Taking Out the Trash

It is everywhere.

You don’t have to go looking for it.

Turn on the news; it doesn’t matter what channel. You’ll find it there.

Scroll through social media; any platform will do. You’ll find it there too; permeating the atmosphere like the stench of rotting garbage.

Anger. Hatred. Violence; the by-products of fear.

There is one very real thing about the stench of over-ripe garbage, and that is that no matter how much deodorizing spray you squirt, no matter how much lemon-scented soap you use, you can’t truly get rid of the smell unless you take out the trash.

Now before anyone gets their panties in a bunch, I’m not talking about voting one political party or another in, or out of office. It doesn’t matter WHO gets in. In truth, unless we deal with the underlying fear, it doesn’t matter who wins, WE LOSE. Why? Because we haven’t taken out the garbage. We haven’t dealt with the fear.

Until we deal with the fear, the stench will remain; a constant reminder of the rottenness at the core.

You have heard it said that people fear what they don’t understand.

This is true of EVERYONE who gets angry for a cause.

In the current political climate you have one side you have where individuals’ fears stem from the changes that they see as coming with a progressive platform (they want to take away our guns / kill our unborn babies/ turn everyone gay / give our hard-earned money away to freeloaders/open our boarders up to violent criminals etc.).

On another you have those who’s fears come from the contemplation of a world where conservative views impinge on the inroads progressive platforms have made in the last hundred years (they want to take away our social security/steal our medicare/deny us the right to marry who we want/keep us from affordable health care/deny us the right to love who we want/ attempt to control our bodies / punish us because we are a different skin color or religion etc.).

I’m not saying that the fears on either side are not justified. There are plenty of those on BOTH sides who can give convincing arguments as to why they are right and why everyone else is wrong. But at the end of the day those that act out of fear, even if it is for a “just” cause, have more in common with their opponents than they would like to think.

Why? Because the anger and the hatred and the need to justify one’s position or view point or ideology ALL STEM FROM FEAR.

I’m not saying that the issues being argued are not important. They ARE important, extremely so. This is a pivotal moment for our country and I am not saying that we should sit back and do nothing. I am merely pointing out that no matter what side you take, no matter what your personal views on a subject may be and no matter how justified you may think those views are, if you are acting from a place of fear, you lose.

What I am saying is that we ALL lose if we do not address the fear that lies behind all of the anger and hatred.

Confronting one’s fears is never an easy thing to do. Most people avoid it like the plague.

It is not done by forcing political, social or religious views on those who disagree with you whether by posting angry memes or passing legislature designed to suppress the opposing side.

It is not done by arguing and getting defensive every time someone disagrees with you.

And it is certainly not done by picking up a handy weapon and killing those that you fear.

Fear is not always loud and obnoxious and obvious. It can be insidious. It is pervasive. It hides in just causes and in thinking you have the high moral or intellectual ground in a situation.

In fact, there is only one thing in this world powerful enough to counter fear, and that is love

Yes, love.

Stop wincing, I’m not talking about new age cosmic love; all glitter and unicorns and “good thoughts”. I’m not talking about the kind of love that features in pop songs and teen magazines or indeed romantic love at all.

The kind of love I’m talking about does not look at one’s outward appearance or bank account or position or political ideology, or how many time’s one meditates a week or national identity or religious affiliation or sexual orientation to deem another worthy of being loved.

I’m talking about the kind of love that empowers another to be their best self by believing in their worth as a human being.

I’m talking about the kind of love that fills up your heart and heals you from the inside out.

A person with that kind of love in their heart simply loves. Everyone. Without reservation or judgement.

I’m talking about unconditional love.

To come from a place of unconditional love in every decision that we make as individuals, as communities, and as a country is the only way to counter the fear. And it is the only way to undo the damage that millennia of living from fear has caused.

By living from love we don’t just take out the garbage of our own fears and the innate fears that come from being human, we transform them. We turn those fears into compost; fertilizer that feeds the soul and strengthens the human spirit.

Unconditional love is real.

Living from a place of unconditional love is possible.

