Beyond Optimism – Anthony Suggs

I used to identify as an optimist; operative words: used to. I often hesitate to say this out loud because people often interpret that statement like so: “I’ve lost all hope in the world. Life has no meaning. All I do is sit around in despair and eat ice cream and pizza!” Aside from eating ice cream and pizza, none of that is true. My journey to no longer identifying as an optimist is closely tied to my pursuit of a bachelor’s degree in history and having my eyes opened to the reality of suffering and oppression.

My experience of history before college, which I believe is a common one among white Americans, can best be described as a rosy look at an incredibly dark past; a past that still lives in the present. My eyes weren’t opened to this darkness until I began studying history at the college level. It was there that I discovered how truly upsetting much of history really is and it was there that I realized that my optimism, which I had previously seen as a virtue, was actually preventing me from being bold, prophetic, and honest in my assessment of my history and my culture. If we are truly honest about history, we cannot be merely optimistic; we must have a deeply rooted hope in a better world.

From the philosophical perspective, optimism is the belief that this is the “best of all possible worlds.” In other words: life is good. While this may be a noble way of pursuing positivity and happiness, it negates the reality of deeply felt suffering in this world. Hope, on the other hand, is not dependent on the way things are or have been but on the way things might be. My favorite definition of hope, from Webster’s Dictionary, is “to desire with expectation of obtainment or fulfillment.” Recently at The Wilderness, a contemplative service of the Eucharist at St. John’s Cathedral in Denver, Father Broderick Greer preached on wisdom. He described it as having the foresight to align our present lives with our hopes for the future; it is the ability to shape our actions not solely for the way things are but for the way we believe things should be. In losing my optimism I gained a desire and an expectation that, if I align my life with God’s vision of a better, more just world, things will (hopefully) get better.

Giving Thanks When It Doesn’t Feel Like Thanksgiving – Emily Eldridge

Ever have that feeling when your internal clock/calendar is thrown off and you don’t know what day it is? I feel like I don’t know what month it is.

It didn’t feel much like Thanksgiving to me this year. Most of the month was taken up with the museum’s annual fundraiser Festival of Trees – basically Christmas arrived in my life around November 7 in the form of 24 (beautiful!) Christmas trees, Christmas music, decorations and parties. I worked different hours than usual a lot for the event, and different days once or twice, which threw off my sense of time too. I had a blast, but it definitely overshadowed Thanksgiving. I had two weeks of what felt like Christmas, then Thanksgiving arrived with what felt like no warning.
On top of that, the day Festival of Trees ended, the Monday before Thanksgiving, I got sick. Just a cold, nothing I couldn’t handle with a quick trip to the store to stock up on medicine, orange juice, and chicken noodle soup. I didn’t mind terribly that I was still sick on Thursday and didn’t do anything to celebrate; Thanksgiving has become less and less of a big deal in my family over the years, and if I were at home it probably would have just been me and my parents and a little extra cooking. It’s not even the first time I’ve been sick and away from my family for this holiday, so I knew I’d be fine. And since my brain was halfway convinced it was already December anyway, I honestly didn’t feel like I was missing much by just staying home and resting.
But now I finally have a moment to catch my breath and remember that it’s not quite December yet, before Christmas Round 2: For Real This Time starts up. So I’m pausing to reflect on what I’m thankful for just a little belatedly this year.

The things I’m thankful for this year include:
 – That my illness was mild and I’m back on my feet
– That I had several invitations to Thanksgiving dinner, even after I got sick, and had a great Thanksgiving leftovers dinner last night
– My loving family, who were more concerned than I was about me missing Thanksgiving
– My wonderful boyfriend, who has been so supportive of my decision to move to Colorado for a year
– The time I got to spend with the awesome residents of St. Columba House, and meeting other service organization members, in Denver last weekend
– How fun and successful the Festival of Trees was
– The chance to be here in this program and this place, the experiences I’ve had so far and those yet to come

