the wings of the morning

Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence?

Monday, May 28, 2007


Well, hello, internets. Guess I took a little break. I'm doing fine, though tending toward an even more intense degree of sensitivity than usual. I deal with this every year as spring explodes, and again as the first summery days descend like a massive cresting wave of hyper-beauty, sucking me under the onslaught of smells and sounds and memories. Usually I get pretty distressingly self-destructive. This year I've mostly just had to avoid or cut short any potentially overwhelming social engagements, though damned if I haven't also hit the Ben and Jerry's with unusual frequency. And fervor. How about that Karamel Sutra people? My, my, my my my.

Anyway, I think that old familiar wave is rolling back into the sea. And it's been a gorgeous spring out this way, and I'm glad of it. It's a joy and a real comfort to have G at home this year, and I find that taking walks with him, or even just enjoying the porch while he works at his computer inside, is much easier on my system. Doing most things with him tends to smooth out my experience, actually. And last week I spent some quality time with two different dear old (female) friends, which also bolstered me tremendously. One-on-one time with the right people seems to sew me up, as opposed to the canon ball-to-the-gut effect of group or (god help me) family encounters.

Okay, seriously - must learn some techniques for knitting up the ol' aura at will. Or perhaps for remembering or being willing to do so. I can do that during readings pretty reliably. And at other times when I know I have to stay cool. Why not just apply that skill more often? I think it has to do with not wanting to be "too strong," an obsolete holdover from the troubled past. I'll have to ponder this some more.

But speaking of the obsolescence of old tools, I've had an epiphany this morning. Actually, it may have been more of a slow-dawning, pathetically resisted but inevitable insight which forced its way into my consciousness like tree roots cracking the sidewalk: I need to find ways to be grateful to my mother. The topic of parenting has come up with unsettling frequency lately in conversations with friends, and I can simply no longer deny how talking about my experience with my own parents, especially my mother, makes me feel. I want to take more responsibility for the kind of experience I invite into my life, and walk away from the negativity. The "facts" of my past just don't matter that much anymore.

Since suffering what could only have been what's called a nervous breakdown at age seventeen, I have felt compelled to enunciate the major points of my family background at every marginally suitable opportunity, as if to explain to the world why I'm this way. As if to apologize. It's time to stop explaining myself, it's certainly time to stop apologizing, and I could really stand to leave my poor mother alone energetically, as well. She's had a hard time of it. She needs support.

This is where gratitude comes in. Mostly what I've come to on that front (until today) is that I'm glad she didn't beat, physically torture, or kill me. Of course, I've also become increasingly aware over the years that my circumstances, difficult though they were, made me who I am in all the good ways, too. Sure, I've had some residual difficulties: the coping strategies I learned to employ have not exactly been allies in the long term. But when I think through my strengths, I can see pretty clearly where they came from. Through the more painful aspects of my experience, I learned to forgive anyone for anything, and to understand that we're all doing our best with what we have. I learned that Love doesn't just come from others. I always managed to find whatever strength I needed. And eventually, I recognized the Source of Love within.

Those are some pretty great gifts. So who cares what manner of crap they were wrapped in? Maybe that was just the most direct delivery system available. I absolutely believe that my spirit chose it, in any case. So why cling to the bitterness? Why even bother to spell out how I came to whatever wisdom I may now enjoy? Is it in fact wisdom, or some sort of personal conquest? Much different! Well, here I am now. And the negative side of all this is beginning to evaporate. I hope I can let it go quickly. It no longer serves me, and it's beginning to feel false and encumbering.

I need to do some reframing, and I need a jump start. So today, I'm making a point to remember the good stuff. Not just the not bad stuff, or the stuff that was so bad it was metaphysically good. For instance, my mother taught me to listen to my gut. She gave me direct instruction on this, and for that I am very grateful. She also taught me expressly that being a little weird was highly preferable to trying to be like everybody else. Again--very cool of her. And when she was around friends she loved and felt comfortable with, she laughed often and generously, gushed gratitude and praise for every small gesture, made yummy noises, and sang her little heart out. Wow - I learned a lot of good stuff from watching my mother. And holy crap--this feels great.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

happy birthday to me

Last weekend's show, the Big One, was a blast. My entire family was there--both parents, siblings and a few cousins, too--along with a downright humbling number of dear friends. One of them pointed out that the place had gone nuts when I was introduced. I suggested that might be because almost everyone I knew was in the club! I got lots of birthday wishes, cards and flowers as I made my way from the stage to the dressing room between sets. But the best gift, of course, was the opportunity to play and sing that music.

