Capitalism, In Crisis?

Why working within a system designed for no-limits clashes with sustainability efforts

David Harvey’s “Crisis of Capitalism” got the grey matter (stardust) between my ears going.  It really filled in some gaps in my thought processes that had been going full-throttle since entering Thomas H. Greco Jr.’s world of “New Money for Healthy Communities”.  (I read it in May.   Still filling in the blanks.   Should have a workable plan soon… if my stardust doesn’t blow away)

(I highly recommend viewing Mr. Harvey’s full lecture (31 minutes).  And don’t tell me you don’t have time…I Facebook – I know how much time you spend on reality TV and computer games… lol)

The material jam-packed into this little clip will get you from “Capitalism is Great!” to “Is It Sustainable?” in 11 minutes or less.

Now, before you fly into a tizzy of disbelief, please remember I’m not a socialist or communist or ….what have you.   But I am a firm believer that what we ARE doing is not working and is not sustainable.  Therefore, it’s time to look at why and can it be fixed, or do we need to start anew?

Some of Mr. Harvey’s observations on what is needed to make Capitalism (in its current form) a viable system are:

  1. Investment of capital needs to take place at precisely the right time, in the right area, in the right amount – everytime
  2. Investment must move continuously through geographical and industry sectors, in order to keep stability.
  3. We must realize at least 3% growth each year.

Investment of capital needs to take place at precisely the right time, in the right area, in the right amount

If it was possible to consistently invest in needed products and services, in the appropriate place and amount, at the right time, it wouldn’t be called gambling ( I mean Wall Street)  Therefore, I believe hoping for this to come true should be placed on the Utopian blueprint, for future reference.

Investment must move continuously through geographical and industry sectors, in order to keep stability.

This is just an educated and financial sounding way of saying, “Spread the Wealth.”   Again, historically, we are very piss-poor at doing this.   We also have natural forces to contend with.  For example, in order to move large amounts of people, goods and services to the Sahara, we need to wait for the next shift of the earth’s axis, guesstimate is 6,000 to 15,000 years from now (or in 2012, if you’re a doomsdayer…and if you are, you’re not reading this, cuz, hey! you only need enough money to last the next 26 months or so.)

So I think we can place “spreading the wealth” in the Kumbaya world too.

3% growth every year

That’s easy.   It’s called population growth.   New consumers are born every minute.

Until you realize that population growth peaked at 2.2% in 1963 and is now at about 1.1% growth, with a continued decline expected.  (Since most Americans don’t need all those extra hands for working a farm they don’t own  AND  a $40,000 college education is expected for each child unit, me thinks the decline will continue.)

(I know all you Ph.der’s out there wondering why I’m drawing a direct correlation between population growth and the needed 3% growth needed for capitalism to work.   I’m not going to explain, because this is really just an asinine way to draw attention to our propensity to expand unchecked in a variety of areas.)

So, just to be optimistic, let’s say that even-stevens, we get 1.1% of our needed growth from newborn consumers.   That leaves us with a 1.9% shortfall.

How much can you eat, wear, do, in a day?   C’mon people, 3% growth isn’t easy (unless it concerns my weight and waistline.)   In order for capitalism to work, we must all do our effort to consume 3% more of viable goods/services each year.

Let’s look at some of the creative ways we have realized gains in the past decades.

Technology

Technology has carried the ‘growth-load’ for some time.  Given Moore’s law of accurately predicting double the transistor capacity every 2 years or so, innovative folks  learned how to design new devices that weren’t even possible at the time they were brainstorming, but were by the time  manufacturing began.   The boosts to the advertising market is just icing on the cake. (I mean really, who would actually buy a Furby without their kids being blitzed by the media?)

But this trend will not continue – projections expect the peak around 2015 or so.  (I can’t wait!   I’m really tired of having to figure out how to work all the bells and whistles on a new phone, software or computer every year or so!  Remind me to tell you the story about converting from Access 2003 to 2007 in the middle of building a database sometime. User-friendly Ribbon Bars my arse…)

On the bright side, technology and space travel should continue to see some growth – we need to find a way to rocket off to the moon or Mars, once we’ve made Earth uninhabitable.  And there are those optimists who are working on space travel just in case we don’t destroy ourselves prior to the sun turning into a red giant.

Housing

My brother and I were raised in a five room home. (yes, we did have an indoor privvy…)  Neither of us joined gangs, went to wrack and ruin via drugs, alcohol, etc.   My family of 3 currently resides in a home nearly 5 times the square footage.  (I say we need to downgrade – males in the house like all the extra floor space to drop socks and set dirty dishes on…)

My dad, a plumber, said that in his experience, people who ‘added on’ to their house because their current one was overflowing with ‘stuff’ didn’t keep the nice, organized environment for long.   They just filled the new empty space with more stuff.   (See?  We are trained well to do our part in realizing 3% growth in spending every year.)

