Three recent posts from internet friends have been playing themselves out over and over again in my psyche, or at least the questions they raised in my head have been swirling intriguingly. One post was about the Australian census and concerned identifying one’s faith practice, I am not Australian but I love putting myself in another’s shoes so I tried to pin down what I would do . The second was a George Carlin video that’s overwhelming message was hopelessness; life in America sucks and he doesn’t believe that we as American’s have choices and only the ignorant believe it is going to get better and there is nothing anyone can do about it. The third asked the question, "What is the most important lesson you have learned and now you know it, what do you wish you had done different?" These seemingly disparate issues are intricately woven together in my head under the heading, "One size does not fit all."
Does anyone else remember the inexpensive one-size-fits-all pantyhose of the days when wearing pantyhose daily was an academic and professional feminine requirement? I bought them because they were the cheapest and most readily available. There were others I could buy at the upscale department stores that didn’t cause chafing between my thighs when I stood to walk and the crotch suddenly dropped to just above my hemline. The silky department store ones also didn’t make painful seam marks on my toes, and had fewer unusual color gradations, but I chose the cheap, easy ones. Besides, everyone else wore the same kind as me and no one else was complaining so I just assumed it was me. It wasn’t. In fact the most important lesson I have learned in life is that anything "one size" fits no one. One size garments can accommodate a large number of figures and body compositions but that is not the same as "fitting".
This is true, as well, about diets, lifestyles, religions, books, etc. I am comfortably a vegetarian. I do not need to convince anyone else to follow my eating patterns. I have lots of good reasons I decided to choose this lifestyle, some are personal health issues (my body does not process dairy or meat well), some are spiritual concepts (Ahimsa), some political (carbon footprint of meat, meat productions contribution to third world famine). I do not expect other people to even understand my choice and I do my best to not foist my beliefs on others while still taking care of myself. (A balance I am still learning how to maintain, as evidenced by previous posts, LOL.)
I am less comfortably public and yet more balanced in my spiritual journey. I once had a bumper sticker that said it all for me. "Buddha wasn’t a Buddhist, and Jesus wasn’t a Christian". I strive to have integrity, be ego free, and practice compassion. I am as comfortable in a grove of trees as I am in a Catholic Mass, Islamic gathering or Mormon chapel. I realize that there might be some in that Druidic circle, mass or chapel service who would be less comfortable with me, since I do not share their belief in competitive, ego-centric deity. My current practice would look on the surface to be a mixture of New Age Nature practice and Buddhism as I have a personal altar with the cardinal directions expressed with elements and a statue of Quan Yin on the water side and Buddha on the Fire side. I embrace the teachings of both the Holy Bible and the Koran, however, in my reading of them I do not find that mankind is broken or hopeless, only that compassion is the greatest of spiritual laws. I embrace the Tao Te Ching and have it as a goal to memorize the stanzas. I also find reflected in the works of many New Age/Wiccan/Druid/Shamanic writers my own experience with the magic of the universe that is primarily addressed in the mystic and gnostic writers of the Judeo/Christian/Islam traditions. My many attempts at affiliation with religion have been like the one size fits all pantyhose, they provided support and ease of accessibility but they never really fit. Bottom line is I do not fit in any of the boxes, no matter how hard I squish my spirit and am only glad I don’t have to make the choice which one to check. That is the other part of this most important lesson I’ve learned is that since one size does not fit anybody, it really is about personal choice and personal responsibility.
Which leads me back to the George Carlin video, I agree with the facts he highlights in his rant. Media, politics, education and economics are all being desperately manipulated by the few individuals (WEM’s) that are not content with having almost everything but need a little bit more. I don’t believe however that I am helpless or hopeless in the face of this. First of all believing I am hopeless to change anything does me no good and feeds into the broken system in place as I then try to fill the porous spiritual holes in my life with "more" power, success and things which once accumulated must be protected or lost which makes the holes bigger requiring more filler, etc. Hopelessness, anger and victim mentality are key factors in addictive and self-destructive behavior. Second, as Ghandi and Victor Frankl learned and taught in situations worse than any I have ever experienced(imprisoned in India and concentration camp in WWII respectively) and so clearly taught in their writings, I always have choice. I choose how I respond to what is placed before me. When I make good choices I feel better. The things that create happiness (not just fleeting pleasure) in me are expressing gratitude, showing compassion, and developing discipline.