And we had a couple of gooood sets. All my dear ones who had never heard the band before were clearly quite genuinely blown away. It felt really tight. The sound guy is a genius, and also a friend, and the system there is excellent, so with the exception of the first song in the electric set, I could hear myself clearly. What this means is that I know I sang well. Ahhh! The whole deal was recorded in 24 tracks, and there's talk of producing a cd. We'll see about that, I suppose, but, at very least, at some point I'll have a nice record of this great night in my life.

I've been laying low since then. There's a lot going on socially and musically this weekend, too, and I needed a break from being around people. It's been a nice, quiet week. I like my life.

In the quiet, I've dived into ACIM practice with renewed vigor, and made some progress. One idea which has been particularly illuminating today is the notion that any sense of unease at all --anger, depression, worry, frustration, regret, etc.--is at its essence an unloving thought. Remember my long-ass post about my troubles with certain types of people in my life? I wanted to know what to do beyond forgiveness, which didn't seem to be helping me to avoid certain recurring problems. The wise and lovely Marilyn suggested I think less about what to do, and rather be forgiveness. That really stuck with me. And today what I am putting together is that a major way my negativity hides is in my frustration and disappointment over how (many) people don't "get" me. This may not be direct judgment of them, but those thoughts and feelings are certainly unloving in the ACIM sense, and they are keeping me in a sort of personal hell. They need to go. And I think I'm ready to let them go. Hallelujah.

P.S. - There are many photos on Flickr, and two videos on YouTube of Sunday's event, if you know what to look for. Here's a hint:

Wednesday, April 25, 2007


Been awhile... Ups and downs, and all is well. Radio show went well; REALLY looking forward to the big show this weekend: the 20th anniversary of the band's first club gig--an acoustic and an electric set at the now-posh club where they first played back then. Looks like we'll be recording the show with multiple tracks, so there'll be a high-quality recording of the event. And my whole family, along with most of my friends, will be in attendance. It even falls on my birthday! This is a significant event for me. Plus (and most important, really), everything is clicking with the music; it feels really together. Can't beat that.

The internet went away today, along with cable--not that I tend to watch TV during the day. I do dink around quite a bit online, however, and as I have been feeling a bit sensitive, this served as an interesting invitation to just dive in and feel, to show up rather than zoning out, as I would have preferred. In this case "showing up" meant reading, and watching a movie about Leonard Cohen. But G was out, working on his laptop from a restaurant with wifi, and somehow just this small break in my routine was all I needed to get cracked open.

I'm reading, among other things, a book kindly sent to me by an internet friend, an autobiographical work by a psychic. There are many ways to experience and practice that aspect of things, I imagine, and I am very very careful to maintain a certain detachment from others' accounts as much as possible, but certain bits of any other intuitive's story--the most spiritual elements--cut straight through to my absolute core no matter what kind of guarded I'm attempting to be. I got lanced thusly a couple of times this afternoon. But it's a good kind of (open, bleeding) wound.

And Leonard Cohen just kills me, too. I remember as a child of perhaps eleven or twelve, hearing his song "Suzanne" on one of my mother's Roberta Flack albums and being utterly arrested by the weight and depth of the words. This, I knew, was no ordinary pop song. In fact, hearing this song might have been the first time I considered Jesus in tangible, immediate, truly spiritual terms. I guess the nuns from my brief CCD [Catholic bible school] experiences did not exactly impart the sweet sadness of spirituality, and certainly not that of Jesus himself. Those teachings felt a bit more like a rat in a cage learning not to push the electrified lever. These words felt so very vast, yet so attentive and subtle:

And Jesus was a sailor when he walked upon the water
And he spent a long time watching from his lonely wooden tower
And when he knew for certain only drowning men could see him
He said, "all men will be sailors, then, until the sea shall free them"
But he himself was broken long before the sky would open
Forsaken, almost human, he sank beneath your wisdom like a stone

Yikes. Roberta Flack had changed sailors to brothers in that line with the quotation--a very seventies dilution--but even thusly adulterated the verse packed a serious wallop. My prepubescent mind reeled, and found a big piece of itself. I didn't understand it, exactly--and I still don't know if I do, or if I even agree with the theology--but I could feel and comprehend these words in a part of myself that was deeper than meaning or theology. And that's how I continue to experience much of Leonard Cohen's work. I don't know if I always agree with the guy's perspective, but the man is paying attention, and my spirit is still utterly seized by his art. And soothed. He sees so much darkness, but he seems to find beauty and light, and hope, everywhere.

