Let Your True North Find You!

North Star, Stars, Night, Night Sky, Sky

Usually we are told or conditioned to take active, even bold when needed, steps to realize our dreams or to claim our happiness. We value our sense of agency although sometimes this may lead to our feeling like it is me (or, you) against the world, like somehow we need to wrest happiness from a harsh and forbidding world. But this week I have had an experience that shows me the value of letting my next step in growth and development, I’ll call it my True North, find me! 

Over a year ago I took action based on a sudden impulse; I wrote a letter addressing an agency in the hometown I was preparing to move back to.  Without exposing details here on a dear opportunity still only in its infancy, this agency had helped me with some writing projects in the past, and I thanked them and let them know I was returning to town so that if there was anything I might be able to do that they might need (like PT work for them), I would welcome that. In truth an underlying reason for reaching out to this agency in my beloved home town was because I was looking for a way to give something back to the community (and this agency) that had given me so much and helped to launch my life career on many levels.

Greeting Card, Letter, Paper, Stationery

I heard back maybe a month or so later from staff at the agency. The director I had addressed was not in town due to COVID19 and no, they did not need any help. Okay, I thought, at least it had been worth the effort to reach out based on following my inner nudge.

I relocated and have now been back in my hometown for nearly a year. I love it here. It is the same quaint village yet more developed now around a performing arts center (that I ushered for during its first two seasons while I was finishing college as an undergraduate). The wider location is expansive and dynamic; there is no end of opportunities for adventures to explore.  I continue to teach online, which I also love and am grateful for being able to do ‘remotely,’ now from my beloved hometown.

People, Parade, Fun, Friends, Lifestyle

Then three days ago I get this call from a local phone number. It is the director of the agency I had written to over a year ago!  He had returned from living in Canada through the worst of the pandemic and he found my letter while looking through some papers that had accumulated at his office. He is perfectly delightful; we talked quite awhile, realizing we share many points of intersection in our interests and experiences.  In fact next week we are set to meet for coffee to continue the conversation and there are possibly some opportunities for me to be of service and also for some of my current writing projects to be reviewed in new ways.

All of this has been so unexpected, at least consciously. If you’ll remember I had a dream last week about moving into a more expansive or roomy (and more Rumi, I associated) state of consciousness. Then just two days later or so, this phone call from ‘out of the blue’ opens new possibilities for realizing some of my deepest life ambitions for service and for writing. These are two ways through which I aim to serve life, to embrace and give gratitude to all life with love, perhaps in the sort of vein of gold Rumi bespeaks in his remarkable poem I included last time (“Word Fog”).

So we shall see wherever this might lead, but I am grateful for the opening to greater possible connections!

Characters, Statues, Sculptures, Trust
images are from pixabay.com

**************

Better Endings Story Seed

Let Your True North Find You!

How about you? Have there been moments in your life, or are you seeking such, whereby you relaxed and found that your next step reached out to YOU?  I invite you to contemplate, dream, or journal about that as a Better Endings exercise.

Where Roads Diverge? Contemplate Stories that Model Your Options

Brain, Woman, Arrow, Sign, Direction

Should you stay or should you leave; accept an offer, or not; go in one direction that invites you forward, or another?  We each stand at meaningful crossroads sometimes, needing to make difficult choices that could affect our Life Story either greatly or somewhat “ever after.”

You could start by listing some stories that include significant choices, especially if those choices are like yours. 

Here’s the idea: find a story or list a set of stories in which a character is faced with a similar choice and consider what direction the character takes, whether it works out well or not, and how you feel about the character’s choice and its results. Would you have made the same decision in the character’s shoes, or not?

To model the approach, here are some stories I might currently list along with brief synopses of the choices involved in the story:

  • Siddhartha, by Hermann Hesse:  Stay home in a pampered, sheltered environment with expectations of an easy, privileged existence, or leave his father’s safe and opulent world to experience humanity and the world in all its misery, and splendor.
  • Robert Frost’s poem, The Road Not Taken:  that he took the less traveled path most others would not have chosen, “and that has made all the difference.”
  • Defending Your Life: The Mel Brooks character often chose the least risk or the safest course of action rather than the bravest, so he is judged harshly between lives; versus the Meryl Streep character, who always chose the riskier path in service to life and others. She will certainly be “moving on.”
  • Lost Horizon: Robert Conway must choose between life in the world as a well-known and respected public servant, or to follow his heart and forge a difficult passage to return to Shangri-La, where spiritual enlightenment, potential for solitary but global service, and love await his return.
  • The Razor’s Edge: Again, life in the familiar world of home and normative community values versus a more solitary life seeking to develop and share the fruits of spiritual exploration.
Footprints, Path, Mystery, Unknown

My story choices are much of a piece, I see, in that the characters face similar challenges contrasting normative community lives of ‘getting by’ in a respectable, easy fashion, or stepping off into an out of the ordinary life of more solitary spiritual adventure.  On which path can they achieve deeper enlightenment pairs with which path will lead to greater opportunities for unique service though in less guaranteed or publicly acknowledged and sanctioned modes.

This exercise elevates, for me, the nature of a meaningful crossroads I am at personally, and that is helpful.  The set of synopses are contemplation seeds that help to reveal many angles on some of  my own current underlying questions.  I have found over the last few days of contemplating these stories that I have gained a much greater clarity about my path forward, while also my understanding of the messages in these stories has deepened.

Sign, Arrow, Street, Direction, Symbol
images are from pixabay.com

In some sense we are all of us always at a crossroads; which path stretching out before us shall we choose today?  Sometimes these choices become more meaningful as we seek to advance in our lives overall.  

So please, if you like, try this one on for yourself. The right panel Better Endings Story Seed prompt encourages you to contemplate or engage with this technique in your own journal.

To Mine Your Story, Find A Parallel Myth

Ball, Rose, Young Woman, A Princess

What sorts of character arcs and storylines do you find most compelling? Can you identify with a particular story; does it mirror aspects of your own life goals and challenges?  I like to say, myth is the stuff our lives our made of, because myth is made up from the stuff of our lives!

Our lives have the meaning that we give to them, and much of the meaning we bring to our life experiences derives from stories we have related to from childhood.  “The Wizard of Oz,” for example, tells the tale of a young person seeking to find her own strength so she can save her beloved pet dog from being taken away after having disturbed a mean neighbor’s garden. This story propels the main character, Dorothy, into her own unconscious archetypal depths to find the courage, heart, and wisdom she will need to face the wicked neighbor with a more mature, integrated sense of Self.

Ogre, Troll, Fairy, Elf, Forest

Many of us have faced ogres or so-called witches in our worlds, needing to dig deeply into our unconscious reservoirs of archetypal personas to assemble and marshal the character traits we may need to confront the forces of negativity and emerge whole from either a physical and/or from a moral and spiritual perspective.

