The other week I turned in an essay for a competition and I felt vaguely guilty about it because none of the ideas were mine. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t pass the ideas off as mine – I cited all my sources and I put quote marks around passages that someone else had written – but still. I felt like a plagiarist because I couldn’t take ownership for what I was presenting. I didn’t write about my personal experience; I wrote about ideas.

When I mentioned this to a friend, she reminded me 1.) That’s what you do in essays and 2.) There’s that saying, “There’s no such thing as an original idea. Every idea worth having has been had thousands of times already.”

I’m not sure I fully agree with the quote because some ideas are truly original. After all, somebody had to experiment with putting together peanut butter, pickles, and sriracha sauce to learn it’s a great combo. And at the same time, I know we’re all putting our own spin on things. It reminds me of this quote by Mark Twain who said:

“There is no such thing as a new idea. It is impossible. We simply take a lot of old ideas and put them into a sort of mental kaleidoscope. We give them a turn and they make new and curious combinations. We keep on turning and making new combinations indefinitely; but they are the same old pieces of colored glass that have been in use through all the ages.”

We’re all using the same pieces of colored glass but forming new combinations with them. That’s also in alignment with my spiritual philosophy. We say (metaphorically) God is like the moon and each of us are like mirrors, reflecting the moon. We all have the same original image, but how it shows up on each mirror is different. Some mirrors are speckled or cracked. Some mirrors are cloudy or clear. The originality, the origin, if you will, is the moon, but the way the moon is reflected in the mirror is unique.

Going back to my essay, the ideas I chose, how I formulated them, and also my writing style were all unique. That’s what I can take ownership over. My part. The kaleidoscope. But nothing else. And truthfully, maybe I can’t even take ownership over those things. My spiritual practice is one where I try to see God in everything – me, what I’m creating, what I’m using to create, the people who see the creation, etc. It’s hard because I’m a person and want to feel like something is mine. I want to point to things and say, “I did that” or “That belongs to me.” And it’s true while also false.

The falsehood becomes evident when I start tracing back to my origins. When I ask, “Who gave me this mind? This body?” then it becomes clear who or what everything really belongs to. Where does that leave me? I’m simply a kaleidoscope, making new combinations from pieces of colored glass that aren’t mine to begin with.

I dream of a world where we acknowledge both our uniqueness and our commonality. A world where we understand what belongs to us and what doesn’t. A world where we realize we are all reflecting the same thing, but the way the reflection appears is unique. A world where we acknowledge our role as kaleidoscopes.

Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.

Years ago I heard a saying, “If it’s meant to be, it’s up to me.” On the one hand, I appreciate the sentiment because it underscores the necessity of hard work and effort. On the other hand, I think the saying plays too much into the mindset that if only you keep trying, you’ll get what you want. Frankly, that’s not always true.

A close friend reflected to me she’s been actively dating for years and has yet to meet her life partner. What do you notice hearing that? Is your first response, “What’s wrong with her?” Congratulations: You’ve bought into the narrative that each of us in charge of our lives and in complete control of what happens to us. There’s nothing wrong with my friend, or others like her because frankly I know several women who are in her same situation. They’ve gone to therapy, they’ve worked on their attachment style, they put themselves out there, and still they’re single.

The reality is if your will isn’t synced up with the universe’s will, what you want won’t happen. My spiritual teacher says that “whatever happens in this universe of ours is nothing but an expression of Cosmic desire or Cosmic will … when a human desire and His desire coincide, then only does the human desire become fruitful, otherwise it is a sure failure.”

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Sometimes the universe says, “No.” Photo by Isaiah Rustad on Unsplash.

Just think about that for a minute. What if it’s not true you only need to try harder to get what you want? What if it’s not true that if you’re single, or poor, or without a literary agent there’s something wrong with you? What if it’s instead that your partner is currently unavailable, or you’re meant to work somewhere else, or your literary agent is on maternity leave? Maybe the lack of what you want has nothing to do with you at all.

What keeps coming to mind is how the universe is magical and mysterious. I heard from a bestselling author that she snagged her literary agent not because she wrote a stellar query letter, but instead because she was on a podcast with one of the agent’s authors. This woman landed a literary agent not because she tried really hard, but because of a happy accident.

