Story Hungry

We’re told not to let our children watch TV.

Sponge Bob will turn them into brain dead rats.

Maybe a show on a bald Canadian preschooler is better, or a documentary on wild puffins.

But nothing is so good as letting them run wild outdoors.

I agree – for the most part. Although I, like many parents, use TV as a babysitter at times, somewhat guiltily leaving my kiddo in front of carefully selected shows for a while each day, while I perform basic functions like feeding the cats, cleaning the dishes, and sitting down for longer than three minutes. I know, some sainted parents are able to do everything in the world without TV, but I’m not one of them, my child isn’t theirs, and we all have to accept that there are conditions of each other’s lives we know nothing about.

I imagine my child running around on a farm all day, or visiting with extended relatives with no need for mechanical entertainment, and that sounds nice. A way of life to work towards.

But there’s something lacking that, in our spiritually impoverished modern lives, TV provides, however badly.


Picture books are lovely; some of the greatest stories of our time come as chapter books for children.

But there is a job that story provides – myth, as we call it in the cultures of others.

More than just educating children about facts and science, hygiene and friendship.

The big stories tell us about our place in the cycles of time and life. They help us find our place in the world. They teach us about how to struggle bravely and beautifully through inevitable suffering. They show us who to be, how to love, and how to recognize and step out of idiocy before it consumes us.

TV does that job.

In a haphazard, selfish kind of way, TV mirrors to us the shared dreams and myths of our culture. It teaches us what a good life is supposed to look like, how to ride the rough waters of life, and how to be a good person.

Entire industries are devoted to connecting bleach to the myth of motherhood, teaching us what a happy childhood looks like while selling us orange juice or patio furniture. It teaches us about heroism through tales of caped ninjas. We learn about the discovery the self from aliens wielding glowing swords.

TV doesn’t teach us how to live wisely, of course.

Often it’s job ends at selling us something – which is how we end up thinking the end-all-be-all of human life is to own your own home, or plan for retirement, or be really skinny. It tells us our only shot at living an exciting, meaningful life is if you are born the son of a space king, or a wealthy real estate mogul, or ridiculously thin and naive.

But television does give us a language of myth, of story, with which we can speak to each other, relate to strangers, and measure the meaning of our lives.

If we’re going to demonize TV (and by all means, do), we are going to have to find a way to replace this source of mythic vitamins in our lives.

We are going to have to find a way to feed our children stories – big, deep, many layered, meaningful stories. Stories that, like folktales and religious mythology, unfold over a lifetime. Stories that teach us who to be, how to live, how to suffer, and how to find and honor our souls, in the furnace of this world.


If we don’t ask good questions, we can’t find good answers.

Perhaps somewhere in elementary school, I learned that asking deep probing questions was offensive. Maybe the teacher was already harried, and didn’t have time to answer. Maybe the grown ups laughed, so the kids joined in too. Or maybe it was just this attitude, like if you are going to ask a question at all, you better already know the answer, as if we are all supposed to live like trial lawyers.

But the truth is, the unknown permeates our lives. It is our constant companion.

And questions, good questions, that subtly rearrange our view of reality, and seeking their answers, quietly, openly, paying attention to life…

That leads to a deeper relationship with life, a path of clarity and understanding and compassion, all of which are founded on how we dance with the unknown.

It is more important to inconvenience your teachers, be laughed at by your peers, and fail your multiple choice tests, than to risk living a life meaningless confusion, trying to avoid asking an unanswerable question.

Appreciation of This

“Do you want to know what my secret is? I don’t mind what happens.” – Jiddu Krishnamurti

Lean in, savor the moment, live in the now.

Easy to say, and hard to do. Hard to decide if it’s worth doing.

But, looking back at my life, I spent most of it worried about fixing my problems. Stalwartly trying to be upstanding, make things right, adjust some inadequacy.

And I mostly did a fantastic job of missing the wonders and joy sitting right next to me.

