Category Archives: time

Post Sprititual Renewal Angst

So now we come to the part of the year that is the most contentious.  At least for me.  I have the most contradictory wants, feelings, and thoughts immediately after PSG than any other time throughout the year.  Everywhere I look, I see the ads competing for our money, appealing to our desires and vanities, urging us to follow or abandon our personal values.  Sounds rather extreme, doesn’t it?

At PSG, everything seems so straightforward.  Kind is good, mean is bad.  Helping is awesome, ignoring someone’s need is not.  Acts of quiet generosity are supreme, while taking from another without permission is loathsome.  I don’t pretend that everyone there subscribes to this, but for me, this is how it is.  There seems to be no ambiguity in the interpersonal rules when I’m there.

But then I come home.  No matter how much I try to maintain those principles and feelings, they fade quickly.  Not the underlying values, those are with me always, but more of the ability to follow through.  At PSG, there’s very little fear of being taken advantage of.  My inclination to help and to accept aren’t based on a barter system of feelings, but rather more of a pure intent.  It could be that there is no expectation of repayment when I’m there.  I don’t expect anything in return.  It’s nice to just do something for someone and know that their day was made a little nicer, easier, less stressful, or just plain better because of some little courtesy I have extended.  Not so in the "real world," or Mundania as many PSGers call it.

In Mundania, the overwhelming majority of all kindnesses are performed, by most people, with the full expectation that the kindness will be returned.  The young man holds a door open for a pretty girl in hopes that she’ll stop and talk to him.  The extra tip to the paper delivery person is in hopes that the paper will, indeed, actually be on the front porch.  Few people hold the door open for the young mother with a stroller unless refraining means the door will slam in her face.  Almost no one lets the shopper with just a few items go first, especially if the line has been long and the shopper’s cart is full. 

Beyond behavior, I’ve found that the dichotomy of values comes more brilliantly to my attention in ads on TV and print, both of which are in short supply at PSG.  For example, I was leafing through a More magazine this morning and saw an ad for Birkenstock sandals.  I had a pair for 10 years, but they died a sad death last year, so the ad caught my eye.  Then I noticed the facing page.  A stilletto platform shoe with red and tan leather was pictured, the article entitled "Stylebook: Fashion for Grownups."  That’s when this contradiction of wants, feelings, and thoughts really lit up my neurons.

At PSG, we’re earthy, unconcerned (for the most part) with appearance, very concerned with our spirituality and need for community.  For more than a thousand people to come together in a small space to camp, drum, dance, sing, and learn as a cohesive family of sorts is an amazing thing.  There’s always some that I don’t like very much, some I find very strange, some that find me very strange.  There are also people who have become my PSG family, who are new friends, old friends, and friends-to-be.  To illustrate some of the characteristics of PSG you need to picture a place where you can lose a wallet with cash in it, and find it turned into lost and found (a cooler left in a public place) with all the cash still there.  It’s a place where there are many vendors selling everything from clothing to candles to incense to crystals, but who feel comfortable leaving their shops to attend workshops without worrying about theft.  Forget to bring sunscreen?  Someone will have extra.  Tent developed an unfortunate leak?  Ask around – there is always someone who brought an extra "just in case."  Having an emotionally difficult time with anything at all?  Stop by Psyche’s Grotto, because there is certain to be a certified therapist available to help you get through it, and if not, there is no lack of available shoulders for you to lean on.  Want to wear that plaid kilt with a striped shirt you love?  That’s cool.  Awesome kilt, by the way.  Fashion is completely relative at PSG. 

Then we all come home.  Back to the bills, the sullen neighbors, the grouchy bosses, the massive unpacking and cleanup.  That first day back is always a shock to my system, and I almost always end up going to bed early.  Tomorrow is just fine for going back to real life.  Well, now it’s tomorrow.  Real life is cleaning up the house, reviving my poor houseplants, lettings the dogs know that I didn’t leave them forever and that I still loved them.  Real life is having my grandchildren over for the day and making jello, watching him play the PS3, and coloring as much of the driveway as possible with her and the sidewalk chalk.  It’s making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with the crusts cut off, doing laundry, unloading the camper, and mentally preparing for work tomorrow.

