Archive for the ‘becoming’ Category

I’m particularly shocked by how bad our hearing is — all of us. People talk, we miss so much.

The environment speaks; we walk through it uninformed of what it is telling us.

What to do? Stop paying so much attention to words.

The numbers are debatable when it comes to communication, but all the experts agree that tone and body language communicate more than words do.

Words are a small part of communication in our world.

The wind is blowing the leaves my orange jubilee trees outside my window. This tells me the sun is at work heating the earth, and that warmer air is rising and cooler air is moving underneath. The dancing leaves are telling me that the consistencies of our solar powered planet are functioning well.

“Yea, says the plant, life will go on!” But there are no words.

This is consistent with scripture:

The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge.They have no speech, they use no words; no sound is heard from them. Yet their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.

Psalm 19

It is fundamental to the universe to communicate without words. Yet voices surround us from the stars, from the galaxies, from our sun. The earth itself is filled with unheard voices. Even the rocks will praise, said Jesus, if we don’t.

So much more hearing needs to take place, the nonverbal kind.

My wife came home from a medical appointment today where she waited for more than an hour to get a few stitches out and left with no help.  Her first words upon arriving home conveyed frustration. Her tone told me most of what she wanted to communicate.

People speak far more in feelings than in words. Look closely and you can hear.

Liars will often deliberately hold eye contact in an attempt to cover up the fact that they’re lying.

Raised eyebrows signal discomfort.

Exaggerated nodding signals anxiety about approval.

A clenched jaw, a tightened neck, or a furrowed brow are all signs of stress. Crossed legs or arms signal that a person is mentally, emotionally, and physically blocked off from what’s in front of them. It’s not intentional, which is why it’s so revealing.

We can hear what isn’t said; it’s spoken in the eyes, whispered by the muscles, shouted by tell tale legs and arms and hands. 

One can hear without ears, speak with no tongue.

I think of the deaf and hard of hearing community.  There are many in this community who resent that idea that to have a normal life, a good life, they need hearing, for example cochlear implants, small, complex electronic devices that can help to provide a sense of sound to a person who is profoundly deaf or severely hard-of-hearing. 

Some deaf find the pushing of cochlear implants on themselves and their children as  insulting, biased, discriminatory. We who think sounds and words rule need to listen to them.

Deadness is not a disability in need of an oralist’s prescription; it has created a fully-gifted culture of it’s own facilitated by sign language and sign culture. Oralism, the system of teaching deaf people to communicate by the use of speech and lip-reading rather than sign language is sometimes pushed on the deaf community. But sound is no more superior to sign than male is superior to female.  

Our biases may make this hard to understand, but we are so confused about disability and normalcy. What is normal is usually simply the way we live, but their are other normals. The signing community is a fully-gifted community. They are enriched. They have enough.

Why so much emphasis on words, talk, sounds. So much of the universe communicates in silence, in sign. We all need to learn the sign language.

I want to become a student of sign, universal sign, of silence, a listener to behavior, a watcher of movement, an interpreter of tone, being, essence, identity.

To do this I must open to listening with my mind, listening with my eyes, listening with my fingers, listening with my nose, listening with my taste buds. I must let the plants, the wind, the sun, the people who are different from me teach me. I must listen with my spirit. I must listen with my soul.

Everything and everyone is saying something. How exciting to begin to try to hear using different modalities.

Everything is speaking; are we listening?

Theology and pain — there much to process here. Let’s put aside the questions of causality for the moment and consider our own reactions to pain. Let’s take a look at our side of it.

Paul, the great spiritual thinker, the consummate church founder, the exquisite theologian himself once wrote, and he wrote in the Bible, for God sake:

We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself.”

2 Corinthians 1:8

Everybody can be broken, including the great ones. Paul broke. The pressure was beyond his ability to bear. Paul was human. He was like the rest of us.

