Saturday, December 10, 2011

Tao or Dao

When I tell people I am a Taoist, a frequently asked question of anyone well read in religious texts asks the questions, "What's the difference between Tao and Dao?"

There is a simple answer to this question and a complicated answer to the question.  The simple answer is mistranslation.  When the texts were first translated into English, the word was translated as "tao" and as scholars gained more knowledge (and our communication with China became more open) we learned that a more accurate translation was "dao".  At that point, however, Taoism was well known enough and documented well enough that the change was difficult for lay people to understand.  This led to a strange division of those who kept the old translations (tao, laotzu, etc.) and those that switched to the new ones (dao, laozi, etc.).  Generally, I have found academics to have switched, and those less concerned with labeling to have stayed the same, or like me, came in after the fact and are just confused or don't care which is used (my take). 

The long answer is much more complicated and steeped in judgement.  I would point you to this document for an example of what I mean: what is dao?.  Though there is some interesting information there, the author dismisses all translations and interpretations other than from his own academically driven circle.  Daoism is the name of a religion still existing in China, though it is not recognizable to most Western Taoists (or PWT as the author calls us).  This religion is steeped in traditions and ceremonies that are heavily influenced by the Chinese culture and Confusianism throughout the generations.  These academics are very dismissive and even insulting of other interpretations of the works, especially any coming from the western culture.

I attribute this attitude to a black and white view of what it means to be a daoist (a rather un-Taoist view in my opinion).  An interesting parallel happens in my mind when looking at the history of Taoism to a rather well known religion of Christianity.  If ever there was a group of religious people who couldn't agree with each other, it's Christians.  Among themselves, they have dozens of different denominations, some of which seem to have little in common other than they worship the Bible on Sundays.  Then you have the religions that came before (Judaism) after Christianity (Islamic, Mormanism) that still believe in the teachings of the Bible and Jesus Christ to at least some extent.  The members of each of these religions (in general) feels they are right, and judges those others as wrong and  misinterpreting the Bible.  I feel the same type of thing is happening within Daoism/Taoism.

What led me to Taoism in the first place was the new-age spirituality aspect that the "true" daoists hate so much.  I am not judging these daoists as right or wrong in their assumptions.  Perhaps the translations I have come to love so much are horribly wrong, and misrepresent the actual author's intentions.  I guess my reaction to that is, I don't care.  The teachings are not harming anyone, and if it makes you feel better to designate it as PWT then by all means do so.  My question is, isn't there room for both of us?  Isn't there space for more than a single interpretation of the texts?  So what if some of them are western oriented?  Do you have to judge us in such an insensitive manner?  The Taoism that I love teaches tolerance, is that not so in your version?

I guess it all boils down to, "Can't we all just get along?" 

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

TV family quirks

I try not to constantly post about things that bug me, but an episode of a show I love stirred a pet peeve of mine tonight.

On television, there is a formula where a parent is sometimes completely unsupportive of their children, usually to the point of being rude and mean.  Generally this involves not supporting some sort of artistic venture, or some other type of outlet the parent has no experience with.  This part doesn't bother me, because it's a somewhat real depiction of certain families (thankfully not my own but I have known several like this).  In this case, it was a Korean dad who could not support his son wanting to be a dancer, I feel this is a likely scenario for many young boys, should they find their passion in dance.

The part that bugs me generally happens toward the end of the episode.  After being tricked or guilted into attending a performance, the dad suddenly realizes that his son is a terrific dancer and he was wrong all along.  After being a total douche the whole episode (in this case multiple episodes) now he suddenly supports his son's ambition and all is right in TV land again.

Here's my problem with this outcome.  It portrays an idea that a parent like this could change their mind, if you just try hard enough.  Of course it could happen, but not one of my friends who have a parent like this has ever experienced such a transformation.  Mild and reluctant tolerance is the best I've heard, which is a far cry from the sudden support seen by these tv teens.

I worry that we are sending the wrong message to the tv watching teens who are in a similar situation.  They are seeing that they should continue to seek dad's approval until he comes around.  This could potentially lead to unpleasant situations as the teen doesn't get the outcome hoped for.  I would like to see the teen come to the revelation that they do not need that parent's approval to love themselves for who they are.  Let's see them rally support from others around them, and find ways to work around the challenge when considering their future while still being respectful to his parents.  Perhaps this is too realistic for TV, but I think it is an opportunity to help those with parent(s) who are unsupportive see that they are not alone, and the disapproval doesn't mean there's something wrong with them.

This was my short rant.  Moral of the story, what others think cannot define you, only you can do that.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Another Year, Another Win

It's official, I have hit the lovely 50K words and won NanoWrimo.  It feels great, but something happened this time that never has before.  Not only did I finish on the 19th (wow!)  but I found myself going long.  The story is not over, and the end is nowhere in sight at 50k.  I guess I finally found a subject matter that inspires me to go on and on.  I found myself feeling very spiritual as I was writing about my main character who was being taught the principles of the way.  How amazing, to combine my writing with spirituality seems like an automatic win for me.  I'm not sure how marketable this book will be, but I don't care because it helped me get to a really good place.

The challenge of writing a thesis and a novel in the same month helped me feel like I can do anything.  I hope I can maintain this positive feeling, and staying with the Tao, I know is the way. 