In my book Your Life Path (2018), I present a Parallel Myth technique that can help you identify a story that resonates closely with the Life Chapters, themes, and character arcs of your own Life Story. (You can see a template for this technique without buying the book by downloading for free the My Life Path Mapping Toolkit from the right margins of this blog.)  So one way to find a parallel myth to understand the meaningful stuff of your own life story is to discover your Life Chapters and compare these with some story you identify with. A simpler approach would be: think of or write a short list of stories you have always loved because somehow you feel you can identify either with the plot of the story or with a character in that tale. Let’s take that approach here.

So, make a list of stories from novels, short stories, or movies that you have long felt you can identify with. Write a brief account for each of these as to how or why you might identify. I will give an example of some of my own most meaningful stories just to demonstrate the process:

  1. The Wizard of Oz:  In my youth I would often “run away” because I felt berated or tormented by my father’s harsh temper. I would hide in a closet or actually leave for a while (or sneak out) to gain a sense of independence or freedom.
  2. Contact: I share Eleanor Arrowway’s drive to pursue uncommon truths via both scientific and spiritual pathways.
  3. Harry Potter: In my childhood I often felt myself to be the ‘runt’ of the family (short, awkward, plain), but as I discovered spiritual truths and a sense of spiritual camaraderie from my early twenties on, I have gradually gained tools, and friends (including in my family), that have helped me recognize my own strengths to be of service to others.

Do you have your list? Write it out. What are some parallel mythic themes, characters, and messages from these stories that are mirrored in your own Life Story?

Fantasy, Fairy Tale, Girl, Cave, Nature
images are from pixabay.com

Next then, what messages might you take forward from your parallel myth(s) that can help you achieve the Better Endings you seek in your own storied life? Review your listed parallel myths and pay attention to the positive potentials of these stories’ resolutions. E.G.:

  • The Wizard of Oz: Dorothy unifies her sense of self by combining her archetypal qualities of courage, heart, and wisdom so she can stay ‘home’ and face the dark forces that had beset her there. Somehow I figure at the end of the movie that Toto is going to be okay, because Dorothy is strong enough in her own more mature Self to face the neighbor from a sense of responsibility and courage. (My message: Find the courage to stand my own ground when faced with negativity or obstacles.)
  • Contact: Ellie discovers a parallelism between science and religion (mirrored in her own relationship with Father Joss) when her ‘through-the-wormhole’ solo space adventure reveals new dimensions to reality. (My message: Continue to plunge the depths of science and spirituality, sharing as possible, but mainly to deepen my own understanding and awareness of incontrovertible realities beyond the ‘pale’ of common knowledge.)
  • Harry Potter: Teaming up with his own archetypally well matched ensemble cast of friends, Harry solves some of the mysteries of his lower self to gain courage and self-awareness that can defeat any negativity that may confront him or his world. (My message: Stay true to who you are and stand up for your highest values despite any efforts to alienate or undermine your and your friends’ finest qualities.)

What messages do you derive from comparing some of your favorite parallel myths and your own Life Story (to now)? What do the positive endings or potentials of these stories offer forth to you about achieving Better Endings in your own mythic-story?

Discover your Through Line

Path, Rural, Nature, Road, Countryside

We have been exploring Life Story narratives. We each have one; it is the dynamic, ever emerging story of your life! Life stories are as rich and full of meaning and drama as the most daring adventure tale or the most profound mythic Quest.

You are the author, editor, and the key protagonist, along with your significant relations, of your own epic tale. This week let’s add an authorial tip: find your Through Line. A through line is a simple statement that concisely encapsulates what your entire book or story is about.  When editing a story, keeping your story’s through line in mind can guide you to remove extraneous material from your text. The rule of thumb is: if a passage does not advance the plot and reflect the through line, leave it out.  This brings a more refined and compelling focus to your story, keeping it true to the storyline or plot structure you are meaning to convey.

What might a through line look like for a life story narrative; particularly, yours?  To discover the through line of any story, you can ask, ‘What is this story all about, in a nutshell?’ A through line should be concise, no longer than a single clause or sentence. 

Arrangement, Butterfly, Aesthetics

For example, consider the movie Castaway (one of my favorite ‘transformational story’ tales). What is it all about, in a nutshell?  I would say (and it could have a different meaning for you): “A man has a life altering experience from being stranded on a remote island as a ‘castaway’ for five years.” This through line makes sense of the entire Castaway story: what Chuck Noland’s life is like before the plane crash that strands him on a remote island; how his life experiences on the island challenge him and lead him to develop a capacity to be a resilient survivor who values life at all costs; and how his life has been altered by his castaway experience once he returns to ‘civilized’ life.   This storyline also carries a universal message when you consider how ultimately we are each alone with our own deepest challenges.

Message, Bottle, Cork, Letter, Scroll, Castaway, Rescue

So, what has your Life Story been about (up to now, at least), in a nutshell? You might revisit last week’s blog asking you to give a Title to your Life Story, and phrase your question around that title, or simply encapsulate how you think about your Life Story to date from your present perspective. You might also want to give yourself a heroic name to cast your through line in a third person format; this can help to bring you to a level of oversight or objective insight about your life AS story.

For example, the title I gave to my life story last week was A Merry (Carousel) Ride. My through line could be:  Jeannne (cf. Joan of Arc) learns to ride the Ups and Downs of life, always seeking to find Balance and Meaning, linking Heaven and Earth as a spiritual adventure.

Horse, Carousel, Carousel Horse, Fair
images are from pixabay.com

That is my quest, in a nutshell. How about YOU? You may use the Better Endings Story Seed prompt in the right panel to contemplate and/or journal about your own Life Story narrative. I welcome your feedback and comments on your own engagement with this tool.

A Better Ending for Your Life Story? Make It Epic!

Chalkboard, Story, Blogging, Believe, Blackboard, Chalk

How might you express the plot structure so far of your Life Story? Could you give it a title? What would that be? Based on where you have been, who you are now, and the direction your Life Story appears to be taking, give a title to your overall Life Story based on your present point of view.

It may help to use a Life Metaphor as a title. For example, one of my favorite life metaphors is Life is a Carousel Ride (hence the blog banner). So I could call my life story A Merry Ride. I like that!

Is your Life Story more like a Roller Coaster, a Grand Quest, or maybe an Open Path? Using a life metaphor or some other descriptive phrase, give a title to your Life Story to date.

Vintage, Book Illustration, Literature, Shakespeare

Now then, what about adding a Better Ending? Make it epic! When you look ahead at the story board of your Life Story, what would you like to write in to express how you will follow your bliss, attain fulfillment of your life mission or purpose, and Live Your Dream? Remember, you are the author, editor and the key protagonist of your own epic tale!

Give a title then to a later (though not necessarily the final) Life Chapter for your personal life journey quest. As an example, mine might be: “Making a Difference.” (This is because for much of my life I have been asking of my own accomplishments, “What difference does it make?”)

