Sharing my adventure further

I went out on a limb today and believed those folks at work who kindly said they wanted to see my pictures from my trip.  I booked a room with a projector, and sent a meeting invite.  And people actually accepted!  So tonight I started making a slideshow of my photos.

I can’t share all of them because they’re not all worth sharing.  Also, there are over 2500 of them and I’m just not that cruel.  I am trying to weave stories (some of which have been told here) into the pattern of my pictures.  I’m also trying to choose pictures that haven’t been posted elsewhere – somewhat difficult as I’ve shared some of the photos I’m most proud of with friends and family on That Social Networking Site.  But I think I can weave a less-than-hour-long tale through a presentation populated only by pictures to encapsulate my adventure.

But I do want to figure out the distance travelled part of the equation.  Must continue to do that.  Last time I tried, my browser crashed after 300 km (after I asked it to go back one plot point because I’d taken the wrong turn… oops).

On recent events

Now, I know that I’ve made this blog primarily about my own personal transformation over this year, but I think a part of that is the way I interact with the world at large.  Thus, please forgive me for this post if it bothers you, but I’m going to delve into some recent events and how I’m thinking about them right now.

As some of you may have heard, the recent criminal court case in Florida involving George Zimmerman being tried for second degree murder in the death of Trayvon Martin concluded this weekend.  He was found not guilty by a jury of six women.  The web has erupted in outrage, and people are filling the streets for what is seen to be the further acceptance of a bias against the African American community in criminal matters, as well as the protection of a self-important police wannabe who profiled, followed, attacked and killed an unarmed teenager walking through a gated community.  You can familiarize yourself with the particulars of the case (that are public, anyway) at various and sundry other sites – I don’t need to repeat those here.

But despite his being convicted in the court of public opinion, the real legal proceedings allows him not to be convicted if there is reasonable doubt.  The prosecutor has to argue a compelling case using real evidence.  And the unfortunate part of this case is that the only two people who know for sure what happened that night are Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin – and Zimmerman has a vested interest in representing himself as innocent of murder, thereby making his testimony widely suspect (apparently).  And Martin, well, he can only tell us so much.  There are phone recordings, text messages, wound analyses, but all of those have to be interpreted.  Zimmerman was injured as if he was in a fight.  But let’s be realistic – if he engaged Martin and initiated something, wouldn’t you expect a potential fight?  How many seventeen year old young men would not be belligerent to an adult male challenging them?  How many *adults* would not be belligerent when challenged?

It is undisputed that Zimmerman shot Martin through the heart.  It is undisputed that Martin was unarmed and it is even on record that Zimmerman was told that he didn’t need to follow Martin.

It is undisputed that Florida has a law on its books that allows someone to stand their ground if they feel they are being threatened.  And the funny thing is, I think that law applied to both parties that night.  But one of those parties ended up dead.

So, as far as I can see, the jury was faced with the unknowable – beyond a reasonable doubt – circumstances of how this all began, and the fact that, in Florida, you are protected by the law should you choose to stand your ground and defend yourself against a potential attacker.  Therefore, folks should not be surprised that Zimmerman was acquitted.  I think it is reasonable that there was reasonable doubt.  There is a dearth of hard facts on how this altercation occurred – only interpretations from either side of the courtroom (and those outside of the courtroom who have decided they need to choose a side).

What are the options now that the verdict has been delivered?  Well, folks unhappy with the outcome of this case could lobby the Florida government to change the law, and make sure other states/provinces/countries don’t enact them – even going so far as to question, once again, the gun laws in various jurisdictions.  They could work to eliminate racism and profiling.  A whole lot of things could be done.  Demonstrating is also an option, but it risks descending into violence and rioting.  Also, everyone should leave Zimmerman alone.  The court system has found him not guilty.  Let the court system do its work.

What this really does is bring up the opportunity to do a bit of analysis of how we legally run our respective societies.  For example, what sort of hard nosed laws end up looking really bad when they are actually used?  Perhaps a good test is justice on a personal level – when your privacy is the one being violated, when your rights are the ones being trampled in the name of security, when your safety against vigilantes is being threatened.

