Chasing Inspiration

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

In Which I Have PRIDE

Pride Colours


I've been thinking about combining this blog with my blog on my author website, but I hesitate to combine the two because, well, I rather like the title of this blog. And the fact that I can blog about whatever I feel like, not just things I think will appeal to readers or fellow writers. 

It's PRIDE month and that causes me to think about the various spiritual leaders and teachers I've had in my life and how being LBGTQIA+ was viewed as a sin. A bad thing. Something people need to be saved from. 

I have so many LGBTQIA+ friends and acquaintances in my life and when I look at each and every one of them I don't see sinful or bad or people who need to be saved. I see compassionate, caring, and amazing people. I see my friends. I see people who are just like me. I see glimpses of God. 

It feels as though there is this belief within certain Christian sects where it seems they get to pick and choose who benefits from the great commandment. Specifically loving their neighbour as themselves. Our neighbours are not just the people who live down the street. Our neighbours are the rest of the human race. If it was important enough for Jesus to paraphrase Leviticus 19:17-18, then I think it's important enough for us to take it seriously. 

We need to love ourselves. We need to love our neighbours. Do we do that by telling our neighbours they are sinful and wrong and in danger of going to hell if they don't stop loving the people they love? I don't think so. I think we show people we love them by showing them compassion, but not judging, by not worrying about whether they are hell bound or not. It's not our call, and if we spent less time worrying about hell maybe we could spend more time worrying about the dignity and welfare of other people. More time getting to know people as just...people. More time seeing the beauty that resides within them. 

It's PRIDE month and all month I've celebrated with joyful exuberance my friends who are LGBTQIA+. And I have been angered by the machinations of those who will not see these amazing people as people worthy of the same civil and human rights as any straight person in this country has just because they are straight. I love my friends. They are not less. They are not sinning. They are not somehow broken. They deserve a world where they can be exactly who they are without fear of recrimination. Or worse. 

I haven't believed that God is displeased with the LGBTQIA+ community for a long time. I don't know if I ever believed it. As PRIDE month comes to a close all I can believe is that God loves people in all our messy glory. And so should we. 


Gratitudes:
  1. Iced tea, refreshing on a hot day.
  2. The cooler summer weather.
  3. Opportunities that seem to come out of nowhere.

Photo by Mattia Belletti via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

Wonder Woman: Separating the Artist From the Art

Gratitudes:
  1. Thunderstorms, which would be infinitely more enjoyable if Velcro Dog wasn't freaked out by them.
  2. Writing "The End" at, well, the end.
  3. Friends who believe in you enough to carry that belief for you when you don't believe in yourself.
Edited on 6/15/2017:
A reader passed on two more articles that may counterbalance the Salon article linked to at the bottom of my blog post. 
I also encourage you to read her reply to this blog post as it offers some excellent points regarding why there is a rise of banning films containing Jewish content, the impacts of censorship, and the rise of antisemitism . While my post isn't about Wonder Woman, censorship, or Zionism, they were my jumping off point, perhaps the wrong jumping off point. Yes, we need to make space for people to experience something differently than we do, but we do not make space for hate. And we, I, need to educate ourselves on the issues we use as jumping off points or main thesis in our opinion pieces. This was absent from my original post, for which I apologize. 

This weekend I saw Wonder Woman. The movie was wonderful. The action was spot on. The sacrifices made sense. The women were bad ass. And Diana Prince is front and center. As she should be since this movie is her origin story. 

I know there has been at least one other superhero movie which featured a female superhero (Elektra for those who are wondering), but Wonder Woman is a female superhero icon and watching this movie made much younger me so very happy. I grew up watching Lynda Carter as Wonder Woman fighting crime on a weekly basis. I wanted to be Diana Prince. Even made myself bracelets and a diadem out of tin foil. This movie was important. It was long past due. 

I know people who did not love the movie. Some because of the pacing. Others because it changed Diana's origin story. Still others for a myriad of other stylistic reasons. There are those people who, however, disliked the movie because of the lead actress. Gal Gadot is an Israeli actress. This is why the movie to be boycotted and banned in Lebanon and other countries. Gal Gadot is also seen as a Zionist, in part because she openly supported the Israeli attacks on Gaza in 2010. Some people look at Ms. Gadot and see these things and can't see past them to Diana Prince and Wonder Woman.

This post is not to debate Gal Gadot, Israel, or Zionism. It's not to debate intersectional feminism. It's not even to debate the movie itself. No, this post is my attempt to answer this question: Can we separate the artist from the art? 