Cloud, Sky, Heart, Blue, Love

Reviewing or telling your story AS a Life Story narrative can help you to recognize where you are at now in relation to where you are intending to arrive as you unravel the many colored threads of your amazing life experience. As Martha Graham is famous for having reminded us all (I used to have this pinned on my office bulletin board):

“There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and will be lost.”

Hot Air Balloons, Adventure, Balloons
images are from pixabay.com

So, Make it Epic! It is YOUR life to live, your story to tell!

The Book of YOUR Life: Discover Your Life Story Chapters

Toy, Toy Story, Childhood, Little

A few posts back I called our species Homo Narrativus as we are inherently Storytellers. Most important as the center and ground that we build our worlds upon is our own Life Story.  Embedded within the backdrop of the narrative intertwining of our cultural history and personal family heritage, the story we tell to ourselves and to others about our own epic (or cyclic, or meandering) journey through life is central to understanding the lessons and gifts of a lifetime of human experience.

As we each are unwinding our own Life Story, day by day, episode by episode, narrative thread by thread and character trait by relational dance, we build Life Chapters as we wend our way forth to pursue the meaningful goals and mission of our unique stories.

In my 2018 book Your Life Path (see side panel), I include a full self-discovery process for revealing the narrative structure of your own Life Story with its meaningful Life Chapter segments.  [This full process is also available if you download-free-My Life Path Portfolio Toolkit, available by clicking on it also from the right panel.]

A Folk Tale, Long Ago, Story, Autumn

Would you like to have a look at your own Life Chapters as you have been writing/living your own Life Story? Here is the Life Path mapping process in a nutshell:

  1. Make a list of some of the SHAPING EVENTS of your life. These are those significant life experiences that have shaped you as the person you are today. Include the age or date of the significant event or experience and write a brief description of the event or experience. A Shaping Event could be a single event and/or a significant period of time; if the latter, indicate the relative starting and ending dates or your ages through the situation.

Examples:  Age 4: I fell from a child seat and knocked out my four front teeth.

                            7-12: childhood in PA: woods, horses, friendship with K

                                12: first sense of being a misfit (KJ)

                            13: We moved from PA to NY state (before 8th grade)

2. Review your list of Shaping Events from (1) above. Now identify (circle or bold highlight) just those significant experiences that have been your most CRITICAL Life Events: those before and after which you might feel as if you were a different person. (E.G. Ages 7 and 13 from my life experiences sampled above.)

3. Next, place your SHAPING EVENTS along a timeline based on either ages or years, starting with your Birth as the zero point. 

E.G.:

1954(Birth) ——-4——-7-8-9-10-11-12—13 …………………Next, review in your mind the periods BETWEEN the most CRITICAL life events on your life map chart.  Provide a TITLE that describes for you the meaningful content of that set of years from your life.  For example, for me, the years between ages 7 and 13 I might title Growing Pains.

4. Write about each of the Life Chapters you have identified between the Critical Events of your Life Story to date. (E.g.: Growing Pains pretty well describes that period in my life as a child in Pennsylvania, as I developed colitis, literally ‘growing pains’, and had to come to terms with my beginning to feel like an outsider, which I consciously tried to change as I moved into my next Life Chapter in high school in New York state.)

Your final Life Chapter/ Life Path Chart, up to your current date or age, might look something like the following example (my chapters to age 36), though of course with your very own meaningful Life Chapter titles:

Birth/Innocence   Growing Pains    Finding Myself    Honing Skills/ Seeking    Leap of Faith ……

0-6                        7-12                   13-19                 20-27                               28-36

The periods of significant Shaping Events between the Critical Life Events that have punctuated your Life Story can be thought of as your Life Chapters.  This approach allows you to discover and reflect upon your own meaningful time frames, rather than assuming they are given by some external model (like decades or stages identified by standardized psychosocial development models).

Storytelling, Fantasy, Imagination

After you have identified a set of Life Chapters that have comprised your Life Story to date, notice the PLOTLINE of your Life Story. Often a Life Path map reveals times of innocence, hardship, lessons, and growth.  What has your Story been about, so far? Or have you had several different story threads depending on which events or relationships you focus on?

Do not worry about identifying “all” of your significant life events on this one timeline. This map that you have charted today is from your current point of view and identifies meaningful TYPES of events. I have interviewed a seventy-five year-old who charted eleven events, and a 21 year-old who charted 122!  As this is YOUR Life Story, there are no rules or expectations about what you may discover about the meaningful progression of your own Life Chapters to date.

Where have you Been? Who are you Now? Where are you Heading? How might you forecast your future Life Chapters in keeping with your highest sense of purpose and goals? What is your Life Dream?

Board, School, Dreams, Make, To Do

images are from pixabay.com

Have fun with this and take your time with it in your Better Endings Journal (or otherwise). You can share this with your loved ones and help them reconstruct their own Life Chapters, too. Feel free to send me any Comments about your experience with this process of Self-discovery.

I will leave this post up for longer than usual, to give more people the opportunity and time to play in this Sandbox!

Transformative Transitions: The Spirit of Optimism

Sunrise, Light, Sun, Web, Natural Reserve

I shall cast this week’s blog in the form of a collage of images encountered over the last week or so as I have been transitioning from one creative cycle into another. I find it most useful to bring optimism to envisioning and planning for a new season of growth and opportunity.  This week that has truly led to new potentials opening before me. With gratitude “for all good things received,” allow me to share from a series of waking dream images that have helped me navigate my transition.

Spirit leads the Way:

[I was riding on a carousel at the Buffalo Zoo. Notice the name of the horse in my lead.]

Then the next day:

“May you have clear skies and a following sea”

[On a sign posted aboard a Buffalo Harbor Cruise boat I was on, touring the Buffalo Canalside with my Goddaughter.]

Plus I had a literal wake-up call, from a vision upon waking. In the dream, just an image and a title inscribed within and around it:

And then the next day, from my book club reading for the month, The Book of Two Ways, by Jodi Picoult, a phrase from an Egyptian tomb that fortuitously echoes my dream image:

Time is a Circle,

Time is a Line.

I am grateful for the daily blessings of waking dreams that help me recognize the Path that opens before me, supporting my positive goals and deep intentions. Bottom line for this week is now I am in the forward moving process of editing the circulation proposal for my book ms., supported by my agent.  Optimism carries me forward with renewed energy and focus. The dream visions and images along with inspiring ‘waking dreams’ indicate the path I am to follow.

What Comes Next?

Sunset, Sea, The Baltic Sea, Character

I have been consulting Nordic runes lately. Just as I sat down to write on the topic of What Comes Next? I opened to Eihwaz, Rune 9, which translates Avertive Powers/ Yew Tree:

Eihwaz, Rune, Runes, Futhark, Divination, Norse, Icon

This Rune speaks to the difficulties that arise at the beginning of new life.

