Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Peace and the Power of Love - Dona Dobis Pacem

Love... Peace... Hope... Life...

Love is where it all begins.

I look into my heart and find that without love none of the rest is possible.

I decided several years ago that I wanted to live from a place of love. I wanted my actions and my words to be guided by love. It's not always easy, but my life is so much more peaceful and hopeful and... well, alive when I live from a place of love.

When I saw Mimi Lenox's choice of Peace and the Power of Love for the theme of this year's blog blast for peace, I did a little cheer sitting at my desk. Perfect...

Then I saw her announcement about the 30 Days of Love Challenge leading up to the blog blast, and I smiled. I thought, easy enough. After all, I already live my life from a place of love. I've got this... Then I completely zoned it and missed the first two days...

I took a deep breath, loved myself a minute and forgave myself for my imperfection. In the past I would've spent days berating myself. I would've lost sleep. I would've... Well, let's just say, I wouldn't have exactly treated myself with love. But by choosing love, I started participating on that third day with peace in my heart.

As I went through the month knowing each day I needed to post something about love, I found myself more open to seeing love in the world around me, sometimes to the point I felt overwhelmed by it. There is so much love in the world when we're open to it. Things we take for granted. Things we dismiss as everyday things. Things we even misinterpret. It's a bit amazing.

Even trying to live from a place of love, I'm not always tuned in to the love around me.

Take a moment, close your eyes, concentrate on love. Then open your eyes and look around you. I urge you to open to seeing expressions of love in interactions that cross your path. I've discovered that when I look at the world with love, I often find solutions I never would have considered or I see something from a point of view I never imagined or I feel more at peace about the decisions I make.

Love by definition is feeling a sense of affection for another, but I'd say love is more than and less than that. Love is feeling a connection to self and to others. Love is seeking common ground when there appears to be none. Love is wanting what's best for another even when what's best for them doesn't fit your desires. Love is simply listening and really hearing. Love is offering support and encouragement and inspiration. Love allows us to share knowledge and goals and achievements.

We put so much pressure on the concept of love to be this romantic game changer that we've lost sight of the simplicity of seeking connection and showing compassion as sources of love. We watch movies and read books and see advertisements that elevate love to a fairy tale that just isn't achievable. Then when someone falls short, and we all will fall short of the fairy tale, we declare love the enemy.

Love is never the enemy. The expression of love is only as perfect as the imperfect beings who express it.

The day I stopped seeing love as demanding perfection from me and from those I loved, I discovered the true power of love. The power of love lies in its ability to allow us to see one another as being connected instead of divided. The power of love provides the opportunity for us to embrace our differences and to see our similarities. The power of love gives us the chance to celebrate what each of us contributes to our world. The power of love teaches us that we don't all need to be the same to be valued and effective. The power of love shows us that underneath all the superficiality of everything we think divides us, we have so much more in common than not. That is what drove me to write the poem Underneath for International Peace Day in September.

I sincerely believe love has the power to cultivate peace in a way nothing else does because love is the foundation for every possible way for us to find unity. Peace needs a foundation of love upon which to place all the components of coming together, of ending cruelty toward other beings, of respecting and caring for the Earth. Love is where peace begins because love is where connection begins.

That is why we must cultivate love in order to grow peace...

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Getting in Touch with My Rebel Heart

Waiting for Madonna!!
Saturday night, October 17, 2015, I got to do something I'd wanted to do since I was a teenager. I attended a Madonna concert. I'd tried before, but timing, money, life had interfered. This time I was on it. As soon as I found out her Rebel Heart Tour was coming to Portland, I set out to the buy the tickets. I also checked on when she'd be in Kentucky, just in case Portland didn't work out. I figured I could work a family visit around attending the concert.This time I was determined to make it happen. Portland happened! Yeah! (Sorry, Kentucky family and friends.)

My husband was a bit concerned that my expectations were too high, and I'd be disappointed.

Nope, not even a little bit. I loved every single moment of it. (except the long wait before it started, but I'll let that slide.)