Other happenings include: finally getting moved in enough to park both vehicles in the garage, hosting turkey day at my new house, and sipping tea by my working fireplace.  Pretty content right now.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

November Has Come

It's that time of year again.  Time for National Novel Writing Month where authors scramble to write 50,000 words in 30 days.  I am participating again this year, even though I am also working on writing a thesis for my Masters degree (Raving, I am, stark raving mad!!)  What makes this year different is that this year I decided to do Taoist theme to the book (see the revelation post below).  I love the idea of exploring my own spirituality while my character explores hers.

I decided to not make the references blatant, meaning that nowhere in the book will it talk about the Tao.  Instead, the sages in my book will refer to it as the Myst.  I do this for a few reasons. 
1. It gives me more room for fantasy aspects I would like to add in.
2. My personal interpretation of the greatest book ever written will not be called into question
3. I feel like it makes the concept more accessible to the massess.

Wish me luck!!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Another Year of NanoWrimo

As many of you will recall, for the last two years I have participated in National Novel Writing Month.  I'm thrilled to have won both years, and of course find myself wishing to participate again this year.

I am also currently working on my Master's Thesis in a capstone course with Capella University.  This involves a lot of writing all by itself, so do I really want to add the challenge of writing 50,000 words in a single month on top of that?  I found myself floundering in my answer to that question.  Then when I was talking to a friend who was considering Nanowrimo this year, I told them the thing I tell everyone.

"Why not try?  Worse case scenario, you don't win, but will have a decent start on a novel.  Is that really losing?"

My own words rang true in my head, and I realized I needed to take my own sage advice, and at least try.

So I began thinking of ways to simplify the writing process.  The first idea: write a sequel to one of the other novels I have written, this way the prep work is done for me.  The first, Shades of Magic, is currently available on Amazon and Kindle, and I have had requests for a sequel to it.  The other, Liberty Springs, is still in the editing process, but has content I absolutely love and a really unique concept.

I began pondering which sequel to do, settled on Liberty Springs and began brainstorming ideas for the new book.  I stalled.  Hard.  Nothing inspired me at all, I just wasn't feeling it.  I hopped to Shades of Magic for a moment, but quickly discarded it as well.  Am I doomed to not be inspired for Nano?

Last night, inspiration came in the form of the Tao.  I found myself perusing the Tao Te Ching for inspiration (a common habit of mine) and it hit me like a ton of bricks.

What if I write about Taoism?  I love learning about new things when I read a fiction story, so why not introduce someone to the concepts of Taoism.  I don't want to write a religious book, though.  So what if I call the Tao something else?  What if I introduce the lessons taught in the Tao Te Ching through storytelling?  The juices are flowing now!!

Thank you Tao :D

Sunday, October 2, 2011

An Angry Taoist?

Recent events found me and some close friends dealing with a large amount of anger.  After an interchange with some co-worker type people, we found ourselves seething.  It was bad enough that even after we parted ways, the anger was enough to spur further texting and even ill feelings the next day as we returned to our tasks.

My friend (non-Taoist mind you) asked me, what would Lao Tzu do?

What a terrific question.  I had no idea.  I decided to peruse my pocket Tao Te Ching, and some of my goto websites for Taoist info about the subject.

The verse that stood out to me the most was 37:
"The way takes no action, but leaves nothing undone.
  When you accept this the world will flourish, in harmony with nature.
Natures does not possess desire; Without desire, the heart becomes quiet; In this manner the whole world is made tranquil."

Another is a part of 49:
"A sage is good to those who are good; He is also good to those who are not good.  Thereby, he is good."

There is also an abundance of statements about cultivating harmony and the importance of inaction.  It says that compassion is the finest weapon and best defense used in an altercation. 

Anger is a force that feeds upon itself.  In the example situation, the others were angry because they were inconvenienced (not intentionally) by our actions.  They lacked compassion in their words when explaining it to us.  Our anger (At least my own) came from feeling a lack of gratitude.  The others had not completed their work well, yet criticized the hard work we had put in. 

I now realize that my anger came from a place of ego.  I took the anger that was thrown at me and absorbed it.  That anger acted like poison in my system.  I found myself replaying the scene again and again, anger rising each time.  This anger was merely from memories though, not from the actions themselves.  My feeling of anger was a way to keep that injustice alive.  This is where inaction becomes key.  I should have made my feelings known in a kind and compassionate manner, and then simply accepted the situation as it is and moved on with my night.

I'm not done exploring this concept, as I feel it is an important one.  But I feel better knowing how I may be able to handle that situation in the future.

So, what would Lao Tzu do?  I think he would be able to kindly take the criticism and then let it go.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Don't Get Your Hopes Up

There's a common saying around my house in the last two plus years.  "Don't Get Your Hopes Up." 

When you are trying to do something that proves quite difficult and unlikely, it's something that we will likely all here from someone.  Well, I'm tired of not getting my hopes up.  There, I said it.  I'll get my hopes up if I want to.  This scenario can go one of two ways:

First way:
Take every action to achieve goal, believing that this time it just might work.
If it doesn't work, a period of feeling crushed may ensue.

Second way: 
Take actions to achieve goal while not really believing it could work.  Feel defeated and like actions are pointless.  Be crushed when it doesn't work, even though you didn't think it would.

There may be other options for different scenarios, but these are the two I'm choosing between right now.  And I think I'll take the first way.  I'd rather have days of hope, because hope makes me feel good.  It improves my overall attitude and is a bright spot in an otherwise murky experience.  I tried a few rounds of the second, and it was almost scary how dark the place I got to was.  Well, that's not for me.

