The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory."

"The challenge remains. On the other side are formidable forces: money, political power, the major media. On our side are the people of the world and a power greater than money or weapons: the truth.
Truth has a power of its own. Art has a power of its own. That age-old lesson – that everything we do matters – is the meaning of the people’s struggle here in the United States and everywhere. A poem can inspire a movement. A pamphlet can spark a revolution. Civil disobedience can arouse people and provoke us to think, when we organize with one another, when we get involved, when we stand up and speak out together, we can create a power no government can suppress. We live in a beautiful country. But people who have no respect for human life, freedom, or justice have taken it over. It is now up to all of us to take it back."

“Civil disobedience is not our problem. Our problem is civil obedience. Our problem is that people all over the world have obeyed the dictates of leaders…and millions have been killed because of this obedience…Our problem is that people are obedient allover the world in the face of poverty and starvation and stupidity, and war, and cruelty. Our problem is that people are obedient while the jails are full of petty thieves… (and) the grand thieves are running the country. That’s our problem.”

"If history is to be creative, to anticipate a possible future without denying the past, it should, I believe, emphasize new possibilities by disclosing those hidden episodes of the past when, even if in brief flashes, people showed their ability to resist, to join together, occasionally to win. I am supposing, or perhaps only hoping, that our future may be found in the past's fugitive movements of compassion rather than in its solid centuries of warfare."

It is possible, reading standard histories, to forget half the population of the country. The explorers were men, the landholders and merchants men, the political leaders men, the military figures men. The very invisibility of women, the overlooking of women, is a sign of their submerged status.

A couple of weeks ago, Mary Daly died.. Now Howard died. That is a lot of activism to lose in a month. I hear Bernice Johnson Reagon's song "They are falling all around me" performed by Sweet Honey in the Rock..

They are falling all around me
They are falling all around me
They are falling all around me
The strongest leaves on my tree

Every paper brings the news that
Every paper brings the news that
Every paper brings the news that
The teachers of my life are moving on

Oh, death comes and rests so heavy
Death comes and rests so heavy
Death comes and rests so heavy
Your face I will never see, never see you anymore


It is your path I walk
It is your song I sing
It is your load I take on
It is your air I breathe
It's the record you set that makes me go on
It's your strength that helps me stand

Read up on Howard Zinn if you have not yet done so. Listen to him on YouTube speak about war and human aggression. Let his words galvanize you to action, to critical thought.

Yes, big voices are moving on. But these voices would surely remind us, in the words of Mother Jones, to “Pray for the dead and fight like hell for the living.“

Progressive activist Rabbi Arthur Waskow of the Shalom Center in Philadelphia had an email conversation about upcoming activist plans the day before Zinn died. In the Center's newsletter the day of Zinn's death, Arthur said to his departed friend of over thirty years:
"And -- dear dear Howard, I wish you a joyful New Year making trouble for the Authorities in Heaven. If ever the memories, the teachings, of a tzaddik - a practitioner of tzedek, justice - could bring blessing to those who are still scrabbling for justice on this stricken earth, it's the memories and teachings you left us.
Shalom, salaam, shantih - peace!

Recorded Speech:
This isa 12 minute speech given by Zinn at the 92nd St Y in NYC as an introduction to "the newly released, updated and illustrated A Young People’s History of the United States that highlights the words of America’s youngest rebels, dissenters and visionaries, from our past and present. "

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

My ex & a Willful Boxer Dog Named Argos & a Lesson in Serenity

My ex-husband was generally a failure at pet training. But one memorable episode taught us both an important spiritual lesson.

Argos was a young, happy and energetic boxer dog we had since he was a pup, given to us by friends who raised boxers. We had just moved across country, settled into a nice rented house and bought our first brand new sofa. My ex-husband was definite that our dog should not be allowed on this new icon of our household.

Every time we were in the house with Argos, he obeyed, curling up soulfully at our feet, not daring to invade the people-space of our couch. Yet every evening when we returned from work, there would be a warm indentation in the couch, and a guilty look on Argos's face. "NO!" my ex would admonish, shaking his finger in Argos's face. "NO!"

But every day the same ritual would happen. Argos was a good pooch by night, and a couch sitter by day. My ex devised a scheme. "Trust me," he said, "I majored in psychology." He then explained to me that since the dog liked the comfort of the couch, we should make it uncomfortable during the day. Every day for three days when we left, my ex would place newspaper on the couch. Every night for three nights when we came home, the paper would be on the floor, and a warm dent would be in the couch cushion.

