What We Value and What It Means to Wait

This will be a tough piece to read.   Occasionally I feel the need to write about very tough subjects and then I ask myself whether I should share the piece with others.  It is something to ponder as I like to see others happy and smiling and I feel a bit guilty when I share a piece that will have the opposite effect.  Still, I also remind myself that in this life, “happy and smiling” may not always be the correct objective. Sometimes there is no happy and there is no smiling, but perhaps wisdom may come instead…even with sadness.

Our world is full of devastating painful events and as human beings, we are expected by society to process them however we can…be it with grace, with calm, with respect or with anger and outrage, or all of the above. Not one of us receives a manual at birth on how to process horribly painful events and still hold on to our serenity. Absolute serenity in this life is a challenge like few others. I have read much about people who say they have achieved it, but I admit I remain skeptical.

The event that I am processing and pondering and mentally reviewing in my head today (while trying to maintain my serenity) is a news story from the other day that I read online: this week a 13-year old girl in New York City dropped her cell phone on the subway tracks and climbed down onto the tracks to retrieve it herself.   As she was trying to climb back up to the platform, the train came into the station. She was killed.

This is a story, of course, that is staggeringly painful on so many levels. My heart is shattered again and again as I imagine the scenario.  A life is over…because a young girl did not want to lose her cell phone.

I think about what a cell phone is in these times – a 4 x 3 inch square piece of plastic and metal. Inside it are photos, videos, contact information, calendar items, a connection to the internet. These things have become valuable in our times. As humans, we value our cell phone as much as any other item we own.

It is our life-line to others. It holds our memories (i.e. photos and videos). It keeps us connected to those we love as often and as quickly as we like – by phone, social media, email or text message.

We love our cell phones in strange ways. We carry them with us wherever we go and panic when we think we may have lost them or fear they may not work.

As a child and for about half of my adult life, cell phones did not exist. My most valuable possession as a child was my diary or my records.   It was not possible to communicate with any one at any time.

Time was different when I was a child…there was more waiting, less instant gratification, at least in terms of communication. If I needed to call a friend, I was forced to wait until I arrived home from school to use the landline phone to call my friend. There were no cell phones. There was no email. There was no internet. I could write a letter or call from my home phone….but whatever I did, I had to wait….and I did.

Now there is no waiting, but sometimes there is tragedy.

The 13-year old girl hit by the train will never send another text or email or make another phone call or post another Facebook message or Instagram photo. She will never google the internet again. She is gone…perhaps because her heart loved her phone too much…so much that she would risk her very life not to lose it.

She was a child and as a child, it is likely that she may not have understood what she might lose or the horrible gravity of what she was risking.  I can only guess her thought process as she deliberated whether to take the risk to climb down onto the tracks to retrieve her phone. While she could have asked a transit employee to help her, my guess is that a. she was too embarrassed to ask for help and/or b….she simply did not want to wait.

We cannot blame the child…she was a child, after all, but should we blame ourselves? Who is to blame for a tragedy like this?

I think about this question and I ask myself another: what are we, as a society, teaching our children? What do our children value and why?  More than anything else, as adults, children watch us.  Children watch what we say, what we do, what we buy and what we value.

Children see us connected to our phones – constantly. When a child looks around the streets and subways and sees nothing but scores of adults, each hooked up to or holding, a phone, what must he or she think? When children look around their school and see their friends hooked up to a phone, what must they think? What is the message that they are absorbing, either consciously or subconsciously?

My guess is that the message is this: “I want to be like the people I see around me. I want to be like all the rest. I want to fit in. I want to be cool. I need a phone. I want a phone. I don’t want to wait.”

This is our world. We love our phones and we have taught our children to love their phones too. When we give a child a phone with all its advanced features, we are saying to the child, “Now you can contact me whenever you like. Now you can call your friends whenever you like. Now you can express to the world any thought you have…instantaneously. You can share memories and thoughts and feelings with any one at any time, instantly. You do not have to wait.”

In some respects, “waiting” has become a negative thing in our society (it always has been to some degree – I mean, who wants to wait after all?). Waiting is an inconvenience, something about which we complain. Nobody likes to wait, but as the speed of technology increases exponentially each day, each week, each month, each year, waiting has become less of an issue, especially when it comes to communication.

Instant gratification…at least technologically…is now possible.  I can express a thought or a feeling or a complaint instantly. I no longer have to wait.

I think about what it means to wait. It takes patience…not an innate human characteristic.  As humans, many of us do lack patience.  We are not fans of waiting – at the post office, on hold, at the check-out counter, in the bank, for pay day, for retirement, for the right job, for more money, to meet the man or woman of our dreams, to have a child.

Life has always been about waiting, but now, for the little things…especially for the purpose of communication…we wait less. Now we can speak our mind and express ourselves without waiting.

We have a president who has a thought and must express it now – instantly – he cannot or does not wish to….wait. The consequences of this inability to wait in a leader of the free world I will leave to your imagination. I suspect the consequences may not be pretty.

I am only speculating of course, but my guess is that the 13-year old girl who climbed down onto the subway tracks to retrieve her cell phone, loved her phone (at least in part) because, with that little device in her hand, she could have instant fun, instant gratification, instant communication…she did not have to wait.

The awful tragedy and waste of the story above is impossible to convey in words. As individuals and as a society, I ask myself what can we learn from this little girl’s horrible death?

My gut tells me that the answer may lie in examining more closely what we value…and why…and perhaps, the benefits we may not often see when we simply wait.

In my life I have seen the tragedy of waiting too long when immediate action is required…and now I have seen the tragedy of not waiting.

I’m not sure which is worse, but I’m thinking…for the sake of our beloved and cherished children…perhaps each of us should give some very deep thought about the lessons to be learned from tragedies like this….now.

Love,

Cinda

Power and Decision-Making in the Age of Trump: “What If It Were Me?”

I have been thinking about power. (I don’t have much, so ironically perhaps, I am thinking about its many facets and ramifications.)

Power is a sticky wicket (and to be quite frank, sometimes a son-of-a-bitch). Leadership comes with power. There is no denying this fact and no changing this fact. Power corrupts. Power often brings wealth and fame.

