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Well, I took a catnap yesterday, and had a dream in which a voice was slowly repeating three letters.

“C…H…U…”

CHU. Huh. Doesn’t ring a bell. So I looked up “Chu” to see if it means anything in another language.

In Japanese, it’s the sound of a kiss.

In French, it’s the past participle of “choir.”

In Vietnamese, it means “all right.”

All of these translations lead in to my post for today, about the way we engage with each other.

An unwanted kiss is not a kiss at all. It’s an assault. In reaction to all of the men in the news accused of impropriety, there has been a choir of voices calling for change. Jane Fonda said the answer to dealing with toxic men in power is to put women in charge. Maybe, but I’ve got to say, I’ve worked for women managers who were toxic as well.

I think the answer may be to regard each interaction as a micro-loan of energy.

Of course, this is already a concept, and it’s called “karma.” But if we think of it as exchanging a gift with every interaction, it’s easier to develop it as a habit.

What if you realized that every time you were disrespectful to someone, karma would come back instantly, only – here’s the twist – not to you, but to a loved one? In a way, it happens that way already, if you think of the whole of humanity as your extended family.

Most people want to do the right thing. They want everyone to be “all right.” I truly believe that. Maybe in this moment of revelation and demand for action, we can rise above our need for a pound of flesh and get back to the golden rule.

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Fell in with the wrong crowd.

(But in truth, they were the wrong crowd.)

Comments were taken out of context.

(But in truth, the comments as reported were quoted verbatim.)

It was all in good fun.

(But in truth, as a person in power, that’s your unilateral decision.)

So many actors and producers have been accused of sexual impropriety that it’s spawned a hashtag: “#MeToo.” The repugnant details have been bad enough to process, but there seems to be a new allegation every day.

Dustin Hoffman was accused of harassing a young woman on a movie set, and he apologized, but also said, inexplicably, “It is not reflective of who I am.”

But in truth.. what you do and say? That’s who you are.

Hoffman’s director on that movie spoke in his defense, only making things worse. Speaking of the allegation that the actor had grabbed the woman’s backside, the director said, “It may have happened, but again in a funny way.”

Donna Karan claims her victim-blaming, woman-shaming comments were – wait for it – taken out of context. In truth, she was quoted accurately. She even smile-sneered every time she made the same outrageous point. “How do we display ourselves?” Smile. “Are we asking for it?” Smile. Meantime, I wonder what she would say if asked the same question. In this interview, she’s wearing heavy eye make-up. Her shoulders are exposed in a revealing gown. Let’s put the same question to her. What are you asking for?

No woman dresses with the intention of going out into the world to be attacked. It just doesn’t happen that way. There’s no such thing as “she asked for it.”

Let’s start here: I believe you. Sometimes in movies – and in real life – the bad guys win. But in truth, this can be a real moment of solidarity. If we stand together, it could be the start of taking back our power.

The #MeToo movement has reached ubiquity: We all know what it means when a woman (or man) posts these words to social media. Ruth gave a powerful breakdown of the situation. In fact, she changed the way I thought about my own history. I believed I could never forgive the men who have harassed or assaulted me over the years. But then a funny thing happened — I made a list.

I listed all the times I could remember someone making me feel unsafe, or someone physically or verbally assaulting me. Over the days, the list grew. It is now quite substantial. But in making the list, the power these people had over me dropped to zero.

Maybe it’s seeing their names, or the lack of them — some names I never knew, some I’ve forgotten, like “Warehouse Creep” and “King of Bear Country.” Just faceless, nameless ghosts. Not even worth remembering. In other cases, it was a matter of perspective. I can look back now on the man who kept calling me “Kiddo” and rubbing my thigh on a car ride home from the first (and last) time I babysat his 6-year-old son, who spent the entire night talking about big breasted women — as if such a thing could mean anything to a child that young — and think, “How little he must have had in his life!” It’s almost sad.

Ruth is dead right: These people aren’t brimming with machismo and confidence. They are insecure. A real man doesn’t need to harass women to get attention. How frightened they must be! How alone! I found myself praying for them: That they find ways to get the attention they want through other means; that they can learn to feel important not by subjugating others but by doing positive things.

But most of all, I pray for a world where no girl or woman has to make a list like mine. Because although making it was cathartic, it’s not a task I would wish on anyone. Because no woman should have to have a list. Because it shouldn’t happen to begin with. Because being sad and pathetic is no excuse.

Forgiveness is divine. But wouldn’t it be nicer if there were nothing to forgive?

What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?

Mark 8:36 NIV

There have been a lot of scoundrels in the news lately. I’ve seen a lot of people say this: “It’s a sickness.” But that’s not true.

People who use power to demean are not addicts. They live in fear and hate themselves. The world is very big, so they put on the trappings of power so they don’t appear so small.

While it is certainly a pathology, it’s not a condition that can’t be controlled.

When a young (at the time) actor inappropriately touched a VJ on MTV as a way of saying “hello,” what he was really doing was trying to gain leverage. He seemed to be unsure of himself and felt a pressure to be larger-than-life, so he did something to discombobulate her.

