The Cheese Stands Alone

cheese-alone“I’m waiting to become the farmer in the next round”, said no child ever I thought to myself the other day, as I watched children singing and playing The Farmer in the Dell in a nearby park. Like most playful things in life it made me wonder about the ending of the game when the single child left in the middle of the circle is designated as the “Cheese” and everyone sings “The Cheese Stands Alone. The Cheese Stands Alone. High Ho the Derry O the Cheese Stands Alone.” Supposedly, the consolation for that child is that in the next round they get to be the farmer. And as we all know the farmer is at the top of the life-choice food chain because ultimately after the farmer picks his wife it goes all the way down from the wife to the child to the nurse to the cow to the dog to the cat to the rat and to the last piece of the covetous puzzle-the cheese. And as we all know cheese can’t pick a friend or mate or even someone as prey. And so like most inanimate objects it just stands there. Alone.

And as random as this blog post is I vote for “The Cheese”. I’m standing up for solitary pieces of cheese everywhere and saying, “Cheese is Awesome”. “Be the Cheese”. Stand alone. Or don’t stand at all because you can’t. And that’s ok.

And also, I vote for a new version of this song and game where the Cheese is the farmer and it picks a cracker as a mate and the cracker picks a slice of toast as a friend and the toast picks peanut butter who picks jelly as his mate and they all live in harmony inside of a wooden picnic basket where no one stands alone-especially the cheese.

 

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This is Your Awakening

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The Awakening
(Author unknown)

A time comes in your life when you finally get…when, in the midst of all your fears and insanity, you stop dead in your tracks and somewhere the voice inside your head cries out…ENOUGH! Enough fighting and crying and blaming and struggling to hold on. Then, like a child quieting down after a tantrum, you blink back your tears and begin to look at the world through new eyes.

This is your awakening.

You realize it’s time to stop hoping and waiting for something to change, or for happiness, safety and security to magically appear over the next horizon.

You realize that in the real world there aren’t always fairy tale endings, and that any guarantee of “happily ever after” must begin with you…and in the process a sense of serenity is born of acceptance.

You awaken to the fact that you are not perfect and that not everyone will always love, appreciate or approve of who or what you are…and that’s OK. They are entitled to their own views and opinions.

You learn the importance of loving and championing yourself…and in the process a sense of new found confidence is born of self-approval.

You stop complaining and blaming other people for the things they did to you – or didn’t do for you – and you learn that the only thing you can really count on is the unexpected.

You learn that people don’t always say what they mean or mean what they say and that not everyone will always be there for you and everything isn’t always about you.

So, you learn to stand on your own and to take care of yourself…and in the process a sense of safety and security is born of self-reliance.

You stop judging and pointing fingers and you begin to accept people as they are and to overlook their shortcomings and human frailties…and in the process a sense of peace and contentment is born of forgiveness.

You learn to open up to new worlds and different points of view. You begin reassessing and redefining who you are and what you really stand for.

You learn the difference between wanting and needing and you begin to discard the doctrines and values you’ve outgrown, or should never have bought into to begin with.

You learn that there is power and glory in creating and contributing and you stop maneuvering through life merely as a “consumer” looking for your next fix.

You learn that principles such as honesty and integrity are not the outdated ideals of a bygone era, but the mortar that holds together the foundation upon which you must build a life.

You learn that you don’t know everything, it’s not your job to save the world and that you can’t teach a pig to sing. You learn the only cross to bear is the one you choose to carry and that martyrs get burned at the stake.

Then you learn about love. You learn to look at relationships as they really are and not as you would have them be. You learn that alone does not mean lonely.

You stop trying to control people, situations and outcomes. You learn to distinguish between guilt and responsibility and the importance of setting boundaries and learning to say NO.

You also stop working so hard at putting your feelings aside, smoothing things over and ignoring your needs.

You learn that your body really is your temple. You begin to care for it and treat it with respect. You begin to eat a balanced diet, drinking more water, and take more time to exercise.

You learn that being tired fuels doubt, fear, and uncertainty and so you take more time to rest. And, just as food fuels the body, laughter fuels our soul. So you take more time to laugh and to play.

You learn that, for the most part, you get in life what you deserve, and that much of life truly is a self-fulfilling prophecy.

You learn that anything worth achieving is worth working for and that wishing for something to happen is different than working toward making it happen.

More importantly, you learn that in order to achieve success you need direction, discipline and perseverance. You learn that no one can do it all alone, and that it’s OK to risk asking for help.

You learn the only thing you must truly fear is fear itself. You learn to step right into and through your fears because you know that whatever happens you can handle it and to give in to fear is to give away the right to live life on your own terms.

You learn to fight for your life and not to squander it living under a cloud of impending doom.