That’s when the true dichotomy hits me.  As I do all these "day after PSG" things, dressed in my tank top and wrap skirt (hippi clothes, as Micah calls them), I wonder what to wear tomorrow.  Makeup or no?  Headscarf (this year that was my preferred PSG hairstyle)?  Probably not.  It’s back to Mundania in the truest sense.  PSG equals relaxed, no makeup, no haircolor, letting my gray shine to the world, doing what I want for anyone without worrying it will be taken the wrong way.  Work means makeup, "appropriate" clothes, constant worry that my gray hair is holding me back (from what?  from where?), and policing my inclination to do random acts of helpfulness in check, lest someone feel obligated to do something for me in return. 

It’s like there are two of me.  The one is so much more real, genuine, and open.  No getting annoyed while driving, no feeling the pressures of time.  Cheesecake?  Sure!  I am still me at 215 pounds, and eating a piece of cheesecake doesn’t alter me in any fundamental or meaningful way.  The other me reads articles on "A Better Body With Age: Real Women’s Inspiritn Stories."  Worries that the wrap skirt should really wrap a little more, because us fat older women shouldn’t be showing any leg.  Stops in the hair dye aisle way too often, torn between that awsome L’Oreale Golden Blond or the Medium Golden Brown that used to be my hair.  Feeling late to work when I arrive at 7:40, when 8:00 is the actual start to the day.  I yearn for the first me to take over, to kidnap and dispose of the second me.  At the same time, I envy the second me – knowing that she is the one the world is more comfortable with.  Knowing that the second me is the one who could be 140 pounds of sexy older woman, with perfectly styled Golden Blond hair and fashionable shoes and a pencil skirt.  Neither one is really me, though, and I know this.

What I don’t know, is who is the real me?  I think I’m part of both – a dichotomy in my own self.  I realize that the problem isn’t the wrap skirt vs. the pencil skirt.  The problem is in having my values defined by my environment – PSG vs. Mundania.  Being true to the women’s libber that was surgically implanted in me in the 60’s, while being forced into the modern world where makeup is queen and a promotion could hang on just the right amount of makeup to be youthful while still looking mature.  No one can live happily with that dualality.

Solution?  I haven’t got one.  My answer has been to keep two separate worlds.  My personal space of wrap skirts and birkenstocks takes over at the end of each day ruled by khaki pants and the appropriate application of makeup.  I think it’s no wonder that people, especially women, are more anxiety and depression prone than ever before.  I think we need a better way.  I just don’t know what thay way will look like.

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Day 5 – Yes…I’m one behind.

Time keeps on slipping away from me.  I’m a day behind, and I’m not entirely sure what was so important yesterday that kept me from writing.  This seems to happen a lot these days.

Time is such a fluid concept.  It’s quite concrete when you talk about a clock, or when you have to be at work, or when you’re sitting in the dentist’s chair.  It’s more obscure when you’re engaged in something fun or engaging.  I find that I often run out of it.  And since you can’t borrow a cup of minutes or a quart of hours from the neighbor – once it’s gone that’s it.

Sometime it passes in a blink.  Sleeping is one of those times.  So is reading a good book.  It can go so fast that you look at a clock, and then it’s several hours later.  Now is a concept of time in the past tense, since as soon as you are aware of it being "now" it’s already "then."

Other times it drags by, like a heavy sack you’re dragging around with you.  When you want so desperately to sleep, and it just won’t come.  When you’re waiting for something or someone and it or they don’t show up when expected.  In those cases, "now" stretches out in an endless elastic string.  Even then, though, when what you’re waiting for arrives, time snaps back and it’s like you never waited.

