Monthly Archives: April 2017

Life Rehab Resources: Comedy

I haven’t done one of these posts in a long time. It’s late in the day, and I decided hours ago, sometime after I got up from a long nap, that I was taking the rest of the day off, but I can’t stop thinking about this podcast I listened to this morning, and I wanted to come here and tell you about it. And I figure if I’m going to take the time telling you about it, there’s a bigger story there, so I might as well just tell you the whole thing, or at least most of it.

I have always loved comedy, loved a good laugh. It’s as essential to me as food, air, water, sleep, music, or books. My favorites growing up were Lucille Ball, Carol Burnett, Barbara Streisand (I know she might strike you as an odd choice, but her physical comedy and self-deprecation mixed with a gorgeous voice were comedy gold to me), Mary Tyler Moore, Bill Cosby (*sigh*), Dick Van Dyke, Danny Kaye, and Jerry Lewis (*sigh* again) — (and yes, I am aware most of this list is white people).

When I got older, it was cool to like rougher comedy like that of Richard Pryor and Eddie Murphy. The older still I got, the less I could stomach comedy. I couldn’t see past the misogyny and racism, the way some comedian’s shtick seemed to boil down to “look at what a mess I am, isn’t that funny?” Rather than make me laugh, it often left me feeling disturbed and confused. And as I had more real life adult experiences of my own (adulting really sucks sometimes), it was harder and harder to make me laugh.

I entered a comedy dry spell. I didn’t go out of my way to seek it out, and none of note found its way to me. Then something started to shift. Two things happened: Tig Notaro was diagnosed with cancer and almost immediately did a live show which started with her walking on stage and saying to the audience “Good evening. Hello. I have cancer,” (the show was recorded and turned into the album Live); and Mike Birbiglia‘s My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend was released, “Mike Birbiglia tells the touching story of his believing and disbelieving in love.”

These two shows changed my comedy world. These were people talking about real, authentic, hard shit, but through their storytelling, they made me laugh, made me think, and somehow, even though they talked about how hard and messy it was to be a human, they made me feel better. We laughed together about how weird it all is. They cheered me up. With the door so lovingly opened, I found my way back to comedy.

Now comedy is a regular thing in my life again. Three podcasts I listen to on a regular basis are You Made It Weird, “Everybody has secret weirdness, Pete Holmes gets comedians to share theirs”; Put Your Hands Together, hosted by Rhea Butcher and Cameron Esposito, “a first-of-its-kind weekly standup podcast. PYHT delivers 75 minutes of jokes and backstage chats with LA’s best and brightest comics,” and 2 Dope Queens, “Join the 2 Dope Queens, Phoebe Robinson and Jessica Williams, along with their favorite comedians, for stories about sex, romance, race, hair journeys, living in New York, and Billy Joel. Plus a whole bunch of other s**t.”

This morning I listened to You Made It Weird #357: Mike Birbiglia #4 while I was doing my physical therapy exercises, and putting away laundry, and taking a shower. I’d already listened to the first hour yesterday while I was cleaning the house. I like Pete Holmes’s comedy, and I really like his new show Crashing, and I love his podcast; but what I really really really love is when he gets to talking about spirituality. He’s Christian, but if he didn’t say that outright, you’d think he was a Buddhist.

This particular episode had so much good stuff I can’t even begin to cover it all here, but one thing he said has stuck with me all day. He talked about how when he sees someone getting road ragey, he says “where are you going?” His point being “where is it you are trying to get that is so important you go into a rage if you don’t get there in a timely manner?” He was giving the example in the context of talking about a larger issue, how we all are rushing around, grasping and reaching for something else, and completely missing the fact that we are right here, and being here is the whole point. Every time I caught myself slipping out of the present moment today, I asked myself “where are you going?” It’s a potent antidote to mindlessness, to discursive thinking, to suffering.