Pressure, physical pain, emotional pain or relational difficulty is always rough to take. It creates fear in us, sometimes it creates the fear that a time will come when we may think and feel: “I am broken and in pain beyond what I can endure. I can’t take it anymore.” We can all say or imagine saying that kind of thing if we arrive at a point where our soul is very eroded, where our spirit feels completely broken. I’ve been there several times in life. Most others too. But one of the promises of scripture is that God will save the crushed in spirit.

Psalm 34:17-20

The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them;

    he delivers them from all their troubles.

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted

    and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

The righteous person may have many troubles,

    but the Lord delivers him from them all;

he protects all his bones,

    not one of them will be broken.

What does that mean, “saves,” and “delivers”? It might mean many things? It could mean solutions, it could mean healing, or even mean strength to endure when there is no physical or emotional or relational healing. It might mean heaven. I would think it is case specific, but for all believers an ultimate saving and delivering will be heaven.

But what if we aren’t delivered in the here and now, at least not in the way we want? How are we to think about lasting hardship and pain? Well, we need to acknowledge that lasting pain is not necessarily ennobling. It doesn’t always get better or make everything eventually intrinsically better. Pain isn’t something we should minimize or deny the terribleness of. Paul didn’t; Paul despaired. Jesus didn’t minimize his pain. In great spiritual and psychological pain, Jesus wept.

But lately, I have noticed that my pain — at times — has clarified my mind, helping me to see what’s important, what’s not, helping me to the correct reading of others — adding empathy and understanding of their pain — and helping me to know what’s true. I have recently had opportunities to speak very truthfully and lovingly about some very complicated issues to some empowered people, and I found that they were able to accept what I said, the truth, in part because it came from a place hacked out in me by pain, a place of gentleness, tenderness and understanding of both my own pain and theirs.

In pain, we may — not always — get some clarity, some proximity to truth. Yes, suffering and broken-heartedness can sometimes leads us to the wrong conclusions, and can cause us to be angry, pessimistic or negative or inpatient or unkind, but not always. What I am learning is that sometimes pain and difficulty refines us, makes us more mature, give us a perspective, may clarify what’s of value and what’s not and may give us fresh, helpful language to talk about old experiences and ideas.

Sometimes our pain helps us take the mash of life and ferment it, distill it, and produce some good, clear, strong stuff. Pain, like a still used to make strong whiskey, may drip best things out of the bottom of heat and loss.

And when it does, we must also say that this too may be from God. This is sometimes part of God’s saving and delivering. He saves and delivers us and our neighbors not from pain, but from untruth.

Lately I’ve had to let go of some things, things in the past, and I’ve been thinking about how we do this.

My mom passed away a few years ago so I had to let go of my mom. My oldest daughter recently moved out of the house to a perfect place for her, so I needed to let go of her. My youngest daughter got married a year ago and so there was a new letting go of her and also an including of my new son-in-law.

It’s not that I’m not still connected to the girls anymore, or even my mom, but that I’m okay with these relationships being different. I think what helps me is to realize that everything changes over time, nothing stays the same, relationships morph with the different stages of life and that the best thing to do is to accept that, and to flow with that.

I find the need for this in other areas of my life too. This year I let go of my career; I let go of the bigger house — we sold it — I let go of being a public figure. I’ve even let go of having a normal routine because of some chronic pain.

I think that moving forward in a healthy way involves simply being realistic. We have to make friends with new realities. It isn’t like it was. It’s different. And wishing it were back to what it was tends to forget the things that we didn’t like about the way it was. Reality is reality. Not accepting changes increases pain. Flowing with what is real is the only sane and safe way to proceed.

All this relates to old conflicts, old hurts, old broken relationships too. It’s not like we just get over old relational drama, but we find different places to put it. We put it in perspective. We put it in more gentle places of non-judgment. And by doing so we heal, realize that we’re going to be okay, realize how much we have learned from our mistakes — and from the mistakes of others.

Bob Dylan is now passé; he’s part of history, but his good lines and honest truths aren’t. The “times — they are [still] a changin’.” Wise ones change with them.