One can gain power as quickly as one can lose it. We can be defined by power or power can be defined by us. Unlimited power has the potential to destroy us and if abused, can have consequences that may be felt for generations. Our founding fathers created checks on power for this very reason. Power is IT. It can make or break individuals or entire nations or our entire planet.

Power can create change – good change and bad change. Depending on how it is used or abused, power can send our society and our lives into turmoil or when used with wisdom, compassion and thoughtfulness, it can lift us, together and as individuals, to new heights of personal and professional achievement.

Money and fame bring power and power brings money and fame.

To make matters even more complicated (and patently unfair), those who will be most affected by the important decisions made by people in power are likely to be the people with the least power to change their circumstances.

As an average person with limited power myself, the most important thing I have noticed about power (especially now) is that those who have the power to make the most critical, life-changing decisions over others’ lives – have rarely been in the shoes of those who will be affected by those decisions.

Here are some examples:

  • Those with the power to decide who may live in the United States and who must leave have rarely been immigrants or refugees themselves.
  • Those with the power to decide on another’s deportation have rarely been deported or even known someone who has been deported.
  • Those with the power to decide whether to send another back to a war-torn country have rarely fled war or poverty or hardship or ever been desperate to save the lives of their own family.
  • Those with the power to decide who may live in our country and who may not rarely have been faced with the impossible choice of a starving child or  an illegal, frightening and perilous journey to a safer place with the possibility of regular meals.
  • Those with the power to decide who may have health insurance and who may not have rarely been without health insurance for a long period  – and rarely have faced a chronic, life-threatening illness without health insurance to pay for their medication.
  • Those with the power to decide whether an oil pipeline will be constructed on Native American lands are rarely Native American and have rarely lived on Native American land (or even near a pipeline).
  • Those with the power to decide if a pipeline can be built on another’s land have rarely had their own home or drinking water threatened with contamination from an oil leak or oil spill.
  • Those with the power to decide whether an oil pipeline will be constructed on their land rarely have been so poor that they have no choice but to stay and risk the life and safety of their family.
  • Those with the power to decide whether a woman may make her own choices about her own body rarely have been in the shoes of an unemployed, ill, homeless, young, poverty-stricken, frightened or abused woman faced with an unexpected pregnancy.
  • Those with the power to decide the fate of a pregnant woman are often not even women.
  • Those with the power to decide the fate of a man detained without charge at Guantanamo Bay rarely have been accused of a crime he did not commit or been denied the opportunity to prove his innocence or stand before his accusers (in a nation where the rule of law is “innocent until proven guilty”)
  • Those with the power in our government to decide the fate of Muslims are rarely Muslim themselves.
  • Those with the power to decide how to regulate guns have rarely been shot themselves or lost a loved one to gun violence.
  • Those with the power to decide the fate of a young black man have rarely experienced the racism of living as a black person in America.
  • Those with the power to enact travel bans to protect our country from terrorists rarely have fled another country because of terrorism.
  • Those with the power to decide the future of wildlife have never been anything other than human.
  • Those with the power to decide whether oil shall be drilled in a natural preserve have never been a bird or a fish or a bear or a tree or a seal or a deer or an antelope living in a natural preserve.
  • Those with the power to protect the air we breathe have rarely lived in Delhi where hundreds line up at medical centers each day desperate for oxygen.
  • Those with the power to protect the water we drink rarely come from Flint, Michigan or places like it.
  • Those with the power to decide whether rising sea levels are a real danger to life and communities on earth rarely will experience the devastating impact of rising sea levels.
  • Those with the power to decide whether the polar ice caps are melting will be unlikely to ever experience a world without polar ice caps.
  • Those with the power to decide whether to tear apart parents and children by deportation rarely have experienced being permanently separated from their only family.
  • Those with the power to decide whether to cut funds to the arts rarely have struggled to pay the rent living as a working artist.
  • Those with the power to decide whether laws should be created for hate crimes rarely have been a victim of a hate crime.
  • Those with the power to decide which bathrooms a transgender child may use in his or her school rarely have lived with the experience of knowing that he or she is transgender in a world of intolerance and bullying.
  • Those with power who call a free press “the enemy of the American people” have rarely been thrown into jail for years or decades for writing an article criticizing their government.
  • Those with power who claim to be “the least racist person you have ever met” or “the least anti-Semitic person you have ever met” – may be rightly questioned on their veracity if they have selected their closest advisor from a media outlet with a history of racist or anti-Semitic speech.
  • Those with power who would build a wall rarely have lived in Berlin or Palestine or been separated from loved ones or food and resources because of a wall.
  • Those with power who would build a wall to keep others out have rarely been kept out of another country themselves.
  • Those with power who would build a $20 billion wall rarely would use their personal finances to pay for it.
  • Those with power who demand “extreme vetting” for others rarely refuse to accept the demand from voters for the same kind of vetting (i.e. releasing tax returns).
  • Those with power who boast about sexually assaulting woman have rarely experienced the horrible violation of another person touching the most intimate parts of their body without permission.
  • Those with power who have said that those captured by the enemy in war-time are not heroes rarely have been captured in war-time.
  • Those with power who would take away protections of retirement savings have rarely lost their retirement savings because of greed from a deregulated Wall Street.

You get the picture. The list is endless. This is our world. This is our country and it is not so much about fairness (although that is a major and massively complex part of it) as it is even more about empathy.

There are harsh realities about the times we are living…indeed about all times…but for us to realize the “American Dream” – the real American Dream, for me it will always be about empathy. Empathy for those who came before us, for those who will come after us and empathy for our fellow human beings right now, no matter where they come from or how they got where they are.

While those in power may never know the experience of the people’s lives whom they affect, there is one thing they can do even without direct knowledge – they can try to have empathy. They can dig deep and try to imagine.

I am not sensing empathy now. I am not sensing imagination, especially from some of our leaders. I am sensing greed. I am sensing selfishness. I am sensing political expediency. I am sensing stubbornness. I am sensing racism, xenophobia and hate.

