These Are My People: ORUUC

Oak Ridge Unitarian Universalist Church, Oak Ridge, Tennessee

Oak Ridge Unitarian Universalist Church, Oak Ridge, Tennessee

I’m not a religious person. I don’t classify or call myself anything in particular except maybe leaning towards spiritual. It’s not because I don’t believe in “something” but because I see validity is so much. A few years ago, I felt a strong push as I heard a loud voice tell me to go to the ORUUC. Over the course of two years I found the family I’d been promised by the winds. They didn’t come in the shapes, sizes, or ages I expected, but there is not a doubt in my heart or soul they are my blood kin.

From the youngest children, such as Rayn, to the oldest of children such as Miss Marge, I was blessed with knowing, learning, and understanding some of the most beautiful people I could have asked for. Outside of the confines of the church there were some people whom could meet my level of tomfoolery, but never in my adult life have I found the encouragement to be everything I was meant to be as I did there.

But how can I say that an entire church is my family? A church? It hardly seems possible. What I learned from them, will follow me everywhere I go because I value the life-lessons I was given.

Be Passionate

When I first started going to the Unitarian Universalist Church, I was wisely advised to take my time in selecting what I wanted to do because everything has passionate players. They weren’t kidding. I watched the different volunteer positions to see which I felt I could be enthusiastically involved with. I discovered I loved to greet people, loved to protect, and loved to serve. I ended up joining the safety team, co-leading the hosts and greeters, as well as serving as fifth Sunday usher. I even did coffee a couple times. Find what you’re passionate about and without excuse or what-if’s, jump in and do it.

Learn Names

One of my favorite things to do on a Sunday morning was to be greeter. I have a knack for remembering the names with faces I see often. I could greet nearly everyone in our medium sized congregation by name as they approached the door. That I could do that, hug them, welcome them, demonstrated I truly was glad to see them. Learning people’s name that you see every day no matter who they are is key to discovering some of the coolest people you might never had opportunity of doing so if not for that small effort. When you remember people’s names, they know that someone in the world knows they exist. I believe that’s crucial to mental health.

Talk is cheap, Action is richer

Many times I’d listen to people in the neighborhood where I lived talking about how unhappy they were with where they lived (I was one of them for a while), their circumstances, their addictions, their kids, the etc. What I noticed was that none of them were doing anything to change any of that. They just noted it sucked but continued the same behaviors. I learned that it’s okay to complain because, really, that’s just an acknowledgment that an issue exists.

Once you’ve realized there is a problem, making a difference is the only way that problem will go away. You can kick sand over it, behave like an ostrich, or pretend it doesn’t exist, but once you know it’s there, it’s the Universe’s way of nudging you to make it better. Terry Goodkind wrote in his Sword of Truth series (loosely quoted), “You already know what the problem is, think of the solution.”

I saw solutions pouring out of the people at ORUUC far more than I saw problems. It was the most collaborative group of people I’ve ever worked with. Even when hackles got ruffled, which happens in any large group, everyone worked to make sure that the final solution was a balance. Do what you need to do to bring the positive changes into the world because happiness is worth it.

Fool for love

Pastor Jake Morrill’s closing words for the services he gives are ones I took to heart. He says, “Be pilgrims for justice and fools for love!” What profoundly simple words with such an enormous responsibility behind them. If he chose a different closing, I’d walk away rather bummed because I truly took on the challenge when he would use it.

I believe we should all fall madly in love with the world every day. No excuses, just open your eyes and fall. Even the people or things that irk your sensibilities the most are worthy of love. It’s not for you to choose who is okay or what is okay to love, just do it.

I’m not in any way implying that you can’t have preferences, nor that you should eliminate safety measures for the sake of love. I’m saying that when you look at the world as if it were your intimate lover and you its muse, you’ll find a different kind of kismet with the divinity that is everything; The atom of begin times, the eve of creation.

To clarify, I call everything the Universe, because as a rule, we can all agree there is one. If I called the Universe God, then that specific version that you know/doubt/reject/hate/don’t believe in, would negate this idea. BUT! If I call it the Universe, we can meet at whatever version of that ultimate we accept.