Sorry Captain, I'm gonna get my hopes up, and if it doesn't work, I'm probably gonna cry.  Because I feel, and believe it or not, feelings are good.  But then I'll pick myself up and find new hope for next time.  And I'll be a much happier person for it.

As my mother's favorite song says:
Gotta Do It My Way.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

The end result

Well, it's Sunday, the day after the end of my fast.  I lasted 38 hours.  I might have been able to go longer, but convenience won out because I was swamped with schoolwork for the day.

I had less than 1/4 of a honeydew melon, and had to stop.  I felt a little off still yesterday, and a little weak.  I had a lot of trouble going to sleep both Friday and Saturday, so I'm hoping that won't last too much longer.

But the good news is, today my digestive tract feels better than it has in forever.  My stomach seems to have shrunk, I'm full rather easily (great news for my waistline).  But best of all, my attitude has improved ten fold.  I feel rejuvenated in a really core way.

For those that are interested, I dropped 4.5 lbs between the start and end of the fast.  Keep in mind that it will most likely all return (water weight and such) but it's a fun way to keep at it, watching the number keep going down.  I've already gained back half, but maybe I can slow down the rest with some smart choices.

Bottom line is this, I am SO glad I chose to do this fast.  I learned a lot about myself (boredom eater!) and helped my body fix itself rather than try to medicate my way to health.  My mental health has benefited as well, it really got me out of the funk I've been in and gave me some important perspective.

So yes, Whit, it's been a fruitful experience!!

I am in no way suggesting that others partake in fasting, please consult your physician and yada yada, just don't blame me if bad things happen to you, it's not my fault.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

24 hours in

So here I am, 24 hours in to a 36 hour fast.  It has been an interesting day to say the least.

First of all, I spent all but the last 4 hours (7-11) of the day all alone.  This allowed for a few good rounds of meditation, but also tested my will power A LOT.  I was sitting here at home, with a fridge full of food, not to mention the yummy fruits I have already prepared for breaking the fast tomorrow.  Watermelon has never smelled so good!!

The thing I learned the most about myself today is that I eat out of boredom.  When occupied, this fast was a piece of cake.  Such as now as I am writing, if I feel an uncomfortable feeling in my stomach, I drink a few ounces of water and it passes.  When bored, however, my thoughts immediately went to food.

I also noticed an upswing around the times when I would normally eat.  My literature told me to expect this, as the body is used to its "feeding times".  But I think it has done me good to feel "real" hunger.  So often, I get bent out of shape if asked to wait an hour or two past my normal eating time.  That seems so silly to me now, having gone 24 hours without food and not in extreme amounts of pain.

One unexpected symptom: A horrible coating on my tongue that brought with it a nasty acidic metallic taste.  Again, I've looked it up and it's not abnormal.  But water certainly does not cut the taste, so a tongue scraper was my best friend today.

Perhaps the most important revelation today came during one of my mediations (they did seem easier today).  I have been struggling to deal with infertility, feeling like it is a never ending roller coaster that I must be crazy to stay on.  In a moment of clarity, a Star Wars reference came to me and lifted me from the funk.  "Do or do not, there is no try."  While some may question the validity of the source, The Force is quite Taoist and seems a natural fit for me.  I realized in that moment, that I had been "trying" to have a baby.  We were "trying" to fix Capt.'s health issue.  We were "trying" to deal with it emotionally as well.  Well, thanks to Yoda, I'm through trying.

We are fixing the problem, we will be successful, and we will deal with whatever comes our way.

I couldn't ask for a better outcome for today.  I will say that I am looking forward to my fruit tomorrow VERY much.  I am on the fence about the possibility of future fast.  I'm thinking I may try a brown rice fast next, but we'll see how I feel about it all tomorrow when it's done.

Thanks for sharing my journey with me.  :D

Friday, August 19, 2011

Let the Fasting Begin

As promised, I have begun a new spiritual adventure.  I am currently 12 hours in to my very first fast.

For those that don't know, a fast is simple a length of time where a person chooses not to eat.  There are many reasons that people choose to fast, but generally they fall into two categories: Health & Spiritual.

Health- There are many health benefits to fasting, in fact our bodies are made to periodically fast.  Many cultures consider short fasts to be a part of a healthy lifestyle.  The general idea is that you give your body a break from digestion (where most of your daily calories are burnt), allowing it to focus on other ailing areas.  People have experienced wonderful benefits including release from depression, cured digestive ailments, and many chronic diseases.  Allowing your body to heal itself is as natural as it gets.

Spiritual- Everyone from Christians to Buddhists participate in fasts.  Jesus himself was known to fast.  Perhaps his most famous was the 40-day fast prior to his three year mission.  This is where the 40 days and 40 nights of sacrifice for God comes from.  Buddhist monks routinely practice fasting as well as Islamic people, Native Americans, and of course, Taoist and Zen practitioners as well.  Fasting provides a time of mental clarity where meditations are deeper (some feel closer to God) and self-discovery.

For me, the reasons are all of the above.  I am hoping to become a regular faster (once a month or year depending on length), but I know I must start small.  My goal for this fast is 36 hours.  I am following proper fasting procedure, eating only fresh fruit before and after the fast to aid the transition.  They say that the first 12 hours is the hardest, so I purposely put those hours during sleep, and so far so good.  I'm having some hunger pains, but nothing unmanageable. 

