Sometimes I fit in for a short spell with other misfits-mostly my gender diverse pals, extremely radical activist retirees, or ginormously creative paint covered, tree traipsing children. I am a marriage counselor, and pretty damn good at it, but man oh man, I really don't fit in with therapists, that is for sure! Luckily I am much better at keeping my mouth shut and just listening to colleagues. Yet who I am still leaks out with sometimes pesky questions like, "Do you really see couples without having any training in marriage, or knowledge in the world's go to research on marriage and divorce, the Gottman Insitute? So you don't really know if what you are doing is helping or hurting?"
Thank Goddess I have a team mate of a feminist husband who stumbles through fathering much like I do mothering, but is always there when I need him. He is a creative genius who makes me laugh and understands completely why I gave our last 10 bucks to our unhoused friend, because my knight just gave his last too. It has been many years since the days of expensive smoothies and coffees for us. We traded them in for homeschooling and raising our kid.
Then we sold our last car, and downsized in every way imaginable through the worst nightmare I ever thought I'd face of economic crash by way of extended unemployment of my aforementioned Creative Love Genius. Nothing like scrambling for groceries and fighting to keep our house to open our eyes to the real suffering around us, and that is why we found out that we were just not as generous as we thought until we were squished financially. We went over 10 years car free! It freed us in that big way of seeing how we are all in this together if we can just break out of our little bubble of me-ness and begin to share what we have across what the needs are. If every one of us did that, instead of blowing our bucks on all the other crap, and luxuries we fell we deserve we would relieve so much suffering all around and make walking through our lives as something infiltrated with joy and optimism, and give us meaning and purpose beyond that next purchase or trip. See what I mean about not fitting in? I mean who thinks like this?
I know John Scweibert does, co-founder of Metanoia Peace Community decades ago. Early in his minister days he had a small group of fellow minister friends that discovered that one in the group was paid by their congregation much less than the others. They made a bold move-radical sharing by each one contributing whatever it took to make all their salaries the same! John shared how difficult it was for the receiver of the subsidy, feeling guilty, but that it was important to them to put their values of radical generosity and equity into action. He later went on to co found Metanoia, an intentional community that had what is called a "common purse," and successfully pooled all their income over decades and each had a small allowance, with all their needs of house and home covered by pooled money-ALL the money coming in went into the common pool! This community never had to ask for money to stay afloat and ALWAYS had extra money at the end of each year-voting during a very exciting annual meeting where they wanted to send all the extras in time for December holidays.
Even in crisis I did not fit as I could tell my horror story would just go on waaaaay too long for anyone to have the interest in what the hell I was talking about. It was just so freakin' unbelievable how many ways mortgage company employees can lie or manipulate for what seemed like some sick psycho game. I kind of cringed myself when people asked, "How's it going?" I had no idea how to just say fine and be done with it. It is not worth the stress to retell any more than that now. It is an example of how in crisis I do not feel I fit in with anyone. It is boring to me and I loathe sounding like I am complaining. Family legacy-don't complain and don't ask for anything.
No one else we knew was going through extended unemployment, not yet anyway. No one else was fighting for their house that we knew, not yet. Every step was new to us and anyone we turned to for a listening ear. I guess we were ahead of our time, trailblazing into the dense woods of wondering what else was going to get stripped away. Sometimes I cried thinking that all was left was our health and our lives, and that is what you come to when you have used all your savings, retirement, and credit with no further buffer.
Being smart was not helping. My mother used to say as to why those nasty little bitches in 6th grade bullied me, because I was so smart, ahead of the pack. I teach my daughter that smart is not enough. Effort counts more and being a caring person with actual caring actions-those score higher in my book than smart. I know smart is all the rage though. Perhaps the Koch brothers are smart to the tune of billions eeked out of the everyday people, like a couple of pre-Marley's ghost Scrooges. Sharing would be more impressive. Don't the Koch brothers ever see Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol? The Walmart Walton family who own more wealth than the bottom 40% of all Americans, have you seen A Christmas Carol?!!!! ($102.7 billion for the whole Walton family, 2012 figures. 2007-2010 typical American families lost 39% of their wealth, Waltons had 22% growth adding up more billions. And my sister wonders why I have never shopped at Walmart. Hi Sis! And yes I know that Walmart chased out all the other options in your small central Texas town, so ya, Walmart sucks the bucks.)