And she shows you where to look, among the garbage and the flowers
There are heroes in the seaweed; there are children in the morning
They are leaning out for love, and they will lean that way forever
While Suzanne holds the mirror

I recommend the 2005 tribute concert/documentary film "I'm Your Man," by the way. Look out for Teddy Thompson's heartbreaking "Tonight Will Be Fine." I had a crying jag so intense I frightened the cats after replaying it a few times when the film was over. The song could not be more simple melodically or harmonically, but here its beauty is just transcendent. This guy's singing, and of course the words--the WORDS!--got right in there are jangled my everlovin' guts. It's interesting to me that it's ostensibly about a romantic relationship. I tend to get so bloody BORED by songs about those. But this reminds me of reading James Joyce, in a way. The characters and scenes are on many levels very common and quotidian. Most of us, most of our lives, on their faces, are! Yet in one day in Dublin, or in one love, is
contained all the wonder and pain of all the world.

On to the PSA. I have discovered that a very serviceable chocolate sauce can be made by mixing a cocoa powder ("baker's" cocoa) and sugar with a little hot water. I think my proportions of cocoa to sugar are about 3 or 4 to 1 (but I like it super chocolatey and not very sweet).
I stir it with a whisk to get out the lumps. You could pour this over ice cream and it would taste a bit like Hershey's Syrup, only better--and it has only three ingredients, one of which is water, and all of which tend to be around in case of chocolate emergency. LOVE IT! I personally just scoop a chocolate or strawberry whipped yogurt into the chocolate sauce bowl, and top it off with crushed granola bars. A healthy sundae! A nutritious one, anyway. And quite yummy. This makes me so happy, I do it every other day or so. Grinny face.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

live radio show

Go here to listen to a live set by the band I'm playing with--the acoustic side of things--this Monday, April 16th, from 11:23 am - noon, est.

On the fence? Here are some quotes from reviews of their last acoustic record (the creation of which I of course had nothing to do with), cherry-picked by the label that released it:

"revitalize these songs of love and death with passion, taste and talent"

"unusual and refreshing"- CMJ

"unpretentious...winning and warm"- SING OUT

"Incredible!"- TimeOUT (London)

"most exhilarating....fiercely performed" - Hartford Courant

"There's no affected lack of sophistication or fawning respect in the music. The band members just play, and they don't hold back"- Chapel Hill News

"exquisite and ominous" - Columbus Dispatch

"Those harmonies are scandalous" - Dwight Diller

"tastefully heavy" - Chicago Tribune

"ploughing a unique furrow" - FolkRoots (London)

"You may have been on the planet Mars for the past few years, but there are few other bands to match the potential and scope of [this band]...Absolutely fabulous. THE band to catch"- First Hearing (Manchester England)



I like "exquisite and ominous."

Another show has been scheduled, and more are in the works. So glad this project continues, at least for another couple of months. It's been good for me.

Speaking of kicking ass and taking names, G's company may not have massive funding yet, but he has kept his mind on the work--on doing his absolute best with what is in front of him--and he is consequently on fire. He came home from a meeting yesterday a changed man. To him, it was just another meeting, which happened to go well, but I could tell that the consistent, subtle changes he's been making energetically as he approaches his work, his attitudes and inner landscape, had quietly resulted in a tectonic shift from which I do believe there can be no return. He exuded an irresistible, matter-of-fact confidence. He spoke about his business so articulately, with such focused animation, that I was utterly drawn up into his observations. This stuff could be a bit dry in other hands, I imagine. But my man? Genius! So smart, so funny, so powerful. He seems happier and more comfortably confident all the time.

So I'd better go! I have work to do if I'm going to keep up with him. Yay.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007


Another m/c. This one is more like a late period--about six days late--but still. Bleah. Talk about detachment practice--G and I were just taking it a day at a time, and I can tell, now that we're at square one again, that we weren't just pretending. We're disappointed but really okay. We once again only feel closer to the finish line, somehow.

In other not good news, G's car died suddenly. Only two weeks after putting $659 worth of work into it, the engine ran into other, more serious problems which would have required a larger investment to repair than the car was worth. We got $500 for it as a trade-in. *sigh* On the plus side, we found something else we liked right away within the narrow range that was both finance-able and affordable for us. And we got a great rate from our credit union, which we double extra pink heart love now.