The ‘mortgage industry crisis’ is, in a word, funny.   No, not ha-ha-look-you’re-homeless funny, but how-did-they-think-loaning-more-than-a-house-is-worth-was-going-to-work funny.

Apparently, there wasn’t a dependable Moore’s Law for doubling of home value every 2 years or so.   And how much living space do we really need?   And if we have some extra space, does it just drive us to spend, spend, spend to fill it up?   And can we sustain both the increasing house payments and the decorating expenses non-stop on our current employment?

I also find it entertaining how greatly house prices vary from different perspectives.   From an individual viewpoint, I’d be fine if the realtor and mortgage company of a potential buyer thought my house was worth what the county assessor and my insurance agent have valued it at.    Heck, I’d even be happy if what my insurance agent said I should insure it for was what the insurance adjustor states they will pay when I’m standing next to rubble.

Mr. Harvey states that capitalism is a never-ending race to get past ‘ceilings’ – it functions only in an environment of no limits.   Our recent housing and mortgage industry woes are excellent examples of what happens when we try building a stand-alone staircase to skirt the ceiling.

Financial Services

The financial services industry is, in a word, ludicrous.   That you need an entire industry to oversee and manage a symbol of actual goods and services seems ridiculous to me.    Bottom line, our Washingtons, Lincolns and Franklins are simply a symbol for goods and services which are either currently or shortly (about 60 days)  available for consumption.    (See Money, The Great Hoax, coming soon, for more on this topic.)

We have become so detached from what money actually is that we see It as a commodity.    And many an industry has been built on this commodity.

When you spend your money to make more money, then you are spending a symbol to make a symbol.  But what does it symbolize?   Gold?  Um, no.   Many of the world’s countries that were on a gold standard suspended it to finance wars and found out they couldn’t afford to re-instate it later (I reiterate, wars are pricey).    I also cannot resist adding that having a gold standard is silly.   If you’re hungry, you can’t eat gold.   I’d prefer to see food crops as the standard of money.   But, hey, what do I know?

The financial sector is big business.   Like politics, only those immersed knee deep in that world can actually keep a straight face while expounding on how the system works.   The day I found out that people can actually place bets (oops, sorry, “invest money” is what I should have said) on whether another person or company will actually pay off their loans, and those who bet against people making good made more money than the flip side, was the day I realized we’ve all gone insane.

Granted, I’m sure there are some who would be happy to loudly and aggressively explain to me how this betting (sorry, “investing”) works, why I’m naive and how I should learn more before downing the system.   In my defense, I do not enter the political or financial worlds often – I’m afraid if I read enough to learn all there is to know about them, I’ll become hypnotized into believing their dream world is a good reality.

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Now I’m going to go out on a limb and say I believe our most recent attempt to create 3% growth is in the Insurance industries.   Maybe it’s always been this way, but seems to me I see way more insurance commercials now than I used to.  I can insure my car, house, pet, computer, life, long-term care……..you name it, I can insure it.

There are several things about the insurance industry that bother me.    First, they are in the business to make a profit – just like casinos.   Making a profit means taking in less than you pay out.   Since they are both in the business of telling you what the value is when they are collecting the premiums and what the value is when they cut the check to replace/fix the insured item, or compensate for the loss, seems to me there is quite a bit of  space for the Company to make decisions in their financial favor.  Health insurance premiums vs. when they will release the money and to whom they will release it to for your well-being is a prime example.

Second, I’m required, by either law (car) or to make some purchases (financed home/car) to have.   Yet there doesn’t seem to be legislation in place to keep them from raking you over the coals any chance they get.

Car insurance is a good example.   Years ago, I  worked a short walk away from my lodgings.   Engine in my car blew and I thought, heck, why don’t I just walk for awhile?   So I canceled my insurance, since I no longer had a car to insure.

BIG Mistake!  Huge!   About 18 months later, when I decided get a car, off I went to visit my insurance agent (of course I went back to my old one, like a good neighbor, they are there?  right?)   Imagine my shock and surprise when I found out that although my driving record was even better than before (not driving greatly reduces the chances of speeding tickets!) my premium had almost tripled in size.  Why?   Well, because obviously, I was Uninsured for a reason and there are penalties for that.   (Not owning a car, is apparently, not a good reason.)

Third, most policies have an exclusion for ‘acts of god/nature’ – – if the industry gets into deep financial trouble, I’m thinking a deer running in front of my car or lightening striking my house can probably be placed under that exclusion, even though those scenarios are precisely why I got insurance in the first place.  Add to that the exclusion of life insurance payments, ‘during a time of war’ – and our current inability to solve differences peaceably, and you’ll see why I also place insurance in the ‘heavy house favor’ category of bets.

Fourth, when you take out insurance, you are actually placing a cover bet that something traumatic, devastating and catastrophic is going to happen to you.   The insurance company is betting it won’t.  In essence, you are betting against yourself.  I mean really, who wants to live with that world view?

