hope, and hypocrisy.

I decided I no longer want to wait to write this post, so I am writing this from my iPhone while I sit in my work truck, waiting for site construction work to start up again.  (At least I get to engineer outside this week.)

When it comes to social justice, creating equality, erasing prejudice, fighting global warming, etc…. Sometimes I just get downright depressed.  In one moment, I am so strong and so ready to make a difference, then in another I am deflated.  I look at the immensity of change needed and I feel defeated.  And when I end up talking in circles to people who don’t see my side, two things happen: 1. I start questioning why I am so headstrong in my opinions, and have to reassure myself that I am on the most open-minded side; and 2. I start really disliking people.  A generalization, yes, but sometimes humanity straight up depresses me.

I’ve worked for several years now on a clean water engineering project in Cameroon.  For the first couple years, I felt like I was responsible for fixing community sanitation and water problems.  After a long time of working with the community, learning their culture, and having heartfelt conversations in Cameroonian French about their views of the world – over some palm wine, of course – I began to realize was the one with the problem.  

My American experience had trained me to transpose my own understanding of how the world should be – and of how happiness should be quantified – so that I failed to see my own impact on the community.

I saw villages with not enough water projects.  I saw our own village only reaching so many households per water tap.  I saw kids in December 2012 trough January 2013 wearing the same clothes every day…and they were wearing the same clothes on my next visit in March 2014.  I saw poverty.  I saw a lack of impact.

What I wasn’t seeing is “wealth” that isn’t measured in U.S. dollars, “happiness” that isn’t quantified by gallons of clean water delivered.

These people in the village may have only received a small amount of clean water, but they are rich in culture and avocados, in music and laughter.  They may wear the same clothes on any ordinary day, but they don’t have a need for more.  What we were giving them was more than just an education on how and why to wash their vegetables and hands – it was also a sharing of cultures, a new perspective, and friendships.  We gave them RESPECT, and they gave it back by making us honorary nobles and queens of Batoula-Bafounda.  The King even stamped my passport with a jolly laugh of pride and power.

I bring this story back up because I think it reflects a couple lessons I have recently learned in my travels across four continents.  And I suppose it is fitting since I turned a quarter of a century old today: 1. Culture is the most important context, and 2. It’s not up to me to fix the whole world but 3. I will fix it through others if I mend what I can reach, because sometimes people are more broken than the planet, and there IS hope.

Reverend Daniel Budd of the First Unitarian Church of Cleveland – where I teach 8th graders on social justice – recently posted an opinion piece on Cleveland.com calling for Native American mascots to end.  This was a confidence booster for me as I respect all the things I have hear Reverend Budd preach on.  On Earth Day, he gave a sermon about Global Warming. In many ways, it was depressing – but he uplifted us by saying, We cannot expect to mend the whole world ourselves, but rather we can mend what is within our reach.

After a year of being away from the village in Cameroon, I returned and was met by a wall of screaming children.  The minute I set foot out of the passenger van, they flung themselves at me, shouting Linda!  (They nicknamed me that after hearing stories about my family, and liked the name of my late Aunt more than Kayla, apparently.)

I guess I had more of an impact than I ever realized, for these children told other children and some have even decided to do better in school so they can do more for their communities.  I saw the same effects while traveling in rural communities across India.  It’s amazing – and scary – to think so many children are watching me, maybe even making me a role model in their eyes.  We must always set the best examples.

As I see hope in this, I also see hope in the people I reach out to.  Some folks are quick to shy away when I make mention of the mascot issue, and I’m often afraid of droning on endlessly about it.  Some people won’t listen to me for a second.  Then I got to a peaceful demonstration to me ridiculed by a man in red face, being told I’m being honored by a self-proclaimed Apache in a chicken feather headdress, and being the background of several selfies of fans with Cleveland gear on and their middle fingers up.  “Go back to where you came from!” and wawawawawa sounds ensue.  All in the presence of indigenous children.

It sucks.  And I start to think it will always be this way.