At least my voice is (mostly) back. It got so bad for so long, I began to wonder. I'm still taking it easy and saving it for band practice, since it's still not quite a hundred percent, but it seems clear that it will be soon enough. Just in time--the acoustic incarnation of the band is scheduled for a thirty-five minute live broadcast on a regional public radio station in a week and a half. Fun!

That project continues to go very well generally. My contributions are well-received, and I keep hearing from the founding members about how easy it all is these days. It really does seem as though things come together virtually effortlessly. I'm sure it helps that I knew the songs well as a fan. But I'm adding new harmonies and instrumental parts, and they seem to fit nicely and to add something. It all just flows. It feels great, actually. And that's something.

So, my challenge today is to keep my momentum going. I've really ramped up the self-care lately, especially since learning I was pregnant a few days ago. I recently conducted a small ritual, actually, inviting healthy new habits and routines. I also invited pregnancy, of course. And I realized when I saw that longed-for second pink line the other day that I'd received all three: Pregnancy instantly summoned the Will I needed to correct my days' work more fully. That motivator may be gone again for now, but the Will is still palpably present, and I know now much more immediately what it feels like to summon and rely upon it. So I can keep this going--the yoga, the prayer and meditation, the revitalized ACIM practice, the produce and the exercise. The happy clean slate with others; the lighter energy. It's like a cool breeze has been cleansing every corner of my life. Why not keep letting it fly? Leave these windows open...

And it occurred to me that G and I might have had a much harder time with the inconvenience and financial stress of major car problems if they had happened during any other three days this year. Yesterday, we were still untouchable. It's a small blessing under the circumstances, but significant. I'll take it as more evidence of God's perfect timing, and move on in confidence.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007


Well, that felt good. The last post, I mean, which I spent something like four hours writing last night. Of course, this morning I woke up with some new ideas. That's what happens when I yell help, I guess--inspiration. Mostly, I can see how I'm finding tricky ways to essentially judge people, even as I see past all the meaningless ego stuff. This pattern is old and there are understandable reasons for it, but--regardless of what people around me think or do--if this all breaks down to is me feeling persecuted, then I have answered my own question, and I know how I'm colluding in the proceedings. And I know why nervousness makes it worse: To expect persecution and misunderstanding from others, no matter how many times it may have happened in the past, must be to participate in the perpetuation of that experience.

A Course In Miracles makes very clear that there are two types of forgiveness, and only one is at all helpful. If we're regarding other people or ourselves as having done something bad, which carries "real" consequences, but we sort of magnanimously decide that we will find it in our hearts and blah, blah blah--that accomplishes nothing but to underscore the unhelpful and incorrect view that we are not God's perfect children, but rather that sin is real. It's contradictory. That kind of forgiveness is more like a form of hate than Love. Real forgiveness, on the other hand, looks past all error as unreal. I believe this firmly, and I do apply it. However, if I'm allowing myself to also remain so concerned with how to function socially, i.e. on superficial/ego terms, then that must just be the ego wanting to reclaim its bogus control.

So screw it! I'll stop worrying. People will think what they think of me. If I let go of all these fears that they're going to see me wrong and I won't know what to do, I bet the odds of things going smoothly will go up sharply. Just from the absence of fear! I may be crippling myself and creating these self-fulfilling nightmares, fanning the flames rather than pouring cool water. I have wasted a lot of energy worrying about my social challenges. But it hasn't just been wasteful--it's been counterproductive. Wouldn't it make sense that if I feel chronically wounded that I might give off a defensive vibe? What effect must that have? And what's the friggin' point? I know this crap has never touched the real me or had any detrimental effects at all. And on the level of experience in the world, if anything, it has taught me more and more about Love and real forgiveness.

I may be becoming increasingly eccentric. I just don't see things like most people I meet. But do I trust that my spiritual path is right, or don't I? Do I trust God and Guidance, or not? As I have pursued this learning, I've become afraid to be too different! On the level of fear, I have fashioned my spiritual progress into yet another reason I'm likely to be "attacked"--I have feared that others will get uncomfortable and take my personal detachment, well, personally. As a judgment on them. And that has happened, perhaps proving once again that we make our own experience in this world, and that we always get whatever it is we're asking for. Well, I don't want to be a monk. Actually, part of me would love to be a monk, but I have made different choices. Anyway. I'd love to find more kindred spirits with whom to share my life's experiences, and I hope I can finally realize my goal of bringing only peace and light to everyone I touch. I hope as well that I can find more ease. But my inspiration this morning is that I need to let go, and leave it all to God to heal. Settle much more deeply into what I know to be true about me and about others. Release my fears and my projections of the past onto the future, show up for the moment, and trust. It can sound like a daunting proposition until I remember that I really don't have to do anything for this healing. It's much more about stopping doing, and staying out of Love's way. Whether or not I see it, I am always held up by much more powerful forces than my own wits.