However, now Argos had lost his guilty expression. Now it was a contest. Now he seemed to be smirking. We had a smirking boxer dog. There isn't much that looks more insulting.

Plan B from my ex surfaced after days of grumbling. It involved cayenne pepper. He explained to me, "Dogs always sniff before they go on a new surface." So, his idea was that the dog would sniff the hot pepper, get a rude shock to his nose, and back off. After all, that is what the books said about how to keep a dog out of the trash.

We learned that couches are not trash.

Every day for two days we would leave with newspapers and a liberal shower of various hot pepper powders on the papers. Every day for two days we would come home to a warm dent in the couch, and a pile of papers and hot pepper powder on our carpet.

"This is not working," my ex said.

The dog and I gave each other a shared look.

The next day my ex went to the hardware store and returned with a bag of mousetraps. "I'll set up the traps on the couch so that when he jumps up, they'll go off and scare him." I was concerned that the dog would get hurt. My ex assured me that the traps would just go off without catching our dog in them. And he was right.

What he had not counted on was the fact that the dog didn't care about the traps going off. He knew that he was not a mouse. We'd come home to a warm dent on the couch, a pile of set-off traps on one of the cushions, and a dog who smelled victory in the air. Argos was getting smug. My ex was sulking.

The next day when I got home, my ex had arrived before me. He greeted me at the door with a glass of champagne.

"I have solved the dog on the couch problem!" he exclaimed.

"You have?" I asked, incredulous.

"I have. The dog is now allowed on the couch.. Problem solved."

I toasted his wisdom; we drank our mutual health; and the dog, as if on cue, jumped up on the couch. I swear he was grinning.

And therein was the lesson. So what if the dog was on the couch? What possible harm could it do? The dog didn't eat couches. He just slept on them.

But my ex had gotten into a tug-of-wills about an issue that really didn't matter. The moment he realized that, he stopped. Like the old maxim - "Want to win at tug-of-war? Drop the rope!"

Sometimes we just need to drop the rope, take the mousetraps off the couch and realize that some problem we have been fussing about is really not that big a deal.

If I have a dandelion in my lawn, it's not the end of the world. If I am two minutes late, life goes on. If traffic is heavy, I can't change it by raising my blood pressure. If my kid happily chooses a top that doesn't match the pants, who cares? If I didn't have time to make a cake, the world will not end. Fill in your own blanks of what really can slide without your being worked-up about it first.

There are big things to fret about -- big things we can impact. There is aid that can be sent to Haiti, people to elect, congresspeople to contact, hungry people to feed. There is good will to spread. There are acts of kindness to do. And we all can take a luxurious bath by candlelight if we want.

We do not have to control everything in the world. Accept what is not yours to control. Our ambition can be for sanity as opposed to getting the diagram colors in exactly the right shade on the PowerPoint presentation. Today's big question should be -- "Does it make any difference really?"

On having a dog's Trust

Zoe is my rescue girl -- she is a 6 year old Bichon Frise. This is a picture of her on her first day with me. She looks a bit scared, wary. And she was with good reason. She had come from a home of neglect and abuse. That was a year and a half ago. She now weighs more, relaxes all the time, frolics in the back yard, cuddles with gusto and shows no signs of her former hesitancy. Here she is watching Caesar Milan's "Dog Whisperer" on the bedroom TV.

There is something very touching about the fact that Zoe trusts me now, and that she feels this is her home. At night now she walks up to the crook of my arm on the bed, curls up inside it with her feet facing me and lays her head on my shoulder. Before she sleeps she just gazes at me a while, and I scratch her head softly, or rub her tummy a bit. Then she tucks her head into the space between our bodies and sleeps.

She is like a little white teddy-bear come to life. We both softly drift of to sleep together.

She taught me what a gift trust is. I had to give her a lot of room before she trusted me like this. I let her decide on her own that I was safe, and was not going to ever hurt her. Every step she made toward trust was met with quiet affection. And then. one day, she gave it up -- snuggled in earnest, wiggled to get closer, put her head down and gave a deep and sweet sigh.

I love that she has been saved from a bad life. I am thankful that she shows her trust, and when she does I feel very moved.

