We were welcomed and woken by this lovely lady our first morning in Portland.
This is Lisa.
Lisa was our first experience of a host through our Airbnb stays on this trip. And we couldn’t have been more blessed.
When given the option to have breakfast delivered to our little cottage in the backyard to eat by ourselves or to join her in the main house to eat with her, the answer I hope is obvious. We were in a new place and who better to get us acquainted then a resident, especially one that insisted on making us food. Ungodly amounts of delicious food.
She told us stories about past visitors to her airbnb cottage. A Texas oil business man, a group of kids working on some sort of Twilight porno… She told us about her life, her family and got to know a little about us. She gave us really empowering advice.
Today we had no traveling to do, since we planned on staying in Portland, OR for the day. As such we had less literature and audio and more activities.
Today’s theme was all about voice. Our focus was the throad chakra. Our theme was another quote from Cheng Tzu in the Tao Te Ching;
"Wisdom is knowing when to stop speaking, because language is inadequate."
Basically, what we were trying to better in ourselves was how to more thoughtfully and effectively use language.
Our activities for the day started with shopping for food for our picnic lunch and then thrifting, which he had yet to really indulge in on our trip. We went to Value Village and Union Gospel Mission Thrift which were in rather close proximity and had an extreme variety of cheap clothes and accessories. On our way to our thrift stops we listened to our audio selection:
The discussion of what makes an introvert by Susan Cain was very edifying for the both of us. Especially the introduction to what falls in the middle of the spectrum when it comes to introverts and extroverts; ambiverts.
Both J and I would describe ourselves as predominantly introverted. While I am much more out-going than she might be, we both are drained by interactions with others. We engage in socializing, and can enjoy socializing, but we get our energy, our power from solidarity. And it this very much broadened the scope of our theme today, in that thoughtful language doesn’t just apply to verbal language but covers a wider range of language. Body language, emoting, choices of action and inaction all communicate to others about us, and discussing how introverts, ambiverts and extroverts can communicate with one another effectively was very edifying.
Amy Cuddy’s talk was another of that broadening of “language”, focusing on the language of the body. J and I both related very well to this video. Insomuch as we already would ascribe ourselves to this sort of choice: This choice to hold ourselves in a way that communicates strength and self-empowerment. This talk just reinforced, maybe, the “science” of why people perceive us the way they do. The way we stand, walk, talk communicates, regardless of what we say, a sort of power. I am often told that people see me from far away and think I am tall, but when they are introduced to me up close and personal they realize I am 5’ 4” and it’s nothing but an optical illusion wrought from posture and aura. Being conscious of your body language also can change the way you think of yourself. That if you feel weak, standing with a power posture can make you feel more powerful.
Our lunch stop took place at Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge, where we sat on a bench like a couple of old ladies and watched joggers and bikers, herds of kindergarteners and dog walkers taking walks through the paved passages under a patchwork of sunlight beams and leaves. We started our readings for the day on our picnic.
My oration duties for the day included the following texts:
- The Path: exercise 3: gifts from the family exercise; 33-40.
- If Women Ruled the World: We’d Communicate in a Relational Way; 102-104, We’d Dialogue More and Argue Less; 105-106, We’d Speak the Truth Even in Difficult Situations; 71-72.
- Creating True Peace: Right Action Comes from Right Understanding part 1; 85-95.
- In the House of the Moon: Fire the Communicator; 107-117, Speak to the Earth; 49-72 (finish if not already)?
We started with out next exercise from The Path as a discussion during our picnic. developing a list of gifts from our family.
- Mom: Joy
- Dad: strength
- aunt & uncle: Blueprint for adventure
- Mom: care-giving
- Dad: diligence
- Konnie: confidence
This was an interesting exercise to go through, at least for me. See, for the most part, either I didn’t know my family, or my family didn’t know me. My parents, particularly, were also extremely abusive. So while I did receive gifts from them, these were gifts of “despites.” I was given the gift of “caregiving” despite my mother, not because of her, and that is an important distinction to make. Another distinction to make was that there was a strong need for discernment, to be able to see positives out of the role models I was given, or to even be discerning enough to find good role models out in the world, despite not having good one’s in the home. My journalism mentor in high school, Konnie was one such person, where she gave me many gifts, one of the most notable being confidence. And because of her, not despite her.
The exercise continues to question what of these family member’s sorrows was given to you, accompanied with their gifts.
J’s Cups of Sorrow:
- mom: not belonging
- dad: lack of free time
- aunt and uncle: wasted time
VV’s Cups of Sorrow:
- mom: unfulfilled dreams
- dad: suppressed emotions
- Konnie: life-long companion
This provoked more of that discernment. This ability to see both the blessings and the curses of everyone in your life. Regardless of how much a blessing Konnie is to my life, there still needs to be the ability to see that she endures hardships and that I can learn from those as well as the blessings she’s shown me. Similarly, it’s much easier to discern the gifts my abusive parents can give me, despite the majority of the curse they have been on my life. Knowing what fills them up with sorrow is not an excuse, but a context as to why I have to grow despite them, and not because of them, and it was extremely beneficial to have this exercise tease that apart.
