On Finding Joy in the Age of Trump…


On Finding Joy in the Age of Trump …

Each morning my head has its exercise. I hang my head in shame; I shake my head in bewilderment of what our country has become; I close my eyes in hope. I tell myself that despair is not an option, that I must summon energy from somewhere to make my voice heard, although my staunch Republican senators and representatives toe the party line, and I live in such gerrymandered districts, both state and national, that I realize that my comments, my votes, will be lost in the netherworld of the minority.

And sometimes I must look for joy. Most mornings I find it in my cats, who sit quietly with me as I read the paper, write in my journal. Some days, they climb into my lap, both of them, and take part in my 10-minute meditation.

This past week, we celebrated their fifteenth birthday. (I’ll save you googling – that is 77 in human years.) They are brothers and have never spent a day away from one another. Like all of us, they have their squabbles, but most days you can find them only feet apart.


We celebrated their Cat Mitzvah two years ago; this year, they had a Quinceneara celebration. They appeared unimpressed, even when offered crumbs from their cake. But we humans, we celebrated. For we must take our joy where we find it.



On Surviving the Election


On Surviving Until the Election

I spent the last week in a migraine miasma, brought on by watching the second debate. I’ve still not completely recovered, but a quilt show and an egg salad sandwich on toast helped. I found myself glued to Facebook and to political talk shows where pundits, sure that God and right was on their side, excoriated any and all who disagreed with them.

Now, all politics is projection, right? At least that’s what Jung said, and I’m inclined to believe him. I’ve learned a lot about cognitive dissonance and about projection since that debate. I am working assiduously to respect those whose political choices are different from mine. Let me tell you that, for this election, this is one tough task. Vitriol from both sides, which, not surprisingly, I label as righteous indignation if it coincides with my views. And fear, lots of fear – on my part, on everyone’s part, I think. If our favored candidate does not win, what will our country be like? Who will we be?

I know where my vote will go. It is unlikely that anyone or anything could change my mind between now and the time that I cast my ballot. And I’m thinking that’s true for just about all of us.

So, to survive, here are some suggestions:

Quiet – I’m starting with external quiet – minimal TV (except for the World Series), and no political talk shows. I’m counting on that leading to an internal quiet;

Pumpkin tea – in a china cup, sipped in the quiet of my sunporch;

A Facebook diet – I wish I had the discipline to say that I’m off Facebook, but I know that would be too much to ask of myself – but a morning and evening check-in, I think I can do that. And no responses, no matter how outrageous the comments; and,

Meditation – I must admit that my fingers first wrote medication, but I really do mean meditation. For we will get through this, one way or another. Though I don’t think we’ll ever be the same.

Another Sunday,  www.cynthiastrauff.com

On Tangling at the Well

On Tangling at the Well

Last week I headed to the Well of Mercy, a North Carolina retreat center where they offer “respectful hospitality and quiet sanctuary,” to take an introductory course on Zentangle. I had heard about Zentangle, don’t ask me where, and signed up mainly as a show of support for the center. I knew that my schedule wouldn’t allow an overnight visit this year, and they do such a wondrous job in offering a setting of tranquility, acceptance, and peace that I wanted to be sure to support them. I wasn’t especially interested in adding another interest to my dilettante’s plate. I suffer from a superabundance of interests, none of which I do particularly well, and to add yet another — well, you understand.

But how thankful I am that I attended. Sister Donna Vaillancourt, a Mercy nun of extraordinary talents and mercy, and, I might add, a CZT (Certified Zentangle Teacher) was our muse, guide and cheerleader.

For those of you who might not be familiar with Zentangles, they are miniature pieces of unplanned, abstract, black and white art created by creating an ensemble of simple, structured patterns called tangles, all drawn on a 3.5-inch square paper tile.

The process of creating a Zentangle can become a form of “artistic meditation” as the you concentrate only on each individual stroke, one stroke at a time. You never know what you’ll end up with, and that’s part of the freedom and beauty of the process. For it is the journey, rather than the outcome, that is the focus. They say that “anyone can do it,” and I’m here to tell you they’re right!

I spent a mesmerized three hours, and came home to order more books and supplies. I have been tangling every day, and am always surprised at the outcome. And even when I think that my square is not one of my best, often when I come back to it, an hour or a day later,  sometimes seeing it from a different angle, it speaks to me.

They are right also about the meditative aspect of Zentangle. You really do get into the moment, and while your conscious brain is intent on each stroke, those under-layers are free to roam to parts unknown. On one such journey, I decided that I was finished with saving things for “good,” for special occasions- that, actually, every day is a special occasion. So the “special” dishtowel is now in use, the linen shirts which I save for bookgroup and lunches out, are now worn whenever my fancy strikes. If not now, when?

So I am hooked – with my micron pens and paper tiles – Zentangle is my new best friend.

And, incidentally, if you’re interested in learning more about Well of Mercy, here’s the link to their website: http://www.wellofmercy.org. It is a magical, mystical place. If you go, you will never forget it.

And I’m wearing my linen shirt as I write this.

Another Sunday, http://www.cynthiastrauff.com