Continuing on…

*Strong Language Warning*

So yesterday I touched on some things that I’ve been trying to change lately. I saved this particular thing for its own post because it has really been looming around and I feel like it needs to be addressed. I’ve always been annoyed by total buzzkills. You know, those people who can’t take a joke. Everything you say offends them. Constant political correctness. I hate it. I never wanted to be the nitpicky type, and I certainly don’t consider myself a “snowflake” as the buzzword has become. I’ve always been the type to be able to find humor in anything and to be able to joke in order to ease tensions. Even a “bad” joke that’s a bit distasteful can be funny in the right setting, and when all involved are well aware that it is only a joke. The problem comes in now that I’ve been practicing Buddhism and seeing how so many things are connected.

We say a lot of things in our day to day lives, much of it we don’t even consider or think about. Once you start thinking about the words you say, you start becoming more aware of the consequences of your words. I’m going to use a bit of a silly example here, but it will get the point across. Blonde jokes. Who doesn’t know a blonde joke? And even more, who doesn’t have a favorite blonde joke? I like them, they can be funny. However, let’s say that Bob tells blonde jokes all the time. Every day he has a new one, and every day he tells them. Over time, those jokes start to become Bob’s “normal.” Before you know it, Bob starts treating blonde people he knows in a different way. He doesn’t seem to respect them very much and he’s always poking fun not knowing when to stop. He starts acting like all the blonde people he knows are just like the blondes in his jokes, ditzy, stupid, and uneducated. Now do you see where this is a problem?

I watched a documentary on Netflix called Innsaei and there was a man on the documentary who was talking about how normal violence toward women has become. Video games like Grand Theft Auto glorify such violence, and people line up for days to play games like this. Now I don’t believe that a simple video game will turn you violent or anything like that, but why are we so accepting of violence in this manner? I’m not telling everyone to go burn their game. If it’s just a little stress reliever for you, that’s fine, but you might not be everybody. There are some people who play these games and start to believe what they see, or start to become desensitized by it. I just think we need to take a deeper look into ourselves and see our motivations behind why we do and say what we do. Why do we choose the game where we kill hookers instead of the one where you do something more pleasant? The man in the documentary said that this type of normalization of violence, especially against women, turns into a hate for the feminine. That hate for the feminine then translates into a hate for Mother Nature and therefore our very roots. He has a point there, doesn’t he? These boys especially want to play these games and be these rough and tough characters, then they get older and they want to be rough and tough men with no feelings just doing what they need to do to conquer and win. Often times they don’t care what is destroyed. Look at our political spectrum now: more oil pipelines and less sacred ground, more depletion of natural resources and less investment in renewable energy, more war and less peaceful negotiation. It’s everywhere.

I’ve said it about JT as well. He will jokingly call our cats bitches and sometimes it will produce a sour look from me (usually without me ever realizing I did it) and he wonders why “all of a sudden” I’m “offended.” For one, it’s not so much all of a sudden, as I’ve always kind of disliked it, but I never wanted to be that nitpicky person. Secondly, I’m not offended as much as I just don’t like how normal it’s become to use that word. I also hate that a majority of the derogatory words we seem to use are degrading to the feminine or marginalized groups. Bitch, cunt, hoe, all of these words belittle women down to the very fundamental that the only thing they are good for is their uterus, their bodies, their looks. We don’t think about it, it’s just a word we use…but what are we really doing? I’m not saying to stop using the words, sometimes they really do fit the situation. Sometimes that person is being a total bitch. And that’s ok. But I think we need to take a step back and see how often we are using these words and why instead of just making it the norm.

I’m not telling people to stop joking around. Humor is a wonderful thing. I absolutely love a great joke, and I love the dirtiest and most awful of jokes when they are just that…jokes. The problem is that our language has gone far beyond just jokes and it has become a lifestyle. My blog title says it all, with great freedom comes great responsibility. This includes our freedom of speech. Just because we legally can say something doesn’t always mean we should. It’s so important to think and be mindful of our words so we can be respectful and compassionate toward others. Sometimes the reactions you get in any given situation are simply the product of the language you have used. We can all do better here. I’m not going to get offended, I’m not going to report you to the internet police, and I’m not going to harm you or your property in any way for saying a word that I don’t like. I’m not even going to ask you to stop saying it. I’m just going to ask you, is it true? Is it necessary? Is it kind?

I’ll leave you to make that judgment…

*~*MR*~*

Winds of Change.

