Taxi Story 516

From airport to hotel
it’s 45 minutes of dark freeway.
I’m hoping for one memorable taxi story.

One time the driver was drunk
and screaming.
I screamed louder and he
set me out in the middle of the road
and left me there.

But not tonight.
Tonight the driver wrapped me in his easy smile
and used his musical voice to stash my bag
confidently into his cab’s back seat.

Five minutes later, my taxi story started
with him telling me about his life
driving strangers
through rain and fog and life uncertain.

His dream, he sighed, was med school, “But it’s so expensive,”
so he works a double shift on weekends,
stoking his mojo to clear the path ahead.

He asked me what I did for work.
“I”m a writer,” I said,
speaking my big truth into the dark,
hoping it was still true.

He had a book in him, he said,
and I thought, “More than one, for sure.”
He asked if I wrote poetry,
and I held my breath before I said,
“I do.”
It sounded like a vow.

“I do not understand poetry so much,” he said,
and when I asked, “What poets do you read?” he said,
“Rabelais and Rimbaud,” I thought, “Well, no wonder.”
“Try Billy Collins,” I suggested,
and wrote it down for him.

“Tonight is like an adventure with you,” he said,
handing me my bag and receipt.
“What’s your name?” I asked
and was not surprised when he replied,
with solemn, formal, introduction,
“Call me Ishmael.”

— © Quinn McDonald, All rights reserved. 2016

The Town With No Address

Town With No Address 1, © Quinn McDonald, 2016. All rights reserved.

Town With No Address 1, © Quinn McDonald, 2016. All rights reserved.

Every time I fly from Phoenix to Houston, I see what looks like towns that were started and abandoned. What’s odd about it, is there are quite a few of these areas, all in one area, and that area is bleak and surrounded by miles of nothing.

Judging from how long we had been in the air, the towns with no address are somewhere in Western New Mexico or East to Central Texas.  There are roads, all direct, none beautifully sculpted. There are flat rectangles that look like foundations. No houses, though. No cars. Nothing that would indicate future building.  No machinery, no large buildings that indicate malls or stores.

Towns With No Address 2. © Quinn McDonald, 2016. All rights reserved

Towns With No Address 2. © Quinn McDonald, 2016. All rights reserved

Each of these areas also have small and medium rectangles of water, some of it alarmingly turquoise.  Some dark. Not pools.  Simply sitting in the area of these towns.

There’s a lot not to know. Maybe it is related to mining activity. Maybe it’s some sort of oil/gas/exploration. I don’t know. But I’m curious.

But it’s interesting, these abandoned spaces in stretches of nowhere. From a graphic view, visually interesting. Curious.

Sometimes you have to be OK with not knowing.

Email Agony (Sorry J. Kilmer)

I think that I shall never see
an email answered thoroughly.

Replies that answer questions asked
instead of adding to my task.

Concise with information needed
Instead of three-times asked and pleadedsadtree2

And then forgotten with a Huh?
A smiley face, a shrug, a “Doh!”

I hunger for a sentence rich
with information, scratch my itch!

It isn’t hard, first read, then write
Answer the question, end the plight!

-Quinn McDonald hopes Joyce Kilmer will forgive her. He never had to deal with emails that don’t get answered, or get partially answered.

When Authentic Isn’t Enough

One image of a Gordian knot. There are many interpretations. I like this one for its art value.

One image of a Gordian knot. There are many interpretations. I like this one for its art value. Image from http://www.sangsunbae.com Check out the other imaginative images from this artist, too.

 

Digging through my journals, I came across a story I want to include in the book I’m working on. (For now, the content of the book is not important.) The story is about my mom’s struggle with authenticity. She stewed in the perpetual heat of anger. One day, I asked her, “What is it that makes you so angry all the time?” I asked it in the softest voice possible. I really wanted to know; it was a key to our Gordian-knot relationship.