As to how this relates to the development of a mission statement; Laurie Beth Jones in her book quotes Carl Jung in this exercise, saying
"nothing affects the environment of a child as much as the unlived life of the parent."
When it came to communication and language, it was obvious that the gifts that we’ve received from these people are only what we perceive: What we have translated their verbal, non-verbal and emotional language to mean to us. And in that, how important it must be to be mindful of what you communicate of yourself to others, as it may have a profound impact on their life.
Continuing with my familial example; perhaps if my parents were more mindful of their actions; verbal, non-verbal, emotional, they could have given me opportunities to grow because of them, rather than despite them. Perhaps they could have been more of a blessing than a curse.
Now, since J and I were working on a join mission statement, there was another factor we had to consider: what is the common meeting point of our two life’s gifts and cups of sorrow?
Well, we both seemed to strove to accept all the gifts that were given to us, whether because of or despite. And we both seemed to have already endured the sorrows of our families. We’d be saving that for our later exercises.
But before we get into the rest of our readings, we should maybe address the wonderful example of lack of communication this day.
We had planned to conduct an interview with a women as a part of the Generation Hopeful Pathfinders series. She had a great resume and was doing some very interesting things regarding environmental consciousness. We had planned this interview with her almost four months in advance, continually checking up and confirming our date, time and location. We had planned to meet her at her home, at 2PM. We got there a few minutes earlier, we came with questions, an audio recorder and camera, we even went over questions in the car. We walked up to the door, knocked and waited for a few minutes.
When she finally opened the door, she refused us. She apparently sent us an email that morning that she wasn’t “feeling up to it.” And asked if there was another time later in the week to do the interview.
"Well…there really isn’t. We’re only in Portland for today, we’re leaving for Seattle tomorrow" J explained. She should have known this. J had explained all this to her through email.
We try to convince her. She insists that she wouldn’t be conveying her “best self” and that it would be better if we tried the interview later. We eventually concede and leave without an interview. And we head back to the car, completely baffled by her lack of communication, her unwillingness to communicate herself through interview and what she was communicating with her actions, not even her words. She obviously didn’t take us seriously. (It should be noted: we later gave her a second chance when she was visiting LA for an interview, and though we got a really good interview, she wouldn’t consent to it being posted because she still didn’t think she was communicating her “best self”)…
We moved on. We read from If Women Ruled the World and discussed communicating. These selections from the book were really empowering because it discussed word usage a lot. Communicating, but specifically “relationally”, not arguing but “dialoguing”, and speaking truth, even when uncomfortable, and not sugar coating it.
This related a lot to our chapter from Creating True Peace, where Thich Nhat Hanh enunciates the importance that “understanding” has on action. That we are not capable of making an informed decision to act without first understanding as much as possible about the given situation, and if there is inadequate communication, you fail to act in the best way.
When it came to In the House of the Moon, it was rather interesting. We started getting into the sections where they were describing the elements, and it veered off from directly relating to our theme. This element was Fire: the Communicator, and it was certainly edifying to learn about the characteristics of different elements. As J and I had discerned our elements for ourselves via The Path, neither of us found any positives in being a fire element, and this book certainly opened our minds to the asset that being a fire elemental is. And finding ways to identify, even in small part to every element was also a good thing to learn. J and I are so alike that our agreement on things can sometimes blind us from other perspectives, and it was good to have these books and talks with us to question both of our perceptions.
We got dinner at Lebanese restaurant called Ya Hala where we saw our first and only Muslim family, ever to be spotted in Portland. The food was amazing and filling. There pita bread especially, was ridiculously noteworthy for something so average.
Our devotional song for the day was Little Talks by Of Monsters And Men, which we listened to on the way back from our poetry night in Hillsboro, about 40 minutes out from our stay in Portland. This was probably the most unexpected experience from our trip.
J found this event online somewhere and expected it to be a psomewhereading night by a bunch of college students at a community center, just kicking it, spreading ideas, maybe with a few people like ourselves who are making a surprise one time appearance. Whta we discovered was that there was maybe two other girls anywhere near our age. A woman in her mid thirties, and the rest were senior citezens. Veteran poetry night, senior citezens. We had just walked into a clique of old people.
You would sign your name on a clipboard if you wanted to recite a poem. Most people did originals, some new and some repeats from other poetry nights, while some others read poems from their favorite authors.
The first old man to get up and recite a poem looks into the audience, immediately noting the unfamiliar faces and saying, into the mic, “Such young, very attractive ladies here. I brought poems today about age. If I knew that all theses ladies where coming tonight, I would have brought poems about love.”