It seems to me there is a lot of love in this word waiting to be rescued -- dogs, cats, horses, people. There are many of God's creatures that just need a bit of affirming space to grow and to develop. A few meals, a safe place to sleep, a helping hand -- and beings change.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

My 60th

My birthday is now past. I must say it was lovely. An advance email went out to lots of folks. I wanted cards. I am lousy at remembering birthdays. Lousy. So I understand if someone forgets mine. So if it is a year in which I wish to be remembered, I email people and warn them in advance, and boldly ask them for cards.

I was deluged.

Cards, gifts, flowers, emails, phone calls.

I was delighted. People said lovely things and I let those messages of love come inside. I had people stopping by my house to wish me well. The Saturday after my Wednesday birthday, a group of women friends took me to one of my favorite restaurants for dinner. It was a delight.

I just felt so lucky, instead of blue. It is another thing entirely to go through a landmark birthday when you are single with no family. You need friends who rally, and mine rallied beautifully. I am very thankful.

So I am learning at last to "let the love in" --- and it felt FABULOUS!!!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Keep Dreaming the Dream

This is the week in which we honor the birth of the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King. It is a holiday that was, in the words of the song, "a long time coming".

This year, we are calling it "A Day of Service", with the slogan "Make it a Day On, not a Day Off." It is a noble and appropriate idea. And who could not be thankful that members of the first family and the cabinet cooked food at homeless shelters and soup kitchens, cleaned trash up in a beautification project, and directly delivered food to the hungry? It's a good thing to do to really honor Martin Luther King.
But I wish there were more things to hold up as ways we give honor to the legacy of Martin Luther King, who was about more than just feeding the poor.

Here are some quotes from Martin Luther King. Read them and let me know how much you think that, as a nation, we have outgrown our need for them.

Have we not come to such an impasse in the modern world that we must love our enemies - or else? The chain reaction of evil - hate begetting hate, wars producing more wars - must be broken, or else we shall be plunged into the dark abyss of annihilation.

He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it.

History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people.

The hope of a secure and livable world lies with disciplined nonconformists who are dedicated to justice, peace and brotherhood.

When we ask Negroes to abide by the law, let us also declare that the white man does not abide by law in the ghettos. Day in and day out he violates welfare laws to deprive the poor of their meager allotments; he flagrantly violates building codes and regulations; his police make a mockery of law; he violates laws on equal employment and education and the provisions of civil services. The slums are the handiwork of a vicious system of the white society; Negroes live in them, but they do not make them, any more than a prisoner makes a prison.

Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.

Many of the ugly pages of American history have been obscured and forgotten ....America owes a debt of justice which it has only begun to pay. If it loses the will to finish or slackens in its determination, history will recall its crimes and the country that would be great will lack the most indispensable element of greatness--justice.

Somehow this madness must cease. We must stop now. I speak as a child of God and brother to the suffering poor of Vietnam. I speak for those whose land is being laid waste, whose homes are being destroyed, whose culture is being subverted. I speak for the poor in America who are paying the double price of smashed hopes at home and death and corruption in Vietnam. I speak as a citizen of the world, for the world as it stands aghast at the path we have taken. I speak as an American to the leaders of my own nation. The great initiative in this war is ours. The initiative to stop it must be ours.

Being a Negro in America means trying to smile when you want to cry. It means trying to hold on to physical life amid psychological death. It means the pain of watching your children grow up with clouds of inferiority in their mental skies.

We no longer live in Martin Luther King's precise world. That is surely true. But as we watch violence increase, see hatred passed off as political rhetoric, listen to the strident calls of those who would divide us as a nation rather than unite us, then we know for certain that we may have seen the mountaintop, but we are not yet there. The spiritual wound in America is still raw, still needing to be healed.

I wish Martin's words made me say "oh, Gee -- that was so long ago." I wish the call to stand up for justice sounded as outdated as the saying "Someday man will walk on the moon."

We need to listen. It won't take long to be inspired again. Martin Luther King Jr's words are like a flame in a room full of wicks. They ignite us. I'll list some sites that carry videos or recordings of his speeches. Go listen. Let your heart hope that things can be better. Find what parts of the dream you may have forgotten. Dream it again.


The official MLK Day of Service Site

The Nobel Peace Prize Biography of MLK

The King Center

The MLK Online Site - an index to resources online.