 Often it announces a time of waiting: for a spring to fill up with water,

for fruit to ripen on the bough.

This is so true for where I find myself on many levels: at a transitional period in my new home, at a pregnant juncture between teaching semesters, and between productive work with writing projects.

Tea Set, Coffee, Beverage, Drink

I realize I am happiest when I can be of service in some capacity, and teaching/ learning or sharing ideas and writing in any form are my most personally satisfying forms of service.  So, I continue with teaching and with writing as vocations (callings/ passions), hoping to be of service. I am reminded of a college English professor who taught from age 18 (no degree needed at that time) until his death when he was in the final allowable semester before retirement. On his tombstone was a line from his beloved Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales, at the end of a portrait of the Clerk character:

                And gladly wolde he lerne,

                And gladly teche.

Chaucer, Canterbury, Sergeant, Chaucer
images are from pixabay.com

So as I ‘wait on the Will of Heaven’ for a new cycle of service roles and activity to begin, I breathe in and breathe out to receive and to give life and unconditional love.  I look for opportunities to communicate.

We Are Homo Narrativus!

Book, Landscape, Nature, Wind, Weather

As a linguistic anthropologist I suggest we could call the human species Homo Narrativus.  We are Storytellers! What else? Not only do we tell the myths and legends of our peoples to teach our cultural values and heroic ideals to the next generations; we also cast and recall our personal life experiences in narrative form.  

Creation stories. mythology, fiction, television and movie dramas, and history itself harbor narratives we tell about our collective past.  As individuals, we each have our own Life Story, complete with Life Chapters, Themes, and our own internal ensemble cast of unconscious archetypal characters as well as our external dramatis personae of social relationships, that altogether comprise our ever-unfolding personal story from which we gather experience and learn and share meaningful lessons.

People, Ice, Snow, Exploration, One, Man

My interview research about how people conceptualize life events (Your Life Path, 2018: Skyhorse Publishers) revealed three primary genres of Life Story narratives: Epic Adventure (either comic or tragic), Cyclic, or Seamless.  Which is yours?  Epic adventurers tell stories of their heroic adventures (Departures, Fulfillment, and if ‘comic’, heroic Returns) cast in terms Joseph Campbell called the Soul’s High Adventure.   Some prefer to think of their life as organized by cycles: 7-year, 10-year decades, or 12-years or more; the ending of one cycle opening to the beginning of the next, bringing flexibility and fresh opportunities.  Still others would rather live their lives as picaresque adventures, welcoming randomity and enjoying life’s little surprises, ready to navigate crossroads as they arise and more focused on the journey than any destination points. 

Journey, Walk, Steps, Street
Seasons Of The Year, Year, Tree, Nature
Chain, Chain Link, Connection, Related

Images are from pixabay.com

The Principle of Better Endings, then, is a narrative device within our creative Homo Narrativus survival toolkit that we can use to reflect on where we are at in our Life Story and how we got here, so we can envision or shape our next steps in the direction of our highest desires.

Better Endings to You!

The Principle of Better Endings

Symbol, Star, Sun, Emblem, Indicator

I have been posting to this blog site of Better Endings, in various editions, for well over seven years. In the process of developing ideas for the blog, I have come to understand how “Better Endings” is more than a literary device. It is a principle, a creative faculty, inherent to each of us as human beings because of our capacities for imagination and rational thought. We are capable, through language and memory, to reflect on our past, to mindfully experience our current thoughts and actions, and to anticipate and plan for our future. 

Level, Tool, Equipment, Repair

We are never ‘stuck’ in the present moment—or bubble—of time. The philosophical admonition that we live ‘only in the present moment’ means different things to different people, but I find for myself it is not really about the Present tense or about time (or spacetime), at all.  To be grounded in the Now can mean simply focussing your attention fully on what you are experiencing. If I travel to a past event through memory or imagination, I am Here-Now. If I recall a dream to explore its meaning, I imagine myself back in that experience to ‘replay’ it, and I am Here-Now. If I consider my future potentials to choose my best path forward, as I ‘preview’ a future potential, I am Here-Now. And if I reflect on a full process of how some event or attitude or situation has emerged, unfolded, and resolved (or its forward potentials), viewing that entire process as a single extended Moment is also being Here-Now.

The Principle of Better Endings allows you to regard and conduct your life as a transformational process of Becoming: where have you been, where are you currently, then where are you headed in relation to where/how you would most desire to Be?  To develop the talent of future prospection—like mining for gold!—it is helpful to reflect on past events and situations to ferret out what has worked and what could use some tweaking for going forward in a direction most in keeping with your current goals or with your sense of mission and purpose.  The principle of Better Endings lets you choose how you will respond in a current condition so you can ‘aim’ to achieve a ‘better’ future condition for yourself and all concerned.

Girl, Woman, Boat, Row, Rowboat, River

If we think of ourselves as locked within some bubble of the Present (like in a level-balancing tool), then we might think of our lives as like floating on a raft being tossed about on the open seas of chance or circumstance. Hang on!  We might say, “I don’t make plans; I like to let things happen and Go with the Flow, wherever Life takes me.” (If you have set the flow in motion in a particular, desirable direction, then yes by all means!) I get the dynamic randomity of that and the sense of surfing on the waves of life experience to develop resourcefulness and spontaneity in the journey or process of living, day by day. “The journey is more important than the destination,” someone framed in this perspective might propound. I totally agree with that idea!  Still, how we engage in the Journey is part and parcel of living a fruitful, dynamic life.  “Following Your Heart” to “Find/Live Your Bliss” requires more from you than ‘just getting by’ or waiting to see what will happen next.

Here’s the deal, from the perspective of the principle or faculty of Better Endings as I have come to understand it from practicing the art of ‘better-endering’ through the last several years:

If we regard ourselves as bobbing along through life in a Present spacetime-bubble, there is no reason for the future to be any more than a further unfoldment and extension of habits, conditions, and circumstances we have accrued along the way. We may become trapped in this Present bubble of time.

When I began the journey of conducting research that ultimately led to my book providing Life Mapping tools, Your Life Path (2018), I was inspired by a dream.  One morning as I woke from sleep, I saw a white placard with bold black letters pasted right between my eyes, that stated:

YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE
TO REALIZE YOUR DREAM,
NOT JUST FOR GETTING BY.

What a wake-up call!  This dream vision led me on a quest to discover for myself what is my Dream and how can I realize It. This led to my research on life mapping as I piloted every step of that emerging process before sharing it with others. After teaching from that process for several years in a humanities course about Myth, Reason, and Your Life Story (co-taught with an historian of mythology), my book and more importantly the workbook for Your Life Path (2018; you can download the workbook for free from the right panel), this process has now led further for me to a new book manuscript (now with my agent) of the title, Better Endings!