Maintaining a sense of humor is so important. And yet, it matters to me that there remains a balance between reality and comedy. I don’t want to be shocked into laughing or distracted from what’s bad; I want a way to process and understand the brutality of life without falling into despair. Good comedy like that keeps me from turning my pain into suffering, for myself and others, and I feel better because it lightens the weight of the reality we all face. It keeps me from giving up.

Some other good comedy:

Gratitude Friday

1. Morning walks with the dogs. It’s getting light so early, I don’t even need my headlamp — although that also means other people are out earlier and we don’t have the whole place to ourselves the whole time. Yesterday, there was a heron out hunting. We ran into him along the river and then again at one of the ponds. He was hunkered down, so at first the dogs didn’t see him. See if you can find him in this picture and you’ll understand why they missed him at first.

Can you find the heron?

2. Colorado sky. It really is amazing. Don’t believe me? I present these next two pictures from our walk yesterday morning as proof.

3. Ringo and Sam. Ringo is getting just enough more grown up that I can leave him out during my Wild Writing class and he mostly behaves himself, and he can hang out in the backyard by himself without me having to check on him every five minutes. This is about the time with any other dog that I’d start leaving him at home alone without crating him — not this wild man. Sam is currently hiding under my writing desk because I’m doing laundry and he’s convinced the washing machine is trying to murder us. I’m so glad that he’s doing okay after his tick bite, all healed up and not even any side effects from the antibiotics. I’m feeling extra grateful for their company, their good health today, because someone I adore and her sweet dog just found out he has lymphoma.

Little dude, big ears

Looking for deer

4. Working from home. As an introvert and a highly sensitive person, after four days in a row in my CSU office, I’m fried. The only way I can get any work done on a Friday is to do it from home, in my pjs, with my dogs sleeping somewhere nearby, with a nap break at some point. I’m so lucky that my job allows for it.

5. Good food. Egg sliders with homemade biscuits and fresh eggs from a friend’s chickens, breakfast for dinner with more of the same eggs, spinach on everything, San Pelligrino orange soda, dark chocolate, carrots, and avocado.

Bonus joy: that what was wrong with the Highlander was a fairly minor fix (the Big Rig is 15 years old with close to 200,000 miles now, so any time it goes in the shop, we know it could be something that means we are buying another new car instead of fixing it), enough flexibility in our schedules that five days with one car was workable, the smell of lilacs, my irises blooming, good tv, good books, such good humans in my Wild Writing class, getting a big project at work close to done, pay day, clean sheets.

Three Truths and One Wish

1. Truth: I’ve been thinking a lot about paradigm shifts. In case you’ve never heard that phrase before it simply means doing or seeing things in a whole new way. It’s a total revolution in your understanding of something you previously took for granted. It’s like having faulty vision and then putting on prescription glasses — suddenly you see things in a whole new way. I’ve been through a few of these in my life, am currently experiencing another and thinking a lot about what it means. One shift for me was away from diet culture, disordered eating, self-loathing, and smashing myself to bits. My current shift is dismantling the existing system(s) of white supremacy, in myself and in the world.

2. Truth: Living a paradigm shift can feel like experiencing the stages of grief, (denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance). And there is a sort of grief in letting go of an old way of being, entering a phase of discomfort and groundlessness. Initially, you live outside of the old system of understanding without fully inhabiting the new, and it can be lonely in that space. The tug of that old comfort, that worn knowing is strong. For some shifts, in order to view things a new way, one also might experience guilt, shame, and confusion. To fully make the shift, one needs to take responsibility for suffering we’ve generated and also to forgive ourselves. It’s hard work. As Pema Chödrön said,

I used to have a sign pinned up on my wall that read: “Only to the extent that we expose ourselves over and over to annihilation can that which is indestructible be found in us.” Somehow, even before I heard the Buddhist teachings, I knew that this was the spirit of true awakening. It was all about letting go of everything. Nevertheless, when the bottom falls out and we can’t find anything to grasp, it hurts a lot.