I’m not advocating that we all sit on our butts and become passive participants in our lives. Instead, what I’m proposing is we take the shame out of our dreams because sometimes you don’t have what you want through no fault of your own. Sometimes you don’t have what you want because it’s not time yet or it’s not in your best interest or there’s something better waiting for you. Ultimately it comes down to syncing our will with the Cosmic will and we don’t usually know when, how, or why that happens.

I dream of a world where we understand trying harder doesn’t always work. A world where we realize we aren’t the masters of our fate and sometimes the best thing we can do is let go. A world where we remember if it’s meant to be, sometimes it’s not up to me but rather up to the universe.

Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.

I realize Juneteenth has come and gone but I keep thinking about an article I read by Robin Washington where he said Juneteenth has been whitewashed. The tale we’ve been told is Union soldiers arrived in Galveston, Texas, on June 19, 1865 to inform enslaved African Americans they were free. As if they didn’t already know. However, historian Gregory P. Downs has firsthand accounts from people demonstrating they did know. Galveston’s Blacks knew they were free and so did their slaveholders, who nonetheless kept them in bondage using brute force.

That means General Gordon Granger didn’t read off from a scroll and let slaves know they were liberated. No, Granger and his soldiers let the slaveholders know the slaves were liberated – at the barrel of a gun. They used force to say, “Let these people go.”

One of the reasons this article has stuck with me is because it illustrates what motivates people to change. So often I think we as a society want to believe that if people only knew the truth, they would change out of the goodness of their hearts. If people only knew that by purchasing products made with palm oil, such as shampoo, cookies, peanut butter, microwave dinners, and more, they are contributing to the extinction of orangutans, they’d stop. (Side note: Palm oil has many names like “stearic acid” and “sodium lauryl sulphate” so it could be hiding in your products and you wouldn’t know.) And it’s true that sometimes informing people does move them enough to change their behavior.

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Will you help the orangutans? Photo by Marija Zaric on Unsplash

For instance, a friend of mine became vegan after watching a couple of documentaries. Up until that point, she didn’t put it together cows are raped and separated from their young in order to produce milk. She didn’t think about how cows, pigs, and chickens have personalities and consciousness like her dog does. She didn’t know the animals she ate screamed out in pain as they were slaughtered. But when she learned more, she changed her eating habits. However, not everyone is like my friend.

Some people know the truth and are still unwilling to change because it’s too hard, too complicated, too whatever. Some people, like the Civil War era Galveston slaveholders, will maintain the status quo until someone else forces them to change.

I think that’s why my spiritual teacher is not a pacifist. He says, “In all actions of life whether small or big, the unit mind progresses by winning over the opposing trends. Life develops through the medium of force.” Later on, he says, “In the absence of the ability to resist evil and also in the absence of an effort to acquire such ability, declaring oneself to be nonviolent with the purpose of not admitting all these weaknesses before the opponent may serve a political end, but it will not protect the sanctity of righteousness.”

My spiritual teacher cares about protecting the sanctity of righteousness, about making life better for everyone, and so do I. Does that happen sometimes through petitions, boycotts, and protests? Yes, absolutely. But sometimes that also happens at the barrel of a gun and I think it’s important for us to recognize that. I’m not encouraging everyone to go out and buy a gun, rather I’m saying force has its place in the world, if it’s used wisely and used for the benefit of all.

I dream of a world where we understand what motivates people to change. A world where we recognize sometimes learning the truth is not enough. A world where we realize force has its place in society and sometimes it’s necessary to employ force in order to create a world we wish to see.

Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.

June 21 and 22 are Amazon Prime days so I wanted to take a minute to talk about the reality of this company and capitalism in general.

Earlier this month, the New York Times came out with an article titled “The Amazon Customers Don’t See.” It’s quite long so I won’t detail the intricacies of the article but instead highlight a few aspects. First off, Amazon measures the time each employee spends off task at its warehouses, meaning every bathroom break is accounted for. If a person spends too long in the bathroom, they can be, and have been, fired.

One employee wrote on the internal feedback board, “It is very important that area managers understand that associates are more than just numbers. We are human beings. We are not tools used to make their daily/weekly goals and rates.”

However, Amazon warehouse employees are not treated like human beings, which is reflected in the company’s turnover rates. From July to October 2020 alone, Amazon hired 350,000 new workers, which is more than the population of St. Louis. Many recruits were hired through computer screening with little conversation or vetting. They only lasted a few days or weeks. Amazon’s turnover rate is roughly 150% a year, which is almost double that of the retail and logistics industries, according to the Times.