But I’ll share with you the real (secret) reason why I’m not into insurance being our new way of gaining 3% growth.   On my dark days (yes, I have them often, can’t you tell?) I enter a Twilight Zone state where I’m pretty convinced we are wobbling towards total destruction.   Mother Earth shedding a few pounds, if you will.    And I ponder on who all Knows that’s what’s going to happen.   Just imagine raking in billions in premiums and there not being anyone left to pay out to…

That can finance a pretty good life for the short time we’ve got left. (if you believe it’s all going to end in 2012…)

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I’ll close with repeating the sentiments expressed by Mr. Harvey.   No, I don’t have the solution.

But I do think we can explore other ways to either A.)Move to a different system, or B.)Find better ways to realize our needed growth.

Given our history, we love to gamble.

Maybe we could open a chain of casino/spas.    Combine our love of wagering with the trend towards being healthier (reducing our need for health insurance).   Just think, acupuncture followed by blackjack.

Works for me.

Surviving The (parent) ‘Hood

Beautiful morning.   Fresh breeze, Peak looks beautiful, my writing is going well…  I’m in the Zone.

Noise the pitch and timbre of a fire engine’s siren finally penetrates my self-induced dazed.   Out my window, I observe the fire drill in process across the street.

Perhaps a little background is in order.   Nice family lives near by.  Mom, Dad, two little ones, I’m guessing 2 and 3 or 3 and 4.   Neither old enough for school.  Usually pretty quiet during the weekdays, so I’m surmising both parents work.  But come the evenings and weekends, Dad and one or two of the child units can be seen ‘havin’ fun’ in the garage.

But not this morning.   Judging by the pitch of the first bellow, I surmise either physical or emotional hurt was inflicted on one child by the other.   The first wail is one  long, loud protest full of indignation, rather than actual hurt.   (Hey, I’m a Mom, I know these things!)

Dad, probably badly mislead by the same child psychologist that led me down the wrong path years ago, decides to join in, with his own rendition of throwing a tantrum.   (the advice is, when your child sees something more immature than him/her, they will stop in speechless amazement.  It’s hard for most folks to remember how to act more immature than 2.   So this advice does not work often.)

Pretty soon, the other child is chiming in, from pure empathy and about four neighborhood dogs believe the Twilight Telephone has started and they better add their part to the conversation, quick, before it’s all over.

(I’ve tried proofreading 3 sentences for the past 4 minutes or so now.   Can’t concentrate and feel irritation at the loud interruption.  But instead of trying to make it work, I take a break and go to the window, watching the drama unfold.)

One child is carried into the house by Dad – this one seems to have genuinely gotten into real crying by now.    The heaving little chest and hiccupped sobs tell you that True Hurt, real or imagined, has occurred. (My guess is all the hollering and howling have now scared us… bad.)

Out comes Dad, who returns to the house with the other child, who is not hurt, but still wailing at the top of his lungs with Indignation and boy, does he look pissed.    Wailing and howling from the dogs drown out some of the conversation (Dad has figured out by now that the so-called advice of shocking your kids speechless by your own tantrum is not working), but the gist of it gets through.   Little Mr. Ticked-off  is being given a time-out.

To which the continuous shrieking of “No! No! No!” is the only answer.

I hear and count the sound of parental hand coming into contact with diapered butt, five times.     Shrieking raises a decibel or five.  No more taps can be heard and the wailing has disappeared into the depths of the house, so I figure the time-out place has been reached, even if resentfully.

Then slowly, the dogs stop howling, the shrieking and crying stop and only the frustrated words of a Dad and the soothing responses of a Mom are left.

“He has to learn he can’t do that.   How else are we going to teach him?   I don’t know what gets into him.”  I can hear not only the frustration but also the confusion as well as a little slice of, “where did I go wrong?   What’s wrong with my parenting?”

Soft spoken words I can hear, but not clear enough to make out.   I think this go-around, Mom is in charge of drying tears, de-escalating anger and boosting the confidence of one who truly does want to be a good parent.

I think about going over and saying, “I know just how you feel and I’ve been where you’re at right now.  But cheer up.   It just gets better and better.”

But I figure its not really my place to.  Plus, right now, I don’t think he’d believe me.

**********

Dad might be embarrassed, knowing I’m sharing this with you.    Maybe he doesn’t know that anyone who is a parent understands this morning only too well.

Sad thing is, the only instruction manual kids come with is the one in the parent’s head.   The one that either got written by their parents, or the one they rewrote when they dreamed about what a perfect childhood would look like.   And yes, children can give us a lot of pointers on how parenting should be as long as they haven’t been exposed to TV, school, or the brats who live down the road. (yes, I’m prejudiced sometimes.)

