Remember the French

I emerged from the sumptuous simplicity of the dance appreciating the beauty and support all around and within me. The truth of unity and healing in a peaceful state of vibrant power pulsed in my veins and the expression of it was everywhere. The spider web at the corner of a shelf was a woven connection of creative thoughts. The concrete bridge over the barely seen creek, was a monument to support. The welcoming eyes of my husband and son were a spark of healing comfort.

But a current of something sad and dingy was rising from nearly every surface to cloud that truth. For days, as I prayed and did my best to focus the energy of peace and healing from the dance through my actions, I felt a little confused and lost, reluctant to do anything too visible, too risky, too grateful, too joyful. I couldn’t account for it. Even when my body got used to food and water and noise again, after I rested and transitioned back to everyday life, my will was weak. Then, we had relatives to visit who brought chaos and drama enough to turn my protective attention outward. That’s when I realized I’d been turning to the quiet sanctuary of my heart to find the peace of the arbor. I hadn’t been integrating the parts of my life.

Reminded to listen outward with all of my senses, I stopped swimming solely in the rivers of peace and found the wild open ocean of emotion. The buzz of anger, frustration, doubt, and paralysis rose with the haze of heat to envelop the easy action of service and weight it down. As I observed, listened and absorbed, the tension and heaviness of fear and loss crashed all around me. No wonder I felt so anchored and directionless!

People all around, of different backgrounds, belief systems and lifestyles feel helpless and disillusioned. The general feeling is that our institutions have failed us, and our dreams have let them. Each one sees such mountains of corruption and pain and destruction that the sight has overwhelmed our ability to act. What can I do? “The politicians, the corporations, the thieves, the abusers, my boss, my brother, my mother, my spouse, my kids, my religion, my neighbor, my pets, my clients, my God, the Others are beyond my reach. There is nothing a single small individual like me can do to fix this Awe-ful mess.” This is an illusion too. We are all part of the mess and the order. There are small things every one of us can do. I may not be able to clean up the whole crazy mess, or find the right order to align things in by myself, but I can do something.

The first step is to remember what I believe in. I look at the motto of my country: e pluribus unum – from many, one. Okay, so maybe we’ve gotten caught up in our individualism too much. Maybe we’ve perverted the thought from using our individual strengths to create a greater whole, to taking resources from all to support a greedy few. Not what I believe in – or what most people want. I look to the meaning behind the phrase and remember the French. Yes, there are a lot of people pretty angry at the French for some reason, angry enough that Congress voted on renaming French Fries to Freedom Fries – another silly, pointless game. Still, the French national motto is a clearer version of, a bit closer to my beliefs:

Freedom – Equality – Brotherhood.

As a nation, we tend to obsess about freedom and forget the rest as inconvenient. How much have I done this as a person? How much do I forget that I am no better or worse than anyone else, that my wishes are no more or less important in the grand scheme of things? How much do I put my personal desires before the needs of family, friend, neighbor, co-worker, company, employee, community, earth? How often do I forget that if the weak and innocent aren’t safe and cared for, neither am I? How often do I forget how the health and education levels of everyone in my community affect the services I benefit from? I believe that changing my world starts with changing myself. I want everyone to be responsible, honorable, reliable, considerate, generous, practical, adaptable, healthy, reasonable, balanced, passionate, responsive, creative, loving, spiritual, accepting, aware, fulfilled. If I work toward being those things, I’m doing something useful. So, I have a starting point.

In small, personal, everyday ways, I can stand for freedom, equality and community. I can clean up after myself, try to leave things, places and people better than I found them. I can have my things organized at the check out counter so other people don’t have to wait, give the cashier a smile, ask how he is and actually listen. I can take my son to the Y and the library so my husband can get some projects done. I can park further away from the door of my destination to make room for people who need help, and get a little extra exercise. I can buy local, organic and humane food products. I can move and breathe with reverence. I can make a game of cooking at home with my family. I can hug a stranger at a party who’s waiting for news of a brother’s death. I can do a little dance to make a friend laugh when they break a dish. I can offer to listen when a brother needs counseling and his ego can’t afford a therapist. I can forgive a slight without drama. I can find a use for a cast off bit of material or paper instead of adding to the trash. I can give thanks and credit for everything I’m given, even if I don’t like or can’t use it. I can use less water and electricity. I can howl like a wolf to break the tension instead of yelling when my child won’t listen to me. I can get outside with my family – work in the garden, play in the sandbox, sit on the porch, take a hike. I can support the dreams of those around me. I can object to the nasty way someone talks about a person. I can let people know if I’m running late, or might have to send a check a few days late. I can plan better so I have time to walk to the movie theater down the street instead of driving. I can give away something I don’t need. I can talk, eat, swim and tell stories with people rather than watching TV. I can tell a story with a good lesson. I can listen without waiting for a break to slip in my two cents. I can learn from every experience. I can point out the strengths and beauties of other people and things. I can focus my attention on what I want to grow and flourish.

Each choice is small, but in dozens and thousands and billions they add up to a life. My life adds to yours, and ours to so many others. It’s clear that we can’t wait for someone else to fix what’s broken. We’re all there is. We each can contribute our piece. We’re enough.

Thanks for taking this journey with me today.

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