How Am I Too Much and Not Enough at the Same Time? – Erin Lammott

Hi. Just a reminder about the disclaimer I put in my first blog: I believe in transparency and honesty so I’m going to try not to filter myself much in these blog posts. With that said, I would like to ask three requests of you, the reader. One – please know that I acknowledge that I am still learning. My blog posts are going to largely be me describing the world as I see them. It will always be colored by the life I have lived so far. I think I have some pretty cool ideas sometimes and I also know that there may be some which I later look back on and think differently about after some time has passed. Some of these ideas will be half baked. Just a little secret – we’re all on a blog schedule that has already been set through next July so sometimes I might be putting hands to keyboard before I feel like the concept is solid in my mind. (If you know me, you know this is good, or else I would never post anything #PerfectionistLyfe).Things & perspectives change and that’s cool. Two – Please receive my words with grace. I ask that you try to give me the benefit of the doubt. Try on my thoughts, try to stand in my shoes when you read it, then form an opinion if you want. You don’t have to agree with my thoughts and feelings, but please try to lend some grace. Three – If I rub you wrong (or right really) in any kind of way and you want to chat about it, please find me on social media and let’s chat about it! Okay, now on to the real meat of the post. J

The following blog is rated RL – Real Life  – for hard language and sexual content. Some material may not be suitable for children.

How am I too much and not enough at the same time? <– An actual question I asked myself despairingly in my journal. My mind is in a pretty pro-women place right now. I’m feeling pretty short-tempered no-nonsense having with men at the moment. I know this is an emotional reaction and I can’t really blame myself. In the past couple weeks I’ve had:

  • A man jerk off while talking to me face-to-face while he leaned on my car and I froze trying to think how to get out of this parking lot. Biting his lip and all…
  • My last few runs down by the river have been interrupted by whistles or shouts at me
  • A man next to me on the bus stares hungrily at the girl’s legs in her skirt. Says to another man “I know you’re old man, but you gotta tell me you see that. Mmm.” The decent man says “I don’t objectify women like that” and stares him down. Nasty man goes on to say “Ah man, they make Viagra, you should try it. Dammmn” as he peers back at her and then follows her off the bus. Decent guy watches him and follows too.
  • A girl yells for help outside of my house. I look out the window and a man is pulling her hair and man-handling her. We go outside and offer her to come inside our house while she waits for her Uber. She says no, she’s okay. The man runs away. She follows him. We don’t know what else to do.
  • A man at the bar asked me what I do. I told him proudly that I graduated from college a couple years ago and have been working in HR and non-profit sector. His response to that was “Oh, do you have any desires that you didn’t satisfy while you were in college?” [He raises his eyebrows suggestively]

After that last instance, the one at the bar, I left the bar with a group of my female friends. Upon exiting I yelled “Ughhhh I fucking hate men!” My girl friends told me “Shhh!” On top of all of this, it’s my one year anniversary with the time I was trapped at a coffee shop with a man’s hand on my leg and I didn’t know how to make him go away.

Following these interactions that directly involve me and a man, I have been talking with various friends and family about them. People close to me are always stunned. Why didn’t you say no? Why didn’t you physically remove his hands from your body? Why didn’t you make a scene? Well, so many reasons. Partially because of my flight, fight, or freeze reaction. Partially because I’m stunned. Partially because I’m a relatively quiet person and making a scene isn’t something I’ve practiced. Partially because I’m trying not to make the man feel rejected because A) I feel bad and B) I know that when men feel rejected they often resort to anger and violence and I fear their response and my inability to physically protect myself. Partially because I fear being called a radical, or a crazy feminist, or a girl looking for attention. Partially because, historically, when I do get angry I’m told to Shh!