Then a coworker, born and raised fan, posts my blog to his page on Opening Day.  A friend argues via text with me until I tell him “just read my blog”…and he later apologized and said he sees my side.  Another coworker listened to me in silence as I explained for an hour my experience and admitted he never saw it that way, and the mascot is an issue.  A 64-year-old construction worker drilled me with questions just two days ago.  He read some links I wanted to share and saw my side.  “I’m white, white people did horrible things, it wasn’t my fault but I mean just look at the blacks, still… It wasn’t my fault but it’s still happening and I’m old, I was raised prejudice, but I don’t want to be anymore.  I try hard, and folks need to try harder.  They need to be talking more about th, because the world is still so wrong.”

And then, as if by a miracle, this strong mother and Biloxi resident not only reached out to Deloria but she wrote this and posted it today: https://justabiloxigirl.wordpress.com/

One drop makes a ripple.  All of our honest work will pay off.  THERE IS HOPE.

And yet…

Only our HONEST work will get an HONEST outcome.  Only RESPECT will be rewarded by RESPECT.

When I posted the other day about what the alumni were saying, it was a way to expose the hypocrisy in their arguments.  These statements were on social media.  They clearly demonstrated the wrongness in the approach those individuals were using in their defense of “honor” and the mascot.

But I am very disappointed in some of you.

No one – NO ONE – is justified by attacking the people in the screen captures.  Engage in a meaningful dialogue, if you can and must, but if you have cyber bullied Lauren or any of the others from the Biloxi issue, then you have hypocritically undermined the work of both of respectful mascot debate and also the #IndigenizeZuckerberg movement.

Think about it.

Maybe it wasn’t many of you, I wouldn’t know.  None has retaliated by giving me your names.  However, if I were you, I would learn from Lauren’s examples and take ownership of what you have said.  Not just to Lauren, but to anyone.  You are not helping our cause, or yourself.

And, remember – children are always watching, always making role models.

mascots: imagery, expectations, and modern human artifacts.

The Cleveland Indians logo is antiquated, morally wrong on many levels, and really only here today because native rights have been the slowest of any race in the States to begin, evolve, and finally build momentum.  People’s daily exposure to such logo imagery has allowed it to become a familiar part of life in Cleveland and sports all around.  Having that piece of nostalgia threatened to be removed from fans’ experiences blindsides them and makes them lose their common senses in arguments that truly just boil down to equality and cultural respect.  But I totally agree with them on one thing: It’s a logo, it’s a mascot – it shouldn’t matter.  Yet it does.

“I’m just getting so SICK of hearing about this mascot issue.”  Well, buddy, guess what….The Indians are getting sick of these centuries of marginalization!  You’re not the one standing on your ancestral soil being ridiculed and sidelined in life on a daily basis.  So get over yourself!

I have written many times how the mascot issue is a “microcosm” of a bigger problem.  I still stand by that, and I probably always will.  The way I see it, the mascots aren’t worth caring about – but only on a personal level.  As an individual Indian, a person shouldn’t let such imagery haunt him or herself and instead rise above it.  However, finding peace with oneself is only one realm of feeling happy and safe.  When you leave that realm and step out into a world that surrounds you with that imagery, with people who blindly support such imagery because they do not understand your culture or the culture of your fellow Indians, because they will not take the time to understand you… that is a different story.  You can respect yourself, but the outside world is demonstrating its lack of respect for you when it supports these images.  Of course, the claim is classic: IT IS HONORABLE.  NATIVE AMERICANS SUPPORT IT.  Well, I know a hell of a lot of Indians, I’ve sat through many a community discussion on this topic, and I personally agree that it is not okay.  And it all boils down to ignorance of American Indian history, policy, cultures, sensitivities,…  I believe any human with half a heart and a genuine understanding and knowledge of these topics would want to burn the imagery off of their favorite jerseys in a heartbeat.  If any fan doesn’t believe it, it means they are one of those few cruel souls who can’t rise above racism.  Anyone who wants to physically act in rage against Indians over it, well you might as well join the Klu Klux Klan because you are that low of a person.