There is a sense of “moving on“ for all of us, and a healthy perspective of “gettin’ on down the road.” But I’ve certainly realized that I never move on without bringing everything from the past with me. Really, it all comes along, but the thing is how do I pack it to go with us on the ride? I’m thinking I pack it, we pack it, and we repack it gently. I’m thinking that it works best if we are willing to rearrange our views of the past as needed in light of new information and new realities, and that we always need to keep learning from the past because the past is such an excellent teacher, and the past just keeps on giving; its lessons are ever-giving, like a good orange tree.

Finally, there’s so much present and future still to live, to motivate us, to invest in that this best becomes our healthy focus. Really, moving on means embracing the possibilities with in the present and future in an excited, energized, hopeful way. Letting go means engaging the present, trained by the past, but energized by the next great adventure.

I’m currently finishing my third novel. How? Why? Because I quit doing a bunch of stuff that was taking up all my time, and I’ve started doing something that’s taking up all my heart. It is something that’s always been mine to do. But to do it I had it stop doing a bunch of other things.

Moving on means not being stuck, afraid of change, overly atavistic, traditional, all status quo and old school, predictable and safe. Moving on means being adventurous, free, modern, hip, avant-garde, steezy, cool and with it.

So get over it — by getting with it!

This week I fell — for a few days — into a negative mental loop. 

Around and around I go; where I stop — I don’t know!  It was an up-and-down and circle back around — my crazy mind. It was a rocking and rolling emotional session based on what someone else either had or had not done.  It was about expectations. 

Great!

Wheeee! 

Fun! 

Not.

What to do?

I didn’t know what to do — even with all my personal experience with my own brand of mental chaos, even with all my seasoned and supposed wisdoms and emotional acumens — I couldn’t figure it out. 

I have always found that I am — to myself — the most difficult puzzle that exists. So it is for all of us.

I did some research. 

University of Oxford Professor, Mark Williams, teaches that we can move away from negative mental loops by paying attention to our direct sensory experiences. When we focus on what we see, hear and smell — in the everyday salient and the “Oh, so very” beautiful right-now! — we leave little room for obsessive, negative intrusions.

The “Coming To Our Senses” approach has the ability to calm-water our roiling minds. It can ground us in immediate, beautiful and grateful realities.

This morning I put one of my current favorite songs on YouTube and watched and listen to a worship band worship. The simple gorgeous piano chords, those lovely lead voices, that backgrounded rhythm guitar — so orderly, so positively patterned, so soothing, so pointed toward God.  In the moment, using my eyes and ears to experience beauty, I forgot the week’s negativity and trauma.

Better.

I am better — coming-to-my senses better.

This morning, I also called my daughter. She was on a walk with her Australian Shepherd. She texted me a picture of the dog resting for a moment in some of the first spring flowers of the season. We went together on a fun, quick internet search of the name of the wild flower. It was the Scilla siberica, a beautiful ground flower with bright blue petals and lovely green, spear-shaped leaves. As we searched — and trade texted pictures — I was lost in the moment, lost in the little flower, lost in the mental curiosity for life I share with my daughter, and I was at peace with the world. 

I came to my senses! 

One more thing. 

In my morning’s research I also ran across the work of Dr. Daniel Siegel.

Psychiatrist Daniel Siegel, a clinical professor of psychiatry at the UCLA School of Medicine, offers what he calls, the “Name It To Tame It” remedy for negativity. The idea is that when unhelpful thought patterns and emotions overcome us, we can respond by naming the narratives we are creating and thus rob them of their power. 

Cool! 

So this morning, I named my current mental zoo. I called it my “The Expectation Loop.”  Sometime, I overly expect people to care for me. And sometimes I expect a competence from others that simply isn’t there. And sometimes I fall into fear and anxiety about what others expect back from me. Wow! The Unrealistic Expectation Loop — that’s my beautiful mess. 

And so to apply Dr. Siegel’s work, this morning I name my kind of crazy. This week I have been suffering from the “Crazy-Making Expectation Loop.”  To tame it, I name it, and I work to free myself of it. I think it through. 

