One of the altars at which I worship when I am distracting myself from life is an online game of Backgammon. I love Backgammon for its perfect mix of random luck in the throw of a pair of dice, and the strategic skill needed to use that dice roll to best effect, in the context of the whole game and the current status of the game board. I've noticed lately that how I define a "great" game determines how much I enjoy myself, even in the solitary version of this game where interaction is only with a set of algorithms.
Here's what I've learned: every roll of the dice is a great roll...and I feel confident that I know the exact best way to use that roll on the current game board, IF (and only if) I define a "great game" as something other than a game that I win. If I think that a "great" game is one that makes me think, or one in which luck and skill on both sides are well-balanced and the competition is VERY close, then "great" happens a lot more often. Interestingly, it feels as if I win more often, too!
I’ve seen a rising tide of meanness in this country this year. Not meanness as in the miserly pinching of pennies; this is a pinching of the heart. The limits of some individuals’ compassion are being drawn very narrowly, very close to the bone of “me and mine.” I believe that this meanness derives from three core beliefs: 1) there is only so much; 2) it’s not enough for everyone; and 3) it’s okay to blithely let others go without, if I have enough for me.
As a prevailing point of view in the wealthiest country of the world, where most of us have more than can be imagined by the majority of world citizens, I find this POV incredible, first in its scarcity assumptions. Imagine this: a child who’s grown up as one of six or 10 family members huddled under a few pieces of tin in a Nairobi slum suddenly finds herself in a suburban six-bedroom McMansion in any U.S. city. In this country where some people worry they won’t have “enough,” can you imagine what she thinks and feels in this overwhelmingly generous home occupied by four people?
Geez. Maybe we need to redefine that word, “enough.”
For many of us, this is a time for courage. And not just the courage that leads us to take action while afraid. Yes, that courage is needed. And we also need a few fistfuls of the courage of vulnerability. We need many bucketsful of the courage to engage in direct dialog, using effective communication. We need a semi-truckload of the courage to make mistakes. And we need a Grand Canyon full of the courage to own those errors, apologize, and make amends where needed.
More than all these types of courage, though, I think we need the courage of our convictions. We need to courageously hold onto the tenets of our faith, our spiritual frameworks, our belief in love as the higher power, in sanity and logic. Are you a devout Catholic, devoted Muslim, or Orthodox Jew? Or an atheist whose guidestar is Martin Luther King, Jr.’s statement that “the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice”? Or are you somewhere along the vast continuum between those two extremes?
All my remembered life, I’ve gotten the message that I am too big and need to be smaller. I got the message that I was too big in a variety of ways: I took up too much psychological space (shhh! Let other people talk!), and too much intellectual space (don’t be such a know-it-all!), and too much emotional space (don’t be so dramatic; calm down!). Most importantly, though, and at the foundation of it all, were the messages that I took up too much physical space.
All my remembered life, I’ve been told by my parents, my doctors, and the $64 billion/year weight loss industry that I was fat. They also told me that eating too much was what made me fat.
They lied...on both points, really, but we’ll stick to the latter message for the moment: overeating was my problem, according to every source I had.
Last night, I attended a community meeting to prepare for the St. Louis Women’s March on the 21st of this month. I watched the group process unfold, observing each person's body language, facial expressions, and tones of voice, as well as the words spoken. Predictably, a race-related verbal scuffle broke out within the first 10 minutes.
I believe that everyone reading this knows what it is like to be oppressed. You either know it at a conscious level or you know it in the most hidden corners of your spirit. I don’t know what it is like to be oppressed for the color of my skin, or the misalignment of gender between my body and my identity, but I do know what it is like to be oppressed for being a woman, for being a lesbian woman, a fat woman, a non-Christian woman, and (just here recently) an old woman. Some of you reading this don’t know the experience of being oppressed for being a woman, because you are men. But you know what it is to be oppressed—maybe for being brown or black, or gay, or fat, or old...or maybe “just” oppressed by the stereotype that you are an unfeeling brute, incapable of poetry or art, interested only in sports and objectification of women. (Not my stereotype of men, but a dominant one, to be sure).
This evening I am humbled by feedback about the positive impact of my work with the 7 Childhood Treasures. Oh, crap. Do I sound like the incredible narcissist, Mrs. Elton, in Emma? “I do not profess to be an expert in the field of fashion (though my friends say I have quite the eye)....”
I do have a fairly large amount of humility, and also very little false modesty about the ways in which I am great. I believe that each of us is great at some things, or has a greatness in how we do some of what we do. In my spirituality, each of us is a divinely-endowed artist with something of beauty to create here in this life. Owning that greatness, that artistry, is one of the keys to happiness, I believe, and I recommend it to you: own your greatness and steward it as a resource to the world. (If you’re not sure what it is, ask some people who love you very much to tell you what they see as your unique “art.”)