You learn that life isn’t always fair, you don’t always get what you think you deserve and that sometimes bad things happen to unsuspecting, good people…and you learn not to always take it personally.

You learn that nobody’s punishing you and everything isn’t always somebody’s fault. It’s just life happening. You learn to admit when you are wrong and to build bridges instead of walls.

You learn that negative feelings such as anger, envy and resentment must be understood and redirected or they will suffocate the life out of you and poison the universe that surrounds you.

You learn to be thankful and to take comfort in many of the simple things we take for granted, things that millions of people upon the earth can only dream about: a full refrigerator, clean running water, a soft warm bed, a long hot shower.

Then, you begin to take responsibility for yourself by yourself and you make yourself a promise to never betray yourself and to never, ever settle for less than your heart’s desire.

You make it a point to keep smiling, to keep trusting, and to stay open to every wonderful possibility.

You hang a wind chime outside your window so you can listen to the wind.

Finally, with courage in your heart, you take a stand, you take a deep breath, and you begin to design the life you want to live as best as you can.

The Funniest Singles Ad Ever

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“I grew up in a shoe box at the bottom of a lake in England with 17 siblings. My parents were two halibuts and I always felt like I was adopted because I didn’t have fins or flippers. But I knew I was loved and that was all that mattered. I have both my parents in my fish tank at home.

I’m looking for someone who can accept me for me, someone who sees beyond the barnacles and sea weed and who can open themselves up to a splashy life with a half-fish man. I can offer a hot tub and low mercury content.”

Michael from Mill Valley, thank YOU for making me laugh and for reminding me not to take this life thing too seriously. Happy holiday everyone and happy Sunday.

 

Love,

Jenna

 

 

Why ‘Aborting the Mission’ Feels Like the Right Thing for So Many

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Some people call it suicide, or giving up, or a “cry for help”. There are many names for taking one’s life and even more moral judgements and spiritual beliefs around consequences for the person who both attempts and is successful. I call it aborting the mission. I call it this, because I believe we are spiritual beings having a human experience and when we attempt to leave our human existence, we are in essence, pressing the emergency release button that will free us from our suffering. It is a last resort for adults who’ve exhausted all their coping resources. For children, it is an act of desperation before they’ve developed the coping skills to manage the adversity in their path. In all cases, aborting the mission leaves huge gaping holes in families, communities and society as a whole. It makes us wonder what we could have all done better, how we could have prevented it and if we are honest, it makes us remember that we are fragile beings who get lost, scared and isolated and that we too have had those thoughts.

In Louis CK’s recent Netflix special, and I’m paraphrasing here, he tells us we are all consciously making the choice not to abort the mission each day just by being alive; that at any time, we all have that option; that some people have valid reasons to do so. And, I won’t say I agree or disagree with him. Each person’s life is theirs to command in a sense. Ultimately, though, we are at the mercy of a sometimes cruel and chaotic world with entropy as its main force and the choice to continue hoping in the face of darkness, a huge request for many.  I will also say, having lost my identical twin almost 11 years ago, to what felt like an endless dark night of the soul for her, I have a lot of compassion for the level of pain she was in. I know her pain as intimately as I know mine since she left. And I understand why she aborted the mission. There was just so much darkness to wade through and she got used to being amnestic of the light that was there too. And this makes sense from a neurobiological perspective as the brain affected by ongoing trauma develops pathways that encourage the perpetuation of negative thinking and depressive thoughts. Rewiring those pathways takes a lifetime to achieve and sometimes never happens at all.

I have nothing but love and admiration for those living and recovering from the horrors of child abuse, assault, domestic violence and any other atrocity that takes your sanity as its asking price. I can thank my twin sister for such a gift because in her death and my search for hope and life subsequently, I have an immense level of compassion for pressing the emergency relief button.

Ok, so now, this is the part of the blog where I share statistics which make us all feel incredibly helpless and frustrated. Sorry about that. But, it’s important for all of us to understand the magnitude of how many people are aborting the mission and figuring out ways we can be part of reducing it.

Why is this happening in masse?

  • In the last 45 years suicide rates have increased by 60% worldwide. Suicide is now among the three leading causes of death among those aged 15-44 (male and female). Suicide attempts are up to 20 times more frequent than completed suicides.
  • Although suicide rates have traditionally been highest amongst elderly males, rates among young people have been increasing to such an extent that they are now the group at highest risk in a third of all countries.
  • Mental health disorders (particularly depression and substance abuse) are associated with more than 90% of all cases of suicide.
  • However, suicide results from many complex sociocultural factors and is more likely to occur during periods of socioeconomic, family and individual crisis (e.g. loss of a loved one, unemployment, sexual orientation, difficulties with developing one’s identity, disassociation from one’s community or other social/belief group, and honor).World Health Organization

 