Why can I not be angry and upset?? I’m too angry, they say. Too divisive. Too extreme. Not positive enough- look at the silver lining- don’t cuss. At the same time, a close friend has recently suggested that maybe I look too nice and sweet. She may be right. I’m thinking I need to look more mean and rough to dissuade people from approaching me for these things. I’m just really confused. People tell me to get it together when I’m angry and ready to yell. When I’m nice, docile, and polite then I “bring it on myself.” I’m too much when I want to bring attention to this disgusting and disrespectful conduct. I’m not enough when I try to handle it politely. I love to smile when I feel it. It keeps my happiness alive and feels brighter, but if I do then I make myself a target. I’m learning that there are places where I can smile, where I should smile even. And there are places when I’m better off to be tight lipped and straight faced. Get those confused though, and you might be either a radical or a girl who asks for that shitty kind of attention. The kind of shitty attention that takes you away from the interesting book you’re reading, the gratitude you’re feeling, the intriguing business idea you’re mentally working, the meditative run you’re enjoying, the fun reunion with your friends. Sure, you nasty f***ing men. Take me away from all of that. It wasn’t important anyway. Your pursuit of sexual satisfaction and you’re rights are more important than my freedom and becoming the person I was meant to be. Why would I get angry? Silly girl. Reactive feminist. (Re-read that paragraph in sarcastic tone if you didn’t already).

I guess I’m going to commit to a side here. If being angry at these approaches makes me a radical liberal or radical feminist or an extremist, then cool. Label me. I don’t love labels, but more so I hate that fear of misconduct or being rude has repeatedly made me freeze in potentially dangerous situations. This weekend, our ESC crew had shared formation with the Catholic and Lutheran service corps. We studied Letter from Birmingham Jail by Martin Luther King Jr which he wrote in 1963 in regards to Civil Rights. MLK Jr. put a couple similar sentiments more eloquently “But though I was initially disappointed at being categorized as an extremist, as I continued to think about the matter I gradually gained a measure of satisfaction from the label. Was not Jesus an extremist for love?:…… Will we be extremists for the preservation of injustice or for the extension of justice?”

“…but the white moderate who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action.”

“Actually, we who engage in nonviolent direct action are not the creators of tension. We merely bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive.”

I want to wrap this up with a conclusion, but honestly I’m not sure what it should be. I would like to end this by sounding resolved with a plan of action, but to be honest this won’t be ending any time soon. I’ll be continuing to try to maneuver and navigate this world that is my reality. So I guess I will end with some thanks, some hopes, and some quotes.

  • “In this wasteland where I’m living, there’s a crack in the door filled with light” – Needtobreathe
    • Thanks to you bystanders and co-commiserators who have intervened and helped me and many other women stay safe. Many of you have been men and I am so grateful. Keep it up. Thanks to those of you who reinforce the beliefs that I don’t have to endure sexual harassment and assault. Thanks to those of you who believe me when I tell you about my experiences. And thanks to those of you who will help me tell these nasties to f*** off when they pursue me. You can count on me for the reverse.
  • “Feminism is the radical notion that women are people.”- Marie Sheer, 1986
  • “There will just be reputation.” – Taylor Swift
  • “Liberation is a contagious project.” – Rebecca Solnit
    • In a convoluted way, I am thankful for these interactions and the emotions it has stirred because it has help me become more convicted my pursuit of social justice and freedom. I don’t want to be oppressed. And I don’t want you to be either.

The Virtue of Asking for Help – Anthony Suggs

“There once was a man who believed God would save him from any situation as long as he prayed hard enough. Sure enough, one day, a terrible storm came and began to flood the man’s house. As the storm was rolling in, emergency services came to the man’s house and warned him that he should evacuate. The man said, “no thanks! God will save me.” As his house began to flood, he climbed to the roof and began praying. As the waters rose, a man in a boat came by and offered to save the man in his boat. The man sad, “no thanks! God will save me.” As the waters rose even higher and covered the house, the man began swimming and praying. After a while, a helicopter came and lowered a rope to the man to save him. He said, “no thanks! God will save me.” Not long after, the man drowned and went to heaven. Upon seeing God face to face the man exclaimed, “God! Why didn’t you save me?” God paused, looking confused, and said, “I tried! I sent you an evacuation crew, a boat rescuer, and a helicopter!”

A few weeks ago I had strep throat. This was my third ever experience with strep and it was, by far, the most mild. The first was when I was in fifth grade and I distinctly remember it being the worst time I’d ever been sick (until I got appendicitis later that year). The second was a year and a half ago when, in the span of 48 hours, it reduced me from a functioning adult into a vegetable who spent his time in bed watching entire seasons of the Great British Baking Show trying to eat with his eyes because even soup was painful.