Perhaps one of the things I find the most frustrating about Chief Wahoo as I live here in Cleveland is that so many people agree with me that the character doesn’t represent an “Indian” at all.  They use that argument to justify why I shouldn’t be offended by it.  Yet, these are the same people who, upon being introduced to me, look at me and say, “Oh, you do look Native American.”  I always want to pull out a picture of Chief Wahoo in that moment and ask, “Like this?  Do you even know what an Indian looks like?”  Well, we look like a hell of a lot of things, and none of them are that.

Ironically, I never really gave much thought about mascots before Cleveland.  Of course, I also was never exposed to them.  I always had a Wildcat as a mascot with the exception of two private schools I attended – one in Ohio and one in Pennsylvania – which had no mascot at all.  My school was predominately white with the second largest population being American Indian, at least in the years I was a student.  My professional sports teams were represented by career titles and animals.  I never even knew Cleveland’s baseball team existed, or paid enough attention to realize what Washington’s team was about.  In fact, in hindsight, I feel like an idiot.  I guess I knew Washington used the word it uses, I knew there was a generic Indian logo involved, but I legitimately went my entire childhood believing that the NFL would never use the R word as a name.  I thought the R word in the Washington team was some kind of football term for the leather used in a football.  I’m not even joking.  I thought it represented pigskin, not my ancestors.

My father is a steeler.  I can take pride in the Steelers representing our Steel City.  My father is also an Indian.  I cannot take pride in any of those teams represented all 566+ groups of our people in one offensive representation, or under one phrase akin to N*****.

Moving to a city, especially one like Cleveland with the logo it has,…that made me realize why the issue didn’t matter to me before.  Because before, I didn’t have it in context.  Before, I wasn’t experiencing it in my face.  When I finally made the move and came here for University, I had it spat at me – often literally.  I was degraded for wearing beaded jewelry.  I was denounced for admitting my heritage.  I was told hurtful things like “Oh, don’t cry a Trail of Tears over that”.  Once, on a bus to a track meet, I was handed a blanket because I was cold and someone joked, “Don’t take that!  It might have smallpox.”  My coach used to call me “Pokey” because Pocahontas was the only Indian he could liken me to.  Then I went to my first Indians game and experienced the racism firsthand.  Not being able to keep my mouth shut, I quickly became a victim of scalping jokes and racial slurs.  I vowed to never return.  Over the years at school, I’ve had my belongings vandalized and found insulting anonymous posts about me to a website that has since been shutdown.  Even in the workplace I’ve sat through a one-sided accusation of how life as a minority, woman engineer must be the easiest life when the government just hands me checks so why do I even work?  To all of these things, I have burst of anger but often just have nothing to say.  Even friends accused me daily of “still caring” about native rights when I wasn’t living on a Reservation.

And they’re right: I don’t even live on a Reservation.  My heart goes out to all those friends I have who do, all those friends that I haven’t made yet, all those people that deal with this on a regular basis who cannot hide their identity as well as I can, a mixed Indian living in an urban setting.  Being exposed finally to these injustices just makes me cringe on how it must feel to be a full-time Indian, to really be in the heart of this dilemma, not just someone like me who can avoid those baseball games, who can shut off the TV or sign out of social media, who can bit her tongue, turn a blind eye, let go of her culture and identity, and pretend to be someone she isn’t.

The imagery…the disrespect…the pressures to change yourself, as if something was wrong with you to begin with (which isn’t true).  I’ve come to realize that, no matter what my blood quantum, tribal status, or living conditions – I cannot just sit and be idle.  I am just too greatly disturbed by the amount of hatred I feel as an urban Indian, and I can never even begin to imagine how these feelings – in addition to the daily struggle that already exists – crush my friends and peers every day as they uphold their identities on the Reservations.  And yet the more I speak out about these issues, the more and more resentment I am faced with.  Every once in awhile I break through and am gracious for a conversation of curiosity and understanding.  However, this often turns in to the making of the human artifact: “Hey kids, come over here and meet this real Indian.  Yeah, she’s American Indian.”  And suddenly children are staring at me, some touching me, some shaking my hand – and I feel like I’m living in Ouidah, Benin or Batoula-Bafounda, Cameroon again where no child has seen a human being who isn’t black.  I become the modern human artifact.