I will not be posting anything about my fast anywhere but here, as advised by my books, because people do not understand fasting, and it's easier for me to not have to defend against misunderstanding during the fast.  But please know that fasting is COMPLETELY different from starvation.  I am in a controlled and unstressful environment.  I will not develop Anorexia which is noted by a distorted body image (I'm perfectly aware of the actual shape of my body).  But most importantly, if done right, fasting is not dangerous.  My body will be better off, not damaged by this practice.

I will try to report again either late tonight or tomorrow with any revelations that may come my way during my fast. I hope to try different kinds of fasts and different kinds of meditations while fasting and report back here.

Wish me luck :)

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Power of the River

Be still as the mountain and flow like the great river.

This is a Taoist mantra I find myself always repeating to myself (even considering tattoo representation). Well, does the US have a river greater than the mighty Mississippi?

This weekend we camped at Buffalo Shores, a campsite with free access to the beach of the Mississippi River. It was awe inspiring! Don't get me wrong, I love camping on lakes, especially ones that you can swim in. But there is just something different about a river. I'm a firm believer that everything in nature has an energy to it, and the energy from this river was amazing. We would sit on the shore, running our fingers through the sand and watching the water slowly come back and forth on our feet. A full moon made this a mystical experience to beat all!

The large paddleboats were fun to watch, and the never ending barges going by was great. Always something to watch. The campsite itself was a little crowded, every site being full. But the accommodations were nice, and we ended up next to some really nice people. Great food and catching up with a friend we never see were the top off of a great weekend. I really had no desire to leave, it was such an inspiring experience making the real world seem so mundane.

I feel closer to the Tao after this weekend, and have been inspired to try something new spiritually. More details on that later, but amazing how one weekend getaway can recharge a soul!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

An interesting question about parenting

I was recently asked an interesting question. I was giving a reference for a friend concerning a foreign exchange program and was asked the question, "Would you let your child stay with these people for a year?" I answered without hesitation, easy question (even though I don't have have a child, lol).

We had houseguests this weekend when I got that call, and it occurred to me. If you want to know about parenting, would it not be a better question to ask, "Would you willingly watch their child for a year." It happens that I would also do that in a heartbeat for the people I was referencing for. Our houseguests at the time, on the other hand, would be a different story.

Now to be fair, our visitor was in his terrible two's, much more difficult than the older children referenced earlier, but I think I would have taken them at two as well (even though I didn't know them then so I can be 100%).

I just wonder if it is a better tell of parenting style by looking at the children and their behavior. Of course I realize that all kids are different and I don't mean to pick on our little visitor because he also adorable and very loved. But compatibility can be an issue when dealing with caring for other people's kids.

Interesting food for thought.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Austen quote

Why not seize the pleasure at once? How often is happiness destroyed by preparation, foolish preparation!
~Jane Austen

Saturday, July 16, 2011

The river and the highway

There is a Pam Tillis song that I've always loved, and I feel as though it describes my husband and I's relationship rather well. Ironically, the point of the song is that the two people could never be together, but my husband and I are going strong, so we must have figured something out.

She follows the path of least resistance. She doesn't care to see the mountain top.
She twists and turns with no regard to distance. She never comes to a stop.

And she rolls, she's a river. Where she goes, time will tell.
Heaven knows, he can't go with her, And she rolls, all by herself

He's headed for a single destination. He doesn't care what's standing in his path.
He's a line between two points of separation. He ends just where it says to on the map.

And he rolls, he's a highway. Where he goes, time will tell.
Heaven knows, she can't go with him, And he rolls, all by himself

And every now and then, he offers her a shoulder
And every now and then, she overflows
And every now and then, a bridge crosses over
It's a moment every lover knows

And she rolls (and he rolls)
She's a river (he's a highway)
Where she goes (where he goes)
Time will tell (Time will tell)
Heaven knows she can't go with him (he can't go with her)
And she rolls all by herself
And he rolls all by himself
Fare thee well

I think it's funny that a song I've listened to and liked since I was a teenager could mean so much to me now and describe our relationship so well. Even funnier that it would so accurately describe my Taoist leanings, before I even knew what Taoism was.

Be like water.

Monday, July 4, 2011

A Burning Hut

I came across a story the other day that really spoke to me, so I thought I would share it here. I cannot cite the specific author, as where I heard it did not acknowledge. It kind of has a Christian leaning, but I really appreciate the message nonetheless.

The Burning Hut

The only survivor of a shipwreck washed up on a small, uninhabited island. He prayed feverishly for God to rescue him, and every day he scanned the horizon for help, but none seemed forthcoming. Exhausted, he eventually managed to build a little hut out of driftwood to protect him from the elements, and to store his few possessions. But then one day, after scavenging for food, he arrived home to find his little hut in flames, the smoke rolling up to the sky. The worst had happened; everything was lost. He was stung with grief and anger. “God, how could you do this to me!” he cried.

Early the next day, however, he was awakened by the sound of a ship that was approaching the island. It had come to rescue him. “How did you know I was here?” asked the weary man of his rescuers.

“We saw your smoke signal,” they replied.

