Petty Tyrants

What are you doing to overthrow tyranny?

Nope.  Not the tyrants ruling countries. The ones ruling offices, congregations, and families.  The ones who live on your block and rule their own tiny fiefdoms.  I want to know what you're doing to topple the regime of the office bully, of the parish despot who silences opposing viewpoints, of the teacher who publicly humiliates his students. I don't want to hear a damn word about the inaction of congressional Republicans until we practice taking down the autocracies in our neighborhoods.  (No, that's not true.  I still want congressional Republicans to step up...)

But I'm not kidding: what we tolerate small-scale is what we experience large-scale.  Courage is courage, and if we don't exercise it, it atrophies.  

A few weeks ago, I mostly kept my mouth shut when someone in power trounced a minority opinion.  I wish I'd had the presence of mind to speak up, and do it well.  I didn't want to sacrifice my standing for an un-winnable fight. I had no leverage in that group, and frankly had never met some of the players.  So, I probably wouldn't have changed the outcome. Also, no kidding, I got my ass handed to me the last time I spoke up in a situation with similar dynamics.

But I wouldn't have lost as much as I did the last time.  I'm older now, and jaded in a useful way.  I'd rather lose a fight than lose myself. (Truthfully, that's exactly what I concluded in Round One, but it hurt like hell and took too long to figure out.) A very smart Palestinian Christian observed in church on Sunday that we aren't necessarily called to fix, but to be faithful and obedient.  (And some of you know how I feel about "obedient.")  He's right, though: we're called to be obedient to what we understand to be the greatest good, whether that's God or a code of ethics.  

And hypocrisy isn't any prettier in us than in our elected officials.  
Stand up, dear ones.   


Opportunities to Struggle

The Biscuit's bedtime has become madness.  Developmentally-appropriate madness, but still crazy.  Some days, I can handle it calmly.  When I forget to take a breath because I'm preoccupied by the things I'd like to do, the husband I miss, and worries about who the President is going to bomb next, I do not handle it calmly. Calm is not my default setting when frustrated.  (Humiliatingly, my default setting when frustrated looks a lot more like the President's.)

But here's the thing: I badly don't want the Biscuit to make his choices based on other people's anger.  I don't want him to chose out of fear.  Self-defeating as it might seem, I want the little dickens to keep popping out of bed for a while, so that he and I can practice working alongside each other, even when I feel angry.  I fervently hope that conflict and frustration continue, and that I handle myself in such a way that my child does not become submissive in response to it. 

The same struggle, over and over again, is a chance to practice.  I did not start out with much innate talent, but if I take the opportunity to use these drills, I might wind up a patience virtuoso.  Or at least finally catch up with average.  


Learning from Soup Night

Wednesdays are the days I write about spiritual practices. In theory. Sometimes in reality, too, but also in paper and ink, so you all haven't seen it.

I've got a small handful of commonly-recognized spiritual practices going on, but I've discovered Soup Night is also a spiritual practice.  (Soup Night is rarely packed. I worry that people imagine it is.  It's not bustling over here, I want to be very clear with you. One or two families come over, typically.  Stop imagining a party all the time.  It freaks me out, and makes me think you're going to be really disappointed when you finally come over.)

Anyway, one of the ways that Soup Night is a spiritual practice is that we do it even when we're not feeling it, and we invite people we might not socialize with otherwise.  I invite friends and strangers-- I keep postcards in my purse with all the relevant info, so that I can share with anyone I chat with (and I chat with everyone).  

One set of neighbors come fairly regularly, even though before Soup Night we only waved or chatted occasionally.  Two weeks ago, I was a little grouchy to start with, and Sam was a total lunatic, and eventually I snapped at our neighbor. (Doesn't that make you want to come receive our hospitality?)

That was Sunday, and Monday morning we were leaving to go out of town.  I don't like to leave my dumb-shit decisions dangling all week, so I wrote her a letter and told her I'd like to apologize in person when I got back.

Here's my point about Soup Night being a spiritual practice:
Without Soup Night, I could easily avoid this neighbor.
Because of Soup Night, we have a relationship, and when there's conflict and difference, we have to move forward, instead of just away from each other.

The Benedictines sometimes talk about the spiritual value of that one monk who's a real pain in the ass to love, let alone live with.  I submit for your consideration that my Soup Night may well be a spiritual practice for others, as well.

Oh, and? My neighbor saw my taking out the trash today, and came out to hug me.  Love attempted, love sputtered, love carried on.  


All Kinds of Holy Work

I had my first facial today.  It was amazing.No, I'm serious.  I'm stone-cold serious.

I don't know how to relax without professional help.  Even with professional help, it's like trying to keep a beach ball submerged-- my brain is clearly trying to kill me. It's always been hard, but since my son was born, it's been nearly impossible.

For about an hour this morning, a kind, knowledgeable woman did 3/4 of the work of keeping the beach ball down.

That's holy work.  When I have totally and completely lost the ability to let go, that's a sacred service that's being provided. If I can't figure out how the hell to be still, then I need help.  I need someone to show me.

It's a lot easier to recognize heroes if you watch for them.  Sometimes they hang out in old Victorian houses and wear smocks.


This is my rock.

There are many like it, but this one is mine.

When I was a little girl-- a tiny kid, shortest in my class until 4th grade-- I found this huge rock on the beach.

I loved it.

The adults I was with laughed, told me that if I wanted it, I could carry it the mile+ to the car.  As though I could not.

I still love my rock.


Overwhelm and Offices

A decade ago, I took a year-long discernment class.  A few things from that class have stayed with me: the excellent reading list, the respect with which the clergy leader spoke of lay ministry, and this advice: Be in the habit of praying the daily offices, because when you suddenly need them, they will carry you.

The truth is, I dip in and out of the practice, but in the last week, I've been so grateful to know where to find a life raft.  The weeks following this election have been more frightening than 9/11 ever seemed to me.  In the last month I've had mouth ulcers, my first major migraine in a decade, and my normal cycle is now over a month late (yes I saw a doctor, no I'm not expecting).  Messages about unity and how the side that loses is always disappointed haven't come close to speaking to me (have in fact offended me).

On Sunday, I picked up my trusty Daily Offices.  This Sunday, I'll switch to Year 1 as we begin Advent, the new church year, the season when we are alert with expectation for Godliness and Goodness that is not here yet.  I don't have my own words to pray this month, but I am being fortified by the psalms and canticles of generations who also knew that the world they walked in was both holy and insufficient.


Heroes Next Door

Our first Soup Night was last week.  It wasn't crowded, but it was amazing.  Sweet neighbors that we've only known on a waving basis came, as did a family from the little Biscuit's preschool.  Our neighbor cares for elderly people, and loves her job.  She danced with my son, and his grin nearly touched his ears.  The infant sister of our preschool friend found my husband's naan irresistible-- she leaned forward on her mama's lap until she managed to gum her very first solid food.

Look around.  The people we know are doing good.  I'm reading Joan Chittister's Wisdom Distilled from the Daily, because I need big heroes, book-sized heroes, and women religious so often are that for me-- but it's good to pay attention to what's happening next door.  People are working hard, loving faithfully, and laughing at the joy and ridiculousness that's right here.

What good are you doing this week, and what good are you watching?