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I urge you not to support this company. Photo by Christian Wiediger on Unsplash

Some more numbers for you: In 2019, the company hired more than 770,000 hourly workers, even though Amazon, including corporate staff, grew by just 150,000 that year. That means the equivalent of Amazon’s entire work force, roughly 650,000 people at the start of the year, left and were replaced that year. If Amazon is churning through its entire work force once or twice a year, it would need to have eight, nine, 10 million people apply each year, which is about 5% of the entire American work force. Five percent of the ENTIRE American work force.

The high turnover is built in to Amazon’s bones as Jeff Bezos said he didn’t want hourly workers to stick around for long because he viewed a large, disgruntled work force as a threat. Yeah, because then they might start asking for stuff like higher pay. . .

Also, let’s talk about racism. Black associates were almost 50% more likely to be fired than their White peers. In Amazon’s warehouse, more than 60% are Black or Latino whereas more than 70% of managers are White or Asian. So not only is Amazon burning through workers, it’s also perpetuating racism within its ranks.

Amazon is a prime (ha!) example of capitalism at its worst. Not only is Amazon exploitative, it plays to the worst part of our humanity – our desire for convenience no matter the cost. Bezos said people are inherently lazy and our nature as humans is to expend as little energy as possible to get what we want or need. He’s right, which is why Amazon sales exploded during the pandemic and the company continues to grow.

But again, I ask, what price are we paying for this convenience? We’re destroying the planet and treating people like machines. We’re supporting a company that appeals to our basest instincts and perpetuates what many are so actively fighting to change, i.e., racism. If you care about small businesses, workers’ rights, human rights, or the planet, you cannot actively support Amazon. And look, I know there are some products only Amazon sells – a “perfect” boycott is likely unachievable, but can you buy less from them? Even a little less? I know it’s inconvenient, but perhaps the price is worth it.

I dream of a world where we support our fellow human beings. A world where we demand people are treated with the respect and care they deserve. A world where we put our money where our mouths are when it comes to our values. A world where we understand sometimes the price of convenience is too high to pay.

Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.

Noticing the Rainbows

In my 20s, I was enthralled by the Law of Attraction. During that time, the movie The Secret came out, which popularized the subject. I found the narrative so compelling – your mind is powerful, like attracts like, etc. Hearing story after story of people who were able to walk again after a doctor told them they wouldn’t, or how they wrote themselves a check for $1 million and were finally able to cash it all because they visualized those outcomes, was alluring. However, the Law of Attraction fell out of favor with me when it didn’t bring me the man of my dreams and also when I realized in addition to the Law of Attraction, there’s the Law of Karma.

The Law of Karma trumps the Law of Attraction every time because you cannot escape the consequences for your actions no matter how positive you are. And according to my spiritual philosophy, some of those consequences can play out over lifetimes. I no longer focus so much on what my little ego wants because I find it’s better to align my will with God’s will. Things always work out better when I do, and at the same time, I also know my mind is powerful. What and how I think makes a difference.

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This picture will make sense later. Photo by Jeffrey Eisen on Unsplash

For instance, once when I was in college I slept in a tent with a friend and while we were out and about, it started to rain. My friend fretted about our possessions getting wet, absolutely certain the rain would seep into our tent. I kept telling her, “I’m sure it’s fine.” Do you know what happened when we got back to the tent? Her belongings were wet while my belongings were dry. I mean honestly, you can’t make this stuff up.

I mention this because I’m again reminded how an optimistic attitude can make a difference, not only in how we feel, but also how we experience the world. What if we believed things would work out? That we’d be OK? What if we were motivated by hope instead of fear? What if we trained our minds to ferret out the good things instead of the bad?

I have another story for you. One day back in 2015, I rode the bus and while looking out the window noticed the barest glimmer of a rainbow, which I tried to capture on my phone. In my excitement, I started texting everyone and my mother, especially when the bus crested a hill and I noticed the rainbow ringed the sun. It was a sight to behold. In contrast, the two women sitting in front of me on the bus didn’t notice a thing. They were caught up in complaining about their health problems and various other troubles. Here I was having a transcendent moment, marveling at the beauty of the world, and in the same physical space, the women in front of me were not.

What are we noticing? What are we focusing on? It matters. Living in a perpetual state of pessimism sucks so why not instead notice the rainbows?

I dream of a world where we recognize the importance of both the Law of Attraction and the Law of Karma. A world where we place each in their proper proportion. A world where we cultivate optimism because we recognize optimism can make our lives more enjoyable. A world where we do our best to notice life’s rainbows.

Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.

Lately I keep thinking about the joy in small pleasures. Over Memorial Day Weekend, I felt some FOMO (“fear of missing out” for those of you unfamiliar with the acronym) because other people posted pictures of themselves at the beach, or taking a long hike, or chilling in someone’s backyard. I didn’t do any of those things. I was housesitting for some friends and swayed in a hammock while reading a good book. I picked strawberries straight from the plant and plucked snap peas off the vine.

Similarly, this past weekend I plopped blueberries directly into my mouth after pulling them from the bush. I had dinner with six adults and two kids indoors, without masks, for the first time since February 2020. I’m not ashamed to admit I felt moved by the experience.

For the past year and some change, I haven’t done any of the things I mentioned above because I don’t own a hammock, or blueberry bushes, or strawberry plants. I haven’t dined with a large group of friends because it was too challenging to maneuver safely and they didn’t feel comfortable putting themselves at risk without being vaccinated.

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I think hammock time is my favorite time. Photo by 🇸🇮 Janko Ferlič on Unsplash

Coming out of this pandemic, I’m treasuring those small pleasures: a warm breeze, fresh fruit and vegetables, dinner with friends. None of the things I mentioned are big affairs like a birth, wedding, graduation, or heck, even a vacation. They’re mundane and it’s easy for me to forget how much joy I derive from them.

I forget it’s the small things, the pedestrian things that can also fill my heart to bursting. It’s not always the grand adventures or the big events that move me the most. Coming out of this pandemic has shown me that. It reminds me of Mary Oliver’s famous poem “The Summer Day.” She writes:

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean—
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down—
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

I know I’m often focused on the big things but maybe I can take a page from Mary Oliver’s book and remind myself my wild and precious life includes not only the clamor and the clangor of big events but also the quiet chirp of crickets and laughter among friends.

I dream of a world where we savor the simple pleasures. A world where we recognize the joy in the mundane. A world where we remember happiness can be found not only in winning an award or manifesting our dreams, but also in hugging a dear friend and playing with a small child.

Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.

All week when people have asked me how I am, I’ve responded, “I feel like I’m in the fertile soil, in the dark, waiting to sprout.” Small things are happening in my life and I’m doing my best to honor the power of change in increments, like I wrote about last week. But it’s tough to be here, in the waiting. It reminds me of a piece by Mark Nepo called “The Courage of the Seed.” He writes:

“All the buried seeds crack open in the dark,
the instant they surrender to a process they can’t see.
What a powerful lesson is the beginning of spring.
All around us, everything small and buried surrenders to a process that none of the buried parts can see.
And this innate surrender allows everything edible and fragrant to break ground into a life we call spring.
In nature, we are quietly given countless models of how to give ourselves over to what appears dark and hopeless, but which is ultimately an awakening beyond all imagining.
As a seed buried in the earth cannot imagine itself as an orchid or hyacinth, neither can a heart packed with hurt imagine itself loved or at peace. The courage of the seed is that once cracking, it cracks all the way.”

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I’m not quite at this point. Photo by Gabriel P on Unsplash

I wouldn’t say I’m a seed that’s cracked all the way. In fact, I’m not even sure I’ve started cracking, but I can say I identify with a seed buried in earth. I don’t know what the heck is happening in my life. I feel muddled, confused. I’m not sure what to do, how to act. I could spend the rest of this blogpost using synonyms for “opaque” and they’d all apply. However, one thing I do know is I’m surrendering to a process I cannot see.

I’m clear there is a process and I have a higher power that’s guiding me, providing for me, taking care of me. I know that just because things are fuzzy doesn’t mean they’re stagnant. My sponsor says something to me a lot because, well, it’s usually appropriate for my life. It’s something to the effect of, “God moves slow but He’s always on time. And when it’s time He moves fast so be ready.” That’s my life in a nutshell. Slow, slow, slow, BAM. Full speed ahead! Go, go, go! It’s easier for me to be in the “go, go, go” phase rather than the “slow, slow, slow” phase but they’re both a part of life. After all, just look at a seed. Or something even closer: a heartbeat.

A heart acts like a pump, suctioning blood and then pushing it out. There is a steady rhythm of movement then pause then movement then pause. My spiritual teacher says, “And this pulsation, that is movement through speed and pause, is an essential factor for each and every animate or inanimate object. Wherever there is existential factor there must be this pulsation. An entity acquires strength and stamina during the pause phase, and emanates vibration during the speed period. There cannot however, be any absolute speed or absolute pause in the created world.”

