Monday, January 23, 2006

Mission Statement

Here is a first draft of a new mission statement that is helping me focus my passions:


As Ghandi once said, “If one cannot find God in his neighbor, one need not look further.”
I am so challenged by this idea, especially when one’s neighbor is also one’s enemy. Christ’s provocative messages about turning our other cheek to our enemy, and real non-violence defined as not even hating another in one’s heart strike a deep chord in me. If Love and Peace are truly the pillars of my belief system, then my only acceptable actions and reactions must be rooted there. How many people (my perceived enemies: Lovers of Power, Haters of Peace, Oppressors of Women, Abusers of Children, Liars, Racists, Murderers) have I held hostage by my own disdain, intolerance, judgment, even hate? How can I begin to hope for transformation in the world unless, while exposing and protesting the actions of my “enemies”, I am also respecting the image of God in them, however dimly it is being reflected? Am I capable of releasing the bondage of hate I hold them in, and freeing them to the healing power of reconciliation? Is that even possible? I must believe it to be, or there is no hope.

I can visualize how this mission statement has already begun to inform my actions, and I desire it to continue to shape my ways of seeing, thinking, and being. It requires a new equality, in which I care for the powerless as equal siblings in our human family. It requires an honoring of the earth, as I recognize the breath of God in every creature, cloud, and blade of grass. It requires a nurturing of my self: body, mind, soul. And to encourage other’s to recognize the sacred in themselves and in all living things speaks to my role as writer, artist, peacemaker, and activist.

In the recently released film “ONE”, Father Thomas Keating is asked what his one wish for the world would be, this is his response (listen here):

“One wish for the world? Well, it could only be one thing, and that is that it might experience it’s destiny, which is not necessarily to get rid of all suffering, but to be able to lead human life in a divine way. That’s the project as far as I can see. And each of us is sort of a new way in which God can experience what it’s like to be human. So what seems to me the most desirable goal for ourselves is to allow God to manifest himself in us. This is by manifesting Divine Love in everything we do every moment. It doesn’t mean big things, but that intention of serving, of giving, and of welcoming everybody into our lives who wants to come.”

May this sacred wish live in me.

Birthday Aspirations: Self Care

-drink more water (64oz. seems impossible, but a good goal)
-exercise a minimum of 3 times a week (pilates, dance, swim, hike, bike)
-find a doctor in Seattle and schedule an annual exam
-get my teeth cleaned
-return to a body work practitioner (rolfing, massage, acupuncture)
-do a “cleanse” program

-allocate time for reading
-allocate time for writing
-allocate time for research
-allocate time to practice Spanish
-take at least one more continuing ed. course this year
-take another jewelry making class

-learn more about centering prayer
-practice some form of contemplation daily (journal, meditate, examen)
-go on at least one spiritual retreat

-allocate at least one evening per week as “date night”
-schedule monthly relationship maintenance meetings
-go on a marriage retreat

-create a menu plan
-create a housework schedule that is efficient and practical
-allocate time to work on budget and bills
-allocate weekends to help Pat with remodeling
-allocate time for yard work

-allocate time to build relationship within my circle
-discover creative ways to serve my circle
-prioritize time with older members of my circle
-create opportunities to widen the circle

Birthday Aspirations: World Care

-Get regularly involved with Seattle’s homeless community

-Host and help organize social justice awareness and action events in community

-Build relationship with and serve my neighborhood

-Educate myself about current socio-political issues locally and globally

-Participate in peacemaking and social justice activism via online campaigns, letter writing, phone calls, marches, and rallies

-Be Green: consume less; recycle; buy fair-trade, local, sustainable, 2nd-hand

-Write to tell the stories of the suffering and oppressed, to raise awareness and provoke action

-Research and consider purchasing a bio-diesel fueled automobile

-Ride my bike more

-Develop personal relationships with, serve, and learn from individuals that represent communities and issues I feel passionate about

-Discover ways to stand in solidarity with those who suffer, lifting them up to the Great Healer

Monday, January 16, 2006

Birthday Journal

Today is my birthday.

Over the past season I’ve watched the light fade (literally in the Pacific Northwest!), I’ve waited through Advent, then celebrated the coming of the Light with Christmas and the solstice. Now with the New Year and my birthday so close together it is a time of reflection and review of the past and a re-visioning of the future for me. This is a bittersweet time of letting go and saying goodbye, while at the same time opening my heart and mind to welcome new things. It is a time of death and birth; mourning and celebration.

I have never been quite so aware of this duality as I am this year. Over the past several weeks I have been stunned by the news of so many lives lost in my community. None have been my closest friends and family, but a childhood friend was killed in a car accident, new friends had a miscarriage, a dear friend lost her father, a blogger buddy lost her mom, and several other well-known and loved members connected to my circle have passed away recently. Concurrently, a number of my closest friends and family have given birth during this season.