So I really have been trying to be a better person lately, but the past month or so has been very hard for me. I’ve been battling a lot of things internally that I think have been brought to the foreground by my Buddhist practice. I’m not knocking the practice at all, life isn’t supposed to be a cakewalk. We learn through our difficulties, ya know…Anyway, I’ve really been trying to force myself to get up and go do things, even when I don’t want to. If it is something that will make me better, I have to make myself do it, because ultimately I want to be better. It’s easy to just lay around and make excuses. It’s harder to get up and go to the gym, or get up early for temple service, or go do a few volunteer hours. Regardless of how hard it is, I need to continue to do these things. I turned into this lazy, overweight, unmotivated person because I let it happen. Fixing it sucks. I used to be able to walk a mile with no problem, now I get short of breath. Needless to say, that happens because I let myself go, so now I have to pay the price to make it better.

I like to think that some day things will be easier again, but I also know that I always used to be the person who said that it wasn’t hard to stay in shape, or get yourself motivated to do things, and look where I ended up. Things aren’t easy now, and that is essentially my fault. Today, I absolutely positively did not want to go to the gym, but I did. I pushed myself, and I went, and I’m glad for it.

I need to get a few more volunteer hours in before the end of the month, so Monday and Tuesday I’ll be pressing myself to get those taken care of. Monday will also be another gym day, and flameworking class. I don’t have to work, so I really have zero excuses. Get off your ass and get going!

I’m glad that my practice has brought my attention to these issues, even if it has made me irritated about having to do things. I know in the long run it is all for my benefit and the benefit of others. How can I pay it forward when I can’t even get off my ass, right? I’m determined to do this no matter what gets in my way, and who journeys with me. Even if I have to do it alone, this is my path and I can’t force anyone to walk it with me. When you make up your mind to do something, you just have to get out there and do it. You’ll thank yourself for it, believe me!

*~*MR*~*

The Sound of Silence

So Friday morning I attended my first Buddhist retreat. It was supposed to be JT and I together, but he decided last minute that he didn’t want to go, so I went alone. I’m almost glad it worked out that way, only I wish I would have just decided to go alone in the first place. I love the guy, but I just don’t think it would have been as important to him as it was to me.

The retreat was out on a farm, which also happens to be the priests’ home. I had been informed before I arrived that the retreat is done under a vow of silence. I have to admit, that part made me nervous. What if I had questions? I really had no idea what I was doing, so I was a bit concerned about looking silly. When I arrived at the farm, I noticed I was a bit earlier than I intended, so I waited to see if anyone else would show up before I headed inside. I probably looked like a stalker as I hustled out of my car and ran up behind another guy who also looked new. As we got up to the door, I noticed a shelf for shoes so I removed mine and went in behind my fellow newbie. One of the temple members I recognized greeted us at the door and told us to take a seat as they finished breakfast. Turns out talking is ok as long as it’s only for necessary instruction, or from the retreat leader to inform us of what’s next. That was a weight off.

Once breakfast was completed, it was time for what is called work practice, or Samu. We were told there would be a new person orientation for us 3 new folks, and then after that our work assignment would be to clean up the zendo (meditation area). For about a half hour or so, one of the girls explained to us how the schedule would go, and most importantly the ceremonial way that we would eat our meals (I was only staying for lunch, but they would all be the same.) After that, we were sent out to complete our work practice, which for me was rolling dog hair off of all of the meditation cushions. It sounds like tedious work, but in that moment, the only thing you are doing is cleaning those cushions. It’s liberating in a way. You keep your mind on your task and just allow everything else to float by. We were done cleaning before the next bell, so we were able to rest. I took a short walk outside, poured myself a cup of hot green tea and sat by the window staring out into the fields. I saw a few deer run by and just enjoyed taking in the scenery.

The bell rang, and that meant time for zazen (seated meditation). There are many ways to sit, and I was a little nervous. I’m a bit overweight and sometimes sitting cross-legged for too long results in my feet going numb. I didn’t want to be uncomfortable so I chose to sit on a small bench instead of just on the floor with a cushion. Some people used regular chairs, and next time I would consider that as well. We sat facing the wall for 30 minutes just meditating, then 10 minutes walking, another 30 sitting, 10 walking, and the last 30 sitting. Another bell rang and we did what was listed on our schedule as “liturgy” but it was actually only a couple of short chants, not like the hour and a half liturgy I’m used to on Sundays.

