Saturday, 21 June 2008

Turn left

WHAT an absolute cracker of a "Doctor Who" episode.

When I first heard "Doctor Who" was returning in early 2005, I snorted in derision. Never be as good as the previous series, I said to anyone who would listen. I was wrong. Even then, I didn't learn: I voiced the same doubts when David Tennant was chosen to replace Christopher Eccleston, whose darker, more chaotic depiction of the Doctor had completely won me over.

Wrong again. Tennant is now my favourite Doctor by light-years, an absolutely quintessential mixture of light and dark, zany humour and deathly seriousness, light-hearted laughter and immense power.

But I digress. Back to the cracker of an episode.

It begins with Donna (his current companion) and the Doctor in a far Eastern market. They are separated, then Donna is drawn into a fortune-teller's tent and forced to go back to change the moment that led to her meeting the Doctor - she listens to her mother and turns right instead of left. In that moment, she is swept into an alternate universe.

The Doctor's death and alien-ridden catastrophe that follow her moment of self-doubt (in the original moment, she overrode her mother's mockery of her desire to work somewhere posh by saying, "They haven't met me.") is beyond imagination.

It was a powerful reminder of how our ordinary decisions can have cosmic consequences. We often seem surprised by this, but we shouldn't be. We make thousands of tiny decisions every day: singly and cumulatively, they shape our lives by the paths we choose to walk and the doors we choose to open or close. The ordinary choice that stands out in my mind is the one my cousin made 23 years ago, when she reluctantly agreed to go along and meet this guy her friend had met on the beach and ended up marrying him - 20 years and still counting.

Our lives,
loves and stories are made up of the everyday things that we discount so easily. It's so easy to see how the big decisions - degree, career, marriage, having children - change our paths, but we miss the whole pattern; how all the small decisions lead up to the larger ones...the small changes in direction that suddenly mean we're going north instead of east. Funnily enough, only hours before the episode I was doing an exercise from "Steering by Starlight" by Martha Beck which requires you to live your life backwards, going through all the decisions you've made that have brought you those things you hold most dear. I was struck afresh with appreciation and awe of how my life had been shaped through those seemingly innocuous choices.

Innocuous though they may seem, the confluence of those ordinary decisions can make us extraordinarily important. Later in the episode, Rose Tyler (a former companion of the Doctor) tells Donna she is the most important person in creation and that events have been bending around her since she was born, echoing Robert Jordan's idea of ta'veren: "a person around whom the Wheel of Time weaves all surrounding life-threads, perhaps ALL life-threads, to form a Web of Destiny."

Donna scoffs, but any one of us can be the ta'veren in the centre of a web of destiny at any given time. We all live more meaningful lives and have a bigger effect on the Pattern than we can ever know. When we realise that, we understand what Rachel Remen meant when she said we are always on holy ground. Knowing that, it becomes essential that we are true to ourselves and that we live every moment of our lives consciously and with reverence.

How to do this? I think we need to become fully present in each moment: listen deeply, love deeply, dive all the way into our lives rather than skimming the surface, so that we know what's real. Live your life all the way minute by minute, not halfway waiting for something big to come along. By doing that, we connect to the part of ourselves that is more than the sum of our parts. We begin to know those everyday decisions for the pathmakers that they are and allow our deepest self to guide us through intuition. We begin to have soul.

So, when the time comes to make a decision, and you've listened to your soul and know what's true no matter what everyone else is saying, set your face like flint. Don't blink. Don't even blink.

Don't turn your back. Don't look away. AND DON'T BLINK.

Then, take a deep breath...

...and turn left.

Friday, 20 June 2008

Heartless bitch

What writer's block: I can't even get the thank you notes out for my party. (They're coming guys, I swear. Meanwhile, b/c cards and pressies got separated, could people please confirm what they gave me?) I'm struggling through a serious post at the moment, and am struggling against inertia on writing shorter, lighter posts whilst the more serious ones sort themselves out.

I feel like living proof of the first part of Newton's first law of motion: an object at rest shall remain at rest. Boy, do I need an unbalanced force...

...and I got it in the form of an email that I might have missed, if I didn't check my spam email so carefully.

A few weeks ago, just after my real (not official) birthday, I applied to become a member at this site. I honestly didn't think I'd make it, since I had to offer up my blog as well as a short essay as proof of the quality mentioned.

I knew that if I hadn't made it by the next round of site updates, I hadn't made it. So I kept checking.

Tuesday morning, I pumped my fist as I saw an email from the website in my spam box. When I opened it, I proudly read:


OFFICIAL Heartless Bitch!

Congratulations! You have just become an official member of Heartless Bitches International: The sauciest, ass-kickingest, fiercest Web site this side of the continental divide! We make NO apologies for who we are, and we take NO prisoners.