A lot of people believe they are able to “read” people better than they actually can.  They rely on stereotypes, media, and their lifelong preconceptions to identify whether someone is suspect or normal.  I have run into this in the past – as an introvert (no, really, I am), I am quiet, prefer to stay in the background in group situations – especially those I don’t feel safe in – and listen to what is going on rather than try to shove myself into the conversation.  I have been perceived as being a snob, a bitch, abused and antisocial in the past.  I am none of these.  And this doesn’t even endanger my life.

Imagine, for a moment, that you like to portray yourself in a certain way – say you enjoy heavy metal.  You grow your hair long or shave it all off, wear black shirts with metal band logos on them, and wear black jeans.  You may even adopt a rocker personality because you enjoy this so much.  So how might a fearful person stereotype you so that you might be in danger?  Might they believe that you’re a scrapper, ready for a fight?  Or some sort of drug user?  What if you don’t believe in drugs or alcohol, having seen what damage they can wreak in your very own favourite bands?  What if you’re a pacifist, though you enjoy music that can sound aggressive?  Might not that fearful person believe the worst in you because they don’t understand who you are?  Perhaps they are unfairly profiling you.  But in so doing, they could put you in a dangerous situation because they feel they may need to protect themselves from you.

This applies to everyone’s life and everyone’s behaviour.  No one acts “normally”.  One of the observations recorded in Zimmerman’s testimony was that Martin wasn’t running for cover from the rain.  Maybe Martin was enjoying the rain – maybe it was one of the few innocent joys he still had left from childhood, to walk in the rain and be wet.  Maybe he was having a private conversation on his phone to a potential love interest that he didn’t want his family to overhear.  Or maybe it wasn’t cool to scurry for cover.  I wouldn’t necessarily be running for cover if I was suddenly caught in a rainstorm and I had no particular objection to it.  I’ve actually gone *out* into a downpour just to enjoy the sensation of the rain.

So what is the true evil here?  Stereotyping, perhaps.  Zealousness.  But see how those both apply to either side of the equation.  How about a law that, when accessed, calls into question the victim/aggressor duality?  Does that stand your ground law bring us back to the Wild West?  Is that a good thing?

I think the root of the problem is fear.  Living in fear perpetuates fear-full choices and bleeds over into others’ behaviour.  Let’s say one person voices a fear for their safety.  Perhaps it is not even unfounded, but based on past experiences of not having safety.  But this fear can infect others as well.  Others begin to doubt their safety, and begin to suspect strangers or “abnormal” behaviour.  Maybe they even profile certain “different” people and ascribe them criminal tendencies.  This leads to paranoia, and even discrimination, and putting into place systems that will “keep them safe” – such as gates on their community, alarm systems on their houses, guns in their bedside drawers, laws to restrict freedom.  All in the name of security.  Perhaps they even work very hard patrolling their safe places, to keep them safe.

“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.  Security does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it.  Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than exposure.” – Helen Keller

But that is a lot of energy being spent to maintain safety, and to live in fear.  Especially when life is not risk free.  As a friend once said, “Being healthy is just the slowest way to die.”

I guess what I’m getting at is that it’s not worth it to live life in fear of everything – in fear of theft, death, pain, embarrassment, of being turned down, of being fired… That is a lot of exhausting fear to live with day to day.  And where in all of that fear does one find the space to live?  Let go of the negative emotions and discover all the space that you’ve freed up in which to live.  Because it’s not rejection, embarrassment or pain that will kill you.  It’s not living.

Where does that leave my thoughts on current events?  I can trace the shadow of fear through the entire scenario.  Do you really think Zimmerman got off?  He won’t be able to live quietly now.  Too many angry people know who he is.  Now he has another fear, a bigger one, than the young African American men who had been burgling his gated community.  And so the cycle continues.

One week down

First week back at work is done! I’m still in catch up mode, having come back to my job being… re-allocated, which was a surprise. I have far fewer files than I did when I left. I’m not sure what that means overall, but time will tell. Immediate benefits I can see include being less stressed, being able to sleep better, eat better and potentially not be sick all the time. Not a bad thing.