Above all, I am sensing fear….monstrous, destructive, massive and widespread fear. Decisions are not being made based on empathy. Decisions are being made based on fear. If we are not careful, fear will be the end of us.  If the human race ever does become extinct, my guess  is that the root of our demise will be traced back to fear.

This is our choice – and likely the most important choice of our time – empathy or fear?

Empathy will never be the same as experiencing what another has experienced, but it is the best we’ve got….and it has the capacity to ease fear. This applies not only to those in power but to you and me.

Empathy is not liberal.  Empathy is not conservative. Empathy is human. Empathy is humane.

Each time we think we know the right or the wrong of a situation and each time we are truly afraid, we must ask ourselves, “what if it were me?”

Each time those in power are faced with a decision that will affect the lives of others without power, this question must rise to the forefront…what if it were me?

If one were to ask me what I desire most right now from our leaders, our President, all those in power – and from all my fellow humans — it would be that each of us – every one of us — would ask ourselves the same question every day: “what if it were me?”

Love,

Cinda

Love, Trust, Truth and the Minefield of Words in the Time of Trump

It is Valentines Day and I have never felt more in love with being alive. I have never felt more in love with the people who lift me up every day. I have never felt more in love with my cat, my planet, my warm bed, the trees and the grass, the infinite sky, the friends around me, the strangers around me, my healthy body, my sharp mind and my aching, emotional, chaotic, beautiful, nuclear, confusing and confused heart.

I almost always write about what is going on inside me in one form or another, but in these months, these days….it is tough to find words. Words do not come so easily….perhaps because, in these days, words are being used in such powerful, inappropriate, dishonest ways by people in power in a way that I have not seen in my lifetime.

I know that the earth is millions of years old and human life is but a miniscule blip in the whole history of the universe. I also know that dishonesty, manipulation, cowardice, the hunger and greed for great power….these are not new; not even close.

Words are everything to us humans. We depend upon them on Valentines Day and every other day of our lives, from the moment we wake to the moment we go to sleep at night. The wrong word or words can turn one person’s world or the world of a whole nation or a whole group inside out and upside down.

Words are a minefield…especially when we get down to the truth of them. Words can be manipulated in infinite ways to turn fact into fiction or fiction into fact.

Even these words right now, on this screen, will be interpreted by one reader one way and by another reader another way. No matter the words I choose, the interpretations will vary. It is a minefield for sure.

I’ve always known about the very, very dicey nature of words and their use, but never have I appreciated the minefield more than in these times, watching those in our nation with power. The president is at the center of it all and it spreads out in massive waves from him.

World leaders hear the words of our leaders and their instruments and advocates and supporters and opponents and question what is real. Men, women, minorities, Muslims, poor people, wealthy people, middle-income people, children, educators, scientists, corporate people, the media, artists, people from every group there is….feel the powerful uncertainty in the minefield of all the words being used right now.

What is real? Who is telling the truth? What is truth? Who decides what is truth? It is a conundrum because so many regard “the other” as the enemy.   The bankers want the power. The progressives want the power. The lobbyists want the power. The media wants the power. The voters want the power. Every group wants the power. Every group believes they have the answers. Every group wonders what the president will do next and who will be helped and who will be harmed.

Every one of us is looking toward the White House asking ourselves, what will happen next? Will our country be okay? Who will profit from the decisions that are made? Who will suffer from the decisions that are made?   Every one of us is praying that our president knows what he is doing and many, many, many of us (whether we admit it or not) have more fear every day that goes by, that he does not.

The fear is palpable. What will happen next? North Korea. Health insurance. The lives and futures of millions of immigrants. The lives and futures of millions of Muslims. The lives and futures of all of us who pay taxes, who are saving for retirement. The lives and futures of our children on this planet.  The lives and future of all who strive for an education…young and old and in between.  The stakes are so high now that we can barely wrap our mind around the importance of the time we are living in.

The decisions being made now will affect the entire globe for generations to come….and the decisions will be expressed in words. The decisions will be expressed in written words – in the written words of Executive Orders and judicial rulings…and in the tweets of our Commander-in-Chief.   The words will be expressed in all the endless forms of written media – in mainstream media outlets, on Facebook and Twitter and email, on blogs and across the internet.   The words will also be expressed verbally every moment of every day in meetings, at awards shows, on telephones, in sports arenas, on television, in homes, on sidewalks, in offices, in stores, in classrooms, in marches and rallies, on airplanes, on buses, in cars, in Congress, at workshops and conferences, in coffee shops and diners and restaurants and kitchens and everywhere people gather.

One thing that is certain now: we are all talking….A LOT…and we are communicating with words. The question is: which words will rise to the top and become actions that will powerfully impact our lives? Even before the results become evident, how will we know which words are true and which words are being used to manipulate or persuade us by someone who wants power?

How can we trust the words before us? How can we know which of us speaks truthfully and which of us speaks falsely?

I have no answers to all these questions. I have only my gut and my heart….especially my heart. My heart tells me to trust my heart on what is real, what is true…and who is truly authentic, who is truly kind, and who is truly wise, in these frightening times.

My Heart, this Valentines Day, tells me only this: “listen to me more, spread the love inside me more.” More and more and more and more and more.

The words are a mystery, but the authentic love that I feel from many of the people I see around me; the life that I see around me…is real.  The real love inside so many of us – my heart tells me that it is real and my heart tells me that trusting of the heart by each one of us may be part of what is missing in these awful days of uncertainty.

With all the noise, all the zillions of words flying through across our planet, all the greed, all the struggles for power, all the chaos, it is not easy to trust the heart.

Still, as I walk the streets of Manhattan and see the eyes of the people around me….people laughing with their children; children playing with their friends; shoppers chatting with the cashier; couples deciding what’s for dinner; everybody everywhere having countless mundane conversations all around me about everything and nothing, I do sense love. Not exclusively of course, but a lot. I sense a lot of love, most of it from people who don’t feel very powerful these days.  People like me.

I look around me and I see LIFE. I sense the wonder of LIFE. I suppose that is what brings me comfort…the wonder of the LIFE that I see around me every minute of every day.

I don’t know what lies ahead and I get damned scared.   Still, there is always the nagging voice inside my heart telling me to stay brave, stay calm, because something ELSE, something bigger is also going on.