If I don’t express my expectations, then I can’t expect others to meet them. If I don’t let others express their expectations of me, then I can’t fulfill them. If I have unrealistic expectations — perhaps based on my own past unmet needs — I must recognize those, and not let the past trigger my present when what is happening right now is not the same as what happened before. 

Thanks, psychiatrists, professors, you mind-experts. You help me, get sane, or more sane. 

I’m still a puzzle to myself, but with help, I am gradually beginning to understand myself,  better, and I am — just perhaps — coming to my senses. 

“I try not to ascribe motivations to people,” my brother said to me. It tried to go past me, the nonjudgmentalism of his reticence. Quiet responses often do.

I love to attribute motive, quickly, with not much information — many of us do.

“We don’t know what they are thinking,” our realtor said to my wife and I. Our realtor was talking about the buyer we were trying to sell our house to. Our realtor was right. We didn’t know the buyers frame of mind. We didn’t know his aesthetic, his price point, his cash on hand, his shopping culture, his end game.

I’ve heard this a lot lately, people admitting what they don’t know about other people.

“We don’t know his people skills.”

“We don’t know what triggered this.”

“We don’t know why she did that.”

The truth is, when it comes to each other we are often in the dark, and the light we shine on each other with our “take,”  our sense of them, our labels — these often miss the mark.

“Oh, yeah, she is a conservative,” someone says, as if that explains her.

“He’s left wing, she’s hurt, he’s an addict, she’s stuck, he’s jealous, she’s angry” — we just can’t stop assigning motives, explain away each other, attaching labels, as if then we have them, in our grasp, “the little rats,” and can disagree with them, or fight them, or dismiss them.

Am I saying we shouldn’t?

I’m saying we do, a lot.

We judge — even if we are told not to. And there is not much hope for us not judging.

It’s just that we might do well to realize that figuring someone out isn’t the same as assigning a label, and it is often much more complicated than their one “screwed up” thing.  Motives are complicated, even sometimes contradictory. Motives are convoluted, multi-pronged, obfuscated by so much smoke, so many mirrors.

Perhaps it would help to just work on figuring ourselves out, or at least leave the “helping” or figuring out others to doctors and professional therapists.  Perhaps it would help me, and most of us really, to simply turn more away from critiquing others  and focus on our own motives, spend time on our own confabulations. This is probably the only route to real change — when change is needed —  the intimate, personal “Aha,” the “Wow, so that’s going on with me,” some interior, existential epiphany that is so needed.

“What’s driving me?” or “Why did I do that?” or “What am I getting out of this?” — these are good questions and figuring such things out can be quite empowering and healing. And understanding ourselves better can point toward some new stuff, new adventures and even perhaps new and better understandings of others.

But assigning motives to others, I’d personally like to move away from that more and more.

I’ve been learning from some of  my trusted friends that attributing motives to others — that is a bit of a fool’s errand.

“You can’t fix me,” an older person told me recently, then proceeded to hangup.

I hadn’t said much. I had simply shared a picture of a possibility for dealing with his negative feelings toward himself. I had said, “When the baby cries, we hold the baby, so when our soul cries, we might  …”

He wouldn’t have it, the self-care in it, the personal gentleness with the crying child within.

Of course, the “you can’t fix me,” has some truth to it. I can’t. We can’t. But such a defiant declaration, in this case, felt like a shield, a barrier thrown up, a protective rationalization to avoid changing, to avoid any solutions, to avoid taking responsibility for feelings — a decision to avoid self-care.  This may, indeed, be one of the great temptations of old age, living with a ubiquitous “I’m too old to change” mantra. This can problematize, pathologize and negativize a life.

One person loves their inner person, another hates the self inside, and other doesn’t think of self much at all. We live in the world we create in our minds.

But can change that world, the story, our biography, using insights, using new thoughts,  perhaps using information given us from others. It is possible to re-see our lives and re-story the past. Possible is a post-mythic stage of life, a post-stuck stage, a post-hurt or post-wounded stage of life in which we embrace reality, listen to new voices, seek the corrective perspectives of other family member’s stories, see things and people differently, even accept and experience redemption.