There are all kinds of parenting books and some are actually written by Real Parents.   But alot of the advice and guidance handed out concerning parenting comes from folks too busy with getting a Ph.D., writing, interviewing and lecturing, to actually Have Children.   So my question always is, “What do they know?”

Not alot, sometimes.   And if your childhood was  less than good, chances are you are rooting around for some advice or else you’re rewriting the player’s manual, experimenting as you go.  And when stress, the unexpected and unmanageable all happen at once, it’s hard not to dive right back into the traditions and rituals you grew up with.    And later, remorse and regret when you realize, you lost it, what you tried didn’t work or maybe you should really leave this parenting stuff to the experts.  (You know, the ones who don’t actually have children themselves.)

Update – while I’ve been musing about parenting, peace and harmony have returned.   Mr. Ticked off and Dad sat on the porch for awhile, little arms around big neck.   Now they are in the garage, trying to get the vehicle Dad is restoring started.    Mr. Ticked off has become Mr. Handy Manny and is right ready with whatever tool Dad needs.    Mom is watering the flowers and looking pleased.

The crisis that wasn’t a crisis after all.

**********

There’s a reason why opposites attract.   Its all about Parenting.    Someone has to be the one to keep their cool and help heal and bolster, no matter what catastrophe just happened.  If a couple has way different sets of phobias, fears and what’s important, then somehow, all the bases get covered.

In my house, that means I’m in charge of answering questions about sex, love, spirituality, why junior high girls are mean and high school girls think they’re fat when they aren’t.  I’m also in charge of answering questions about history, the universe and the natural world. (Thank goodness for Wikipedia!)

Hubby is in charge of figuring out which cell phone, computer or software is safe for use and a good buy.   He’s also in charge of deciding whether the boys can shoot BB guns, have rollerblades or go snowboarding.  I think those things are too dangerous.   He reminds me I’m raising boys.  Once they got older, he was also in charge of purchasing birthday and Christmas gifts, because I think Xbox is the antichrist and I still can’t figure out how to get my pictures from my Blackberry phone to the computer, other than emailing them to myself right after I take them. (yes, he’s in charge of purchasing my technology too…)

I remind him that life is too short and how dirty socks lying on the floor won’t matter in a hundred years.

He reminds me that just because I’ve lost 3, doesn’t mean I can smother the one we’ve got left.

I’m in charge of finding out the REAL reason a little person is upset.

He’s in charge of telling me to back off, when the answer is, “Nothing.”  (even though I know it’s not ‘nothing’!)

Somehow, we’re always there to reassure each other and when necessary, to protect the little person in our house from to much smothering or micro-managing.  Too much mushy-gushy or too much bossing.

Little Persons need someone in their corner, All The Time!   Little Persons that don’t get this, turn into Mean Adults.

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About a year after Morgan died, I ran into an old friend.   Seems she and a colleague were writing a book about parenting.  (She’s allowed too, she’s got three Little Persons).    She complimented me on my parenting views regarding teenagers.  That was fine with me, since I’ve been around her teeny-boppers and pre-teens.   I enjoyed them.

Although I had changed a lot about my parenting style before Morgan died, there were even more things I changed after I realized that no matter what you do, they can still be gone in an instant.   My youngest is old enough to be a good reality check for me.

When we get cross-ways, he’s now old enough for us to sit down and talk about what exactly is causing the problem, what each of us want, and where to find the common ground we can both live with.  Kids do know the boundaries and they know when they are being selfish or taking advantage.

It’s not beat or talked into them.  They know.

But they also see a lot of adults around engaging in the same behavior, so why not?

The hardest conversation I ever had with a child was trying to explain why I expected better behavior from them than they were observing in the adults around them.

“Because I know you can.   Because you’re capable and compassionate.   Because there’s still a chance for you to fashion something different for yourself.   You don’t have to live the way these folks do.”

If I had gone over to Dad this morning, that’s what I would have shared with him.   That Little Person is your best friend.   They’re  the one that reminds you when what you say and what you do don’t match up.

They  keep you honest and make you more conscious about the choices you make.

They are your own little Dali Llama, gift of the Universe.

When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.

No one said Teacher would show up potty-trained.

(P.S.  I will share with you the one, and I mean only one, time that the advice regarding temper tantrums pointed me in the right direction.

Morgan was 3.  Lego’s all over the living room.   Me?  I’m working graveyard shift, dispatching, and trying to figure out how to survive on 2-4 hours of interrupted naps.   He’s asked to pick up his toys.  No.

He’s asked again, more firmly.  Then he’s told, sharply.   And the tantrum begins.

I feel myself getting ready to ‘lose it’ – – so instead I start running around the house, waving my arms in wide circles (remember Windmill exercises from P.E.?  Yup, that’s it.) all the while laughing and bellowing at the top of my lungs, “I’m losing it.  I’m losin’ my bloomin’ mind” over and over.