Sure I appreciated it a little, in between my determined quests to make things perfect. But when I look back, that was life. It never did get perfect. Sometimes my questing, and sometimes time, gradually shaded one set of problems into another. And one package of joy and wonder was replaced by a different one, never to return.

Time, in the end, will change everything.

It doesn’t mean don’t change things, but don’t get so caught up in the quest to change things (and this is so easy to do) that you miss appreciating the texture, the sublty of the way things are. Warts and all.

Because the good and the bad are both woven into the tapestry of life. That is life. And the good and the bad will come and go, but you will only ever have one right now.

If you can’t appreciate the good and bad of this, right now, you risk missing life all together.

I missed the magic of childhood trying to grow up. I missed the freedom of young adulthood trying to find a direction. I missed the wonder of my son’s babyhood trying to plan a future. I don’t regret what I did, but looking back, the parts I remember with the most joy were those few times I lost myself in the moment, not the years I spent ‘preparing’ for a future that never came. Not the way I expected, anyway.

Maybe I’ll tack it to my wall, to remind me.

Don’t mind what happens. Savor the moment.

Appreciate right now, unknowns, failures, inadequacies, not-quite-rights and all.

“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”
― Rainer Maria Rilke


“Find your purpose!”

Like it is hiding underneath a log, behind your neighbors bushes.

No, purpose is something you grow.

You plant the seeds, many, not knowing what will take. Water them, and wait.


You water more, protecting them from freezing snow and burning drought, grazing beasts and gnawing bugs.

And wait.

Eventually you will be able to tell, by the shape of the leaves, what kind of tree you grow.

But it will be years yet before you will know the shape of the knots in the trunk, the shade it casts, the color of afternoon sunlight filtering through its leaves.

Only then can it be said that you “know” your purpose. Like you come to know a life long friend. Slowly. And never completely without surprise.

Never will you know each of it’s leaves, memorize each twisting twig.

But that’s what it means to have purpose.

Confessions, writing, and money

Last year, I was suffering from a particular dream-like delusion that privately I know as make-a-million-bucks-and-save-the-world syndrome. That is my confession. Symptoms include desperate hope in silly business ventures, reading lots of “maps to success”, and generally ignoring intuition in the hopes of fixing everything with money.

I told myself, subconsciously, that I didn’t have time for purposeless ‘exploration’. Every project I had time for was supposed to lead to an income. I wanted to sell my writing.

And while an income is a good and noble thing to endeavor towards, something dies in your writing, when you write solely to that end, to please some future reader.

I read a lot of Seth Godin back then. He writes on the fiery necessity of facing fear and probable failure to share your work with the world; your art isn’t art unless you ship, show it to the world.

I still think of that, but I think I misunderstood, too.

There’s one particularly wonderful article I read by Steven Pressfield, on writing and money. He speaks only for himself, of how he spent years living on as little as possible, saving every penny, to buy himself more time writing. Then he would quit his job, go live in a tiny room, even foregoing meals, to spend his days writing. It’s nice, of course, making money. But that’s not why he does it.

To ship, to show the world who you are, just means to show up. To be there, being visible. To put that thing you put your soul into making outside where people can see it, and to point it out. Not egotistically. Just because that’s sort of what life is about. Letting your soul be seen.

There’s not a guarantee that anyone will like it, or that it will be your career path, or that it will ever make you a penny.

I tried to write to the “map to success”, and I screwed my authenticity in the process.

It’s hard – ridiculously unbelievably hard – to brave rejection all the time, to go out of your way to say what you really think to the world. To be vulnerable.

I asked myself why, all the time. Why write, publicly?

“Because it’s part of one day hopefully making money doing what you love.”

That was the wrong answer.

It’s taken me a few years to grow into a better one.

It can’t be one day, it can’t be for money, it can’t even be for love, because sometimes you hate it.

It’s because this is what it takes to make my soul visible, to let it lead my life. Writing this stuff down is how I honor what I have inside me to give, and sharing it is how I honor the universe.

It’s my give-away.

