“How’s your son? How’s Jackson?” Danny asks me, almost every time we meet. Danny and Jackson have something in common. They’re both “only” children. Often I’ve wished for a better way to describe my son’s lack of siblings. Being an only child has cultural baggage for both child and parent. Even the way we describe only children, as if they are by turns selfish and lonely, feels messed up to me. Particularly because my experience with the sibling-challenged has universally been positive. Several friends of mine grew up without a sibling. Each of them are among the most independent, generous, outgoing, thoughtful people I know. Danny is no exception. Continue reading “How One Connects to Many: An Only Child’s Story”
I practice hot, sweaty yoga. I love the quiet, dark room filled with other people. We start and end each session in savasana, or corpse pose. The yogi leading the practice provides an intention, the only voice in the room, as we begin. He or she might share a quote, a song lyric, a poem, or a riddle. I’ve both giggled, and allowed tears to flow. There’s something about yoga that opens up possibilities in me.
“You know,” my dad said from his living room in California, “for that You are Awesome thingy you do . . . maybe you could ask people about speaking truth to power.”
“Tell me more.” I held my phone to my ear, enjoying a peek of springtime sun three-thousand miles away.
“Well, in my career (he’s retired) I never really gave much thought to whether I should say something, I just said it. And it got me in trouble, even fired. But, it’s really important. Especially now. So, I want to know how people do it, and do it well.”
Separated both by geography and sometimes ideology, my dad and I do agree on many things. We both, for example, believe societies big and small–families, workplaces, neighborhoods, countries–need healthy, well-informed debate by people that care. We believe respectful discourse among equals brings clarity, if not agreement.
But, there’s that whole power thing that mucks things up.
High school and jobs, college and career choices. Perhaps it’s the era into which I was born but I wasn’t expected to go to college. In fact, I was told I wouldn’t need it because I’d just get married and have children, whereas my brother would need a college degree to support the family he would one day have. I did get my MRS degree–I also got a divorce after two children and had to go to work.
My brother never married, never had children. Irony of ironies.
“It’s like raisin bread,” Ryan Allshouse explained, drawing a blue rectangle on his white board studded with blue dots, “As the bread bakes, it expands and the raisins get farther away from each other.”
“I still don’t get it,” I said. “How can the universe be expanding? Expanding into what? The bread expands into the air. Where there was air, the bread is now taking up the space. When the universe expands what gives way?” I cross my arms and tap my foot, brow furrowed, unhappy with the raisin bread explanation.
Ryan laughs. “I don’t know.”
Years ago, Ryan might have kept this conversation going. He might have argued with me and showed me the research on the expanding universe and why, from a space/physics/science-y perspective, my question was silly. But this Ryan, older, wiser, and passionate about knowledge and deep thoughts, has learned the importance of not-knowing. He’s learned the immeasurable value of the one statement every human can (and should) make, regardless of years of study and expertise. Continue reading “Simple Lessons in a Complex World”
Call it what you like–invocation, poem, or battle cry–I am Steelcelebrates women everywhere; where we come from, who we are, and what we create. As both individuals and collaborators, we shape the world.
“Don’t go looking for trouble;” Sookie Stackhouse, heroine of The Southern Vampire Series often says, quoting her wise grandmother (who in turn was paraphrasing Proverbs 11:27), “it’s already looking for you.” Fyodor Dostoyevsky, author and philosopher, offers a different but related perspective, “Man only likes to count his troubles; he doesn’t calculate his happiness.” Even if you aren’t a fan of either Sookie or Dostoyevsky, it’s difficult to deny there’s truth here: Trouble is looking for us whether we like it or not, and we tend to focus on it, even when we’re trying not to.
But, trouble is neither all bad, nor all encompassing. At least, it doesn’t have to be. We can follow a different path. One highlighted by poet Mary Oliver in her poem Sometimes:
Seems like just yesterday we were dressing up in feather boas and funny hats together, but CK Sanders has been CEO of a successful New York business for sixteen years now. She once helped me catch crawdads in a pond, and now she helps New Yorkers experience the great outdoors through day trips to craft breweries, wineries, and other hot spots for agritourism.
If owning her own business wasn’t enough, CK launched a music career as a side project. Her recently released single, “Who We Are,” feels like an anthem to everything I want 2017 to be: heartfelt, collaborative, creative, and true.
Sometimes, even if I want a grilled cheese sandwich, the bread is moldy and the cheese has a funny (but not in a good way) smell. I must adapt my dinner preferences as I must adapt my life to the circumstances within it.
When we make New Year’s Resolutions, no doubt the goal is to resolve an issue we perceive in our lives today. We resolve to stop something we’re doing. Or start something new. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to break the routine and introduce a new idea. The issue I have with resolutions, as we practice them in daily life today, is with the stiff formality of it all.
Our lives are fluid. But, resolutions assume only a grilled cheese will do.
So I don’t make them. (Actually, I don’t make either resolutions or grilled cheese. The former, because I think they don’t work well, the latter because I always burn them.) Instead, I create intentions. They’re ideas I want to live into, frameworks that set a direction, but don’t specify the road.