thinking thursday : a buffet of links beyond your usual fare

Mind Did you know that happiness is an arm of resilience? American society by and large can be suffering-phobic. We are taught to be ashamed of our pain, our fear, or our difference. We are taught to avoid the suffering of others as though we will somehow become tainted if we witness it too closely. We’re taught that we’d do better to hide the suffering away. For the sake of resilience, we not only need to learn to relate to suffering with compassion instead of disdain; we also need to be able to accept and absorb pleasure When Family Stories are Hard to Tell and why it’s important. The bottom line? “When stories are difficult, tell them anyway.” In his new book, “The Secrets of Happy Families,” and in his recent This Life column for the Sunday Styles section, “The Stories That Bind Us,” my colleague and friend Bruce Feiler described the way telling family stories matters to our children. He brought up a recent study, in which psychologists asked children a battery of questions about their history, ranging from “Do you know where your grandparents grew up?” to “Do you know the story of your birth?” The conclusion: The more children knew about their family’s history, the stronger their sense of control over their lives, the higher their self-esteem and the more successfully they believed their families functioned. The “Do You Know?” scale turned out to be the best single predictor of children’s emotional health and happiness. Body I was honored to write the foreword for Dr. Martha Jo Atkins’ new book, “Signposts of Dying,” which is now available...

poetry wednesday

I loved my friend I loved my friend (S)he went away from me There’s nothing more to say The poem ends, Soft as it began- I loved my friend. -Langston Hughes Dedicated to Laurie Foley on this late March...

I will not be quiet. I am intolerant of your intolerance.

I am thinking of the singular commitment of the North Carolina General Assembly to being pioneers in bigotry and hatred, willful unknowing, and discrimination because of ignorance and fear. It hurts me, deeply, to know that my lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex friends face this kind of reality daily, not only in North Carolina. Just as racism and sexism hurt. Every -ism. And I’m tired of getting hateful notes when I advocate for gay marriage and other rights for my friends who are as deeply, fully human as I am. I’m not going to be polite about this issue by acknowledging that you have a right to believe the awful, hateful things you believe–you may believe them but I don’t in any way have to collude with them by ignoring them, being polite about them, making peace about them. This is hate, pure and simple. Call it what it is. You can hide behind religion if you want, but no religion I want any part of is based on hate. If you disparage my gay friends, I’m not going to be silent about it, I’m not going to apologize for my point of view, I’m not going to take the HRC sticker off my car, and I’m not going to say “let’s all just get along.” No. You are wrong. You are as wrong as people who insisted that black Americans drink from a different water fountain. You are as wrong as school districts that let black schools use old textbooks of white students, but handed out sandpaper at the end of the year so the little black kids could sandpaper their germs off of them. Imagine the lesson those...
for love and wonder are the same thing

for love and wonder are the same thing

HOLY WATER   At Easter every year the priest poured a small vial of it for each family in the parish   my grandmother pouring hers into a silvery blue font inside her bedroom door   a little pocket of Heaven into which she dipped her hand each time she entered the room   touching just her fingertips to the ordinary water blessed by the priest   and surely blessed also by my grandmother as she took the water   to her forehead and to her heart and then to each shoulder of her plaid housedress   then pressed her fingertips to her mouth for a quick kiss   never stopping, never breaking her stride as she balanced a pile of folded towels or swept my grandfather’s slippers   to their place beside the bed, or gave me the fancy hairbrush she kept on top of the bureau   my grandmother never wondering, it seemed, what miracle had transpired to make the water holy   perhaps her wonder taken entirely by the powdery smell of the towels or the clean scent of my hair   but that would be to doubt the capacity of my grandmother for wonder, for love,   for love and wonder are the same thing, what the priest felt, I believe, as he held his hands above the water   and felt the transformation from the tips of his fingers and all down his arms   as the water changed God into something close, and ordinary, and simple, and here.   -Suzanne Cleary,  from Beauty Mark, BkMk Press,...

Strong Offer Friday: How to do anything in 11 steps.

Forget that it’s the starting that stops you. There’s a storyline in your head that is not helping you. Every time it starts up (“I’m no good at this,” “I tried this before,” “Who am I to do this?” “I need more data”), simply say “thinking” and refocus on starting. No judgment, just the word, “thinking.” And saying “thinking” is your trigger to get out of the story in your head and into the moment of starting, which is right now. Start small or big. Even better, start in the middle; just start. Make a mark on the page, pick up the mandolin and feel it in your hands, make a bloody mess, just start. Continue doing it when you don’t feel like it. Getting things done–writing a book, for example–is not an act of convenience or inspiration. It’s an act of habit. Create habitual pathways with consistency. If you wait for inspiration, you’ll wait forever. Ignore what people say about what you’re doing or not doing. Comparisons are odious, as Shakespeare said. So are days spent wondering if anyone will even like what you are making (or, in most cases, what you are not yet making because you’re too busy wondering if someone will like this invisible thing you’re not making). Ignore everyone. Do your work. If you don’t know what your work is, you will only find out by doing, not thinking about it. Sit back down and keep doing it. As writer Ron Carlson says, “Stay in the room,” even when the laundry suddenly becomes fascinating. See number 3. Make time on your schedule for it. If...