A Conversation for 2018


It’s 2018, and America — we need to talk. I know, I know, there has been far too much talking, tweeting, ranting, and raging this past year. Words are flying everywhere, criss-crossing our awareness like the maniacal flying monkeys in the Wizard of Oz. That isn’t what I’m envisioning.

I mean we need to have a conversation, to communicate. Remember? The part where your lips stop moving and then the other person speaks and you listen to them? Where you aren’t just trying to prove your point, but you are actually vaguely curious about what the other person might have to say?

Yeah. I barely remember it either. That’s why we’re in such a mess.

Conversation seems like a quaint idea, something from a bygone era when we had more time, an era before air conditioning when we sat on our front porches after supper to catch an evening breeze and shoot the breeze with our neighbors. A time when we were a little more interdependent, before we all began carrying around a world of information and opinion in our pockets and no longer needed to actually connect with others.

Still longer ago, in the mid-fourteenth century, the word conversation meant “living together, having dealings with others,” and even more broadly, “a manner of conducting oneself in the world.” I like that. The Latin root meaning “to live with, keep company with” literally means “turn about with,” and an even older language root means “to turn, to bend.”

With this understanding, conversation seems like a dance — the dance of living together, turning and bending to accommodate others, sometimes comfortably, sometimes less comfortably, but still, living life together.

These days conversation isn’t a dance, it’s a battle. You can’t really even call it conversation. It’s just a torrent of words, evil monkeys descending from dark skies, stomping on us, tearing us limb from limb and leaving us lying flattened, like Dorothy’s unfortunate scarecrow.

Evil Words

Our so-called “national conversation” is used to divide and conquer, not to find common ground. There’s no gentle bending or turning involved. It’s wrenching and even fatal for people living in poverty, without healthcare, or in cities where police brutality is the norm. My God, our very planet is at stake but if you mention climate change you’re accused of politicizing tragedies like hurricanes, floods, and wildfires. 

Make no mistake — there is evil afoot in America. The man-child currently in the White House is the most egregious example, of course. He absolutely glories in causing pain and division, using words as weapons and firing off twitter tirades like some twisted middle-schooler whose parents are secretly worried he might get his hands on a gun.

He is a sick, sick human, and most of us know that by now.

That does not mean that the rest of us have to live in his madness for another year. We have a responsibility to remember a time when America was a lot greater. To the extent that we safely can, we (and I’m talking to myself here) must learn to ignore the invective spewing from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Let’s leave him ranting in the kitchen while we adults head to the front porch to have a conversation about values and meaning and truth. 

I wish you many edifying conversations in 2018!

Happy New Year!

Thanks for the WordPress word prompt: conversation.


How to Forgive


January is a time for new beginnings, and beginnings often entail a few endings as well. Whatever we’re hoping to launch this year, we’d best begin by sussing out detrimental attitudes that could hold us back. Identifying the emotional baggage that drags us down, figuring out why we’ve been hauling it around, and becoming willing to let it go is half the battle of new beginnings.

New Beginnings

New Beginnings

Some of the heaviest pieces of baggage come in the form of old grudges. Unforgiveness. Lingering anger. Resentment. I’ve heard it said that resentment is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die, and it’s true. Every bit of brain matter you dedicate to obsessive anger and resentment is a drain on your life, and it doesn’t affect the object of your scorn one iota.

What a waste of energy!

It is Time

Once you’re in the habit of dragging around resentment, it becomes the norm. You hoard old slights and hurts and betrayals in a dark cave inside yourself and fret about them, turning them over and over, musing and muttering over them like a crazy miser with his gold.

And it is kind of crazy — would a mentally healthy person do that? Spend time engaging in activities that make them feel bad? Giving another person or entity control over their emotions — sometimes a dead person or someone they haven’t seen in years? You probably know someone like this (hopefully this is not you): so far inside their dark, angry caves that they’ve become a victim of the whole world. Rage is the symptom.

Case in point: There are currently a handful of right-wing nuts holding an empty visitor’s center hostage in the Oregon desert because they think they are victims of a vast government conspiracy. They are expecting to die over this. (Hopefully this is not you, either.)

OK, extreme case. Back to those of us who live in reality.

It is time: Let. It. Go.

Just how long would you like to hold on to that resentment?

Just how long would you like to hold on to that resentment?

OK, but . . . how?

Getting Ready to Let Go

#1 Notice your burden. Look for resentments in your life and write them down. Write down what happened, what the other person or entity’s role was, what your role was. Be as honest as you can. If there was a third party involved, talk to them to get their honest assessment, or talk to a friend familiar with the situation. Ask them to tell you if you’ve been over-reacting — and do not add them to your resentment pile if they say yes! 

Recognizing that you might have contributed to your own negative experience can be humbling, and it may lead to compassion for yourself and for the other person involved — perhaps forgiveness? In the end, even if it was 100% the other party’s “fault,” you’re still the one being poisoned by the lingering resentment.

