Compassion

I Counted the TP

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Photo by Anna Franques on Unsplash

I just counted our toilet paper rolls.

I never have done that. I always assumed I could hop on out to the store and purchase more.

Or get on Amazon and the delivery gods would bring me whatever I wanted.

Out of curiosity, I went to Big Lots, and Target, and Trader Joes tonight.

All fresh out of toilet paper.

I stared at rows and rows of Bounty paper towels and heard a man come up behind me, swearing under his breath.

“I don’t want to STOCK UP” he said to me. “I just need the stuff.”

And when I typed “T” into Amazon, TP was the first to come up.

All normal brands are out of stock.

You can buy generic, or perhaps this novelty roll that has cartoons having sex on the sheets. Entertainment for while you wipe. Or maybe unicorns are more your style.

Why does toilet paper make us feel safe right now?

This month, I spent seven days in Cuba and during my time there, I got a tiny glimpse of what it feels like to not have everything at my finger tips. I paid to use the bathroom, and crumpled up flimsy squares of recycled paper used when nature calls. I tucked wads in my backpack and was annoyed when public facilities lacked what I considered to be the basics.

And today, under threat of public health concerns, my fellow Americans are stockpiling the rolls. I sit in my well lit kitchen and scroll on an expensive computer about the novelty choices left in stock. Apparently pictures of presidents and rolls of printed dollar bills are still available.

I could also spend over $100 to buy over 50 rolls that could last my small family of two for months.

I fell prey to the fear and I wandered the aisles at the grocery store. I picked frozen veggies left in the cold, white, wire bins. Broccoli seems to be a coveted item and cauliflower was gone. No one wants to eat frozen asparagus.

As if a full freezer will protect me from the unseen virus lurking on airplanes and sneezes and hellos from strangers. I wish I could tell you I wasn’t a little scared.

I am. I counted my toilet paper.

As of right now, I have seven rolls.

Before I left to travel abroad, I received lots of comments about the risks I was taking getting on a plane and going to another country.

I wrote in my journal, I cried, and I created anxiety coping plans with people who loved me.

I chose to get on the plane anyway.

I was met with a richness found in kindness. Open doors and flowing cocktails. Dark coffee, syrupy in strength, served in tiny cups. I wandered dirty streets and got seconds on strawberry soft serve, and looked up to the lights people strung across worn alleys and dark doorways. These people didn’t have toilet paper and they were doing the best they can with what they’ve got.

Their stories, their art work, their hospitality were all immensely beautiful.

I’ll be processing for awhile.

Upon my return in a grand 747 flying metal bird , I saw mansions from the air, scrubbed my hands in airport bathrooms and sank into the abundance the USA has in our aisles and our homes and the stores on the streets.

I kept thinking of the woman farmer we met who is teaching people how to cook and prepare vegetables. Her father’s dream was access to Home Depot.

With the threat of quarantine, fear of germs, and pending isolation, I hope we can learn from the millions of others who live life without toilet paper and so much more every single freaking day.

It’s not about wiping our tushies or stocking our fridges or making our own hand sanitizer.

Can we open our hearts, sit down for a bit, remember to breathe, and still take care of one another?

I’m not the only one worried.

Of course, use common sense, access medical care, and seek expertise if you need it.

For those of us wondering and stocking up, what if it could be different?

What if, instead of isolating ourselves, we tuned in to the strength in shared experience and sent a text or note to those we loved. What if we picked up the phone? What if we donated to causes bigger than ourselves in our worry and panic?

What if you donated just $5 you would have allocated for toilet paper?

Wouldn’t that be a beautiful thing?

 

 

 

May Favorite Things

“April showers bring May flowers,” they say.

Here in Colorado April  brought winds, downed fences and little rain. I’ve got my tomatoes growing in their little plastic cups on my counter and dreams of planting our garden. Never plant a garden until after Mother’s Day here in Colorado. It could snow on Thursday.

So while I wait to plant actual plants, and Dylan works with the neighbor to fix our fence, I read and write and dream of summer.

Here’s what’s making the list of favorite things this month:

  1. Friends who write books!

Congratulations to Joyce Dickens who just published her book titled The Exotic and the Mundane – One couple, a bold decision, and the life-changing adventure that followed about her year of travel around the world! I was honored with the gift of being a beta reader and I know this newly published account will delight and inspire you to get out there!

2. Compassion

The world aches for it. For kindness, empathy, understanding. For us to slow down and realize all of us are humans along a path towards something. I went to a presentation at Colorado State University and my heart pounded as I listened to Dr. Leah Weiss talk about compassion in the workplace. Her new book, How We Work: Live Your Purpose, Reclaim Your Sanity, and Embrace the Daily Grind is now on my must read list. Inspired from her talk, I walked away thinking ‘Yes! Perhaps there is a place for sensitive folks like me in the daily grind.’ I’m thankful compassion is becoming part of our cultural narrative and thank Dr. Weiss for sharing this idea with students and communities across the country.