Dreams Not Your Life, Live Your Dream
images are from pixabay.com

In the last three and a half years I have moved three times, following my own heart to realize aspects of my Dream. This shows how flexibility is an important component of applying the principle of Better Endings. There are no limits to this principle, of course. As we apply it to situations and choices in our lives, engaging with this principle of Better Endings helps us realize the manifold potentials of the Present Moment.

The future is not fixed or necessarily determined by past choices or conditions.

You are free to exercise your faculty to reflect on the past, to review current conditions, and to choose your direction forward, to Realize Your Dream!

Training Wheels

Bike, Cycling, Child, Training Wheels

I believe in inner guidance and have relied on it quite a bit in my life. Whether through dreams, clear nudges, or sometimes in direct contemplation or lucid visions, answers to questions I am pondering often provide clear direction for my growth and development.  Reliance on inner guidance is not an abdication of personal responsibility and agency; it is simply a matter of developing and utilizing our innate human potential for connecting with our own higher viewpoint or spiritual awareness that is available to anyone at any time. 

Last week I was walking with my dog Sophie for our daily exercise around the neighborhood. I heard the voice of a man calling out:

“Stay to the side of the road! Watch for cars!”

When I looked to where the voice was coming from, I saw a small boy, maybe five or six, riding on a little bicycle out from his driveway, followed by a man with a slightly greyed beard whom I presumed was the boy’s father or perhaps his grandfather. Then I saw the boy’s bicycle was equipped with training wheels. His mentor was coaching from behind the young boy, helping him learn to ride a bike.

I watched the man and boy as they rode up the road, side by side up to an intersection where they turned off into the same performing arts parking lot that Sophie and I were heading to for our daily walk.

Person, Man, Child, People, Grandfather

A bit later while Sophie and I were still moving about at the arts center, I saw the boy come racing out on his training bike from the box office area; I mean, really fast for a little boy learning to feel comfortable on a bike.

“Very good! Now, put on your brake! Be careful!”

The boy did as instructed and applied his brakes gently but firmly; he came to a definite but not too hard of a stop. Then father and son continued back toward their home again, with the father following in the rear, allowing the boy to be in the lead yet knowing he could rely on his mentor’s guidance as needed.

Duck, Pond, Lake, Mama, Nature, Water

Watching the boy learning to ride a bike reminded me of how my Dad taught me to swim. We had a backyard pool. He had the hose filling it for the season, but he brought me into the pool when it was maybe three or four feet deep. First, he just held me up and gently let me go, telling me to use my arms to stay afloat. Next, Dad pulled a few feet away from where I was holding onto one side of the pool, and he asked me to swim to him. Then, he pulled further away and further, each time asking me to swim to him. If I was too afraid to try, he would move closer that round. Finally, he was at the opposite side of the pool and I was able to cross the great waters to reach him!

This is how inner guidance generally works with me. It lets me do all I can on my own, but when I need help, I know I can always call on what I perceive as my inner Guides for support, protection and guidance.

Fantasy, Portrait, Root, Moss, Forest
images are from pixabay.com

As I have been reflecting on this gift of inner guidance after watching the boy learn to ride a bike, I realize how a good part of working with inner guidance involves developing self-reflexive awareness. We learn to look at ourselves as a mentor, guide or Master might look at us; so we maintain a higher viewpoint and can self-correct as well as receive direct inner guidance as needed. This can help us build self discipline and somewhat of a more objective viewpoint about our own attitudes or actions.

Please note that I have added a new feature to the blog in the right column. You are invited to engage with the journaling prompts in the Better Endings SEED STORY prompts. Enjoy!

Re-Emergence (revised blog format, with new added info in Right Margin: Back to Better Endings!)

I went for a haircut a week or so ago. At first, I felt like reality had shifted; like I had stepped into a parallel reality.  No one was wearing a mask! I had walked in wearing one but realized it was okay; still I had to ask,

“Can I remove this?”

                “Yes.”

My stylist Stephanie told me later that she is scheduling people based on their vaccination status. Some days, all are in masks, but not on a day I would be there, as she knows I have been fully vaccinated for over two months already.

Carousel, Festival, Fun, Ride, Fair

Life is returning to some semblance of the world we inhabited before the Pandemic Time.  And yet, in many parts of the world and in some pockets here as well, the threat prevails.

Kids and college students and their teachers will return to their classrooms. Summer camps are reopening.  Restaurants feel safer; I am even shopping on my own again, sometimes masked but not necessarily so, with little trepidation.

Still, what was altered in the fabric of our lives while we were in quarantine? Are we the same people as before? What do we need now of each other?

Carnival, Fasnet, Swabian Alemannic

images are from pixabay.com

 I did not mind being masked.  If I am being honest I must admit I rather liked it.  As a person whose tendency especially in my younger years has been to be introspective, at times to the point of being introverted socially, I have felt some comfort in hiding my face behind a mask during these uncertain times.  I share this because I assume I am not alone in this.  Many of us have found not only a degree of safety but also of comfort in the anonymity of masks and social distancing. As well, through the technology of Zoom and other social media platforms, we have connected somewhat more closely—if not physically then emotionally and spiritually—with people we choose to be closest to. Cloistering and Clustering have intertwined, though this has also unfortunately created greater rifts between groups.

Now that we are to re-emerge; to remove our masks and step closer to one another, I wonder if it will ever feel as ‘normal’ as before.  At this stage I rather hope that masking may remain an option, protecting against flu and common colds in public spaces. 

Yet yes, I am open to gradually relax my own distancing; to re-enter into and to embrace community.  My dog Sophie is ahead of me on this; as always on our daily walks but it seems more demonstrably of late, she approaches everyone to administer love and joy, weaving me back into the fold.

Pink Flamingoes (Set a Sign to Follow Your Heart)

Flamingos, Birds, Couple, Pair, Flight

Some four to five years ago as I was just beginning to consider the prospects of retirement and relocation, I decided to set a private sign that I would see if I was meant to relocate.  I chose pink flamingoes as my token sign because this image was not very common where I was living then in Colorado.  I have used this approach one other time and it was very effective then, so I made my inner postulate to see pink flamingos as an affirmation it was time to leave and hopefully with some indication then of where I should move to after my retirement.

I did start seeing pink flamingos more frequently than I had noticed them before, and sometimes at odd times. Not that this sign was a major impetus for retiring relatively early, but it did help buttress my resolve.  This sign seemed also to show up in ads and such in a way that suggested a certain direction of movement: back East rather than, let’s say, to Florida (though that was not out of the question for me and is where pink flamingos might be more expected). 

Flamingo, Bird, Silhouette, Pink, Nature

I retired except for part-time online teaching in 2018 and relocated to New York state, near to where one of my sisters lives and at the time near where my mother was in a nursing home. This was home turf for me since I had moved Out West from Buffalo, NY over forty years earlier. I first moved to one town I had researched online, Ithaca, for about 9 months. It was nice and I was happy to be able to continue teaching there part-time, but I soon realized it was not my final retirement destination. I started seeing pink flamingoes again when I thought about moving elsewhere, and that next move was to a lakeside community in Canandaigua, still in the Finger Lakes, translated from Iroquois as “the chosen place.”