Some or all of your comments (from your application) have been added to the pages of Real Life Heartless Bitches

Check and see if you were singled out for "Exemplary Heartless Bitchitude"!

YESSSSSSSSSSSSS! If you want to read most of the application, it's here.

Bless one of my friends, when I told her, she said I was anything but a heartless bitch.

If the phrase is used in a particular way, perhaps. I don't take advantage of others; I'm not a prick tease; I don't say things to take pleasure in someone else's pain - people aren't commodities to me. If that had been what the site was about, I wouldn't have touched it with a barge pole.

But if you read some of the member statements, you'll see something else:

"I'm not going to change for anyone but myself. I refuse to live by anyone else's standards but MINE and MINE alone."

"Define yourself. If you let someone else do it for you, imagine your disappointment when you find out they're wrong."

"Trust your gut. Know what's important to you and don't let anybody fuck with it. And never, never, never give up your power."

"I guess what really makes me a Heartless Bitch, is my uncompromising feelings towards blind faith (which I guess includes blind patriotism), hatred (especially racism), objectifying men, women, animals; laziness especially when it comes to thinking, and superficiality-(not to be confused with politeness)."

And then there's mine, of course:

"Why be a sun god when you can be Hekate or Isis? Strength, creativity, compassion - join the dark side!"

So why call it "Heartless bitches"? How many times has a woman been called a 'bitch' for speaking her mind? For standing up for what she believes in? Called 'heartless' because she won't give way to someone else's requests or needs? She's seen as not nurturing enough, not caring enough, when all she is doing is drawing boundaries.

Fuck that. To quote Christina Aguilera:

So, what, am I not supposed to have an opinion?
Should I keep quiet just because I'm a woman?
Call me a 'bitch' 'cause I speak what's on my mind
Guess it's easier for you to swallow if I sat and smiled
This is for my girls all around the world (Around the world)
Who have come across a man that don't respect your worth
Thinkin' all women should be seen not heard
So what do we do girls? shout louder!
Lettin 'em know we're gonna stand our ground (Stand our ground)

So lift your hands high and wave 'em proud

Take a deep breath and say it loud
Never can, never will
Can't hold us down

So, what, am I not supposed to say what I'm saying -
Are you offended with the message I'm bringin'?
Call me whatever 'cause your words don't mean a thing
Guess you ain't even man enough to handle what I sing

I'm fascinated by how uncomfortable my pleasure in being a member of this group made some of my friends - both male and female. It was almost as if I'd betrayed them by not remaining the warm and fuzzy friend that they know and love.

But I'm not sure they understand that I can *be* that warm, fuzzy and caring friend if and *only* if I'm in touch with my dark side: the side that could put a gun to the temple of a Taliban warrior and pull the trigger without flinching; the side that can tear a strip off someone in anger; the part that wishes natural selection would eliminate various members of the human race; the part fascinated by the darker side of human nature. That dark side of me doesn't negate the light but *completes* it, balances it - gives it depth. Embracing the darkness gives the light texture, endowing it with a far more interesting quality - think of an eclipse.

Not acknowledging all aspects of ourselves means that nothing we do is real. It means that we are forever at the mercy of someone else's rules, someone else's approval and that we are constantly lying about who we are. I'm not saying we need to act on it - remember, most eclipses aren't total -but we need to be conversant with those sides of ourselves; otherwise we never act consciously, and those repressed/ignored sides control us rather than the other way round.

Now, I'm not saying EVERY strong opinion/dislike is indicative of problems with shadow. For example, I'm anti-death penalty for various reasons - but I *can listen to* the arguments FOR the death penalty without feeling threatened or unduly upset. I used to be pro death penalty and have thought about, understand the passion on and am happy to HEAR both sides. Yes, I have a strong opinion, but it's integrated. Ditto my very orthodox Catholic friend, John Ferris (who deserves an entry of his own), who disagrees with me very strongly on many things, but actually *listens* and remains unthreatened by my counterarguments. He has even said he learns a great deal from them. So do I - we have the BEST conversations; ones I think evangelicals would refer to as 'anointed'.

On the other hand, if one looks at those who follow rules most rigidly and are most threatened by challenge, we often find gaping holes in their integrity and an unsettling *amorality*. Taking a look at the Newman Society, they follow liturgical rules to the letter and parrot Catholic teaching on everything endlessly. You don't have to look too closely to see the breathtaking callousness/nastiness with which they treat other people, priests and laity alike, until they need to use them to achieve their own ends. Look at the 'love and light and no darkness'/'we don't believe in status' evangelicals, and you'll find plenty of anger, competitiveness and jockeying for position. Religious people may attack secular society for being selfish, but I've never seen narcissism on this scale outside religion. Denying it and driving it underground takes a natural regard for self, which might otherwise integrate itself into a healthy personality, hardens it, and turns it into narcissism.