I love the Rebel Heart album, the explicit version, mind you. No cleaning it up for this girl...

Madonna was raw and funny and real. She was professional and imperfect and perfect. She was honest and cynical and optimistic. She was playful and serious and flirtatious.She was engaging and aloof and achingly real.

She talked about her gratitude for her fans and her desire to promote equality throughout her career. She even tossed in a line about being grateful for clean water to drink as she took a swig from a bottle of water. She sounded sincere. Anyone who knows me knows I'm a sucker for gratitude.

She talked about her belief that love is the way to a better world and that we need a revolution of love. Something I wholeheartedly agree with.

She didn't lecture, she mentioned these things in the midst of a highly energetic two hour performance filled with dancers and new songs and reinterpretations of old songs.

Yes, she was provocative and sexual and sensual and sexy and irreverent. That's Madonna!

Madonna Burning Up the stage
The songs she chose to sing took me on a stormy cruise through emotions and memories. The new stuff she chose electrified the room and her choices for her older songs felt right even if she didn't include every song I would've liked to have heard. Of course, given her body of work and my propensity for liking the songs she doesn't release as singles even better than the ones she does, I didn't expect her to. I teared up at times, smiled nostalgically at others, cheered during several songs, danced, and sang along even though I avoid singing in public because well... trust me, no one wants to hear that... But I didn't care.

When she sang a few lines from Lucky Star, I felt a pull back a high school dance where I danced to the song by myself when none of the other dance attendees joined me on the dance floor. You can read my poem about that dance on Dear Teen Me.

She is unapologetic about being the center of attention, yet she often showcased her dancers as much as herself.

Madonna sharing her
  Rebel Heart
The evening held a certain nostalgia combined with a sense of the rebellion that I found inspiring and endearing. In many ways, the entire concert screamed the message of  her song Rebel Heart pointing out that it's her journey, her life, her choices... Like It or Not...

I screamed  "YYYEEESSSSS" when she said "When I'm wrong, I'm strong." because I get it. So often when we're wrong, it's our strength that pulls us through, that pushes our heads a little higher, that empowers us to take the next step forward no matter how scary, no matter how vulnerable we feel, no matter how painful. And for artists that often means taking our mistakes and turning them into music, art, poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction, and other creative works that put our mistakes in front of the world to see and judge and love and hate and celebrate and ridicule! We take our pain, our fear, our vulnerability, and entertain the world with it...

And, that takes a bit of a Rebel Heart...

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Finding the Spirit of Spirit Day...

When I first learned about GLAAD's Spirit Day campaign, I didn't quite get it. I couldn't see a connection to a spirit day and ending bullying. In my mind, spirit day was always that day right before or of an important ball game when we all dressed up in school colors and spent the day revving up the team's ego - I mean spirit - in the hopes they'd deliver a winning game.

But the more I thought about it, the more sense it made. We're all "wearing" purple and posting our cheers all day long to support people who have been bullied. Okay, I can see that. Boost the egos - I mean spirits - of the bullied people. Now those are egos that need boosted.

In March 2012, I explored the fine line between teasing and bullying in When Does Teasing Become Bullying? and then in Why Do Bullies Bully? I examined how our society teaches bullies to bully.

As I think back on my life, I remember times when I was bullied, and I wonder if anyone ever perceived my actions as bullying. I know I never meant to bully anyone, and I sincerely hope I never did.

A few years ago, my niece insisted I read Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher. The book examined how the way we treat one another has effects we don't always see until it's too late. Like the main character, I always felt like an outsider even though I had friends. I saw in her the same guilt I'd felt when I'd done things or ignored things just to feel like I was accepted. I've always struggled abou whether or not to define any of the behavior I experienced as bullying, and I'm still uncomfortable assigning it that label. I know people have suffered much worse than I did. Yet, I do remember feeling left out, teased, and misunderstood. I remember feeling disconnected from even those who referred to me as friend. I remember feeling no one would miss me and that people might even be happier if I ceased to exist.

