Michele Minehart

words & yoga

Month: December 2017

Ferdinand’s Third Way

While the Bigs & JJ ventured to Star Wars, I took the littles to see Ferdinand last night. (Spoiler alert: the cow lives. If not, I would be writing a much angrier blog, as my sensitive 4-year-old had enough trouble understanding why can’t he just go home?  A dead bull would’ve caused extreme woe.)

The movie, about a Spanish bull who doesn’t want to fight, comes down to putting him into the ring when he knows the bull always looses. It’s a rigged system, but the bulls were bred to believe they could win, thus keeping the system alive. “You fight or you die,” they tell each other. Ferdinand literally bursts onto the scene with another message: there is another way.

If this isn’t a gospel – good news – message, I’m not sure what is.

Throughout the movie, the cows urge one another to “be brave” and “buck up” to match our egotistic versions of what it means to have courage. At the end, Ferdinand (like another story I know, in books Matthew, Mark, Luke and John), sits, bows his head and – without words -says, “If I have to die to show you and everyone else that this system is broken, than I will.”

Good news for young children everywhere – and unlike our early Current Era manuscripts – the crowd grants reprieve. The bull and the matador can both live. (Which sounds a lot like the lion laying down with a lamb, doesn’t it?)

I picked up a copy of an older-but-contemporary-in-the-scheme-of-things theologian’s book, The Courage to Be and in the first chapter, Tillich explains that the words associated with courage always carry the connotation of a willingness to die. But when we politicize this idea, pairing it with country and rights and even religion, we miss the point.

Our sacrificial characters weren’t brave because they were willing to die for their own team, they were brave because they were willing to live in another way, one that would include the enemy, the other, the one who was “against.” Ferdinand put his life in the hands of the fighter (and the crowd) because it was it was a step toward peace. Someone has to take that first step, and bravery is often deeply connected with the humility to be the first to bow before the other. Perhaps it’s closely associated with the advice to “love another as yourself.”

This Third Way living isn’t a new concept Blue Sky/Fox felt the need to suddenly share. Shane Claiborne is one of the loudest contemporary voices; he has been talking about it for years on behalf of the other saints who have gone before us.  And once you begin to turn the scriptures slightly, shifting what you’re looking for, the scriptures reek of peace. Like the message we heard in Christmas Eve services just a few nights ago, behold, I bring good news of great joy which will be for all people. Behold, a Savior has been born… This baby will show us a way to live that no one has to die to prove how brave we are; instead, we’ll have the humility and the fortitude to begin to love one another instead of looking at people (specifically those not of my family/clan/tribe/nation) as the enemy.

But, I mean, it was just a movie, right?

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10 Things to Add Meaning to 2018

It’s my conviction that it’s not what we do, but why we do it, that makes or breaks “resolutions.”  If you simply want to gravitate towards a more meaningful 2018, here are my recommendations of a few things to add to your life.

Books

  1. Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari. The history of the world, from our primate beginnings to our ability to destroy the third rock from the sun. His view is expansive, and I love the way he incorporates the many elements of culture. Sometimes our worldview is clouded by our own experience, so hearing about society from the perspective of a scientific approach was refreshing.
  2. When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi.  I literally just finished this one – it kept me up in the wee hours of the night. It’s published posthumously by the wife of an up-and-coming neurosurgeon who dies quickly and at a young age of cancer. He walks through his process of deciding upon medicine as his career as an attempt to understand the meaning of life. In his illness and death, he returns to that search, integrating his education in literature with the understanding of the brain and his work directly with patients. Captivating, brilliantly written, and you will cry at the end.
  3. You’re a Badass At Making Money by Jen Sicero. I’ve been parsing through my beliefs about money and this book was a game changer at revealing hidden thought patterns. If Brene Brown persuaded you to believe that scarcity holds you back, this book talks about how to live expansively beyond that limited framework. I’m actually using a lot of her ideas and applying it toward the idea of time, namely, that I do have enough. (I’ll keep you posted on that one.)

Podcasts

  1. On Being with Krista Tippett. First of all, her voice is like butter. Second, I love the way she asks really good questions.  In her interviews with brilliant people from across all disciplines, she takes it back to a life filled with meaning. You will look forward to this weekly release.
  2. The Robcast. I’ve been a fan of Rob since pre-Love Wins-gate, when he was exiled from evangelicalism and resurrected in the world of the Nones (people who don’t necessarily have a religious tradition but often are very connected to the idea of a spiritual life). He’s upfront about talking about “the Jesus tradition” and will break into  Hebrew etymology, while also talking to to bands, political activists, and performers. Like Krista, he pulls from across the spectrum of professionals, with his emphasis being that “everything is spiritual.”
  3. Home with Laura McKowen and Holly Whitaker. I’m not sure how I stumbled upon these ladies, but I love what they’re putting out into the world. Both of them are in the non-AA recovery movement, and while I don’t turn to them to learn about how to live a sober life, I do love how they relentlessly return to dealing with “their stuff.” They actually introduced me to the money book, among other ideas of how to live presently in the world.

Poetry

  1. Salt by Nayyirah Wahed. First, follow (and fall in love with) her on Instagram. I traded up one of my books to have in my hands for a while and have loved the presence of this work in my home. I’ll sadly return it to Andrea and probably buy it to have nearby.
  2. Without by Donald Hall.  A fellow booklover on Facebook recommended Don and when I brought home this collection about the period of time when he lost and grieved his wife, I was undone. Raw, real, honest, and still with a glimmer of humor. Somehow, hope rises.