I'm remembering something from a recent ACIM lesson, which is particularly timely considering my recent bout of laryngitis: Let me remember all I do not know, and let my voice be still, remembering. But let me not forget Your Love and care, keeping Your promise to Your Son in my awareness always.

That's not to say that letting go and trusting God more fully will immediately stop all unpleasant interactions from happening with other people. But it will certainly heal my sense of brokenness, and make it possible for me to find a new way to function. It may not remove all worldly discomfort, but--I do believe --it will bring peace. I feel better already.

Coincidentally, I finished the ACIM Workbook for the second time yesterday, having struggled and staggered my way through the last section. Actually, I skipped the final five lessons because I know I'm not up for them. I've gotten so much out of whatever effort I've been willing to make, but I have simply not been able to learn to meditate the way the Course prescribes. Though I experienced many unspeakably beautiful moments of prayer, I never accomplished prolonged mental focus, and I continued to forget all too often to pray/meditate hourly and to turn immediately to Truth in all challenging moments. So I started at the beginning again today. I want peace. I can find more willingness to open to it. To bring it.

Monday, March 26, 2007

time to unload

Whoah! Two weeks since I've posted. The funny thing is, I haven't been able to speak for almost that whole time. You'd think that might make me want to write more. Guess not. Till now, I guess.

It's been two weeks of ups and downs, and introspection. There's a peculiar social challenge sort of haunting the margins of my thought lately, a specific recurring situation which seems to contain the most implausible number of angles on several of my life themes. I can tell that larger forces are at work, because not only it is perfectly clear that I have been, and am, on both "sides" of this type of challenge, its two-sides-of-the-same-coin aspect is so prominent as to verge on the comic. I like when God makes things so obvious that the only sensible option is a big cosmic stooge slap. (God as Moe? Oh, dear.)

Still, my ironic big-picture detachment on how hilarious it is to be feeling inclined to complain about the very sort of thing that I detest most to experience complaints around when I do it, for instance, and even my lack of personal engagement on any painful or negative level at all, seem not yet enough to facilitate healing and mutual understanding. It will come eventually. It always does, in some form. But in the meantime, I wonder yet again at the gulf between my thoughts and intentions about people and (some of) their perceptions of me and corresponding reactions. I seem to have a special knack for pushing buttons. If someone within a five hundred-foot radius is nursing a painful insecurity or spoiling for a fight, there seems to be a better than decent chance that they will decide that I am provoking them and lash out accordingly.

I'm definitely no angel. I can get negative when I feel frustrated, which is more often then I'd like, and I can certainly be bitchy when I'm emotionally strung out. But even at those times, I'm usually just doing my best to deal with my own discomforts and sensitivities. I tend to take on too much rather than too little responsibility, and although, for this reason among others, I can really get riled when singled out unfairly, I'm usually painfully aware that when I feel prickly--though a hundred lifetimes ago it may have been tempting to blame someone else's annoying behavior--my prickly-ness belongs to me alone; it's my responsibility. And that's hard enough. Anyway, I don't mean to whine, God, but some people do just seem to project the most fascinatingly dark motives onto my speech and actions, even when I'm at my most happy and relaxed.

It's been a pattern all my life, of course, so I'm sure I'm inadvertently colluding in the proceedings somehow. Wish I could figure out how. One thing that I see happening is that I can tell when someone's on edge in this way about me, and I start to energetically walk on eggshells. Nervousness just never seems to help anything. Funny thing, though--when someone has decided I'm judging them, even sincere niceness and genuine, heartfelt overtures can be perceived as disingenuous, even nefarious snarkyness. When that happens, which is way too often, it's absolutely stunning. There's just nothing I can do.

