Roadrunner Musings

Wandering with my eyes and heart open, searching for pieces to add to my own personal big picture.

Morning Has Broken

The heat finally broke! I'll be pretending it's full Fall for the next few days.

Where Do I Belong? Seeking Healthy Community

Here I am still seeking community. And strangely, I was listening to a podcast just this morning about ways to build community and why we should. Loneliness is rough. Almost all of us feel it more often these days and no one comes out and says it. I’ll be writing more about that later this week.

The following is a repost, something I wrote nearly four years ago. I’m feeling defeated and sad. It seems nothing has changed.

____________________

Talking with a friend over the weekend, I found a few things suddenly come into focus. I love the way that works. I listen, I read, I think, and then while I’m saying something over lasagna, it all comes into focus on one point…like magic. My poor friend must have thought I was insane when I stopped in mid-sentence, “Shit! That’s it!”

Belonging to a community can be unhealthy. I know, you’re thinking…she’s lost her mind! We all need to belong to a community! Of course, we do…but, it can be unhealthy. You know that. You’ve probably been there. Belonging to a community is a relationship and some relationships can be unhealthy. When we come into relationships wounded and bleeding, the community probably won’t fix that, unless it’s a community of doctors.

In my life, I’ve always been hunting for a community to belong to. My family, my school, my work, my church, my homeschool groups, they all ended up in the same way. I walked in, I embraced it, I started to feel the ideas there resonate with me and then, at some point, I began to feel lonely. I started grasping at straws, maybe if I became more directly involved? What if I took the reigns here? What if I confided in another member how I was feeling? I became needy to those around me, or controlling, and then I felt neglected and misunderstood. And then I blamed them and left.

Am I alone in this? I doubt it. I’ve heard over and over again from several different ends of the earth, “I want to feel connected.” “I just want to feel like I belong.” “I need a community of like-minded people, but I just can’t find it.”

It made me think, do we all feel this way? Do most of us walk around thinking we’re alone in this world, that everyone else is part of a group, and we are the only one outside of the circle? Several times in my life, I’ve talked to friends from my past (thanks to social media connecting everyone) and found that when I believed I was hanging on to them and their close circle of friends, they believed the exact opposite. They thought that those were my friends they were tagging along with, my church they came to visit, my family they pretended to be a part of. It’s weird how different our perceptions can be of the same events.

So…what makes a community unhealthy? You. You make it that way. We need to start with ourselves, make ourselves healthy and ready for the give and take of a relationship. The relationship will not make you healthy and that’s just what community is, a relationship.

How does one start to make themselves healthy? Look inward, that’s a good place. For me, it was meditation that started me on the path to self-discovery. Ten minutes of meditation a day, helped me begin to take control of my own mind. One “7-day free trial” of an app, led to 21 days, a month, and then a year. That ten minutes, let to twenty, led to thirty, where I’ve happily been starting my day for several years. I never would have believed it would have the impact it has, but seeing is believing and here I am.

Journaling is the second thing. Whether you keep a notebook around to write in, an app to take notes in throughout the day, or sit at your computer tapping out words on a screen, writing can be very helpful to understanding yourself better, even if you never read those words again. There’s just something about writing out words that helps one to organize the thoughts, the good, the bad, and the downright ugly. You don’t need to even write whole sentences. You can draw pictures, make lists, or just scribble. Some of my journals have pages filled with hateful thoughts. It’s as if I wrote them down to let them go.

A long time ago, I was seeing a therapist and the one thing that actually did help to bring about big changes in my life was making note of my moods on a regular basis. She had me get out a notebook and just start making a happy face, a sad face, or an angry face at intervals throughout the day. Next to the face, I’d write a word or two about my activities at that moment. No judgement, no thinking, nothing, just make a note. Happy Face: reading, Sad Face: watching the kids, Angry Face: going to bed. At the end of the week I could flip through and see my mood changes. Was the week mostly happy? Mostly angry? Was I busy? Most of the time, I would feel like my bad mood had followed me all week long, but looking back at my notes, it just wasn’t so. The more I did it, the happier I found myself. Simple and effective. I loved it. Whenever I find myself stuck in a negative feedback loop, I go back to charting like that. And guess what? Wait for it…now there’s an app for it! The one I’ve been using lately is called Daylio. It’s free but if you pay $5, you can set as many reminders to “check in” throughout the day as you want. I like paying for apps like this. I feel like it encourages people to make them. Give it a try!