This is what I would call a silver lining story. Conveying that even in the darkest hour, they may be something good that will come of it. I don't see this as a reason to celebrate a tragedy, far from it. But I have been longing for a message on how to keep hope alive through repeated failure, and this little story gave me my answer. I will remember as my hut is burning, that it may just be the smoke signal that brings my rescue.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Stages of Grief

It’s been awhile since I wrote in my blog, so I will reward you faithful readers with something very personal.

I have mentioned previously my journey to become a mother continues to be a difficult one. Infertility is a difficult diagnosis to say the least, and worse, doctors tend to be very grim and immediately jump to severe western medicine style intervention. The diagnosis can be scary, though it is not life threatening (for most) it is life altering to say the least. For this reason, I think I have been going through the five stages of grief as described by Kuber-Ross in their 1969 book Death and Dying. My close friends and family can tell you that I have been all over the place when it comes to dealing with this issue. I am happy to report that after almost 3 years of suffering, I think I have finally reached the acceptance stage.

For any who don’t know the Kuber-Ross model of grief, I’ll explain it. When someone is dying or loosing a loved one, they tend to enter different distinct stages to deal with the grief. It has long been thought that this model can also be applied to a loss of any kind, hence my ability to use it to describe my fertility journey.

Stage One: Denial

This is possibly the easiest to pinpoint for me. The majority of couples conceive a child within the first six months of trying, and the rest do in the next six months. The medical definition of infertility is actively trying to conceive for over a year without success. Yet, when we hit that mark, we did not begin to seek answers, we just kept at it. It was over a year and half before we sought answers because we were afraid of what we’d find. Once we finally did, we got our answer. Ironically, I see now that denying the problem did us no good whatsoever, but it was how we were coping at the time.

Stage Two: Anger

To this day, I will have small outbursts of anger over the injustice of it all. But during this stage, it was constant. I looked at those around me who accidentally fell pregnant, or achieved it easily, and find ways that they were somehow less worthy than I was. Usually financially, but sometimes knowledge, age, or even morals would be the subject of my injustice rants. This is the stage where avoidance begins. I began avoiding anyone who was pregnant or who had children. It was my angry opinion that no one on the planet properly appreciated the children they had, and I was being punished by having to be near them. I regret this stage more than any since it had lasting affects on many relationships because very few of them have any clue what it’s like to go through this.

Stage Three: Bargaining

For me, bargaining came in the form of adoption. Not only would I be willing to raise someone else’s child, as time went on, my preferences went out the window and I would be willing to do anything to become a mom. My husband prevented this from taking over our plans, which I am thankful for now, but wasn’t happy about at the time. Ironically, as we pursued the adoption route, we realized that it’s not much of an option for us either (for disability and religious reasons). So just as those often bargaining for more life, my pleas were futile, and only served to depress me more.

Stage Four: Depression

I have spent more time in this stage off and on than any other. But through the last year it has gotten pretty bad. I question my worth as a person, and especially as a woman. Avoidance continues in this stage because I may burst into tears at the sight or mention of a baby. Older kids bothered me less in this stage, not sure why that is. I quit wanting to do anything and preferred to spend the day feeling sorry for myself and obsessing over what I don’t have. I had Weltschmerz - It means the depression that arises from comparing the world as it is to a hypothetical, idealized world (quoting Sheldon from Big Bang Theory, lol) a recipe for depression every time.

Stage Five: Acceptance

It is this stage where I find myself now. An important realization happened to me recently, and it led my path to this final and lasting level. We moved recently, and I have found that I am able to be much happier in the new house. I first attributed this to the obvious reasons (yay, new house, it’s bigger and freakin awesome:P ). I also dreaded the time I spent finishing up removing things from the old place, again I attributed it to the fact that doing that kind of stuff sucks and seems never ending.

Here’s what led to the revelation. I was going through a pile of papers, really dull work, when I unfolded a piece of paper and immediately burst into tears. What horrible thing could be on that paper, you ask? Nothing incredible, it was a printout of a wallpaper border that was dated August of 2008. As I sat there weeping softly, my brain suddenly reeled. Why did I have no control over this reaction, and why did I react so intensely to a piece of paper? Then I realized, that this piece of paper was what it was all about.

My grieving process has not been about the loss of being a mother (I remain confident it will happen for me someday), nor is it the loss of my fertility, it’s the way I felt when I printed out this paper and showed it to all my friends in family that I will never have again. It’s feeling like being a parent is something I can choose to do whenever I want, and feeling in charge of my own destiny that I lost. It’s feeling like planning life and making responsible decisions will always pay off that I lost. This paper signified the time when I thought we had decided to start our family. I rushed to paint a room in order to get it done before I got pregnant (LMAO, I think I made it). I had rearranged, and planned and planned how to make room for a baby in that house, never once thinking that I would be moved out of the house before a baby would come. Each time I go back there, I am reminded of all these plans, all the ideas, and all of the hope, that just isn’t possible anymore. A loss of innocence so to speak.

But in my beautiful new house, I have always been infertile, and thus have no painful memories to trigger me. It’s a change, and that can sometimes help, but for me it’s all about the lack of being reminded constantly that dreams didn’t come true. Anyway, all of these realizations led me to eventually find acceptance, and life is much better here, let me tell you. Here’s a few differences:

- I now celebrate when I hear someone got pregnant. No really, I am so happy for a dear friend that just told me in confidence. She and her husband will never have to know the pain that Captain and I do, and I am so thankful for that. It’s funny how we infertile people tend to wish our problem on others. If I had cervical cancer, would I wish others to have it? Of course not. Well hoping for others to not get pregnant could be the same as wishing infertility on them. There will always be some situations that are hard (like being a great aunt before being a mom), but I can get past them this way and truly be happy for the people involved. An important step.