It worked.   We ran around like wacko’s for a good five minutes or so.  I sink on the couch, exhausted.   He hugs me and says, “You’re funny mommy.”   And went over and started picking up the Legos.    I think the laughing is what did it.)

Retreat Update

I promised to let you know how the Retreat went.

It was interesting, restful and enlightening.

It also put a magnifying glass on some things I wasn’t even aware of.  Beliefs and behaviors that were not really serving me.  And some realizations that shocked and then strengthened me.

So, all in all, it was a success.

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Oh!  You mean you want details?  Well, alright.

Arrived at the Retreat House about 7 minutes late.   I’m either early or late – I don’t think I’ve ever arrived somewhere perfectly on time – too stressful trying to orchestrate that kind of life.   So far, for the most part, I’ve been forgiven.

Twenty minutes after arriving, I’m on my rump, surrounded by sharp rock landscaping and plucking out the weeds that dared to start growing in this hot, hostile environment.   They don’t look like weeds to me.   Some of them even have pretty little purple flowers, with just a burst of white and yellow on one petal out of five.   I look at all of them.  Sure enough, that same little burst is located on each of them.

How does the flower know which petal to put the colors on?

Why are my eyes green?

Five hours later, I’m walking the path to the abbey chapel, wondering what Vespers is like, if I can manage not to make any faux pas (I’m not Catholic) and surveying the beauty of the landscape around me.

And I want to cry.   I feel it welling up inside of me and just as suddenly, to my shocked amazement, I observe it getting stuffed right back down into some secret place inside of me.   My brain committee is doing it’s usual roundhouse commentary:

Miss Socially Responsible: “If you start, you may not stop and you can’t go into the chapel crying and a mess.”

Mr. Recluse: “What if some one walks by and thinks you’re hurt?   Wait until you’re in a more private place.”

Mrs. Count-Your-Blessings: “What are you crying for?   You’ve got a week of freedom here, in beautiful surroundings.  You should be ashamed of yourself, you ingrate.”

And just as suddenly as the desire came, it was gone… emptiness.   I couldn’t have cried if someone paid me a million bucks.   “That’s odd”, I think.

About five minutes later, my chest hurt so bad I wished I didn’t have to walk the 3/4 of mile back to where my pain pills were.

Eureka!   The emotion/body connection so quickly showed itself when I purposely let go of commitments and responsibilities and focused just on me.

Aha!  All I have to do is cry, until I’m done, and then my chest won’t hurt anymore.

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Day Two:   Scrubbing a floor on my hands and knees, because

A.)Haven’t found a mop yet that does the job I want done and

B.)Because what I was asked to do (remove some leftover tape residue with Goo-Be-Gone, wash with warm soapy water and rinse) has highlighted the fact that Mop-n-Glo buildup tends to turn off -white, instead of the original pure white of the tiles.  So nothing to be done but wash the whole durn floor.  I simply can’t leave the white flat stripes amid the Mop-N-Glo shine.

(I do try to clean up the messes I make.)

The Sister in charge of me during my stay finds me on my rump (again) with washcloth, scrub brush, butter knife (for stubborn spills) rinse cloth and bucket.  Her comment?

“Mother Abbess and I are concerned that you are not resting enough.  You came here to heal.” A long  pause.   “God speaks to us in a variety of ways.  Apparently, you must need to work in order to hear.”

She smiles and leaves me to my task.   Uh-oh.   Here come the tears…yes, yes…..awww…..noooo……c’mon!   Just cry!

Nope.   And another running commentary convenes:

Ms. Historian: “Remember the story your grandmother told your mom?   About what a cry baby she was and she prayed that she would never cry again?   And how one day she tried and couldn’t and she prayed to God that she could cry again?   How could you repeat that mistake?”

Ms. Logical: “There’s no one here who will be upset by your tears.   Just let them flow.”

Miss Cheerleader: “You can do It!”

Mr. Negative: “You want me to tell you some sad stories?  Would that help?”

(No, I’m not schizophrenic – I’ve just become VERY observant of my mind chatter.   And it helps me to sift through what’s real and beneficial (and what’s not) if I assign different thoughts to committee members.    Members are appointed anytime I identify chatter that isn’t me, but an echo of  past conditioning – conditioning that may or may not have been in my best interest.

On the flip side, long ago, a friend shared with me an article she read about how people ‘self-medicate’ for different things.   Apparently, smoking helps keep schizophrenic tendencies under control………..and I’m a smoker…………..so, maybe me and my committee members are part of some undiagnosed dilemma…)

I tried.  I honestly did.   And I did manage to squeeze out two or three actual tears.   But by then, it was lunch time and since part of my duties were to  help clean the dining room and wash dishes after meals, I decided it wasn’t the best time to ‘make it happen’.   Besides, I still had days and days left.   There was no rush.