Emma Thompson described the scandal surrounding a predatory Hollywood producer as a manifestation of “extreme masculinity,” but I would suggest that the opposite is true.

I think such men don’t feel strong and powerful at all. They more likely feel utterly bereft. On paper, they’ve got everything that should lead to fulfillment, confidence, and peace. But somehow, they still feel as insignificant as they did before they achieved “success.”

I don’t know if there’s a “rehab” for this kind of situation. Some would say the answer is church. Getting right with God. That would be true, of course, but it wouldn’t be genuine for such an individual to find faith if it’s forced.

Going forward, maybe it’ll be easier for victims and bystanders to speak at the moment of impact. To say, This isn’t right. Cut it out. Speaking truth to power isn’t easy, but if we all stood up together, it could make a world of difference.

In the news lately, many have been asserting their right to free speech, such as football players “taking a knee” at games as the national anthem plays as a form of protest.

Last month, a Google employee wrote a message on an internal message board that leaked to the media. Women, in general, he asserted, are more neurotic than men. Maybe the women at work sensed he was taking notes and assessing them in internal memos. That would put anyone on edge!

At the end of the day, it’s a memo on a company board. Otherwise known as one man’s opinion.

In other news, Airbnb canceled the reservations of guests who may have been planning to attend a white nationalist rally.

Even if one’s views are repugnant, there’s something equally offensive about suppressing speech in this way. It’s still profiling. I believe you may be thinking of doing something with which I disagree.

Then there’s the Supreme Court case of the baker refusing to make wedding cakes for gay couples for religious reasons. I don’t get it, but would you want someone who hates you and all you stand for alone in a room with your food? What kind of negative energy (not to mention perhaps, shampoo, or something) must have gone into it?

I’d rather know right up front that someone hates the fact that I exist, even if it’s based solely on their own prejudices. They might not like me for what I believe, or what I wear, or some other random reason. It’s better to know how they feel. We don’t have to waste each other’s time. I don’t have to spend my dollars at your establishment.

It’s still a free country. You’ve got the right to be wrong.

And I’ve got the right to keep walking.

Recently I read about a pastor who made this amazing pronouncement while speaking of presidential advisors, Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump: “It’s just like God to use a young Jewish couple to help Christians.”

I thought, Wow! Speaking on behalf of the Almighty is up there with a Pamplona Bull-Run in terms of risky life choices. I’d be looking over my shoulder for incoming lightning bolts!

The reverend’s familiar tone reminded me of the SNL skit in which Justin Timberlake played Peg, who always ends her hard-luck stories with the catchphrase: “Classic Peg!”

I was shaking my head as I read – the way this man of the cloth spoke about God was similar to the title of the series “That’s So Raven!”

Who could possibly know the mind of the creator of all things so well as to interpret for him? Well, we just FaceTimed the other day. Let me tell you what’s in God’s Facebook feed right now.

Heck to the no, as the late, great Jersey girl, Ms. Whitney Houston, used to say. (Had to spruce up the language a bit there, kind people. Prayer-blog, you know.) Come on now. Nobody speaks for God officially. But I’d like to think that most religions do honor him.

Every so often, I’ll look online to see what churches in my area do in their religious services. One of them insists on full immersion when baptizing new members of their church, and no one is considered a Christian until they get baptized. I looked at the pictures they posted of one such baptism, and I realized that it was just a kid’s pool in somebody’s backyard. Everyone there was dressed in shorts and t-shirts, as if they were at a barbecue!

I thought at least they would have some sort of official water tank in an actual church building, but this is how they do it in that religion.

Of course, your mileage may vary as you ride along the path of faith, but here’s a good rule of thumb: always do the right thing, and let God speak for himself.

So, I’ve written before about my health issues, and while I don’t want to bring anyone down, I do like to share what I’ve learned from having MS.

Like the time I took my son, Cole, and his friends, Luke and Nick, to the movies a few years back. On the way out, I asked if they’d seen another movie that was out at the time. “So did you guys see Thor?” Without batting an eye, Luke replied, “Yes, we saw it last week. You took us. Remember?”

But he knew I didn’t. The upside is that these kids are like family, and they’re used to my sieve-like memory. It didn’t phase them. When people are understanding of your limitations, it makes you feel supported.

That’s why I was so thrilled to come across this article about a cafe that employs dementia patients, called “The Restaurant of Order Mistakes.” So you ordered a hamburger? Well, how about some dumplings instead! This shows that if people are aware of your story, they give you more latitude.

It goes back to my theory that there’s always a story, and everyone is dealing with something, often something that’s not visible to the naked eye.

People have taken the challenges of their own pasts and turned them into positive action.

These men took the pain of coming to another country penniless and hungry, and turned it into a kind deed, offering people a free meal if they have no money.

Sometimes a small act of compassion can restore one’s faith in humanity. This hairdresser with a posh client list reaches out to people on the street with his “Do Something for Nothing” campaign, offering haircuts to the homeless. It’s amazing to see what this simple kindness can do for a person who often feels invisible. One gentlemen looked at himself after his haircut and asked, “Why did you do that for me? It’s not an everyday thing.” The hairdresser’s answer was, “I loved hearing your story.”

