Category Archives: Kindness

An Open Love Letter to Patti Digh, Mary Anne Radmacher, and Karma

poster gift from Patti Digh to her mailing list

I am cradled today in the comfort of kindness, the awareness that every kindness you ever offer somehow finds it’s way back to you. In the simplest way, this is karma–every action has a consequence. Today, I am humbled by it, my heart softened, opened by the practice of generosity, and the kindness that has found it’s way to me because of it. I feel tender and raw, sad and weepy because of it, but also so joyful and grateful.

card from Mary Ann Radmacher

Patti Digh is one of my favorite authors, humans. I have learned so much from her about showing up, keeping my heart open, cultivating courage and compassion. She’s given me so much, and there is no way to repay that kind of gift directly or completely.

live shot of Patti during a virtual party for the launch of her new 37 days website, oh that smile!

And yet, at the end of this summer, I had an opportunity to help her, to give what I could give. Her husband was diagnosed with kidney cancer during a time when he had no health insurance and he needed an expensive surgery. The John F. Ptak Relief Fund was created and I was happy to donate, happy to offer some small kindness to a woman who’d already given me so much.

The story doesn’t end there. Just as I was about to make a donation, Mary Ann Radmacher announced on Facebook that the first ten people to make a $100 donation and contact her would get an original piece of her work. She’s an amazing artist and writer. I love everything she does. Her quote “Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says I’ll try again tomorrow” has offered me so much comfort in the past year.

To create my original piece, she asked for my most favorite colors (purples, blues and greens–colors of flowers, the ocean, and the trees), shape (infinity symbol) and most treasured iconic image (lotus flower). When the package arrived in the mail and I saw what she’d made, my heart was so full it felt like it would break.

Holy Wow. I can’t stop staring at it. And that’s not all, she also sent me a signed copy of her new book, Honey in Your Heart: Ways to See and Savor the Simple Good Things. Do you understand, kind and gentle reader? She didn’t have to do that. The book wasn’t part of the deal, a deal that was already super sweet, above and beyond, but she sent it along anyway, added a bonus gift. One generous act beget a kindness that, as it was passed along from person to person, heart to heart, grew so big, got so bright. I have faith that it won’t stop with this.

“Honey is a sweetness, occurring as the result of creatures doing what comes from acting according to their nature,” says Mary Anne in the introduction to her new book. We humans are fundamentally good, inherently compassionate and wise, and this sweetness, these kind acts (Patti giving, me giving to her, and Mary Anne giving to me because I gave to Patti), this infinity loop of generosity and love is, I believe with my whole heart, just that: the result of creatures doing what comes from acting according to their nature.

Change What You Can Change

I don’t know about you, kind and gentle reader, but I’m with Abbie: I’m ready for this election to be over. I don’t like competition, get no joy from a good debate, am so uncomfortable when people are angry and fighting and upset, and hate to argue. I remember once, sitting at an intersection where opposing sides were picketing across the street from each other, random people yelling from their cars or honking, so much noise and chaos, and I asked myself “which side would you be on?” and the answer made me laugh out loud, “I’d rather make everybody cookies.”

And it’s true, I’m a peacemaker. I always have been. It’s my nature. I avoid discussing religion or politics, including here on my blog. Philosophy and faith I’ll talk about, but I steer clear of anything that would spark a real dispute. I don’t want anyone to miss the more important message, to be cheated out of a kindness because they disagree with my politics. I want my blog to be a safe place for every reader, for them to come here and realize they are not alone, to inspire good things to happen.

That doesn’t mean I don’t have an opinion on things. But stronger than my opinion is my commitment to promoting love and kindness, the sense that our time would be better spent changing what we can change than arguing about things we can’t control.

I’ve read a few things in this past week that have said it better than I could. One is Courtney Carver’s Make Your Vote Count on her blog Be More With Less, in which she says

If you want your vote to count, to really matter:

  • Vote for your health by eating good food, mostly plants.
  • Vote for your community by volunteering with local organizations.
  • Vote to feed hungry people by giving freely.
  • Vote for your friendships by saying “I’m sorry” and “I love you”.
  • Vote for your happiness by taking a walk.
  • Vote for your children by listening to them.