#2 Recognize that you are probably getting some benefit from holding on to the resentment. What is it? The armed nut-balls in Oregon seem to have made their resentment a reason for living — a purpose for life, not to mention a way to get on the news.

Most often, though, I think resentments protect us from pain. Or guilt and shame. We get angry because we don’t want to feel the pain and sadness underneath. That works for a time. Or we blame others because we don’t want to feel shame about our own role. Being in a victim role means you get to escape responsibility, but at what cost to you and your new beginnings?

#3 – Become willing to let go of the benefits of resentment and accept your true feelings. The hurt beneath the anger, the fear beneath the scorn. You have to feel and name those feelings before you can let them go. This takes work, but it’s worth it. Those feelings are your teachers, and they can help you take care of yourself and lead a life free from fear and bitterness and anger . . . but only if you accept and process them. So I’ll devote the rest of this post to a method I use that has been downright miraculous for me. It’s called Welcoming Prayer, but if you’re not a prayer-person, you can call it whatever you like.

It goes like this:

Letting Go

Go someplace where you can be alone in silence. Gaze out a window or at a candle or a piece of artwork. Relax. Allow yourself to focus on the “bad” feeling. Name it. Anger? Hurt? Rage? Desperation? Sadness? Notice where in your body you experience the feeling. Your chest? Your head? Your stomach? Your throat? Put your hand there and sit with the feeling. Then say: “Welcome, {feeling}. I know you are here to teach me. I welcome you.”

Solitude and silence: Step One to Serenity

Solitude and Silence: Step One to Serenity

Some background: This method is based on the work of Father Thomas Keating and his belief — backed up by many psychologists — that humans have core “emotional programming for happiness” that gets us through life. From a very young age, we learn to seek and cling to safety and security, esteem and affection, and power and control. Memorize these. I can guarantee you that at some level, no matter what gets you stirred up or upset, one or more of these “needs” is at the bottom of it. When one of them is threatened, we often react from deep childhood survival programming and lose perspective. We act like angry children instead of adults.

So, after you have named and welcomed your feeling and identified where it’s centered in your body, you may sit with the feeling as long as feels right. Because you are going to let it go, so you want to be completely ready. If you give it some thought, you will likely be able to tell exactly which of childhood emotional needs has been threatened by the situation/person that was the catalyst for your pain and resentment or anger. Sometimes all of them are involved — these are the toughest to release.

When you are ready, say “I accept the lessons I’m learning from this {feeling} and I release my need for safety and security, esteem and affection, and power and control.” Then you may release your feeling. Or you may keep it around a while to pray about, think about, write about, and learn from. Think of it as a visitor, no longer a permanent resident.

The God Question

I’m a God-person, so when I release my emotional needs and pain, I do it by turning them over to God. God’s got my back; I don’t need to protect my safety and security, esteem and affection, and power and control. Using this method over time, I get stirred up less and less often, being assured that I belong, I’m safe, and I’m loved beyond imagining. My clinging, fearful child has quieted down. I forgive “trespasses” soooo much more easily than I used to. 

At Peace with the Past

Learning to Be at Peace

If you’re not a God-person, I suppose you could release those needs to the universe or the cosmos or some “higher power that is greater than yourself,” as the twelve-step recovery folks say. Perhaps you could imagine putting your unwanted emotions on a train and then watching it disappear down the track. Or imagine dropping them in a river and watching them float out of sight. However you envision releasing your negativity, the point is to send it packing.

So there — there’s my new year’s gift to you. I wish you a 2016 full of healthy new beginnings!

The New Year’s Post That Wasn’t


How I wish I could write! What kind of blogger doesn’t produce a New Year’s post? I wonder — can I call it writer’s block if I’m not even trying to write? I mean, doesn’t one need to be experiencing some sort of inner warfare in order claim a creative  block? If I just don’t feel like it, does that count?

Don’t know. Don’t care. I know that sounds like depression, but I can’t blame that at the moment either. There’s no deep poetic brooding going on in my subconscious.

I’ve just been busy, doing no-fun things like cleaning out the house of my deceased brother and mother and stacking and re-stacking piles of papers labeled “Mom’s trust” and “Biff’s estate” and “funeral expenses,” while sitting on hold with various mutual fund managers and lawyers.

More than that, though, I’ve been living my life, spending time with friends and laughing until my face hurts, celebrating Christmas with my nephew and his family in a funky old artist’s colony in Pennsylvania, and planning a New Year’s trip to Philly for further frivolity.

Christmas in Mount Gretna, Pennsylvania

Christmas in Mount Gretna, Pennsylvania

December has featured four-hour lunches, spontaneous potlucks with the neighbors, back-to-back holiday parties, and live performances of A Christmas Carol and The Nutcracker.