She looked at me and explained, “This is who I am. You always say it is good to be authentic. This is me, authentic. If you can’t deal with it, it is your fault. I am being true to myself.” The fable of the lady and the asp flashed through my head, but I remained quiet.

how-to-stop-your-anger

To this day, I still feel anxious when I hear anger–even if it is not directed at me.

She had a point. Except her anger was so damaging, so painful. But most of her friends–those whom she liked–didn’t feel the sting of her anger. She did have another side. I rarely saw it.

Fast forward to now, when we encourage people not to change, to be happy as they are. What makes me think this? Listen to the language we use:

  • It is what it is
  • That’s you being you
  • Be yourself, everyone else is taken (attributed to so many people I’m not even trying to be sure, although I like Oscar Wilde.)
  • Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.” –Bernard Baruch

We love being ourselves without excuse. “Don’t judge!” we warn. But somewhere there has to be a difference, a line, a distinction between back-stabbing gossip and being authentic.

When we say, “it is what it is,” or “haters gonna hate,” we are not excusing others, we are justifying ourselves and writing everyone else off as envious–lesser. There is then no cause or reason for criticism. We win. And so does everyone else, in their mind.

I beg to differ.  Language shifts our culture, so let’s be clear about the definition of “authentic.”  It is your deepest best self, not the shallow way we behave without thinking. Being authentic takes some reflection, asking, “Who would I like to be seen as? My character is my reputation, how do I want to present it?”

That’s the person we want to be. The person who builds a reputation; the person who is loved by dogs.

–Quinn McDonald spends a lot of time watching how language and culture influence each other.

 

The Universe Has a Future

Yesterday, when I was so bummed that I couldn’t grab an opportunity, I remembered another story from a different time in my life. That story still has value.

That's the right way to break the board--both feet have to be off the ground.

That’s the right way to break the board–both feet have to be off the ground.

Some years ago, I decided that taking martial arts would help me stay flexible and strong. Instead of starting slowly, I visited a studio for TaeKwonDo, a powerful fighting martial arts, in which you can get hurt. Eventually I broke several bones sparring and doing exhibitions, but I digress.

At the studio, Sensei Lee put me through some paces to see where I would start, and put me in the beginner’s class. Because I have always been competitive, I immediately asked, “How long will it be till I am a black belt?” Mr. Lee, who did not take kindly to women in martial arts, sighed.

He then said, “If you make it through all the tests, if you work out three times a week here in class, you will make it to black belt in five years.” It might as well have been till the 12th of Never.

Sparring match in TaeKwonDo.

Sparring match in TaeKwonDo.

I looked at him with disbelief and said, “But I will be 37 years old by then!” It seemed to me that I’d be ancient. And the progress was so slow!

Mr. Lee remained placid. He sighed again. “Yes,” he said. “But in five years, you will be 37 years old anyway.”

It was an important lesson in setting goals and working toward them steadily. It was an important lesson in knowing what you want before you start and planning. But most of it, it was knowing that anything worth having is worth waiting for.

Quinn McDonald no longer practices TaeKwonDo, although she did earn her black belt and celebrated by kicking through four cinder blocks, barefooted.

The Universe Says “No” Sometimes

The dream first. I was standing in a tall building, looking out over the mountains in Phoenix. A voice behind me said, “This is a higher calling.” I looked around, and I was standing in a room of packing boxes. A poetry book was on a box next to me. I’d probably been reading it.

The next morning, I wrote down the dream, and indulged in an ancient kabbalistic meditation on the creative spirit. Then, to work. And hard work it is, writing my new website. I’m on the third draft, and the webmaster is trying hard to stay polite and the account executive is probably going home to stick pins an a voodoo doll of me. I don’t blame her. But I won’t put up a website that isn’t well done. So. It’s hard work.

The phone rings and on the other end is a poet whose books I’ve read and whose writing and teaching I admire. A wonderful conversation later, I discover he teaches a course that sounds as if it were designed for me. Two years and I’d have a certification in healing through poetry. I want to do that. It sounds perfect. It matches the dream!

