Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Wednesdays at Forty-Something: A Glimpse Into My Buddhist "Human Revolution"

I shared this experience with my District this past Sunday and I'm inspired by the events so much that I wanted to share them here too.

In early June, I added “Visit different culture centers for Kosen Rufu Gongyo” to my prayer list.  I did it as a way to help myself further improve my consistency in doing gongyo since it’s not yet a daily occurrence.  I also saw it as a way to meet new people, learn new perspectives, and hear new experiences.  Mainly, it’s because I’m excited to share this faith with other people, to continue on the journey to create world peace (Kosen Rufu).  Let me pause a moment and share something that Barb Clark reminded me of when I shared the first draft of this with her.  In December 2014, I went home for Christmas.  At that time, she suggested I might look up other Soka Gakkai members in the local area.  I’m pretty sure I acknowledged the suggestion but just brushed it off.  And, now, here I am, three years later, with this determination towards Kosen Rufu that I’m able to see the transforming moments in my life.  None of them are huge, on their own, but I can clearly see a distinct shift in my path each time they occur.

At the beginning of summer, I took a trip to the Midwest.  During that trip, on July 3rd, I attended Kosen Rufu Gongyo in East Central Iowa.  I took my best friend’s daughter and her good friend with me.  I know the seed of Nam Myoho Renge Kyo was planted and their lives are changing incrementally and my determination towards Kosen Rufu increased.

In August, I flew to Albuquerque to visit a friend and to attend Kosen Rufu Gongyo there.  I met a number of wonderful people, three of whom I will see again when I attend the Veteran’s/Military Conference at the Florida Nature Culture Center in November.  I was also able to share about my faith even more deeply with the friend that I visited.  Shortly after my return, I learned that Middletown/Dover district would have four members attending the same conference.  I could feel my life expanding and changing when I realized how many more positive causes would be made when I introduce my Delaware Buddhist family to my Albuquerque Buddhist family.  What makes me most excited about attending the conference, besides being able to introduce all my family members to each other, is that I know we’re going to return from it with bolstered confidence that our Introductory meetings at Dover Air Force Base are going to touch that many more lives.

To end the summer of traveling, I went to Orlando, Florida to attend Kosen Rufu Gongyo over Labor Day weekend.  Everywhere that I stopped, shopped, and ate, I shared that I was in town to attend World Peace Prayer.  This often led to deeper conversations about Buddhism. 
At the end of August, I began the fall term at Wesley College.  I immediately sought out the faith leader at the school to discuss having a Buddhist Meet and Greet during the term.  She was (is) all for it.  On September 18th, there be a “tabling” event.  I’ll be handing out flyers and Nam Myoho Renge Kyo cards to those who might want to attend the Meet and Greet on Friday, September 22nd.  My determination is that this will springboard into Introductory Meetings at the college.

With these causes toward Kosen Rufu being made, I can see the expansion in other areas of my life.  I’m currently a Junior and have two years left to complete my Bachelor’s degree.  If you had asked me at the beginning of the spring term if I planned on pursuing a Master’s degree, I would have said no but that has changed.

I achieved Dean’s List at the completion of my spring term.  That accomplishment lead to me receiving an email from the Resource Center, asking if I would speak as a member of a student panel during Freshman orientation.  The informational meeting for the orientation led to me meeting the Resource Center Coordinator of Tutoring Programs.  I applied and was accepted as a Peer-Tutor, a paid position on the campus.  During my interview, which through no coincidence occurred on my third anniversary as a Soka Gakkai member, the Coordinator asked about my scholastic goals.  I mentioned how I was toying with the idea of staying at Wesley for Graduate School.  She then mentioned the possibility of me being a Graduate Assistant in the Resource Center, another compensated position: they pay for tuition while you attend.  After the interview, I mentioned the conversation to a friend and wondered aloud about overlapping classes for Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees.  That netted a response from my friend that there might be a hybrid program where you can finish one degree and start the other simultaneously.  I have an appointment to discuss that opportunity with my Advisor this coming Tuesday.

So, ask yourself: Are you on a path of continuous personal growth?  My answer is an emphatic YES!  Since having been appointed as a Group Leader in June, I determine that a consistent morning and evening gongyo is a way of life in order that I can find my best path and have the power of Nam Myoho Renge Kyo behind me as I contend with any challenges that come my way.  I will not be defeated!