And finally, for me, there was spiritual guidance. That guidance did not come from a church when I started. Church is just another community, another relationship to navigate. My guidance came straight from God. I opened my bible and started reading, not to understand but just to listen. I started making notes in my bible, writing down questions, and spending time in prayer and meditation. And then I went to reading books about specific topics, bible studies, etc., all mostly Christian based. I’m not sure how these books came across my path. I usually found them through articles I was reading, discussions I had with friends, ads (yes, they come in handy from time to time), and searches for “best books on…”

Some of the books felt useless to me, some were handed to me with perfect timing. All I did was try to keep reading, writing, and praying. I tried to keep my mind and heart open. I still do and will continue to do so for the rest of my life. Finding Jesus saved my life. I feel like he was there all along, waiting for me to reach out for him, and when I did, I felt at rest, saved. I found myself there.

I’m not the perfect Christian. I don’t pretend to understand it all. I do try to listen, and I follow my heart. I apply what I’ve learned in other aspects of my life to my relationship with God. When I feel hungry, I find heathy ways to eat. Usually I eat something good for me. Sometimes I don’t. I do what feels good, what seems right at the time. I learn from my mistakes and I forgive myself when I screw up. I don’t adhere to the dogma of one human church or another. I love my neighbor as I would myself and I love God with all my heart.

Over the years I’ve continued to try to find a community to fit into, one I would really feel a part of. I’m still searching, but now that I’ve really started to know myself and accept myself (with all my strangeness, mistakes, and frailties) as I would any other friend, I know I’ll soon be able to contribute to a community instead of use it. And that means the right one will fall into my lap just as I need it.Do you know your true self? Have you accepted that person as good? Do you love her/him?

Self-knowing

Freedom

The Power in Stories: East of Eden #3

Another morning, nearly two hours straight, completely absorbed in a story. There’s so much power in stories. And it’s not only the story that’s grabbing my attention, but also the truths he’s touching on. The way he writes, narrating not only the story, but coming out of it to talk to you like he just thought of something to mention. It’s more like a conversation than a novel.

power in stories

Four days, and this is where I am. Halfway through a fat novel I didn’t know I even wanted to read in the first place. It makes me want to go back and read his other novels that I initially hated. Was it the story I didn’t like, or was his voice different? Or was it because the first time was in a high school classroom, forced to read a story before I was ready?

The last few pages I read this morning are what I want to highlight today. And you don’t have to worry about spoilers. These are taken out of context and related to me personally. That’s the way I read. Author’s probably hate it.

“I think when a man finds good or bad in his children he is seeing only what he planted in them after they cleared the womb.”

There’s a lot of truth here. How our children behave has a lot more to do with how we raised them, than how we conceived them. Do we honor their natural temperament or squash it? Have we dealt with our own past demons or are we passing on that lesson, to be learned by the next generation?

“An unbelieved truth can hurt a man much more than a lie. It takes great courage to back truth unacceptable to our times. There’s a punishment for it, and it’s usually crucifixion.”

Have you ever told the truth and been ostracized for it? It destroys more people than lies do. The fear of it makes us hide our feelings, our thoughts, our true selves, from the world around us, especially those closest to us. Safety is a rare space.

“Lord, how the day passes! It’s like a life – so quickly when we don’t watch it and so slowly when we do.”

It’s lines like this, ones that express so eloquently what all of us know instinctually, that make my heart skip in joy.

“No story has power, nor will it last, unless we feel in ourselves that is true and true of us.”

That brings me back to wondering about those Steinbeck stories I read when I was younger. For whatever reason, they mean something to humanity in general, not individuals at any given time. Something that means something to generations, no matter what you personally get from it, are worthy of respect. As you change, they change. Something in them is important, something in them reflects humanity, you may not be able to see it yet.

“I’m feeling my way now – don’t jump on me if I’m not clear.”