It is almost as if life sped up around me for a moment and all the dizzying beauty, pain, wonder, and loss converged…and my heart could barely keep itself from flying apart into tiny broken pieces. So I’ve taken the time to slow down and look within at what is dying and birthing in my life…

I mourn the loss of my life as a dancer. Once a professional dancer, I lived and breathed a dancer’s life—performing, choreographing, teaching, rehearsing, touring. It was my passion.

But after taking some time off to recover from burn out and an injured back (during which time I also got married and moved to Seattle) suddenly I am realizing that the life I once knew and loved as a dancer is dead. It will never exist again. My back injury is chronic and will be something I have to deal with the rest of my life. And my new role as wife (and possibly mother in the next years), writer, and activist, has caused my focus and priorities to change. It’s not that I will never dance again in some capacity, but I am now fully accepting that it will never be the same and I am allowing the pain of that realization to sink in. It is a profound loss of a great love of my life. I grieve it.

Yet in my grief I am pregnant with a passion that has been evolving in my life for many years, now quickly growing within me. I am filled with hope and excitement as I give birth to my developing role as human rights activist, peacemaker, and story-gatherer.

It is a lovely irony for me to share my birthday with one of the greatest human rights activists and peacemakers of all time, Martin Luther King Jr. So I take this day to write down my “aspirations” for this year, not “resolutions” provoked by guilt, to stop doing this and stop doing that. Instead I revisit my mission statement and consider my life philosophy and write down some positive things I hope to incorporate into my life to better care for myself and my world during this, my 34th year on our planet.

I will share those next…

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

May God Be With Her

Tonight I lit a candle for Jill Carroll, 28 year old free-lance journalist, abducted in Iraq.
In my deep dreams, I am her. A journalist traveling to dangerous places to tell the stories of our troubled world. But here I sit in my warm, safe home... wishing she could be here too.

A Song in the Night

In October 2004, Cecile joined the Women for Women International Program. A teenager when she was raped by a militia guard in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Cecile had a little girl named Sylvie. Cecile’s life has made her old for her 19 years. These are her words:

Other women were married by choice, but I was married by force. Other girls who were raped were luckier than me; they did not end up pregnant like me. I would say to myself: If I could only go back and be a girl again. That’s impossible! What if Sylvie could go back in my belly? That’s impossible, I would say to myself.

When I first came to Women for Women International, I said I would not tell Sylvie of the circumstances surrounding her birth. I would tell her that my husband was her biological father. But now, I no longer believe that can be done. Now I am asking myself, what will I tell her when she asks who her father is? What will I say? The fathers of the other children are teachers, merchants, but Sylvie will learn that her father was a killer, a rapist who spent his life spilling the blood of others.

I ask myself questions during the hours of the night when I cannot sleep. I cannot find answers to all the questions that I have. The morning comes and I wake up without ever having closed my eyes during the night.

I have begun to feel the pain like I felt after escaping my life as a sex slave. Since then, I have my period twice a month. I feel pain all around my pelvis. I cannot walk 100 meters without feeling dizzy and feeling pain at my lower abdomen and my back. I went to get treated but I refused to be touched by a male doctor. I found a nice woman doctor who told me the problem is I have thoughts that my age cannot support and my body is troubled.

The burden of my thoughts makes me fear that one day I will go crazy. Each thought leads me deeper and deeper into myself. When my eyes open while in the dark in my room and I cannot fall asleep, I begin to interrogate myself. If there was a way to be sure that God would hear me, I would send a letter and wait for his response. If I cannot send him a letter, I need to find another means to communicate with him. I wish I could ask him all of my questions.

One night, as I lay in my bed and my head was spinning with all the questions, I started singing. It was around two in the morning. My mother woke up and asked why I was singing so late. I never wanted her to know how deeply troubled I am. That would worry her. I simply told her that I just wanted to sing. She was afraid because a lot of thieves circulate the neighborhood around this time of the night. She asked me not to sing. I stopped singing and was awake for a long time.

I wonder when I will cease to have all of these worries.

(Excerpted from "Outreach", a newsletter by Women for Women International)

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Welcome 2006

Wow... the holidays, traveling, parties, and a nasty flu have had their way with me. Sorry for the long silence. I've missed my new blogger friends these past weeks, can't wait to catch up.
In the meantime, here is a poem to start this year out with:

The Healing Time

Finally on my way to yes
I bump into
all the places
where I said no
to my life
all the untended wounds
the red and purple scars
those hieroglyphs of pain
carved into my skin,
my bones,
those coded messages
that send me down
the wrong street
again and again
where I find them
the old wounds
the old misdirections
and I lift them
one by one
close to my heart
and I say holy

-by Pesha Joyce Gertler, Seattle’s poet populist