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Wednesdays at Forty-Something: I See A Whole Spectrum Of Color And None Are The Wrong One

To say that I'm not appalled, disgusted, amazed, disbelieving and a whole litany of similar emotions would be an understatement.

It's been in only the last few months that I've really seen the extent of the privilege that I live with.  As well as the extent of racism that very much exists in this nation.  And I draw some parallels between the racism directed towards POC and the sexual harassment and assault that I know to be very much present in the military.  It's not that either are increasing.  It's that our awareness of it has increased to such an extent that we--well, most of us--can no longer ignore that it exists.

As a woman who spent 20 years in the military, sexual bias, harassment, and (to a much lesser degree) assault was something that I fought and called out on a fairly regular basis.  I experienced it, in various forms--from subtle to obvious--on an almost daily basis.  I would venture to bet that most of my straight, male coworkers would be amazed at the many different manifestations in which it existed.  And that is where I draw a (very faint) parallel.

I, as a fair-skinned woman of European descent, would probably be amazed at the many different manifestations in which racism exist and are exhibited towards people of color.  Hell, I'm amazed at the manifestations that I *do* see.  And this is why, with what I've tried to educate myself about and get educated about, I have said that I will do what I can, when I can, to not be a bigot.  It's not easy.

Please, bear with me here.  Many behaviors and thought processes are ingrained from childhood.  It's the presence of both of my grandfathers who thought nothing about using terms like "nigger" and "spik" and "camel-jockey" on a regular basis.  It's the mostly white elementary school that I went to.  It's the childhood friends who all were white.  It wasn't, really, until I joined the military that I interacted with and worked with a larger percentage of people who truly looked different from me.

I can only hope that we can remove this cancer from our midst.  It's my hope that those, like me, who have an unearned privilege, use it to help those who don't.  Maybe I can't defeat the racists in the country but I sure as hell can beat down any mental training from my childhood that is racist in nature.  I can treat people as human and be wary of them only if they've truly done something worth being wary of.

To veer from general stuff to a more personal side...

One of the men I love is black.  I don't love him any less or any more because he's black.  My attraction to him isn't determined by the fact that he has darker skin than me but, really, I guess that isn't true.  I love him because of the person he is and his skin being darker has made him have to deal with stuff differently than I've had to so, maybe, I do love him because of his skin color.  It's a true statement considering that I love him for who he is and who he wants to be and who is working to be in the future.

The other aspect that makes this a little more personal or, at least, brings the point home regarding the level of crap that has to be dealt with by those who have darker skin than me is: children.  I have many friends who are people of colore.  Many of them have children.  I cannot imagine...or I didn't realize how much more they worry about their kids solely because of skin tone.  I mean, every parent that I know, worries about their kids...getting hurt, getting bullied, all the stuff that remember going through as a kid.  BUT...there is that extra level of concern because their skin is "the wrong color" for many others in this country.  I can't imagine being afraid that a child won't come home simply because they were "walking while black" or "driving while black".  I didn't even know that was a thing.  I didn't know there was "the talk" that people of color have with their kids.  My neighbor is white.  Her husband is black.  Their two kids are a cafe au lait color.  The oldest is off to college, in a big city, in the next week or so.  I can't imagine the myriad emotions that she is going through: all the "regular" emotions plus the addition of being the mother of a "black" child.

Again, I see my unearned privilege and I will use it to work towards a more inclusive environment.  I can affect only my immediate surroundings but, maybe, my actions will influence others around me who share similar privilege.  I'll start small and go from there.  Even something as simple and trite as not using the term "nude" to describe a color of shoes because *my* nude isn't the same as everyone else's.

I will do my best to obliterate racism and racial bias in myself.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Wednesdays at Forty-Something: Who Is This Woman?

I don't recognize who I've become.  Transition is HARD.  It is so very hard.  I spent a the last four or five years of being in the Air Force focused on getting out, on retiring.  There was an endpoint.  There was a tangible milestone.

Now there isn't.  I've spent a good portion of the past 18 months, trying to find a new direction, a new focus.  I'm unsettled.  I'm scared.  I'm excited.  I'm anxious.  I'm sad.  I'm happy.  I have experienced every possible emotion and, I think, discovered some new ones.  I don't recognize this person.  I'm so very different from what I was while in the Air Force and I don't know what to do with this new personality.

The core is still the same--I'm still a loyal, generous, compassionate person; but it's the relationships that are new in my life--whether they're new to my life completely or experiencing a new facet--that are taking the most pummeling.  I feel like I'm about to lose two very important people in my life, all because I'm so uncertain in the skin I'm in.