3. Truth: Paradigm shifts are complicated. They take much longer than you expect, which means you’ll have to be patient. Also, in unraveling old ways of being and knowing, one discovers a web where the thing that is shifting is connected to other things that also need attention, and it can feel like a real mess, almost impossible. And yet the peace that comes with the change, the relief of letting go, releasing the attachment to things that no longer work or make sense and entering a new clarity, is worth the struggle and effort.

One wish: If you are also experiencing a paradigm shift, may you stay curious, be gentle with yourself, remain patient, stay open to new information, ask for help when you need it, keep your sense of humor, and not give up. And even as it feels like you are standing outside and separate, may you know that you are not alone.

Something Good

Image by Connie J. Sun

1. Connie to the Wonnie. Connie J. Sun, “NYC cartoonist who works in higher education and draws an illustrated status message a day. Single Girl, Asian Daughter. Cartoons daily, Mon-Fri.” I was trying to figure out what image to share with this post this morning, and I saw Connie’s for today on Facebook, and it’s so perfect, (the above image, just in case that’s not entirely clear). I shared a link to her work a few weeks ago on this list, but since then, I’ve been loving it so much that I felt like I needed to share again, as in “no really, this is so awesome, you should check her out.”

2. Your Time is Now from Karen Walrond on Chookooloonks. Amen!

I think now, more than ever, it’s important for all of us to use our creativity not just as a casual pastime, but as a more intentional form of true self-expression. Whatever your medium — an artist’s paint, a photographer’s camera and light, or even a scientist’s or mathematician’s formulas or equations — whatever your art, it’s becoming more important than ever to use it to express what you stand for. To create meaning. To use your art to shout your values, whatever they are, and decry injustice or discrimination, wherever you see it.

3. Write Good from Paul Jarvis. He makes some really good points about what’s really important when it comes to writing, like “You just write good, as often as possible, and share it. The more you share, the more likely you are to release something that leaves a mark.”

4. The Republic of the Body: May 2017, an offering from the brilliant Jena Schwartz. If I weren’t so stupid busy right now, I’d totally be there. “A brand new four-week writing group is for anyone who wants to discover or deepen their writing practice, with the use of prompts inspired by the teachings of B.K.S. Iyengar as well as other traditional sources. We will freewrite without stopping, three days/week for 10 minutes at a time. As with all of my groups: You do not have to be good (or have any actual yoga experience). You just have to be willing to take your seat and see what happens.”

5. The Universe in Verse, “is brought to you by Brain Pickings and Pioneer Works as a protest against the defunding of science and the arts. We are donating all ticketing proceeds to the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Academy of American Poets. The hosts and readers are all donating their time and talent, and this livestream is donated by Kickstarter Live.” In related news, an important distinction from Seth Godin, What does “science” mean?

6. I was the target of a neo-Nazi ‘troll storm.’

7. How to Tell a True Tale: Neil Gaiman on What Makes a Great Personal Story. “Honesty matters. Vulnerability matters. Being open about who you were at a moment in time when you were in a difficult or an impossible place matters more than anything.”

8. The Sanctity of Letting Things Percolate from Adreanna Limbach. I got this post in an email, and what was included there that isn’t in the blog post was this message, “It takes 14 months to birth a baby camel…16 months to birth a baby walrus…And nearly 2 years to birth a baby elephant. You’re doing great.”

9. 10+ Of The Happiest Animal Memes To Start The Week With A Smile.

10. In The 1920s, A Community Conspired To Kill Native Americans For Their Oil Money.

11. What I’ve Learned After 5 Years and 20 Books: 25 Lessons from Chuck Wendig.

12. The Alphabet of Right Now on A Design So Vast. What a great writing prompt.

13. Warm and Woodsy on SF Girl by Bay. I am swooning over this furniture.

14. Create What You Wish to See, more good stuff from Karen Waldrond on Chookooloonks. In related news, Ep. 8: The Highest of Thrives of the Hey, Sis! podcast, featuring…Karen Walrond.