The MLK Research and Education Institute

It is important to keep to the messages of leaders like Martin Luther King alive. Until we can measure up to the best part of them, we need to renew our dedication to them, over and over. It is hard to love instead of hate. It is hard to be non-violent. It is hard to, as MLK said, "Stand up for righteousness; stand up for justice; stand up for truth." It is not enough to spend one day a year. It is time to dream the dream, and to act on it -- again and again, until we need not dream it anymore, because it will have become real.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Pat Robertson Does Not Speak For Me

It is like clockwork now. If there is a world calamity, people like Robertson or Falwell will be blaming some group they do not like or are afraid of -- whether it is homosexuals getting blamed for 9/11 or now Robertson implying that Haiti made a pact with the devil 200 years ago when the slaves fought for their freedom from the French. Robertson, like many in the right wing, uses the muscle of religious symbology to inspire hatred and blame. It is nasty work he does.

Stand up. Blog out about it. Join me in saying on your blog:

Pat Robertson does not speak for me.

Send him email at his website : Let him know that your faith would not allow such heresy, such racial scapegoating.

Here is the latest PR release from his site:
Statement Regarding Pat Robertson's Comments on Haiti – VIRGINIA BEACH, Va., January 13, 2010 --On today’s The 700 Club, during a segment about the devastation, suffering and humanitarian effort that is needed in Haiti, Dr. Robertson also spoke about Haiti’s history. His comments were based on the widely-discussed 1791 slave rebellion led by Boukman Dutty at Bois Caiman, where the slaves allegedly made a famous pact with the devil in exchange for victory over the French. This history, combined with the horrible state of the country, has led countless scholars and religious figures over the centuries to believe the country is cursed. Dr. Robertson never stated that the earthquake was God’s wrath. If you watch the entire video segment, Dr. Robertson’s compassion for the people of Haiti is clear. He called for prayer for them. His humanitarian arm has been working to help thousands of people in Haiti over the last year, and they are currently launching a major relief and recovery effort to help the victims of this disaster. They have sent a shipment of millions of dollars worth of medications that is now in Haiti, and their disaster team leaders are expected to arrive tomorrow and begin operations to ease the suffering.

Chris Roslan
Spokesman for CBN

Countless scholars believe this? On what planet?? And help me unertand - the PR guy says Robertson was not saying this was God's wrath -- just that Haiti was cursed. Huh?

Robertson must blame that which he does not understand. But he dishonorably assumes he speaks for God or for Christianity.

Well, he does not.

If anyone is interested in Haitian history, here is a bit of it explaining teh time period Robertson mentioned in slight detail.
Here is what Wikipedia says about Boukman Dutty:
Bois Caïman (Haitian Creole: Bwa Kayiman) is the site of the Vodou ceremony presided over by Dutty Boukman on August 14, 1791. The purpose of the ritual was to attempt to expel the French occupation, which were using the Haitians as slave labor.[1]

According to the official "History of Haiti and the Haitian Revloution"[2], in 1791 the following events occurred:

A man named Boukman, another houngan, organized on August 14, 1791, a meeting with the slaves in the mountains of the North. This meeting took the form of a Voodoo ceremony in the Bois Caiman in the northern mountains of the island. It was raining and the sky was raging with clouds; the slaves then started confessing their resentment of their condition. A woman started dancing languorously in the crowd, taken by the spirits of the loas. With a knife in her hand, she cut the throat of a pig and distributed the blood to all the participants of the meeting who swore to kill all the whites on the island. On August 22, 1791, the blacks of the North entered into a rebellion, killing all the whites they met and setting the plantations of the colony on fire. However, the French quickly captured the leader of the slaves, Boukman, and beheaded him, bringing the rebellion under control.

It is widely accepted as the starting point for the Haitian Revolution.