Your health and happiness is not dependent on who will be sitting in the Oval Office. Policy may change, but you will be ok. Vote with your dollars. Vote with your time. Vote with your heart. Make it count.

And then Susan Piver posted Only Us: Beyond Republican and Democrat, in which she says

Right now, we have a chance to take a view that is so much larger than Obama or Romney, Us or Them, My Way or The Highway. Without budging an inch in what we believe and whom we support, we could take a moment, just a millisecond, to imagine that the “other” side feels as much passion, despair, longing, and fear about the election as we do. We could care about each other, American to American… In these attitude shifts, even if we can only hold on to them for a moment, everything is possible. We could at least try.

We are all in this together, we can make a difference in the world, ease suffering, even if it’s just our own, even if it’s only temporary–we can at least try.

One of the greatest enigmas of human behavior is the way we isolate ourselves from each other. In our misguided perception of separation we assume that others are not sharing a similar experience of life. We imagine that we are unique in our eccentricities or failures or longings…When we don’t share the secret ache in our hearts—the normal bewilderment of being human—it turns into something else. Our pain, and fear, and longing, in the absence of company, become alienation, and envy, and competition. ~Elizabeth Lesser, The Open Secret

Elizabeth Lesser “The Open Secret” from Omega Institute on Vimeo.

We have so much opportunity to make a difference. Our true power as citizens, as humans goes so far beyond a single vote or series of elections. Once these events are over, our community, our world will still have the same issues. People will still be hungry, not have access to clean water or adequate medical care, there will be illness and dis-ease, we will still be confused about so many things–the same suffering as the day before. And we’ll still have the exact same chance to change it or ignore it, to help or start an argument or walk away.

Change what you can change. One thing we can all change for certain is ourselves, so start there. Beyond that, get involved with someone’s good work, or start a project of your own. If you need ideas, here’s a list of people and groups doing good work:

Donate to Charity : Water, I am donating my birthday to them this year.

Join Susan Piver’s Open Heart Project. This will help with changing yourself, or rather becoming brilliantly aware of who you already are, awake and kind and wise and strong.

Donate to Heifer International, one of my favorite charities.

Donate to or volunteer with your local food bank.

Give to the Sandy Relief Effort.

Go to Kiva or Kickstarter and find a project or person to help.

The Dalai Lama said, “My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness.” I agree with that statement, “I resemble that remark,” and would add one more thing to it: my politics are simple–kindness. In that spirit, I am working to change what I can change, to help who I can help, to do what good I can do, and I so hope you will join me, my kind and gentle reader.

P.S. Looks like I answered the NaBloPoMo prompt a day early: “What are your thoughts about tomorrow’s election in the United States?”

Three Truths and One Wish

1. Truth: Letting go of something you love is difficult, one of the hardest things. But, I will survive it. I have done this before, watched someone I love die, been separated even though the thing we both wanted the most was to stay together always, and I am still alive, even without them, even with no guarantee I will ever see them again, heart broken but still bound, tethered to an invisible but tangible love.

2. Truth: I can’t change the facts, but I determine how I respond. It’s staying dark later in the mornings now, that’s a fact of nature. This morning, so dark that I’d need to wear a headlamp for our walk, I was feeling grumpy, resistant, wishing away the dark. And yet, a few blocks from our house I looked up at the still dark night morning sky and saw stars. I thought about how on the way back, I’d see the sunrise, how I was taking this walk with two of my dogs. Instead of being cranky that it was dark and cold and early, things I can’t change, I noticed. I felt gratitude, thankful for the grace of one more morning to be awake and alive and together. I can’t alter nature, can’t keep Dexter from dying no matter what I do or how I feel about it, so instead of resisting or wishing things were different, I choose to open my heart to all of it, to be fully present and alive, wakeful and wise and compassionate.