So this is me, in another pause phase. In another “seed buried in the soil” phase, just waiting to sprout. And I will, eventually.

I dream of a world where we remember the essential nature of life, the heartbeat thrumming through us all that reminds us to pause, then act, then pause. A world where we realize we can’t have all speed or all pause. A world where we take comfort in the fertile soil of our lives knowing at some point we’ll sprout.

Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.

I’m the type of person who wants immediate results, instant gratification, overnight success. (As you can imagine, I am regularly disappointed.) I am once again getting in touch with the concept of little by little. How small steps can amount to big changes. Darren Hardy writes about this in his book The Compound Effect.

The compound effect is the strategy of reaping huge rewards from small, seemingly insignificant actions. A particularly striking example is that of an airplane: If the nose of a plane is pointed just 1% off course when it leaves LA headed for New York, it will end up in Delaware once it gets to the East Coast. For reference, that’s about 188 miles off course.

The thing is, little by little, baby steps, whatever you want to call them, aren’t sexy. They’re not fun. It’s much more exciting to make big, drastic changes than it is to make small, modest ones. We love hearing about people plucked from obscurity – the model who was scouted at the mall, the first-time actor starring in a blockbuster. But the reality is most people toil away for years before they have their big break, if they ever have it at all. Many of us are seduced by YouTube videos that promise you can drop a dress size in a week if you do the person’s workout every day. But it’s not true. That’s too soon unless you’re also starving yourself.

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Those little steps add up. Photo by Fernanda Greppe on Unsplash.

The reality is consistency is the key to success. Tony Robbins reminds us, “It’s not what we do once in a while that shapes our lives. It’s what we do consistently.” The things that have shaped my life in the biggest ways – meditation, yoga, recovery – I’ve not only done consistently, but also gradually. I starting meditating just once a day for 5 minutes and then gradually built up. I went to one recovery meeting once a week. I didn’t dive into a 10-day meditation retreat, nor did I attend six meetings in one day. Some people do both of those things, but for me, that doesn’t work because I get overwhelmed, burnt out, and then I quit.

Sure, grand gestures are fun and exciting, but it’s the little actions every day that make a lasting impact. For today I’m reminding myself there is value in the small things. In doing things one day at a time, little by little. I’m again reminded here of vast canyons that are created by water wearing down rock little by little, day by day. Little by little adds up to something beautiful and grand, and right now is the time for me to practice that, knowing eventually I’ll see the results I’m looking for.

I dream of a world where we focus on small choices just as much, if not more, than the big ones. A world where we keep in mind the compound effect and remember constant and steady actions can add up to something amazing. A world where we honor the power of little by little.

Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.

Love and Judgment

The other day I heard a quote that stopped me in my tracks. It’s from Mother Teresa who said, “If you judge people, you have no time to love them.” Wow. That quote right? It makes sense to me because when I think about the process of judging, it’s standing apart, removed from. We see that literally in the courtroom as well. Where does the judge sit? Not with the defendant or the prosecutor, and not even level with those parties. At least, that’s what I gather from portrayals on movies and TV.

To judge someone or something, you cannot be with them and love requires presence. Sure, you can love someone and live far away from them, but in that case, presence is not physical, it’s emotional. This goes for our relationship with ourselves as well.

All week I’ve been judging myself for how I feel, wishing I felt differently. Why aren’t I a bubbling ray of sunshine? How come I’m not dancing around my apartment with joy? The New York Times recently published an article that said we’re all languishing. The author Adam Grant says, “Languishing is a sense of stagnation and emptiness. It feels as if you’re muddling through your days, looking at your life through a foggy windshield. And it might be the dominant emotion of 2021.” He also said mental health is a spectrum with depression on one end and flourishing on the other. Languishing falls along that spectrum.

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“If you judge people, you have no time to love them.” Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

I agree with Grant, but also I don’t think he’s quite right. Sure, we’re languishing, but really I think he’s describing burnout. According to HelpGuide.org, “Burnout is a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. It occurs when you feel overwhelmed, emotionally drained, and unable to meet constant demands.” Um, hi, what would you call life during a pandemic? Usually when people talk about burnout, they associate it with work, but y’all, I think it’s entirely possible to be burnt out by life itself. When going to the grocery store is stressful, when you’re worried about being physically close to friends, when everything you do feels risky, it makes sense to me that would lead to burnout.