Here's a garden-variety example of my experience of this type of misunderstanding: One day when I was about nineteen and had just returned home from college for the summer, I saw my sister in the kitchen and said hello. She had bleached her (dark blonde) hair since I'd seen her last. I smiled and said, "Your hair is so blonde!" Her face instantly contorted into a mask of seething rage. She called me a f@$%ing bitch, stomped away, and stayed palpably mad at me for about three weeks. I think it may have taken years, actually, to finally live that down. She had simply assumed utterly that I was critical of her appearance, and therefore expected the worst. I think she thought I was patronizing her, criticizing her with a smile. Her new hair color was noticeable, and it would have been rude not to acknowledge it, but I can assure you, I felt nothing critical at the time. I thought nothing much of it at all, really, and was just making conversation, so any attitude she perceived from me was pure projection. But project she did. Hoo-boy. I had been very, very bad.

But that's my sister, and sisters just have this sort of stuff, you say? Well, how about this one: A massage therapist once yelled at me so hard that I left sobbing, for walking into her workroom at my appointment time instead of waiting in the room outside. I didn't even know that was her waiting room. I'd seen her three times, and had always just walked through her open door. She knew that this was my first experience with massage therapy. She also knew why I was there--on the recommendation of a doctor, for stress-related neck and shoulder pain. I had even explained to her at my first appointment that I felt a little uncomfortable with the whole idea. I was concerned that my nervousness and discomfort might impede the process, and I even told her that I was stressed and might seem edgy. She assured me that she was a professional and a healer, smiling warmly.

And the first two massages seemed to go fine, even amiably. I thought it was possible that this could be helping. But on the third visit, on the third time that I went to walk through her open door at the time of our appointment, she blocked my entrance and barked some awful rhetorical question like did I have any idea how disrespectful it was of me to just march right into her space. I was beyond stunned. Tears welled up right away, and I stammered something about how I had no idea that I was meant to wait, but it only got worse from there. It seems it had never occurred to her that I might simply be ignorant. She yelled more--I can't possibly express just how out-of-left-field this all seemed to me--, telling me about other things I had done wrong, how she thought I was ripping her off because insurance companies never paid her, and how terrible my attitude was. I tried to defend myself between sobs. But on she went, not softening in the slightest. A therapist from another office came out into the hallway--we were making quite the racket, I'm sure. I wished he'd come down and administered the stooge slap. I almost called for his help. Eventually I just fled.

One of the cosmically comic things that happened over the past couple of weeks is that when I could not speak at all, when I struggled just to whisper and was trying to avoid doing even that, G kept getting angry at me during the resulting absurdist pantomime interactions for "copping a 'tude." I may have been a bit frustrated trying to express myself, plus I really didn't feel well, but I don't even remember feeling all that edgy. I was trying to be straightforward and as brief as possible. Makes sense, right? You'd think. But it turns out my "tone" is misread even when I can't make a sound! It was just too much.

Of course, I am also very free with my thoughts generally, "good" and "bad." I lavish praise and thanks. I make yummy noises when I eat. I also think nothing of outwardly acknowledging my own personal foibles and failings, but I'm correspondingly loose-lipped about others'. I just don't take my own crap very seriously, and I'm afraid I tend to expect, perhaps irrationally, similar detachment from others. If I have something to say, I'll say it, to their faces. For me that's just the Golden Rule--I feel respected and trusted when someone brings an issue to me rather than stewing about it or griping about it to others. I'm not a big fan of talking negatively about others behind their backs, actually. When I do it, it's out of frustration rather than malice, and it's generally tempered with acknowledgments of my own stuff, observations about the difficulty of growth, and lots of praise for effort made. If you look deep enough, all of us have good intentions at heart. I see people as perfect in Truth and doing their best in this world, and my heart is often broken by the sheer pointlessness of personal difficulties, even as it seems to be being stomped on.

That being said, in keeping with this pattern of judgment and ill-will being projected onto me, God help me when I actually do take issue with something someone has said or done. That's when the boom might really come down. Oh, Lawd. Like I said, I tend to take too much responsibility when things go awry, so even though I will speak up when I feel hurt, I know what it feels like to have the worst assumed, and I'm careful to keep it in terms of my own experience. Sometimes that works great. But with the Eggshell crowd, forget it. "Ow, that hurt," rather than becoming an opportunity for communication and greater understanding, is heard instead as "I think you are a bad person." Then I'm really in trouble.

