Welcome to the middle path

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Sporadic photos and notes from a Psyche-midwife, cheerleader, anthropologist--aka clinical social worker in therapy practice. Photos are usually mine except for those of historical events/famous people. Music relevant to the daily topic is often included in a web video embedded below the blog. Click on highlighted links in the copy to get to source or supplemental material. For contact information, see my website @ janasvoboda.com or click on the button to the right below. Join in the conversation.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Take Back Your Power- Tiny Resolution Jan 31 w/ Zoe Agnew-Svoboda

Etta & Zoe
Ed note: It's been a great month of Tiny Resolutions.  Thank you to the guest bloggers who pitched in to make this happen-- Julian from Greece, Tak-young  from Paris, Nuray and Gizem from Turkey, Wolf from Germany, Liz from England were some of the wide ranging helpers that made it happen. Today's writer Zoë lives in Kansas City, where she has a very cool job.  She runs the first animal shelter connected to a domestic violence shelter.  Many women in crisis were unwilling to leave their companion animals behind in order to move to safety.  Rosebrooks solved that problem by making sure they could bring these bundles of comfort with them.  Zoë is the proud guardian of a rescued pit bull the two of them hike and walk the streets of a divided town:  her dog is legal on one side of a street and banned on the other: the line that separates KC, KS from KC, MO.  Zoe is a tireless advocate for revoking discriminatory Breed  Specific Laws, a creative force, and also the daughter of a very proud mama--me.
who's got your back?

 Take Back Your Power

I often think about my power. Power, as in the authority I have over myself. For the most part I am in charge of my actions and the choices I make. I feel fairly independent as a 25 year old adult person. I live alone, pay my bills (with the exception of my phone, thanks Mom and Dad!) and I generally feel that I am in control of me. But it is amazing how quickly my control, my authority, my power can be taken away by the simplest thing.

We all have things that can take away our power. It could be a job, a relationship, financial situations, an injury or just a shitty day. As a woman my power can be taken away easily. Most recently by Congress, but I won't get into all that. Even the iPhone definition of power gives this example:"the capacity or ability to direct or influence the behaviors of others or the course of events: the idea that men should have power over women/she had me under her power",
sharing the driver's seat
The most common way my power is taken would be when I walk alone at night and a strange man walks towards me. Most of the time this strange man does nothing or gives a polite "hello". The worst I've ever gotten are cat calls that I ignore. But still this man has unknowingly, or with the cat call intentionally, taken my power. He has control over my emotions - making me fearful. My actions - making me walk a little faster or positioning my keys in my hand like brass knuckles. Lastly my thoughts - "is this guy safe? Am I safe??"

So how do I take back my power? For the situation above the answer is simple: my dog. When I walk with my dog I am in control. I feel confident. I can do anything and I can go anywhere, day or night. My dog is strong and looks intimidating. She is also a total dork who poops in my house on a regular basis. Most of the time she's lunging towards that strange man to make out with him (her goal in life is to stick her tongue in as many mouths as possible), but he doesn't need to know that!
Pickles the Action Cat
Unfortunately (for more reasons than one), not everyone has a Pit Bull sidekick. So how do the non-pit bull owners of the world take back their power? Perhaps they take action, make a change, eat that large bowl of ice cream?? "f&#$ society's standards of beauty; imma be me!"

For many of my clients it is laughter. When I first started working at a domestic violence shelter I expected crying, lots and lots of crying. But in reality there is so so so much laughter. Sure, people cry (and yell) and it's important to talk about feelings and work through them when needed. But nothing lifts my spirits like a big belly-aching, tear-jerking laugh, and apparently many of the clients agree.

So, dear readers of my mother'
s blog, how do you take back your power?

Good Reads to Buck Up Your Bravery: Guest Blogger Liz Reynolds, England (1/30/15 Tiny Resolution, Act II)

Ed note:  Liz lives in England with her hubby and cats, and long-distance dotes on her two sons, one of whom stayed with us a few days as he transitioned to his study abroad year at Oregon State University.  Thanks to the lousy state of the world economy, Liz has been reinventing herself on a regular basis.  Here she shares a few literary pals who helped her on the way.  --jls

 The gently nudge from Jana suggesting that I might offer a challenge to her wide ranging friends gave me a scared feeling. This in turn – with the approaching deadline of 31st – pushed me to give it a try.

 Over the years I’ve experienced, I realize, a lot of things that other people may find scary.

I gave up my job to return to Education as a mature student, to gain an Education Degree in Youth and Community Studies. I’ve traveled alone, had children when some folk are starting to have grand children, moved around the UK – and now am on my third redundancy (Ed. note:  that's Brit for"layoff").  So I should be able to write up a small challenge to a group of very friendly people!
 My challenge is quite simple – it’s to read (or listen to if you have Audible) some fiction books I have chosen – which to some degree have influenced me and, how I look at the universe. Even if you have read these previously – go back and read again – I always find something new.