I was always a bit jealous that my older brother was sent away to a prestigious prep school when he was thirteen. It seemed to me, in this, that my parents were more invested in him than me. Recently, he told me that the experience caused him to experience an acute homesickness. Being separated from his family — it was full of pain.

Story-listening, I realized I would have felt the same. I would not have wanted to be away from home, family, hearth, pets, privacy, the safe harbor of mom and dad and brothers either. So, I can drop the envy. It was misplaced. I have; I do. I am now glad I wasn’t sent away to school.

It’s narrative psychology. We live in the world we create in our minds; we can change that world. We can, with other family member’s help, even perhaps co-author a new world, a different story, a more positive narrative.

We can. 

Perhaps — if we are open to grace, and healing.

I was on the phone with my dad recently. We chatted about books. I had previously recommended Endurance to him, Alfred Lansing’s riveting telling of the Ernest Shackleton story  He told me my brother Steve had picked up a copy for him.  It’s a great read, good for dad I think at this point in his life.

My dad is 90; he just lost my mom, he needs endurance, and really, he has it. He’s healthy, smart, active and provided for in a retirement community where he works as a furniture mover.

A furniture mover, at 90? Yup! I asked him if he had help. He told me he had a moving  team. I asked him if there were any young guys. He said he had an 85 year old. Then he told me with no hint of humor. “My strongest guy is 91!

Okay then, all set.

Toward the end of the conversation he came out with something I didn’t expect. He said to me, “You have an innate wisdom.”

I was a bit knocked over. I can’t remember my dad ever saying anything so affirming to me although he has often complimented and encouraged me. Actually, it rather gently stunned me — with pleasure. It warmed the space between us and flowed back into the past like a spring rain in my psyche.  It didn’t blow up my ego: it just gently affirmed the original grace in my life, something that has blessed my work, my marriage and my relationship with my daughters.

Affirmation — genuine and unmotivated any desire to manipulate or control — it adds to our ability to endurer.

Affirmation — it is sweet soul rain.

I am the project manager on the buildout of a new counseling center for my community.

As a result, I feel weak — like one in need of therapy.

I am fairly confident that I will make the contract deadline for the center and handover a stunningly necessary, functional and even upscale set of gorgeous offices.

I feel strong.

Honestly — I fluctuate.

I worked hard today, and yesterday, and the day before that, and the week before that, and the year before that, and for the last ten years before that — and pretty much all my life on leveraging what I have been given for the benefit of others —  and myself.  I’ve worked hard on personal visions and also on institutionally core initiatives, and I’ve had some good successes — accomplishments and progressifications — but I’ve also had some keen and bitter disappointment-a-mongers too.

The week I enjoyed being part of a team that is finding housing for a resource challenged women with significant disability. I think we’ve got it, thanks to my partner, and God.

And yet, last night I dreamed of a silent, disapproving, disloyal group of fat middle-class white men hovering ominously over me. I wonder where that came from?

I know.

It’s okay.

I have agency, which requires past experience, and I have character, which requires continuity, and I have integrity (I absolutely adore integrity), and yet I have also had  bad dreams mixed up within my agency — which as I am trying to tell you — is required for success, a kind of abject brokenness comingled with unstoppable love — this is the stuff that keeps driving us forward like a giant tunneling, underground drill bit.

And so, and thus and such, like many of us I am making friends with the adversative conjunction “but.”

I’m confident, but also emotionally bumfuzzled.  My core emotions dive into the  abyssopelagic, but they also sore to the summit. I am weak but strong,  disappointed but fulfilled, cynical but annoyingly chipper.

These are normal feelings for all of us who work hard and hope for much.

The low country of emotion — despair, disillusionment and doubt — they are close companions, even friends, even family members of passion, strength and hopefulness. Empowered people suffer, keep moving;  fail, keep risking; despair, keep hoping.

When we hear of empowered people, we picture a person who is fired up, on vision steroids, on courage adrenaline, always strong. Not so much. Remember Sampson. The inspired people range, they vary, they run the gamut, they ply the spectrum, from high to low.

