All That You Have is Your Soul

Sometimes songs come to me at the exact right time. I think this is one of the ways God speaks to me – and I consider that to be “grace.” This gorgeous song by Tracy Chapman just came on my Pandora station as I sit and reflect about the state of our world – and my place in it.

Don’t be tempted by the shiny apple

Don’t you eat of a bitter fruit

Hunger only for a taste of justice

Hunger only for a world of truth

‘Cause all that you have is your soul

Here I am waiting for a better day

A second chance

A little luck to come my way

A hope to dream a hope that I can sleep again

And wake in the world with a clear conscience and clean hands

‘Cause all that you have is your soul

-Tracy Chapman

I am contemplating a question my friend Maryanne posed to me a few weeks ago when she asked me “what do I stand for” and whether my answer is guiding me during these challenging times. I quickly answered her – that I stand for truth, justice, and love. I admitted to Maryanne that – yes – as corny as this is – these are Wonder Woman’s virtues. This is the reason I am a Wonder Woman aficionado.

My partner Jerry and my sister Jacquie both spend a small fortune on Wonder Woman gifts for me – and I am sure one of them has already bought me this t-shirt: https://www.wbshop.com/collections/wonder-woman-shirts/products/wonder-woman-1984-vintage-justice-unisex-t-shirt and/or Alex Ani bracelet https://www.alexandani.com/products/wonder-woman-truth-love-justice-duo-charm-bangle (hint, hint Jerry & Jacquie!)

While corny – truth, justice and love have truly become my guiding principles. That part of the equation is not the hard part for me.  I can easily discern my principles by paying close attention to what triggers me – and lately I am triggered almost daily (hourly!) by lies, chaos, injustices, and fear mongering that seem so prevalent in our society in 2020. The challenge for me is to detach from the things I cannot control – to not assign too much meaning to the outcome of my fight for truth, justice, and love.  If I cannot figure out how to let it go, I am left hopeless, frustrated, despondent, angry…yet another victim or perpetrator of the vitriol we all see in social media. My friend Matt recently reminded me of the pertinent words of Viktor Frankl, that “a human being is a deciding being” – that we each have our choices about our mindsets of how we view the world and how we attach meaning to what happens to us.

When I heard Tracy Chapman so beautifully sing these lyrics, I found a connection to Viktor Frankl’s search for meaning. So, I try each day to do what I can to live my values and work to detach from outcomes, so that I can go to sleep at night with some amount of peacefulness and hope amidst the chaos of 2020. Detachment from outcomes is NOT EASY for me, especially in this year. Believe me – I have a lot of strong reactions to what I see on social media – and say a lot to myself – or to Jerry – to process my thoughts and emotions before I decide to post or comment. There are usually more than a few curse words included in my reactions – but I try hard to filter out the anger – to not lash back out and create even more noise. I do not always get it right – but staying silent is no longer an option for me. “Staying out of it” or “choosing to not get political” is no longer consistent with my values.

I have both consciously and subconsciously surrounded myself with reminders of my values all around me. Yes – this has led to a minor obsession with Wonder Woman. These are on the wall in front of my desk where I see them all day, every day. The image on the left reminds me to fight for what is right. The image on the right (a gift from my sister Jacquie) reminds me to detach from the outcomes of that fight. EVERY DAY I look at these to try to remember to do both.

I also have this little menagerie of bobble heads and action figures that sit next to me on my bookshelf – which I see all day every day now that I exclusively work from home. Each of these special figures represents at least one value that is deeply important to me.

My version of “Super Friends”

Albert Einstein: Genius Scientist. Albert Einstein represents my value of TRUTH because science helps determine what is TRUE. It is because of science (and my discernment of the variety of sources that I curate) that I believe in climate change, that COVID-19 is not a hoax, that wearing a mask reduces the risks of its spread, and that a vaccine should be tested before being released to the public. There are so many great Einstein quotes, but this one speaks to me today:

“The world is in greater peril from those who tolerate or encourage evil than from those who actually commit it.

Albert Einstein (Amen, sir!)

Yoda: Jedi Master. Yoda represents the value of JUSTICE because fighting evil is simply the right thing to do. One of the reasons I love the Star Wars movies so much is how well they tell the classic story of good versus evil, light versus dark.

“Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.”

Yoda, Episode One, The Phantom Menace

This quote is so relevant to me in 2020 when I see our president using fear as a tool to stoke anger, to deepen hatred, and to further divide our country. This is why I think of myself as part of the “Resistance” fighting against this administration’s evil policies like family separation. There are a lot of people who are on the wrong side of history in 2020, and history will be the judge after the political divides of 2020 are long forgotten.

Prince: Genius Musician. Prince represents the values of GRACE and CHOICE. As I said earlier, God speaks to me through music – and Prince’s music is a spiritual experience to me – and this figurine is my reminder to find joy in music and creative expression. I happen to think Prince may have been the single most talented musician of my generation. He was so unique that he used a symbol for a name for a while – and no one really seemed to mind! Nothing about Prince is easy to define or put “in a box.” He paved his own way with glorious talent and creativity. My favorite Prince lyric of all time can be applied almost daily these days watching the President – not that I want to kiss him. I do not.

“Act your age, not your shoe size.”

Prince, lyrics from “Kiss”

Pope Francis: Spiritual Leader. Pope Francis represents my values of GRACE, LOVE, JUSTICE and SERVICE. This bobble head is my go-to “Sacrament” gift for my nieces and nephews. Pope Francis has restored some of my faith in the Catholic church as an institution. As a divorced feminist who believes in marriage equality, and who believes that women have the right to choose what happens to their bodies – I have often felt lost in the church. Pope Francis has done a great deal of work in reconciling the truth of the abuse that the Church actively sought to hide for so many, many years. I am still uncertain of where I fit into the Catholic Church – but Pope Francis has helped me to feel more welcome than I have in a long time. This is one of my favorite quotes of his – that shows that Pope Francis believes like I do that actions speak louder than words.

“It is not enough to say we are Christians. We must live the faith, not only with our words, but with our actions.”  

Pope Francis

Ruth Bader Ginsburg: Notorious Justice. RBG represents my values of EQUALITY, JUSTICE, and CHOICE. Thanks to her work as an attorney in the early 70’s, the Supreme Court made it illegal for people to discriminate on the basis of sex. She became a Supreme Court Justice in 1993, and she is still actively serving at the age of 87. Coming full circle this year in 2020, she voted with 5 other justices to make it illegal to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation and/or transgender status. She has helped to uphold women’s rights over her entire career. She is truly my real-life Wonder Woman. I have several pairs of special RBG socks that I wear on days that I feel the need to channel some extra inner strength.  I often drink my coffee out of a few special mugs that Jerry has given me that help me start my day off on the “right foot” along with my special socks:

Starting my day on the right foot with RBG

Wonder Woman: Superhero. As already stated, Wonder Woman represents my triumvirate of values: TRUTH, JUSTICE and LOVE. Wonder Woman stands for justice as she fights for those who cannot fight for themselves. In my life, I seek justice by advocating for my stepson Eric and other children with profound disabilities. This has become my passion and fuels my life’s purpose. To me, justice also means standing with #blacklivesmatters – and it means I am willing to say that all lives can’t matter until black lives matter.

Wonder Woman is not afraid of the truth – even with the truth is HARD.  What I would do for a magical lasso of truth to force people like our President to tell only truths… I value the truth, and I want to try to embrace it even when it is not easy. This means that I am willing to have hard conversations – not debates – not arguments – but real conversations with people that grapple with systemic racism. It means exploring my own racial biases – to dig a lot deeper than I have been willing to do in the past.

Wonder Woman acts from love, not fear. She knows, like I know, that no one person can save the world. She seems to struggle with the same thing that I struggle with – that pesky detachment from outcomes…the virtue of being able to let go of what we cannot control…But/and – she, like me, is not going to stop fighting for what is right. I hope and I pray that somehow my actions will make a difference to someone else, and that creates some kind of a ripple effect of positive change that shines a light in the darkness…that lights the path for the right choices…that demonstrates that good perseveres over evil…that shows that the truth wins over lies…that proves that love wins over fear. That justice will prevail for all.

I used to want to save the world. To end war and bring peace to mankind. But then I glimpsed the darkness that lives within their mind and learned that inside every one of them there will always be both. A choice each must make for themselves. Something no hero will ever defeat. And now I know that only love can truly save the world. So I stay, I fight and I give for the world I know can be. This is my mission now. Forever.”