Time took longer when I was a kid.  Summers flowed on and on, until we were so ready to go back to school that it seemed like September would never arrive.  A school day was so much longer than six hours.  Trips to the grocery store lasted a lifetime.

Now, not so much.  Now I get up in the morning, go through my day trying (and failing) to be present in each moment, only to find that it’s 10PM and time to go to bed again.  The night passes more quickly than the day, and it all starts over again.  How to make each moment longer seems to be the theme of my life now. Just a short time ago my children were young, and we were living in the small rental on Chaucer Drive.  Micah was a newborn with soft dark hair and big brown eyes.  He still had soft dark hair and big brown eyes – they’re just several feet higher in the air.

How do you make life slow down so you can fully experience it?  That seems to be my big question tonight.

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Day 3 – Shana Tova – שנה טובה ומתוקה

To all my family and friends – the Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Hindi, and Atheist – שנה טובה ומתוקה – May you have a good and sweet year.

Rosh Hashanah is (one of) the Jewish New Year(s).  There are others.  I’ll explain another time.  Rosh Hashanah happens on the first day of the seventh month of the Hebrew calendar, making it the “head” of the Jewish year.  Much discussion and many rabbinic writings on this, so feel free to look it up.  Ten days from now, we celebrate (perhaps not the best word)  Yom Kippur , the Day of Atonement, when Jews repent and atone for misdeeds and sins in the past year.  It’s the holiest day of the year for us.  Even though I’m not religious, and don’t observe my Jewish faith in most ways, I still feel a pull at this time of year to reflect on the past year and the promise of the new.  It is said that on Rosh Hashanah it is written (in the Book of Life) and on Yom Kippur it is sealed (in the same book, as in your fate is). 

Things I’ve done this past year:

Taken my friends for granted.
Told lies and half truths.
Been malicious in my thoughts and words.
Way too many things to list here.

People I’ve hurt/let down/transgressed against:

Most

For almost everything, I’m truly sorry.  For some things, I’m only regretful.  For a very few things, I feel no remorse.  Being brutally honest here, so in the spirit of the day – don’t judge me.  I think that there are times that all of us falter and let the baser side of our nature surface without really regretting it.  Times when we’ve been cut off in traffic and swear at the other driver as we pass him.  Times we’ve walked past a homeless person and instead of helping in some small way, we’ve just felt thankful that it’s not us in that situation.  Other times when we’ve deliberately dodged a phone call or a visit because we just wanted to be left alone – but we lied or mislead the caller or visitor.  Then there’s the big stuff.  I’m sure you get my point.

Every major religion has a time of introspection and atonement.  Some religions only require you to confess to a priest or person-of-the-cloth to obtain forgiveness.  Other’s require only that you be sincerely sorry in your heart.  Many require some sort of penance, or sacrifice to absolve your misdeeds and transgressions.  Judaism requires you to take personal responsibility for your actions, and apply directly to the person you’ve wronged for absolution.  G-d can only forgive those actions that were against G-d.  Each person needs to have the opportunity to hear your apology personally.  I’ve only occasionally risen to that challenge.  I’d like to say it was because I didn’t want to cause further hurt by admitting to my family and friends that my reasons were selfish, but who are we kidding here?  They know.  The real reason is that I don’t want to be there when they DON’T forgive me.  Because deep down, I’m pretty sure I’m a horrible person who doesn’t deserve forgiveness.

Before you all comment that “that’s SO not true!” and “you’re not!” let me tell you that like very other person in the world, my own perception of myself is rarely based in reality.  I know, on an intellectual level, that I’m not a horrible person.  I’m no worse or better than anyone else.  But why take a chance?  Why open myself up to that potential glaring criticism. 