There were people in my life who cared about me and whom I cared about, but I often felt the connections weren't quite real. It's hard to explain, and I don't want to hurt anyone's feelings. The thing is that I felt like if I was me - the full and unadulterated me - people wouldn't like me, so I vacillated between being full on me and being what I perceived was socially acceptable.
I remember being teased for a variety of reasons from different people and at times feeling like the teasing would never end. I remember being called names and being teased about my sexuality because I showed little real interest in boys and dating. Looking back I realize I had a tendency to develop crushes on the unattainable, so I never had to risk anything actually happening. If something starting looking like it might happen, I switched my interest as quick as flipping a light switch. I saw romantic relationships as constraints, as obstacles, as albatrosses.

But, I also remember hanging out with myriad sets of classmates. Our class was very small - our Senior class was comprised of something like 33 or 34 students, so we all knew one another. While there were distinctive groups, we all had some kind of interaction with one another even if it was limited.

Of those 33 or 34 students, I have no idea if anyone was LGBTQ. If so, the person, or people, hid it well. It makes me sad to think that anyone in my class might have felt that much pressure to stay hidden. I like to think I would've been a friend to anyone regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.

Yet I understand hiding one's true self on some level.

I often spent much of my free time in my own little world playing with the characters I wrote about or reading books that took me to other places and times.

In Junior High School, one of my best friends was in her twenties. She was a fellow writer, and I felt like I had more in common with her than with my classmates. My parents didn't understand this friendship. They tolerated it for a while but eventually discouraged its continuation. I think they feared the age difference would introduce me to... I don't know... something beyond my age that I might not understand. My classmates teased me about this friendship, so, by the time I was a Freshman in high school, I was ready to stop fighting my parents and let it fade into the background of my life. We still read each other's work, but I stopped going to her house to talk about writing and publishing and such.

There are so many ways to feel like an outcast, and it's so easy for us to dismiss people who don't always fit in the way we think they should. It's much easier to lob insults or lash out than it is to show the strength and vulnerability it takes to offer someone love and compassion when we don't quite understand them.

How much better the world would be if we saw one another for the unique and yet homogeneous individuals we are. How much better the world would be if we discussed how each person's individuality contributes to the collective. How much better the world would be if we remembered each of us has a beating heart and a thinking brain. How much better the world would be if we embraced each other instead of ostracizing one another. How much better the world would be if we put more energy into building one another up than in cutting one another down.

Realizing we need to cheer one another on to inspire love and compassion and end bullying got me into the Spirit of Spirit Day...

In closing, here's a poem about bullying from my book of poetry, Vulnerability in Silhouette.

Taunts and Teases

Taunts and teases
The words ring through the air
Pointing our what sets me apart
Criticizing what you don't understand
Or what someone else told you was unacceptable
You don't reach out to make a connection
Schoolyard taunts from kindergarten
Grow crueler with each passing year
Until your words hit their target every time
Destroying any possibility of understanding
I turn on myself
Lobbing your
Teases and taunts
At myself
Before you load your ammunition
By the time your words hit
I'm already beaten to the ground
You've succeeded
In convincing me I'm all you say I am
It won't be until years late
I'l ask myself
If your teases and taunt emanated from
Your own insecurities and home life
Or if you were just plain mean
Around the same time
I realize I let you treat me as somehow
Less than you
Because of my insecurities and home life
By then it will be too late for us to see
We could've been friends
If we'd sought to understand
Rather than exercise the age old
Divisive technique of
Taunts and teases

Monday, September 21, 2015

Underneath - a poem for International Peace Day

I've been pondering peace all day... well, since I learned that today is International Peace Day.

Peace is important to me. I've participated in the Blog 4 Peace project the past two years, and I always come back to the same thought. Peace begins with me. Peace begins with you. Peace begins in each of our hearts.

I listened to the anthem for this year's International Peace Day, One, and I felt... well, sad...

There is so much disconnection in our world. There is so much us versus them. There are so many labels. There is such a strong push to control one another. There is such a strong push toward greed and materialism.