Of course, I do believe there is such a thing as douche-y behavior, objectively speaking and without regard to motive or intentions. And in this world, we all seem to do stupid things and adopt attitudes which hurt each other, whether we mean to or not. It's not always about misunderstanding--sometimes it is about a kind of judgment. But it's judgment in the sense of discernment, not condemnation. Even if I were to comment on the unprofessional behavior of that massage therapist, for instance, I would merely be making a factual observation, and I don't care what might be said about negativity or judgment, facts is facts.

In any case, this tendency of mine to unwittingly act as a projection screen, as well as my general lack of restraint with regard to self-expression, have over time made me better suited than most to see and accept that some of my own behaviors and attitudes, however they are intended, may tend to be problematic under certain circumstances. I may not always see a reason to modify how I act, but I sometimes do. I'm generally willing to at least tone it down here or there as needed. And in any case, I'm truly, definitely, always eager to talk objectively about how the way I act might be affecting someone else, and to work with that person to find a solution to any resulting problems. The solution is often the talking itself, and the resulting mutual awareness and--hopefully--understanding.

When it comes to it, what is so terrible about dealing with that stuff? When you find someone who's equipped to deal, those corrective conversations can be the most fruitful and healing. With folks who can just show up, meet you halfway, take you at your word, and offer their own perspectives with an open heart and an open mind, it's just not a big deal. I have seen the promised land. We can talk to each other, sisters and brothers. Do not fear.

Of course, I have to allow that not everyone is equipped to deal. Or willing. Or... something. Sometimes emotion complicates things. And sometimes two people's stuff seems just too negatively complementary to ever get ironed out between them, even with repeated attempts at open corrective communication. At least in the short term. I really do believe that it all gets healed eventually.

But back to objective douche-y-ness. Once, a relative of mine, who is also in a mutual social subset, sent out invitations to a party at my house. The party in question, a double birthday celebration for her and G, had been hosted by her in previous years, and I had offered to throw it this time. I was waiting for a list from her of the friends she wanted me to invite (it was her birthday, after all) when I got the email invitation with the date, time, and my address, complete with a menu and food assignments. Needless to say, I was pretty upset by this. I saw no graceful way out, as I did not feel emotionally prepared to just let that party happen in that way--it would simply have been too uncomfortable for me. I had wanted to host them, to entertain--not just provide a space, for heaven's sake. What was she thinking?

This of course was one of the Eggshell folks in my life. It had always been pretty easy to spot that she was projecting critical attitudes onto me. She seemed intimidated by me--many of these folks do. She always seemed guarded, and sometimes hostile. But she was a family member--she hosts Thanksgiving!--and I did my best. Up to that point, she had been a social friend mostly of G's. They're all quite a bit younger than I am, as well as much more inclined to enjoy sitting around drinking (G only occasionally), so for the double birthday parties in previous years, along with many other such events, I often either made a short appearance or none at all. It was understood that it just wasn't my scene, and that was fine. But this was going to be my chance to offer something fun back to this group that I could enjoy, too. I'd planned to cook like mad and keep the focus on some great party games I know--on interacting rather than "partying." I figured we could all get to know each other better, and I was looking forward to it. It was not to be.

The message I sent in response to the invitation I'd shockingly received to my own party basically said, wow, I'm really upset by this and I just have no idea what to do next. I said, please call me; we need to talk. I think I asked her why she hadn't called before. I also complained that she used an email invitation format that I find tacky and would never have used--a snarky error, for sure, but it's not like I impugned her moral fabric. Anyway, the next thing that happened was that she canceled the party without talking with me. After that, she told me just how horrible I was to have attacked her like that.

It came out over the following days that she had basically pretended to assume that I didn't want to host the party, because she was afraid to talk with me about it. She never did apologize. So the question for me then became, what the hell do I do now? Did I forgive her? Sure. That's necessary for my own well-being. And I find it tends to be easier when a personality seems this messed up, anyway. But on a practical, gotta-see-her-around level, it wasn't easy to know how to actually proceed--what with not only the lack of an apology, but the ferocious insistence that we were somehow mutually culpable, since my response to her action had hurt her feelings. (By the way, she didn't like my dissing her evite, but she wasn't dwelling on it, either: She was hurt and angry because I was upset. Because I had told her that I was upset.) But besides, it was all just so awkward and embarrassing. Where do you go from there? I mean, I'm pretty clueless about social niceties. Maybe I should have consulted Emily Post. What the hell do you do in a situation like this so that everybody gets to save face? Not in a demanding, petulant way, but sheesh, just in a practical one for heaven's sake. How does one politely proceed?