Over the past 45 years we’ve seen tectonic shifts in economic security, physical safety and the nuclear family. When economic security, physical safety, and intimate connection are all threatened over any period of time, is it really such a mystery to any of us why aborting the mission becomes possible? A child in Syria who has lost everything and is now without parents, a home or any foreseeable hope for the future (w and hose nervous system is still developing) could and would consider such a thing. An elderly woman who sits alone in her apartment each day without visiting family or friends could turn to her bedside and consider her sleeping pills as her next step. All of these things, all of these moments have one vital commonality–the sense that we are utterly alone. And certainly,  on an existential level we certainly are alone. But, as a species, we only thrive in pairs and groups and also when we are seen and heard and have proof we exist and matter. We are all children at heart even if those hearts have forgotten how to hope. All of these shifts aren’t just the cause of lives ended too soon, but a call to action for all of us to put our smart phones down and make human contact with our neighbors, the homeless man on the street, the stray cat hiding under our car, the children in dire situations in need of hope. One small gesture. One small moment. One big change.

 

With love,

Jenna

 

My Homemade Recipe for Life Lemonade

when-life-gives-you-lemons-make-lemonade-at-kiki-and-company

“Can you believe Trump….?” Feel free to insert your  personalized outrage here.

The ellipses are mere place holders for the mounting permutations of frustrations, anger and fear deluging millions of us across the globe.

This exasperated sentence punctuates my day from early-morning water cooler conversations at work, to deeper and more intimate conversations with loved ones in the evening. Everyone, wants to know what to do. Where and how can they channel all of these big emotions? Where can they find solace in what feels like a world on fire? They look to me for wisdom; the master maker of life lemonade. So, in no particular order, here are a few of the ingredients I use for my life-lemonade:

  1. Take Saturdays off. Go for a hike. Sit quietly on your couch. Perfect the art of toast making (yes, it’s a thing. You have approximately one minute to get butter on the toast while the toast is still hot enough for the butter to melt. Otherwise you end up eating half melted butter. Ugh.) Take a hot bath. Listen to the wind. Look at the sky. Count the stars. Draw a picture, with your hands, on paper with things called markers, or pencils or crayons. Listen to music (remember music? And I’m not talking about one song, but an entire CD. And when I say listen, I mean really devote your whole self to listening to each lyric and instrument (this part could be a challenge if the song was made after 2008, but do your best. I find picking songs with no identifiable synth pop to be helpful).
  1. Create a Trump-free zone in your relationships with others and stick to it. I allow myself one hour of Trump time each day to stay up to date on the Trump haps and the world-at-large. This one hour also includes conversations with others. After this one hour, the rest of my day is devoted to uplifting things like guinea pigs in Halloween costumes and baby seals mysteriously ending up on people’s couches with whiskers for days and a bark no species can resist.
  1. Turn off technology. This one is crucial! There is no more 5:00 news where news is delivered once a day at a predictable time. Now, we are connected 24/7 to a digital feeding tube that has no shut off valve, other than the one we self-impose. My digital diet includes turning off my smart phone during meals, as well as two hours before bed time.
  1. Pick one small action you can take. If you get overwhelmed with the sheer volume of egregious laws and insane executive orders being passed and or crimes against humanity and dis-ease in the world, pick one small action you can take that helps you feel you are contributing in a positive way in the world. It can be as simple as buying a homeless person breakfast (this one is easy to do here in Boston and most major cities throughout the US), or signing a petition online. We don’t have to chain ourselves to large objects in protest to show we care about the world and our fellow humans. Sometimes, the smallest actions are often the most empowering and impactful.
  1. Do one thing at a time. You can’t carry a cup of hot tea and hike a mountain. In other words, it’s important to slow down and stop trying to do two things at the same time otherwise you end up with third degree burns on a perfectly beautiful hike and potential tea stains on your not-so-cheap fleece. Do yourself and your stain stick a favor.

*And if you have children and are reading this thinking, “yeah, right, there’s no way I can take Saturdays off” I suggest you pick any of these ingredients in ways that feel comfortable for you. Hiking, toast-making, star counting, and listening to music aren’t things children need help learning how to do. It’s us adults who need help remembering the joy in these simple things. Let your children re-teach you!

If you have a life-lemonade ingredient you’d like to share, please send it my way and enjoy your trump-free zones everyone.

 

Much love,

Jenna

 

 

The Facebook Delete-An Act of Self- Love?

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I think it’s pretty safe to say that the Facebook Delete can sometimes be the silent equivalent of the not-so- silent middle finger. Hovering over the option to ‘delete’ a childhood friend on Facebook the other day… I took several deep breaths. Conceptually wiping someone from my social media space isn’t something I take lightly. In fact, it is downright gut-wrenching when I’ve reached a point in a relationship, that makes it too painful for me to continue the façade of a friendship that transcended the trappings of social media, at least for me.