15. 2017 Women of the World Poetry Slam – Ebony Stewart “Compassion Fatigue”.

Ebony Stewart is a touring performance artist and slam poet who has been active in the central Texas slam poetry scene and theater community for over a decade. Ebony Stewart was on the Austin Neo Soul Slam team in 2010 that finished fourth in the Nation. She coached the 2012 Austin Neo-Soul & 2015 Austin Poetry Slam teams, that finished first and fifth, respectively, at the National Poetry Slam as well and the 2015 They Speak Youth Slam that finished eighth in the world at the Brave New Voices competition. The only adult female three-time Slam Champion in Austin, Texas, voted Top Female Touring Poet. In 2015, she debuted her one-woman show, Hunger, for which she won Outstanding Lead Actress in a drama and received the David Mark Cohen New Play Award. Recently crowned, Co-Champion of the 2017 Women of the World Poetry Slam. Her work has been published in the Texas Observer, For Harriet, and Teen Vogue. Ebony Stewart aka The Gully Princess aka “She’ll eat your cupcake” – she, her, is the #storyoftheblackgirlwinning.

16. Stay-at-home mum’s self-portrait photo project.

17. The Heart of Whiteness: Ijeoma Oluo Interviews Rachel Dolezal, the White Woman Who Identifies as Black.

18. The Stubborn Gladness of a New Dog on The Cognitive Canine. P.S. Send the new little guy some love if you’ve got it to give. He’s been in the hospital sick the past few days. Feel better, little dude!

19. The IHop Years, “1983-1990: Life at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and the International House of Pancakes” from David Sedaris.

20. Why I’m Absolutely an Angry Black Woman by Dominique Matti.

21. My Religion Is Kindness, “the core of all spiritual and humanistic paths” from Tara Brach.

22. Wisdom from the Dalai Lama’s Nobel acceptance speech (1989),

I believe all suffering is caused by ignorance. People inflict pain on others in the selfish pursuit of their happiness or satisfaction. Yet true happiness comes from a sense of inner peace and contentment, which in turn must be achieved through the cultivation of altruism, of love and compassion and elimination of ignorance, selfishness and greed.

The problems we face today, violent conflicts, destruction of nature, poverty, hunger, and so on, are human-created problems which can be resolved through human effort, understanding and the development of a sense of brotherhood and sisterhood. We need to cultivate a universal responsibility for one another and the planet we share. Although I have found my own Buddhist religion helpful in generating love and compassion, even for those we consider our enemies, I am convinced that everyone can develop a good heart and a sense of universal responsibility with or without religion.

23. 5 Ways Not to Bite the Trump Hook from Susan Piver, in case you were needing the reminder. I know I sure am.

24. I’m a Tea Party conservative. Here’s how to win over Republicans on renewable energy. “This earth belongs to all of us.”

25. 70 years ago, six Philly women became the world’s first digital computer programmers. “Without any real training, they learned what it took to make ENIAC work – and made it a humming success. Their contributions were overlooked for decades.”

26. Why shopping should be a last resort. “Toronto illustrator Sarah Lazarovic’s Buyerarchy of Needs urges people to consider other options before hitting the mall.” A great set of graphics.

27. Letter: Living free from the pursuit of weight loss.

28. The Trouble with Tolerance by Omid Safi.

29. Glennon Doyle Melton’s Important Message for White Feminists. She’s not the first or only one to say this, but in case you didn’t or couldn’t hear it when someone else said it, let’s give this a try.

30. 8 Signs Your Yoga Practice Is Culturally Appropriated – And Why It Matters. I’ve read and shared this before, but it’s always worth revisiting.