It’s nice to know we can write the story as we go, and we’re all in it together.

So I dropped something the other day – it made a loud noise, and I got annoyed because my teen-age son didn’t bother to check to see if I was okay. Out of nowhere, I experienced intense anger, and a real moment of unforgiveness. The place where my heart usually was felt like a stone.

Normally, I’m as pleasant as pie. So pleasant, in fact, I’ll bet some crotchety-types might find it annoying! Hey there! Turn that frown upside down, grumpy cat! 😾 There I go with the emojis again. I heart smiley-faces!! 😍

So that’s my default setting. Finding myself in such a foul mood was jarring. Now, it lasted less than an hour, but what an intense experience it was. I really had to ask pointedly in prayer, “Take this from me, Lord. I don’t know how to release it.”

The negative narrative was running in a loop: How could he not have heard such a loud noise? Doesn’t he give a heck? Haven’t I raised him better than that?

Even trying to forgive felt forced:  Why have I always got to be the one to let things slide? After all I’ve done for him! I just couldn’t let go of this anger.

In a previous post about Hugh Jackman (my next ex-husband-to-be, only he doesn’t know it yet. Yes, I’m willing to re-locate to Oz-Trailia) I said that it’s possible to find wisdom in unexpected places. This time it came from a roots Rock band called “The Record Company.I gotta pick myself up off the ground. I got the answer to my biggest question. Got to lose where I was to get my direction.

Staying in the moment that had hurt my feelings meant I was stuck in it, as if time stopped there. There was no present anymore, only this past pain.

I talked to my son again after I’d cooled my jets. He’d had his headphones on halfway, so it’s possible he didn’t fully hear the loud sound. Still, I reminded him: we watch out for each other. Because I don’t want to be emoji-less again! 🌈😊😺

Strangers hold onto man for two hours after he threatens to jump off bridge

So here’s an idea. Instead of a Smart Phone, why don’t we invent a Sweet Phone – only calls from kindred spirits with a sunny outlook get through; those with a hidden agenda, a chip on their shoulder, or an axe to grind would be blocked.

It might be possible to do that with our social media habits as well. If you think of the news headlines as a slow drip of poison into your psyche, you’ll be more cognizant of the negative effect it’s having on your emotions.

My mother used to say each of us needs twelve hugs a day just to survive. Not sure why she chose the number twelve, but I’m down with the sentiment. We can do the bio-equivalent of that with our online viewing habits.

What about starting a trend that for every critical tweet or comment you post, you must compliment someone or focus on a positive thing? For every bad airline encounter story you read today, I propose that you read two feel-good stories. Listen to an uplifting song. Write a poem. Anything to counteract the constant barrage of chaos and carnage.

Here’s a positive story to start you off. It’s not often that a picture can bring me to instant tears of joy, but this picture of Good Samaritans reaching through the bars on a bridge to keep a suicidal man from jumping really got to me.

Strangers do good things for people all the time, even though the bad news gets most of the press.

These random people came together when a car overturned into a flooded area, trapping two infants inside. One man carries out a toddler, saying, “Dear Jesus, please let this baby breathe.”

Cue the waterworks again! Mercy. I may as well go to the kitchen and chop some onions at this rate.

This stranger’s kind act really warmed my heart: a sweet story about a long-lost letter.

With all the political weirdness and the general turmoil in the world, I propose that this kind of news is not just human interest, it’s a poultice for the soul.

At the mall, I picked out three pairs of shoes and waited for the salesman to help me. It was a very busy day, and he caught my eye. “I’ll be right with you, ma’am,” he said, breathlessly.

“Don’t break your back,” I said.

He stopped in his tracks, dropping one of his boxes.

“How did you know?” he asked.

“Know what?” I replied.

“That I broke my back. This is my first day back on the job.” He sat down, looking a bit ashen.

I sat down with him. “I honestly don’t know why I said that. But I … I think it means, pace yourself. You’re just finding your feet,” I said, as he laughed at the shoe pun.

We spoke for a few minutes and he went back to work, this time at a slightly slower step. He smiled over his shoulder and nodded good-bye.

I thought about the exchange. It was the first time in my life I had ever used the phrase, “don’t break your back.” If you think about it, it could be taken as sarcasm. I didn’t mean it that way – just that I wasn’t in a hurry.

It was such a small moment, but it made me think. How many times do I want to speak words of encouragement, of praise, of inspiration, and I hold myself back? What if they take it the wrong way? What if they just aren’t in the mood to hear it?

In a previous post, I wrote that I know I don’t have all the answers. What gives me the right to offer advice to anyone else?

It may well be that none of us has all the answers, but together, we can find a way to wend our way down the path of life.

Sometimes God puts words on your heart for a reason. It might be just the small sustenance someone needs to make it over that next hurdle.

Slow down and travel at Godspeed. Speak kindly to a stranger. Say it from the heart and you may end up making someone’s day.

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