My Heart says to me in the moments when I am most afraid: “Trust me…LIFE will win in the end. Excruciating days will come. Joyful days will come. Still, in the end, keep listening to me, your heart. Keep trusting in me.  Keep trusting in love.  Keep trusting in LIFE. It will be okay.”

I don’t know if the words of the voice in my heart are real, if the words are true.  I don’t know if listening to my heart will really make any of it or even most of it, okay, but my heart tells me to try, at least for now, to listen anyway.

Happy Valentines Day.

XOXO

Cinda

Let’s Get To Work Helping the Homeless…This Holiday Season and Beyond

Hello, my fellow humans.  It feels like a good Friday to send out a couple of links for this holiday season — see the links below and at the bottom of this message.  (If I caught you at a busy time, you can read this message later or go straight to the links below — you will see I have a lot on my mind these days – and I’m guessing I’m not alone in that.)

Link to this week’s song:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hZB0dYnDvBs

 

Link to Order Hat/Glove sets @ Dollar Days ($15.12 per case – 12 sets per case) To Distribute to the Homeless:

https://www.dollardays.com/i2124669-wholesale-mens-hat-and-gloves-set-3-assorted-colors.html

 

Here are my caffeinated thoughts today if you would like to read at your leisure:

I won’t lie – I am by nature a very optimistic person, but HOLY CRAP — 2016 shattered my heart in so many ways that I can barely express or count, and I know you know what I mean.  Aleppo (the worst of all), Trump, the passing of Prince and Bowie, all the horrible gun violence and racism, the millions and millions of refugees, the Pulse massacre, the Charlotte church massacre, the horribleness of everything that is Trump and Putin and Duterte and Assad…on and on and on…and our inability to stop any of it this year.  The pain of it all is as deep as it gets and the fear of what’s ahead is so real in the hearts of millions.

 

So, as you probably know, my only response to such massive suffering and uncertainty is the same as it has always been and will always be, I suspect:  Music (CAPITAL M) and Kindness (CAPITAL K)

 

The first link above (and at the bottom of this message) is today’s Music (thank you, Heart!) – a song that seems particularly appropriate as we end this insane year.

 

The second link is about the Kindness – specifically to the homeless (if you are able to help).  I admit it – if I have an obsession in this life (along with my love of ice cream, Harry Belafonte, Jon Stewart, pie and Supernatural) — it is human rights and finding a way to help the homeless.

Here’s the deal:

The past couple of weeks I’ve been traipsing around the frigid streets of Manhattan (on my morning and evening commute and as I visit dozens of lonesome cats) —- giving out hat/glove sets to the freezing homeless people I see.   (My reasoning is that if I’m out walking around the city anyway, I may as well make myself useful.)

 

Right now, when it comes to New York City’s homeless — MAN – talk about “Suffering” (CAPITAL S).   There is no sugarcoating it.  It is a terrible, terrible horror show out there for the homeless.

 

So, on my commute and elsewhere, as I walk around the city, I listen to Jackson Browne, pass out the hats and gloves from my little blue Whole Foods rolling cart — and I cry.  I see old, sick, worn-out, freezing people in wheelchairs, on crutches, in doorways, on benches, digging through garbage cans, lying in subways – everywhere – with no shoes, no coat, hat or gloves, shivering and alone with an empty cup and sometimes a piece of cardboard.  Then, I walk across 14th Street, up to Penn Station and on to 42nd Street and listen to Paul Simon, Susan Werner, CCR and Marshall Tucker Band and the Allman Brothers and I cry some more.

 

I barely, barely scratch the surface of the need out there, so I was thinking today that the best way for me to get the word out and possibly help more suffering people — and get more hats and more gloves on more freezing heads and more freezing hands —  is to send out the link to the Dollar Days wholesale website (included at the top and bottom of this message).

 

The Dollar Days wholesale site is where you can buy a case of hat/glove sets for $15.12 (12 sets in a case).  (There are other sites, but Dollar Days is the one I use.)   The cases are small boxes and the sets are individually wrapped (which is awesome) — so if you would like to buy a case and put a few sets of hats/gloves in your bag as you walk around Manhattan (or wherever you live), you could do that (and please share the link on social media also).

 

It’s incredibly easy to order a case and hand out a few hat/glove sets walking around NYC ….and the response from 99 percent of the homeless people I meet is Joy like you would not believe. For many, receiving a hat and/or gloves in this bitter cold is honestly like telling them they won the lottery.  In my experience, I have rarely seen such joy as when a freezing person receives a hat and gloves on a freezing cold night sitting on the sidewalk.  (SOCKS too by the way! The homeless need socks badly and you can also order those from Dollar Days as well).

 

The whole thing is moving — and as messed up as it gets — because you know and I know and every damn person alive knows — that these people should NEVER be sitting out there in the first place.  However, this is the ridiculous and brutal world (and city) that we live in, so I figure all we can do is deal with what is and get our butts to work.

 

I will mention for those who may be hesitant or apprehensive about approaching strangers, that I am very careful in my travels.  I move along quickly as I walk around doing this (because I am also a realist and I know there can be risks in any encounter), but my experience has been nothing but positive.  I have encountered no hostility, only joy, humanity, gratitude and love.

 

I also think to myself over and over as I’m walking around that I wish A LOT of other people would be out there doing the same thing — if they have the desire and the information…but then I realize that nobody can help if they don’t have the information (hence the link below).

Sometimes people say that we should keep kind acts to ourselves (because telling others is an ego thing, etc.).  I thought a lot about that and I see their point — anonymous acts of kindness have a definite purpose in this life — but then I think to myself — if I don’t tell people what I am doing, how can anybody copy me?  

 

I tell people again and again – please don’t praise me – HELP ME and COPY ME.  (Praise is for shit if a homeless person is suffering.)

 

That is the bottom line:  I really, really, REALLY want people to copy me and do the same thing I am doing (or give to a homeless organization if that is your preference)….because, by myself, I feel like I am less than a grain of sand on 10,000 beaches.  It never, never feels like enough.  If more people join me, we can get a lot more done.