Using this idea, be the fool for love because love has a transformational magic that can be witnessed where two hearts meet in unison. Thus, if you’re falling madly in love with the world every breath you take, does it not then make sense that love will rule your world? And further that love will light your path to happiness because love doesn’t hurt? Indeed. As I was taught by those who love me there, be that fool for love.

A village

A short while before I moved away, I received an email that reminded the Sunday volunteers of the roles they promised to step in to fill. A reply to that email was astounded at the amount of people that took responsibility to make the service appear to be without effort. It made me giggle a bit because I was actively involved in the volunteer activities. I knew how many people it took because of that.

Sidenote: My husband would get really frustrated with me because I’d try to do way more than my body could handle. He’d have to verbally remind me, “Mare, you’re not Atlas. You don’t have to do everything yourself.”

It’s the same when facing life’s many challenges (like moving out of state with a weeks notice). You’re not Atlas. Just like sharing your great experiences with your friends, sharing burdens makes them easier to bear as well. Nothing limits you to only putting on your good face. Being a human with All The Bumpy Bits is by far more deeply satisfying overall in my experience. When you find people willing to be human with you, that’s a rare and beautiful gift. Shine for them even from your darkest places. It’s worth it.

There are so many lessons I’ve learned from the beautiful people I am honored enough to call my friends at ORUUC that I couldn’t possibly cover it in one writing. I hope you will bear with me as I process this tremendous life shift. Together we can be incredible humans together on this wild journey called life.

The Suitcase

“You just don’t waltz into and out of people’s lives.” I found this quote in a podcast/article by a man I respect very deeply. The entire script and podcast is found HERE.

A happy suitcase wearing a hat

A happy suitcase wearing a hat

I’ve moved all over the country. Up until I got to Oak Ridge, I’d never in my entire adult life lived in the same house for more than two years. Considering I’ll be 47, that’s not a good track record for stability or longevity but it’s also taught me a lot about change, leaving, and transitions.

Most of the time when I’ve become disgruntled, disheartened, or feeling a loss of hope are the precise times I’d pack up the bags either metaphorically or physically and set them by the door. It was not uncommon for me to check those bags periodically to see that they match my state of mind given whatever the situation I faced.

If I ended up in a relationship that I knew may end, I’d pack the bag and set it down because I knew it would fail. I knew that I couldn’t give my whole heart to anyone who wasn’t willing to love me back the way I needed. It might have been because they were violent or they were absent from the beginning, or even that they were afraid like me to give in to the commitment all the while longing for that connection. No matter the reason, there was always a pile of luggage (not baggage because that has to be lugged around), ready by the front door.

The point for me when I knew it was time to leave was the point when my heart was irreparably broken. It would happen when I knew and understood that no matter what was done or said from that moment forward “WE” could never fill that trust back up again. I’d lost hope, trust, and an ability to want to rebuild it at that point.

I try to be mindful of relationships. I struggle to maintain some that aren’t good for me. Some demand that no matter what is happening in my life that their life is far more important. It has never been about anyone else, but for them to be at that point is an astonishing progression from “I don’t matter at all”, so I try to be mindful of that. It becomes unhealthy.

I’ve tried to remain friends with people who can’t see any light, no matter how bright. They are so asleep in so many ways that the only time I’ve allowed them to re-enter my periphery is when they really are trying to make changes for the better in their lives. When they are actively seeking answers that I’d given them before, but either they weren’t ready to hear, or they needed to find without my guidance. I’m not claiming to be a guru or an expert, but I’ve messed up enough to know certain things in life.

I’ve tried to be the best I can be no matter who I’m around, but sometimes my best isn’t what someone else needs. Sometimes they need a broken person with horrible feelings of self esteem to coddle, take care of, feel needed by to make up their own value as a person. When they reject every good given, that’s when the dependent person feels lost, vulnerable, and without taking time can fall into a vicious cycle of begging to be taken back.

With each one of those, I’ve waltzed out at will and sometimes against my will, but they’ve all ended in one way or another. My packed suitcases were at the ready so the transition was easier but no less painful. I don’t like that I’ve had to, for whatever reason, walk away from various lives in my lifetime, but self-preservation has been worth it.