It leaves me wondering why, if so many people can see us that we are "one", that we are more alike than unalike, that we are better off united than divided, we end up right back at this place where hate, division, and vitriol rule the day.

Then I look at social media. The world works by keeping us divided, by telling us what to think, by demonizing us to each other...

And, we allow it to happen.

But, I have to believe there is hope... I have to...

And, so I was inspired to write the following poem...


Underneath the lies
Underneath the division
Underneath the beliefs
Underneath the manipulation
Underneath the blind loyalty
Underneath the greed
Underneath the judgment
Underneath it all
What do you find underneath?
When you look in your heart?
When you look in your soul?
Do you ever look
To see the humanity in another?
Do you ever look
To see the pain in another’s eyes?
Do you ever look
To find the humility to change
The system that hurts so many
Do you ever look
To see the love that unites?
Do you ever look
To find the connection
To another?
Do you ever look
To find the peace
Born from compassion?
Because I have to believe
That if we look
We can find the connection
We can find the compassion
We can find the love
We can find the way to cultivate
But we have to start by looking
The manipulation that keeps us in chaos
Tell me
If peace begins in each of our hearts
How do we nurture it so it will thrive?
Peace is about so much more than ending war
Peace begins and ends with us
Living love and compassion for our fellow Earthlings…

Friday, September 18, 2015

Vulnerability in Silhouette Finds Strength

As a writer, I often feel a sense of isolation that is only relieved through sharing my work. As a human being, I sometimes feel a sense of vulnerability that is only relieved when I risk connecting with others. Being a writer gives me an excuse to avoid risking vulnerability.
When I was compiling the poems for my book, Strength in Silhouette: Poems , I couldn't help but notice how often strength and vulnerability played on the same playground, and they played together well. I reflected over several years when I spent concerted efforts to risk vulnerability in order to grow closer to those I loved and to be more authentic. Each foray I made into vulnerability made me feel stronger. It wasn't that I couldn't be hurt. It wasn't that I didn't hurt. I was hurt. I felt pain deeply, but I felt a strength coming through the vulnerability that reminded me I could do better than survive, I could thrive.
So, as I sorted through the poems to focus on strength I watched my reject pile of poems exploring vulnerability grow higher and higher. I soon realized I had enough books for at least one book of poetry focused on vulnerability. At first I was excited, my next book had written itself...
But... then... something happened. The poems were there. They were ready. I wasn't. I stalled. And then I procrastinated... And, then I realized I felt vulnerable. Finally, I narrowed the poems down and compiled Vulnerability in Silhouette. As I compiled it, I once again felt vulnerability and strength playing off one another and somehow giving one another a stronger foundation.
To me, Vulnerability in Silhouette feels like a companion book to Strength in Silhouette, but I think both books also stand on their own.
I share my poetry in the hopes it will connect with others in a way they find useful or entertaining or inspiring...
I offer you my Vulnerability in Silhouette...

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Guest Blogging about Oregon

Today I'm guest blogging on Fifty Authors from Fifty States. I wrote a bit about hiking in Oregon. This summer we spent several Saturdays hiking places within a couple hours drive from our house. I touched on a few of them as well as on how the hikes reminded me how much I used to enjoy being in the woods...

Check it out at Fifty Authors from Fifty States.

Friday, August 14, 2015

What Motivates You?

What motivates you?

I recently asked myself this question as I read through my Facebook newsfeed. I felt paralyzed by outrage yet again. I stared at posts of one more atrocity and then one more and then.... And, the next thought I had was that human beings are the cruelest species on this planet...My heart ached.

I pondered what motivates me. I see so many people who are fueled by outrage. Their anger pushes them to make change. It gives them purpose. It helps them stay focused on the change they want. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized outrage just doesn't motivate me.

Outrage exhausts me. Outrage depresses me. Outrage paralyzes me.

I see all these posts I'm supposed to be outraged about, and I feel the outrage, but it's fleeting. Mostly I feel incredibly sad about the way human beings treat other Earthlings and the Earth itself. So I asked myself again and again "What motivates you?"