So, there you are, for whatever it is worth.  Thanks for reading all that!

 

Everything else aside, I hope you can feel all the love I am sending out to you, especially now.  These are damn scary times and I always hope all the people in my life and beyond know that I am a phone call away if your heart is broken or bent or shaky or crying out for comfort in these frightening days.

 

Perhaps my favorite John Lennon quote is:

 

“It matters not who you love, where you love, why you love, when you love or how you love, it matters only that you love’” — John Lennon

 

I love you.  The best thing about love – I don’t have to know you to love you.  I know the human heart and if yours feels even a tiny percentage of what mine does, then I love you.

 

Merry Holidays and ESPECIALLY, infinite and endless wishes from my heart to yours for a peaceful, peaceful, peaceful new year.

 

Stay well and brave out there.

 

XOXO

Cinda

 

Link to this week’s song:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hZB0dYnDvBs

 

Link to Order Hat/Glove sets @ Dollar Days ($15.12 per case – 12 sets per case) To Distribute to the Homeless:

https://www.dollardays.com/i2124669-wholesale-mens-hat-and-gloves-set-3-assorted-colors.html

 

 

(Important Note:  if you are apprehensive to personally distribute items to the homeless, please give to a homeless charity like Coalition for the Homeless — www.coalitionforthehomeless.org   or another organization in your city.)  I know that my way of doing things may not be for everybody, but please (if you can) do SOMETHING.)

 

 
 
I

As I Stand Before the Mirror: A Thanksgiving Message to the Homeless and Everyone Alive

Dear Homeless Person,

You are on my mind today.  Each morning as I do my hair and make-up — I am fortunate enough to have a mirror, four walls, a ceiling, a hairbrush, make-up — each morning as I stand before the mirror, I think about you. Many thoughts enter my head each morning as I stand before the mirror.

First and foremost I ask myself: how I can help you in the impossible situation in which you find yourself?  I think about where, when, how I can give my money, time, heart and whether it will make any difference at all because you are just one of millions.  I ask myself how this happened to you?  How many combination of actions or lack of actions by billions of us and by you have resulted in the fact that you and millions like you are sleeping on a sidewalk or begging for change?  I ask myself how we got here (and I do mean “we” because I believe forever and ever that your problem is my problem and vice versa).  1 in 100 children in New York City are now homeless. How did this happen?

You are homeless and I am not, but we both share one home that all humans share: planet earth. So, you are living in my home and I am living in yours.  Your concerns are mine and my concerns are yours.  We are roommates on this massive rock we share. You may live in Brazil, Syria, Haiti, Iraq, New York, Detroit, Nigeria, Chicago, Taiwan, Venezuela, the Philippines or two blocks from me.  It matters not. We are joined, connected.  Like it or not, we are roommates of the heart because we share this common home: Earth.

I think about how we got here. How you got here.  I think about your physical condition today.  It is winter in parts of America and in other parts of the world.  Are you cold? Are you sleeping outdoors?  Are you hungry?  Do you have a family? If you are a parent, are your kids able to go to school? Will your kids eat today?  Are you a veteran?  If you are, that is an extra knife in my heart as I look in the mirror and think about all you have given me and all of the immeasurable ways we have let you down, ways that I cannot even wrap my head around.

I wonder about your personal circumstances. Do you have a physical addiction?  How depressed are you?  Do you cry at night or have all your tears been spent?  Do you have any hope at all that your life may improve?  Are you safe? Are you alone or do you have anyone at all to talk to? Are you afraid? It is your fear that I think about yourself.  Fear and I are old friends.

The hardest part of writing this post today was realizing that you will likely never read it. If you are homeless, it is unlikely that you have a phone, a laptop, a tablet, internet service, a Twitter account or a Facebook page.  All of these things that we take for granted every day inside our homes are a distant memory or a distant dream for you I imagine.  So, I stand in front of the mirror and I also wish.  I wish I could communicate with every one of you. I can talk to some of you on the street or at soup kitchens, but I cannot get the message to each of you directly that you are on my mind everyday.

I worry a lot that you may not know how much you are on the mind of myself and millions like me. I wish you could know.  I know it would not rise you out of your situation, but maybe it would give you hope even for a moment. At least for a moment.

These are the things I think about each morning as I stand before the mirror. These are the things I think about each time I see you on the sidewalk or the subway or in the stairwell or in the ATM vestibule or on the news.

My thoughts are not feelings though. It is my feelings that I most want to share with you. Even though l have all the thoughts above, to be honest, it is not my thoughts that will help you. I think it may be my feelings and the feelings of others like me.

Here is what I feel every morning as I stand before the mirror:  I feel shame. I feel shame for my species that we do not take better care of each other. (The shame I feel for the betrayal of our homeless veterans will live in me forever.) I feel shame that every one of us does not know that we are forever connected to every other one of us. Your fate is mine and my fate is yours.

I feel grief. I grieve for all the losses you have suffered. I grieve for the mistakes you have made and I grieve for the mistakes we have all made in our neglect, our indifference, our frustration at our own helplessness, our complacency. I grieve for you and me and all of us who share a home but cannot stop hurting and killing each other with violence and neglect.

I feel anger. I feel anger at our leaders, our citizens and myself for allowing this tragedy to go on and on and on and on and on and on without an end in sight.

I feel gratitude. I feel gratitude for those who spend their lives fighting the uphill battle to change the system, to change society, to change your life.  I feel gratitude, immense gratitude that I am not in your shoes. Yet.

I feel fear. I feel fear that your circumstances will get worse instead of better. I feel fear that the numbers of you will multiply exponentially. I feel fear that one day those I love may live as you do.  I feel fear that one day I will not have to imagine. I feel fear that one day I will know exactly how you feel. I feel fear that you will become very ill. I fear that you will die without knowing the joy and gratitude I feel when I climb into my bed at night.  I feel hope that some day you may know that joy – again or for the very first time.

I feel compassion. I feel my heart shattering into tiny bits when I think about you lying out on that freezing sidewalk night after night. My heart can barely contain the sorrow I feel at your unimaginable suffering.