Why am I so fascinating?  Because suddenly that logo has come to life and it’s not up to the expectations?  “You do look Indian”, justifying that I meet some standard expectation society has of my appearance?  One that isn’t the logo, yet is surely not informed either?  I hate these encounters, when I feel like an artifact.  I hate it because not only does it feel miserable but I sit there and think I am not a representative sample of all 566+ nations.  I am one single person with one unique heritage.

See, the mascot and logo issue delves a lot deeper than just the imagery and the sports.  It’s all interconnected, just like the planet.  It rebounds in places the general public cannot see and does not take the time to seek out.  And I am just one person, and this is just one perspective, I am fairly confident it is not a unique one.

And, no, I do not live in a tipi.

 

Inexplicable Comfort.

I know I started this blog years ago with an intention of bashing satire, but lately I feel like I have turned it into a documentation of my transformation.  I think the combination of busyness and that the emotions plugged into my original satire all equally provide the reason for the turn.  Writing about my “little thoughts” just comes so much more naturally than always sitting down to ruthlessly tear apart a topic or an attitude.  Sometimes, doing the latter almost makes me feel worse.  Writing about pure Kayla Faith just feels healing and therapeutic, like a journal that I throw up to the world and don’t care who sees me for who I am.

I’ve found comfort in this kind of writing as of late.  And, today, I noticed that I found comfort in places I never expected to find it, at times that didn’t seem to be supportive of it.

It started last night, really, when a long Saturday at work turned into a fun night in the snow and an invitation to spend the rest of the weekend with someone I care as much as humanly possible about.  Never in a million years would I expect such an invitation from someone so busy this past week and so low on spare time.

Today, despite a conversation that I had last night that tore me down a bit, I attended church as I have a few times now with said person.  I found so much comfort in going.  We always sit in the same place, I’m starting to recognize the same faces who always express their loves to see me, and I watched snow fall outside the whole time.  When I first attended, the music was my favorite part.  An actual band plays.  Now, it has become the application of scripture.  Perhaps that is because I have been reading the Bible to understand the preaching better.  And today, I had few qualms with what was being said.  I had memories of singing Gospel with my grandma, thinking she had the most beautiful voice in the world and that one must obtain such a voice by singing for God and that only,… so I suddenly began craving the scripture reflections and traditional hymns.  Furthermore, just the feeling of going to church makes me feel good.  I got up early in the morning, I went with someone I care a lot about, I supported his faith the way I like when people support what I care about, and I saw many kind – and now familiar – faces.  I’m not saying I believe things one way or another, but I’m just saying I have come to love those Sunday mornings.  I know he would say God is making me love them, but I don’t care what is – I’ll just keep going.

Comfort came to me again when we left and we drove through the snowy parks.  We ran up to Squire’s Castle, I in his work boots because silly me wore moccasins, and we just loved the snow.  Snow.  Snow.  Snow.  I love you, snow.  Snow is perhaps the silence that screams about peacefulness louder than anything else on Earth.

I always find comfort in fixing our meals, sneaking the dishes into the dishwater before he can yell at me for cleaning up, leaving notes and sending letters…  Sometimes I worry I look like I’m trying to hard when, really, I just can’t imagine not doing those things.  Maybe it’s actually selfish.  They make me feel good?  Because I make someone else feel good?  Maybe that comfort isn’t inexplicable, because my friend Rita already sat me down and explained to me years ago that I’m a “people-pleaser” like her.  It helped me understand why I feel so easily rejected and depressed when I don’t meet someone’s standards.  Regardless, I found comfort in doing those favors today.

I found comfort on the way home when I stopped at the store.  I usually avoid talking to people or making eye contact.  I always feel like some silly deer in the headlights.  People always come up to me and ask if I’m okay because I look frazzled or tired or stressed or like I’ve been crying… and that’s happened on my happy days, thus launching such days into self-conscious misery.  So I avoid it altogether.  But then I had the briefest of all conversations at the checkout counter with the grocer.  I recalled previous experiences at Whole Foods and nearly all of them include conversations at the checkout.  That never happens at normal stores.  Whole Foods definitely has a unique vibe, and suddenly I felt comfort that there are people out there who understand me but whom I have not yet met.  The world maybe isn’t as dark as I always think it is.

