Tag Archives: community

The inauguration according to e

The kids and I attended the local celebration and it was great. There were three speeches by local school children, a dance performed by children in the local Hmong community and a step dance performed by members of the local Black Youth United group. Plus seeing the inauguration live in such a crowd was overwhelming; an entire auditorium full of people cheering, shouting, expressing great joy at this new beginning.

As a brief aside, about a tenth as big as my happiness was a wave of relief whenever I would see Bush’s face. It. Is. Finally. Over.

My favorite part of Obama’s speech was when he said, “To those leaders around the globe who seek to sow conflict, or blame their society’s ills on the West -know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy.” What a statement, one we might all take to heart: focus on constructing a better world, focus on creating, stop with the destructive hatred. I do not oppose criticizing the West, I have a couple of choice comments myself, that’s what freedom of speech is all about. But expressing your criticism through violence is wrong.

Another wonderful part: “The success of our economy has always depended not just on the size of our Gross Domestic Product, but on the reach of our prosperity; on our ability to extend opportunity to every willing heart – not out of charity, but because it is the surest route to our common good.” Altruism is not entirely selfless, charity is not a one-way gift; when we help out those around us, we make our community stronger, and that is good for the giver as well.

I feel quite drained (in a satisfied way) and not able to be very articulate, but I couldn’t wait to add my tired voice to the hopeful throng that spent today in celebration, and now seems poised and ready to take on the future.

I set myself the task of deciding what my part in this great beginning is, how I intend to contribute in concrete ways in whatever areas are within my reach. I will post on this when I have my thoughts together.

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Altered States

Sometimes I feel the need to make sense of our society’s drug policy.  For a brief moment in the ’60s (or so I’ve heard, having not made my entrance into this world until 1970) there was a subculture of people experimenting with altered states of consciousness, often induced chemically.  But besides that, we have all kinds of factions fighting against each other, none of them going anywhere except to hell in a handbasket: the “cool” drug counterculture, the illegal drug making/selling economy, the drug war economy, the poor souls fighting addiction, the puritan idealism that inevitably adopts a hypocritical position of condemning some chemicals utterly while accepting others without question, the pharmaceutical industry, the food industry, the tobacco industry, the alcohol industry, etc.

Okay, well, the legalized industries are doing fine.  But we often excuse their products as harmless, though in the last few decades we have been leaning the other way with alcohol and tobacco.

But we still allow people, including children, to walk around souped up on caffeine and sugar and few of us recognize these effects as altered states.  (I don’t know about you, but the most positive and productive I am all day is the hour or so when I’m flying on my morning caffeine fix.) We are only  just beginning to see them as powerful.  And our inevitable response seems to be to condemn them.

Are we capable of a more intelligent handling of the issue?

No matter where we stand on whatever drug issue, legal or otherwise, we all seem to be operating under the same common assumption: altered states are secretly fun, to some degree dangerous and always carry at least a small stigma of shamefulness.   Even with coffee, aren’t we addicts all at least a little sheepish when admitting our fixation?  Sobriety is held as the ultimate righteous state.

But might altered consciousness be something humans need?  Is it ever beneficial?  We might admire a Native American peyote ceremony for the soul searching and mystical insight it provides, but none of us is allowed to do it.  How would someone’s reputation change in your eyes if you found out they’d done acid?  

We allow, “I was just experimenting in college” and “I didn’t inhale.”  We’ve gotten to where we allow people to be reformed users, like George W., for example.

But for someone to be a respected member of mainstream society who proves their worth on a daily basis and is also a known pot smoker?  Nope.

We all have understandable fears based on anecdotal evidence of some type of chemical destroying someone we know and/or love.  We may even decide to buck the present trend and be against alcohol consumption.  But cars and motorcycles maim and kill lots of people, and isn’t that an altered state for a lot of people?  The power, speed, independence, road rage, status symbol possession… Most of the time we drive in a fairly sober, utilitarian manner, but who among us doesn’t ever floor it or take that corner just a little faster than necessary?  We definitely are not in our natural state, feet on the ground, head surrounded by sky.  Our heavy metal boxes put us in a certain frame of mind.

But we would never dream of outlawing them.

Our tv watching puts us in an altered state, a passive, drooling spectatorship.  How are the hours wasted and life energy atrophied away any different in front of the tube than passed out with painkillers?

Okay.  Granted they are different.  I’m just being dramatic in an attempt to make the point that we try to avoid sobriety in many different ways, some of them demonized as too dangerous and others labeled as simply “entertainment” or “transportation” or “java” some other moniker that makes them untouchable.

What would happen if we said, yes, we need to escape.  Yes, grownups are going to be allowed to choose their method of altering with no legislating and then they will be held responsible for any consequences of their choices.  The pluses and minuses of every method could be discussed freely.  We could openly admit that lots of things we do everyday, even something so innocuous as having a drama queen fit, are forays out of our “right minds.”  We could talk without shame about what we are looking for outside of our sobriety, about what we find there.