I feel love. I feel love for you because you are a human being as I am. You came out of your mother’s womb with no guidebook or clue on how to navigate this treacherous, beautiful world.  I feel love because you have known betrayal, as we all have known betrayal. Somebody somewhere let you down.  Somewhere along the path you let yourself down.  Every one of us knows the feeling of being let down.  Every one of us knows the feeling of letting ourselves down.  For this I feel endless love for you.

Your circumstances are different from mine but your heart is not.  You know grief, fear, hope, love, despair and betrayal. I hope you have known love. If you have not, this grieves me the most because I wish you could read these words.

I say that the feelings in my heart as I stand before the mirror are more important than the thoughts in my head because I believe that it is the feelings in my heart – in the heart of every man and woman — that can and do lead us to Action.

Only action will bring you or I the life we each deserve. Your action. My action. The action of every person on earth. Large actions and small actions. Large actions by people with power. Small actions by people with less power or no power.

I do not know if it will be a trillion small actions or hundreds of large actions which may someday end homelessness.  I do not know if it will or can happen in your lifetime or mine.  I know it must happen. I know that every action, great or small, is better than no action at all.

I can imagine that if you were to read this, these thoughts would be too massive and overwhelming for you right now. You cannot think about “homelessness”. Homelessness is a cause, an issue, a tragedy,  You are not “homelessness”. You are not a cause or an issue or a societal problem. You are a man.  You are a woman. You are a child. You are a human being without a roof and four walls, without a bed or a sandwich.

And so I return to feelings. Mine and yours and all who may read this.  If you feel something in your heart when reading this, whatever it may be, may it lead you to action. Those with a home are the most likely to read this, so my prayer is that those with a home will act on behalf of those who cannot read these words… those without a home.

Every one of us share feelings. It is the most important part of being human that we all share.  Feelings are immensely powerful and can be devastatingly destructive or devastatingly healing.  We move blindly through this life trying to figure out what to do, how to survive amidst the powerful emotions that live within us, but as humans, our emotions are also our gifts, our tools, our blessings. It may (and will) take generations, centuries or even millennia, but my heart tells me the key lies in our emotions, our heart. Our individual hearts and our collective human heart.  I do believe that it is not only my heart but the collective beating of all hearts that moves me so powerfully each morning as I stand before the mirror.

It is love. So many words in this post and ironically it all comes down to one.  Love.

Love is the most overused four-letter word we’ve got, but it’s our word and even if we have failed this word up to now, I believe that it is not too late to make it as alive as we are.

If we only act.  Action is the bottom line because love is a verb (thank you John Mayer).

It is not mere coincidence that these thoughts and feelings come through me and out of me each day, as I stand before the mirror.  We all stand before the mirror, every day of our lives.

May we all create a home where we need not be ashamed of what we see.

Love,

Cinda

 

The Most Important Word of Our Time: Complicit

Albert Einstein said: “If I were to remain silent, I’d be guilty of complicity.” Complicity…to be complicit. For me, this word, “complicit” is the most important word of our time.

To remain silent is to be complicit. To remain silent is to allow bigotry, hate, racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia to gain an even bigger footing in our world. To remain silent is to be complicit.

I see so much despair around me. I see anger and frustration and fear. I feel the negative, frightening energy of what is happening and the raw emotion so many are feeling now and I ask myself “what can I do?”  At the end of the day, that is the question each of us must ask: what can I do?  I cannot control the actions and words and opinions of others. I cannot stop the voices of hate and racism – not alone.

However, it is truly the “I” that is the only thing over which I have control.

I can control what I do…or what I fail to do. If my fear causes me to remain silent, I am complicit. My silence will only aid the dark forces out there that would take away the human rights of Muslims, gay and transgender people, women, African Americans, Latinos and aid in the destruction of our natural world.

It feels much safer and less scary to stay neutral, to stay silent….but my gut tells me that if I remain silent, I will be complicit.  Neutral people, who do not speak their mind or take a side…they have it easier for sure. Neutral people are less likely to lose friends, lose close relationships. Neutral people may comfort themselves by saying they are the “calm in the storm”. Neutral people may present themselves as more “fair” and more “reasonable” than parties on either side of the difficult issues. Neutral people will rationalize that by staying silent and by avoiding conflict, they are protecting their families, their jobs, their livelihoods, their reputations.   A neutral person is less likely to lose their job by speaking up against an injustice.

A neutral person may keep their friends and their families and their safe personal world intact – for a while — and they may never experience the anxiety and frustration and anger that comes from conflict. Avoiding conflict is a hell of a lot less scary than engaging in conflict.

There can be no doubt there are benefits to being neutral….but the consequences to our world are far worse. To those who would stay silent, to those who do not take a side, make no mistake: you are complicit in whatever tragedies and bad times lie ahead.  You may tell yourself that you are helping one side or the other by remaining silent, but the fact is that, by your silence, you are helping no one and hurting everyone.

Silence and neutrality are not an option in these times. Neutrality is never an option. The Holocaust, along with other horrific historical events, taught us the unspeakable cost of staying silent, of trying to stay neutral.

It simply cannot be an option. It is terrifying to stand up, to speak out. I speak from personal experience. I am scared shitless every time I speak out – even here as I watch these words appear on this computer screen, I feel deep fear.  I know that my words and actions may be met with great hostility and anger and criticism and judgment. I may lose that which is dear to me. It feels like a risk to stand and be counted…and it is. If you are a reserved sort of person or a shy person or a person who hates the anxiety and upset of conflict (like me), it takes tremendous courage to speak one’s mind, especially in times like these.

I think of those who were disturbed or offended by Donald Trump’s words and actions the past year, but put it all aside to vote for him anyway – or those who stayed home and did not vote at all because they did not like the choices. My guess is that many Trump supporters may have put all his terrible behavior aside when they cast their vote because they believed that he would address their problems in a way that nobody else could.

(I still don’t understand why they believed that Donald Trump could ever be the answer to all their problems or how they could “put aside” his racism, hate-speech, dishonesty, misogyny, etc. and vote for him anyway — but the fact remains that a great many people voted for him….and here we are.)