The answer is both yes and no. Yes, art can stand alone and speak to us as itself.  No, because sometimes the artist has imbued so much of themself into their art that a person may not be able to view the art without overlaying the artists upon it. In other words, it's personal. 

Why do we forgive certain celebrities for the pain and suffering they cause, but hold others in contempt forever? Maybe it's because some actions don't hit us where we live, while others eviscerate us, even if we weren't the target. Beliefs matter. Actions matter. And when we feel we are being ignored, attacked, gutted by the actions of someone we don't know, maybe that's because those actions trigger something deep within us. 

Example time. These are from my real life, and while none of these examples are the political and ethical tripwires that are being discussed thanks to the lead actress in Wonder Woman, they both have left long term scars upon me. 

I once knew a romance author who wrote some amazing stories. She was a bit of a pioneer with sex positivity back in the 90s. I got to know her online and we had some wonderful discussions. She started a web board, as was what authors often did in those days before Facebook and Twitter, and asked me to help moderate it. I was happy to. I loved her books. My interactions with her had been positive and informative. I wanted her social media presence to succeed. Until the day she threw a friend of mine under the bus in a very public and humiliating manner. 

I cut ties with said author and her board. I couldn't support this brand of bullying (which is what it was). I haven't read a single book of hers since. Not because she's a horrible storyteller. Her books were beautifully written. But when I tried to read her beautiful stories, my stomach would clench and I would be thrown back to that day when she humiliated my friend. I couldn't separate the writer from her books. I still can't. 

On the flip side, I am a fan of another author who also writes beautifully and I love her books. I had the chance to meet her at a conference. I happened to be in one of the public bathrooms when I overheard her complain about some of her fellow authors. It wasn't her best moment, and I left the bathroom feeling less sanguine about her as a person. I still enjoy her books, though I don't care if I ever meet her in person again and I'm less likely to recommend her books to others. 

I've thought about why I feel so differently about these two authors. They both said hurtful things in a public forum (public bathrooms are public after all). They both write wonderful books. Why am I still able to appreciate the books of one and not the other? My opinion, it's because the Author A did something that hurt me personally. You mess with my friend, you mess with me. You don't apologize for hurting my friend, that hurts me as well. Author B was cutting in her words, but while she presented herself poorly, she didn't hurt me or mine.

Can we separate the artist from the art enough to enjoy the art as something that stands on it's own? Yes and no. It all depends on what triggers you deeply and personally. If the artist, actor, author, celebrity does something that affects you so deeply you can't help but think of that every time you come across said artist/actor/author/celebrity, then it's not very likely that you'll be able to set aside your distaste long enough to enjoy the art that individual produced. 

And because it is so very personal, I think we need to create room for people to both love and hate the art while they love or hate the artist. And we need to listen when someone shares a view that is not our own. If someone feels strongly that Wonder Woman is not the feminist win for all women, we should listen to understand why. If someone boycotts the movie because of their perception of said actress' political leanings, then we need to create space for that. Even if we don't agree with the boycott or the reasons behind it. 

I leave you with this final article regarding Wonder Woman, a thoughtful opinion piece about the potential implications of the movie: The confused, confusing nationalism behind “Wonder Woman”


Tuesday, May 30, 2017

I Met Charles Today

Gratitudes:
  1. Gluten free vegan cupcakes that are fueling my current story. And my belly.
  2. My husband. When he gets it right, he really gets it right.
  3. Foxes on Twitter. Seriously, check out @hourlyfox on Twitter!

I met Charles today. 

He was standing at a heavily travelled intersection near my home. An intersection I use at least once a day. An intersection where I often see people standing with homemade signs asking for a meal, money, a kind word. I'm often in the wrong lane to talk to anyone standing in the median, but today I saw Charles. And I was in the left turn lane right next to the median. 

Charles is a large man. His sign looked worn and he looked tired. He had set a beat up backpack down at his feet and stood there, patiently, waiting to see if anyone of us who were stopped at the light would wave him over. 

I had just purchased groceries, but they were in the trunk so I couldn't offer him any of the food I had purchased. But I had money. I pulled out a twenty from my wallet, rolled down my window and waved to him. 

Charles limped over and when he took the cash from my hand there was a hesitancy in his reach. He canted his head in a way that made me think he had trouble seeing out of one of his eyes. I reached further out of my car window to make sure he had a good grasp on the bill, then I told him I hope it could help. 

 He was profusely grateful, blessed me. Told me to have a good day. I asked him if he needed more. I could come back with sandwiches and water or soda. Did he have somewhere to spend the night? Did he need a ride to a shelter? Cab fare? He told me he had somewhere to stay. What he didn't have was food for meals. And thank you for the offer but he wasn't going to be at this location much longer. 