I'm working on becoming more accustomed to this new self but it's so very difficult.  And I'm finding it extremely hard to get out of this fucking pity party that I've been in for the past six months.  I'm not a joy to be around.  I'm so stuck on the fact that my best friends don't live here, my blood family doesn't live here, my two loves don't live here; that I'm not appreciating all that I do have here.

Mary and Joseph!! I just don't know what to do with myself.  I sit in front of my gohonzon and chant to see my life better but I seem to be stuck.  The clarity just isn't coming.

I see friends getting married and I envy them their love.  I see friends succeeding in life and I wonder "How do I get there?"  I see families spending time with their parents and siblings and I rail at the things that make it so that I can't.  I'm missing seeing my baby niece grow up.  I never saw her brother or sister grow up either.  They're both grown.

I resent the things that keep friends and family from visiting me.  I can count on fewer than ten fingers how many different people have visited me (in the past decade) and I wonder "Why?"  (There's that pity-party again.)

I'm struggling to find things that I enjoy doing.  I got so accustomed to not doing too many things because they cost money and I've spent, literally, the past ten years paying off more than $40,000 in debt.  That debt is gone but it takes time to change the mindset to teaching myself to enjoy adventures and going to do more things again.

I'm trying.  So very hard.

Who am I?

I plan to find out.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Wednesdays at Forty-Something: Stressing Over Nothing

I took another road trip a few weeks ago and drove to Iowa and back, with a stop in Indiana during each leg, to and from.  Other than dealing with traffic, the stress factor was pretty light.  Even when the "check engine" light went on, I wasn't worried because the Jeep didn't smell funny, the temp gauge stayed below midway, and nothing else indicated imminent danger.  When I got home, I had it checked out--stuck thermostat--and repaired.  Even the cost didn't cause me any heart blips--I had the money saved up and was able to pay for it.

Did you know, though, that having nothing to do will cause you to stress?  I mean, for the next six weeks, I have, pretty much, no demands on my time.  I have nowhere that I *have* to be--yes, I'm scheduled every Sunday at the part-time but I *want* to be there.  I also have a few appointments here and there but I have no full-time demand on my time until school starts near the end of August.

I know many people would consider this heaven; but, really, it's not.  At least not right now.  Because I'm in-between terms, and still have four of those left, I'm not choosing to move just yet which means that I'm not truly able to pursue, fully, what I'd like to pursue.  I feel a bit unfocused.  It's not a fun feeling.  I don't really recommend it.  I actually have to think of reasons to get out of bed.  Not because I'm experiencing agoraphobia or anything but because, most days, I have nothing planned, nowhere to be, little to do.

So, my focus is: To find my focus for the next six weeks.

To the gohonzon, I go!

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Wednesdays at Forty-Something: A Year In Transition

Last month brought about the close of a couple things: The first year in my forties and my first year out of retirement.  I've mentioned (and written) on more than one occasion about the stress that I encountered during the latter half of 2016.  Between adjusting to a new income and having a Jeep that decided to need all kinds of repairs, it was a time to help me appreciate the first half of 2017, where there's been much less stress caused my money (or the lack thereof).

Instead, my social life decided to give me the opportunity to experience no lack of emotions.  Between the fella in New Mexico and the guy in Florida, I feel like my heart and my mind have been brought back to life.  I've allowed myself to feel again and I haven't restrained the emotions that have come to me.  It hasn't always been easy and I've tested the patience of those whom I love but I'm thankful for the experiences.

I did have to take a step back from each of them and that's been a little difficult.  Yet, I consider it growth that I was able to realize that I needed to take such a step.  I was investing a serious amount of energy into maintaining the relationships that I have with them and it was, honestly, consuming so much of my time.  It wasn't any demand that they put on me.  There are things that I want from a relationship that they weren't able to give me, at the current time.  Maybe some time in the future but not right now.

So, instead, I refocus on me.  I've spent the last year reacting to the things that were happening in my life: retirement, the Jeep, school; and now I have the time--two months of summer break is awesome!--to take a look at where I want to direct my focus.  It helps that I'm also getting my Disability payments from the VA and I'm able to stress less about how I'm going to pay for things that come up in life.

On with life!

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

My Thoughts To Him And About Him.