This should be on the title page of my blog. It’s exactly how I feel each time I start to write a post.

Samuel had leaned on his elbows on the table and his hands covered his eyes and forehead. “I want to think,” he said. “Damn you, I want to think. I’ll want to take this off alone where I can pick it apart and see. Maybe you’ve tumbled a world for me. And I don’t know what I can build in my world’s place.”

Lee said softly, “Couldn’t a world be built around accepted truth? Couldn’t some pains and insanities be rooted out if the causes were known?”

This is the essence of my thinking lately, one I learned to see through secular Buddhism. We should be tearing down our worlds and rebuilding them constantly, not clinging to what we believe we already know. It’s the only way to stay sane. Keep an open mind, stay curious, try to see what’s right there in front of us, and use that information to build new worlds. This is progress.

Yesterday afternoon, I stopped at the mailbox on my way into town for groceries. This was inside.

power in stories

It’s that book I told you about when I first started reading East of Eden a mere four days ago, Journal of a Novel. I thought I’d read it alongside East of Eden, but I’m already still heavily involved in The Portable Atheist and Reflections on a Mountain Lake. I’ll have to wait, but it’s definitely next.

By the way, I did make a bit of a fool of myself when I found the book in the mail. I ripped open the package right there in the car and took a picture, quickly texting it to several people I knew would be just as excited to hear about it. Yes, I’m THAT kind of geek!

Click back to my first post on East of Eden by John Steinbeck for more.

Resolving Conflict is Complicated

Resolving conflict is on my mind today. Actually, it’s been on my mind a long time. I’ve never been very good at resolving conflict in a rational, non-harming, way. My “go to” as a child was to cry and throw myself on the floor, in the hopes of instilling guilt on those around me until they decided to do what was right, a.k.a. what I wanted. As an adult, the silent treatment worked well for a time, until I would explode with anger and unleash hell upon those around me.

If you are one that has not experienced this with me, count yourself lucky. I’m not exaggerating.

As a wife and then a parent, you’d think I would have grown up a bit, but not really. One thing I’ve learned is that we all fall short of perfection, every single one of us. Our only hope is that we keep learning, and possibly surround ourselves with people that can forgive, love, and give us space to grow.

This morning, I read this in my study of Reflections on a Mountain Lake by Ani Tenzin Palmo:

It struck me that if we act out of the root of anger, we will only experience more anger in return. The Buddha himself said, “Hatred doesn’t cease by hatred. Hatred can only cease by love or by non-hatred.” This is because if you keep putting out anger, no matter how justified the cause, you will stir up the huge reservoir of anger in your antagonist, whoever it may be. So however justified it may seem at the time, all you’ll get in return is more opposition.

It’s obvious. All anger, no matter how justified, how righteous, how holy it is, comes from the same source, which is antipathy, aversion, or hatred. Whether it expresses itself in violence or nonviolence, it’s still anger, and so however “justified,” it will never bring about circumstances leading to peace, love, and reconciliation. How can it!

Anger…you know what Yoda says… When I’m feeling angry, I know to take a step back, give myself some space, and think, “What is it that I’m not liking exactly?” And then I think about the person or situation I’m angry with, “How can I gain understanding and reconnect?” My goal is to live in peace.

It’s not easy. I am not good at it. I’m still learning. Daily meditation in the form of two twenty-minute sessions has helped me slow down and become more aware of my feelings and the thoughts that follow them.

Also, this morning, I read from Elizabeth Anderson:

We each have moral authority with respect to one another. This authority is, of course, not absolute. No one has the authority to order anyone else to blind obedience. Rather, each of us has the authority to make claims on others, to call upon people to heed our interests and concerns.

Whenever we lodge a complaint, or otherwise lay a claim on others attention and conduct, we presuppose our own authority to give others reasons for action that are not dependent on appealing to the desires and preferences they already have.

But whatever grounds we have for assuming our own authority to make claims is equally well possessed by anyone who we expect to heed our own claims.

Resolving conflict involves two people or parties respecting the rights of the others. If we cannot come to some understanding, we need to separate and live apart from each other. Where my right to be me ends, is where your right to be you starts. We can’t step on each other. Why can’t that be easy?

resolving conflict

I posted this meme to my Facebook page this morning, not realizing that it was related until after I had let it sit there an hour.