- I will be a mom, no doubt in my mind. I will likely be an older mom, but that’s okay. There are advantages and disadvantages to having kids at any age. Younger mom’s have a lot going for them, but I have wisdom and money in my corner, lol.

- I cannot change the past, but I have the power to change my present and future, so that’s all that matters.

- There is no ideal family, nor is there a picture perfect way to begin one. Many women have told me they wish they were older when they started having kids. Others have shared that they feel they really appreciate their children because it was not easy to get them. Other moms say they had a time in their life that their child was the only thing that got them through, or for others a child was the catalyst to help them grow up. I will focus on nurturing my relationship with my husband, after all, we are a family right now, even if many deny/overlook that. (It’s really fun to sit and watch “family pictures” of our extended family and only be asked to be in the one that included everyone while each other had individuals taken with spouses and kids.)

So there you have it. I’m hoping that this story will someday soon have a happy ending, but at least right now it’s not a sad one.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Coffee Time Revelations

My niece stopped by for coffee today, something Capt and I always enjoy, as she's an intelligent and insightful young woman. My favorite part of our chats is that I always come away thinking about things.

This time, among the many ideas thrown around, we realized that she and I had both come to a similar revelation as of late. She verified my forming theory that people are highly unobservant when it comes to the details of others. That last 5 lbs that seems so necessary to lose would go largely unnoticed by those whose opinions matter the most. Not because they don't care enough to pay attention, but because they care about you for who you are, not what you way. Those on the extreme ends of the spectrum (supper-skinny and morbidly obese) may get some attention to the matter, but the rest of us fall in the middle and would all blend together.

She informed me that she quit wearing makeup for an entire term and her own boyfriend never said a word (keeping in mind that she has lovely skin to begin with). I talked to Capt. and he had no idea that I have three different levels of makeup that I use depending on the occasion, to him it all looks the same.

It seems so easy to get caught up in our own flaws, a problem I think all women (and men too) must face. I find myself scrubbing, exfoliating and covering every little blemish, but to what end? If people don't even notice, that means I'm doing it for myself.

How freeing is this revelation?!?! Not only does it free me from extra work on my appearance (though I think again the extremes of really made up and totally slob are still noticed) but it also allows me to stop expecting others to notice any of these things. Instead of waiting for someone to comment on my hair cut and possibly being disappointed, I can just say, "Just got my hair cut, what do ya think?" This makes life easier on everyone!!

Again with the lower of expectations and an increasing of happiness, seems to be a common theme for my revelations. :D Gotta love coffee time!

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Life Ruining Fantasies

I started reading a new book by Dr. Joy Browne called, "The Nine Fantasies that will Ruin your life (and the eight realities that will save you). The format of the book is to present the fantasy, say a few words about the origins and variations, then explain why it is ruining your life. Dr. Browne has a radio show apparently (I wasn't aware) and she includes several "call in" questions as examples, though they seem rather exact to be real. I haven't completed the book yet, but one of the fantasies really rang true for me.

FANTASY: Everybody's Perfect...Except me.

I've always known that I have a confidence issue, as well as being a perfectionist. I was not aware, however, just how much that affects everyday life. I have worked for years on my impossibly high expectations for both others and myself, and I can really see the results of those efforts now.

She explained that to be alive is to change, and perfection doesn't allow change. So even if perfection is momentarily achieved, it is always fleeting. This is why striving for perfection is a horrible and unachievable burden. She gives an example about a woman who corrects her friend when she mispronounces a word. Dr. Browne asks, why did you need to correct her? Did you understand what she meant? (Obviously, yes, if you knew the word she meant) The lady answered that she was trying to save her friend from embarrassment. But when you think about it, there was no embarrassment until you corrected her, and showed everyone that not only did she pronounce the word wrong, but you knew the correct pronunciation.

Dr. Browne discusses the origins of the fantasy, blaming much of the problem on Hollywood and advertising. As if it wasn't bad enough that we are constantly shown images of perfection (from impossibly beautiful bodies to professionally cleaned or even fabricated houses), those shows are broken up with advertising constantly pointing out that your life could never possibly be complete until you have their product or buy their service. Hollywood also tends to draw a clear line between the good guy and the bad guy, leaving little room for the complexity that is human nature.

One important revelation from this fantasy came from the idea that as a perfectionist, much of your time is spent hiding the fact that you're not perfect. This has explained some of the behavior that I have struggled to rid myself of, not to mention understand in other people. This causes the intense need to be right, because being wrong is imperfect and thus not acceptable.

I have to admit, since reading this section, I have had a calmness I haven't known for a few weeks (not surprising since I've been moving during that time, but still). It's almost like a huge burden has been lifted from my shoulders. I'm not perfect, and that's okay. It is okay that others know that I am not perfect. It is okay for others not to be perfect, and I can accept that too.

So that's my new mantra: I'm not perfect, and that's okay!! :D

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Little Expectations

I have been battling some health issues recently and was perusing my favorite Taoist sites looking for inspiration when I came across a wonderful site called The fellow who writes this site is a Taoist Master who does a great job of simplifying and applying Taoist philosophies.