3. Truth: It is okay. As I am surviving this loss, as it washes over me, passes through me, there will be messy moments. I will feel panic and cry in public. I will get angry and fall into despair. I will blame and accuse and rant and regret. I will wish and hope for things to be different. I will vow to never love again. I will hold my grief like it were a physical thing, with warm breath and sharp teeth. I will numb out, sleep and eat too much, say I’m okay, insist on it when I am anything but alright. This is the way love goes, the way the physical form where we focus our love leaves us. There is nothing to be done but to surrender, to be wounded. Eventually there will be another dog, and I’ll do the same thing again–open my heart knowing full well it will be broken. This is the way love goes. It is what it is, and this is workable.

One wish: My single wish underneath all my other wishes right now is that Dexter has an easy death. But, I also wish that those of us in this process of letting go feel some peace, some relief, and have faith in our innate wisdom and kindness and strength, being certain that we’ll know what to do and that whatever arises, it’s all workable.

Book Writing Saturday

Confession: I did not work on my book today. But, I have a very good excuse. Last week I was in what Hannah Marcotti calls a “shit warp.” So this morning, instead of working on my book, I was walking my dogs in a light snow, then at the laundromat with Eric doing last week’s laundry, after that buying a new washing machine, and finally, taking a three hour nap.

A month ago, when I was at my annual exam with my OBGYN, she was doing a breast exam and said “that’s weird.” These are not the words you want to hear in those circumstances, in that context. We ultimately convinced ourselves that it was simply a dense spot that was mirrored by a similar one on the other side. However, as cancer obsessed as I am (I’ve lost too many, known too much, am still living out some trauma around it, so when there’s anything “weird,” I go there), I kept checking it, and last weekend, I found a definite lump, on the same day our washing machine stopped working.

I made an appointment for a diagnostic mammogram, but would have to wait a week. During that same week, Dexter got a hot spot on his leg (a spot that’s bothering him, most likely allergies or arthritis, that he licks the hair off, licks it raw if he worries on it enough–he’s done it for four other years in a row before this, taking last year off), and Sam hurt his toe, kept licking at it, which meant I was worried about both boys all week. Then three days ago, Dexter’s nose started to bleed again, (just small, thin, pink drips from time to time, especially when he’s lying down or when he sneezes). Remember the maybe might be probably fatal cancer? Yep, that’s clearly doing it’s work, and is now a bit more than a maybe.

Work was also so busy it almost hurt, and there was one other family thing that I won’t talk about here that brings its own sadness and worry, so: shit warp. But it’s lifting, shifting, settling, and revealing so much kindness and love. Yesterday, after two mammograms and an ultrasound, they determined that the lump I found is fibrous tissue, not a tumor. The women who work at the diagnostic center were so nice to me (I was there for three hours, and up until the last five minutes, I was sure it was cancer), and as I left, I felt so much compassion for the other women there with me, especially the ones who didn’t get such good news, and for all the many women over the years who’ve faced that, felt all that fear, suffered and had to make hard choices.

Eric was waiting in the parking lot for me–he’d wanted to come with me, but I wouldn’t let him, as it would have made me too nervous, but he’d come from work and driven around the parking lot until he found my car, parked and waited for me. As soon as I saw him, I started to cry, but was luckily able to pretty quickly choke out “I’m okay” so he didn’t get the wrong idea. He told me later that the whole thing had made him realize that he could stand to lose everything else, as long as he still had me. Our 19th wedding anniversary is next week, we’ve been together 20 years now, and I feel the same about him.

There was so much kindness showered on me by others last week. One friend requested a blessing of sorts that was offered to me by another, the sweetest message of comfort. It came with a recording of the Dalai Lama chanting that I’ve been listening to constantly since I got it. When I emailed and asked her if she knew what he was chanting (it’s something in Sanskrit and I can’t quite make it out to translate it) and she didn’t know either, she offered her own paragraph of translation that was at once brilliant and simple, the message essentially that while things can be hard sometimes, there is love and joy, all is okay and we are not alone. As I so often say, life is both beautiful and brutal, tender and terrible.