As I meditated over the next few weeks, the question kept returning to me. "What motivates you?"

As I watched more and more atrocities flood my newsfeed and the news and the world around me, I felt a sense of despair. Human beings mistreating fellow human beings. Human beings prioritizing flags over people. Human beings abusing and killing animals just because they could. Human beings killing fellow human beings without remorse. Human beings blaming fellow human beings for circumstances beyond their control. Human beings pitting other human beings against one another. Human beings rewriting history with fantasy instead of facts. Human beings knowingly releasing products harmful to people, animals, and the Earth. Human beings valuing money over people, animals, and the Earth. Human beings spreading misinformation and outright lies to hurt those with whom they disagree. Human beings excusing and even applauding the atrocities committed by other human beings. My heart ached so much I thought I might drown in despair over human cruelty. I felt paralyzed.

Misogyny. Racism. Bigotry. Hate. Violence. Intolerance. Cruelty. Poverty. War. Hate. Hate. Hate.

So much hate.

So much division...

Then one day during my meditation, I experienced such an intense feeling of love that I caught my breath. When I finished my meditation, I finally had the answer to my question. I'm motivated by love. My love for my fellow human beings. My love for animals. My love for this Earth. My love for myself. Just love. The kind of love that transcends the moment and reminds us we can make a difference in the world. The kind of love that connects all living beings and the Earth on which we live.

Later that week, I once again watched Madonna's video Living for Love from her album, Rebel Heart [CD + Bonus CD][Super Deluxe Edition][Ex . I took a moment at the end to read the quote. "Man is the cruelest animal. At tragedies, bullfights, and crucifixions he has so far felt best on earth; and when he invented hell for himself, behold, that was his very heaven." - Friedrich Nietzsche

And, I knew I wasn't alone. I'm not the only one astounded and flummoxed by the sheer cruelty of human beings. And, yet, I still feel more sad than outraged.

Love doesn't ask us to be perfect. Instead love asks us to see beyond our individual selves, beyond our families, beyond our communities, beyond our limited experience, beyond tradition, beyond progress, beyond labels... Love asks us to look into one another's eyes and see the sentience in others as well as ourselves. Love asks us to appreciate the Earth that sustains our lives. Love asks us to put aside pettiness to see where we can be helpful. Love asks us to value the experiences of other people while not devaluing our own. Love asks us to seek common ground even when it's difficult.

Now, I'm not saying I'm perfect. I feel extreme anger toward those who abuse others. Abusers get no sympathy from me, none whatsoever, regardless of their excuses. Those in power who use their power to hurt others damage existence for all of us. Those who callously value money over people, animals, and our Earth, make my skin crawl.

I do feel the outrage. I understand it. I even sometimes embrace it with a relish that scares me. But, it doesn't motivate me. It overwhelms me. It paralyzes me. So I turn my attention to the place where I can offer love, where I can feel love, where I can see love. In a perfect world, I suppose I would find a way to love the perpetrators, too, because hate never heals. But I'm not there yet. I'm truly not.

When I get in mired in my despair over the cruelty of the world, I remind myself over and over of Maya Angelou's words "Hate, it has caused a lot of problems in the world, but has not solved one yet." Her words help me remember I wish to add to the solution, not the problems.

Ripples on Sweet Creek in Oregon
No one operates in a vacuum. We influence one another. What we put into the world spreads. It ripples out from our immediate circle of influence to all their circles of influence and just keeps going. I try to remember this. If I let hate for the cruel people take up room in my heart, I cheat those who deserve love. So I try to choose love. I try to interact with love. Even when I must confront another, I try to do it from a place of love. I try to always write from a place of love whether I'm addressing the positive or the negative aspects of living in my work. I look into the world and look for places where I can spread compassion, understanding and love.

Change must come, so wherever you find your motivation, grab it and go. Say what you need to say. Take action. For me, I'll fall back on love. I'll choose love because love energizes me and gives me a reason to keep moving forward. I choose love because love gives me hope.

I am motivated by Love...