Sunday, July 29, 2012

On Prayer

I haven't spoken to God in three years.  I woke up one morning, after the second miscarriage, when Damon's clients weren't paying him and Ryan's school wasn't helping her, on a cold, rainy summer day in Germany, and didn't believe in him anymore.

What a relief.

I'd been doing my best, guided by some Christian friends, Mormon and Catholic alike, to pray my way out of the misery I was in.

I was a dutiful wife and mother.  (Or doing my best anyway.)  I was obeying the rules, staying at home, cooking for the kids, taking them out to the park instead of sitting in front of the TV, paying attention to them, doing homework, staying fit, eating healthy, not drinking alcohol...I was being GOOD and doing everything I should be doing in order to get what I wanted.

Because this was prayer, right?   I do the right thing and I get what I want.  I behave and my prayers are answered.  I work to earn the reward from that guy sitting up above looking down and judging me.

What an asshole!  Either that guy up above, for not listening and giving me what I'd been working so hard to earn.  Or me, for bartering, for superstition, for basically very pagan beliefs about a personal god who takes a personal interest and manipulates my life based on my bartering and prayer.

It was so much easier to give him up.

Since then I have been reading the Tao, studying some Hindu and Buddhist books and doing yoga.  I am working on finding balance, on harmony, on staying in tune with the universe.  I strive for detachment and acceptance instead of a need to control and know everything.  I try to recognise the common universal oneness in everything.

This is working a lot better for me than bargaining with some crabby old man who wasn't listening to me anyway.

I still get annoyed though, that prayer seems to work for other people.  What the heck do I do wrong?
So that when Tracey told me last week that she thought her husband's business was starting to pick up because of her prayers, I had to talk to her about it.  (@&#^ Christians!)

It came up three more times with three other people last week. 

And then I started seeing signs and getting superstitious again.

I slowed down.  I waited.  I didn't do anything.  I just let it all be.

And the answer hit me - in a ray of sunshine on Friday afternoon while talking to Darla at school pickup - that the secret to prayer was in giving up the control and leaving it to whatever higher power you are praying to, meditating on, communing with.

Let me be the first to say that I think this sucks.

I find this whole "you don't always get the answer you are looking for, God gives you what you need not always what you want" business a real rip-off.  I'm not asking for what I NEED, I'm asking for what I WANT!   Why bother if I'm not going to get what I want?  What a crock of #@(#*!

Speaking to Tracey - whose business is doing well where Damon's wasn't - made me realise that if I HAD gotten what I asked God for back in Germany - another baby, more money, our own house, Ryan's success at school, health insurance we could afford, sunshine, warmth and summer more than 3 days a year - then we never would have come to Australia.


It's like asking for a poster of Zac Efron for Christmas and having him fly in to spend the week with you and your family instead.

God gave me Australia.

I'd thank him but I'm still not speaking to him and I'll tell you why.

That ray of sunshine that filled me with warmth - God's grace even if you are Christian - filled me with the realisation that I have to give up control and accept whatever God, or the Universe, throws my way.  I have to detach myself from needs and desires and outcomes and accept how it already is and will be.

I can't go back to praying to some old dude, hoping he will give me what I want.

Prayer isn't about getting what you want.  It is about accepting what you have.

And I still think this sucks.

If there is some god up there I really think he should buck up, get with the program and start running things properly for a change.

Maybe get his wife to do it for him; that might work.

My old beliefs in God, in one god, were more pagan than Christian.  My Taoism - even though I have yet to go to a temple - are closer to what I think Christians call God - than my old belief in God ever was.

I am striving to accept what the universe throws my way.  I am seeking balance and peace, basic kindness, simple happiness, detachment and acceptance.

Call it what you like; I think Jesus would have been cool with it.

And don't get me wrong.  I still suck at this.

But I think I might be beginning to grasp at least the beginnings of it just a little itty bitty bit.

And I don't think God would mind if I thought of him as something else, in a way that has me accepting instead of bartering, in a way that helps me pray my new way and allows me to let his grace in. 

Maybe He did send me answers last week. 

But going back to our old relationship isn't going to help either of us.

I'd like to think He's big enough to accept this new one.

(Although if you are listening, God, a little extra cash never hurt!)

Om mane padme om.  Namaste.  And Amen!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Medieval Fest Aussie-Style

When the Aussies get a hold of something, no matter how traditional, they tend to make it their own.