I don’t try walking to the chapel for offices anymore.  A walk to the creek, a stop by the lilac bush that has a few last tender blossoms left and sitting listening to the chaplain’s goats bleat their protest at having to come in from the hills seem to lift up my spirits in a way I haven’t felt for quite awhile.  That’s enough for now.   Plus, I’m enjoying just wandering around.

Not all who wander are lost, so the saying goes.

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Day Three:  Morning – I’m getting into a routine.   Weeding in the morning while it’s cool, clean up after breakfast time, read, write, hang out by the creek until lunch.  Clean up after lunch.  Work on floor in retreat hall.   Read, write, nap.   Clean up after supper.   Listen to the birds and creek.   Smell the lilacs every time I walk by.   Watch the moon rise.   Go to bed.   Wait.   Get up and take a pain pill….   Oh, if only I could just cry.

Mid-morning: I’m sitting on the rocks, even plucking out ‘weeds’ that are nestled down below.   IF I do a really good job, then maybe the area won’t have to be weeded for awhile.  And hey, I’m already here, and nobody has complained about me being too slow at my work.   So might as well get them all while I’m at it.

Funny things, weeds.   From this perspective, they look pretty.   How have they grown here?   Short roots meander in and out through sharp rocks.   Once the sun hits this side of the yard, it’s going to be hot, hot, hot.   How do they get their nutrients if their roots aren’t in dirt?    How did the seeds get here?   How did they work past the black weed guard I find at the bottom of the rock pile?  Did they blow in and the warm rocks were just enough to get them started?  How do they dare survive?

And why, on earth, am I ripping up and killing something that has made a life against all odds?  Why must I destroy something just because it dared to grow in the wrong place?

And I finally cry.   Huge globby tears run down my face.   Nasal drainage and no nearby Kleenex are not a good mix.   I’m watering the rock garden all by myself.   Just me and the bitter reminder that young things die too.   And the realization that here, I do have a choice.   I could tell the Sisters I don’t feel morally right about what I’m doing.    They’d probably say, “Okay.”    Or maybe they would think I was crazy.

And I cry harder when I realize I’m mad at the injustice of it all.   That pretty things must be destroyed so we can look neat and prosperous.    That life  that has succeeded against the odds is still fragile and can be destroyed without thought or disregard.

I cry until my eyes are swollen and my head hurts.   But, hey, lookee here… my chest doesn’t hurt as bad.

I’m done weeding for today.  And maybe for always.    I save one pretty purple flower with the white and yellow sunburst.   I tell it I’m sorry.   I put it in my journal.

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Day Four: Morning -Apparently I have been stifling the tears quite awhile.  I’m crying about everything now.  In fact, it feels like I’ve been crying since I got here, though I know that isn’t true.  I didn’t think I had enough fluids in me to be disposing of as much as I am.   I drink more water, just in case.

Mid-day – I’m on the bench hidden away on the north side of another retreat hall.   I’m thinking about the allegations of depression.  (me, suffering from, supposedly)   It occurs to me I’m not.   I’m interested in all kinds of things.   There any number of subjects, projects, people and places that interest me…  they just aren’t the same as Before.   I have such a feeling of peace once this realization occurs.

Yes, I’ve changed.   Yes, what I want now and what I like is different.  That doesn’t mean I’m sick, or depressed or “not healing”.

It does mean that I’ve spent two years trying to ‘get back into’ the personality, life and ways of doing/being, that I no longer want.   It means that I have changed, and trying to pretend I haven’t is stressing me out and making me sick.  I vow not to keep trying to recapture the old me, but instead embrace, mold and define my new life.

Will those around me accept this?

Me: “Well, either they will or they won’t, but I can’t keep pretending I’m the same anymore.”

Wow!   I like this committee member.

**********

Evening – Seems Mother Abbess and Sister-in-charge-of-Tamrah have decided to save me from myself.    I’m not to scrub the Retreat Hall floor anymore.   What I’ve gotten done is enough.  It’s the wide swatch right in front of the french doors.

“It looks like it’s been done with Intent.    It’s good enough,”  proclaims she.

Really?   I can’t remember anything ever being good enough, except when I decided I was too tired or too sick to work one more moment.   Hmmm.   Who would have thought?

To be honest,  I really wasn’t enjoying it much, because some local spiders had moseyed in and it took a lot of time and effort to get them onto the butter knife and back outside, alive.    See?  I’m learning.   I didn’t just kill them (though it would have been quicker and easier).

The acrobatics involved in getting spiders back to the place where Humans say they should be, without maiming or killing them, took a lot of energy.   Plus, some of them looked sort of scary.    It’s hard to balance a moving spider on a butter knife flat edge while trying to hold it 3 feet from you.   So, all in all, I was okay with their request that I stop the floor project.

