Category Archives: Personal Musings

Chains

Ghosts are intriguing. The livings’ concern for the dead ranges from the childish, playful notion of white sheets with eyes that glide through walls to the hair-prickling fear of the paranormal. Do they exist? Can the living see them? Can the living talk to them? Why do they exist? Are they trapped until revenge for crimes committed against them in life is achieved? Are they on earth to warn the living? Warn us of what? Should we listen? Should we worry about vengeance taken against us? Ghosts are so fascinating that every culture has some lore, tradition, or taboo associated with them.

Ghosts are lasting. Unlike giant ants, rabid birds, and green Martians, ghosts still hold our cultural imagination. However more troubling is the double entendre here. The identity of a ghost is lasting: the un-dying. They do not go away.

Hauntings harm both the living and the dead because both parties remain trapped. It is real easy to tell someone that they need to just let go of the past. ‘Let go of the relationship, he left you and you need to move on.’ ‘Let go of the abuse you went through, it is over and you need to move on.’ ‘Let go of the ideas you had about how your life should look, the reality is now and you need to move with it.’ But why does no one suggest that the ghost be the one to move on? After all, it is the ghost who is holding on to something when clearly he should just die. Yet they are stuck in an ephemeral state, and keep the humans they haunt trapped in a cycle of replaying what could have or should have been over and over and over.

Ghosts are sneaky in the way they reside in smells, songs, and settings. Although you walked out on me, ending the plans for our future like a flame being snuffed out, the smoke of that fire constantly comes back to cloud my vision and sting my eyes. Because every time I smell that soft sticky sweet smell of your perfume I can feel you holding my hand and listening to the secret of my goals.

How I wish you would just die. But like the autumn leaves, you cling to the now dead branch and flash colors so loud that you cannot be ignored. At least the impending winter is a guarantee death to the fall leaves. The cold will soon settle heavy upon the fragile bodies of a no longer living, but not quite dead leaf, and force it to the ground where it will find the peace of decay. You? You just linger on, holding me captive by your random visits. It would be a lot easier to “just move on” if the hopes and dreams and passions and pains would die, if the ghost of what once was would die.

How do you kill a ghost? The person has already been killed once. You already died once before. I had to learn to live without you, so why are you back? I’ve never felt so wicked as the day I approached you and asked you to die again. “I thought you’d be happy to see me again,” you said. Well I thought I would be too, but your presence comes with a tether to old memories and dreams that I don’t want.

At first they told me to try yoga and herbal tea before bed. This was a nice distraction, but no solution. When you started showing up consistently, they told me to try prayer. This was as effective as a cardigan in a snowstorm. Now they say I need to ignore your sightings, and put the thoughts of you out of my mind. I have to wonder if it really is up to the living to get on with things. Why is no one telling you to let go of me?

Is this my old chain? / My mind is away,

How long have you been gone?

And the cold winter’s aged / The soft of your face.

And I can’t move on. Linger on / Linger on / Linger on

No I can’t move on.

-“Autumn Trees”, Milo Greene

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“The most dangerous secrets a person can bury are those we keep from ourselves.”

This is a story nobody wants to hear. Not that it hasn’t been told. Plenty of souls have tried in many differing ways to tell it. In fact, it is trending right now to admit via your blog that anxiety and depression are frequent visitors to your heart and head. But anxiety and depression are only the tip of the iceberg. And these bloggers only admit to it via the interwebs because the anonymity makes it safe to publicly declare that all ain’t right.

Often people try to discuss the issue through art- music, writing, paintings- which makes it easier to digest. The audience can relate in a way that says “yeah I’ve felt that way before, but glory hallelujah I don’t anymore. I am now a happy, well-adjusted adult.” Oh yeah? Are you now? Because after your work day, when the kids are taken care of and happily preoccupied, the dishes are cleaned up, the e-mails have been answered, can you truly sit down and just be? And then can you keep being and calmly face the demons who only show up when all is quite?

