"Love is a harsh and dreadful thing to ask of us, but it is the only answer."--Dorothy Day


In a Vacuum.

On Friday the CEO of my company e-mailed everyone looking for volunteers to do outreach to the homeless this weekend. As I am quick to volunteer, and slow to think things over, I volunteered, and ended up driving a mini-van around the Upper West Side from 12a to 8a this morning. So many questions come to mind, don't they? It was actually quite liberating as I had never driven in NYC before, but that's not what this is about.

On my journey, I had a co-worker with me. She is an administrative assistant at another of our facilities and I had never even heard her name until Friday when I was told that I would be driving around for 8 hours with her as my co-pilot. I've had several experiences like this since moving to NYC, where you're stuck in a room (or mini-van) with someone for an extraordinary amount of time, and something happens. You, for those however many hours, are the best of friends. Last night I learned about her job and her family; how she only likes warm weather; that her birthday is in September (which is the best month because it has the greatest birthstone); how she really likes fresh fruit (which lead to a trip to Fairway at 6a); how she doesn't drink coffee but likes her tea light and sweet. And when I was temping I had a similar experience, when I worked for an advertising agency, putting together publicity packets, for one day. My agency had sent over this other girl, and again, we were for those eight hours the best of friends. She was an opera singer, from the MidWest; she understood why we got along so well when she learned that I was a Sagittarius; she had bitten off her finger nails due to a very stressful ski trip with her boyfriend, who she wasn't sure that she would be seeing much longer; and I cried in front of her after one of the graduate schools I was applying to told me that they hadn't received my recommendation letters. Now aside from that crying part (as everyone in Manhattan has seen that at one time or another), so much of what was shared there was not so much stuff you share with total strangers. I haven't even gone into what I said (because I don't really remember) but I probably talked about the complication of some relationship I was in; or the difficulty of being unemployed and applying for grad school; or my relationship with my family. And all because we needed someway to pass the time. But then when the situation is over, and you've dropped them off at their house at 8a, or the work day has ended and the job has not been extended, the relationship ends with it, and we know this. No e-mail addresses or phone numbers are exchanged, no plans are made for future meetings. And, especially in the case of my fellow temp, this person may know more about me than anyone in NYC.

I like to imagine what life would be like if all relationships were formed in the vacuum of a mini-van or a conference room. So much unfettered honesty, no thought for the consequences of it, no need to think about the future, no stress and no strain about maintaining the friendship, no need to keep a respectable distance. Just active understanding, intent listening, thoughtful discussion.



I know what you've been thinking. "When will she come back and talk about something political? We don't know where to go without her wisdom." Well, here it is. All of it. I was reading the New York Times today about Barack Obama's first retraction of his campaign for president. This is what he said:

“[W]e ended up launching a war that should have never been authorized and should have never been waged, and to which we now have spent $400 billion and have seen over 3,000 lives of the bravest young Americans wasted.”

I have a problem seeing this as something that should be retracted. The prospect of the lives of soldiers being "wasted" is what got him in trouble, and I can understand the need for sensitivity when speaking of fallen soldiers. But isn't over 3,000 people dying for an unnecessary, poorly planned war a waste of those lives? It has got to be a terrible, terrible thing to lose someone in a war, and it is probably only made more difficult by the fact that this war has only brought more chaos and more destruction.

Obama retracted saying, "What I would say—and meant to say—is that their service hasn’t been honored, because our civilian strategy has not honored their courage and bravery, and we have put them in a situation in which it is hard for them to succeed." True. All true, but it does not make the point that his original statement made. That this war should have never happened. That these young people were drawn into the service by lies and false promises. And that their lives are being wasted.

UPDATE: By the way, Time Magazine agreed with me.


The Five Fs.

I sometimes get overwhelmed. I can only describe this feeling as being bitch-slapped by Life (that might be my first blog curse word). I get this way every once in a while, just simply overwhelmed by the weight of the world, both my own and that outside me. My health, my job, my friends, my family, war, politics, poverty, loneliness, confusion, separation, illness, frustration. I find it all too impossible to sort through. I hit one of these points this week. I do it to myself. Talking too much, listening too much, reading too much, thinking too much. I called my best friend, who I had seen less than an hour before, and sat with him for the next hour and a half, many moments of that time spent in silence, as he tried to help me come up with an answer. What to do to make it better. We talked about keeping busy, but not by enveloping yourself in the problems, as I am want to do. About finding a way to change the things we actually have control over. About letting go. About rest. About prayer, which I am skeptical of until I am desperate. About humor. About inspiration. About effortless joy. About What Not to Wear.

I had a professor in grad school named Alan Levine. He was basically an expert on support groups and on grief, loss and bereavement. He was by far my favorite professor and one of the only ones who I didn't find pretentious and full of crap. From what I remember, he was the only professor I had who acknowledged the weight and importance of our work, and how this may affect our perspective and our lives. I had him for classes my last two semesters of grad school, and on the last day of the second class I took with him, he gave us some good advice about living and working and maintaining a certain level of sanity. In life you need the 5 Fs--Good Food, Good Friends, Good Family, Good Fun and Good...well, I've already sworn once here today, so I can't say it, but it's there. I think this is true, and I have this...well most of it. Generally, the good food, fun and friends are combined, and this is the greatest blessing in my life. I have an amazing set of friends, with whom I can laugh and cry, eat things with gluten, lament the stupidity of my days, extol the wonder that is Justin Timberlake, confess and be accepted for my secret love of show tunes, be given the family that I've always longed for. And that just about covers it all.


View from the Top.

In recent months I have found that I am allergic to wheat, dairy, corn, soy and nuts, in addition to everything found in nature that I'm not expected to eat. All of this has made food a major focus of my life. I can no longer just grab something on my way to work, no granola bars, no sandwiches, no cereal (my greatest loss). I have to grocery shop well in advance, and cook most every night. Probably just like every other person in America, but it's been a tremendous adjustment.

And at CCfB we've been talked alot about stewardship and what to better use our resources, whether that mean financial, ecological, whatever. I promise this ties in somewhere. My train of thought is rather rapid tonight.

So today I was reading an article from the New York Times Magazine, entitled "Unhappy Meals". The article talks about the history and politics of nutrition. It's a long article but it was certainly worth the read, and was very eye opening. When I was pronounced allergic, I started going to a nutritionist (who is actually a holistic life coach, but nutritionist sounds less crunchy). She talked to me at length about eating fat and protein and oils and sugar, and I believe she saw the horror in my eyes. But then she explained to me that high cholesterol and heart disease, the things that worry me as they run in my family, didn't exist until after the Industrial Revolution, when foods began to be processed and synthetic. So I was instructed to eat like my ancestors. "If your ancestors didn't eat it 10,000 years ago, you shouldn't eat it either!" is what the literature she gave me said. And today, reading this article, it echoed these sentiments. The article talks about the fact that in the pursuit of better modern nutrition, we may have actually created greater problems for ourselves, being poisoned by high fructose corn syrup and genetically engineered soybeans. But the thing that struck me about this was something he says about man's relationship with food.
[T]he English agronomist Sir Albert Howard put it in 1945 in “The Soil and Health” (a founding text of organic agriculture), we would do well to regard “the whole problem of health in soil, plant, animal and man as one great subject.” Our personal health is inextricably bound up with the health of the entire food web.
This is where it ties into the whole business of stewardship. In man's quest to dominate his environment and to simplify, we have begun to destroy our world. Forgetting the symbiotic relationship between man and nature has put us all in peril.