I’ve cut back on the amount of work I do.   I’ve also been informed to wait until those assigned to help me with the dishes arrive, instead of having them all or nearly all done by the time they get there.    I’m not trying to be purposefully disobedient.   But it just drives me to distraction to wait around for help to arrive.   I just start.   And truly, I’m not working hard or fast.   I’m taking my time and enjoying the process.    But, in all fairness, I’ve spent some time working in restaurants.   You get used to a routine and efficiency.   Can’t unlearn that.

It occurs to me that I’ve defined myself as a ‘hard worker’ for so long that I don’t really know how to just do what I’m told and dilly-dally around with a project.    So I purposefully quit working before I get tired and quit pushing myself to ‘hurry up and get things done.”

Ms. I Told You So chimes in: “Boy, will they be sorry when they see the monster they’ve created.   Bet they’ll wish they had left well enough alone and let you work.”

I tell her to shut up, I’m not interested in her opinion.

(She was wrong.   The more I slacked off, the more pleased my hostesses seemed.    Have I been laboring under false information all these years?   Or just under work-aholics expectations?)

**********

Day Five:  Morning.  Yesterday and today, other retreatants arrive.   They aren’t on silent retreat like the other five I’ve spent meal times with the past four days.   They are nice, but I’ve gotten used to not talking to anyone much.    They are also inquisitive.  Who am I, where did I come from, do I come there often.

I think about placing one of the “Silent Retreat” lanyards around my neck.   But I haven’t worn one all week.  (didn’t need to.)   If I do it now, might seem rude.   Besides, I have to go back to the world sometime.   Might as well start practicing regaining my social skills now.

(To those who know me, this is a hoot.   Like belly-laugh, slap-your-knee hoot.    Since the illnesses and deaths the past three years, yes, I can still talk to those I know well and feel safe with.  Words just flow out like a river.    Making ‘small talk’ with others, or conducting myself in a socially acceptable way around those I don’t feel safe with or don’t know well, however, requires a huge amount of energy and stresses me out a great deal.   I don’t really relate to others very well anymore.   And a lot of ‘hot topics’ seem silly to me.   And what I think is really important, doesn’t seem to even be on the radar for most folks.   So, it’s easier to just not talk.)

I try not to be blunt and rude.   I stifle the urge to tell them I’m here to heal, not help others with their problems.  (selfish, I know, but I apparently have a neon sign on my forehead that reads, “Tell Me!  I Care!” that doesn’t have an off switch.)

I finally just nod my head, quote some obscure thought or idea from a book and figure if they think I’m crazy,  they can just think that.  It’s not like I’m going to see them again.

By evening, I’m thinking I can live the rest of my life just making vague quotes that I think are relevant to the story I just heard.   I don’t have to care or be involved.  I can just float in, smile, listen until there is a question or pause, quote something and float right back out of the room.  It’s Working!    Ahhhh….the joy of not having to connect or care.    I could get used to this.

I also realize that I’m really not into spending much energy trying to ‘keep up and maintain a social call’ anymore.    Yup, there’s going to be some streamlining done when I get home.

***********

Day Six:  Guess some of the folks expected at the Retreat House are not coming after all.   By tonight, it will just be me.   I’ll be causing more work than I’m doing.   I’m no longer crying all the time.   The weeding on the South East side is done.   The floor is done, with Intent.   I feel pretty peaceful and quiet.   I’m ready to go.

I help clean the retreat house and rooms used this past week.   I thank Sister-in-charge-of-me for all her insights, assistance and support.   Haven’t shared all that has happened… Still, she smiles broadly and informs another that I have ‘had a revelation’.  Is it that obvious?   Guess so.

Thank you St. Benedict, Sisters and the Universe.  Thanks for the space and grace for me to cry, give up killing myself to make a point and quietly examine my committee members.

And I saved my greatest realization for the last:

In my effort to put to good use all the wonderful theories I’ve been exposed to in the past years, regarding change, loss and inner peace, I kept trying to give thanks and gratitude for all in my life – tried to always see and share with others the good that came out of my losses.  I visited then tried to overcome my feelings of bitterness, anger and resentment at lost loved ones, unfair dealings and hurtful actions of others.

I looked for and found the strength I needed to do what needed to be done and thanked the Universe for that Strength.

But I never once asked for a quiet spot to cry, until I could cry no more.

Now, I know better.

Unmolested Shopping

Tired of being solicited to sign, donate or date during your local shopping expeditions?

When did it get so durn hard to go to the grocery store?   In the past month, I’ve been the proud recipient of negative verbiage, tossed at me while either in or exiting my local stores.    Yes, I know, apparently, I must be in a ‘negative vibration’ and attracting all this to myself……..yeah, right.

The first incident happened  right after the anniversary of my son’s death and right before what would have been his 20th birthday.  You’re right –  I wasn’t in a good mood.  There I was, 10 o’clock at night, because cookies seemed like a good idea, since I don’t drink much anymore and chain smoking didn’t seem to be cutting it.