I’m not a believer in astrology, but I often identify with Sagittarius memes. This one was especially funny to me. It’s why I have such a conflict with Facebook.

There you all are, living your (to me) bullshit, and I so want to call you on it. (Sidenote: We are ALL living bullshit that others think is simply nuts.)

What stops me?

If I’m honest with myself I can say that I don’t because I know if I call yours out, you’ll call mine out, and I really don’t like that. I should be able to take it, right? It’s a good way to learn, putting forth your ideas, being questioned, and then rethinking them. In person, I’m getting much better at that, but online… yeah, you know things are different, so I take a step back and stay quiet.

That’s how this works. You’ve angered me. I think on it, take some time to put things into perspective, so that I’m respecting your person and position, because I want a relationship with you. We work together to resolve our differences and live in peace, somehow, because we are all sentient beings with the authority to run our own lives.

Now…if I can only remember that when the feelings strike. Back to meditation practice!

Fiction Can Transport You: East of Eden #2

East of Eden. Sometimes fiction can transport you to whole other world. It may surprise you, but I’m not usually one to read the same book non-stop for hours. I typically read for about thirty minutes, go to the bathroom, get a cup of coffee, read another thirty minutes, get some exercise, write some, read another thirty minutes… It goes on all day. About an hour is the most I can read in a single sitting, even when the book is thrilling and I’m getting a lot out of it. My mind wanders.

But this… It’s just different.

fiction can transport

I didn’t sleep well again last night. I’m a light sleeper anyway, always have a hard time staying asleep, but summers are worse. It’s hot and uncomfortable, at least that’s what I’m telling myself. I’m on day three of eating less, one cup of coffee in the morning, no candy, and no alcohol. It’s an attempt to see what it is that is keeping me up. I’ve tried just about everything.

…sigh…

I skipped our morning walk today. I woke up at 4:45 and just didn’t have the energy to put on shoes right away. I dove into East of Eden while my husband got ready for work. Before I knew it, the sun was up, the livingroom was flooded with light, and it was two hours later.

What happened?

Reading East of Eden is like being there or watching an amazing movie that you can’t take your eyes off. It isn’t a complicated read. The words flow and the scenes pull you in. The story is simple, yet so deep. It’s one of those books that you talk out loud to while you read. “No!” “You can’t!” “Why?” can be heard from the livingroom couch as I roll through each chapter.

Hopefully, as I write about what piques my interest in this book, I won’t give away any big spoilers. If you’re sensitive to that, maybe skip this next part if you haven’t read the book yet.

“When a child first catches adults out – when it first walks into his grave little head that adults do not have divine intelligence, that their judgements are not always wise, their thinking true, their sentences just – his world falls into panic and desolation. The gods are fallen and all safety gone. And there is one sure thing about the fall of gods: they do not fall a little; they crash and shatter or sink deeply into green muck. It is a tedious job to build them up again; they never quite shine. And the child’s world is never quite whole again. It is an aching kind of growing.”

Do you remember realizing this? I wonder if it’s different for different kinds of people. Some people are far more sensitive, maybe they build others up to impossible standards in their minds, and when they fail to meet those standards, the repairs are complicated. Adam learned and accepted that his father wasn’t a god early in his life. Charles learned later. Neither of them is a well-adjusted and heathy adult. But then, good stories aren’t told about well-adjusted and healthy people. It would be boring. But we find little bits of ourselves in these stories. It makes us feel better about ourselves and others.

“As with many people, Charles, who could not talk, wrote with fullness. He set down his loneliness and his perplexities, and he put on paper many things he did not know about himself.”

I identified with this piece. I do talk, a lot, but it’s generally not about much. When I write, I feel like it’s easier to put my thoughts in order, but then I wonder how much of it is truly understood. Like Charles, I get little written response. It doesn’t detract from the value of writing though. I’m not writing too anyone specifically, as he was.

“…maybe love makes you suspicious and doubting. Is it true that when you love a woman you are never sure – never sure of her because you aren’t sure of yourself?”