So, while I have no intention of going to each person individually to apologize, I want to say that for those people I’d ducked visits and phone calls from – I’m sorry.  To the people I should have visited and didn’t – I’m going to try harder this new year.  If I didn’t say the right thing, I’m sorry.  I probably had no idea what to say, which is usually the case.  That’s not to say I don’t care, or am not sympathetic.  It just means that I probably couldn’t put that into words.  Writing is easy.  Talking is hard.

Hopefully, most of you will accept this blanket apology.  For those who don’t – I understand, and someday I’ll come to you personally and ask for your forgiveness.

 

 

 

Daylight Savings Time is not saving a thing….

Daylight Savings Time might have been a good idea in the beginning, but it has since lost its appeal. Most of the people I talk to are not thrilled with it, particularly now with it starting in March. I have two problems with it. The first issue I take with DST is just when it is light for my drive to work, it’s time to set the clocks ahead an hour. Once more I’m driving to work in the dark – for another month! Second only to that is the lateness of nightfall in the summer. If I was a stay-at-home parent, or a kid on summer break, maybe full daylight at 10PM would be fun. For someone who needs to be sleeping by then, it is most definitely not fun.

The first person to publicly suggest some modification of the clocks in summer was Benjamin Franklin. It wasn’t until World War I that it became a fact. Initially seen as a way to conserve energy by allowing people to keep their electric lights off longer in the evenings, it has evolved and expanded to what it is today. Various reasons for using DST include less violent crime occurs in daylight, children are safer in the evenings, fewer traffic accidents, and energy conservation. Through various studies, however, most of these reasons have been shown to be at least partially false.

Daylight Savings Time doesn’t really save much energy. Based on studies by many universities and think tanks, it has been show that DST actually can increase our use of energy. A study at UC Berkeley in California found that any decrease of use in the evening was more than offset by additional energy usage in the morning.

As for whether DST reduces crime and traffic accidents is harder to quantify. Government studies claim that it’s true, but I wasn’t able to find any non-government studies that reported similar findings. I believe the evidence that DST lowers crime to be murky at best. As to traffic accidents being reduced, studies have shown that in the first week after the start of DST, traffic accidents due to impaired driving actually increased. There are actually more morning fatalities in the time period spanning the first week of DST – including school bus crashes. It is unclear as to whether this is offset by fewer accidents later in the year.

Catherine Porter, a reporter with The Star, a Toronto, Canada newspaper, published an article decrying DST. The article outlined a report by the state of Indiana (where I live…) showing irrefutable proof that DST doesn’t save energy. In fact, DST is costing the people of Indiana an additional 8.6 billion dollars – before we switched to the even earlier March set back of clocks. The article goes on to discuss the need for additional air conditioning for the hour(s) of daylight that have been shifted from morning to evening – another costly swap. It is obvious to me that the cost of DST will be even higher this year.

We are taking on additional costs to cool and light our homes at a time of economic recession, although the government would have us believe that this is not the case. What is the case, and has been shown to be true, is that we shop more when it’s light. We are more likely to vote when it is light. In fact, one of the less publicized reasons for extending DST into November was because if it is light, more people will come out to vote. It had very little to do with ensuring the safety of our precious babies while they Trick-or-Treated.

Write to your elected officials and end this march to MDH (Maximum Daylight Hours). The truth of the matter is, the number of hours it is light doesn’t change just because we set our clocks ahead or back. The sun doesn’t follow the minute hand of my clock. If you want more daylight, get up earlier. Don’t want to mow your lawn in the dark? Do it before dinner instead of after. Want your kids safe at Halloween? Have a neighborhood party instead of the door-to-door begging marathon. Do what farmers have done for millenia – work when the sun shines, and sleep when it doesn’t. We’ll all be happier and healthier, and Gaia will thank us.

References:

About Daylight Savings Time: History, Rationale, Laws, Debate – http://webexhibits.org/daylightsaving/

Study: Extending Daylight Saving Time is an unlikely energy saver – http://www.physorg.com/news92674964.html