I'm sure I could have made things easier if I'd thought to suck it up and say, you know, I'm sorry that you were hurt. That was the big lesson/reminder from that one for me, and a huge duh!, not that I always remember to apply it even now. At the time, I was just so flabbergasted that she had perpetrated what appeared to me a clearly, objectively massive faux pas--on the face of it!--and yet would not even begin to approach responsibility for the resulting difficulties. I did not know how to clean up the mess alone.

Things eventually just mellowed with time. I wish her well. I still see her, and I wish her well often, and sincerely. But in this situation and in others like it, even over time, the question still is: beyond forgiveness, what do I do? After something like that, my only option generally seems to be to go away and stop trying to make it work. As one friend sagely and perversely put it, you don't have to join the golf club just because you hate golf so much. I was on eggshells! Why did I try to host her damn birthday party in the first place? G and I put that situation to bed by acknowledging that while she might not be great at being a friend, she's quite cool for a relative. We backed off. I don't know if she likes it, exactly, particularly since G is no longer her pal, but the arrangement does seem to work okay. It's just sad. Lonesome.

So. Does anyone else out there have this problem? It's self-fulfilling. Someone gets over-engaged with what they think I'm thinking. They feel insecure. The projector comes out, and they decide I'm judging them. Then their guardedness makes them say or do something so clueless or hurtful that, in the name of self-respect, as well as the hope of social stasis, I feel compelled to say something about. All that does is "prove" how I'm judging them. Sometimes things improve through communication. Sometimes they don't. I get more and more nervous around people, and somehow (how, for pete's sake?) that only makes things worse.

Then there's the other side of perceived judgment, the spiritual cops. When I went to one friend to share my difficulty about the story I just told as it was happening, she shut me down before I'd even gotten started, glowering at me as though I were poisoning her lunch with my negativity, and then--patronizingly, it seemed to me--reminding me that maybe I needed to forgive. She was pregnant at the time, and therefore possibly somewhat impaired, but I had two issues with this, both of which I decided to just table permanently after this disastrous lunch date: One--as I've been saying-- is that forgiveness, for all its ultimate and immediate rightness and goodness, did not seem to provide me with a road map for how to navigate around these land mines or how to proceed in day-to-day interactions after one has gone off. I'd been hoping to compare notes on that. And two, where's my forgiveness, forgiveness lady? I've been hurt and confounded, and I'm upset. I truly do not wish to be coddled or enabled, but I need a friend, not a spanking. I mean, come one! I see her on her path. I see her struggling. And she did something clueless and fear-based that hurt and embarrassed me! How 'bout a kind word? Even if in my anger I had somehow suddenly forgotten who I am as well as all my spiritual work, even if what sat before you was a fallen shell of a person, an egomaniacal harpy bent on revenge, seriously!--even then, how could your cold sternness have helped? How could it teach forgiveness, or Love, or understanding? What are we coming to?

I understood that I had inadvertently whaled my friend with my intensity, and that she had not been prepared to field it. I apologized, forgave her and let it go. She remains largely guarded around me. Just so pointless and sad. So lonesome.

There's one more aspect of this chronic craziness that I need to unload: Sometimes people refuse to believe I'm being honest when I tell them my side of things. They simply cannot accept that I'm anything other than judgmental. It complicates things that I'm intuitive, I think. Others can tell that I see them, but they fill in their own ideas about what specifically I see. One of the sometimes problematic peripheral characters in my life play actually said to me recently, "You think you see me. You think you know me. And you think I'm mean and sinister." This interesting guy definitely does douche-y, and his behavior has made me uncomfortable and/or unhappy from time to time. He's not what I would call careful with people's vulnerabilities. But I identify with him in his freedom of self-expression and boldness around just saying things. I like that. And we've also been friends! How did he think I missed the rest of him, the 98% that's not douche-y? Or for that matter, the Truth of who he is! And how did he miss seeing me? It's all just so sad and stupid. I wish I could show him how I do see him in this world: sweet, sensitive, too smart for comfort, conflicted and frustrated and striving to be good. So much like me, and--come to think of it--, how I wish I were seen, even through the bitchy moments (which by the way are really not particularly numerous). Why not?

Well, world. Well, brothers and sisters. I don't know what I'm doing wrong, but I am doing my best. And I do love you all. Fellow students of A Course In Miracles or for that matter any other spiritual discipline, if you've made it this far, by all means, chime in. How do you deal with the seeming gulf between the Truth and these bumps along the road of temporal experience?