Monday, December 23, 2013

*Job Security (Time for Cheer)

I’d never tell the other kids in the neighborhood of our favorite game—not because I was ashamed of it, but because it was sacred. Besides, if I did tell them of it, I’d undoubtedly be interrogated, then told our little game was illogical and stupid. I, for once, didn’t care how logical or practical or intelligent this was. It was love, and the best we knew how.
She’d bought all of the Alvin and the Chipmunks albums and played them while we cleaned the house. We were always cleaning the house. I never had the heart to tell her their shrieking voices made me feel like my eardrums were shattering and brain imploding. We’d sing along to their Christmas album, imitating their shrieks the best we could, “Christmas, Christmas time is here. Time for toys and time for cheer . . .”
She had a very special way of getting us to willingly engage in child labor. If it weren’t sing-alongs with the three rodent evangelists of consumerism, she would set the alarm on the microwave and say, “Ok, kids! Whoever finishes cleaning their special area of the house by the time the alarm sounds wins!” She’d make a trumpeting sound as if she were initiating a horse race, then exclaim, “And they’re off!” We would run around like mad, giggling, one with window cleaner and paper towels, one with wood polish and a dust rag, Mum with the vacuum, and we’d race to the finish.

Even though we'd caught onto her tricks, we never did complain. We wouldn’t actually win anything in particular other than a nice clean house for Mum’s friends to party in. It was job security; we took what we could get. 

Excerpt from chapter fourteen | name of the game | Everything's Hunky Dory: A Memoir

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Positive Thinking vs. Realism

(The following is based on a Facebook conversation regarding author Barbara Ehrenreich's lecture exploring the darker side of positive thinking and the RSA Animate video that supports it, posted below.)

     What I'm finally "getting" in my thirty eighth year on this planet is to see things, people, and situations exactly as they are. Nothing more, nothing less. No more adding my own made up stories (such as looking at a homeless person and creating in my mind a complete history causing an emotional reaction rather than simply connecting with that human being as an equal, or meeting a person who has a different political stance than me and making up in my mind that I "know" everything about them). 

     Looking to a person's actions rather than words is not what we are taught as students in the current education system. The teacher is always right. . . not (as shown by this brilliant and hilarious display of detention slips). 

     A favorite quote by Jiddu Krishnamurti is "Do you know that even when you look at a tree and say, 'That is an oak tree', or 'that is a banyan tree', the naming of the tree, which is botanical knowledge, has so conditioned your mind that the word comes between you and actually seeing the tree? To come in contact with the tree you have to put your hand on it and the word will not help you to touch it." Imagine what life would be like if each and every one of us decided to approach others and situations as Krishnamurti discusses approaching the oak or banyan tree. 

     My goal is to allow people to show me who they are, not tell. Like a book. If you pick up a book to read and have already made up your mind what it will be about, you'll always be disappointed. If you allow it to show you its story, you may or may not be disappointed, but at least you gave it the opportunity. I can admit much of my sadness and disappointment in life has had to do with creating a fantasy of who or what a person should be (starting with parental figures, teachers, and friends). "Positive Thinking" can get in the way of allowing people and situations to show their true colors. Once their bright and vibrant or dark and dreary colors are shown, you then have a choice. And you cannot be lazy when looking for the truth; it is a bit of work. But once you are aware of what is being shown, you can then, and only then, ask your self, "Do I care to pick up this book or will I choose to leave it on the shelf for someone else?"