STILL, whether you are a Trump supporter or a Hillary supporter or a Bernie supporter or a Johnson supporter or a Stein supporter, or if you did not vote at all, not a single one of you (of us) can afford to stay silent in these times.

We need to know where you stand. I need to know where you stand and you need to know where I stand.   We need to know where every one of us stands right now, so that we can have meaningful, civil, respectful, courageous, honest and compassionate dialogue and figure out how to make our lives and our world better – FOR ALL OF US.

Nobody can stay on the sidelines. Nobody can stay in the shadows and hope others will solve all the problems. Whatever your opinion, please speak out. (How am I going to argue with you if I don’t know who you are or what you believe?)

It’s been said before – democracy is damn messy. Damn right it is. Free speech, debate, protests, elections…all of it. As we have seen, it can get ugly as hell and it can even get violent (which I pray does not happen), but at the end of the day, every one of us MUST CHOOSE A SIDE – every day on every issue that matters to us. It will not be fun. At all – but we must do it. We must not be complicit.

You can bet your ass I will be out there with my poster board signs and my sneakers, chanting for peace, justice, love and fairness, every week, on every issue that touches my heart and rattles my brain.   (I may buy the entire stock of foam board at Staples because I know there is a lot of protesting ahead.)   I may get shouted at and insulted and criticized, but I will be out there for the next 4 (or 8) years standing up for what is right. I will be scared as hell every single time I do it, but I will do it anyway, because I know all of it is so much bigger and so much more important than me. It is not about you or me. It is about our world and our children, and our children’s children’s children.  It is about figuring out what kind of world we want to live in.

I urge every one of you to do the same. Stand up, speak out, find your courage and debate like crazy. You may lose friends and much more, but at the end of the day, none of this is about any individual, it is about ALL OF US – every person on this planet.

Future generations not even born yet are counting on us to get this right. They are counting on us to leave them a world of justice and freedom and decency and peace and goodwill.  They are counting on us to leave them a world of clean air, clean water and pure soil.  Those things may seem like an impossible dream right now, but if we give up on the dream, we let MLK down, we let all who have sacrificed so much down, we let ourselves down and most important of all, we let our children down.

However full of despair you feel today, please fight back by speaking out and standing up for what is just and decent in this world. (We may not ever completely agree on what those words mean, but at least we will know who is on which team and that is a start.) I am not afraid of Trump supporters or Hillary supporters or anyone I have heard from so far. I am afraid of those who have remained silent, those who have been complicit by their silence. Complicity frightens me more than an opposing view. Complicity and silence is the worst of all possible worlds.

If your heart is broken or you are confused and you don’t know what to do, I can only suggest this: get out there and help somebody, help a lot of somebodies…but get out there and get to work. Our country may be in crisis, but there are still a hell of a lot of people who still need our help, no matter who is president.

If you don’t get out there (literally or metaphorically) and take a stand, you are complicit and my heart tells me to its core that complicit is the worst possible thing any one of us can be right now.

So, let’s stand up, speak out, get to work. Let’s do it with courage, grace and with love in our hearts, but let’s do it.   It will be very painful at times, but not one of us can stay silent. Too much is at stake.

So, let’s do this — and let’s try not to harm each other too much in the process. Right now we may think unity is impossible, but I believe that is true only if we believe it is.

As my favorite fictional brothers would say, “We’ve Got Work To Do”. Please get to work…and please don’t be complicit.

Love,

Cinda

My Experience of Being A Woman in the Year of Donald Trump

Sometimes events occur that are so shattering, so emotionally personal, that sooner or later I know I will be compelled to write about the experience, either to share with others or to calm my own spirit and discover what kind of insight, what kind of wisdom might come bubbling to the surface. There are experiences in life that can never be adequately captured in the ever-so-limiting tool of language and words.

Sexual assault is such an experience. Even typing the words “sexual assault” fills me with emotion. It feels too personal, too dark, too horrific to write about.

There are degrees of sexual assault of course and my story is of a much lesser degree than those who have been raped. I have been very fortunate to never have been raped. That is an experience I don’t even know if I could find the courage to put into words.

Before I get ahead of myself, let me tell you about me – at least the “me” that matters most in this life on earth. Let me tell you about the spirit and essence and traits that make “me”.

I was born into the world a girl, a very shy, frightened girl with a deep sense of wonder and curiosity and a determination never to give up. At a very young age, my shyness caused me great emotional pain. I went to school at 5 years old and I was immediately teased and bullied. I am very small and petite in stature and I found it hard to stand up for myself in a physical altercation, let alone a verbal one. I remember the first day of school when I discovered that some people, even those I’ve never met, will be mean to me for no other reason (apparently) than that they can. I was very afraid.

I felt the pain of my shyness. I felt the pain of my fear of speaking up and expressing to my parents, my family, my friends – all the fear and confusion I felt inside.   I would look at the ground when I walked. I would avert my eyes when speaking to others (to boys especially). I would plan my conversations with boys ahead of time, afraid of saying the wrong thing, afraid of embarrassing myself…afraid of being ridiculed for not knowing the “right” thing to say to a boy.

I was very thin and gangly and terrible at sports. As my teen years came, I was awkward and my fear and shyness made me even more awkward. Much to my dismay, my breasts did not grow and my face broke out. My hair was unmanageable and cut too short, so I did not feel “feminine” (or what people around me at the time told me what that word is supposed to mean). I have learned a lot since then about the meaning of words… especially the question of “whose meaning?”

I didn’t wear make-up as a teenager because I was adamant and determined that if a boy were ever to like me, it would be for my mind and heart and not because I put some kind of powder or cream or color on my face. I thought to myself, “if a boy asks me out without make-up, I will know that he likes me for me and not because of my appearance.”  I was very stubborn about this.

Not wearing make-up and trying to get a boyfriend with my very shy personality alone didn’t work. No boy asked me out in the four years of high school. I did not go to the Prom. I spent my last night of high school on a bus full of my fellow graduates, going to the “Graduation Cruise” with no one on the seat next to me. I watched all the girls and the boys next to them laughing, while I sat alone, a graduating senior in high school, wishing there was a boy sitting next to me.  I asked myself over and over “what is wrong with me?”