And who were these loas that are mentioned? Are they "the devil" that Robertson refers to? Here is Wikipedia again:
The Loa (also Lwa or L'wha) are the spirits of the Voodoo religion practiced in Haiti, and other parts of the world. They are also referred to as Mystères and the Invisibles. They are somewhat akin to saints or angels in Christianity in that they are intermediaries between Bondye (Bon Dieu, or good god)—the Creator, who is distant from the world—and humanity. Unlike saints or angels however, they are not simply prayed to, they are served. They are each distinct beings with their own personal likes and dislikes, distinct sacred rhythms, songs, dances, ritual symbols, and special modes of service. Contrary to popular belief, the loa are not deities in and of themselves; they are intermediaries for a distant Bondye.As a way to keep their European masters from interfering, and to appease the authorities who prevented them from practising their own religions, the African slaves in Haiti syncretised the Loa with the Roman Catholic saints - so Vodoun altars will frequently have images of Catholic figures displayed. For example, Papa Legba is alternately St. Peter or St. Lazarus, Ayizan is Saint Clare, and so on. Syncretism also works the other way in Haitian Vodou and many Catholic saints have become Loa in their own right, most notably St. Philomena, St. Michael the Archangel, St. Jude, and St. John the Baptist.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Pat Robertson Does Not Speak for Me

CBS News reports that Pat Robertson is blaming the disaster in Haiti with a pact that Haiti made with the devil.

As Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive said "well over" 100,000 people may have died in the national disaster, Robertson took to the airwaves Wednesday on his show and said that the country has been "cursed by one thing after another" since they "swore a pact to the devil."

"Something happened a long time ago in Haiti and people might not want to talk about," Robertson said Tuesday.

"They were under the heel of the French, you know Napoleon the third and whatever. And they got together and swore a pact to the devil. They said 'We will serve you if you will get us free from the prince.' True story. And so the devil said, 'Ok it’s a deal.' And they kicked the French out. The Haitians revolted and got something themselves free. But ever since they have been cursed by one thing after another," Robertson said.

The man is a danger and a disgrace. I am Christian. He does not speak for me. Trend that on Twitter at #PatRobertsonDoesntSpeakForMe.

He should be ashamed.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Aging and Learning, but Unable to Defy Gravity

previously published on --

I am about to turn 60 on January 20th. I look in the mirror and just do not understand. To you out there, comfortably ensconced in your 30's, I have one thing to say.

Your Day Will Come.

The day will come, when, like me, you suddenly get that you have more years behind you than in front of you. People will always be calling you "M'am", and the waiter is just hoping you are an eyelash batting biddy when he asks "And what would you girls [or young ladies] like today?"

(There is very little as age-emphasizing as some smiling 20esque year old waiter who thinks he can flirt his way into a larger tip because he is waiting on an older woman. We're not talking cougar-fan here. We are talking "smarmy tip fisherman".)

This is a hurdle year for me. Fifty was nifty. It didn't feel that much older than forty-nine. For that matter, it felt close to forty. But sixty? My grandparents died in the 1918 flu epidemic at an age younger than this. My Dad was contemplating retirement at this age. Wait, am I in those shoes? The sixty year old ones? My Mom, who looks old in the wedding picture, was only fifty-one when I got married.

The point is, at some point, like it or not, the number attached to your age might surprise you. I feel a huge spiritual disconnect. I feel about thirty-eight. But I have a sixty year old butt. And quite honestly, when I survey my body, gravity is not our best friend. Our bodies will age. My skin looks older, more like my Mom's skin at some point. If I didn't color my hair I'd be all gray. I have a favorite arthritis remedy. Can it be true? Is this me?

I don't mind getting older. I am a cancer survivor. I get THRILLED when the numbers go up. Don't get me wrong. I am thankful for having the chance to age.

I just wish I was better prepared for what it felt like. Friends my age and I say the same thing over and over -- "No one told us..."

But had the infamous "they" told us that our bodies would start to creak, maybe even hurt sometimes, and that our stamina would decrease, and that things would just plain change, would we have believed them? I think not. That would happen to someone else, not us!

There are, however, lovely things about aging. The "been there, done that" satisfactions of life are not to be underestimated. It's nice to now that at a certain age one has stopped worrying about the biological clock from a childbirth angle. It is lovely to have accumulated knowledge and skills. There are still tons of things to learn, but the basics are pretty much locked down.

At sixty, I notice that I do look back a bit more. I am not ready for the porch rocking chair, but I am more contemplative. I do notice the "roads not taken".

Fortunately, I notice them without much regret. Oh I wonder what may have happened if I had continue to date Mr X -- or taken that job offer in Chicago -- or moved to Europe when I had the chance -- or gotten a law degree. But largely, I am OK with my decisions.

For the array of years before me I am conscious of wanting to love even better, more visibly. I want to do better in the world. I want to write that damned book finally. I want to lose weight, get fitter. I want to say what I really feel more often.