What I didn’t expect, after reading the article, was a glance to my door and a note that there weren’t any suitcases packed there waiting. Not a duffel bag or a backpack, not even a fanny pack laid up waiting for my itchy gypsy toes to want to hit the road. BUT WHAT DOES THAT MEAN?! And why do I feel a sudden jolt of panic?

I’m in a marriage where there is a level of reciprocity that I’ve never had despite fumbling intentions before that had all failed. I’m in a neighborhood that is distasteful, but where I find myself waving at people I like and know. People that I tell my stories to and they tell me theirs. I discovered a diamond and platinum spiritual home that has given me a stability of family that I’d been missing for eons but found on accident thanks to John Lennon and John Denver. I have friends interwoven in generational blankets of uplifting proportions that bring me to a place of stellar humbleness, gratitude, and the best teachers of compassion I’ve ever known besides my Bapa’s family.

I think it’s safe to say that sometimes that waltz from one life to the next is necessary to move into the house that will become your home. The home where suitcases are no longer necessary because it’s truly where your heart is born, grows, and can be found at any time.

These Are My People: Marge Swenson

aliciameninga

This is not Marge Swenson. This is my friend Alicia. I love this picture.

abstractmichigan

This is an abstract interpretation of the original picture, minus my friend Alicia. It was taken with my phone, so I apologize for the quality.

There she is with her cheeks shining diamond smiles

Her eyes laughing blue sparkles of periwinkle

She ripples with giggles that bubble fountain-like

Barely restrained by her excitement to honor her calling

I unquestioningly obey her request for open arms

I pull her close to me in spirit love and protection

Warmth and true affection.

“How are you today, my beautiful friend?”

She pushes me away but doesn’t release me

She looks up into my eyes declaring, “I love you, so much.”

We share mutual admiration, forever, for a moment.

I jest with her of how much I love to learn at her knee

To greet, to host, to welcome, to embrace our community.

She laughs at me as if I were the village idiot

I’m inept compared to her. She’s a Mistress of Greeters

I, her apostle.

When the torch is handed onward, I pray I can continue

To honor her beautiful spirit with jovial conviviality

That she displays with the grace of whispering breezes

The dance the spring time brings that blesses each blossom with life

In tandem with the warm embrace of the sun.

MargeSwenson

This is Marge Swenson. She’s one of my favorite people, hands down. She’s just lovely.

A meal with friends

If you're a vegetarian or vegan, that steak is metaphorical.

If you’re a vegetarian or vegan, that steak is metaphorical.

My dear friends,

I invite you to my table where you may not like everything set in front of you, but if you nibble just a bit, perhaps you’ll discover that we like the same things but not spiced quite the same way. I want us to walk away from the table with heavy sighs of satisfaction, not frustration or the silence of an empty plate. I need you to rub your belly then your hands together and eagerly anticipate the next course to come. But first I need to establish some ground rules for this conversation so that we can see each other in a new light, candlelight perhaps with the soft glowing edges and the warmth of good natured humor served like gravy.

My friends, I gather you today to first offer you my hands. I offer you my hands in service because you’ve offered yours to me or to others. I’ve seen the example you set and I wish to embrace your hand with my own. I wish to mimic that which I have learned at your knee. I wish to give to those who have less than I do. I wish to hug those who need comfort. I wish to press my hands against the faces of those I love, you and my neighbors (even when this is far too difficult to do) with gentle caresses of: “I’ve been there too.” “I can help you.” “Let’s do this together.” I will share my hands.

My dear ones, I bring you with me to give a part of my spirit to each of you. I offer you my spirit so that you know you’re not alone. I offer you that place you can put your woes and troubles without having someone try to fix you or the situation. Even though I may try, I know, as you do, that I can only offer support while you learn how to live your life. We all do this. We all try on things our spirit can’t handle and mine has worn many hats. I will shine for you when the night in your heart is so dark and you feel you’ve lost your way. I can be your lighthouse. I can because you’ve asked. I can be your champion because you require it of me. And when you’ve used what you need and what I can give to you, we will continue on our paths, better for the adventure we’ve shared spirit to spirit, step by step. I will give you parts of my spirit.