It's no different with the Abbey Medieval Festival.

The sun is shining, the sky is blue, the atmosphere is warm and friendly; none of this dark and gloomy middle age realism for us.  (The pouring rain and mud on the first daythis year  DID lend an air of authenticity to the proceedings - oh look, just like Germany, we said! - but the day wasn't any better for it.)

The first thing I noticed was the audience at the joust.  In the USA, you get teams going, you cheer for YOUR knight, you loudly BOO the opposing knight.  There are clear sides, theirs and ours, winners and losers, friends and enemies.  All in good fun of course.  But you do pick a side.

The Europeans give it a go but they are pretty embarrassed about the whole thing.  So that you have some poor fools - really, you can call them that at a medieval festival! - trying to rally up a crowd that just doesn't have it in them.  A few-half-hearted cheers.  From the beer drinkers.  But mostly polite silence.

The Aussies, well they'll give the American a run for their money on enthusiasm, but their hearts just aren't in the competition.  Whoever heard of a crowd cheering for BOTH knights?!

"Ya gave it a go, mate!"   This an unhorsed knight.

I gotta love 'em.

Fencing with laughter, tourneys where the injured help one another up, friendly rivalries between monarchies, knights taking time to play with the kids...joking and smiling, a less medieval crowd I've never met, but a most chivalrous one.

This year's wonder was the churro line.  Really.  Pouring rain on the afternoon of the first day.  A churro line about half an hour long.  (And this is REALLY long in sparsely populated Oz, let me tell you!)  Actually, what we thought was TWO churro lines.  Because some REALLY REALLY REALLY LARGE, unhappy, nasty person stood near the front and neglected to tell those of us behind her (him?) that he/she wasn't in line.  So that after twenty minutes we realize there is no line. 

I look over to the REAL line, look back at the line of about fifteen people behind ME in the fat lady/person's line, and tell them that there's been a mistake.  Sorry, mates, the wait is actually twice as long as you thought it was.  We're going to have to merge the lines.

I'm not sure what would happen in the US anymore.  Really no clue.  But I know there would be fighting and bitterness in Germany.  Although, granted, there would have been fighting and bitterness anyway since Germans don't stand in lines and would have been pushing and crowding eachother from the get-go.  Germany isn't all bad.  It's not, really.  And there are good people there.

But the Germans do NOT stand in line and they certainly don't watch out to make sure others have a fair go.

The Aussies sighed a bit, looked around and then calmly melded into one line. 

The girls ahead of me told me that actually I should be in front of them.

Everyone knew - and you can't tell me the Germans don't, they do -  where they were in relation to everyone else. 

And everyone fairly waited their turn without complaint.

And that's what works here - medieval fest or not - this sense of fairness and watching out for one another. 

Sure, you've got some assholes.  Take fat lady/man nasty person who delighted in telling me that there was no line behind his/her fat arse...but only after we had been there twenty minutes. 

But for the most part everyone treats eachother fairly.

And this works.

The Aussies have no idea how lucky they are.  They haven't had to push through the crowds at the Bronx Zoo or the Stuttgart Zoo or fight to get on a bus in Haiti or India or Africa. 

They melded into one line.

Into one line.


Aussies give me hope.

And make for the most awesome medieval fest anywhere in the world!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Who's Leading Who?! (Ryan)

Ryan and I spent a large part of the Abbey Medieval Fest last weekend with a group of women representing the Shuvani Romani, an ancient order of wise gypsy women.  We watched a real gypsy wedding (while I sat cross-legged in the hay breastfeeding cool!).  We got our first henna tattoos together.  And we danced - twice - in the circle dance.  That it rained just after the dancing began - twice - made it a bit messy but also very earthy!

(Apparently we- and Aidan and Matthew this time around - also danced around some famous Australian TV personality.  We had no idea.   I am proud to say we hardly ever watch TV.  There WAS a huge camera following him around - we were dancing directly behind it.  But he was dressed as a medieval nobleman so I assumed it had something to do with the festival.  Watch out for us on Bondi Vet could have been wouldn't be able to see us behind the camera but you might spot Damon with a heap of churros!)

Circle dances are found in just about every culture.  They represent the circle that is life.  The person in front of you is someone you are following, someone ahead of you in life's path, someone you are learning from.  The person behind you is someone you are leading.   And we all dance round and round.