I’ve spent entire afternoons reading great literary fiction (Carson McCullers, Margaret Laurence), and also some crap (I confess an addiction to John Grisham). I’ve been drinking expensive organic cabernet and watching old episodes of Sherlock Holmes and Perry Mason, along with the obligatory black and white Christmas movies.

So sue me. I’ve recovered from the magnitude-seven grumpiness that shook me as I approached the December 23rd anniversary of my brother’s passing, and I am now celebrating having survived a whole year without him. I deserve to do whatever the heck I feel like doing.

Happy 2015!!

We Can Make a Difference–Right Here, Right Now

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Hello, friends! Happy New Year! I’m just back from a sweet trip to the beach where I soaked up some ocean-peace on January 1st. In keeping with the spirit of peace, I thought I would share with you this new endeavor I’ve joined. Expect to see more from me on peace throughout the year. I wish it for you in 2013! If you’re a blogger, please consider joining and adding the badge to your page.
Blessings – Melanie

everyday gurus


“Peace is not something you wish for, it something you make, something you do, something you are, something you give away.”–Robert Fulghum

In an effort to actively do something to create more peace in the world in 2013, I am dedicating a number of my posts specifically to peace. I invite you to join me. We can call ourselves “Bloggers for Peace.” Everyone is invited to join. The requirements are simple and flexible.

  • Devote at least one post a month to/for/about peace. If you write poems or fiction, write a piece about peace. If you take photos, post a photo or gallery that reflects, symbolizes, defines, or creates peace. If you write rants, rant at something that disturbs the peace or rant about something that promotes peace. If you are into zen, post a blank white page. If you are an artist…you get the idea. Feel free to…

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Light and Dark in the New Year


One of the most mysterious aspects of life is the simultaneous — even symbiotic — existence of darkness and light, sadness and joy. I used to think that events, people, and years were good or bad, light or dark. The two never mixed.

A bad thing was anything that did not make me happy. I would do anything to avoid feeling sadness.

For me, the holidays resurrect this dusty dream of pure perfection from the cobwebby corners of my brain, and remind me of the vast distance between reality and my old chimera.

Being Small and Being Happy

In my childhood memory, this perfection still exists. Surrounded by reindeer wrapping paper, I’m sitting on the floor next to my giant doll with the glossy brown hair and perfectly pink cheeks, inhaling her glorious just-unwrapped-plastic smell.  I’m trying to fit a tiny spatula into her hand so she can use my shiny new Easy Bake Oven. Silent Night is playing on the radio. There is no darkness in this memory, no shadow. All is well.

All is Well

But of course all is not well. My father is probably pouring his second martini of the morning in the kitchen, and my mother is looking at her Joy of Cooking, but not really seeing the cranberry sauce recipe because she’s desperately trying to figure out a way to stop the scenes she knows will come later. My older brother is having an overly dramatic asthma attack brought on by an earlier temper tantrum, which was probably brought on my Mom’s inattention. My big sister is sulking up in her room, sinking into her pre-adolescent phase where she’ll be lost to us for a few years.

We are in an arms race with the Russians, the Cubans are planning missile bases, and in a few years JFK will be assassinated.

But I am happy. Children are able to exist fully in the moment, focused and oblivious to the shadows. No doubt I’ll get tired and cranky later and start fussing, and the whole world will seem all dark, all hopeless, and irredeemable.

Being Fully Human

As we age, our perspective changes, the camera draws back and we see a little bit of the bigger picture. Darkness and light exist together, and we need them both to become fully human.

We would not know grief if we had not known love. We would not learn compassion if we did not experience pain. We would not have met the heroes of 9/11 or Newtown if darkness had not prevailed first.

We would not recognize the goodness of George Bailey if Mr. Potter did not exist.

A distraught George Bailey (James Stewart) ple...

A distraught George Bailey (James Stewart) pleads for help from Mr. Potter. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Learning to See in the Dark

For me, the world is becoming more and more about redemption, about finding a light within that gives meaning to the darkness. Not trying to escape the darkness, but learning to see in the dark.

Since the darkness is there, along with the light, why not learn what we can from it? Live into it all? Embrace the darkness while we wait for more light?

Instead of forced merriment and constant busyness that keeps loneliness at bay, I choose to feel the melancholy that sometimes creeps in during the holiday season. To take time to miss the people who are gone, and to remember to pray for the hurting in the world.

A Beautiful Longing

The image of perfection and pure light that we carry in our hearts is about longing — it’s what we are meant to strive for. The darkness in the world makes us yearn for the light even more. That’s a good thing.

I’ll be walking on the beach New Year’s Day, God willing. I’ll stop to watch the ebb and flow of the tide, to admire the light and shadows on the crests and troughs of the waves. It will be beautiful.

Girl Holding the Sun, Sunrise - Public Domain Photos, Free Images for Commercial Use

It Will Be Beautiful

Have a Blessed New Year

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