Movement

  1. Yoga. Because, of course. But do it to balance you out; if you’re the flexible sort, come at it to add strength. If you’re strong and mighty, see how you can lengthen and bend. Not just more of the same.
  2. Walks. Right before the weather changed, I asked my friend & neighbor (the notorious KLR) if she would take up walking with me in the AM. I had just finished my once-every-3-weeks run and knew I needed simplicity and consistency. So 3 mornings each week (when it’s above 10 degrees), she walks the .45 miles to my house, then we walk back that same road to her house in chatter, and then I return home in silence. It’s quick, gets me moving, and we get to connect. I’ve decided life can really only be lived a half mile at a time.
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How much is that doggie in the window?

When Kristy and I lived together, we decided to venture into the doggie world and found one at the local shelter. In her wisdom, Kristy had me agree to a puppy prenup before we brought Dinah Mae Crowder home, so I fully recognized that when Kristy moved out, the dog left with her. Within a month, I found the absence of the canine energy unbearable and began a search for a new dog. JJ agreed, but only if we adopted two.

We drove a few hours away to get our girls, litter mates, (or so they told us, because they bore no familial resemblance.) We loved the silky coat of the blond, and a certain boxy black pup caught my attention. We brought home Lizzie and Roxanne when they were about 8 weeks old and fell immediately in love.

We could propose ours were perfect dogs. Our girls never chewed on things. They didn’t get on the furniture. They loved children. Lizzie was a known favorite by babies; she would recline on her side and toddlers would crawl into the pocket of her 4 legs and lean back in comfort. Lizzie might lift her head, as if to check on which child was taking a turn, and then return to her lounging.

And I came to agree with JJ’s insistence on two dogs, even with the fortune we spent in dog food. When our children arrived, the pups had one another to roll their eyes at every time we brought home a new baby. They slept together every night, shared a dinner plate, and like two widows who needed to take their medication, they made sure the other remembered to go outside to pee.

We lost our Roxie a year and a half ago to the diabetes. (Lesson learned on the cheap dog food. We extended her life from a one-month prognosis to over 6 months just by switching to grain free.) The last 18 months without her beloved sister left Liz in a funk, mopey, despite the extra love and attention our kids would shower upon her. The kids had been indifferent to the dogs; they were fixtures, like the big brown chair that has always been a part of our living room. But once Roxanne was gone, the impermanence of our creatures sunk in and they began to give more value to the doggie in our living room.

This week we had to say goodbye to our sweet and affectionate Lizzie as well. It happened quick, after what we thought was just an incident of her finding and ingesting the thanksgiving turkey, but she got worse rather than better. We weren’t afforded the months in advance to emotionally prepare. One day she had bad gas, and then a few days later our home was significantly more empty, despite the 6 humans who occupy the small space.

Beyond my own grief, this process of walking with my children through loss and heartache gave me opportunity for reflection. One of them goes to bed and arises in tears. My oldest asked me, “mom, do you cry with tears?” I told him I cry in a thousand different ways. He told me he really only cries with tears or without them, but that he cried with tears for Lizzie. Even our littlest, who only understands time in terms of “yesterday” and “tomorrow” no matter how many days separate us from the past and the future, broke down at our little burial when he realized the dogless situation wasn’t changing. It’s here I notice my tendencies and natural desire to change the situation for them, even when the voices of wisdom tell me to respond otherwise.

The kids are already asking for a pup and part of me wants to say, why? so it can rip your heart out all over again!? If we don’t get a new dog, I won’t ever have to watch them feel like this. Their willingness to love after loss is far greater than my own. It’s amazing how my experience of the world has taught me to clamp down on my heart to protect it, to harden rather than to risk hurt. My kids still have a trust in the goodness of the world, even despite pain and disappointment.

But I’ll be honest: It’s taking every ounce of power in my being not to run out and find a puppy for under our tree this Christmas. Everyone is right, I do NOT want to potty train a pup in the winter (or at all, as JJ is so talented at it), which may be the only thread holding me back from liking every doodle-selling page on FB. I crave the dog energy in my home. I want to share space with another being when my kids have left me for the school day. But most of all, I want the pain of absence to fade to the background. I don’t want to feel loss anymore, so my natural inclination is to go get something; fill the gaping hole of my love for my dogs.

Their willingness to try again, coupled with my desire to fix it all, is a dangerous situation. I have a feeling this is the breeding ground for codependence, so again I must heed to the voices that remind me the hard thing is the good thing, and I must resist the puppy (and quick and simple solution) temptation.

The irony lies in my yoga class from Monday, when I taught a yin class and implied that we often get into places (poses) that bring about discomfort and our tendency is to wiggle and move – to try to find a way out. We don’t let the pose in, so it never does its work in us. Grief** is probably one of the most commonly avoided emotions in our culture, and we sidestep it by doing all the things I really want to do right now, like buying a new dog.

I awake to the absence. When I’m working around home, my sense of being alone is heightened. For years now, I’ve become annoyed with the growing mountain of dog hair I had to sweep. I griped about the cost of leaving the dogs while we traveled. But not long ago, a wise teacher asked, “do I see the hair or do I see the dog?” and it made me reflect before it was too late. What these girls added to my life was far greater than the time it took to run the vacuum or the costs of booking a doggie sitter. I wish it didn’t take absence to heighten the love. Maybe that’s should be intention of the next furry creature that will eventually pee on our carpet: to engage the process, not just grieve when it’s over.

 

**If you’ve not read anything by Caleb Wilde, you should. His blog was Confessions of a Funeral Director and his perspective on grief and grief support is astounding. He even made it onto the Robcast recently.

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