How do I know if something is a good choice for me. That part is easy. Do I find myself mentally creating reasons or defenses for the choice, especially if those defenses include placing the responsibility on someone else (If only she had, if only he had not, etc)? If my answer to this question is, yes, then I already know inside it is not a good choice that’s why I am defending it. A corollary to this question is am I trying to make everyone else do it with me? Again obvious evidence I don’t support my own choice and want to hide my guilt in the crowd. (This is my favorite self-sabotaging tactic for undisciplined eating, drinking or spending). Finally does this choice or behavior enhance or detract from the person I want to become. Which circles back to the part hope plays in my life; because I believe that I am created perfect, that all I need is available to me now, and that this moment is exactly what I need, I have a dream. And I have hope.
I also have as an allegory for my continued Pollyanna perspective a favorite "peeing in the ocean" story. Those close to me are probably real tired of this tory, so I will just paraphrase it. The bottom line is that as a child I tried to raise the level of the ocean by peeing in it. I even marked the pylons of the pier with a pencil and got other kids involved. I was always unsuccessful, and then someone pointed out my foolishness as the ocean was so very, very big. I felt stupid that I had tried. As an adult, and very pregnant, I accidentally peed in the ocean and had an epiphany, my goal all those years ago was off base. I never raised the level of the ocean but I had definitely warmed my little circle. This is my approach now to living including voting in elections, spending locally, eating vegetarian, speaking politely, not taking things personal, reading all sides of an issue (especially the opinions that differ from mine) letting other drivers into my lane, sharing my abundance and saying thank-you as often as possible. George Carlin is right, the problems facing society are ocean sized and my ability to contribute is puny, but today I don’t try to raise the level of the ocean, just warm my own circle.
So I might not check the same box as most of my friends in the religion section of a census because I would want to check them all; and although our conclusions are different, I definitely do agree with George Carlin’s data. The problems American society faces, and more importantly to me the world as a whole faces, are rooted in an unhealthy lust for "More" that I cannot change in anyone else but me. This is the most important lesson I have learned in life, one size does not fit all, in fact in trying to accommodate all, it fits nobody. So for my life to fit comfortably, I need to take responsibility for my own choices.
Some days I may be indistinguishable from the crowd, and some days I may stand alone in the best choices for myself; but this choice in how I respond, this choice to be grateful, hopeful and happy can never be taken from me regardless the swirl of circumstances that surround me.
I have made a plethora of mistakes in my life, mine and someone else’s share at least, and so spent a great deal of time thinking about the second part of that question, knowing this, what would I have done different? I am small and insignificant, even taking into account ripple effect. Also, my vision can only encompass a few pixels of the entire landscape of life and so I decided to rephrase the second portion of that question. I would not go back even if I could and huge mistakes not withstanding, I am not wishing I could change anything. Instead I ask myself today, is their any action from my past I need to make restitution for today? I choose to use my past, gaffs especially, to make better choices in the future and to identify where through my choices I have bridges to mend, and consequences from which to grow. It may be trite but if I do what I did, I will get what I got, so if something in my now causes dissonance I need to try something new.
And that’s my blog today, and now I am going to go snuggle with my old canine lady a bit and work on defining my dreams, tomorrow is back to triathlon training, but today I am swimming in different waters. Processing this transition with Noien makes me both sad and grateful, as I am sure all pet owners understand, grateful for the years together and sad to watch her health deteriorate, knowing it is my choice and responsibility to let her go.