I don't know Charles' story. I don't know what events in his life coalesced to create a circumstance where he found himself standing on medians in intersections asking for money. I wish I had time to ask him, but our time was short as the light turned green and I had to drive away. 

It's easy to look at people like Charles and assume they are lazy or on drugs or scamming everyone. I'm ashamed to admit in my younger years I made such assumptions. Then I met a woman at a downtown bus stop on November afternoon. I was off work early and waiting for a bus to take me to my park and ride. She was sitting in the shelter trying to stay warm. I had a crazy expensive cup of coffee and she looked tired and hungry. So I asked her if she wanted my coffee, set it on the bench beside her. 

Charles reminded me of her. She was hesitant to take what I had offered. It was like life had held up promises of salvation only to yank them away at the last moment far too many times. I asked her if she worked downtown. She shook her head. So I asked her if she was warm enough. I could see her shivering. I was getting on a bus to head to my nice warm home. I was wearing a warm coat, warm clothes, a hat, scarf, gloves. She was dressed in tattered jeans, a lightweight sweater. Nothing else. So I took off my gloves, hat, and scarf and set them down next to the coffee. 

She took my offerings, wrapping the scarf around her neck and put the hat on her head. The gloves sat on her lap as she wrapped her bare hands around the coffee cup. Breathed in the warmth and the scent before she took a long sip. Then she started to tell me she had lost her job six months prior, and with only a GED she was finding safe jobs that paid more than minimum wage difficult to find. She had just lost her apartment and was living with friends, but didn't think she would be able to stay long. When she lost her apartment, she lost most of her belongings because the landlord was holding them. 

Homelessness and poverty are epidemics right now. In my experience most people don't want to see it. We see the homeless and the poor as other, as somehow less deserving. Or as an abstract concept. Most people don't want to believe homelessness or poverty could happen to them. I don't know about you, but my family is separated from homelessness by narrow gap. We have savings. My husband has a job. But I can't work right now. And the bank still owns a portion of our home. If A were to lose his job and not find one for some time, if medical expenses grow the way it looks like they may grow, well, we could use all our reserves. And if not become homeless, we could fall deep down the well of poverty. 

And I know the well of poverty. I've lived in various flavors of poverty a few times in my life. My dad lost his job in the early 80s and I remember mom using food stamps to get groceries. Dad going door to door selling Watkins. Dad working in bush operating (and fixing) feller bunchers so he could provide for us. Mom and dad talking about the money we didn't have, certain they were being quiet enough that we wouldn't hear. Listening to the hushed tones of relatives who talked about the poor relations and realizing they meant us.

I remember being on my own for the first time and having barely enough money to afford my car and the room I rented. A was finish college and had a plan at the cafeteria and would often let me use his plan so I could eat. I made $800 gross a month working full time as a live out nanny and counted myself lucky to have a job and a place to live. When we were first married, I had left Canada to live in the United States and couldn't work until I got my green card. A had a barely better than minimum wage job. We purchased a mobile home almost as old as we were because we could afford the lot rent but we couldn't afford an apartment. And we made it work. 

It took until I met that girl at the bus stop for me to build empathy for people who live in a cycle of poverty. And it took even longer to try to understand why that cycle exists in the first place. 

I don't know if I'll ever learn Charles' story. Or learn of where his life takes him. I hope Charles is okay. I hope he has what he needs to sleep well tonight. Food, shelter, safety. I hope he is able to connect with the right resources for him. I hope others treat him with care and compassion. He's a person with a story. He deserves dignity. I hope he has more of that then he has judgement.


Photo by Rob Walsh via Flickr, CC0 1.0

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Ups and Downs and Loneliness

Gratitudes:
  1. Good friends who always seem to recommend the right books at the right times.
  2. Tea Runners subscription tea service because OMG THIS TEA IS AMAZING PEOPLE!
  3. Ylang Ylang essential oil diffusing through my house.
Lonely pine cone

I'm gonna be honest, I've had a lot of ups and downs lately. Some of it I blame on the weather and the stupid ass spring we've been having. March was warm like April. April was by turns hot and cool with rain. May, I don't even want to talk about it. 