That’s not love, my friend. It’s ego and possession. He’s right. To be that suspicious and doubting doesn’t say anything about who or what you love. It speaks about your love of yourself. You can love anyone, with all their flaws and mistakes, if you love and respect yourself. That’s something I only recently discovered and have begun to practice.

“I think the difference between a lie and a story is that a story utilizes the trappings and appearance of the truth for the interest of the listener as well as of the teller. A story has in it neither gain nor loss. But a lie is a device for profit or escape. I suppose if that definition is strictly held to, then a writer of stories is a liar – of he is financially fortunate.”

Every story is just a grand lie, right? We know that and accept it as listeners/watchers/readers. The teller isn’t trying to sell us false goods. But a liar…that’s different. We know it instinctually, but it’s fascinating putting it this way.

As you can probably see, I’m returning to my old way (way back to the beginning of this year) of writing a little about each day’s reading as I go. It seems the best way to tease out what I’m thinking and makes my little heart happiest. I hope it works for you too.

Anger Leads To…

Freedom

East of Eden: New Read

I love it when a plan comes together!

What plan? Michelle, you never have a plan. You just run into life head on, no regard for consequences, and then see what happens. Later, when things slow down, you sit back and put the puzzle pieces together as if you had a plan all along.

Yeah? So? I bought a book.

No! Really? You?

Yes, I did. And it was a book I didn’t need. I have a whole shelf of books to read. In fact, I have four shelves of books to read, even though I swore that I would never have more than one. That…well… it wasn’t working out for me and it all started when a friend moved out of state and gifted her library to little ol’ me.

east of eden
My brother said I find books in my yard like an Easter Egg Hunt.
I should try a better storage system. Always the comedian, my family is.

There I was, relaxing in Big Bear, out for a day in the (slightly) cooler temps of the mountains and a dinner at my favorite Mexican restaurant. I can’t be there and not check out the used bookstore. That would be wrong. I don’t need more books, but then again, “need” really is subjective. Isn’t it?

I try to keep my spontaneous book purchases to used books, preferably classics. I need to find a way to create a list on my phone of what I already have though. Suggestions are extremely welcome in the comments. I picked up five books that day, one of which was a disappointment. I wasn’t paying close enough attention. Probably the extra margarita. And it turned out to be an abridged version of a book I had been wanting to read. I don’t like those. But at least I only paid $4.

I came home and posted a picture of my haul on my Facebook page, and my brother mentioned he wanted to read one of them, East of Eden. I told him I’d send it to him and then rethought it and told him to buy one of his own. That way, maybe we can read it at the same time.

Sidenote: Searching for a link to East of Eden on Amazon, I found this: Journal of a Novel: The East of Eden Letters. And now THAT is on its way to my house as well. I may have a problem, but how can I pass that up? Steinbeck wrote letters to a friend as a warmup while writing East of Eden. I’ll be reading this alongside the novel; as it should be, make it so, engage!

The next week, I stumbled across The Classics Club and immediately joined it. Looking through their classics list to create my own five-year reading list, I saw East of Eden and decided it would be my next read, the first one to check off the list. I started reading it this morning and lost my mind.

The only thing I knew about East of Eden before I started reading it was that it was by John Steinbeck. I wasn’t a fan of Steinbeck. I read Of Mice and Men when I was in high school, by force, and it was depressing and boring. And this book…wow…it’s a thick one, like Stephen King thick. 778 pages. I only hoped it wouldn’t be as terrible as I remember Of Mice and Men being.

I had a vague recollection there may be a movie of the same name. My husband confirmed it. East of Eden? Yeah, babe… James Dean? You don’t remember that?” I looked it up and, of course, it’s not on any of the streaming platforms that I pay for. Nothing that I search for directly ever is. But you bet I’ll be watching it once I finish the book.

When I started reading this morning at 4:30am, I was instantly pulled into the story. I was there. Forty-five minutes later felt like an instant to me when my husband walked in and reminded me we were going to go for a walk. All I could think was that I needed to get back there as soon as possible.

This is going to be a great read.

Want to read more of my thoughts about East of Eden? Check out:
Fiction Can Transport You
The Power in Stories
The Gift of Choice: Final Thoughts on East of Eden

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