Frankly, I'd rather be a heartless bitch. Moral rigidity is never a real noted by others, it is an exoskeleton created to contain internal chaos. But exoskeletons, hard as they seem, are brittle (and crunch nicely underfoot, says the HB in me). They will never have the strength and flexibility of an endoskeleton.

True strength and support always starts from within.

And all that leaves aside the gifts of the dark side: depth, real power, authenticity, soul, a touch of wildness and mystery, the ability to laugh at yourself and stand up for others. We all need to go there and cheer eachother on as we do.

*Grins ruefully at self* This morning, I realised I could have put this all so much more simply: we're like orange juice cartons. The concentrate - with its richness and flavour - is at the bottom...very often, we can be a little thin, without so much flavour, at the top.

To have full richness and flavour all the way through, we need to remember to shake before opening.

Tuesday, 10 June 2008

Chaperone cat

Absolutely brilliant. I'm still laughing.

As a well-endowed female, I've had my share of men talk to my cleavage rather than my face, and only once have I had the nerve to say, "If you want to know what my bra size is, why don't you look me in the eye and ask me?"

Let me be clear from the start: sexual harrassment and objectification of *either* gender is NOT acceptable. Within that framework, though, I have to admit
- and I'll probably get flamed by the sisterhood for this - that I love my cleavage, and a man talking to it merely amuses me. I'm a gleeful exponent of the 'four millisecond' rule: every male, straight or gay, looks at a woman's cleavage for 4 milliseconds before looking up. If a guy breaks the four millisecond rule (i.e., looks for longer), I tend to assume he's straight. Having serious cleavage is great gaydar confirmation.

I suspect I'm not bothered because I'm not a beautiful woman (the only way I'll stop traffic is by using the crosswalk light at pedestrian crossings), so I don't get stared at and treated as an object/commodity. I'm prett
y enough for all normal purposes, to quote "Our Town", and that's good enough for me. The guys staring at my chest whilst talking to me already know me and are interested in what I'm *saying* whilst admiring my assets, which is a different kettle of fish from the leering stranger with a drink in hand.

For the latter type, chaperone cat with sharp claws would be extremely useful:

I love the wee added comment on icanhascheezburger:

but her eyez r sew purtee.

So, guys, don't forget to look up - you may even find out more than just her bra size.

Wednesday, 4 June 2008

Thoughts on blogging...

Hey look everyone, it's me! Except I'm not quite so grey (yet), and I think I have a slightly more hourglass (rather than large watermelon) silhouette...

I've put that up in case I - or anyone else (*coughPiusX&theconservativeCatholicmafiacough*) -
take myself and my blog too seriously. I blog because I love to write and it spares my friends the long emails with my thoughts on everything from religion to "Sex and the City" (coming up shortly!).

Come here if you're friend (in person or online) or family and want to catch up. Come here if you're interested in a slice of someone else's life or what someone else may be thinking. Come here for a laugh, or if you like what I have to say or if you want a good debate. Occasionally, go away with a new view of things, whether you change your mind or not.

But don't come here just to lay down your version of the law, beat up on someone else or
to assuage your insecurities by spouting the 'truth', claiming I'm leading others astray. If you think that, you seriously overestimate my influence.

Essentially, the bottom line for me is this: writing is one of my passions, and as an early child of the MSWord/WordPerfect age, I'm much better at an electronic journal. My blog is a chance for me to think out loud, to play with words, to share my life with friends and meet new and cool people (e.g., Reiza).

I'd love to have you come and play in my sandbox - but no bullies allowed.

Monday, 2 June 2008

Foot (or hoof?) in mouth disease

As I've mentioned before, having Ruth as a friend helps my natural predilection for hoof-in-mouth disease (mine are cloven, thanks, which makes me kosher), but she isn't the cause.

What you need to know for this is that I need to update my profile - I left the Dominicans last July, since the position was a 2 year contract. I've since started a similar (but permanent) job at an evangelical library (do we sense a theme?).

The evangelicals are lovely and earnest, which plays right into my tendency for dry humour and shock value.

Sometimes, I even shock myself.

As we were standing around at Gosia's & my surprise birthday party last Tuesday, my friend Christine was telling the academic dean & a senior faculty member about friends of hers who wanted to go to Gander (sp?), Australia for their honeymoon. For some reason, they didn't make this clear to the travel agent, and ended up in the other Gander - in the Arctic Circle.

(Wouldn't you check your tickets???)

Anyway, according to Christine, "They were disappointed at first, but it turned out to be even better."

Without thinking, I responded to Christine as if she were alone: "Yes, because the whole point is to keep eachother warm, isn't it?"

Shocked silence before she burst out laughing and I realised WHOM I'd said it in front of. I turned to her, "I said that out loud, didn't I? Oh crap!" Which, of course, made her laugh even harder.

I have to say, I've never seen men over 60 move so fast...