Part of the problem and the level up

“You can’t solve a problem with the same level of thinking that created it.” -Einstein

Kindly people keep telling me about horrors in the news. Teenagers stabbing wild animals. A guy driving a car with his pregnant girlfriend, ramming into a car carrying a family, saying “I’m gonna kill us both”.

I avoid the news for a reason, which is that I think too much about it. And if I don’t have time to think about it, I don’t want all the problems of the world floating around in my head.

I disapprove of the thing where you shake your head and say, “I just don’t understand how people could do such terrible things.”

I just figure it’s rude to come out and say it. That I disapprove.

Because you don’t know jack shit about those people. Pardon my language. You can’t judge without knowing their life story, and the life stories of the people involved.

If I need to tell you I don’t condone things like this, please go away and read something else. You think too black and white to get this.

But this guy with his girlfriend? Maybe his mother just died, and his girlfriend just told him she’s leaving him for his best friend and his whole life has been a lie, and he just lost his job. Or maybe he is in chronic pain, and has some kind of psychotic medical condition and can’t afford his meds, and hasn’t slept in a week. Maybe his father was abusive, and this is the only way he knows how to be, and he’s actually made huge progress not repeating the cycle, but he just went nuts due to some immensely complicated unforeseeable disappointment.

Obviously, what he did was a bad idea. Probably he shouldn’t drive for a long time. And he needs to be held legally responsible for his actions.

But understanding why is a totally different thing.

This is what life does to us. It pressures us and squishes us between the weights of a thousand different bizarre and unforeseeable circumstances, causing us to do things we never in a million years would have thought possible.

If you told this guy five years ago he would be doing this, I bet you he’d have called you crazy.

The point is, shaking your head and calling his actions impossible to understand just makes it impossible for you to avoid such things in the future. If you don’t make the effort to understand, you can’t learn from it. It can’t teach you compassion for people who are different from you. And it can’t teach you to see those same crazy forces working against your good judgement. And most importantly, it can’t show you how to make things different in the future.

You have to understand, to know how to change things, to avoid the mistakes of the past.

You have to understand to learn from it.

You have to understand to make the world a better place.

And if we talk about big things, like the state of politics and education and medical care, to take a few, the same thing applies.

You have to understand the opposite point of view, and all the forces acting on the people involved, in order to have a useful opinion on what should be done to improve things.

If all you can do is shake your head at what idiots they all are, over there, then you know your task. You have to figure out why they think that. You have to understand the true forces acting on their decisions. Only then will your opinion about their idiocy be useful.

The best opinion is the one that can take the many viewpoints into account, and synthesize them into a greater understanding. That’s Einstien’s level up.

And without making an effort towards that, we are just promoting the same ignorance, isolation, and blame that messed the world up in the first place.

Happiness, After All

“The purpose of life is happiness, ” says the Dali Lama, in the book I stole from my Mom’s shelf downstairs.

He serves to confirm the feeling that has been growing in my heart this past week. The words that were already in my mind, almost by osmosis. In all of this, what matters is happiness. And the concentric rings that spread your happiness to those around you, and those around them. And so on.

That is how you make the world a better place.

Gradually, I’m quieting the inner tyrant, who demands I write and make money and clean the house… who insists there is a somewhere else where everything will be better, and we had better get there or else.

I’ve been meditating, thanks to, which has taught me how. And the quiet in my mind means I suddenly don’t need to spend hours writing out my inner furies in a journal, to lock them away.

And I’ve stopped, for once, desperately striving to make money and save the world.

I am practicing the art of being completely okay with where I am now. And it makes me happy. And I find I suddenly have time for everything I really want to do.

I imagine good things that I want from my day. And even better things happen.

Like our lightening fast trip to Fred Meyers today, topped with finding super cute rain boots with bugs on them in black and green for my monkey. We colored with markers, and took Zeus for a walk, and it worked marvelously. Mom got a hands free leash that I can wrap around my back to pull on him with my legs while I’m walking. And O and I played with a tennis ball in the driveway, and I imagined talking to all the neighborhood boys about playing ball this summer. It’s life circling back on itself, funny coming from the girl who hated sports as a child.