I found comfort in driving from the store to home and listening to my audiobooks.  I had previously finished Knowing Scripture, a book to accompany my reading A History of God while also reading the Bible (NKJV) cover to cover.  I actually really enjoyed that audiobook.  It was gentle, although set in its ways, and tried to express the importance of “literal” meaning.  What is literal meaning?  Taking something literally doesn’t mean word-for-word but instead the way it was intended to be taken, something that can be determined by its literary mechanisms.  Was that hyperbole?  What is that in the context of its time?  (Or, in the case of the Bible, things like What was the original word for this in its native language and how might it have been translated?)  I liked that, but then I listened to RIchard Dawkins.  I thought I would like this audiobook more, a much longer book which basically speaks against Scripture and is the opposite to the book I just finished.  Truth of the matter is this book is so damn arrogant, the claims so wildly inappropriate half of the time that I sympathize for any and all religious or semi-religious peoples.  Some moments, I agree full-heartedly.  Others, I’m appalled.  I think I was appalled maybe once or twice at some far-fetched concept in Knowing Scriptures and so I suddenly realized how arrogant the arguments sound.  Religious people often strive to be loved by and show love for their god(s), whereas atheists often display contempt for those loving people.  I’m not saying it’s either-or, but I suddenly felt comfort in places where I had previously felt uncomfortable: under the judgment of those who follow religion rather than those who follow proving it wrong.

At this point, I was home.  Expected mail was not in my inbox.  My place looks half-cleaned.  And I suddenly burst into tears in the kitchen.  I do that sometimes, maybe because I’m just confused about life.  About why I’m here, who I am, what I’m supposed to be doing, am I supposed to know these answers, are there no answers, where do I go from here, what is the point, etc. etc. etc.  Suddenly, from no where, I turn to the kitchen counter on my left and my cat Phantom is looking up at me, eagerly.  She has never jumped on my counter before.  She starts to nuzzle me, so I pick her up.  I have never cried into a cat so long before.  All she did was purr and respond to my scratching her ears until I set her down at the windowsill a good 10 minutes later.  Sometimes I’m convinced that people of our past are reincarnated into our pets, to somehow guide us.  Perhaps there is some god that oversees this.  Or perhaps I’m just crazy.  I don’t care, I still feel that way.  Just like I somehow know my grandma is there every time a ladybug refuses to leave my arm.  (And, yes, that exact experience has caused the only female on a construction site – me – to burst into tears in front of a slew of male drillers before.)

Finally, comfort came in the form of a text conversation.  One of my closest girlfriends from home texted me this evening, asking about the person I spent the day with (she saw a photo I posted of us hiking).  I briefly explained the situation.  I mean, she’s probably one of the better people to speak to about it.  She became incredibly passionate for my side that it made me feel, yet again, that inexplicable comfort.  Where did this come from?  She was so adamant to support me, being me, believing whatever I believe, no matter how it ever does or doesn’t change…  She was convinced that love is boundary-less, that it is foolish to throw out feelings over a difference that may not exist and that may only strengthen the diversity of something if it does…  Her argument made me feel sound and strengthened and not so hopeless.  She gave me courage after a day of mild confusion.  And, better than all else, she made me feel like my battle was not lost but just slow at being won.  It’s comforting knowing people so far away can care about you so much that they nearly lose their cool in expressing their support for you.

Ever since a conversation I had with a non-religious friend a few months ago, I have fully adopted his outlook on religion and faith: We are all religious, we just define our personally tailored religions in different ways.  This is, I think, completely true.  Even if you’re Christian, you likely interpret things a certain way, one in which others may not.  But what is wrong with that?  Follow the Scriptures all you want, but only certain ones were selected, they were all translated to varying degrees of accuracy, and who says they are set in stone?  (Okay, maybe the 10 commandments were originally but…)  With this in mind, I have no doubt that I am religious.  Religion is literally – there it is again! – defined as not just supporting a superhuman concept, but also following a set of beliefs with a certain upheld faith.  BOOM.  My beliefs may vary throughout the years, molded by whom I am near and what I have learned and seen, but I will have those beliefs nonetheless.  I’m adamant about adhering to certain ways of living and doing what is right, whether or not I’m convinced that right and wrong have to exist.