31. Baby Winnie, the hippo. So cute!

32. Suck it Up: Some Advice to Straight White Men, From Straight White Men.

33. Clementine Ford: Committing sexual assault is never ‘out of character.’ “But rape isn’t something that otherwise good and decent people just stumble into. Someone who makes the choice to rape or sexually assault someone isn’t acting out of character – rather, they are expressing a central part of their character that all too many people seem willing to overlook in their desires to have these people continue to be ‘good’. The part of their character that believes they are entitled to use women’s bodies against their will, to dominate and hurt women for their own gratification.” Amen.

34. 16 Lies Fat People are Tired of Hearing. Word.

35. Criticism and Courage, a FREE online class with Susan Hyatt and Alexandra Franzen. “Can’t make it on May 11th? No problem. Go ahead and register anyway—and you’ll get a link to the recording after the live event concludes.”

36. Dear Sugar Radio. A great podcast, “radically empathic advice from Cheryl Strayed and Steve Almond.” In related news, Best of 2016: Most Listened-To Podcast Episodes of On Being.

37. American Poets, Refusing to Go Gentle, Rage Against the Right.

38. Awake, A Dream From Standing Rock film by Oscar Nominees Josh Fox and James Spione and Native filmmaker Myron Dewey.

39. Help Save the Bees, a great list of tips.

40. When Was It Exactly That We Lost Our Humanity? from Renegade Mothering.

41. Fix Their Problems. “There is no creature in American politics more puzzled over by Democrats than the angry, forgotten Trump voter. How can we reach them? How should we speak to them? Here’s a wild idea: fix their problems.”

42. Women of color don’t owe you shit by Femme Feministe.

43. Burg’s Place. This is one of my favorite shelters, humans, dogs, an effort that lives at the very center of my heart.

44. 15 Indigenous Femenists To Know, Read, And Listen To. In related news, 21 Fierce Black Feminists To Follow On Instagram Right Now.

45. Can we talk about personal responsibility?

46. Erikan’s dream was to create a meeting place for young black people to meet, network and dream big.

47. Katherine Switzer was the first woman to run the Boston Marathon. 50 years later, she’s running it again.

48. Different Branches on the Same Tree from Jena Schwartz.

49. Hateful People Are Exhausting by John Pavlovitz.

Like the vast majority of this country, I want it to be the place where equality, diversity, and decency find sanctuary, and though I am fully committed to the aspiration, I am feeling the cumulative weariness sustained from a small but fierce portion of the population (including far too much of its leadership) whose narrative about the world depends upon acrimony for so much of it. I know that I’m not alone in this emotional depletion and physical fatigue.

But it will not consume me and it will not change my heart toward the world. It will not derail my path or alter my convictions.

I will be a person of love here or I will die trying.

50. There’s A Japanese Word For People Who Buy More Books Than They Can Actually Read. Guilty.

Day of Rest

These lines of a longer poem from Rumi have been coming up a lot for me. It feels so important, especially now, to take care, to check ourselves before we wreck ourselves. And that first line is so essential: sit, be still, and listen. May you find the space to do so today, kind and gentle reader, and may it be useful.

What I’m Doing: Something Good

#kitchencounterlovenote

A while back, I updated the description for my weekly Something Good list. I added this clarification: This list has changed a bit recently from things you’d typically label as “good” to “things I think you need to see” because the world has shifted and there are things that are important, that need shared.

My mission, my purpose (for my life and this blog) hasn’t changed — to ease suffering, in myself and in the world — but the way I do so has evolved. I used to think the best thing I could do was help to cheer people up, empower and encourage them, remind them that the world and people are fundamentally good. I still think there’s a need for that. There’s always a need for that. But in the meantime, I’ve noticed the need for something else too — speaking out and taking action against oppression, injustice, and aggression. And I am convinced that the primary issue of our time is systematic white supremacy, so much of my effort is focused on dismantling that however I can, because it is harmful to ALL of us, not just those being oppressed.

A critical comment on my last Something Good list made me want to clarify for you, kind and gentle reader, what I’m doing here. The comment referenced The Kind Hearted Blogger Pledge I’d taken some time ago, said that my blog wasn’t kind and neither was I. I took a bit of time and reread the pledge, and realized that I could no longer abide by it completely, so removed the button from my blog.

