A Mission Statement For My Life

Just yesterday, I was released from the ICU of a local hospital after a fall that resulted in a couple of brain bleeds, “Praise God, ” they only required monitoring, and no medical intervention. Frightening though it was, it was not as serious as it could have been.

As a way to distract my mind from the intractable headache (One that made some of my migraines seem like a walk in a park.), I mindlessly checked out a website, www.nextdoor.com to see what is happening in our neighborhood. It is a nationwide website that allows over 180,000 local neighborhoods to interact with one another, and to share both vital and run-of-the-mill information. I am not on the site very often, so I looked forward to see what was happening in the 29 neighborhoods surrounding me.

I came across a rather innocuous post about a missing political yard sign. The person who posted it made the “mistake” of identifying it as a sign supporting a politician from a certain political party. (I am not even identifying the politician or the party, because those facts are immaterial.) The post resulted in many comments, some of which rife with undisguised rancor, and unfounded accusations, which devolved into an “us” vs “them” environment. Although I was so exhausted that I could barely keep my eyes open, I was incredulous as to how a benign post (except for the word naming a certain politician) could cause seemingly intelligent human beings to stoop to discrediting, trivializing, and condescending another human being, simply because of their perceived, or even real, different belief. It appeared that the animus is directed largely at people that they don’t even know.

After reading that post and some of the replies, I was compelled, in spite of my exhaustion, mental confusion, headache, and overall crappy state, to dictate this post, no matter how long it took. In response to the obvious digression from an unintended partisan discussion, to a series of unsubstantiated and unfounded jabs against the opposing party, the original postor offered to meet anyone, regardless of his or her political persuasion, for a sit down, face-to-face, heart to heart discussion and exchange of ideas. Until I choose to stop reading, the curt, obviously partisan, off topic, and mean spirited replies vastly outnumbered those agreeing to the offer.

As I have for the past few days, while lying in ICU, I thought of my grandchildren, and in this case, of the rancorous environment that we, as adults, are exposing them to, and my heart ached. Is this the new normal that I wish them to inherit? Do I want them to believe that those who think and look differently, are evil, and are to be reviled? Do I want them to believe that they are in it for themselves, and should not be concerned about the plight of others? Do I want them to believe that they should do anything that it takes, regardless of the harm to others, to achieve their goals? Do I want them to believe that they are more special, more precious or more important than the child seated beside him, or do I want him to know that, in God’s eyes, we are all made in his image, and loved the same? As I answered these questions, my tribe, my community, became clear.

I seek a group of diverse (i.e., based on, among other things, gender, race, national origin, sexual orientation, religion, ideology, political preference, marital status, income, age, disability, rank in the social hierarchy, beliefs and more) individuals, who desire to interact with one another in a civil, non-confrontational or accusatory, and most importantly, respectful manner. I seek those who have no need to surround themselves with clones or carbon copies of themselves, but who long to grow, learn and expand their horizons through interactions with those from cultures, backgrounds, beliefs, lifestyles, and life experiences that differ from their own.

I seek others who believe that there is no reason that those who hold different views should be unable to sit down to peaceably and amicably engage in discussions, even about weighty matters, without the need to resort to the denigration, belittlement, ostracism, or disparagement of others, simply because of opposing beliefs and views. I seek those who believe that we are equals, who are entitled to her/his own beliefs, and that we are free to exercise and express those beliefs without fear of being subjected to wanton criticism, vitriol, physical, mental or emotional harm, or any other adverse action.

I seek those who remember that this country was founded by a band of immigrants who sought refuge from oppression, and for the right to practice their chosen beliefs. They sought freedom. Our ancestors were not the original inhabitants of this country, but that is a topic for another day. Everyone of us is borne of immigrants. I seek those who believe in the protections afforded by the First Amendment, though initially intended to allow each of us the right to practice our chosen religion, affords us the right to express our beliefs in a legal, amicable, and peaceable manner. I seek others who long for the times when we were able to do so without fear of retribution or the loss of treasured relationships. I also seek those who strive, as the Second Commandment states, to love your neighbor as you love yourself, which should be practiced universally, and not solely by the Christians among us. Admittedly, it is far from an easy undertaking, but one worth pursuing. Finally, I seek a community of those who abhors the current division, the “us” vs “them” environment, in favor of one that proclaims “we the people,” which is all inclusive. I seek a community who refuses to accept the current environment as our “new normal.”