BOOM.  I am religious.  I always have been, but now more so than ever.  And I find it really odd, but I have been compelled to occasionally pray since I was about 8 years old.  Sometimes I pray because there is someone who asks for a prayer or who is struggling, so I pray for them and I pray to whomever their god is or gods are.  Sometimes I pray because I feel completely hopeless and what else should I do?  I always start off in my mind with “Dear God or gods or Mother Nature or whoever it is that I’m sorry I don’t know but who might have a say in this…”  I honestly hesitated to express in an entry that I am this way because I didn’t want people to regard me in a certain way, but then I decided why do I care?  I am who I am and I don’t know who I am but I’ll still be who I am whether I want to be me or not.

Seriously…my mind is such a freely flowing stream of randomness…but I just really felt like I had to record this moment, today, a day of highs and lows but of discovery and this odd sense of comfort in moments that felt so dreary.  Today, just when I felt like all was lost, I actually began to feel more hopeful.  Like, these are the tests we are going through to make us confident that this is actually everything we want.  We can handle this, because it is nothing.  There is so much compassion to be had and, like my friend told me today, love and respect are the center of it all.  And that’s there.  It will all be okay because that’s there, so I just need to focus on me, continuing to be growing, dynamic me, and this will work out because it’s meant to be this way.

Even if not everything has a purpose, as humans we always find it one.

Smiles From Strangers.

ImageI got up early this morning to walk to the indoor Farmer’s Market at Shaker Square, stopping at the bank along the way.  I was proud that I got up early while it was so cold and I would normally have second thoughts.  I got up early, I drank some tea, I read, I played with my cats, and then I got dressed in a dress and even wore lipstick and a hat.  I walked to the market with my satchel from Willi’s Ski House, withdrew cash, and passed inside the market with my list scribbled on the back of a Starbucks ad.

My motivation this fine morning?  Picking up ingredients from local, organic, animal-friendly vendors to cook another fantastic meal on Monday with Jeff.  He’s been working hard, long hours in the cold.  I feel for him, and I’m also thankful that he chooses to spend so much of his limited free time with me.  He’s always texting me and calling me with positive words, even when he is working or busy, and I want to do him favors while I can (not to mention shamelessly show off my ability to cook anything from scratch).  I rounded up ingredients, bought fair-trade coffee at Dewey’s, and walked home to reorganize my produce into tin foil and the proper crisper drawers. And, yes, this vegetarian even bought grass-fed meat to cook for the meal.

While I was emptying my half-peck of apples into the crisper, I started thinking about all the people I saw today.

First, at the bank, an older, white gentleman came in as I finished at the ATM.  As I walked out, a younger, black man came into the room.  The older man was still fumbling with his wallet and insisted for the younger man to go first.  Not only was it strikingly kind, but I realized that would never have happened between most strangers where I’m from.  I’ve been realizing how much more colorblind people in Cleveland are than in my rural hometown in Pennsylvania.

Second, I thought about the first meat vendor I spoke with who didn’t have pork or ham.  We chatted like old friends and he pointed me directly to another vendor and listed all of the others who sell meat.  I told him I’d keep him in mind if I ever need beef or chicken.

Third, I revisited the Woolf Farm vendors for their apples.  The old gentlemen who sell the pecks are sometimes so brittle that I want to help them load their crates.  Yet, they’re always the first to bend over to pick up anything that is dropped, they always help lift paper bags into sacks, and they always have a friendly, crinkly smile like you buying their apples was the kindest thing you could have possibly done for them.

