Songs are Emotions

Songs are emotions to me. Most of the time, I sing and smile and I feel good listening to my favorite songs. There are songs that make my life stop for a moment because of the sadness in my soul.

I want to share with you three songs that bring me to tears. The songs are beautiful. But, it’s not easy for me to listen to them. 

The first song is “You Don’t Know How it Feels” by Tom Petty. I had bloodwork at my oncologist and I was driving home. I had a chemo treatment the week before and I… Well, I don’t have the words to say how I felt. I will just say that I felt bad. That song came on the radio when I was feeling vulnerable mentally and physically. I started crying because people didn’t know how it feels to be me.  It still brings me to tears when I think of that moment. 

The second song is “Landslide” by Fleetwood Mac. It reminds me that I’m getting old and that my children are getting older. I especially think of my son because he is so far away from me. This song reminds me that life is always changing and it’s difficult to deal with sometimes. 

The last song is “Lightning Crashes” by Live. This song is the worst for me. It brings on PTSD attacks for me. The last time I heard it. I started crying and shaking. I started to relive all of my breast cancer treatments. I can tell you that it is a mental state that is scary. I will never and  I mean never ever listen to that song again.

These songs bring feelings and memories I wish I could bury.  They have shown me that songs can make me feel vulnerable. Yes, for me songs are emotions. 

~Rita Romero 

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The Seed

There was this guy who lived a long time ago.  He was not very fancy, probably not formally educated, but he made people think. Sometimes, he made people angry because he required them to think. You may have heard of him.  His name was Jesus. 

One day, he asked the people who were listening to consider a seed. He suggested they think about the mustard seed. He asked them to notice how small it was. (He said it was the smallest of all seeds, but that was probably just for effect–there are plenty of others smaller than a mustard seed). But, it’s a seed, and it’s small, and that’s what he wanted them to notice.  Look how small this thing is. But, if you plant it, it sprouts, and it becomes a seedling, and the seedling, if it is cared for, grows and grows until it becomes this tree (okay, Jesus must have known about a mustard plant that is different from ours. Our mustard looks more like spinach and collards when it grows). But this mustard seed that Jesus knew about became a tree, and he said, look–it gives shelter to all the birds of the air where they can rest, and build nests and make families and fill the earth with birdsongs. All of that potential in this one seed.

And he said, you are like that. Take that responsibility and skill and knowledge and potential that is in you, and nurture it and make it grow into something that gives shelter and life to so many others. Something like a seed, and a seedling–so tiny and vulnerable.  And so powerful. You are like that. I am like that. If we go into this day with that possibility in mind, we will find the right place to plant the seed that becomes the tree that shelters life that becomes love.

~Bob Patrick

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The Tree

I have a tree that is next to my mailbox and close to the road. It was just a tree to me. It actually did not fit in the plan that I had for my yard. The lower branches would hit  the top of trucks going by. One day I noticed that someone had cut the lower branches that hovered over the road. I guess it got in the way. 

I would sit on my swing and admire my front yard. I always wondered why someone planted that tree there. I can’t plant flowers next to my mailbox and make that area pretty. I had to get rid of that tree. That was my plan. Get rid of the tree and plant flowers.

Well, one day I went to get the mail and I noticed a lot of acorns on the ground. I was thinking that maybe the squirrels were dropping nuts. Messy squirrels.

I then looked up at the tree. I saw acorns on the branches of the tree. In an instant I changed my mind about the tree. It’s food for the squirrels.  I started to see the beauty of the tree. The tree stays.

All these years, the tree was vulnerable to my plans. That it did not fit into my vision. All I had to do was actually look at the tree and see its beauty and how it’s part of the beautiful and functional planet we call Earth. I have a beautiful tree next to my mailbox and it will stay. 

~Rita Romero 

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A Step on the Search

I grew up at a time and in a culture filled with hard binaries: everything was either right or wrong; good or bad; heaven or hell; black or white; man or woman; American or foreign. The list could be expanded. Everyone from whom I heard those messages passed them on to me as faithfully as they had been passed on to them.

Constructing a world of hard binaries around myself can feel safe and secure as I am doing it, but it can create collateral damage in the process. If someone questions one of those binaries it becomes a threat to the system that holds it together (and produces fear and fear-making). When I am afraid, I may find it easy to strike back with judgment: “no, that cannot be true because it doesn’t fit the two options that we allow.” To discover or even wonder about a third possibility is to risk the shaming game: “I can’t believe you would even consider that!”

Fear. Judgment. Shame. They make a pretty wicked trinity of harm. Fear, judgment and shame all land on someone who is supposed to be “the problem”, but they are all really about the one hurling them.

They are emotionally reactive attempts at silencing new perceptions and halting someone else’s journey. When fear, judgment and shame land on a person for venturing too far from that safe view of the world, they wound so deeply that they are  likely to begin to believe them to be true about themselves rather than reflections of the suffering of the one who hurled them. 

I can count dozens of times in my life when I noticed that I was feeling frightened, or judged or shamed by an interaction that offered no real cause for any of those feelings. But, they are all there, deep within, silently running the control board of my life. If I do nothing about these observations of my inner dynamics, I will most assuredly do them to  others.