“Hi!  How HAVE you been?”   I turn from the on-sale cart, and do not recognize the person addressing me – not one inkling of who they are or how they must know me.   But they had greeted me like a long lost cousin, sooooooo…………….

“Fine.  And you?”

“I cannot find the milk.  Do you know where it is?”  I point him in the right direction and start moving off toward the cookie aisle, still trying to figure out why I suddenly have amnesia.

Inane chit-chat follows me in the form of a male person I do not know………I finally say, “I’m sorry, I don’t know you…?”   Hoping they will clue me in as to where we worked together, or a mutual friend or some in-common uncle.

Instead, “Oh, weeelll!!   Heaven forbid you can’t talk to someone you don’t know.   You must not have many friends, if you never talk to someone you don’t know.  I bet you don’t have any friends at all.”   And he turns his cart down the aisle and away from me.

(Did I mention previously I was not in the best of moods that night?) Something snapped.   “How dare you talk to me like that, you (insert every single one of the words your mother told you never to say)?”

(All this occurred while 3 cashiers/baggers stood watching, not one of which showed any inclination to stop the predator or the insane woman loudly protesting the verbal attack.)

I realized I was envisioning ramming him and his cart into the stacked canned goods.   Shouldn’t hurt him too much, should it?

But I got a grip, bought some cookies and stomped out to my truck.  Then observed my brain wondering if I could wait, run him over when he came out of the store AND get away with it.   In the end, I drove home, went to my room and cried.   Hubby thought I got attacked.  Sobbing, I told him what happened.   He tries to lighten my mood and make me see how some poor ole’ lonely guy (that probably lives with his mother and never had a date – his way of cheering me up) was just trying to get lucky.   I don’t buy it.

That was the first.   Now that my “Radar” is on, I realize it happens all the time.   Week later, exiting another grocery store –

“Are you a registered voter?”

“No”

“Please sign our petition for healthcare, yada-yada- yada”

“No Thanks.”

“Fine.  You know it’s people like you who are ruining our country with your lack of caring.  I bet you voted for Obama….yada-yada-yada”

I kept walking.   But I wondered if an officer would respond and write the fool up for the misdemeanor C.R.S. code that states, “…any gesture or verbal communication meant to incite or inflame…..”  (I swear there used to be a statute like that on the books.  Either it’s not enforced much anymore, or they repealed it, cuz there are folks that do this stuff all the time…)

And then another petitioner, who thinks since I’m not a registered Republican, then my mother and father weren’t married when I was born.

Tonight, I had a witness.   Hubby and I exiting the store. (I’m smart – I don’t go by myself anymore).   Right on cue, as we exited,

“Are you a registered Colorado Voter?”

I say, “No.”

Hubby keeps walking.

“You need to sign here to not allow violent offenders to get out on just a signature.”

No kidding, the guy is now following us, as we continue walking away.

“I bet you’ll wish you had signed this when something bad happens.   Bet you voted for Obama…yada-yada-yada”  (By now, I’m guessing I live in a community full of Republicans, not that there’s anything wrong with that……)

I start complaining and pointing out to Hubby what’s going on.   And add, extra loud, “They act like a$$%#@^s just because you aren’t going to do what they want you to.”

Petitioner is about same height as Hubby.  Hubby is wishing I would shut up.  But we are about 20 yards from Petitioner now, so I’m figuring he comes on over, perhaps we can get him on stalking charges, since rude and verbally abusing charges are no longer enforced……….

**********

Now, I realize I’m not always centered and balanced, radiating pure love and kindness.   And I’m sure, that at times, lost in my own little dramas and sadness, I’ve been short or rude in my interactions with others.   But c’mon!   I considered boycotting stores that allow predators outside their doors, but then I’d have to quit shopping altogether.

There is also a disturbing trend in being asked for a donation every time you purchase something.   I say no, just on principal.  (Also because there ARE good causes I contribute to, that spend their donations wisely)

Last fall, when I had been laid up with pneumonia/pleurisy and unable to work for about a month, the pharmacy cashier asked if I wanted to give a dollar to such-n-such.  I replied, “I really can’t.  But do you want to take a dollar off my purchase, since I’ve been out of work for a month?”    She didn’t want to donate either.

***********

I recently spent 7 days at a Benedictine Retreat house.   The other guests were on Silent Retreat.  It was, in a word, Awesome!   Any words that were spoken during my limited interaction with others, were kind and courteous.   Around there, the old adage, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all” really holds.

My theory is that folks only keep doing less-than-acceptable behavior because its been working.   And so, I’m ready for the next one.   Instead of cursing (durned old bad temper!)   I will quietly explain I was thinking about saying yes, but because of their abusive, (pushy, aggressive) disgraceful verbiage, I think I will instead decline.

I’ll let you know if it works.

(I will say it’s been my experience that when I have the perfect plan of action ready, the Universe decides I don’t need those kind of opportunities anymore………)