This time was different; this time it was just a slightly-worse-than-usual sore throat mixed with congestion. At worst, I would’ve described it as a bad cold. But it stuck around and wasn’t getting better. Of course, it came at the week when I had scheduled meetings almost every day that would’ve taken weeks to reschedule. So, as I normally do, I sucked it up and went to the meetings. In the meetings I would use all my energy to seem normal and alert and then immediately after I would try, unsuccessfully, to synthesize what we talked about. The best I could do was keep detailed notes and save the synthesizing for later.

Finally, on the fourth day of not feeling like I was dying but feeling worse enough to be kind of a zombie, I decided that enough was enough and that I’d take a trip to the urgent care. If you’ve had strep recently, you’ll know that the test to diagnose it takes a grand total of 6 minutes. Just like that, with a simple test, I knew what was wrong and had the antibiotics I needed to fix it.

I knew that I was sick a whole 4 days before this but decided to hold off on seeking out help because it wasn’t that bad. Why is it that we wait until “not that bad” doesn’t get better to ask for help? If I had just asked for help right when I knew something was wrong, I might have been more alert, comfortable, and happy the 4 days I was dealing with strep and didn’t know it. Not everything can be identified and fixed as easily as strep throat; in fact, most things can’t. However, addressing the problem always starts the same way: seeking out help.

Thoughts from Last Night/ This Morning

Thoughts from Last Night/This Morning

Excuse The Length

SriKrisna


I went to a Hare Krishna Temple last night for the first time in over a year. Back home i was introduced to the Hare Krishna faith through a friends boy friend who had spent some time with them. When I went back in Philly I felt a great amount of welcome, i felt warm…comfortable, and confused. I had never been to a Temple, been around so many Indian people, or heard of the Bhagavad Gita. Throw in a language barrier and you’ve got yourself a hearty confusion stew! Last night was a different experience. Now having some time between to familiarize myself with the Hare Krishna faith and learn more about their books and customs. As I walked into the Temple, I felt comfort and discomfort. I felt like I knew what was up to a point. I walked into a class on the Bhagavad Gita. there were 4 or 5 people in the room, a couple were Devotees, one was the priestly guy who was teaching, there was a kid stringing up roses on the floor to offer to God and then a man who had just came out of the blue, like me. Afterwards I hung around and just checked out the temple, when I was greeted warmly by  young guy who called himself PK, short for Pranata Karuna Das, i’m not sure what that means but that is his name. One of the first questions he asked me was, “do you skate?”, and if anyone knows me at all…they know I skate.

After some conversing in the temple about, his life and my life (he has lived in the temple for almost 5 years now) and things the temple offers, he offered for me to come back to the Ashram, where he and other devotees and shaktas live so he could write his email down for me. That led to more conversation about his story and why he chose Hare Krishna and all this great talk about love and and self realization, another kid named Austin who was living there came and joined and just added more wonderful words to our conversation. The love I experienced yesterday night was surely God, as we talked and talked and talked I felt like many of my prayers had been answered and that there might be a place for me in the Hare Krishna Community.

The openness, the honesty, the devotion, the warmth and the willingness to help others come to God was so familiar, yet touched something in me that I have not felt in a while, if I have felt it at all…it hit THAT place in me and gave me THAT feeling. As I was walking to work today I was so excited that I kicked a rock and almost yelled out “Hare Krishna!” since it was so early I refrained, but instead I laughed to myself and just smiled as I walked. I have a hunch by now whoever is reading this might be thinking something along the lines of, “Wait you’re an Episcopalian aren’t you? Why are you going to Hindu stuff?” I respond with a very popular saying, from one of my favorite songs by Gang Starr, “And like they say, God works in mysterious ways”…and if that isn’t enough I invite you to look past your idea of a God contained in the confines of a single religion and ask you to ask yourself if you could stand the idea that you and a Hare Krishna practitioner might be praying to the same God.

Any who…as I was getting ready to leave the ashram, a copy of the Gita in hand, I realized I had much to think about, but I knew two things were for certain…i’d be returning, and I just wanted to keep learning.

God Moments – Kirsten Kettler

I took TWO pictures today!!

Let me explain my excitement.