I am still a bit confused as a result of my head injury, but I felt compelled to dictate this right now, because it is much too important to put off. When my end arrives, and as for us all, it is inevitable, I have no intention of being remembered as an intractable proponent of views that served to tear down, instead of build up, and that stirred dissension for the wrong reasons. I have no desire for my children or grandchildren to model hate, division, lies, fear, or any number of other negative qualities, for the sake of politics — any politics. I have no intention of leaving behind such a legacy.

I am a perfectly imperfect person who struggles every day to be a source of light, love, and hope. I make mistakes, and do and say things that I shouldn’t, but I regret them. As a Christian, I am a sinner who strives to do and be better, and the politics of the day, plays no role in those efforts. I intend to leave a well of love, compassion, fair dealing, empathy, community service, trust, honesty, sensitivity, action, and more for my children and grandchildren to inherit. I want to teach them to stand for what is right, even though they may be ridiculed or stand alone, and to speak for those who cannot do so for themselves. For that is what it comes down to, doing what is best for the greater good.

God is not interested in how much money we earn, the clothes we wear, our spotless lawns, our net worth, the car that we drive. or the lofty position that we hold. None of it matters! It all comes down to our good thoughts and acts, and to the degree to which we strive to be and do good, for others. Having been recently reminded of the brevity of this life, I do not chose to meet my maker, trying to explain or justify my bad behavior towards any of God’s creations, for any reason, especially, politics. Party politics should never be allowed to supersede our basic humanity.

Initially, I decided against writing this post because of fear, retribution, threats or ill will, against myself or those that I love. Yet, how can I teach my grandchildren to do the right thing, cowering in the shadows? In dictating this post, I have tried to walk the middle path. Yet, I have no doubt that some will take issue with what I’ve said, and how I’ve said it. Although I have firm beliefs and clear opinions, I wrote this without the inclination or need to point a finger at one side or the other. The thing is that they are wholly irrelevant when speaking of qualities such as respect, civility, trust, honesty, compassion, love, and selflessness. Still, I am well aware that if one searches long enough, they will find what they believe supports her or his stance, but I cannot allow that to sway my actions.

Although I am charged with rest to promote healing, am unable to drive, as soon as possible, I look forward to a gathering of everyone who believes as I do, party affiliation aside. Until we are able to meet one another face-to-face, I wish each of you good health, peace of mind-body-spirit, happiness, laughter, unity and love. I remind you to “love your neighbor, as yourself.” Imagine how that would change the climate in this country? If you are like me, you will undoubtedly stumble, but then, you pick yourself up, and begin again.

Quote Tuesday

Colors

People were created to be loved. Things were created to be used. The reason why the world is in such chaos is because things are being loved and people are being used.” ~ John Green or Unknown

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Thursday Thoughts

This morning, I opened my inbox to find my daily email from the Daily Om. If you have not checked it out, I heartily recommend it. The goal of Daily Om is to nurture the mind, body and spirit by providing daily informative, thought-provoking and inspiring thoughts on ways to live a more spiritual and meaningful life that also affects our physical, mental, and emotional health. Often, I find them fodder for deeper contemplation and further discussion. In addition to the inspirational articles, they offer a number of low cost (You decide how much you can pay.) classes that assist you in dealing with life issues that most of us confront each day.

Since I find them so noteworthy, I want to share them with you. With that in mind, I’ve decided to post one on my blog every Thursday. My hope is that you, too, will find that they offer an alternate that can inform your circuitous life’s journey. I’d love to hear your thoughts. Below, you will find the first Daily Om missive.

Changing Roles: As We Ebb And Flow Through Life

“We all have our own life story. It is filled with relationships and events that help shape who we are and what we believe to be true about the world. Depending on our perspective and willingness to grow, our experiences can become fodder for negativity and patterns of playing the victim, or they can fuel a life of empowerment and continued self-development. It is the story we tell ourselves about what happens that makes all the difference.

Take a moment to look at the life story you create for yourself on an ongoing basis. If you generally feel peaceful about the past and trust in your ability to handle whatever comes your way, then you are framing circumstances in a manner that serves you well. On the other hand, if you retain a lot of guilt or resentment and often feel weighed down by life, you may want to start telling yourself a new version of past and present events. No matter who the characters are in your story or what they have done, you are the only one who can give their actions the meaning they will have for you. You are the only one who can define what role you will play in your own life. By taking responsibility for your story, you are able to learn and grow, forgive and find compassion, and most importantly, move on into a brighter future.