I check into the price, and it is more than I can afford. Way more. Of course, the price is worth it, that’s not the point. But both of our cars are more than 12 years old, one of them has more than 200,000 miles on the odometer. The family room needs a new floor. The carpet, even when clean, looks like a plowed field waiting to be seeded.

Sometimes the dream is not a sign.

Sometimes the dream is not a sign.

It seemed like a good time to turn over the problem to the Operating System of the Universe. I went back to work. OK, I may have mentioned it whined a little on Facebook. I should have kept my fingers concentrating on the website.

The emails began to trickle in: “Jump and trust. The money will show up as you fly.” “The universe will provide you the money. Sign up!” “This is an investment in the future, just do it.” “The dream was a sign! Go now and the money will come.” “Write a love letter to money!” Oh. I’m not big on blind trust. I noodle some numbers, and nope, it’s just not feasible right now. That happens, too. Even in an enlightened universe. Sometimes the Universe says, “No,” even if you have a dream.

1354416871_4777_tantrumThe next step was also interesting. “You didn’t try hard enough.” “You didn’t trust enough.” “Maybe you didn’t deserve it after all.” “You are playing small.” “Write another love letter to money.” Wow, so if the universe doesn’t deliver, suddenly it’s my fault. What happened to blind trust?

I have a few days left. Maybe the Universe will write me a check. But if it doesn’t, I’ll have to be disappointed. There is nothing wrong with disappointment. It does not reflect on my character, my will or my ability to manifest. It simply means that something I wanted it out of my financial reach. That happens. Even to deserving people.

Tomorrow there will be more webwriting, but mostly workbook writing. Sometimes the Universe helps you by letting you deal with loss and then move on.

Quinn McDonald trusts in the Universe, even when the answer is “No.”

Compassion v. Boundaries

We all want to be compassionate. Unless, of course, the other person doesn’t deserve compassion. Oh, wait, isn’t that exactly when we are supposed to be even more compassionate? But what if the other person is a jerk? What if compassion isn’t working?

images

Boundaries can be beautiful and useful; you have to plan them that way.

That’s what boundaries are for. Boundaries are limits we set for ourselves and other people. It is completely unrealistic to think that you have unlimited compassion, patience, and ability to shift to please other people, even if they are family or friends.

Sometimes, people’s bad behavior, demands, or blame-game is theirs to own. Your job is not to fix, educate, or change them. Your job is to set a clear boundary and enforce it.

Boundaries are not a judgment of others. It is calling them to a higher level of discipline. If they can’t make it, or don’t want to, that’s fine. That’s why boundaries work so well. You can walk away cleanly from abusers. When they try to blame you, you point to the clear boundary.

When you set a boundary, make sure you can live with it.  Not enforcing

A line in the sand can be a ditch or a design; it's up to you.

A line in the sand can be a ditch or a design; it’s up to you.

the boundary is equal to not having a boundary and putting a doormat on your chest and saying, “please walk over me.”

Be clear about the boundary and enforcing it. No fair saying, “if you forget to put gas in the car one more time, I’m leaving you,” and then not leaving. Don’t create a threat you won’t carry through. Boundaries are not threats, they are reasonable lines that show the level of your discipline and self-care.

Saying “No” is your responsibility. When you set a boundary, you can expect your family and friends to think it doesn’t apply to them. When it does, learn to say “No” and mean it.

Steer clear of “If you loved me, you would. . . ” Don’t say it, don’t fall for it. It’s manipulative and untrue. People you love will disappoint you and you will still love them. That’s how you know you are compassionate. People who try to get around your boundaries will use it to push your people-pleasing button. Don’t fall for it. If you do, it will be the first in a long string of manipulative “if you love me. . .” demands. Be firm. “I love you, but . . no, I will not do this.” If their love is defined by how much you do for them that is against your values, you are learning about their definition of love. And it’s not yours.

Boundaries are healthy for your own well-being and help those around you be clear about what they can expect from you. Think them through and set them. Then enforce them. That is true compassion.

—Quinn McDonald is still learning the difference between “No” and wanting others to approve of her.