My second move was also good, and I enjoyed lakeside living for a year and a half in a small, nestled community of largely retired folks like myself. But when the pandemic struck, I started feeling restless again, and isolated in my remote little patio home, and I realized that this was still not my deeply sought destination.  I started visiting and thinking about my original, high school hometown two hours away, a quaint but active community centered around a performing arts center and nestled near a river and a lake, just across the border from Canada.  I sold my lake house, packed up and moved with my pets again, to rent the house where we are living now.

Flamingo, Water, Pink, Sky, Bird, Sunset

I am Back Home (at least in the physical world sense), and it is exactly where I want to be.

A few weeks ago, I went for breakfast at a great little diner up the road a bit from my new home. Although the diner is in the countryside and not very near to any body of water, I realized the theme in all the pictures on the wall was pink flamingoes! This time the sign felt like a confirmation: that this is where I was meant to be moving to, all along. Since then, I have been seeing pink flamingoes quite a lot in my little hometown: at stores, in peoples’ yards, and lately, filling the screen when I turn on my desktop computer.

I haven’t always thought that this practice of setting up a personal sign and paying attention when you see it works. I have had other friends who have used it effectively for themselves through the years, and now the two times I have used the approach, it has worked very well for me too.

Flamingo, Dusk, Sunset, Roseus, Nature
images are gratefully from pixabay.com

But why?  The practice of choosing a private sign is I think a way of working with your own inner guidance or with your higher/ superconscious awareness.  It sets up a suggestion that lets your unconscious mind and your spiritual consciousness work together in tandem; it can align you with your deeper Self, with your own inner compass, helping guide you to find your own North Star.

Food as Medicine for Better Endings

Salad, Fruits, Berries, Healthy

I had a health scare recently when my new doctor warned me my cholesterol readings were sky high.  He wanted to put me on Lipitor.  After researching the side effects of statins and about how to lower ‘bad’ cholesterol naturally, I developed a four pronged strategy. Here is my new regime:

  1. Moduchol : This is plant sterols, proven to lower LDL by around 14% at least, within a month or two.
  2. Low carbs (<30/day) and low cholesterol (<200 g. per day) diet, kept track of with a daily log;
  3. Weight loss (from the low carb diet);
  4. Intermittent daily fasting with 8 hour eating window and 16 hr fast, daily;
  5. Plus exercise from at least daily dog walking for 30 minutes per day

After two weeks on this regime, I have lost 5-6 lbs. and feel great. I also went back to the doc to ask him to break down the cholesterol score and learned my HDL:LDL ratio is just barely within an acceptable range. My goal for avoiding statins is to lower LDL and raise HDL to a better range in three months through diet, supplements and exercise.

Tomatoes, Eggs, Toast, Dish, Plate, Food

So, a sample daily breakfast:

1 slice of Ezekiel seed multi grain and seeds bread, toasted = 15 carbs;  0 chol.

2 egg whites and 1/3 of one egg yolk in a veggie omelet (tomatoes, onions, green pepper, some spinach), over the toasted bread with earth balance olive oil spread = 3 carbs (veggies); 40 g. cholesterol

1 cup of brewed coffee (not from my usual French press that allows in coffee byproducts that raise cholesterol), with 2%milk = 3 carbs, maybe a 15 cholesterol lift but likely 0.

Silhouette, Women, Tree, Yoga

I find it empowering to use dietary changes and more mindful awareness of levels of carbs and cholesterol in foods to manage my health instead of becoming dependent on pharmaceuticals. I am sure sometimes the latter really are called for, especially if an imbalance is mainly genetic.  But I find it is fun to research what foods and natural supplements I CAN include in a low carb, low cholesterol diet; then I enjoy planning menus carefully, preparing meals carefully, and eating! good foods that bring positive results.

Meditation, Yoga, Meditate, Relaxation

Diet and exercise are two dimensions of our daily routines that we have—or can have—some conscious measure of control over.  It is easy to get off track though. I have been eating a low to later a moderate carb diet for over four years now and this has successfully lowered my A1C to a level that is in the Normal range after initially I was drifting into diabetic territory. But now I find that was out of balance as my low carb diet was not at all cholesterol friendly so I have edged into dangerous territory with LDL. So now I aim to integrate both requirements to better balance my diet.

Isn’t this the way life often goes…we aim to be thoughtful in our behavior and actions, but it is so easy to overlook crucial dimensions that could lead us away from our highest goals.  We make adjustments to achieve better endings in the form of greater balance in our life going forward.  Yet this is a process that calls for careful review and flexibility, every step of the way.

The Polishing Zone

After a three month dry spell due to writers block, I am resurfacing. Spring is sprouting in Western New York; I am fully vaccinated; the semester’s online teaching is winding down; and I find a story in me that I wish to share.

I walk with my beloved dog Sophie nearly every day. In our new location after returning to my high-school home town, I have been mystified by an oddity I see every time we walk in our local neighborhood. There are these marble-sized, little white balls that at first seemed to line the streets but that I have also found more than twelve of in my backyard and at a nearby park. I thought at first they were salt balls for winter weather, but no, they are ceramic.

Partly as a way to meet my neighbors, I have been carrying one of these little white marbles in my pocket and I ask people I encounter if they know what it is. Most folks are surprised to learn of them and they have no idea why they are there. Finally last week while doing some yard work, I asked an elderly neighbor working in his adjacent yard behind mine. He has been in the neighborhood for over fifty years.

“They are polishing stones from a grinding mill,” said Joe, matter-of-factly.

Joe said there was a man who had worked at a grinding mill that closed down. He brought home a large bag of these ‘polishing balls’ used in the mill, and he scattered them in his front yard as a lawn decoration.

Aha! Polishing stones from a grinding mill. But then, I wondered further, why are they strewn across at least a six to eight square blocks distance from the original home (I know where that epicenter is now as just two days ago I saw a hundred or more at one corner house in the block next to mine). Joe did not know, saying only, “maybe he put them there” (in other neighbors’ yards).

My landlady Jennifer had a good suggestion:

“Maybe squirrels play with them.”

Squirrel, Animal, Cute, Rodents

That is as close to a plausible explanation as I can figure. Maybe indeed the abundant population of neighborhood squirrels have picked these up over the years from the original yard, thinking they might be edible nuts to store, then leaving them off in other yards when they realized these were nuts that could not be cracked open! Still, that does not account for why so many of them line the roadways, often very regularly spaced or so it seems, as well as peppering the local yards. So I will keep asking; maybe some longtime resident will be able to fill in more of the story.

But now I consider these little white balls as waking dream messages from Spirit, for:

“The mill of God grinds slowly,

but it grinds exceedingly well.”