While I can use weather as a gauge for how intense my pain and/or brain fog will be, weather isn't the only thing that can cause me to flare. Here is a short list of other things that contribute:
  • Eating foods known to have inflammatory properties such as the nightshade fruit and veggies, dairy, gluten/wheat, sugar, artificial sweetener, etc. 
  • Stress. Any type of stress. 
  • Over exerting myself. 
  • Sunshine. I'm basically allergic to sunshine thanks to some of the meds I'm on, so spending time in the sun wears me out and can make me feel sick.
  • Poor quality sleep.
The worst thing about all of this? The fact that making plans to see people must be tentative or last minute. So I spend a lot of time in the house with Velcro Dog, practically counting the minutes until A gets home. It's lonely. I feel like I've lost people in my life because of this. Or, I feel as though I'm now THAT person who always cancels last minute and if I'm going to get together with someone it's going to be because I reach out first. 

It's exhausting being the person to reach out. You know this. I know you do. You have people in your lives who you wouldn't see unless you reach out time and time again. Sometimes you sit and wonder if it's worth continuing to reach out. And sometimes the answer is no, it's not worth it. 

I'm not judging anyone or looking for sympathy. We all have people in our lives who are THOSE people. Sometimes we are THOSE people. We all have to take care of ourselves, and sometimes that means letting some relationships fade. 

That said, if you know someone who has physical or mental health issues that make it difficult for that person to get out and be with people, maybe shoot them a text to see how they are doing. Send them an email. Reach out via Facebook. Reaching out doesn't need to infer getting together. It's asking how someone is doing and meaning that you truly want to know. And listening.  

I'm writing this to myself as much as to the world at large. I haven't been the best at reaching out much at all this year in general. Whether it's because I'm just tired of the whole dance or whether it's because it's been a crappy year so far and I'm not in the best headspace most of the time, I don't know. What I do know is that by not reaching out to people I genuinely care about I'm part of my own problem. 

Well, if you've made it this far, thanks for sticking with this post. It's not my most cohesive writing. And I'm seriously NOT looking for sympathy. I'm a big girl. I'll figure my life out. It's more a friendly reminder that sometimes there are real reasons for people to be less active, or to seem to fall off the face of the earth. And this doesn't mean they are upset with you or have become hermits. So if someone crosses your mind, reach out. Let them know you miss them, that you're thinking of them. And if you're feeling it, ask them if there is anything you can do to help. Of if they would like some company. 

This has been an incoherent rant by Naomi, sponsored by Insomnia. When you want to feel really bad about yourself, choose Insomnia. The better self-confidence inhibitor!


Photo by Danilo Virotta via Flickr (CC Atribution-Sharealike 2.0)

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Provocative Thought Wednesday

I'm going back to something I started several years ago here at Chasing Inspiration. I'm bringing back Provocative Thought Wednesday! And yes, I can see you rolling your eyes over there. Stop it!

I'm a big fan of Michael Bungay Stanier and his coaching methodology of Get Unstuck and Get Going...On the Stuff That Matters. I have found myself stuck a lot in the last months on various things with my life and had a duh moment when I looked at this little book on my desk I use with clients. I can use the same method with myself! I flipped through Get Unstuck, found a quotation with some thought provoking questions and let my brain noodle on how that quotation and those questions might apply to my issue at hand. It's not the full coaching I do with clients, but it was enough to get me out of my head and into an action plan.

So, on Wednesdays I'm going to offer a provocative thought and hope you, like me, will find it a valuable way to get outside of your head and look at things in your life a little differently.

To restart out this feature on Chasing Inspiration, I give you the following:
James Joyce's Ulysses is one of the most famous books in English literature. It's long, dense and difficult to read - and truly worth the effort. The last chapter, known as 'Penelope' is the the most famous. In it you hear for the first time the voice of Leopold Bloom's wife, Molly. And most famous of all is the last sentence, where she says yes 43 times. 
1. What are you saying Yes to? 
2. What do you want to say Yes to? 


Gratitudes:

  1. Iced tea. Mmmmm.
  2. Wild birds that rest in the trees in our yard and sing.
  3. People who know far more about technology than I and are willing to sit with me and explain how things work. You are priceless!

Wednesday, March 08, 2017

You May Hate Me After This Post, And That's Okay

Content Warning: I'm about to get political. And emotional. And voice strong opinions. You've been warned.