How quickly do we fall apart when some piece of the routine is destroyed. Will a pint (or half-gallon…) of ice cream actually take care of the pain after your significant other moves on? Or how well do the ideas gleaned from pinterest actually keep your unemployed self doing ‘productive things’?

But these are just rich white people problems right? So we seek movies and documentaries highlighting the injustices of Africans or Asians (often at the hands of rich westerners I might add) to ignite our fires of righteous indignation. Because at least watching documentaries about Darfur give us a reason to feel bad.

Who is willing to say that even with the job, cute urban house, dog to walk in the park, and hot wife, life still sucks? But it does doesn’t it? There is pain. And sometimes just getting on the train with a hundred fellow commuters can break your heart. But that is strange. No one else feels empty. They all seem to have life figured out. So we hide it by aiming for more money and a hotter wife. (Maybe the last one didn’t look good enough for my sub-conscious to truly be satisfied.) Or we read all about how the sale of chocolate to an increasingly unhealthy, obese, United States of America is a part of modern day slave trades. Now that is real reason to be unhappy. After all, no one wants to hear that you are unhappy merely because our world is broken and human souls are empty.

That is weird right? Being unhappy because the world you were born into is broken certainly is stranger than making yourself unhappy by watching Blood Diamond alone in bed every Friday night.

I venture that it is easier to explain that, even though I am part of the 10% most privileged humans on this planet, I am unhappy because the world is not as it should be. But no one wants to hear this. This is a story where the reader can only accept what is written. There is nothing the author offers for changing the plot.

See, it’s true. All is not the way our hearts say it should. Even when friends are near and food is on the table, something aches. But denying it and hiding from it only aggravate and spread the hurt. Denial is the strongest poison out there. It made an entire country live with stewing hatred, only to explode every 10 to 15 years in violence so massive it merits the word “genocide”. It simmers in your heart, causing you to withhold communication from the ones that love you the most and can actually accept you as you are.

No we can’t change the evil and broken of the world. But we most certainly should not pretend that all is well.

“A doctor lets a war injury heal slowly from the inside out. He debrides dead tissue and drains poison. Close the wound up too quickly and the filth gets trapped inside. So it is with the mind. Don’t ever walk away and pretend or hope that things can be the way they were before this damage.”  Aidan Hartley, The Zanzibar Chest, pg 384 (in reference to witnesses of the horrors from Rwanda 1994).

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Hold On

An Open Letter to the Trees of Washington D.C.

My dearest vegetation,

You cannot begin to understand how much I care for you. And that is why I have to say what is written here.

Now I know it is unusual for a mere human to be advising Mother Earth. There are so many lessons mankind can learn from the plants and animals. And what I have to say is not a lesson I have fully embraced myself. Yet I beg of you to please heed my words. I love you. A lot. And I deeply want to see you succeed, prosper, and eventually return the goodwill to myself, and the other humans that take time to notice and appreciate you. Which is why I beg of you to be patient.

Oh sweethearts, hold on to your precious petals! It is not time to bloom. I understand that it seems safe now. You feel that the circumstances are ripe for you to reveal your true beauty. But don’t give up your buds so easily. I am aware of forces that you are not, and thus I know that now is not an okay time to blossom. You see, while the air has been so mild upon your branches, and the soil a warm, nourishing soil, there is still the possibility of a freeze. And if you cannot wait to show your face, it will be coated in ice and die. Please wait. Know that I want to see you so bad, oh I do. But I want to see you healthy, alive, and thriving. So I want you to wait a little longer to greet me. Keep sleeping, learning from the earth, and growing my dears. And once the earth moves a bit closer to the sun, it will be safe to fully emerge. Cherished ones please wait.

Until then,

Hannah Ricks and Jessica Rodgers

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Unemployment Tuesday

Looking for jobs is no fun. Coloring with 2 year olds is great fun.