A quick tangent, this great guy lives in Hawaii, as do many of the western Taoist masters I have come across. This leads me to believe that visiting Hawaii is an absolute must for my future, there is surely a reason that taoists seem drawn to these islands.

So back to my story. I did not necessarily find something to help my health issues, but I did find a piece of advice that he gives to people new to Taoism concerning expectations. I would like to share it with you.

Taoism teaches a person to drop expectations. The more expectations you have for your life, the less you will become.

A Taoist lives life without expectations, living in the here and now fully.

Since most people need a few expectations especially when dealing with important future experiences. Here is a trick.

Create only a single expectation at a time for that future experience. For example: An expectation you will smile or have some fun. Thats it! Don’t place any learning or changing into your expectation. If you do , this actually plants the seed for the opposite to occur, By creating a single simple expectation such as smiling, this then becomes something you can always fulfill since you can empower that action to happen. Any expectation more complicated or relying on something outside of yourself, just sets up the future to not meeting your needs.

Dropping expectation is very very important within Taoism.

I could not believe how much this advice resonated with me. I have had a long relationship with the idea of expectations, I believe in a relationship it is important to be clear about expectations. But this idea of going into an experience expecting nothing but a smile is in my opinion a priceless treasure of advice. I can't wait to put this into practice.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

One step closer to Utopia

My husband and I just made the single largest purchase of our entire lives. We bought our first home together. This immense undertaking has me considering the 80th verse of the Tao Te Ching.

Let your community be small, with only a few people
Keep tools in abundance but do not depend on them.
Appreciate your life and be content with your home
Sail boats and ride horses, but don't go too far.
Keep weapons and armor but do not employ them
Let everyone read and write, eat well and make beautiful things.
Live peacefully and delight in your own society

Dwell within the cock-crow of your neighbors,
But maintain your independence from them.

The electronic version I took this translation from titles this verse: Utopia.

Firstly, letting my community be small should be relatively easy when moving to the thriving metropolis of Fremont, a population of about 700. Also, anyone who knows my Captain, knows that keeping weapons and armor on hand goes without saying. Maintaining independence comes from the fact that we wish to begin producing much more of our own food and our own electricity.

The two lines that really reach me at the moment are:
Appreciate your life and be content with your home & Let everyone read and write, eat well and make beautiful things. ~ That really does describe utopia to me, and I feel closer than ever to reaching it.

Through the chaos of buying a house, moving and the many changes happening in our lives right now, I hope to keep this verse in mind and bring this utopia to fruition.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Weekly Pondering

Fill your bowl to the brim and it will spill. Keep sharpening your knife and it will blunt. Chase after money and security and your heart will never unclench. Care about people's approval and you will be their prisoner. Do your work, then step back. The only path to serenity.
- Verse 9 of Tao Te Ching

This entire verse speaks to the majority of things which make me unhappy on a daily basis. I recently had a long talk with my mom about cultivating the ability to step away from my work. For me, school work is constantly on my mind, I set myself a schedule, which is good, but then if I don't get things done in the time I had set aside, I am super hard on myself and will be distracted until I am able to catch up.

Caring about people's approval has always been a problem for me, which takes it's form in social anxiety. I have spent much of my adult life battling the fact that I actually get physically ill if faced with unpleasant social situations. Interesting, though, that I never saw this as a part of my spiritual journey. Clearly, in this verse, Lao Tzu has pin pointed how much social anxiety made me a prisoner, and I am so happy to be casting of those shackles more and more each day.

Above all, this verse speaks of moderation to me. Moderation is a matter I feel I need to introduce into every aspect of my life. Diet, clutter, TV, FB, and various unproductive leisure activities are areas where I tend to either be too lenient or to strict. Each of these things has value, from nutrition to destressing, but can also be damaging if allowed to go unchecked. Moderation is the key not depriving, but not overindulging either.

Obviously, this is all easier said than done. But I am perfectly aware that I'm just a work in progress. :D

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Learn by example

Another blog I follow recently put two quotes together that were especially meaningful to me recently, so I thought I would share. They come from two completely different cultures, but carry the same amazing insight.

Therefore the good person
is the teacher of the bad person
The bad person is the resource of the good person
Those who do not value their teachers
And do not love their resources
Although intelligent, they are greatly confused
- Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching Chapter 27

“I have learned silence from the talkative; tolerance from the intolerant, and kindness from the unkind; yet, strange, I am ungrateful to those teachers.”
- Kahlil Gibran

I realized recently that I am really adept at learning what NOT to do by watching others, probably more so than what TO do. My brother has always been my prime example of this type of learning. He showed me behaviors that were destructive and apathetic when he was in high school. I saw the results he garnered from such behavior and said to myself, "There's a better way." I feel blessed that he was there to teach me without having to go through the hard lessons myself. We are now polar opposite people, yet my gratitude for him remains. He frustrates me to no end, mind you, but I love the dirtbag even if he's stubborn and doesn't take my advice ever, lol.

A few years back, I was able to look at the frustrating behavior of another family member and see it in myself. I hated the way I felt when she treated me a certain way and was horrified to think that I was frequently making people feel that same way. What a revelation! This was the beginning of a complete personality transformation for me, one that is an ongoing process because old habits die hard, you know. I realized that making other people feel bad was a poor way to make them want to meet my already high expectations. So I not only tried to stop the potentially hurtful behavior, but I also examined those expectations (which I had of myself as well) and lower them to a much more reasonable level which was easily attainable by others. And Voila! I am so much happier for it.