DC Women's March



I've been writing this post since January 22nd. I've debated posting it. I've tried to tone down my very strong opinions. In the end, I had to speak because to remain silent, well, it just isn't an option.
I try to not be political on FB. Everyone has the right to their opinions and beliefs. And that's fine when we can all respect each other and have empathy and compassion and an openness to understand. But I see so many people legitimately fearing for their safety and even their lives. That does not come from a society where there is respect and compassion and empathy.
I'm white. I'm a Christian. I have tremendous privilege because of these two things. I am female so I don't have the same privilege as white males. I have chronic illness. And I am fat so I also do not have the same privilege as white women who are healthy and don't carry a lot of extra weight, but I still have a hell of a lot of privilege I didn't earn.
Many of my friends do not have the same privilege. They are black or brown or LGBTQI+ or disabled or Muslim or Jewish or Pagan or atheists or agnostics. Or some combination of of these. They have been living marginalized lives, even if that marginalization is difficult to see. In a country where value is placed heavily on specific race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, and a very specific standard of health, how could anyone who does not fall into the "norm" not be marginalized?
We who are privileged often pat ourselves on the backs when something is done to make life better for those who are marginalized. And often we do so with arrogance. Even ignorance. This post isn't about privilege and what is broken in white Christian privilege. But this plays a part in what I'm about to voice next. Why? Because all we have done since the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s is apply bandages to the ever increasing problems of racism, sexism, misogyny, homomisia, sectarianism, etc. These issues have not been resolved. If anything, this election and the machinations of the current White House and Congress have not only shown us the cracks in our society, it has blown them wide open for the entire world to see.
I did not vote for Trump. I'm not a citizen so I can't vote. But I would not have voted for Trump. My view is not just political or just about how government is run. It's because Trump is a man who is vile. Yes, I said it, vile. He does not love truth or honesty. How could I vote for someone who seemingly celebrates the exact opposite of the teachings of Jesus?
I heard the hate he was spouting during the campaign. I saw the rise of something I consider ugly at his rallies. I saw fear tip into hate and hate tip into something even more dangerous. But I hoped people would see the man and not the rhetoric and would not be complicit in putting such a person in the role of President.
Then I realized all my hopes were in vain. Because of white evangelicals. More specifically white women who identify as evangelicals (and don't get me started on American evangelicalism). Because it was more important to ensure an imaginary judge would be appointed to the supreme court in order to overturn the right to a safe and legal abortion. Because it was more important to bring a religious belief system even more deeply into government. Because apparently morality needs to be legislated based on "Christian" beliefs. Because racism is so deeply rooted it's a systemic issue. Because sexism is rampant in many white Christian circles. Rampant among white Christian women, not just men. Because pointing the finger at someone else as the cause of why I'm unhappy is the great American past time.
When my marginalized friends tell me they are more afraid now than before the election, I try to listen and understand. I haven't lived a marginalized life so I need to shut up and just listen to their fears, their stories, their anger. And draw upon empathy and learn to see the world through their eyes. We who are privileged need to do this. It's not enough to sit back and comment from our computers or couches or churches. We need to step out. And step up.
I saw this during the Women's March on January 21st. Women, and men, of all colors, ethnicities, sexual orientations joining together to protest against misogyny and hate. Not all men are bad. But this country is legislated and run primarily by men. White men. Women NEED to have a seat at the table when it comes to reproductive rights, to equal pay, to ending sexual harassment.
But more than that, we need to shut up so we can hear the stories of the marginalized. And we need to step aside so they can step in. We shouldn't be the white saviour who makes the world a better place for everyone. We aren't the answer. We are part of the damn problem. White women get in the way of black women, of brown women. White people get in the way of black people, of brown people. Able bodied people stomp over the rights of the disabled and chronically ill. Heterosexuals often belittle the plight of those who identify as LGBTQI+.
Why does my voice matter more than yours? It shouldn't. Just as my life experience shouldn't invalidate yours. My religious views should not run roughshod over your own. My privilege shouldn't take away from you.
It's going to take years to get this right. There is a lot wrong with this country. A lot of systemic issues that we need to take a look at. Apologize for. Change. Fears that are going to take decades of us trying to do things right, failing, and trying again before people can start to believe things are going to be different.
But we need to start. Congress and the White House, those people work for us. For we the people. We can't forget that. So continue to call, to march, to resist if you don't agree with what is taking place. That goes for local government as well.
And if you are sitting back and think the direction our politicians are taking us in is fine, that all these people who are pushing back are crazy, take a moment and listen before you pass judgment. Really listen. Set aside your ego, your beliefs, your own fears and listen. And don't let shame or guilt or anger keep you from listening deeply.
We've all screwed things up. Now we need to own it and work to make restitution and seek reconciliation. Isn't that what Christians are supposed to do?

Gratitudes:

  1. Patricia Briggs, whose husband Mike passed away unexpectedly in January. She is touring for her new book despite this. You are brave and kind and loved, Patty! Admired even. I'm so sorry for your loss. Nothing can replace Mike. And nothing should.
  2. Sunshine. 
  3. Time to heal, as healing quite often takes time. 

Photo by Liz Lemon