 1)    Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah by Richard Bach (ISBN: 9780099427865)
I find it interesting how sometimes things, in this case a book, will come to you at a time when it’s needed. This an uplifting read and I’ve gone back to it several times especially when feeling down.  What did I learn? Well, it is possible to zap clouds and that if you keep telling yourself you can't do something – you won't be able to.
 2)    The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy: 1/5 (Hitchhikers Guide 1) by Douglas Adams, (ISBN: 9780330508537) 
There are 5 books in this trilogy by DA – so if you enjoy the first you have a series to follow.  Again I’ve read the books several times and presently listening on Audible – which means I can do other things at the same time: drive, go on walks etc. (but not I’ve noted, write). What did I learn? The reason why most of the time the world doesn’t makes sense. And that films are never as good as the books!
 The next is a bit off the wall:
 3)    The Godfather by Mario Puzo (ISBN: 9780099528128) I can remember where was and who I was with when I first saw the Film – I went straight out and bought the book. I know it's weird but I think it’s the idea of ‘Family’ that embraces all kinds of people – extends and protects - that attracts me and makes me filter out the violence. There are lots of memorable quotes but one I always remember is: Clemenza: “You know, you gotta stop them at the beginning. Like they should have stopped Hitler at Munich, they should never let him get away with that; they was just asking for trouble”. What did I learn?  You don’t always know what people might do – but generally speaking an early challenge might reduce the possible escalation in the future.
A good example is The Falklands.  Prior to Margaret Thatcher, previous Prime Ministers would quietly dispatch Ships and Aircraft carriers to the area – and the sabre rattling from Argentina would abate. However, Margaret Thatcher, friend of the Right, gave out all the signals to encourage Argentina to invade and a war started.
 That's the challenge. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.
 If you ever get the chance,  get a copy of Things My Girlfriend and I Have Argued About by Mil Millington (ISBN: 9780753820735).  It may be English humour – but I find it laugh out loud hilarious!
                --- Liz Reynolds, armchair philosopher,  Stafford, England (1/28/15)

Friday, January 30, 2015

January 30th Tiny Resolution: Quit Doubting Yourself (Guest blog by Leela)

Guest blogger Leela (not her real name) is a mother of many living considerably north of the Mason-Dixon line.  She's a firecracker from her hair to her spirit, an artist and writer who is continually trying to cram three or four lives into an average human timespan.  She bridges the political gap with a wary eye.  She has a sparkling wit and 1000 watt smile.  She's making a change.    --jls
I am not a person who commits New Year Resolutions. I will not make changes in myself simply because Western culture decided to make the new year end and start seven days after Winter Solstice and we are in the new year. Sorry folks, you are stuck with the same Leela.

Right now I am looking at a new job and leaving an old one behind. The old one was one that I loved and was a perfect fit, but it was time to move on. My new job is something for which I lack experience but have a great deal of passion for doing, and it is creative but opposite to what I had been doing. I also signed up for a couple of college classes that are lower division, but where the profs are friends who have promised to challenge me. They see skills in me for which I constantly have to remind myself that I possess.

After I got my new job and was told that a contract with a non-compete agreement was forthcoming, I panicked. It was my first adult job and they liked me enough to want to make sure I’d not compete against them in the near future. Then I got nervous about the art classes where I would be speaking often to my professors who would give me one-on-one feedback for my assignments. I was very much afraid that I would be like the politician who gets elected for his personality and potential and then turns out to have nothing between his ears. One of my future co-workers told me that my new boss is a genius and that he is very perceptive of people. He told me that if I thought he spent ten minutes researching me that he actually had ten people vetting me. My professors are very smart. If they say that I am smart, then I am smart. Actually, regardless of whether or not they find me smart, I am smart.


My present challenge is to quit doubting myself. There is nothing that I am incapable of doing. If I don’t know how to do something, I will either figure it out on my own or learn it from someone who will show me. People who know me on FaceBook meet me and say that I am the same person on FaceBook as I am in person, so it should be clear to me that I am not presenting myself as a fraud. New things are not going to scare me, they will simply be something that I have not yet tried and mastered.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Kathy Reardon says Keep on Walking: Tiny Resolution January 29, 2015

Kathy Reardon has the bluest eyes I've ever seen, and a smile that instantly lightens hearts.  She lives with her husband in Eugene where she makes music, dances, chases chickens and contemplates her next adventure.  I've been blessed with knowing her for twenty years and am very happy she agreed to write for Door Number Two.   --jls 
Every place is walkable, it’s just a matter of time.”  This small bumper sticker caught my eye many years ago in a checkout line of a grocery store.  I’ve often pondered the idea, wondering just how long it would take to go this or that distance – if I only allowed myself enough time.
Walking hero Peace Pilgram

I’m the granddaughter of a man who delivered mail on foot for 40 years.  I grew up with stories of his work, and lots and lots of walks.  Sometimes it was the bribe of getting to spend 25 cents for candy at the corner store that helped propel me down the sidewalk.  Other times it was listening to his stories as he pushed the buggy that carried my younger siblings.