In fact, and this is the deal, as has been said before, “Your mess is your message.” Your weakness creates your strength, your broken moments are your credentials.  You are a hot emotive mess, and a fiery, muscle force, all in one.

Within your empowerment lies your weakness, like the core of a nuclear reactor, and this weakness fuels your success, producing within you a cardinal and necessary equipoise.

Don’t forget this: the essential, contradictory emotional dualism endemic to all humans   keeps us humble. It will keep us from becoming obnoxious, insensitive, and vegetal, and it will keep us emotionally bifurcated in exactly the way needed for others to survive the astonishing success we have yet to achieve.

Yesterday as we drove into the Rocky Mountains, I was particularly struck by the yellow fire.

It lit up the tops of the Aspens as they flamed above the dark green pines and blue-green furs. Gorgeous fall-infused yellow, lovely golden-yellow, perfect round leafed-yellow, pale-yellow, sunshine-yellow.

Some of the Aspens were light green at the base, that flowing up into pale-yellow, that transforming here or there at the tops of the trees into sunset yellow and faded-orange.

By way of contrast, we see.

One thing juxtaposed beside another, nature’s palate, a wonderland of extremes, one thing not another, one thing becoming another.

Colorado in the fall is blue sky, turning grey; green forest, turning yellow.

The Aspens seem to thrive on contrasts, their trunks soft bark-white, with back splotches and thin black horizontal lines marking them up. It’s an artist’s dab and artisan’s fine-brush stroke.

Black, white; forest, framed; free, bound; poor, less poor; lovey, more-so; faithful, not-so-much — one world, many contrasts.

I’m getting okay with this.

I am like you, but not like you, and more-and-more I like you. It’s mind expanding. I am able, we are able — by means of acute social ambling and oblique relational bumbling to get on down the path of experience and begin to see better.

We are able — aided by the brand of specialized humility that comes by being cracked wide open like a nut by brutal-beautiful life — to accept different, to like different, to thrill to different, to honor different, to see better by means of different.

This is good, this is better, this is best.

By means of contrast, we thrill.

Places please us; they also make us who we are.

You are where you are from — you are all the places you are from — in part.

I was born in Long Beach, California. My family lived during my early years nearby, in Torrance. My later years — about two-third of my life — I have lived in San Diego. Thus, I am California-ized. I am a coastal, beached, palm-treed, coastal, diversified, somewhat edge-of-the-ocean liberalized.

When I was five my parents, my two brothers and I moved to Missouri, first to Kansas City, then to Warsaw, Missouri. I lived there for 15 years. Thus, I am a woodsy, lake-loving, landed, middled, Bible-belted, ruralized, familialed  — raised as a farmed-fed fellow.

I was twenty, when we moved to San Diego. I might say my formative years were in the Midwest — they were — but all years are formative years and all the places I have lived, or been, have added to me.

We are where we live, and we are where we have lived

I have lived in Missouri — five miles from Warsaw on State Highway 7, where it meets county road Z. During my years, there were woods, streams, farms and a town of 1,000 people there. Near Warsaw — at the Christian campground I grew up on — I hunted wild mushrooms around musty rotting logs after spring rains, picked and ate wild strawberries in the fields behind R-10 — my rural, consolidated grade school — copied art master-pieces for Mrs. Myers —my revered grade school teacher — fished for large mouth bass on small streams over-hung with trees, chased lightening bugs in front of the house on warm summer evenings with my brothers, watched huge bright flashes of lightening rip the roiling Midwest sky apart, water skied on smooth evening water on the Osage River, sledded in winter down a favorite hill to a small pond through trees sparkling with ice and worked in the local grocery store and threw hay into barns for two cents a bale to earn money for my first car.

I learned stuff there. How farmers live, how small towns function, what localism feels like, what natural beauty looks like, how the woods function as a refuge, how water feels under your feet, how snow tastes, what fish feel like at the end of a line, how a gun smells when fired, how the planet feels when it is only one-hundred miles in diameter, what if feels like to live one-mile from the nearest neighbor, how to read a lot on snowy winter days, to have dogs for friends and how to have your brothers as your best friends and favorite playmates.