Sponsored image

I live in a neighborhood with lawns strewn with polishing stones from a grinding mill. I live in a Polishing Zone!

This rings true for the stage of life I am in, on so many levels. I cannot speak for my neighbors (in this same zone as we are together), but polishing is a welcome metaphor for what I am to be doing here.

I have taken a long, arduous journey across the proverbial (I-Ching) Great Waters and back Home again. It is time for me to polish up with the lessons I have gained along the Way.

Rakotz bridge (Rakotzbrucke) also known as Devil's Bridge in Kromlau, Germany. Reflection of the bridge in the water create a full circle. Rakotz bridge (Rakotzbrucke) also known as Devil's Bridge in Kromlau, Germany. Reflection of the bridge in the water create a full circle. across the great waters stock pictures, royalty-free photos & images

It is funny how recently, as soon as I gleaned that my purpose here is in part that of polishing up my act, that I have started writing again. I am back to earnestly editing (polishing, indeed) my manuscript sequel to my first self-help volume (Your Life Path). I also am back here, writing a blog post after three long months of wondering whether I would ever write again.

Krasnal, City, Walkway, The Market, Gray
images are gratefully from pixabay.com

Polishing, polishing; editing with a new, more determined and positive energy after over a year of private pandemic reclusiveness. Re-emerging with a hopeful sense of purpose. I was almost ready to walk away from this sort of expressive writing altogether. Writing is supposed to reach out, to connect, to communicate with readers; it is not meant for just passing time or ‘contemplating my navel’.

So I aim to focus better on writing and connecting in this Polishing Zone. Spring is sprouting in Western New York; I am vaccinated; the River of Life flows onward again, and with love and gratitude, so do I.

Turning Point?

Dogman, Rabbitgirl, Spitalfields, Statue

On January 21st, the day after the US presidential inauguration, I was at a pharmacy waiting for a prescription and started chatting with a woman from my home community.

               “The world is crazy!” she opened.

“I hope we can all come back together again. There is a hunger for that.” (My response was from a ‘nudge’ as to how to respond to her distress.)

Just then a man whom I had not seen until then, another patron community member who must have overheard our conversation, stepped forward gruffly. He was wearing a faded US flag kerchief as a face covering, and he avoided any eye contact with me or the other lady, just paced about stoically, waiting also for something from the pharmacist.  I believed he might have been a neighbor from across the street who avoided connecting or talking to me when we had both been raking leaves in November. If so, he and his son (I assume) have had a large T flag hoisted, and I have wondered about how such as his own sub-community might be feeling since the stressful post-election national events.

Handshake, Regard, Cooperate, Connect

The pharmacist gave me the ointment for my dog Sophie’s eyes, and as a bonus I was able to set an appointment for a first round covid vaccination (which I received 3 days later = today!) But here’s the thing:  I arrived back to my house around an hour or so later, and guess what? My neighbor had removed the T flag!

images are from pixabay.com

I hope the words I felt prompted to say, that I hope we can all come back together again, might actually have registered with my neighbor as a waking dream for him, something that could help him to open his heart.  Surely we have a long way to go to restore balance if not unity, but it is a goal I find worth pursuing. We can reach out to one another, whenever and however possible. 

Change Is Good

Preparing to make (yet another) Big Move is a daunting experience.  Cleaning house, staging for showings, vacating the premises with my pet family, waiting. A rental house is already waiting at my next destination, with deposit and first month’s rent paid.

Lessons abound:  accepting change, having faith in my own reasons for making this move; that everything will be okay, that I can be of service and will enjoy my and my pets’ new lifestyle in the once beloved hometown I am returning to after nearly 48 years.

I am learning about trust, about patience, and about graceful acceptance of change. At every turn, I find reinforcement and support through kind words of friends and family and even relative strangers I meet along the way.  “Change Is Good!” is the affirmation I have arrived at that is helping me after months of preparations, searching and missteps to break through to the new departure.

Under one month now and the movers will arrive to move the furniture. Two prospective buyers at my current house though as yet no contract; hopefully this next week will bring one or both forward.

Making this move during a global pandemic has its own stresses and uncertainties.  I find I am learning more and more to rely on my inner guidance.

For example, around a week ago, worried about not having a solid offer on the house yet, I asked inwardly for a sign that I was taking the right steps. I asked to see pink flamingos; not a common site here in the Finger Lakes.  Just when I thought I would not see any, suddenly for the next evening and the following morning, whole flocks of pink flamingos seemed to show up everywhere! Twice on tv, and on lawns I drove past, pink flamingos were abundant, then after I gratefully accepted the gift, I have not seen any since.

Yes, Agree, Allow, Positive, Thumbs Up

“Everything will work out,” family and even a stranger have been stating outright to me; not in response to anything I had been talking about, but basically “out of the blue.” My sister-in-law, whom I do not often hear from directly, texts me that “It will be alright about the house and even if it doesn’t (work out immediately as you’re hoping for), it will still be all right.”

And it will be all right. I have taken the leap of faith to pay a deposit and first month’s rent, and with that decisive movement forward everything seems to be flowing in a positive direction.

But let me bridge to a more general discussion about how “Change Is Good” on a collective level rather than just in my personal life, and how listening for and acting in response to Inner Guidance can help us move forward as needed.

Avatars, Woman, Man, People, Female
images are from pixabay.com

Recently I was at a car repair place having my car’s oil changed and all systems checked before the Big Move. I wore my mask and went early. A man entered with his wife, daughter, and their dog, decidedly and it seemed defiantly choosing not to mask; this on the very day an American president had been diagnosed with the pandemic virus.

I walked decidedly out of the business, into the safe, fresh air. While sitting outside to wait on a bench, the unmasked man came out and walked right over to where I was sitting. Still unmasked, he coughed at me then went back indoors!

People are so stressed these days, and society has become divided along political or ideological edges.  We cannot account for anybody else’s behavior, but we can hold true to our own values. Certainly in times like these, Change can be Good!  I truly hope we can find our way forward, individually and together, to a more balanced, compassionate and mutually caring future.

Masked Messages

This summer semester as I have been teaching Anthropology remotely online, I have held Microsoft Teams (like Zoom) weekly sessions with students. This past 8 weeks we have been developing a discussion about the emerging cultural messages associated with masking and not masking in the U.S.. The following is my final week announcement to the students about the results of their observations over the semester. Then I have added some of their specific observations below that.

Man, Mask, Blue Eyes, Hand, Mystery

Some of your (students’) key findings:

that women are tending to mask more than men; that masking matters (e.g. spikes have occurred after the Tulsa campaign rally and other mass gatherings); in Colorado Springs students observed more people 30’s to 50’s not masking; that not masking can be a rebellious statement (claiming civil liberties); that whether or not to mask can be confusing due to mixed messages and ambivalent leadership; and that masking is generally perceived as caring and protective as versus not.