From now on, you can choose a life story that supports you. Let it be proof of your own resilience and creativity. Be kind with the roles you give yourself and generous with how many chances you get to learn what you need to know. When you remember that you are the author of your own story, you are free to create a masterpiece.”

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The Choice Is Yours

Sunrise at Malibu Lake in the Santa Monica Mou...

Sunrise at Malibu Lake in the Santa Monica Mountains near Malibu, California, which is located on the northwestern edge of Los Angeles County, May 1975 (Photo credit: The U.S. National Archives)

It was near the end of my almost month-long stay in Los Angeles, and I’d finally made it to Malibu Beach. It was a perfect day for the beach, sand castles and sand angels. I find the rhythmic, gentle roar of the ocean waves mesmerizing, so I sat for a while taking in the seemingly infinite expanse of the water.

Soon, I was standing in the Pacific Ocean with my g’son awaiting the crash of the surf as it hit our bodies. I waited with the anticipation of the 3-year-old standing beside me. At the moment of impact, the surf dispersed the sand from beneath my feet, and I was on the verge of losing my balance. I must admit that my initial feeling was one of fear and loss of control. So, it was no surprise that my body reacted instinctively and went into a ‘fight or flight’ mode. My muscles tightened and my breath quickened, awaiting a nonexistent foe.

Assessing the situation, what I felt was akin to the earth giving way beneath my feet, and I, like a drunk college student stumbling home after the latest frat party, swayed to and fro, barely keeping my balance. Although I tried, I couldn’t formulate the words to explain the feeling to my son-in-law, who was nearby taking photos. From out of nowhere, I felt it–a moment of sweet, exhilarating perfection, followed by an acceptance and surrender to the feeling. My body sensed it as well, because almost instantaneously, it relaxed and my breath deepened. Bliss replaced the tension that I’d spent moments ago. In those brief series of moments, there was no agonizing about the past, or yearnings about the future. There was simply that perfect moment when everything made sense, and all was right with the world.  Without thinking, everything within me knew that this was it, the elusive present moment. To my utter amazement, as I stood there in the ocean, the same thing happened two more times.

At first, my experience blew me away, and I wanted it to happen again. I am an unabashed seeker, like the majority of us, and long to live my life without the baggage borne of the past or future. The name of my blog, “Seeking Querencia,” says it all. Having spent a lifetime “living” a soul-sucking existence that can easily lull you into a sense of normalcy, I wanted to experience life’s moments, every precious one of them. There, I can let go of worries and wounds of the past and the never-ending daydreams about the unknowable future, and as it is said, to “stop and smell the roses.”

What I slowly realized is that it was those moments preceding my “transcendental” experience that held the key to my goal. It is then when I choose to let go of my endless thoughts and feelings about the past and the future. When we dwell in the present moment, there is no past or future. As Eckhart Tolle is known to say, there is only the now. The past and the future only exist in our minds and clinging to them only serve to strengthen them and prolong the hold that they have on us. They hold no significance. More importantly, they block our path to the only moment that is available to us, the present moment.

Each moment is a morsel that has within it the promise of infinite possibilities. They hold, among other things, a potential world of grace and mystery, and as they drift on by, they, too, become the past. We will never know what beauty, joy or wonder was within our reach, because the moment shall never come again. Mind you, the past is not irrelevant. It informs who we are. Yet, we are not meant to live there, we are meant to learn from it. The future, in spite of careful planning, is amorphous, and short of being able to see into the future, it eludes us and takes our attention from what is before us.

In those perfect moments that I experienced, I choose the present in lieu of the past or future. By doing so, I claimed the only moment given me. I love the following quote by Martha Graham, the acclaimed dancer and choreographer. She said,

“All that is important is this one moment in movement. Make the moment important, vital, and worth living. Do not let it slip away unnoticed and unused.”

The last sentence wallops me. When we embrace each moment fully, we invite the present moment, not as a fleeting occurrence, but as a way of life–a fully aware and experiential life. From now on, this is what I seek.

How do you practice living your life in the present moment? I urge you to share your experience with us.

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