My beloved ones, I am delighted that you join me at the table of love. I offer you my friendship wearing the face of devotion that love gives me. I do, however, need to remind you that I am, like you, human. I will do my best to give to you the love my heart has for you. Even if I don’t understand, if you come to me with troubled heart, my arms will open to shower you with encouragement because love, to me, does that. It shows me that I am beautiful. It shows me that I am worthy. It shows me that I have more strength than I imagined. It shows me that even with all my lumpy bumpy bits, I am destined to become the best version of me just as you are to become the best version of you. There isn’t a linear timeline to dictate when you will be this mythical you or the fantasy me. Sometimes we are everything we’re meant to be, other times we are striving to gain our footing. I will love you through it because I need/want/have to and I may/may not have regrets about it, but that’s my battle, not yours. I will give you love.

My sisters and brothers, this sounds like a zombie idea, and maybe it is, but I will gift you my intellect. My ideas, ideals, thoughts, knowledge, and wisdom are yours to rifle through like a high-end second-hand sale. My ideas because they may help you stride forward in your world and people don’t forget that. My ideals because Utopia can only occur if we continue to strive for an unobtainable perfection that I see with my Spirit Eyes from the Otherwhere. My thoughts because sometimes they share with me a place that seems wacky, outrageous, and naked as a jay-bird but filled with mischief and delightful daring that presses forward into the mundane world with colorful prances of pretty playgrounds the world is renowned for owning. My knowledge because I read less than I should but more than others. I try hard not to just scratch the surface on things that interest me because it’s when you’ve dug down through the facts and seen both sides of the story that you can figure out the truth in your own mind. You can make your own decisions. I will try to help by maintaining as accurate of a log in my mind to share with you. If I don’t know, I will find the answer or we can seek it together. We can learn from/with one another. My wisdom I also offer because I’ve made a lot of bad decisions that gave me perspective on so many of the defined nouns and yet they are but a drop in the bucket of what this world has available. I query everything and everyone to discover the secrets it/they hold(s) and I’m rarely disappointed. I invite you to share your intellect with me. I will gift you with what treasures my vessel has accumulated so we can fill one another with knowledge.

And if, as I intended at the beginning of our “meal” together, we push back with a burp and smile at one another with a peaceful parting of ways, then that we’ve broken bread together makes my heart happy. I wish for you peace, blessings, and the pursuit of your own bliss, for when we are together in whichever capacity we are kind enough to share, then I know we will both and all be better for it. Please pass on the bread of life sugared and spiced exactly right for you and for me. Peace and light to you my dear friends. I wish you a fond good life.

I See You

Kaleidoscope_13I see you. You are not invisible to me. When I look at you, you wear no clothes. You wear no physical form. There is a ball around your body that lights up when you’re around people you like and dims when you’re not fond of them. The ball has colors and patterns that are spectacularly blended to me. I see you.

You’re a kaleidoscope of vivid colors that ebb and flow depending on how you move the liquid essence that you float in unwittingly. Where there is pain, I see the darkness. Where there is love, I see the light. Where you reside is usually a central color that tells me everything I need to know about you. I am a voyeur of sorts but not the creepy kind. I will not jump from your closet unexpectedly one night. I will meet you on the terms you’ve established. Because I can feel your intent.

I’m sorry if you feel I’ve invaded your privacy. I don’t know how to turn it off. I don’t really don’t want to because it’s served me so well. It’s proven invaluable to me to seek others of the light. It’s proven invaluable to me when I know I can’t trust a person because they are too consumed by material things to know they’re spiritual beings. It’s guided me effectively to incredible experiences through people with knowledge so deeply profound that I sometimes weep with gratefulness while others cause me deep caution.

It’s a feeling of authentic appreciation of identity that can only bloom with the watering of confidence when I see people that fit into their spirits; That “get it”. When I see someone working actively to grow into their spirits, I can forgive almost anything they do because I witness the evolution of color as if a perfect painting were in the works and I get to watch the brushstrokes fall on the canvas. It’s glorious to see. My gift allows me the privilege without effort.