I observe that masking has quickly developed a cultural patterning: it adheres to partisan and other divides and becomes a marker of identity when used to draw attention to itself (either to a specific kind of mask–e.g. a fishnet mask observed at a gym, and Black Lives Matter masks) or to not wearing in situations where it is clearly mandated.  WHY has masking, a basic public health measure, become such a cultural phenomenon in America? It mirrors social segmentation and masking behavior may also reveal subtle issues around FACE: e.g. ‘losing face’ or feeling emasculated–nice pun!–when masking  esp. for men; losing a display of individual identity; concern with being perceived as criminal or threatening; though masking can also be associated with superheroes, e.g. caregivers!

Some specific observations:

  • A woman repeatedly attending a gym that has a sign requiring masks, wearing a fishnet mask as a form of defiance.
  • A Chase bank in Seattle with a sign outside stating Blacks do not need to wear a mask (purportedly to defray profiling but isn’t it actually profiling so that security cameras can see Black clients’ faces?)
  • A bus driver bludgeoned with a baseball bat in San Diego, CA for being asked to wear a mask
  • Parents rewarding their 6 yo child for always masking
  • More women masking than men (do men have issues around ‘demasculating’—pun intended?)
  • More 30’s to 50’s year old not masking
  • A student of color sharing that his friends and he are afraid to mask because they fear white people might perceive them as not smiling and therefore threatening
  • Political partisanship showing in degree of masking compliance (more democrats) or not (more republicans)
  • Confusion generally about the effectiveness or need to mask due to ambivalent media statements and ineffective national or state level leadership (versus e.g. in New York state, with strong science based leadership and effective response).
  • Art, Mask, Head, Human, Psyche

 images are from pixabay.com

In a diverse, complex society like the U.S. today, the covid19 pandemic has struck at a vital weakness in the divisive political and social climate here.

We can use masking to declare our CARE for ourselves and for one another.  Not masking can be a dangerous form of protest and may be perceived as a selfish lack of concern for others’ wellbeing.

To build bridges for Better Endings, it helps to talk with one another and to stand up for positive messaging.

A Smile to Bridge Troubled Waters

Bridging The Racial Divide

Black And White, Baby, Boy, Kid, Child

When I was in tenth grade in high school in 1970, my progressive English teacher engaged all of his “lily white” suburban area students with a half a year of Black Renaissance literature. I loved it! This material opened me to a new world of awareness, especially about racial inequalities and diverse voices.  Our book Black Voices  included the following poem that I have never forgotten:

The Incident
by Countee Cullen (1903-1946)

Once riding in old Baltimore,
    Heart-filled, head-filled with glee,
I saw a Baltimorean
    Keep looking straight at me.

Now I was eight and very small,
    And he was no whit bigger,
And so I smiled, but he poked out
    His tongue, and called me, “Nigger.”

I saw the whole of Baltimore
    From May until December:
Of all the things that happened there
    That’s all that I remember.

 

This poem by Countee Cullen has been with me since tenth grade and now, with the Black Lives Matter movement still needing to draw attention to persistent racial inequalities in America, it has resurfaced in my own, shall I say, racial memory.  I have had a counter sort of experience I like to share.

Bus Stop, Waiting, Bus, Public Transport

Around 1978 I was living in Buffalo, New York while in graduate school.  I used the bus system to get around in the city, and one night I was in inner city Buffalo near midnight, waiting for a bus connection at around 11:30 PM, the last bus of the night. I was returning to my apartment across town from an activity at the spiritual center I was involved with.

The bus stop was just outside from a bar. While I stood waiting for what would be around 20 minutes there at the bus stop, a man wobbled out from the bar and approached me. I could smell from his breath that he was quite tipsy. He happened to be black, maybe in his mid-thirties or so.

grayscale photography of jacket

“My name is Freddy,” the man said as he approached. “That is my car right there at the curb.” He continued: “I bet you think I’m gonna grab you by the arm ‘n drag you over there to my car and take you away and rape you.”

“No, I do not think that, Freddy,” was the answer that emerged from my mouth, much more calm and confident than I actually was beginning to feel about the situation.

“Well I could, you know. All I need to do is grab you and take you over there,” Freddy continued.

“My name is Linda. Do you live around here?” I asked (or something of this nature). I started asking about Freddy’s family, if he was married and how many kids he had.  He reciprocated and asked me about my life. I told him I was a college student waiting for the last bus home and that I had just come from my spiritual center across town.

We talked for a few minutes. Then Freddy said:

“I’m gonna stand right here and wait with you until the bus comes ‘n I’ll make sure nobody does anything to harm you.”

Freddy and I continued to talk for another fifteen minutes or so, then the bus arrived. I thanked him and we shook hands, then I boarded the bus and went home to my apartment across town.

Architecture, Building, Infrastructure

images are from pixabay.com

This encounter with Freddy has shaped a lot of my understanding about race relations.  I feel that so long as we see one another through the lens of stereotypes—helpless white female, drunk inner city Black man—we are likely to interact according to these stereotypes. But as soon as we connect with each other as individuals, as Soul=Soul, the stereotypes dissolve and we can see and hear one another for who we are.

So here is a Better Endings slight revision of the same Countee Cullen poem, The Incident:

Once riding in old Baltimore,
    Heart-filled, head-filled with glee,
I saw a Baltimorean
    Keep looking straight at me.

Now I was eight and very small,
    And he was no whit bigger,
And so I smiled, and he looked twice,
   and smiled back just as nice.

I saw the whole of Baltimore
    From May until December:
Of all the things that happened there
    That’s all that I remember.

 

Such a small shift in wording, a smile returned for a smile.

Is that so very much to ask of ourselves?

The Out-of-Doors Time, A Retrospective

There was a time, so long ago that by now many of our greatest scientists question if it was ever more than a parallel reality, when we did not live entirely indoors.  Our social fabric included “stores”: places people walked through to shop for their food and supplies; and physical spaces called “classrooms” and large university campuses where our chidren learned from actual people called “teachers” and where young ones interacted with one another in actual physical locations and events called “playgrounds,”  “summer camps,” and “Spring breaks.”

Back then there were many social ills, such as “racism” and “gender-based sexism.” That is way back in our primitive history, when we did not communicate wholly through our neutrally assigned avatars.

We had families resulting from the random vagaries of biological sexual reproduction rather than from our well controlled allocation of techno-genetic offspring we so value today.

Can you imagine?  We walked unruly pets in outdoor settings called “woods” and “neighborhoods.”  We risked all sorts of debilitating physical ailments: sunburns, aching joints,germs and viruses, and aging. That is before, of course, when we were a fully biological species.

girl's black and white collared shirt

Such absurd sounding history–and this is but a glimmering–is still preserved in nano-implants you can purchase only if you are eligible to harbor such restricted knowledge.

images are from pixabay.com

Such an alternate reality which we are so grateful to have transcended streches back to a time when our ancestors eked out their survival on a fragile little blue planet called “Earth.”