The point of this trip down memory lane was to illustrate the power I see in these words of showing gratitude to those who not only taught us how to be a good person, but also to show gratitude to those who showed us how to not be a bad person.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Food for Thought

I watched a documentary this weekend called Fathead and it really made me start thinking about what I know about nutrition and health. The premise of the movie was to dispute the Supersize Me documentary by eating only fast food for a month and actually losing weight. The fact that the guy watched calories made that feat slightly less impressive, but the interesting part was that he actually lost more weight than his calorie deficit projected. That intrigued me, to say the least.

There was also a lot of information concerning the vilification of saturated fats. This one was new for me. In all my nutritional reading and studies I had never come across the concept that not only is saturated fat not bad for you, it actually has health benefits in your body. This one really affected me, because even when I don't watch my calorie intake, I have always tried to keep the saturated fat to a minimum. Obviously more research is required before making drastic changes to our diet. But until then, what do I eat? I was so flummoxed by these new concepts that I introduced my mom and friend to it, hoping for some more insight. Of course as it turns out, I may have done them a disservice. They were equally flummoxed, so now we are all lost.

Today, it seems clear that while more research is happening, I shall return to my Taoist roots. I have read many different takes on the Taoist philosophy of eating, but overall, I believe that the Tao doesn't have a 'good food' or 'bad food' list. Different foods have different properties which may be helpful at different times for different people. As much as a list of foods to always avoid seems handy, it is also limiting and makes a person feel restricted. But all of the articles I have read about Taoist food speak of limiting or avoiding certain foods, but never depleting it from the diet entirely with the exception of processed food.

For me, I think it all boils down to trusting nature. Nature made us to eat both meat and vegetable, therefore I think I shall. Nature made us to think about food in an entirely different way than most animals, so I think I shall. Nature gave me the ability to research and make an informed decision, and I think I shall.

But until then, I will try to keep a good balance, and remember that everything in moderation is usually a safe philosophy. I will avoid any foods which are known to have no nutritional value. I will try and eat foods which are a close to nature as possible, preferably cooked by my own hands, if cooked at all. But mostly I will realize that there may never be a clear cut answer and this is all a part of my journey on this Earth.

Friday, March 18, 2011


If you overlook the Way right before your eyes,
how will you recognize the path beneath your feet.

Sunday, March 13, 2011


Even after all this time, The sun never says to the earth,
"You owe me."
Look what happens with a love like that,
It lights the whole sky.
~ Hafiz

I find this to be an incredibly profound poem. Selfless love is the hardest love to find, but is the path to true happiness. I believe we all could benefit from changing our outlook from one of entitlement to one of gratitude. Just some food for thought.

Journey from the Stream to Blogger

I am a Taoist blogger that had a blog on Blogstream for a few years. That site is shutting down and I am currently trying to decide where my home should be. I think there is a real possibility that I could end up here.

My blog will be about my random experiences and how I attempt to use Taoist philosophies to guide me through them.

I always welcome any comments or questions, I only ask that you remain polite.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

2010: A Year in Review

This was a true roller coaster year for me, including lots of travel, tragedy and adversity.

Early 2010 was spent taking care of G’ma who unfortunately passed in late February. This was a loss that hit our family hard, as G’ma was more like a mother to Captain. I can tell it was the hardest loss he’s ever suffered in his life. We have lived next to her for 5 years, and she welcomed me into her family with open arms. A truly remarkable woman.

I turned the big 3-0 in March, but it passed without incidence. In April I took a trip to Florida to attend my cousin’s wedding (which I also officiated). I made new friends from Dominica and had a great time, resulting in the first hangover I’ve had in years.

Shortly after the trip, Captain and I decided to get our first tattoos. I LOVE mine, and am almost certain it won’t be the last. We also purchased a new truck and a new camper. In June decided to take a trip to Wyoming taking our adult niece and nephew with us. It was an incredible and timely trip full of great company, new experiences (horseback riding & white water rafting) and waterfalls.

Many camping trips populated the summer months, including several new places explored with good friends like Keosaqua and Amana. Unfortunately, we also said goodbye to a good friend this year as she understandably moved back home after losing her father.

Theater brought me playing a diva actress in the summer and directing in the fall. Capt. & I were also conned into joining the OCT board again. I kept my 4.0 in school even though the class roster included statistics (a big worry for me). We took another trip to Arkansas in September to visit our good friend there.

October was the two year mark of our trying to start a family. It was after that month that we received the diagnosis of infertility that left our family prospects looking pretty bleak. We have managed to rally from that dark time and keep hope alive, but we know it’s a potential long road ahead of us. The emotional roller coaster of the whole process has been tough, but I’m so happy we have each other, and a marriage strong enough to withstand such adversity.

November marked another year of NanoWrimo. I’m happy to report it was another winning year, and even happier that many friends and family can count themselves among the winners with me. We participated in more events this year that made a difference in our productivity and mentality.

Shortly before Christmas I published my first novel “Shades of Magic” that is available through Amazon. The holidays brought many visitors and lots of plans leaving me little time to dwell on the absence of children in my own house.

I am hoping to stay very positive in the year ahead, to restore my faith in myself and in the Tao. I feel like a spent a lot of this year with a dark cloud over me, I’m hoping to lift that cloud and love life even if things aren’t going as I would hope.