3. Joy

We just read The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World  for our book group. As someone who questions suffering and struggles to embrace joy, this book sparked opportunities for self-reflection and personal connection with broader humanity. I especially like the joy practices at the end of the book.

4. Pizza on the Grill

Step 1 – buy this cookbook. It will tell you everything you need to know.

Step 2. Buy some pizza dough from Trader Joe’s. I like the herbed flavor. Ain’t nobody got time to make pizza dough. Or maybe you do – in that case. Make your dough. Move on to step 3.

Step 3. Invite your friends over and have a make your own pizza night.

We tried pizza on the grill for the first time a few summers ago and it is one of my absolute favorite dinners. The crust gets bubbly, crispy and delicious. Everyone loves making personal pizzas.

5. Old School Polaroid Like Pics – Fujifilm Instax Mini 9 Instant Camera

I threw a good friend a baby shower and my planning partner in crime brought this instant camera like a genius! Nothing like pressing the shutter button and seeing your picture five minutes later. Trust me, this is cooler than the iPhone Portrait mode. Going retro while celebrating new babies – priceless.

Thank you to everyone who has sent me a haiku over the last month! There are still eleven days of the challenge left, so it’s not to late! Not sure what I’m talking about, click here.

Heart Balm

Have you read the book “The Secret Life of Bees” by Sue Monk Kidd? You should. They recently made it into a movie, maybe a few years ago, but as always, the book is better.

The_Secret_Life_of_BeesIn the book there is a character that is so compassionate she is haunted by the suffering of others. Her sisters have found a solution, and built her her own version of the biblical “wailing wall” in which this character writes down things she is distraught over. She spends a large amount of time processing and tucks the slips of papers into the little cracks to give them up to God, to the universe, to release herself from the incomprehensible amounts of pain that are in this world. Read the book to learn more about how her character copes with those questions we all brush over on a daily basis.

Sometimes, I can relate to that character. I’ve always had an emotional heart – a compassionate one that tugs and pulls and is pierced by things that don’t seem to bother others. I get frustrated at inequality, mad at injustice, and throw up huge, fist wailing questions to God and grapple with why such suffering is permissible. This questioning suffering, expansive compassion, and intuitiveness brings me closer to my creator – especially at times that don’t make sense. It’s led me to where I am in work, in relationship, and in life.

My heart, my friends, is an immense blessing, and an at times a curse as well. I am growing to nurture it, this hurting heart, to learn to apply metaphorical healing ointment, and expand my awareness to send light and love to those who are in pain at the moment. But today, I feel just like that character in the book. I found out someone I know – an acquaintance of someone I work with – lost their daughter this weekend, as she took her own life. Too, our neighbor lost his wife in one week, when a returning cervical cancer ravaged her body and took her home to heaven in seven days. It was a sad morning, and my heart hurts, and I don’t even know these people.

We think we are invincible, and at times we may be protected by shells of our own happiness, or carry a shield of “thank goodness that’s not my life.” But what happens when it does become you – when the phone rings, and you are the one scared, and you hurt, a little bit more than you imagine? I hope you turn to God, and start applying that heart salve.

Here are some things that I apply when my heart is hurting. Beauty among the mist, protection and soothing in confusion.

  • Coffee and biscotti – it fixes a lot of things – who doesn’t love a good cup of coffee. This, I think, goes back to my days of living in Tacoma, WA when the rain and the distance from home led me into a bit of a depression. But I lived for Biscotti day at the college cafe. It got me through. photo
  • Laughter – sometimes it feels unimaginable to turn that frown upside down, like it just isn’t possible. But turn on Jimmy Fallon, or watch Marcel the Shell, or find things that tickle your heart into a smile. Marcel always works for me.

  • Baby animals – humans included. The world seems pretty frustrating a lot of times,  but there is something about a fresh start that just is refreshing. All of that unblemished potential. Don’t let pain make you hard, let it soften your heart to the potential in others, the potential in healing. My brother got a puppy this week. Seriously some heart salve in puppies. Just don’t let them bite your fingers.

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They say there are lessons to be taught in suffering, and I believe in that truth. I’m working on releasing others to let them live their journey, live the lessons that God intended for them, and to come to a place that makes sense for them. I don’t like it, and it isn’t fair, and I’m going to spend my life doing what I can to alleviate that pain in tiny ways for my friends, my family, humanity, in itty bitty ways that I can. That’s what today is for me, and heck, that’s what this blog is about.

How do you soothe your heart?