Following liturgy was lunch. You don’t just eat at these retreats though, it’s very ceremonial. It’s called oryoki, and it’s actually very cool. You have 3 bowls, chopsticks, a spoon, a spatula, a napkin for your lap, a napkin that serves as a placemat, and a napkin for drying your bowls. The servers come around and fill your bowls in a very ceremonial manner that involves lots of bowing. Once the meal is plated, you take a bit of grain (in this case, rice) from your largest bowl and place it on your spatula handle so the servers can come around and gather it as an offering. After you finish all of your food, you scrape your bowls clean with the spatula and lick off any remaining bits. Finally the servers come around again and fill your large bowl with green tea. You can use the tea to scrape off any leftovers, then you transfer the tea to the middle bowl, dry out your big bowl and then do the same with the medium to the small bowl. Once you get to the small bowl, you drink all but the last drop of tea. That last bit is also collected as an offering, then you can dry out your small bowl and stack them back together. There is also a special way to fold in all of the napkins and supplies, which certainly takes some time to learn, though I didn’t think I did too bad for my first try!

I was leaving after lunch, so once we cleaned up, that was my cue to go. The same man that greeted me at the door asked to speak with me outside before I left. He asked me how I felt about it, and I told him I would definitely return. He told me to drive safely and sent me on my way.

On the drive home everything seemed brighter, bolder. I felt a little stronger. Even these past few days since, I’ve found myself speaking up on things that bother me instead of avoiding them. Sometime I’m not sure if that’s a good thing yet, but I feel like it’s a skill I desperately need to learn.

I signed up for next month’s retreat too, only I signed up for a full day this time. That quick period was just not enough for me! I’m excited to continue on this spiritual journey and see where it takes me. I’m learning to be better and to put myself out there for others even when I don’t want to. This world needs all of us to be better, and it starts at home!

*~*MR*~*

Is it important?

So yesterday was Valentine’s Day. JT had to work, but we had plans to go to dinner when he got home, which was unfortunately not until 7pm (but I thought it was 7:30, oops), so it was going to be a late one. I didn’t do much all day, so I had planned to start showering and getting ready around 6:30 so he could have the bathroom to get ready when he got home. He got home a little after 7 and I was just drying off from my shower and about to start putting makeup on. He was getting antsy and said, “So I guess I didn’t give you enough time to get ready all day?” I was a little annoyed. For one, I wanted to be fresh, so I wanted to get ready right before we left. It’s not often I get to dress up and look pretty. I take full advantage of those moments when I get them, because most days I lounge around in sweat pants and t-shirts. Sometimes it is nice to go all out. Secondly, I thought he would be getting ready too, at least taking a shower, because he is a meat cutter and always complains about how he smells when he gets home. I was a little annoyed that he didn’t appreciate the effort I was trying to put in. Being my passive aggressive self, I huffed and puffed myself into the bedroom where I just threw on my usual sweatpants and tie-dyed shirt and didn’t even bother with the makeup. If he didn’t care, why should I?

I kept asking myself if it was really worth being annoyed. I mean it was a late dinner, no sense in waiting any longer to go right? And who cares what I’m wearing, we were just going to a pizza place. I felt like I was overreacting about him too, because while I didn’t personally care that he didn’t take a shower or make any effort to dress up, I was disappointed that it didn’t matter to him. Somehow it made me feel like I, or at least our relationship wasn’t all that important to him. I wanted to dress up because I wanted him to feel like he had something special. I wanted people to look at us and think “What a lucky couple,” not just see two average people. I don’t mind being “average people” but we get to be that every day. I felt like I wanted to be something special. In my previous post I talked about how I don’t really care about Valentine’s Day either way, and this may seem contradictory, but it really isn’t about Valentine’s Day itself, it’s the fact that JT said he was going to take me out to dinner. It wasn’t like we were just going to eat like any other day, he specifically said that it was for Valentine’s Day, so in my opinion he was marking it as a special occasion. I guess I was just bummed that in the end it didn’t really seem like one. Maybe I’m being ridiculous, I kind of feel like I am, but at the same time I feel like I have the right to feel special too.

My self-esteem has taken a bit of a dip lately for some reason, and I have to say this situation hasn’t helped. One side of me feels absolutely stupid for even being upset about this. The other side of me says that I have a right to feel this way. Even if I do have a right to feel this way, nothing is going to change it, the day is over. Fighting with JT wouldn’t have helped either, because I just would have walked away feeling worse. It seems so trivial, but I just want to feel special for once. I haven’t felt special in a long time, and more often than not I feel like I’ve been let down again and again. I don’t want this to sound like JT’s fault, because it isn’t. He isn’t the only person in my life, and the letdowns have come from all sides; him, family, friends, the list goes on. I guess I just rely on him to be there because that is what a relationship means to me. It’s not that he isn’t there or doesn’t treat me well, because he does, but like everyone else he has his own stressors and issues. I don’t want to put more on him by making him think he has to put me on some kind of pedestal.