Or should we just continue to behave as though stone cold sobriety were the only way to be, ever.  That there is no time or place for getting out of your head or your day to day perspective, unless perhaps you choose Zen meditation, prayer, yogic breathing.  Newsflash — these things are seen as a little bit crazy, too.  Innocuously so, but nevertheless.

I hope this article did not induce any sort of altering in the reader’s awareness of reality as they’ve always assumed it to be — any effects of change in point of view, feelings of lightheadedness or hallucinations were purely unintentional.  Unless you go for that sort of thing.  In which case, you’re welcome. 

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Friends

My parents never had any friends.  I know you’re saying, come on, don’t exaggerate, but I’m being perfectly serious.  They still don’t.  It’s the two of them, punto final.  They are not particularly anti-social, they just can’t be bothered.

So, having had no example, I’ve always had to make up the adult friend thing as I went along.  And I’ve moved around… a lot.  So whatever friendships I’ve managed to build up have fallen apart.  With Facebook I am able to salvage some, and with blogging I find I can get super attached, because I don’t feel like I ever have to lose any of the great people I meet over the internet, assuming we all continue to choose to inhabit cyberspace, and assuming the continuing existence of cyberspace.  (Now that we have it, can you imagine our reality without it?)

But in real life.  That’s another story.

I joined a local group of homeschoolers.  I met them at the park a couple of months ago.  Instantly, I was home.  I’d known them forever.  Not a moment of tension or awkwardness.

Great, right?

Leave it to me to put a negative spin on it.

First, they’ve known each other for years and are like a real community.  It would take me years to catch up, even though they do make me feel welcome now.  Wah, woe is me, I wish I’d stayed somewhere so I could be an integral part of some great group… blah blah blah.  Pity pot. 

Second, there is no guarantee we will stay in this area for any length of time, and if we leave they just get added to the Facebook list of blasts from the past.  My husband and I have an agreement that we will go where his career leads us.  My life is about my kids, who I can raise anywhere, my writing, which I can generate anywhere, languages, which I can speak anywhere, cooking and crafts… you get the idea.  I am willing to make this sacrifice to be a part of the wonderful partnership we have.  Most of the time it doesn’t feel like any kind of sacrifice at all, especially if I think of my parents’ social norm.

And I really like these folks.  They make sense to me.  We are on the same page.  I don’t want to lose that… again.

There is a get-together, a winter party, tonight.  I haven’t RSVPed, I am using the lice, the fact that today is my husband’s payday and thus I need to run multiple errands, and my own social inertia to blow it off.  But I’ve been told by one of the moms that I can just show up, and I secretly really want to go.  I’m at the point now where I am entering the “Cheers” phase of belonging to the group, where at least one person will instantly know my name and greet me when I walk in the door.

I think it might be a need we have, as social animals, to be recognized by not just the people in our hut but by the village at large.  Some kind of security, some kind of mental and emotional nourishment.  Don’t know how my parents manage without it, but I guess that’s their prob.

I’m so glad I woke up early this morning so I can sit here in the quiet (such a rare treat!) and get my head together.  I’m so glad you were here to listen.

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More Facebook Insights…

Every once in a while a few new observations occur to me about this social networking site.

Or maybe the observations are simply about my own life.

For example, you can organize your friends into categories.  I currently have five: people from high school, people from college, friends my husband and I met through his job in the last town we lived in, people I have met in our current town, and family.  

What is most interesting is that these categories do not overlap one iota.  Most likely none of these people will ever meet each other.  It is as though there are completely separate pockets to my life story that are totally unrelated.  There are even more pockets than these five, but I haven’t met up with anyone from the others.

I have discovered friend surfing.  If you aren’t friends with a person, they almost always have their profile set to private so you can’t see any of their information.  BUT you can see their friends!  Thusly, I can surf the friends of a friend, and from there find someone I know, or used to know, and surf their friends, ad nauseum.  It is a strange journey down a bizarre garden path where names and faces from the past bloom amongst the unfamiliar flora.  

When a certain person comes into view, it is as though the memory of them casts a light on a part of me that had been asleep since I last held them in my mind or saw them before me.  I am not completely me without all the people that have shaped my existence.

My final thought of the day is to meditate on the act of “catching up” on the last 20 years with someone who was only ever an acquaintance.  Of course any story we tell, no matter how many facts it relates, is in some way a lie due to all that we decide to leave out.  So which version do I tell to whom?  It is kind of fun to think about, really.  I can highlight a particular chapter of my crazy journey to give a certain impression.  I can turn my face slightly and appear a writer, a housewife, or a clown.

I know it’s a bit of a waste of time, commenting on someone’s status that isn’t even in my immediate vicinity just to make a witty joke or empathize with a human I once knew.  I know it’s a bit extravagant to send them good karma or pass them a drink, poke them, throw snowballs at them, or buy them a fish for their aquarium.  All kind of silly, really.