And I am drawing again. And coloring. And helping Owen to cover giant sheets of paper with marker. Warming up to my childhood loves.

I feel like my soul has come home.

Life grows in spirals. We are always coming full circle, but because of our trip around, we find we have grown, and our hearts are larger and wiser and more beautiful on the return trip.

I have spent years believing that cynicism was wisdom, and that striving for a better job yesterday was the only way to have enough to eat.

And now I know that cynicism squints blindly at truth, and the striving itself is what makes it impossible to have enough.

Owen says “niice…waarm”.

And it is in his voice that I think that nice, warm, happiness is the point of all this after all. Not to get there. Not to get enough.

Just to be here now, happily.

We all have that little, nice warm light.

And the betterness of the world depends not on important people doing difficult things, but on you, sharing the nice warm light of your happiness.

Irises and Forecasts


I had promised to write everyday, on the grounds that, in Doctor Who, they can fit the most meaningful ideas into one word… so even if there is no time, there’s time for one word. But which word?

“Iris” does not nearly come to describe the Van Gogh print on my wall, that manifested in a thrift store, the same painting that was also one of the odd items I had planned to pack, but run out of room for, on the final night in my old house.

I rode home with the picture in my lap, thinking how sad and desperate the bold colors look, how depressing, how annoyingly bold the red. But it comes with the cool shady turquoise of the grass, and the deep dancing blues, and the warm of the spring green, and the mess of life. And the lone white flower, which I can’t help but feeling is me, and I wonder if Van Gogh felt that way too, and it makes me happy and sad at the same time.

And on my wall, which was painted hummus yellow by the mad owners before us, it is so deeply perfect. It’s the color bridge I had been missing without knowing it, to the cerulean and midnight blue and clover greens that I like to be wrapped in. And, quietly, it is a window whispering of deep beauty and meaning, in a world that desperately needs some.

My dad says that you have to live with a painting for some time before you know if you really like it.

Which is why, I suppose, no one liked Van Gogh when he was alive, but so many of us are perfectly happy to invite him into our homes now, to live with his eyes as windows to our world.

Because understanding deep things takes time.

You have to live with them, letting the first bright pieces fade, as your eyes are drawn on to something deeper, and deeper, each layer something you couldn’t have seen if you didn’t linger on the last.

And that is why I am not going to blog every day, at least not right now.

Because seeing things is not like a conveyor belt of wrenches, that spits out X many truths per hour. Seeing things that are deep, things worth saying, things common to us all takes time.

Why Blog?

I’ve been asking myself this all week, as the seriously bent ears of a few close family members can attest.

It’s not like journaling, where I can spit out an endless stream of mental drivel, and that is actually a good thing, and it is easy because I never have to look at it or think about it again, which is the point.

Putting something out there for the universe, and actually asking you to read it … that is art. And it is rather rude for my art to be about the half formed nonsense of my brain.

Art requires time to grow.

Art is about other people.

Art is about the truths that are common to us all.

I realized that this, for me, is about the art of it, the craft, the beauty of the ideas, images invoked, the memories whispered at.

And that is why I won’t throw up something shoddy, just for the sake of meeting a deadline I made up.

Art is always balanced precariously, I think, between the drive for perfection on one hand, and the need for visceral, scrubby realness. The value of the truths I peddle here is because they come with all my own lostness and day-to-day laughter. That is what gives beauty to all truth.

I don’t mean, by shoddiness, that I’m afraid of not having all the answers. Rather, I’m afraid that in my haste to knock out something, anything, worth saying, I will pretend I do have all the answers. I’ll write in safe little boxes, things other people say and everyone loves. Only, they will be things that mean nothing to me. 

Art arises in that space between beauty and dirt, between the bold beauty of the flowers, and the messy tangle of the leaves, and the red mud. And if you cut out the mess, in your haste to show a perfect, crisp, beautiful flower that anyone would like, no one will be able to love it. Because our souls don’t grow in a world that clean and bland.

For me, this is a song, about the beauty in the ordinary, about the truth unfolding in everything. It’s about what reminds us of a home we have never seen, and smiles of the heart.