Another offered a response to Dexter’s trouble that was exactly what I wanted, needed to hear: “Dexter will know what to do. His body will keep working as long as it needs to for him to be here on this earth. He loves you.” My meditation instructor had offered something similar a while ago, assuring me that I know what to do, that I am a being with basic, fundamental wisdom and compassion, and when the time comes, I will know what to do. You see, kind and gentle reader, I don’t need him to be “okay.” I know from having lost Obi that no matter how it happens or when, it’s always too soon and too sad, and having more time with them doesn’t necessarily make it any easier, doesn’t make you more ready or willing to let go. What I want is exactly what this friend suggested, that he’ll be happy and well for as long as there is, and then if we need to, we can help him because it will be clear that it’s time, and we love each other so much, he’s had such a good life, that it will be as okay as it can be.

I received so much kindness and support, and today I was noticing all the little ways I offer it. At the laundromat, there were simple things: holding the door for someone carrying a basket of laundry, wiping my feet on the rug at the door so I didn’t track in too much water, telling a women unloading a washer that the dryer we were done with still had 20 minutes left she could use, saying thank you to the person working there. Then later, busing our own table at the place we stopped for breakfast and thanking the cook, being patient when the purchase of the new washing machine got complicated and took a really long time. Then I gave myself the kindness of a long nap (I haven’t slept that well this week), sunk down and turned in, but noticed when Eric and the dogs got back from their walk how my heart woke up and immediately turned, reached out to them.

“If we don’t allow ourselves to experience joy and love, we will definitely miss out on filling our reservoir with what we need when. . . . hard things happen.” ~Brené Brown

Gratitude Friday

This post is a mashup of The Little Bliss List and Joy Jam, and as such is meant to celebrate: the little things that brought me hope and happiness this week, the sweet stuff of life, those small gifts that brought me joy this week. By sharing them, I not only make public my gratitude, but maybe also help you notice your own good stuff and send some positive energy out into the world.

1. Cooler temperatures, the beginning of Fall. Fall is my favorite time of year in Colorado, and this week has definitely been much cooler. I even wore a hat and gloves for the first part of our walk the other day (it was 49 degrees!). Yay for Fall!

2. Handmade zucchini bread with walnuts and homegrown peaches from friends. Yum. Good for the heart and the stomach.

3. Yoga. Good people, movement and practice that centers and settles my mind, softens my heart. I have one good friend in yoga who has cancer, who recently shaved her hair off, and in this morning’s class, when her “yoga husband” had to leave class early, and we were all telling him to have a good weekend, he walked over and kissed her on the top of the head. And later, when one woman was asking for dog sitter recommendations, another offered to keep her dog. This is the kind (kind) of good people I’m talking about.

4. Dexter’s experience. He’s doing what makes him happy, without too many interruptions, and I am so grateful for that.

5. Lots of good stuff to share with my Writing for the Web class. They might not get it right now, might find a way to be bored with even these things, but it might spark something, has at least the potential to inspire good stuff.

Bonus joy: relaxation of fear, releasing of panic. I don’t wake up every morning with my stomach hurting. I realize that might return when/if Dexter starts to get worse again, but for now, I feel okay. Sad and tender, still a little scared, but not sick with it.

Wishcasting Wednesday

Who do you wish to give (or send) a hug?

All the vets, techs, office staff, lab technicians, etc. who helped care for Dexter, and also for Obi and Sam. May they continue to have patience and practice kindness. May their skill continue to grow and manifest.

Susan Piver, for the support she provides, to my practice and to my tender, sad heart, when she is aware of it and even when she’s not. May she continue to be confident and brave, an open-hearted warrior, a kind-hearted and wise teacher.

All the people who’ve offered their good wishes and support as we navigate whatever is going on with Dexter. My they continue to keep their hearts open and to offer help where needed.

My mom, dad, brother, and nieces, my family far away, because living 1200 miles away means I can never do this as much as I’d like to. May they be happy and safe.

The people who first rescued my dogs and cared for them until they could come home to me. May they be rescued, cared for and loved in equal measure.

The women who have helped me believe I can write, who helped me to claim my life as a writer: Cynthia Morris, Anne Lamott, Laurie Wagner, Andrea Scher, Susannah Conway, Natalie Goldberg, Julia Cameron, Cheryl Strayed, Susan Piver (yes, her again), Geneen Roth, Patti Digh, Jennifer Louden, Jamie Ridler, Cheri Huber, Tara Brach, my WILD writing group, my Artist’s Way group (with an extra big hug for Joyce, our facilitator), and so many more. May these women continue to tell the truth, to shine their light so I can see my way through the dark.