I was able to do yoga twice this week. Once as an evening practice on my first day, to help with the assimilation of the new information and to cool me down before bed (I did have insomnia the night before my first day back so I was pretty exhausted). And then I did get up and do a morning practice, which was nice but happened between 6:09 and 6:30 am. I even meditated! And didn’t fall asleep!

The best part of my first week was the number of my colleagues who so happily welcomed me back. I felt very loved from all the welcomes and smiles, hugs and laughter. And stunned looks sometimes because they couldn’t believe nine weeks had gone by already. At one point, someone said, “No, it’s only been like four weeks – you shouldn’t be here!” I would have happily taken another five weeks but alas, that wasn’t the deal I made with the boss. ;)

One point I overlooked as I was engaging in this arrangement was that since I’m working 80% this year I also receive 80% recompense – including vacation time. Which makes sense, but it didn’t really hit home until I saw the numbers in my file. So that’s impacting some plans I have, because about 40% of my vacation time will be dedicated to my next yoga module, leaving not a whole ton of days for other things like trips with my boyfriend and seeing both families at holidays and such. So that’s resulted in me having to change some plans I’d agreed to back in February, before I knew how all this was going to work.

This weekend is a big step because as of tomorrow, I will officially be without a landline for the first time in my life. My Internet and everything will go bye-bye and I’ll be getting hooked up to Teksavvy on Monday. Tech-free weekend! Maybe some painting and writing will be in order. :)

(Also, I’ll have to go in search of Internet if I’m going to blog this weekend – we’ll see!)

This is the end…

Happy July, Happy Canada Day, and Happy Monday…

Tomorrow I must leave this cocoon of time off and rejoin my colleagues at work. I have already started packing my bag to go back with my water bottle and travel mug (that may permanently smell of Bengal Spice tea…), my calendar etc. I haven’t gone so far as to plan what I’m wearing tomorrow. I just know it probably won’t be yoga pants… *sigh*. ;) Oh, and I have to pack my knitting as well.

I was painting yesterday and I got my first layer of deep space black-blue down on Heavenly Bodies 2, and I roughed in more of my next Phoenix, a request from a different friend. My boyfriend thinks this one is going to be really good. I’ve finished three little Doodles recently and have two more to do. They’ll need the UV protectant soon.

I did not do as much writing, I have to say, as I wanted to or expected to. I suppose you could consider blogging to be writing. But if I claimed to have added a page to my novel, that would probably be me rounding up.

I was surprised by how the pup responded to my being here, which is to say poorly. I think the coming and going, strangers in the house (contractors) and lack of routine really exacerbated her separation anxiety. I’m hoping my going back to work will settle it down but it’s making me think.

And me? I think I responded quite well to having this space to be creative, to travel and to learn. As I said before when I was setting this up, I wish that everyone had this opportunity. Not just in terms of the leeway with their employer, but also leeway with themselves. Too many people would not, but more frighteningly *could not* absorb a 20% pay cut in order to have 20% of their normal work year free for their own use and edification. I won’t mislead you – I am budgeting for this, and there are things that I know I will forgo this year. But the longer I go without a TV, the less I want to replace it. I’m buying my music through iTunes and just buying single songs rather than buying a whole physical album at a “record store”. But that doesn’t diminish my life.

I think that this opportunity has really emphasized for me how important my painting is to me, and even my writing (that I didn’t do because I was absorbed by my painting.) I hope I will remember that and be able to convince myself to overcome tiredness to go into the studio or open my file and put something down “on paper”. I think we can convince ourselves of a lack of energy far too easily and then we slip into existing rather than living. It’s only catastrophic when you hamper your own personal development, I think, in favour of existing in a land of just needing to rest and “turn my brain off”. That’s a disservice to your brain – it’s never off and why should it be? It’s a magnificent lump of protein and nerves that is capable of so many other things than watching crap TV.

All that to say – I hope I can continue to use my time well to do things that matter to me while I get back into work. My daily yoga practice will have to happen and I need to keep reading my course material.