Fourth, as I walked to the other room of vendors, I took a moment to step back and see how many people had walked (and some driven) from all around town to stuff their eco-friendly bags with organic, fresh, higher-than-the-grocer’s-priced goods.  They were all out here despite the 14F-degree morning.  Many of them had children in tow, all sporting home-knit hats or classy bowlers.  I had this sudden good feeling, like these are the kind of people who are going to keep the world good.  These are the kind who care and who keep caring and who get up, bring their family, help out friends they don’t know…

Fifth, I finally found the vendors I needed for my meat.  I chatted with the father and son about how a vegetarian has no idea which meats she needs, but she (I) will surely make it taste alright anyway.  They pointed me in the right direction based on the recipe I said I was making.  The girl beside me gasped and said that not only did it sound good but – And pardon me for getting in the middle and overhearing, but my what a thing you’re doing to be cooking meat for someone!  That’s really cool! – and I thought, maybe it is?  Not for a second did I dread doing it; it only seems proper to cook an ordinary meal and not subject my guests to my eating habits.  Well, I subject them a bit.  I am after all buying local, organ, grassfed – because that’s the kind I support.

Sixth, I walked into Dewey’s to get my fair-trade coffee.  I was impressed by the numbers of people crowded along the tables, many from the market, all barring against the cold in home-knits and pea coats and smiles, appreciating the local, more expensive things.  It was a well-mixed crowd too.  I even recognized a student who used to come into the library while I was on Welcome Desk shift.  I’ve seen him in there before.  He is such an outlier and cannot blend in at all with society; I’m not sure if he actually has a problem, or if he doesn’t realize that people don’t really care about his magic cards and his ability to rule fairies, the way-too-loud conversation he was holding in the middle of the room one morning at 7am.  But they all know his name.  They all ask him questions to relieve the last person and pass him around, making him feel like he has a home.  I’m not sure what the poor kid does with his life; he has got to be older than I am.  But there he was today, on his laptop in the corner, surrounded by throngs of people who I know would defend him.

Seventh – this is the moment that stuck with me the most and made me recall the others.  It was something so simple.  I was walking out of the coffee shop and pulling out my earbuds when I noticed a small dog tied to the bench, shivering.  No, I’m not a bleeding heart over animals left outside.  We keep our dogs outside all of the time and they much prefer it.  I just felt bad because he looked distraught and lonely.  So, I walked over to him, introduced myself, and kneeled down to pet him.  At first, he cowered, but I reached and scratched and he came closer.  Soon, his little tail was wagging rapidly and his breath was panting out steam.  When he looked warmer, I started to pull away and walk back.  I looked up just in time to notice a man, having held doors for many people, walk briskly past us, look back, observe the moment, and bear an enormous smile that he then proceeded to carry into the Farmer’s Market.

All of those smiles – whether from the face or the heart – were affecting people right, left, and sideways today.  It was good to see some hope left in what has been feeling like such a drab, dreary, dark world.

So thank you, man with the smile, and you’re welcome to the person who caught it next.

Alone in a Crowded Room.

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Things can seem so wonderful.  I relax because I think, for once, I’ve got it all figured out.  I’m in a good place and nothing can hurt me.  It seems like every time I let my guard down, though, something does find a way to wound me.  Does my relaxation invite chaos?  Provide clarity?  Am I letting myself be distracted in some euphoric illusion?

And so I’m already beginning 2014 on the wrong foot.  December brought a lot of rapid change for the better, reversing all of the problems I had in November, and now January has left me completely confused and straddling the last two months.  I mean this figuratively and literally when I describe my situation as:

It’s like I got invited to a really nice party with all the people I wanted to have close to me, I anticipated it for a long time and nearly had a nervous breakdown preparing myself for it, then I got there and had my hopes and dreams dashed.  Every physical ingredient was there: The outfit, the people, the food, the timing…  But I suddenly found myself drowning in that feeling like you’ve walked uninvited into a private, reserved room, one that doesn’t even have a spare chair if you would have been offered one.

Maybe that’s the hardest part about moving.  It’s funny, because I felt more welcomed when I moved to France.  Now that I’ve moved to Ohio, I expect to blend in.  I expect to have a lot in common.   I expect to be accepted.  But then I get in these moments when I feel like an intruder, like I haven’t been a part of their lives long enough for them to ever let me in.  I try to tell myself they’re not doing this on purpose, but that’s really hard to believe when you’re the one all alone in a crowded room.