Anyone waiting for biopsy results, or other news that has the potential to change their life, break their hearts. May they be well.

Anyone who thinks they aren’t enough, who believes they have to earn love, who is smashing themselves to bits. May they know love, be filled with it, flooded, overwhelmed, and may they know that they are basically, fundamentally good, wise, kind, and powerful, and nothing can change that.

Anyone trapped in the confusion of their own thoughts and feelings, caught in a sense of being a victim of their life, feeling powerless, helpless, or cheated, feeling angry and hurt. May they wake up, become aware of their ability to choose, to let go of judgement, blame, and suffering. May whatever trauma is weighing them down quickly and easily dissolve.

Anyone suffering from addiction, stuck in habitual patterns and discursive, obsessive thinking that is poisoning them, their mind/heart and their body, their environment and those others in it. May they be released, set free, and may the poison turn to medicine.

Anyone who is convinced of complete despair, who is trapped, stuck, caught in darkness and depression. May they see the light and know joy.

Friday Gratitude (on Saturday)

This post is a mashup of The Little Bliss List and Joy Jam, and as such is meant to celebrate: the little things that brought me hope and happiness this week, the sweet stuff of life, those small gifts that brought me joy this week. By sharing them, I not only make public my gratitude, but maybe also help you notice your own good stuff and send some positive energy out into the world.

the sky over our front porch this morning

1. Dexter is home! After yesterday’s big scare and a night spent at the emergency vets, and lots of panic and anxiety with very little sleeping or eating for the people, the boy is back home where he belongs. I had no idea how much I really missed him until he bounded out, as happy to see us as we were him, sneezing bloody snot all over Eric’s white tshirt.

Seeing us and coming home and seeing Sam are about as excited as he’ll get, and his nose only bled a few drops, but that was it, and he ate some food and drank some, and basically seems himself, so I think for now, we are going to be okay. The thing I was the most worried about was that the happy, mostly healthy dog I took in to the vet yesterday would be a dog I’d never get to see again, but there he was, here he is.

We are to keep him on the sedative for the next three days, keep him quiet and calm, and hopefully the biopsy site will heal up–just in time for us to get the biopsy results. No matter what, I’m really okay with it (as much as you can be okay with losing someone you love with your whole heart)–I will be super sad and hate to see my dogs suffer, but I know he’s had a happy life, is so loved, and I am lucky to have this time with him. Seriously, just having him home, I feel better than I have in the past 48 hours. I might even be able to eat lunch today.

2. In related news: The love, good wishes, and support of friends. I was in a blind panic taking Dexter to the vet and with the complications that came after. I put together a mass email on facebook, frantically picking friends that I knew either loved dogs or had big, powerful hearts, and even though I normally don’t ask for help, I begged that they send love and support to us–and they did, so much that I was completely humbled, overwhelmed by it, and so helped. Getting Dexter in the car, driving to the vet’s office, walking in the front door, waiting in the exam room, leaving Dexter there, driving home, the horrible long wait after, and the bad news later in the day, the long, long night: I knew I was not alone.

3. Loving, kind, skilled vets, nurses, and vet techs. I am so grateful that they were there to take care of Dexter, that they took every question, every desperate phone call with grace and kindness. Again, I knew we were not alone.

4. A hummingbird feeding on my Rocky Mountain Bee Plants. It was too fast to get a picture, and I know there are only so many in town because the fires have driven them lower than they’d normally go, but it made my heart lift to see it.

5. The way Sam barks when he wants you to play with him. I really must get a video of it sometime. It’s hysterical.

6. Long walks with Eric and the dogs. Over the summer, we get to do more of these, and they are my favorite. I cherish them even more lately, the four of us all together. I am especially loving the cooler weather these past few mornings, the turn from summer to fall.

7. Eric. I am so lucky to have him, to have that direct love and support, to have his help, to not have to do this alone.

Bonus Joy: How good Dexter is at the vet. He’s just so sweet and calm.

my favorite toe is the one with the black spot