Then, I went to college. Same thing for a while – terrible shyness and no boyfriends. I cried a lot. I wanted a man, any man, to ask me on a date. Nothing happened.

So, after graduating from college, I did the unthinkable – I decided to try to overcome my shyness and social anxiety by becoming an actress. It blew everybody’s mind at the time – how could a young woman as shy and afraid and hesitant and socially awkward as me ever walk out and perform on a stage?

The first few months of acting school were dreadful and terrifying. My legs and hands and almost my whole body trembled (even my head shook) when I performed a scene in front of my classmates.   My fellow actors and the acting teachers would look at me and ask me “Why are you here? You are so frightened. Why are you here?”  There were many weeks when I thought the stage fright I felt would never go away. I thought to myself that I must be crazy, as shy as I was, to think that I could ever go out there on stage and be a real actor.

Then the unexpected happened – my stage fright all but disappeared. I remember the moment it happened. I was performing a 10-minute one-person show on stage for a packed house at my acting school.  I went out onto the stage as frightened as ever and sure I wouldn’t make it through the whole show, when suddenly about 3 minutes into the performance, something clicked inside me and BANG, the fear disappeared. I still can’t believe it happened.  I’m still not quite sure what exactly did happen. All I knew was that, suddenly, I wasn’t afraid.  Instead, I was an actress playing a role and having the time of my life.

I still don’t know what happened that night 29 years ago. For a long time I was afraid that it was temporary, that the fear would return.  It didn’t. From that moment on, going on stage brought me not fear, but only joy.

That moment changed my life. Over time it helped me to overcome my shyness with men and others as well. I actually learned how to talk to a man and look him in the eye and not be afraid.

I still feel shy inside at times (I think I always will), but these three decades later, I am something I never thought I would be – a (mostly) confident woman, who looks people in the eye and is comfortable in my own skin.

That is half the story. The second half of the story takes me back to my appearance. I am still skinny. My breasts never did grow. My hair is still unmanageable, although I enjoy the thickness of it now, instead of hating it as I did when I was younger. My skin is clear, most of the time.  I am a very petite woman, who could be easily overpowered by a man. I live in New York City where I know that dangers exist. Like many urban women, I receive cat-calls and comments sometimes when I walk down the street.  (I’m still no good at knowing how to respond – my residual shyness kicks in every time.)

I still rarely wear make-up (some things never change) and I spend my money on music rather than fashion, but today it no longer matters.  Today, I am loved by those who know me, for who I am, not for what I look like….except.

EXCEPT….except sometimes by men. Sometimes I walk down the street and men make comments about my small breasts or my little body – sometimes the comments are complimentary and sometimes not….but every time it makes me feel like crap – awkward, afraid, anxious, confused and other feelings I can’t quite put into words.  It also makes me feel angry for every other woman who has these kinds of experiences.

Then, one day a few years ago, it got worse. (I will keep this part of the story short because it is painful to think about).   I was sitting on the subway. The subway was crowded. I was wearing jeans and a sweater, carrying a canvas bag on my lap.  Suddenly, something didn’t feel right. I couldn’t say exactly what it was, but I felt upset, confused, “wrong” – something was very wrong. Something compelled me to lift my bag off my lap and there it was — the hand of the man next to me between my legs.   I leaped out of my seat and he ran off the train as we pulled into the station.  I told the people around me what he had done to me. They sat and stared at me and said nothing. It is New York – many people do not get involved.

I didn’t get a good look at the guy and there was little I could do, so I just went home. I went home and cried – for days and weeks I cried. I am crying even now as I write this. I don’t know about others, but for me, that kind of sexual assault is something one never really gets over.

There are no words for that kind of violation and still being the shy person (inside) that I am, I was determined to simply get past it and overcome….and I did.  That is what I do when faced with life’s challenges….I overcome them.  “Overcoming”, however, does not mean the pain goes away.  It just levels out (and I tend to bury such pain to be honest).

Until now.  I buried that memory until this week — when I heard the audio of Donald Trump talking on that bus. Millions of other women like me – some who have been sexually assaulted, some who are shy, some who are not, even some who have been raped – and some who have received cat-calls and comments of all kinds from men walking down the street — we all heard Donald Trump.   We heard him say how he treats “beautiful women” and how he “can’t help it”.

Mr. Trump is not a woman.  How can he know what it is like to live as a woman in our society? How can he know the emotional pain and confusion and fear and horror and disgust and even shame that a woman can feel when she – when I – when we – are viewed as someone who can be touched or spoken to or spoken about in demeaning words like pussy or bitch or parts of our body treated as property for anyone to touch or criticize or judge.

Women know what I am talking about. We are women – we know the deepest, most visceral, physical part of what it means to be born a woman in this world – emotionally, psychologically, physically, sexually, spiritually – women KNOW what it feels like to be a woman – a girl, a teenage girl, a young woman, a middle-aged woman and, if we’re lucky, an old woman.

Men cannot know that feeling of what it is like to live in this world as a woman, just as I cannot know what it is like to be a man or an African American or Latino or Asian or other minority. We each know about who WE are, but we can only guess at what it is like to wear the shoes of another.

Still, many of us try.  Many of us show respect to the other gender or ethnicity or race or orientation, not because we are told to, but because we somehow know in our hearts the importance of trying to imagine what it is like to live in someone else’s shoes.   Empathy exists in the hearts of many – and it is lacking in the hearts of many.

Mr. Trump’s remarks – and especially his behavior – hurt and anger me as a woman because of what I have experienced and what I have seen other women experience – but most of all,his words and actions tear me apart because a man of such power, such wealth – lacks the empathy to imagine – or to try to imagine – what it is like to be a woman on the receiving end of such behavior — and most of all, because there are those who support a person who lacks such empathy as a candidate for President of the United States.

Mr. Trump very likely will not change, but we can. We – you, the other women and the other men in this country and this world — we can change. We can try and imagine what it is like to be of another gender, another race, another religion, another sexual orientation.

We can never know….but we can imagine.

I ask you today to please imagine….and then vote.  Vote with empathy.

Blessings to you all,

Cinda

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