The judgment comes in for me because one, I wish I wasn’t burnt out, and two, I’m close to being fully vaccinated so why aren’t I more focused on the joy of that? My temptation is to argue with myself, but that’s not loving. What I need right now is the presence of myself. For me to say to me, “I know you’re burnt out baby. That’s OK. It makes sense. You don’t have to feel any other way than you do right now.” I took a big breath as I expressed that so I know it created relief.

What all of us want is love – love from ourselves and love from others. I can’t do much about how other people view me, but I can do something about how I view myself. And if I want to improve my relationship with myself, that means approaching my moods, my body, my whatever with love and compassion. It means allowing and accepting where I am, how I feel, as if I were talking to a dear friend.

I dream of a world where we realize judgment separates us while love unites us. A world where we remember love requires presence and that means allowing and accepting what is. A world where we work toward treating ourselves with love and without judgment, no matter how we’re feeling.

Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.

Lately I keep thinking about my Grandma Libele. Maybe because her birthday is right around this time. Or maybe for other reasons. Who knows? However, because the universe works this way, something interesting happened to me related to her and my grandpa. A friend of a friend sent me two stones from Lithuania, the country of my grandma’s (and grandpa’s) birth. My grandma would not have said she’s Lithuanian because back in her day (and I mean literally the year of her birth), Lithuania was under the rule of Russia and shortly thereafter her town in particular was a part of Poland. My grandma would frequently say she was from Poland when asked, but first and foremost she called herself Jewish.

She led with “Jewish” and not “Polish” because she felt so betrayed by her country. I mean, I get it. During World War II she was put into a ghetto apartment with nine other people, including children. She dug her way out of that ground-floor apartment and used the sewer system to escape outside. Her childhood home was burnt to the ground with all the family’s valuables stolen. When she asked former neighbors to shelter her, they refused. Eventually she found a farmer she could bribe with money in her family’s safe deposit box. When the money ran out, so did the sheltering.

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My grandparents could have walked in this field, given the location. Photo by Geda Žyvatkauskaitė on Unsplash

I could keep going and get into more detail but I won’t because this post is not a Holocaust story. Instead, I’m merely sketching the details to say I understand why my grandparents felt betrayed and bitter about everything that happened to them and identified as Jews rather than by their nationality. However, their feelings didn’t die with them. Whenever I meet someone from Lithuania, or see pictures from that country, I feel an ache in my chest. There are unresolved feelings about Lithuania and knowing that, I asked a friend of a friend for a natural artifact.

This weekend I held a Lithuanian stone in each hand and promptly burst into tears. I think I’m the first person in my family to touch anything from Lithuania since 1945. My grandparents never went back to their country of origin and to my knowledge neither has anyone else in my family. I cried so much as I felt the grief and pain associated with leaving there. But I also felt the sweetness, the happiness that comes along with any person’s life. It’s not as if things were all bad in Lithuania – my grandparents had lives before the Holocaust. They laughed, they danced, they sang, they loved. Lithuania has not only traumatic memories for my family, but happy ones too. As I continued to hold the stones, I felt into that and eventually segued into peace.

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What’s cool about this picture is not only am I in it along with my mom, grandma, and brother, but my little sister is in utero!

Lithuania is just a country and the people responsible for my grandparents’ trauma are dead now. And by holding these stones, feeling those feelings, that finally gets to be true. Lithuania doesn’t have the charge it used to. You may be thinking to yourself, “This is such a strange post. Why is she even talking about this?” I mention all of it because trauma doesn’t end with the people directly involved. It carries over, it runs through family lines. Thich Nhat Hanh says in A Lifetime of Peace, “If you look deeply into the palm of your hand, you will see your parents and all generations of your ancestors. All of them are alive in this moment. Each is present in your body. You are the continuation of each of these people.”

I am the continuation of my grandparents; you are the continuation of yours. What legacy exists in each of us that we can let go of? That we can heal? I’m sharing a little bit of my story with the hope it will inspire you to dig into your own. You just might find doing so will bring you peace.

I dream of a world where we realize we carry with us things that originated with our ancestors. A world where we honor those who came before us while also letting go of what no longer serves us. A world where we recognize our ancestors, despite being dead, have living legacies and that means those legacies are dynamic – they can change.

Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.

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