Diana Prince, “Wonder Woman” movie

I sleep better on the days when I know I have fought the good fight for truth, love and justice…because all that I have is my soul…and some pretty cool bobbleheads and action figures to help light my way.

And on the days that I struggle…I have some special glasses and coozies to help!

(Just like) Starting Over

Reset (verb): to set, adjust, or fix in a new or different way.

Well thanks, 2020 – I guess you had to knock all of us over the head to tell us it was time to reset. I have been looking at my 2020 Vision Board that I so hopefully and energetically assembled back in January. This year I actually framed it and hung it in my office right next to my chair…and since I have been cooped up in my home office, I had started to view it with resentment…the trips I didn’t take, the concerts I didn’t attend…the best self I was trying to become…

Last weekend, I decided to start over. To reset. To adjust my view – my expectations – my goals for the remainder of 2020 because I don’t want to keep feeling like a pinball – a victim to the chaos that 2020 has thrown upon me. Let me be clear – I am not trying to live my best “COVID 19” life by completing projects, learning how to bake, training for a virtual marathon or ANYTHING close to any of those things. I baked some cinnamon bread once. That was enough. I am just trying to survive without succumbing to the stress and edginess I carry with me every day wondering when we will get to a new normal.

If only there was an actual reset button.

I am working on resetting my expectations – which these days means simple things like finding something to laugh about each day. Like about an hour ago when Jerry and I laughed about my absolute FREAKOUT after getting mayonnaise all over myself while cleaning the dishes…Anyone that knows me well knows I hate mayonnaise with a passion. A deep passion that goes back to my childhood “wounds” when we took 10+ hour car rides several times a year, and you couldn’t “have it your way” at fast food chains, so I was told to scrape the mayo off rather than waiting for a custom order… (do I still carry resentment about this – umm, clearly yes)…and yet somehow I fell in love with someone who dips EVERYTHING in mayonnaise. So he cooks, and I get to clean up the GOBS of leftover mayo on the plates. Oh the sacrifices we make for love…Tonight – the mayo went everywhere! Jerry came running thinking I cut off a finger – but alas, just a mayo explosion in the sink and all over me. It took a few minutes, but I was able to get from freak out to laughter – which pretty much sums up how I am navigating 2020.

Jerry and Eric help me to find these moments of joy and laughter every day. When I stop to see the world through Eric’s eyes, I am able to live in the present moment and to stop taking myself so seriously. Today one of those moments was stopping in the driveway to snap a picture of Eric in his new kicks (these are made by Billy Footwear and remind me of my red chucks from high school) and his new Baby Yoda shirt.

The force is strong with this one especially bc of these awesome kicks.

Yesterday it was playing with a $2 bubble machine that has Cherry Jelly Belly smelling bubbles.

Best $2 we ever spent!

Last week it was dancing in the kitchen to “The Bird” with our cockatiel, Prince (please ignore my messy kitchen and see above about letting go of expectations…). Have you ever danced to “The Bird” in your kitchen? I HIGHLY recommend it. Come on…you can do it! Even if you are all alone – I have, and I promise it will put you in a good mood. Just ask my brother in law John! “You don’t need no finesse or no personality…You just need two arms and an attitude!” I swear I want this to go viral – so if you do it – add #ericsepicjourney and #thebird so we can see the joy spreading!

Have you heard of a brand new dance called “the Bird?”

Tomorrow – we will find something new, silly, and fun, I assure you.

Let’s be honest – I have a lot more on my plate than a mayo explosion…but I am no longer going to be let 2020 win. I am changing the game – or maybe just refusing to play a game I cannot win. I am letting go of what I thought I wanted this year – and I am resetting.

Last weekend, I decided to completely redo my Vision Board – which is an even bigger version than the original from January. It really helped me to get clarity on what matters to me. I just do not have the emotional, physical or mental strength to do more than exactly what I want to do. I do not have any extra to spare for meaningless BS. I want to be brave enough to still look forward to the rest of the year, and I want to stop feeling helpless.

My “updated” 2020 Vision Board

This Vision Board IS my reset button.