I turn to J immediately and scrawl “I DID NOT ANTICIPATE THIS AT ALL.” On my notebook.
He went on to recite some poems and we were very obviously out of place. The only people who could follow along with his words, euphemisms and metaphors were the other seniors. It was very obvious that our experiences had not lent us the understanding we would need to have to get the most out of this evening.
The second man to come up and read passed copies of this picture to those in attendance:
He noted that he was the one in the middle. And read a poem of his own creation talking about remembering youth and the loss of family.
One thing J and I quickly ascertained from the fact that we had stumbled upon this rather private scene was that we stumbled upon a group of people, older people, who still cherish the ability to communicate, and find a space where people can speak the same language; in this case, the language of age, experience and all the topics within it; death, losing loved ones, slowly becoming disabled, etc. It was impactful if only in that way.
One lady brought her favorite poet: Kay Ryan and read pieces from her collected works. She was so into it. Mid reading she once exclaimed “Yeah! OY! She shivers me timbers!” It was wonderful.
There was another lady, who looked like an old wise tortoise who read multiple poems, all referencing turtles, which I will assume to be her spirit animal, because she embodies it so much.
The thirty year old was named Heidi. We would discover that her husband had died recently, and this was the first time that she was performing any of her poetry since his death. She was talented. Had great poems and didn’t even know it. When I requested copies of any she was willing to give, she thought I was faking it out of politeness.
One poem in particular; Filters, struck a chord in me. I’ll provide an excerpt here:
"Really I’m not shocked that we’re blinded and the world’s dumned down
with filters on so tight to our lights of course we wear a frown
we sit in out homes watch TV, but don’t make a sound
in cities stocked with people, yet along we all walk around
Spot too bright
I use a filter to diffuse my light and pull in tight, I lose my sight, You lose my light
Can’t fight the fight, myself I slight.”
It reminded me of Fire: The Communicator. And how we will diffuse the light we emulate to “conform” but end up losing those who we want to attract to our light. She was great.
There was a great where people could sign up for a second round of readings. And I suddenly felt inspired by Heidi to read a poem of mine. Mind you, an old one, written in a different frame of mind, but toss the disclaimer aside. I had lost my ability to perform publicly along time ago in high school. There isn’t a lot of art I do now. And Heidi gave a me a little courage to share a little of my art with people, even if they were strangers, and I was impeding on their clique, and it may not have been relatable. I read a poem I wrote when I was maybe 16 called “Nameless” about a creature that stole people’s names, and because of how shallow our identities are embedded, these people would unwittingly give the creature their identities as well.
The whole room supported me as I went up and after I read, the room was eerily quiet for a moment or two too long.
"Well," the MC finally said to cut the quiet. "We had our psychological thriller for the evening."
"Orange County doesn’t deserve you," the flirtatious man from the beginning blurted out.
Turtle lady joked “Please protect the lsit from her. I think she might have taken all the slots.”
I really didn’t expect a reaction. Which was silly, it’s one of the best poems I think I had written. It had just been so long. And I figured with out theme of thoughtfully using language, this was the safest space I would probably find to test my use of language again, to communicate my art again.
Heidi, turtle lady, and the flirtatious old man read again. Turtle lady read more about turtles, which I thought was great. The flirtatious man apparently found a poem not about old age, and directed his “Open Letter to Kali” at the three or four of us college aged girls, which by this point, I expected.
There was one really out of his mind old man that came in late and wanted to read. And you could tell he was not part of the clique. He made everyone uncomfortable and turtle lady seemed pretty keen on keeping him away from the mic. The MC handled it as best he could, but he certainly punctuated the end of this poetry night. It was funny too, because he would sometimes descend into poetry unintentionally.
"I love the moon. I miss the moon. I kiss the moon…Sorry, I can’t find my poem. Oh! Here it is!" His mind had just floated away, right in ront of us, and it was mesmerizing.
Many of the people at this poetry night were interested in why we were there and when we told them about our road trip many were shocked. We got a lot of “I always wanted to do that!” which we thought was odd. It wasn’t that difficult. I mean certainly, it took a lot of planning, but it made us wonder how many dreams people have of things that they never accomplish…
Despite this day going completely unexpectedly, everything was an experience worth having. We learned a lot, and I think were better equipped to get the most out of our day despite the surprises because of what we had learned in our previous road trip days. Finding your niche in an unlikely place, like a senior’s club poetry night, going with the flow, instead of letting our interview back out ruin our whole day, we took it in stride, enjoyed our free exploring time and enjoyed the rest of our day. We were already seeing positive changes in us and we couldn’t have asked for anything better….
Day 1: “GOING WITH THE FLOW”
Day 2: “LETTING OTHERS LEAD”
Day 3: "FINDING YOUR NICHE"