During our Colorado ESC retreat in the beginning of the year, we were given disposable cameras. These cameras were given to us in order to capture God moments. These moments, for me, are moments of beauty. Moments where I can capture where I felt God’s love through nature or people.

So like I said, TWO PICTURES TODAY!

I haven’t been taking a ton of pictures. I think I only had about 3 on my camera from the past couple of months, so taking two in one day is a a big deal for me.

My first one was taken while the Steamboat ESC cohort was decorating a Christmas tree at the Tread of Pioneers Museum.
It struck me how beautiful it was that we had known each other for such a short period of time, but here we all were, taking time out of our busy days to decorate a tree together (a tradition that I’ve only done with my immediate family). There was teamwork, laughter, and Christmas music.

My second picture was taken on the bus ride home with Emily, after we had some dinner with small group friends.
The picture itself is nothing special, maybe even a bit eerie. We got on the bus close to 10pm and there was no one else on it, so I decided to take a picture of the back of the bus with the blue lights glowing.
Like I said, the image itself wasn’t unique in any way, but I wanted to remember the moment that Emily and I had just shared. While we were waiting for the bus, we discussed/vented/word vomited some things that we just flat out disagreed with that some of the people were talking about at the dinner table. I felt grateful in that moment because I realized that my dear housemate is someone that I trust and can talk to without worrying about judgement.

My hope is that I continue to find the God moments in the everyday hustle and bustle of life so I can fill my camera with odds and ends that represent the blessings in my life.

Sweet Home Alabama? – Olivia Collette

As many of you know, I grew up in Alabama. I lived there my whole life; I grew up in Huntsville, and then moved about an hour and a half south to Birmingham for school. I love my home and my family and friends, but there are so many things I absolutely HATE about the South, and Alabama in particular (lookin’ at you, systemic racism). When I decided to move to Denver, I couldn’t wait to get out of the South. My thought as I drove away from Alabama was something along the lines of “see ya never Alabama.” I genuinely thought I would only return home for quick visits with my family, and big life events for my friends.

And then I got to Denver and a crazy thing happened. I realized missed Alabama. I bet you’re thinking the same thing I thought when I came to this realization: why?? I think it just boils down to the fact that’s where my friends and family are. I lived my entire life there, and as an adult I made a home and a life for myself there. I guess basically, my roots are there. And I’m learning that roots run so much deeper than I previously thought.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Denver. There’s no humidity, and it snows in OCTOBER (what?!), and everyone is active and healthy, and people actually recycle and compost and care about the environment, and in general my ideas and beliefs align so much better with other people’s ideas and beliefs here. I don’t feel like I made some huge mistake by coming here or anything like that. And I’m not planning on leaving as soon as the year is over and going straight back to Alabama.  On the contrary, I think leaving home was a very necessary thing for me to do, and I think I’d actually like to stay here for a little while after the year is over. Maybe even forever? The point is, I thought I knew what I wanted, and as it turns out, I don’t.

A big part of this year, at least in my mind, is figuring out some things about myself and my life. I feel like this particular realization is rocking my world, because it’s so unexpected. This is a part of myself that I thought I’d already figured out. How unsettling to realize this thing I’ve thought I knew about myself for pretty much my entire life isn’t even true. But in a way, it’s also really exciting. I think I’ve always thought that simply by being me, I knew myself. But I’m learning that I actually have a lot to learn about myself and what I want for my life.

This year keeps presenting lots of surprises for me, and it’s honestly often really overwhelming and kind of frustrating, but one word has been running through my mind lately: intentionality. It’s actually a word I used to convince myself to come here and make this pretty large life change. I wanted and needed more intentionality in my life, so I came here and made a commitment live my life more intentionally. So if I’m going to do this intentionality thing right, even though it’s scary and overwhelming and frustrating, I’m going to deliberately carve out the space in my life to at least begin to get to know myself better. I’m not sure exactly what this getting to know myself process is going to look like yet, and I have no idea what kinds of things I’ll learn about myself, but I can’t wait to find out!

My family!
Huntsville friends – most of us have been friends since middle school!
Birmingham friends!
My old roommates in Birmingham!