And that takes time to unfold.

Forecasting the Moon In Puddles

Sometimes the moon is dark, and the puddles are dry, or the mud is all stirred up and a swirl.

Or in my case, the puddles are frozen solid and full of fallen leaves and dog poo (yes, the unfortunate truth of my life is that the puppy has run amok and had his way with all the puddles).

But in any case, we must wait for the mud to settle, the rain to fall, the world to turn, and the ice to melt. The moon will come again, but not every night.

Of course, you can try to get creative, with a garden hose and a blow-dryer, say. But that is a lot of work, and it makes the neighbors think you’re crazy (if they see you in the yard with said equipment trying to build a puddle to catch the moon).

So, instead of trying to force the deal, I am offering up forecasts, like the weathermen who gesticulate blindly at animated maps in the early morning.

I predict a blog post every two to three days.

Because I worry about these things. Even if you don’t.

So onwards, in search of beauty, truth, and the moon in puddles.

The Goal of Helping

Car carrier hahlps the carOwen’s car drove off the “stoop” hill at the edge of the bed last night. His car carrier truck spent about 20 minutes trying to “hahlp” it. He parked near the car, on it, drove around it, and told it quite a few things about “hahlp”.

Unfortunately, there wasn’t much the car carrier could do.

Which is the trouble with helping.

In order to help, say, a car stranded on the edge of the road, we need to have an end goal in mind. If the tow truck driver just waved, chatted, and practiced parking near us, then went home, we would be pretty irked with him. It’s clear that if you called a tow truck, it is supposed to move you someplace nicer for driving.

Most situations in life aren’t so clear though.

If you are trying to help someone be happier, or learn about the world, then being a friend is the perfect kind of “hahlp”. Sometimes it’s perfectly effective to just park next to them on the side of the road, flash your headlights, and play some interesting music.

So that is exactly what the car carrier did.

playing some music

Don’t Do It Cause It’s The Right Thing


1. the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; moral uprightness.

2. the state of being whole and undivided.

Habit change gurus hold that it takes 21 days to make a habit stick.

That’s how I know integrity is a skill, not a habit.

Because blogging is an act of integrity, and even after almost two months of doing it daily (around this time last year), it’s still an acrobatics act, every time I write, to try to make sure it’s coming from the heart.

When you look for quotes about integrity, Google serves up a heavy helping of admonitions to do the right thing. Trouble is, on a given day, you can be surrounded by millions of Right Things To Do, for different people, purposes, priorities. And most of them will be in direct conflict with each other.

Which I why I agree with Alan Cohen.

“The only thing more important than being good is being real. Authenticity is kinder than resignation without conviction. Truth leads to good faster than good leads to truth. Ultimately truth is good, but you have to live it from the inside out.” -Alan Cohen

I should know.

The truth is, I’m the kind of person who will lie through my teeth about being “okay” if I think it might darken someone’s day. When it comes to doing the right thing, I always put “being a good person” over telling the truth.

I end up feeling like a liar. On one hand, I worry about how to explain what I’ve been doing, why I seem down, without mixing in anything disconcerting or unpleasant. On the other hand, it’s hard to get help or perspective, dealing with real issues, when I’ve built all my relationships around pretending things are all sunshine and bunnies.

I’m more of a recovering addict these days. I know where that road goes. But in something like a blog, where you can’t see people raise their eyebrows at you when they know you are making things sound too clean, it’s still a struggle on the inside. To keep letting down the wall. Being vulnerable.

So that is my quest, for the week. To keep knitting ties between the chaotic reality I live in, and the good I think is worth sharing.

The truth is, everyone’s life is messy. Our moral principles have to navigate an ocean of circumstances and untangle webs of truth.

Integrity requires being both honest and moral: a kind of creative trapeze act – flipping, leaping, sailing and falling between reality and the world you want to live in.

To remain whole, you can’t deny either side. You can’t deny the messy truth of your real life. Nor can you deny the good you believe in.

And it is very healing indeed to bring both to the table.