Every age decade or half-decade seems to come with its learning curve. I remember at twenty-five I suddenly realized that I had lost my innocence. It felt very dramatic at the time. Now I am delighted to have lost it for the most part. It makes me more useful in the world. But it felt awful then.

The thirties brought their own challenges - divorce, cancer, relocation to NYC. That was the decade of life reinvention, or the first reinvention of many, to be more accurate.

Rather than drag you through my decades, just think of your own, and what spiritual growth seemed attached to each one? What life learning colored each decade? Were some harder than others? More joyous than others? What do you imagine for your sixties?

I love birthdays. I have a heck of a time remembering them, however. But I love it, love it, love it when my birthday is remembered. If you bump into me on my birthday, hugs are gladly accepted!

Mary's blog quotes Regina Brett. Regina is a 90 year old writer who listed her top 45 life lessons in the Cleveland Plain Dealer. The last five are:

40. If we all threw our problems in a pile and saw everyone else's, we'd grab ours back.
41. Envy is a waste of time. You already have all you need.
42. The best is yet to come.
43. No matter how you feel, get up, dress up and show up.
44. Yield.
45. Life isn't tied with a bow, but it's still a gift.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

My birthday is coming

Oh, I know, this seems self-serving. But I turn 60 on January 20th. Feel free to send birthday greetings. I love birthday greetings. No gifts are needed, just your good wishes, please. I love it when people send good cheer on my birthday. So hold off until the 20th. Those with my email can use it. I won't consider it spam. :-)

I remember when I was little, thinking that the year 2,000 would come on my 50th birthday month. It seemed forever away. Now here I am 10 years past that and I am so surprised. Sixty. It is such a big number, and not at all how I imagined it would be.

Friday, January 01, 2010


...also posted at

If there ever was a time to wish, it is now. Here we are at the first day of a new year. The world is about as ready for better wishes as it can be. So let's explore the power of a wish -- or a prayer -- or whatever you call a deeply held positive intention that you offer out into the universe. For me, that's a prayer. For others, a wish, a hope, a dream. It all comes from the same place -- the part of us that wants things to be better.

Imagining a better future has power. It helps us set goals, helps us not give up, helps us not listen to those who say "It is not possible." If we can imagine it, envision it, hope for it -- it is possible.

Whether we ask for the help of a Higher Power or of the Universe or of the collective unconscious, there is power in the asking. Framing the thought of well-being, seeing a future with positive change in it can help make that change possible.

I heard someone say once (I have forgotten who) "It is not 'I'll believe it when I see it' that is true, but rather 'I'll see it when I believe in it.'"

So I am going to set you a task.

Please make three wishes for 2010.

One for the world.

One for someone else. (Just use their initial, or the letter X if you do not want to publicly state their name -- that is often the wiser choice.)

One for yourself.

Make those wishes and then take a few minutes to really feel them. Pray them. Sense them. Feel them. Meditate on them. Whatever suits your spirit, do. Do what it takes to center in on them and really focus on your best intentions.

Now, release them as active hopes in the world.

Tell us how if felt?

Here is my list. Please join me with yours.

For the world: My wish is that we wake up to the fact that we are all connected, all part of the human family, all beholden to each other, all responsible for each other's well-being. It's a bold wish. I wish it anyway, with my whole heart.

For someone else: A. is dying in Florida right now. He has had a long and full life, and has decided to let go because his recurring and painful cancer is now definitely terminal. His wife, J, is by his side. I wish them whatever peace they can find, whatever comfort is possible. And I wish an easy passing for A. It could happen any day now, any hour.

For myself: I've had some health issues this year. I wish myself improved health and vitality.

So that's my list. Starting a year with wishes is a good thing. It helps me focus on what matters most, what is essential in my corner of the world. Wish with me please -- three wishes that can change the year. Begin anew with wishes from the soul.

Is it hard to wish for yourself? I found it easier to wish for others, for example. Push through that resistance and just wish for it. Whatever your "it" is.

Be bold in your wishes, now and through the year. Take your imagination out for a walk through the greenest pastures that you can imagine. Let your dreams soar. There is going to be plenty of time for practicality, concern, hard work, goal-setting, risk-taking and all the daily worries of life. But for right now, live in the wish=space. Imagine what you want. Point your heart in the direction of a better world for yourself and others.

My wish is also that 2010 brings you peace and joy.


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