And then I lived in San Diego, the city of Chula Vista, eleven miles from the border of Mexico, on Highway 5, in a bedroom community, on the San Diego bay, in the California inland hills, in a racially diverse community, in a desert — with yards and median planters made to look like the Midwest — and in a beautiful master-planned community called Eastlake, built around an artificial lake.

In Chula Vista I have watched winter winds whip the pepper trees into a wild street dance, attended San Diego State University and UCSD to earn degrees in literature, met my wife at a church, bogey boarded in the Pacific Ocean at Coronado and La Jolla Shores with my two little daughters, enjoyed Shakespeare at the Festival Stage in Balboa Park every summer, surfed the blue, curling waves of Tourmaline and Del Mar, tramped the bright blooming Torrey Pines State Beach Park, the gorgeous Anza Borrego desert and lovely Cuyamaca Mountains, taught in an inner city high school in Southeast San Diego and at a diverse community college in Chula Vista, pastored two churches, bought four homes, became a writer, became a traveler, began to know who I was — perhaps a little, a lover of beauty, a lover of places, a lover of the city and a lover of the country. I am, just perhaps, an odd and unique combination of two places — the Midwest and the West Coast.

On top of this, California became a bit of a launching pad for me, for from there I have traveled to Sequoia, to Yosemite, to San Francisco, to Lasen, to Portland, to Seattle, to South Carolina, to Georgia, to Hawaii (three times), to Alaska, to Arizona, to Washington DC, to New York, to Massachusetts, to Kansas City, to Montana, to Wyoming, to Maine and to many other US destinations too many to name, and also to other countries, to Mexico, Canada, Puerto Rico, Brazil, Nicaragua, South Africa, England (twice), to France, to Italy and other countries too.

I am my places — in part — and they have all shaped my perspectives on life.

Rural Missouri taught me to love oaks. San Diego taught me to love palms. Missouri taught me to love forests. California taught me to love parks. The Ozarks taught me to love streams and lakes and farms, San Diego to love the ocean. Warsaw showed me small and slow-paced; San Diego showed me large, and fast. Warsaw taught me cultural similarity; San Diego taught me cultural diversity. In Missouri I feel in love with the countryside; in California I fell in love with cities. At at the edge of the continent — voyaging out — I fell in love with the world, and the world taught me to love the world.

Who am I? I’m not sure. Perhaps I am everywhere I have lived, everywhere I have been, who I have met and how they have influenced me.

Because I have lived more than one place, perhaps I am able to see some differences in places — perhaps not always accurately — but I do have a point of comparison. Because I have traveled to still other places, I am able to notice more of what is similar, and sometime different in people an places.

The effect this has had on me, is mostly likely unique, different than the effect would have had on anyone else. We are each one a custom filter. We are each one a special geographical sponge. We soak up different things from our environments. I do not think of myself as a Missourian, or a Californian. Although I am very California, I like to think of myself as a citizen of the world. I want to be cosmopolitan. I want to be international. I long, ache and pine to be universal.

I want to live in other places, meet other people, meet exotic people of the world. Indeed, there are no other kind. All people are exotic to me, all are interesting, all are maps, all may be read as a place, all are places or combinations of places, all add to me, all add to us.

In a time when some of my fellow American want to isolate, be with only their own kind, expel outsiders, mistrust foreigners, become provincial again, put up walls, get safe, I don’t.

I know I am an North American, I know I am most comfortable here, probably in California, I know this is a good home for me, but I know that I want to be from more than one place, and know more than one kind of person and value more than one town, state, country, culture and continent.

I want to be from everywhere — well almost. Let’s be honest. I have been places and read about more places that I don’t want to be from. But I do want to know everyone — well, mostly, kind of, growing towards this, wanting to adventure out more, getting there, on my way.

I’m excited to plan the next trip, buy the next plane ticket, make the next move — outward.

I am, in part — where I go next.