Sometimes I wonder who is learning from who though. 

This, a poem from my beautiful daughter Ryan.  Who says it so much better than I ever could.
(Thanks to her teacher, Mrs MacKenzie, a writer and creative spirit herself.  And to Melinda and Kylie who teach the principles of kindness to others as well as resilience and respect for yourself.)


Friendship lasts forever doesn't matter how far.
When people bother you just stand strong and proud.
Even if it's your best friend
If there's something you don't want to do
Just stay who you are.

Chorus:  Friendship lasts forever doesn't matter how far.  (4X)

Don't fall into a trap.
If you get pushed down don't stay down,
Get back up!
If your best friend pushes you down
They must not be your true friend because
Friends are like family
Not a bad bully.

Chorus (8X)

Friendship lasts forever.  Stay who you are!

I have to admire a girl who has already figured out what it takes most of us a lifetime to learn.

Namaste Ryan.  I can't wait to see what I learn from you next year!

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Abbey Medieval Festival: Part One, The Others!

We've been here long enough to establish traditions now. 

And long enough to stop seeing things through a stranger's eyes.

The Watoto Children's Choir has been to Tracey and Neil's church twice since we've been here.  Last year was the first time I had heard the Christian viewpoint of one truth, one way, only through Jesus, in English in quite a few years.  I found it profoundly disturbing.  Although, the choir, from Uganda, was amazing.

This year I felt the universal consciousness within the Christian viewpoint. 

This weekend we are at the Abbey Tournament, the largest medieval festival in the southern hemisphere.  (You learn - that since the rest of the southern hemisphere is Africa and South America - this means that it is bigger than the one in Sydney!)

It's been a full year then since I've wanted to share my impression of medieval festivals on three continents. 

The Americans, as usual, go all out.  The venue is acres, the time frame is months, the entertainers are semi-professionals touring all year.  There are elephant rides and jousts where the audience ranges in the thousands.  It is magic and fairies as well as lords and ladies.  Plus a few Jedis who always manage to go where the alternative gather.  Food and drink everywhere.  And, of course, shopping shopping shopping.  The stalls look like Macy's would have looked like in the 15th century.  The finery is finished.  The extras extravagant.

It is fun and fantasy; an immersion in another reality.

The tournament in France, in comparison, was on a huge empty field.  The paths were mostly empty.  Noone was dressed up.  The joust took place on a field.  Everyone just gathered round to watch.  They didn't charge extra admission to the joust and there were no stalls to buy finery or accoutrements like wooden swords or fairy costumes.   There was LOTS of food and beer though.  And the muddy paths were realistic.

What sticks out in my mind ten years later is the real live bear act - a bit disturbing, but again, appropriate to the times - and the photo we have of baby Andrew drinking beer.  Huge European mug.  Tiny three month old baby.

Once again, I have to adore the French!

German medieval fests take place in medieval towns.  In the cold and in the rain.  The narrow cobblestone streets are crowded with people who WILL run your children over if they stop.  It is dark and grey - the mood and the weather. 

Esslingen's annual Medieval Christmas Market features candle making and axe throwing for the kiddies.  (This is considered child friendly!)  But there are also plenty of Christmas stalls and hot mulled cider - Gluehwein - whic tends to take the edge off being pressed in asses to elbows (copyright, Jay)  with a bunch of strangers who would rather spit on you than look at you even as you share virtually the same pavement space. 

Horb's event features steep one lane paths filled with people unwilling to help you push the twin stroller up the hill, but who will stop and talk to one another about the spectacle of you trying to do it on your own with two other small children straggling behind.

We spent one cold winter night around the fires lit in the courtyards of an authentic 13th century abbey outside of Tuebingen.  Uh yeah, it was REALLY cool.

Tuebingen's Chocolate Festival might not have been medieval but it was under the castle and within the courtyard surrounded by houses dating from the period.  And the chocolate was good. 

It wasn't all fun, a return to a previous reality even harsher than the current one, more authentic reenactment than flight of fancy, but it was people at least attempting to escape the everyday and enter the realms of fantasy.

In any country, a medieval fest brings out the alternative crowds,  a looser, more relaxed cadre of lords and ladies, serving wenches and errant knights.  Plus at least one Jedi.

And hey, the Gluehwein is good.  Ask for the Gluehwein.