Yet, it apparently feeds me in some way since I keep going back to see what’s going on with everyone.  And occasionally, it is also food for thought.

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The world is still spinning…

And I didn’t have anything to drink!  Just the whirlwind of vacation that leaves one needing a vacation…

Being around so much family made me want so much to bring it back with me somehow.  I am getting to know some people in my new area but my level of community is nothing like when we visit my husband’s family and I am surrounded by loving people that know me and accept me.

I always wanted that as a child.  My parents love me, I know that, but my family is a bit stand-off-ish, and there aren’t many of them (on my Dad’s side, that is, which is the only side I ever hung around with due to geographical proximity.)  As a child I didn’t even eat dinner with my parents, who preferred to pretend they were European and eat at 10 p.m., and I was an only child until I was 13.  So it was meal after meal alone.  You would think I didn’t know what I was missing, but I jonesed so hard for a big gathering.

Now I’ve got my own family of six to gather around the table, when schedules permit.  But Thanksgiving, with 30 plus people, is a dream come true.  Some part of my soul just gobbles it up like a starving wolf.

We need connections in this world.  I always come back to that.  I get inside my own head, I philosophize, I spend time with my nuclear family, I put out tendrils into cyberspace and into the folks who live in my area.  All this is satisfying.  But there is also a real need to be in a realtime space and see an extended group of faces where you belong, unconditionally.  A tribe, so to speak.

You can live without it.  I did for most of my life.  I feel so blessed that now the very intimate and personal connection that my husband and I have has led to so many other important relationships that feed my soul: a blossoming of our nuclear family, time and resources to develop cyber companions as well as maintain connections with my childhood nuclear family who are all far away now, a new group of friends in a new town, as well as the huge extended family I always wanted.

Thanksgiving is over but there is still so much to be grateful for…

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Have a Fabulous Holiday Full of Food and Love…

…and football, if you’re into such things!

I’m going to be off-line until next Tuesday at the earliest… Even more than a premature jonesing for my daily internet fix, which I have survived many times, this is the first time in my life that I feel like I am actually going to miss my internet community.  I’m going to miss reading all the amazing, funny, original and/or wacky things that the blogs I visit provide me on a regular basis, and I’m going to miss sharing my world with my regular readers, and also the thrill of seeing that a new face has dropped in.

Here’s wishing you all a wonderful time.  I will be looking forward to when we meet again.

Love, 

Elena

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Never the twain shall meet…

I’ve been inspired by a post I read over at Idea Jump! and wanted to describe the garden path I ended up wandering down.

I have long pondered the split between one’s public and private life.  My parents have always held this divide as sacred.  Heaven forbid anyone should know what color the couch is.  It’s nobody’s damn business.

If my Dad had been born into the tribal life, where the community was by necessity a cohesive, intimately entwined group, he’d have been the village idiot, either from genuinely going insane due to all that touchy-feely closeness or just as a ruse to scare people off so they’d leave him in peace.

But we’ve evolved from tribal life to urban facelessness into the suburban carbon copy lifestyle and beyond… to what may be the pinnacle of anonymity: the internet.  I could have a blog wherein I am an old man who hates everyone.  I could have a Facebook page where I am a 20-something woman who flirts shamelessly.  I could join one of those online RPGs and have a totally new life.  There is no limit to who I can be and how many whos I can be.

But after this thrill has worn off, what shall we do next?  Shall the ultimate act of daring be to reveal our truth?  I know it’s dangerous.  There are stalkers and serial killers and identity thieves.  For all my excitement about truth-telling I still don’t ever reveal my home address.  There are, obviously, common sense limits.

And if you enjoy professing some radical belief, say you passionately believe that Northern California, Oregon and Washington state should secede from the union to start an independent nation of hippified, pot-smoking free-thinkers, but you happen to work for the school system in LA, perhaps you’re going to want an alter ego so the mortgage gets paid.

And so the split between public and private persists.  

We’ve only lived in this area for five months now, so I am still meeting people.  I sit at a public park while my kids make new friends on the playground and I dance along the surface of my private life with a mom I just met.  When I give a detail, “I lived in Oregon for 15 years,” I am acutely aware of how paper-thin this statement is.  It is a sticky label on a drawer of days lived whose events are an intricate memory-sculpture of streets and faces and smells.  But the mom says “oh” and nods her head.  We move on to discuss how cute it is that my toddler son is trying to wipe sand off his tongue with his sandy hand.

Maybe this will be one of the projects I save for when I’m old: in addition to telling strangers on the street exactly what I think, good or bad, I’ll make it my goal to bridge the divide between my own public and private selves, to politely decline the possibility of anonymity and instead embrace the project of total integrity, consequences be damned.

For now, I guess it’s best to practice juggling the flaming torch details of my life and hope I don’t drop one on the wrong head.

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