When I feel like an outcast, I try to step back and sift through how much of it is actually happening and how much of it I’m seeing through my biased, foggy interpretation.  I’m convinced that a lot of it is in my head, that maybe I’m not being forward enough and trying to partake.  But there’s still a large part of me that firmly believes it is not my place as the outsider, the new person, the guest, to welcome them, the locals, the long-standing static pieces of this puzzle.  And I try not to blame them, but it’s a searing pain to sit there in a room and listen to hours and hours about things they’ve all been doing together and plans they’re making that they pointedly leave me out of.  To be there as someone’s date, then to have them joking with him about what ladies he could possibly invite to a wedding.  Or to mention his ex.  I’m not oblivious to these things, do they know that?  Is it intentional?

“It’s all in your head” is the mantra that got me through that party, but it bothered me that people who treated me the best were the ones farthest removed from the central click.  Does that mean I’m picking the wrong crowd?  Should anyone ever feel this way in the company of true friends?  Was it just an awkward situation where my host was out of his element?  Did I behave wrong?

Do not look at anybody in terms of friend or foe, brother or cousin; do not fritter away your mental energies in thoughts of friendship or enmity. Seeking the Self everywhere, be amiable and equal-minded towards all, treating all alike.
-Adi Shankaracharya

I don’t have the answer right now in the midst of my dilemmas, but I like this Hindu quote to remind me that the only thing I can do is be myself and be as fair as possible, that I cannot help how others see or fail to see me, and that whatever will be will be.  That last one is what got me through some of my worst moments in 2011, so I choose to cling to it.

As for those people at the party, I hope I didn’t seem too drab.  It’s just sometimes hard to be when you’re not sure of your role.

Inspiration for Change.

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It’s been too long since I posted something.  I guess that’s what you get for not having Internet or any other connection to the “real world”.  As much as I love my satire and ruthless criticism of both irrelevant and current issues, it’s nice to take a break from something I get paid to do and just write something that’s a bit of a reflection.  Today’s break is a reflection on something I dislike entirely: confrontation.

The quote is “You can’t change what you refuse to confront.”  I see this in two lights.

The first light is me being caught up on that word, confront.  I hate confrontations.  I will go completely out of my way to avoid people and conversations about things that make me uncomfortable, which is a lot of things…  I take this feeling to a whole new level; the conversation doesn’t even need to be hostile for me to fear addressing someone on an issue.  In fact, today I had a spark plug go bad in my new car and I almost walked 3 hours after sunset in the snow because I was unwilling to ask my friend for a ride.  That’s not even a confrontation, that’s just asking for help.  But it meant admitting I had a problem and asking for resolution.  I finally wised up and called, and the friend is even offering to drive me to work in the morning instead of me biking (as I had planned to do… in the snow).  But, no, what about real confrontations?  Those conversations that you know are just going to go bad, whether they will start bad or end by blowing up in your face.  Someone isn’t living up to someone else’s expectations.  Someone failed to follow directions at work or on a test.  Or even someone noticing I skipped dinner and then making me feel like a criminal for it.  Things that I’ll see coming from a million miles away that make me swerve so far out of the way that it becomes absurd.  I hate confrontations.

The second light in which I see this quote is a much more simplistic view: I focus on the change.  If there’s something wrong in the world, you’ve gotta go fix it!  It won’t fix itself.  Sometimes things need someone standing there, saying they’re broken before anyone will acknowledge the fact that something does indeed need to be fixed.  That’s kind of how I view the work I want to do for the reservations; just because I’m native doesn’t mean I’m obligated to care about it, it’s just something that every American should have in the back of his or her mind.  I’ve realized, in some situations, maybe I’ve gotta be the one to put it there.

So whether you’re worried about making that change or having that confrontation, we can see now how the two come hand-in-hand.  In my efforts to acknowledge this fact and to better myself, I’m making strides to fear confrontations less – to realize that I have the right to speak out against things that aren’t as I think they should be.  And, as always, I will continue to volunteer my time to the causes that are nearest and dearest to my heart: indigenous cultures and rights, hard work, virtuous living, local food, protecting the planet, animal rights, and respect.

Namaste.