Culture is like Traffic

I haven’t had a car for over ten years – I gave up my 1986 Volvo when I moved to Seattle and have been reliant on public transit ever since – but even I know how bad traffic has gotten in my city in the last few years. I mostly know because everyone is constantly complaining about it. Public transit is subject to traffic, too, though, so I also experience the rush-hour-levels at 1:30 on Sunday afternoons or at 8 o’clock on a Monday night. I was thinking about this on the ride home recently; it’s actually not that we “experience” traffic, we are traffic. And the same is true for culture.  Continue reading Culture is like Traffic

How to Be Healthy: The New Uncertainty Principle

plastic-spoons-and-forksI’ve been doing a fiendish amount of research into health lately. Many of the people I’ve encountered in the irksomely named health and wellness “space” got there because of a personal health crisis. They had a crash-and-burn-level health problem that forced them to quit their sugar-laden, sleep-deprived ways and start respecting their bodies. I started this journey (another irksome word, sorry!) because I was freaked about getting sick after the second of my two parents was diagnosed with a serious cancer before age 60. And, in the process of discovering some pretty great resources that have been able to answer some of my questions, instead of getting well – or, better than I was, which wasn’t catastrophically ill – I got sick.

Continue reading How to Be Healthy: The New Uncertainty Principle

“I Love Jesus But I Hate the Church”

handI’m avoiding writing about politics. I’m trying to limit my intake of the news, too, because there’s really no use in “staying informed” if it makes you sick and paralyzed with anxiety. I’m also just tired of the constant shock and awe. Maybe people keep being surprised because the media reported 45 as a serial liar and they’re learning that he intends to keep every one of his planet-ruining, livelihood-decimating campaign promises. Or maybe it’s because we were all taught in school that corruption in government is always “there” (Africa, Asia, Russia), that it could never be here. 45 always acts in character, though, and the never-ending “did you see what he did NOW?!” is exhausting and, quite frankly, naive.

Continue reading “I Love Jesus But I Hate the Church”

If I Can’t Work, Maybe My Theology Degree Can

Photo of a collection plate in a church.
Photo of a collection plate in a church.

We hear about the power of story everywhere. I’ve already mentioned one of my issues with that, but I’ve got a few more. The first is simply that hearing stories about a lucky break – which nearly every writer who’s been invited to speak before other writers and give advice on how to succeed in that isolating, rejection-packed, dehumanizing world has – are not helpful. Sure, there’s definitely jealousy there, but I want to hear stories from people who didn’t get a lucky break, who didn’t get discovered, who didn’t have contacts either at all or who were willing to help them, who found success without the chance encounter or surprise discovery by an editor or recruiter. I can’t replicate someone else’s luck and, since I don’t seem to have much of my own, I need to learn how to succeed in the world without it. Or is that not possible and that’s why there aren’t stories out there like that? (My invitation to share stories of hardship was a serious one.) Continue reading If I Can’t Work, Maybe My Theology Degree Can

Can We Please Talk About How We’re Talking About Stuff?

typewriter-keysWe hear a lot about how narratives are powerful, that if you want to move someone, tell them a story, that we are creatures of story. As a writer, I’d like to eat all that up. But our culture is rapidly composting story into gossip and substance into insincerity. Journalists claim to “go where the story takes them;” what if that story is of a dangerous hate-spitting buffoon who doesn’t even really want to be president but gets himself elected anyway? Is there no moral obligation to do more than repeat ad nauseum atrocious and odious things he does and says, thereby normalizing them and desensitizing the public to them? Continue reading Can We Please Talk About How We’re Talking About Stuff?

The National Suicide Hotline

friendshipDoes this post look familiar? “Would at least three of my Facebook friends please copy and repost? I am doing this to prove that someone is always listening. #SuicideAwareness 1-800-273-8255.” It’s been making the rounds on Facebook lately and it’s heartening to see that many people care about those the incoming government is planning to leave behind. So I mean absolutely no blame or shame with this post. From someone who has attempted to call and use the National Suicide Hotline, you need to know that encouraging people to call it is not the most helpful thing you could be doing. This is a difficult time of year for many people and things are about to get a lot rougher in general in the coming months, but this is why we need to do much more and much different than directing people in mortal pain to talk to a stranger (who may or may not be available anyway). Continue reading The National Suicide Hotline

Defeating Trump and Trumpism is Defeating Fear – It Will Take Sincerity, Part 2

vote-jumboPicking up where I left off yesterday, these are scary times, and unprecedented ones in our national life. One presidential candidate has narrowly avoided a major investigation. Another candidate is temperamentally unfit for the office of the Presidency and facing his own serious legal proceedings. Their respective vice presidential candidates are, it could be argued, infinitely more qualified than their running mates in terms of character. The news and media make little mention of the other presidential candidates to be found on the ballot (for all this “get out and vote, get out and vote” pressure, I’ve been shamed for even considering voting third-party) and the public, largely, is either too awareness-fatigued, overwhelmed or unskilled at discerning the universe of information to be trusted to do their own research. Continue reading Defeating Trump and Trumpism is Defeating Fear – It Will Take Sincerity, Part 2

Vulnerability, stop one: to breed or not to breed

angry-babyIt’s been a few months since I’ve written anything here; my last post attempted to wrestle with the loss of a friend, not through death but through abandonment, the second “lifelong” best friend to tell me I’m not good enough. I’m angry, I’m tired of being set up and I want to rant. But the refusal to be vulnerable, to admit our fears (outsourcing them as blame or shame instead) and to strive to remain connected and responsible to each other is, among other things, exactly why this country is so close to electing an extremely dangerous man as our president.

So I’m doing a new thing with this blog, which I’ve retitled Burning By Heart. Vulnerability is hard; anger is hard; fear is hard; change is hard. My hope is to explore the connection between vulnerability and fear, to strive to heal my own anger and to invite those who are willing – who think listening, carefully forming opinions and learning is more important than asserting the right to think whatever you want – into the kinds of conversations we seem unable as a broader culture to have but really need to. I’m going to start with a raw topic for me and, since I’m not claiming to be perfect, I’m unable to talk about this without getting at least a little mad. Continue reading Vulnerability, stop one: to breed or not to breed

If No One Died, Can I Still Be Sad?

parting waysI have, these past several silent weeks, been searching for a way to process grief. Most of what I’m finding follows a back-and-forth formula of the dehumanizing expectations of emotionally stunted and immature Western culture and the reality of those who have lost a loved one. The bit about our culture being emotionally damaging and even abusive is validating, but the large majority of articles I’ve found on grief are not helpful. No one has died recently in my life. I am mourning the loss of three core friendships. And our society has so discarded or misused the word “friend” that, if you find it a struggle to get over the ending of a friendship, you’re weak, “too” sensitive, codependent and just need to get new friends. Continue reading If No One Died, Can I Still Be Sad?

Sad Lady and the Halfway Point

 

wandering2016, the year I was warned would be the hardest year of my life, is half gone today.

Should I think of it as the top of this gnarly crag and it’s all downhill from here? It’s been harder for me to hike down a mountain than up it; I’m not only shaky-tired from the climb up, but my jello joints can’t withstand gravity’s suck nearly as easily as they brace for my muscles’ pull against it. Continue reading Sad Lady and the Halfway Point