First I asked myself the question we all have to ask ourselves, “Is this really necessary?” If we just chose to stay ‘friends’ on Facebook would it really matter either way? What was my true motivation for ‘deleting’ her? With some gentle investigation, I realized that seeing someone online who has chosen actively not to return my calls and to text me, even on the holidays, was just not something I was willing to tolerate from anyone. Never mind the message I was sending her, what message was I sending myself if I continued to pretend her lack of communication and inability to end our friendship with love and care didn’t matter? The even deeper issue I realized was overall self-compassion and honoring the parts of me that had been forced to uphold the lie of my childhood. Pressing ‘delete’ in this particular moment was a finish line I had to be willing to cross because it means living authentically. It is a symbolic stake in the ground of self-esteem and self-love and it’s bloody painful to do at first.

Living authentically is messy because the truth is messy and because in any given moment this truth can change.  Becoming enlightened doesn’t mean you wake up and nothing hurts anymore. Truly enlightened beings sign up for the entire truth, not just the parts that leave them smiling with that far away, whimsical smile we associate with the more spiritually evolved.

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*Image courtesy of imdb: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0280720/

Starfishing with dynamite means powering through change, adversity and growth with grace, power and acceptance.

So as I let go with love, and usher in a new year with the possibilities for new relationships that are healthy and loving, I wish you all a beautiful and peaceful New Year.

And if you feel so inclined I’d LOVE to hear your Facebook Delete story. Feel free to submit in comments below and many blessings everyone!

With love,

Jenna

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finding Sanity in this New Civil War

 

ichooselove

We made it. Barely. Out of the clutches of the election. And what I know is two simple words: Choose Love. When your neighbor lashes out in fear and anger: Choose Love. When you have the chance to speak your truth and beliefs: Choose Love. When you feel the very essence of your being, taken to task and defiled by those operating on a different set of beliefs and justifications: Choose Love.

This is not a cliché mantra on my part, or a religious one, but a rigorous practice. It is in fact, the only path I can stand on when I am amidst darkness, chaos, conflict and closed minds and hearts. And it is VERY, VERY hard to do because reacting from ego, from fear and anger is human and has quick rewards. There is a certain high we all get from being “right”. Heads and shoulders above others, in our “rightness”. And when we encounter the “other” who is so clearly “wrong” we justify and we bully and we wound them. We take comfort in the fact that we did so because we were the “good” ones, the “just” ones, the ones who deserve justice, freedom, and vindication. And yet, as poet W.H. Auden once said, “Love your crooked neighbor with all your crooked heart” is the true freedom. We can find relief in letting go of being right, of wounding others from this place.

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When we feel most challenged by life, the only path to balance and sanity is to stay rooted in self-compassion, love and kindness. Now more than ever, our commitment to the golden rule is vital to our well-being. Justifying angry words, hostility and self-righteousness can only lead to further derision and separation from each other.

There is no peace in revenge, just as there is no peace in being “right”.

Fanning the flames of anger and fear has led us exactly to the precipice we are at now. And as more and more of us commit to love, tolerance, caring for one another, listening with an open mind and heart, and being the light in the world, the more we will see healing and positive change. In the recent words of Adyashanti:

“There are important political and cultural issues at stake here to be sure, and we all have a stake in the outcome, which is why so many people are so fearful and angry. It’s as if 50 percent of the population cannot possibly understand, or even care to understand, the other 50 percent. And human decency and sanity have gotten lost amid the angst. Sadly, we have stopped truly communicating in the process.

I have watched this growing in our culture over the last 25 years, and now it has boiled over. As a populace, we have stopped seeking to understand one another and have sought instead only to be understood; or, in many cases, insisted upon being agreed with. We have failed to take care of one another, to love, cherish, and understand one another.

There are very important issues at stake here: issues of poverty, inequality, political disenfranchisement, racism, sexism, the list goes on. But as each of us advocates for those issues that are important to us, we too must take responsibility for the breakdown of civility, decency, and unhealthy communication. No one forces our state of consciousness upon us. No one forces us to act out of fear, rage, and unconsciousness. We will either relate out of our conflicted mind states, or from the more evolved aspects of our nature.

I cannot say exactly how to relate with those who are caught in their own conflict, except to say that if we seek to understand as our first impulse — and to respond from the wisest, most patient, and loving dimension of our being — we will at least be standing on a foundation of sanity and peace. And our actions, whatever they may be, will then be expressions of the highest consciousness that we have attained, and we will have taken responsibility for our own feelings and impulses, and made the wisest choices that we have access to.

If we are inspired to advocate for certain causes, we will do so out of love for those causes, rather than out of rage against the perceived “other.” Perhaps then we will become agents for sanity, peace, love, and the living of it in this confused world of ours.”

 

With Love,

Jenna