What do you think? Does it matter about dressing up for special occasions? Does the effort you put in matter? Should those things not be a big deal anymore as formalities seem to be flying out the window? I mean we don’t teach cursive anymore, because instead of signing your signature, you can use finger prints or digital signatures now. People wear pajama pants to upscale restaurants and jeans to job interviews. I miss the days when effort mattered. I don’t think it should matter every day, and that’s what makes it so special. When you are doing something special, I think it is important to act like it. Maybe I’m a big whiny baby and I expect too much, and I suppose that’s ok too. I just want to know if I’m off track here or if I have a point. I don’t want to be outrageous, but I feel like I’m missing something.

*~*MR*~*

V-Day

So I usually do my blogging from work, and since I haven’t worked in what seems like forever, I also haven’t posted. Sorry about that!

A special day is coming up soon. Or at least some see it as a special day. To others, it is a nuisance, a corporate scam, or even just a day of depression. I just want to talk about a few of those aspects. I don’t have strong feelings about it either way, though I do think societal pressure to buy gifts is outrageous.

I love celebrating anniversaries, birthdays and the like because they are a celebration of a milestone. With days like Valentine’s Day, I’m not entirely sure what we are trying to commemorate. I mean I get that the day is actually a tribute to the late St. Valentine, but how we celebrate it now doesn’t correlate with that at all. There is rarely mention of a saint at all, but hearts, candy, and flowers instead. I really don’t need another day to celebrate love. I try to do that every day. And if I really feel the need to make a special day of it, there is always my anniversary. Why do we keep feeling the need to make up all of these holidays and put pressure on people to spend money? I mean I know you don’t need to spend money to have a great Valentine’s Day, but other people don’t always see it that way. People get so offended if their sweetheart didn’t blow a whole paycheck on spoiling them. Seems like a bit of a waste, not to mention the oversight of what the holiday is really supposed to be. Where’s the love, I mean, right?

Some people are inherently bothered by the idea of a festival of love. Not all of them are single either. Some people just can’t stand seeing others happy. They don’t want to be a part of all the mushy stuff. Trust me, I’d rather have the mushy stuff than all of the hate going on in the world right now, but maybe that’s just me. Who knows.

Corporate scam? Yeah, I could get on that wagon train. Companies want you to spend money. What better way than to guilt you into making your sweetie feel special? Not to mention getting your sweetie to be expecting something so you feel like there’s really no way out of it. I mean Walmart won’t come whack you over the head with a frying pan if you don’t buy something from them, but your girlfriend (or boyfriend!) just might! Now you’re caught in it. I don’t think I could survive in a relationship with that kind of expectation. I’ve never had a lot of money and for a large portion of my relationship with JT, he didn’t have a job. Our Valentine’s Day usually consists of handmade cards and a nice dinner (if we have the money to go out, we do, otherwise we just cook something). I don’t need gifts and presents and a constant monetary reminder that someone cares about me. I want to be with someone who loves me just as much the other 364 days, ya know?

A lot of people get super depressed around Valentine’s Day. I don’t get that. Why let it get you down? Celebrate the love you do have in your life, because I’m sure you have some somewhere. Celebrate with friends, or family. Better yet, just stop caring because you didn’t feel the need to go waste a bunch of money on someone! Just because you don’t have a love on Valentine’s Day doesn’t mean you never will. Feeling bad about it isn’t going to get you a date, statistically happier people are more likely to find relationships anyway. If you want one, get out there and find it. But the best advice I can give if you’re one of those people is to make sure you actually work on yourself first. Be interesting, be interested in things, explore, know what you want/like and what you don’t, be comfortable in yourself before dragging some other poor soul into it! Don’t boo-hoo about not being married yet or in a relationship, think about what you’re bringing to the table. No one wants to eat with the person who brought sardines. It’s not always easy to be happy with who you are, but it sure is worth it to work on it.

I’m not saying you should or shouldn’t celebrate Valentine’s Day, but do it in a way that works for you. If you’re in a relationship, communicate, don’t just expect. How do you like to celebrate? How does your partner like to celebrate? Figure these things out and go from there instead of getting sucked in. Valentine’s Day or not, we could all use a little love in the world. Go out and spread some!

*~*MR*~*