I believe there is a distinct difference between being kind, or rather “nice,” and being compassionate. I’ve talked about it here before, but the short version is that being “nice” means doing everything I can so that no one feels uncomfortable, staying positive and only saying “nice” things, giving people what they want in order to avoid conflict. Being “nice” is being accommodating, compliant, likeable, quiet if necessary — not rocking the boat.

I’m not nice; I’m compassionate. True compassion does not shy away from causing discomfort or setting boundaries, because compassion is concern for the suffering and misfortune of others. And if you are conspiring or directly involved in the suffering and misfortune of others, I most certainly am not concerned with your comfort or your feelings — if for no other reason than I’m too busy mitigating the harm you are causing and trying to stop you from doing more damage.

In action, compassion first means I practice, regularly focusing my effort on being more mindful, more present, openhearted but stable, healthy, sane, aware, wise. I’m constantly working to heal myself, to process my difficult emotions rather than acting on them, working to unravel my habitual patterns, trying to approach each situation with curiosity rather than judgment, not allowing my discursive thoughts to take control of my actions, considering how I might be generating suffering and figuring out how to ease that.

In action, compassion also means I act on behalf of others who are suffering or being harmed. I am willing to allow people to be who they are, believe what they choose and do what they want, but as soon as that requires the oppression of or violence against others, I won’t comply. I cannot agree with, support, or allow that.

I suppose my blog is an invitation of sorts. I invite you to make this effort with me, to be more compassionate and sane people, to heal what you need to heal in yourself so that you don’t harm others, to remain curious about your own confusion and blind spots, to step in where you see others being harmed and offer help, to give space to the voices of those who are oppressed and otherwise silenced, to protect what needs kept safe, to listen deeply, to maintain your sense of humor, and not give up. As the tagline for this blog urges: life is beautiful and brutal, tender and terrible — keep your heart open. And don’t ever let anyone tell you that to have an open heart, to be compassionate, requires that you be “nice” and keep your mouth shut.

Gratitude Friday

1. Colorado sunrises. There is something particularly magic about the sky here, and I feel so lucky to be up and out early enough to be able to see the sun come up and the various ways it lights up the sky.

2. Morning walks with the dogs. It hasn’t been long enough for me to start to take them for granted yet. It’s still fresh in my mind the long stretches of time in the last few years when I was injured or hurt or sick and couldn’t go.

I also love having lived somewhere long enough, walked enough miles on the same trails to have favorite spots, favorite trees, places where what happened there that one time is still such a clear memory. When things are really green in the spring, this is one of my favorite spots on the trail.

3. Good food. We finished watching the whole Samurai Gourmet series, so I’ve been craving Asian food lately, in particular a bowl of rice with vegetables and teriyaki chicken. I skipped a meeting the other day and took myself to lunch so I could finally have some. It was good, but it made me realize what I really wanted was the same thing from Love Love Teriyaki in Salem, Oregon.

4. The lilacs are blooming, so there’s flowers in the bathroom.

5. My tiny family. Ringo always makes me laugh, even when he’s being a jerk. I feel so tender about Sam because he’s the same age Obi was when he was diagnosed with Lymphoma, and with the worry this week about his health because of his tick bite, I’m reminded that we are “tangled up in love, running out of time,” (from “In the Middle,” a poem by Barbara Crooker). And when I woke up this morning feeling like I was getting sick, knowing if I walked the dogs in the rain like I’d promised Eric that it would seal the deal, he walked them for me, getting rained on almost the whole time.

Bonus joy: A good book, finishing the laundry, teaching yoga, having people see me and say so, writing with my dream Wild Writing class, saying “no,” putting on clean pajamas even if I haven’t managed to take a shower yet, the prospect of fresh biscuits and a nap later, tulips, clean water.