There are also people who are not exactly dark and not exactly light. They are in a flux between worlds. The material world grabs their ankles and wrists tugging them away from their destiny. Their spirit self does a watoosie trying to find footing, trying to fill in the blanks. There are some that stand in this disarray and cry out that they don’t know who they are or that they don’t know what they’re doing. Nobody knows for sure what we’re doing. We just come up with a plan and see how it pans out. If we’re lucky, we have guides to show us the way out. I am one of those guides but I don’t know everything.

It is increasingly difficult when I feel as if I am carrying/dragging them towards the light. They start off saying, “Oh yes! I really want to do something different and I really like your ideas. Let’s go on this journey together.” I comply and we have long talks deep into the night. The kind that feels like it is the most important conversation I’ll ever have. For that moment in time that glimpse into the moonlight or the daylight it truly is. The intensity can’t be matched because it is so relevant. It is crucially real. But they fall back asleep and forget that we’d every spoken the conversation. With some, that shine so brightly but fear themselves, I keep trying to wake them up because I believe they need to be; because they said they wanted to be.

I don’t say anything to people who are dark. I don’t squeal with delight when I see them. Their wounds run far too deep for me to do anything other than shine a light at the end of their tunnel and coax them from sleep if they’re ready. There have been times when words came out of my mouth that weren’t mine but were intended for a particular person. Just like that, it’s as if a small miracle, sometimes large, happens but it isn’t mine. That’s when my light can reach into that dark place and help bring them home to the light where they belong. Those are the people that shoot past me like a rocket grinning from ear to ear on the tides of self-discovery and I cherish each one that finds that place. I do not gift them because it’s already theirs as it is yours. I may just nudge the light a tad to the right so they can see they’re really okay.

But I can’t carry them. I can’t wake them up. I can’t do that. I can’t pick someone up and force them to embrace their colors. It is ALWAYS the individual choices that color their spirits. It is ALWAYS their responsibility. I learned this and other rules of engagement when watching the masterpieces I encounter.

I can’t tell people what color they will become but I can tell them what color I see. The colors don’t have traits as much as they have emotions attached to them. When I see the colors and I really like them, I have to wait. I can’t immediately bond with them because rarely, but it does happen, they are wearing someone else’s colors. Like maybe they had a bad interaction with someone so it clouds their spirit or they’ve just received great news and are wearing that instead of their normal vestments. It’s the wolf in sheep’s clothing that causes me to ease my steps.

The physical being, the way you wish people to see you comes second. When I see someone that matches their physical self with their spirit self, it’s a feeling of home. It’s a feeling of such personal integrity, I think, “YOU! You’re there!” Sometimes it surprises me so much to find an authentic person that I actually say that out loud. There are many people who come close to matching but, it’s like they choose the wrong pair of socks or the wrong shade of happy. It’s just enough off for me to recognize that they’re missing parts of themselves or aren’t aware they are. It is my experience that it’s typically the latter.

The physical being does matter. I don’t wish you to have the wrong impression. I do see it, but not until I’ve peered through the spirit. When I tell someone that they are beautiful, I see them as I’ve described to you. I wish I could paint each person so they could see their beauty too. As if, if I could create them on canvas, they might appreciate their own divinity that seems apparent to me. But instead I’ll follow the advice of my kind Uncle Les who said, “Mare, whatever you do, keep doing it. The world needs more of it.” So it is written, so it is done.

I really dig

I really dig that when I open up my blog reader

I find people-y readers lurking about, liking this or that.

I really dig that when I peer back through the shop window

the readers grunt, groan, lust, hug, love and hate like I do.

I really dig that when I peer through the looking glass

I don’t find my readers slumped sleeping in side-chairs.

I really dig that they poke fingers to keys while:

drinking coffee

popping pills

drinking bourbon

honoring artists

dancing with desires for origami people on paper they will print.

I really dig that the people I don’t know by face

stare back at me as we travel, passing on our reader’s train.

I really dig when we arrive at the same destination of personal truth.

Because that’s when the shit gets real.

These Are My People: Freddie Nechtow

The Aurora Borealis promenade the northern skies
The wisdom of your lifetime animates and implies
Coaxing your stellar erudition in your voice alone
Embracing with the emotional blessing of Shalom.
Compassionate communication are not just words to you
Bringing galaxies of practicality, a gift to others imbued
They are words that you exemplify in your actions kind
A serenity of spirit, a pastoral state of mind.