The power of vulnerability begins to spark when we begin a conversation: Fear, where did you come from? Judgment, how did I learn to let you run me like that? Shame, what events or memories are you associated with? If we keep asking, they will tell us. Each inquiry into those vulnerable places within me is a step on the search for truth and meaning. 

~Bob Patrick

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Cracks in the Sidewalk

Have you ever noticed a tiny struggling plant growing in the crack of a sidewalk? Do you wonder at its resilience? When I was a child we played a game of jumping over cracks in the pavement to avoid “breaking our mother’s backs.” Whoever was able to negotiate the sidewalk cracks and progress the farthest won. Heavily damaged sidewalks were the most challenging leaving little space to land without touching the dreaded cracks..

Sometimes I wonder, what is hiding beneath that pavement? It appears impenetrable until it suddenly isn’t. Somehow a crack begins and widens and soon there is greenery spreading in spidery lines like a natural kintsugi. Some people, less than pleased to find these volunteer plants drawing attention to the damage of their walkways, poison them, only to have another eventually sprout taking its place as nature continues its commitment to growth. 

There are experiences in our lives that can lead us to create a protective barrier. We have been wounded, and we are now wary of allowing anyone or anything beneath the surface. Only through the widening of tiny cracks can anything germinate from what we have buried deep, and only in conducive circumstances. We need to feel at least a tiny glimmer of sunlight, a drop of rain penetrating the darkness to allow any growth upward and outward. We need a community that will not poison us or crush our vulnerable tender growth as if playing a child’s game. But most importantly, we need to feel safe enough to see the cracks in our outward personas not as threats, but as openings to allow vulnerability to grow into something new.

~Lisa Kiel

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Something Wrong

I wonder how many times in our lives someone communicated to us this message: “There’s something wrong with you!”  Of course, the message is never delivered just like that. The “something” is likely defined more specifically, and then the charge is made. Another person has found something about us or in our behavior or our appearance or our beliefs or our neighborhood (the list is endless) that they disapprove us, and: “There’s something wrong with you.”

I think we learn that we are vulnerable very often because of those experiences where someone has found something wrong with us, and they found a way to deliver that message in a way that left marks on us–on our psyche, on our soul (and maybe sometimes on our bodies). 

And so we hide. We hide those places and parts about us, as best we can, that might provoke someone else to deliver the message. Sharing our vulnerabilities with another human being requires courage. In those moments, we are choosing to reveal something about ourselves that someone else decided was “wrong” with us. The transformative moment comes when we find that human being who will simply receive us, or to use another word that we cherish, someone who will welcome us. Radically. As we are. No judgment. No fear making. No shame. And, I’ve had too many experiences and heard too many stories not to add this: when we do open our tender places to another person who welcomes us, there is great power there, for both people. They each learn that opening into one another affirms our human dignity like almost nothing else. There is everything right about that.

~Bob Patrick

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Summer of Love

I recently saw the movie “The Jesus Revolution”. I was dubious about seeing it given my animist, polytheist, and UU orientation. It is about the “Jesus Freaks” in the late 60’s, of which, I was kind of one, myself!

I was attending a traditional evangelical college in the late ‘60’s when the hippie movement began to impact us even in this environment. The stories I read about Haight-Ashbury, the peace, love, and anti-war messages, the psychedelic music on the radio and my then free spirited girlfriend affected me deeply! I and a lot of other students began to desire to experience Christianity and “salvation” in a different light. I craved the peace and love that I had not experienced in the Baptist and Methodists faiths, I had practiced. My heart opened and became vulnerable to the longing to be free of the fear of hell, the self denial, and the guilt over my early explorations of sex with another person.  

In the summer of 1968 between my junior and senior years, I lived in Chicago where hippies and yippies filled the streets during the disastrous Democratic convention. Women’s liberation was becoming a force, eastern religions and philosophies began to have a profound influence on the counter-cultural movement and even paganism was spreading its roots. What the movie reminded me of is that the longing for love, meaning, joy, passion, ecstasy and resilience in suffering is Spiritual!  It’s a matter of the heart and its relationships, not dogma, doom, and dourness! 

I unexpectedly found the movie to be very moving. Millions of people were affected by both the Jesus Movement, and by the larger counter cultural worldview and movement which stopped a war and seeded the Modern Progressive movement. Many of us are who we are because of these movements!

Unfortunately, many in the Jesus Movement, despite all the peace and love messaging and trappings that covered up the “only one way”, “if you don’t accept Jesus as your personal savior, you are going to hell” message, and became the anti-LGBTQI*, anti-abortion, anti-immigrant, and right wing evangelical and Catholic church today. 

Still, for me and many others, the Jesus Movement was the initial opening to be spiritually vulnerable to the great mystery, to magick, to ecstasy, and to feeling connected to the interdependent web of existence! The Summer of Love continues to ripple to this present moment!

*Ironic, given that one of the real characters in the movie, Lonnie Frisbee, was later actively gay and unfortunately died at 43 of AIDS. 

~Daniel Bailey

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