In my early 20’s I discovered a book about Peace Pilgrim.  I found myself drawn to her stories of walking across the United States five times as a means of offering her example of simplicity and service to her fellow men. She vowed to keep walking until the world found peace.  She became one of my big heroes.  I’d read bits of her wisdom each day for years and years.

A new pdf version of her book, Peace Pilgram:  Her Life and Work in Her Own Words is now available.  Click here to download.
In my 30’s I became aware of the benefits and importance of walking for young children with my own children and my work as a kindergarten teacher.  From that miraculous first step, children have a need to walk, right up there with eating, sleeping, warmth and love.  Their small bodies are growing. Critical organs are developing.  The rhythmic act of walking is salve for them… and adults as well. I found that children in my kindergarten class (3-6 year olds) could walk much farther than most adults think possible. We walked every day, through rain and blizzards, the works. We walked at their pace.  Was there grumbling? Of course!  But one has a pocket of tricks.  Mostly a smile, a nod, an extended hand, then without a word, one foot in front of the other.  Songs, repeated over and over became a mantra for our journey.  Our modern lifestyle so often hinders this possibility for exercise, swapping good walking time for hours strapped into a car seat or stroller. I’d scream too! How wonderful if every child, every person had the blessing of daily walking.
Getting out the door is often the hardest part.

At 43, I ruptured a disc. The thought that I might never walk again was very, very scary. The surgeon smiled and said, “You’re fixed, now just don’t twist or bend.”  I wondered just how my recovery would go.  I was able to walk again, first to the house next door, then to the end of the block.  Each small improvement felt like a great accomplishment.

By my mid 50’s, I reached a point of feeling that change was afoot.  I couldn’t recommit 100% to my job and yet I didn’t have the slightest idea of what I would do.  Upon the suggestion of my dear cousin, my path became clear.  I would join pilgrims from all over the world, start in the French Pyrenees and walk to the city of Santiago, Spain, then on to the Atlantic Ocean. This walk, the Camino de Santiago, took me 6 ½ weeks. I walked by myself, but there were always other pilgrims somewhere near by. 

Upon my return, I was often asked “tell me about your big walk.”  I’d take a breath and try to assess how much time there would be to answer.  Often, after only a minute or two, there would be an interruption and the subject would change. Could my story really be so uninteresting? I tried to formulate the “elevator answer” and found that it was impossible.  How to distill all that I’d done? The inner journey was as rich as the outer.  I had gotten the chance to know myself in a different context every day.  That was a blessing.  I had stepped out of my very familiar kindergarten world into the big world.  New people came into my life every day, each with a greeting, some told me their story. There were days when I felt quite alone and had to reach into that pocket and tell myself I could have a pan de chocolat if I made it to the next town. Or sang, “I can walk 500 miles” over and over and over and…  When I finally did arrive at the end of the pilgrimage in the grand old city of Santiago, an old gentleman standing on the side of the walk, looked at me, smiled, gave a nod and clapped his hands silently. My tears flowed! Someone had noticed. 

I do have dreams of going back to Spain or finding somewhere else to walk.  Cheryl Strayed, the WILD lady, impressed and intrigued me with the possibility of the Pacific Crest Trail.  But on the Camino de Santiago my pack was a heavy one at 18 pounds. The PCT pack weight would be closer to 40-50 pounds.  Makes my back hurt just thinking about it.  I have just heard of a brand new pilgrimage in Colorado, the Camino de Crestone.  It won’t have the history of Santiago’s 1200 years, but it does hail as the world’s first interfaith pilgrimage. That aspect pulls me.
Folks were impressed with my ability to walk great distances, but surely most of us are capable – it’s just a matter of time.  What impresses me is someone like my awesome nephew Matt.  He is one of the “not most of us.”  His struggle with cerebral palsy from a near drowning accident at age 2 has made putting one foot in front of the other, a super challenging thing.  Yet Mathew has taken on that challenge every day of his life. Three times he has done a 5k to raise money for kids in crisis.  Check out Matthew Reardon Big Cardio 5k http://youtu.be/YvQvK8An8dg  
Just this year, my dear friend had to turn in her driver’s license at age 79.  With the challenge of a quickly diminishing memory, her level of anxiety, frustration and fear have increased.  But I have marveled at how, when we walk in her neighborhood, her spirits lift and the stress she carries disappears.  She takes great joy in noticing small things a bird, cloud formation, a daffodil peeking up through the ground. Nature is such a healer. 
Not all, but some walks can be quiet and reflective.  Another teacher of mine, Thich Nhat Hanh, speaks of the walking meditation, in his book: Your True Home.  A means to bringing ourselves back to being present in the here and now: “…Therefore each step we take becomes a miracle.  If you are able to walk like that, each step will be very nourishing and healing.  You walk as if you kiss the earth with your feet.  There is a lot of love in that practice of walking meditation.”  I have a lot to learn with my walking, and plan to keep practicing.
 So my tiny resolution for 2015, and the rest of my life ...keep on walking!   And help someone else (young, old or impaired) get out to walk too!  --Kathy Reardon, January 2015, Oregon