It is as simple as choosing in each moment to ask yourself “what would love do?”

And then go out and do it.

-Just Steph. October 30 2018

Dancing in the Rain

“Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass; it’s about learning to dance in the rain!”

There is nothing like a good thunderstorm to stir the soul

Seriously, there is just something about the power of an approaching storm that holds me in absolute awe.  Not terror; awe.  The pure majesty of it; the strength of it; the promise of release in the whipping of the wind and the scent of wonder and possibility that fills my head with its overpowering fragrance; what’s not to be amazed at?

When the dark clouds start rolling in and the pressure starts building and the leaves start turning themselves inside out and glinting silver against a darkening sky, most people head for cover after checking to make sure they’ve rolled up the car windows and brought in the dog.  I on the other hand (and much to my husband’s annoyance) go around throwing open the windows as far as they will go and then head out into the yard to welcome it.

I’ve done this since I was a little girl, and I can remember my grandmother (who was deathly afraid of thunderstorms) calling after me frantically as I’d dash out the back door as the first thunderclap rattled the clouds on the horizon in order to dance like a gypsy around the big blue spruce that grew behind our house.

I’d dance and dance in wild abandon, letting the percussion of the thunder serve as my rhythm and as the wind picked up I’d end up twirling through the tall grass and the lupines that grew on the hill beneath the blue spruce until I’d fall flat on my back and watch the towering clouds in their never-ending patterns take over the sky.

Eventually my gram would send one of my aunts or more often my grandfather out to collect me (he did not have the fear of storms she did) but even so I’d beg him to not to make me go in until the lightning was almost directly overhead, and it was he who taught me to count the spaces between thunderclaps in order to determine their distance and explained why it was that the leaves turned inside out.

Even once I was back inside I’d be glued to the window; staring in amazement at the streaks of lightning and the power of the whipping wind as it would throw the trees into complete disarray.  Of course once the storm front would pass by and it started to seriously rain, I’d lose all interest and wander off in search of other pursuits, but during the storm itself, you couldn’t tear me away.

Even once I started school and learned about weather systems and barometric pressure and electricity and Ben Franklin and his kite (yeah, they still taught that story when I went to school) I still couldn’t seem to shake my fascination with storms.  It didn’t matter how many statistics people would throw at me about the number of people to be hit by lightning every year; or the dangers of flash floods or how expensive it was to replace furniture that had been water damaged because I’d left the bedroom window open while it was raining, the power of storms has never lost their hold over me.

Of course part of the fascination that I had was in the building sensations inside of my own body; how my own energy would build in proportion to the storm itself, and how it would dissipate as the storm would break, with the tension and the excitement pouring out of me like a could burst.

And part of it was the underlying feeling that there was something else lying just beneath the surface of my mind; a bigger, stronger part of me; a knowing of myself that went far beyond the little girl in jeans and braids who was laughing manically while twirling around the spruce tree, because for just a minute I could feel that connection with everyone and everything.

I could feel myself as the wind whipping through the trees and through my hair and filling the sails of the boats on the harbor.  I could see myself as the lightning; as the skin tingling energy that filled the air and lit up the night sky; I could sense myself as everything from the grass between my toes to the huge towering clouds.

For just a moment I was part of something far greater than myself; my little individualistic and independent personhood was gone.  For just a moment I could feel the universe inside me; moving through me.  And maybe, at the heart of it, that is what most people are afraid of.

Perhaps they are not really afraid of the lightning or the flash floods or of losing power.  Maybe it’s not the rain that they are shutting out when they go around closing the windows.  Maybe what they are shutting out isn’t the lightning or the whipping wind or the furniture ruining rain.

Maybe what they are shutting out is the fear of experiencing what they have known (even if subconsciously) all along; that they are part of something far bigger than themselves; that at the fundamental heart of things we are all connected and that all of those things that we feel make us “special” and “different” are just the imaginations of a fevered ego that is trying desperately to justify its reason for being.

Maybe it’s time to stop fearing the storm and throw open the windows.  Or, better yet, perhaps it’s time to go dancing in the rain.