I can't stop thinking about him.  Maybe it's New Relationship Energy; maybe it's just seeing him as the man that he is; maybe it's both.  I see potential for us.  I see wanting to be with him often.  I see wanting to be part of his world and having him be part of mine.  I see a man who has been hurt and is unbelievably gun-shy.  That, in turn, makes me pause.  I want to reassure him that not everyone is as selfish as his last involvement appears to be; that not every woman is that emotionally immature; that I'm not every woman and especially that I'm not her.

Do I want him to change who he is?  Not at his core.  But I do need him to see that I, too, need some reassurance.  I want to be told that I'm missed.  I want to be told that I'm thought about.  I want to be told that I'm important.  I want to be told that the time in between visits seems to take forever but will go quickly.  Even if being told involves no words.

I see a man who has aspirations beyond his current situation and that inspires me.  I see a man who wants to want to plan for a future but is unable to due to shit that happened in the past.  Or maybe I'm  just hoping that he'll want to plan for a future at some point.  I want to be trusted.  I want him to see that I'm not out to get him.  I'm not out to do him wrong.  I'm not a wolf in sheep's clothing.

I want him to realize that the slow burn between us that has blossomed in the past month requires an adjustment on his part.  And mine.  I'm no longer in the background--a background that I didn't realize that I was in.  I'm trying to be in the foreground but sometimes I feel like "out of state, out of mind" because the communication that I get is a response to something I've sent rather than initiated on his end.  Daily, I tell myself to be patient; that I need to get used to him getting used to me being in the foreground.  And that I need to have patience to let each day roll into the next.

Maybe I need to just club him over the head and drag him back to my cave.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Tuesdays at Forty: Always Learning Something New About Myself

For the longest time, like, up until about 15 minutes ago, I believed that I was difficult to get to know.  You know what?  I'm not.  I'm very easy to get to know.  Some people may have to take a little more time to adjust to the me that is me but that's on them.  I have believed that I'm difficult to get to know for as long as I can remember and, really, I'm just not.

I'm loyal.  I'm tenderhearted.  I'm considerate.  Granted, I may not approach situations the way that some would but that doesn't make me "difficult".  That makes me "different"...from them.  I often speak my mind but not always.  My expressions do a lot of talking for me.  Because of this, I try to be mindful of what I'm thinking so as to not hurt the feelings of someone in case they interpret puzzlement as judgement.  Most of the time I'm thinking "I don't get it" and they might see "You're an idiot"; and, to be fair, that is sometimes what I'm actually thinking.  But, I'm honest.  I don't see the point in lying and, really, it's just easier to tell the truth.  It's so much easier to remember what is true than what is not.

I'm scared sometimes.  I have two very real fears.  1) That I'll die like my aunt and not be found for a week...like my aunt; and 2) That I'll be forgotten, by those whom I hold dear.  Having a legacy, of sorts, is important to me.  I want to leave a positive mark on the world.  I want to remembered for the good that I've done, whatever it might be.  I can hope and work towards making a positive change in my own life in ways that others note positive things in their lives because of me.

I'm not afraid to love.  I'm not afraid to be hurt, emotionally.  Wounds heal.  I can say this with the luxury of having never been in an abusive relationship.  I hope I never encounter a situation, like that, that makes me afraid to love or to let others in.  And I take heart in knowing that I've never put anyone through an abusive relationship.  I hope.  I have manipulated in the past but I think that was due to being young and seeing that in relationships that were modeled for me.  I strive very earnestly, in my current relationships, to not employ manipulative tactics.  I ask for things out of genuine need and I do things out of genuine desire to do well and good for the people that I love.  And I hope, in time, the men that I love can love me back to the best of their ability.  I don't know if love matches love in relationships.  I know that it can wax and wane and is often in flux.  There's nothing wrong with that.  You have to make room for growth and learning.

I'm constantly looking at things in my life and asking: How can I do better?  It doesn't mean that I always take the steps needed to make them better but I am always looking at what can be done.  Sometimes, I'm overwhelmed at the things ahead of me and other times, I'm energized by them.  It really does run a path of hills and valleys.

As for my men.  I love my "sexy fella" and recognize the limitations in our relationship and I love my "Em Ess" and hope that we can move forward as we've been doing so far.  Having them in my life inspires me to pursue my authentic self and any and all the passions that I've been wanting to for years.  Much as my bestest friends have for years.

Excited for the tomorrows in my life.  And a little scared too.

Nam Myoho Renge Kyo