By high school (in a new city with new empathic friends) I prided myself on having been a geek or a nerd but then I really never quite fully geeked out so I didn't fit there either. I found the hard core nerds fascinating but indecipherable playing Dungeons and Dragons at lunch break. My high school joke was that I went to Geek-A-Non having gone through high school bouts of wearing toe socks in colorful stripes, and emerged in college wearing a fashionable 1981 neon orange sock to fit with the punky black boots and mini skirt, a recovered geek, sort of.
Fitting in is highly overrated is what I am thinking as I write this. I admire myself for speaking and doing what I think is right, even when I am stunned myself by it. Even when I chastised in front of our friends my first boyfriend who was actually gay but didnt know yet, that it wasn't right to be cheating as a perk of being a teacher's aide, or spoke my mind to my teacher who said she thought being a Christian was good enough for her just sitting in an empty church alone. I said things a bit more hastily than I think now should be said as a youth, or even an adult. Maybe this is how not fitting in started. My teacher thanked me later and said I had way more influence than I could imagine with youth and adults. Hiding irks me. But I get it. Sometimes your life or safety depends on it. Sometimes you're just a two faced baby-man (your names will remain unmentioned). Oops, there it is again. You know this not fitting in thing is really starting to get clear to me.
But I wasn't punk either, I just liked the clothes and what little bit of music I could discover having time only for studying for two college degrees, sorting through young adult miserable relationships, acting, working, and not knowing any punks. I was behind the Orange Curtain (Orange County, CA) and the only punks I saw were evangelical punk rock musicians blasting their sounds throughout the Calvary Chapel venues in the 1970's and 80's. Every concert was capped off with a call to give your life to Jesus, say the little magical prayer and get saved. So I did.
Funny that. I really don't think the little magical prayer does it though. It just created a whole new area in which I could be sure I did not fit because I love gay people, thought maybe I was one at 21, and even though I did plenty of arguing (sorry, this is embarrassing) with Buddhists and Krishnas about their "dead" religions (sorry, sorry), and with my evangelical friends about gays, challenging their rejection of gays, I finally ended up landing squarely on the side of what is the essential Jesus message as I understand it and dropping the religion: feed hordes of people (not deem making meals for the poor illegal, Fort Lauderdale), be welcoming (not abduct Palestinian children and use them as human shields, Israel), challenge corrupt power, care for the unpopular (here is Mike Dyson on Democracy Now!
"How do black people protect themselves not against simply the bullets of a police officer, but the metaphors, the stereotypes, the tropes that operate in that police officers imagination that are equally lethal because they lead to trigger-happy cops or at least trigger — hair trigger decisions where cops and up believing that they must use lethal force to contain a threat that is not even real, or if there is a real threat, resort to the most lethal form of resolution of the conflict as opposed to trying other things like driving away, like using mace, like tasing, like calling for help and the like.? So, when we think about all of this, this is the dehumanization of African-American people. This is the failure to recognize our fundamental rights to exist in the state. This is using state authority to legally execute black people on the streets of America.").
A further essential Jesus message I wish US government would practice: share everything (because 8,000 nuclear weapons is just not enough for the US government, $640 Billion maintenance dollars-how would you spend it?).
Somehow that makes me a radical who fits in with some Seriously Pissed Off Grannies, who even Methodists turn away from and walk fast in the other direction. That was a UM General Conference response to Portland, Oregon Metanoia Peace Community's demonstration asking conference attendees to be Gay for a Day and see what oppression feels like. Metanoia, previously mentioned, that thinks if you have two coats, give one away to someone who needs it. The Grannies show me what Christian looks like, feedings hundreds of hungry people weekly for decades (Hi Pat!), or dressed in their Alec Busters gear, locking down Bank of America by wheelchair and getting arrested for it (Ann H., RIP) and civil disobedience in a run of the mill Alec busting. Now we are walking the walk or is it walking the talk, in real life, or "IRL," where I don't usually fit in and I am ok with that.
(revised 12/2/2014 8:23 pm)
Mini horse which I made into a Valentine to make me laugh thinking of using one on The Max (light rail in Portland) as a service animal.
DH and DD in her infancy.