Starting afresh, alone, is daunting. It is lonely, it has extreme joys and extreme disappointments, and can be boring. But I have been so blessed by the people I am meeting. I am bouncing from house to house on a weekly basis, which is certainly unsettling and frustrating. But also a fantastic way of receiving offerings from so many new people.

This week I am with a family that has a 2 year old boy. E is pretty incredible for his age. He is nearly entirely potty-trained (childhood development experts know that this is quite a feat!), holds full conversations that often pertain to his feelings or opinions about a subject (also, wow.) but most importantly is infinitely entertaining. Which is great because the constant online-resume-upload is getting tiring.

Yesterday it snowed in the city. E really wanted to go enjoy it. So E’s mom put him in some rubber boots and a coat made for a child twice his size. And while the eskimo boy traipsed around the sidewalk in front of the house, his mother and I stood at the window watching to ensure that he didn’t run into the street. E then decided he wanted to shovel the snow. (There is, at best, 1/2 an inch collected on the 4×6 patch of grass in front of the house and the street.) Over the next half-hour E diligently throws all of the snow from the grass onto the sidewalk, barely able to see out of the massive hood covering his face. It was better than any television show I’ve seen lately.

Today, E dropped me off at the train station so I could continue subjecting myself to act of selling one’s accomplishments that the unemployed go through. He held my hand from his car-seat for the entirety of the ride. Its nice to know that one is loved.

Finally, E refused a nap at the time when his parents and I really needed to get some work done. What to do in cases like these other than accept what is happening and alter your plans? So I spent the afternoon drawing fish, dinosaurs, signs, and dragons. He gave me several pieces of cut up paper and I gave him most of my drawings. Its always nice to receive handmade gifts.

Thanks E!

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New Beginnings

We all want a fresh start. Either the year was hard, the semester was hard, or the holidays were hard. My father’s company died 10 months ago, and he has yet to find another job. He has 30 years of experience in his field. Ashley moved home immediately following graduation and has been working at a coffee shop for 9 months because all the recently laid-off or unemployed executives have the entry-level jobs, and what else is a coveted “well-rounded” education for? Georgia scored the coveted paid internship, but is also at the beck and call of a high-powered woman who expects the world to revolve around her. So while the group of friends is out commiserating together, Georgia is back in her office retrieving the left behind cell-phone for delivery to the boss’ home. With a liberal arts degree, what choice does Tim have but to go back to school after already working his ass off for said degree? And after losing her best friend to cancer, Lindsey wants nothing more than for the holidays to end so she doesn’t have to constantly be reminded of the missing loved one.

While I have changed the majority of names above, at least one of their stories will resonate with every single reader. So we look to the new year for change, and hope that it brings better luck. Except we are actually half-way through the academic year (congratulations students), a fourth of the way through a fiscal year (how’s your portfolio doing?), at the end of the Chinese year based on the lunar calendar, and only at the beginning of the solar year as according to the Gregorian Calendar. Therefore expectations are that because the earth has successfully completed a full rotation around the sun, our lives have the potential to start anew. And so according to some tradition of our species, the 6 billion intelligent animals on the successfully spinning rock of space vow to themselves that their lives will be different on this next rotation. We make plans to uphold some obligation that has the potential of making us happier, or more successful, or appear to be a better functioning human.

If there is one thing that 2011 taught me, it’s that the only thing I will ever be successful at is the thing my heart actually wants. I go to school because that’s what grown people tell me is required of becoming grown up. I look for paying jobs because that’s what society tells me stable, mature people do. My friends get married because that’s what our culture says is the most secure thing for a woman to do. I travel because that is what I love to do. I write because I enjoy it. While these endeavors do not necessarily lead to the kind of success that society requires of its adults, I am successful in every one of these attempts because I am motivated to do what I enjoy.

What would it look like to choose a resolution that corresponds to an actual personal desire? And if we are going to gain inspiration and seek new beginnings with the patterns of earth’s rotation, why not look to every rotation, every reappearance of the sun on the horizon?

Every. Single. Day.

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