Just that time of year…

My Christmas poem.

Really kind of long – and dark in places, like the season.  But worth it, I think.  Set aside maybe 5-10 minutes or more (it’s most satisfying consumed in one sitting), get yourself in a comfortable chair with a good cup of coffee or tea or a glass of wine – and maybe with a journal and pen.  My journey is not your journey, but perhaps in places they may touch.  I wish you love and hope at this dark – for some of us at times very difficult, but really still pretty special – time of year.

winter dark 4


Just that time of year…  (Majo, 12/15/14)

It’s that time of year again
Jingle bells and all
But is there really all
That much to celebrate?

The cold and dark have returned again
Do pretty much the same time every year
I try to be cheerful about them
But this little whoosy man
Gets depressed with the onset of the shorter days
And pisses and moans pretty much the same
The whole winter through

The events in the world
Wars, gang shootings
Racial profiling and horrific injustices
Seem no better than ever
I want so badly to believe
That the human race and societies
Are somehow evolving
Somehow getting better, smarter
More fair, more loving
But can see no signs
That this is true

In my own so-limited human life
What sign is there of positive change?
My biochemistry maintains as cruel a reign
Over my desperate moods
As does the Islamic State over
Its desolate segment of humanity
Oh, I’ll give you that
I have not now been suicidal for five years
No more trips to the hospital – or even close
Housing – with Tom and Will for two years
And with Lotus Lodge newly now
Has been a good part of my life
OK, actually very good
After some extended tsuris before that
Alright, I can’t deny that work has been good
A really good year at my new job
With no end in sight

winter dark 2

OK, I will not deny that
There are some good things
OK, very good things
In my life
But what about my moods?
My moods!
Ten days up, fourteen down
Pretty predictably these days
Now is that fair!?
The steady repetition of the cycles
Is so discouraging
The ups slightly to more-than-slightly
Out of control
If also predictably a lot of fun
But the downs, the downs
So painful, so disheartening
So much self-hate
So much of everything looking ugly and wrong

I had my one big shot at a shift
October 18-25
Eight days of training in
Brainwave Optimization
I put a lot of eggs in that basket
My Chicago friends Sally and Mary Ellen
Who knew a lot about it
And who deeply love and support me
Had very high hopes that it would help
Gave me financial support
To make it happen
My friends Byron and Nancy
Took this traveler in
For ten days in my home Chicago
I got to see my beloved brother Terry
Three times on this visit
Instead of one on my last week-long visit
Just back in May
His new chemo is hitting him less hard
He has more strength
For spending time with his
Intense handful of a brother

winter dark 4

The brainwave treatment is very subtle
No effects promised for 3-6 weeks
But half-way through I got depressed
And everything else looked like shit
In the throes of depression
Nothing ever seems to have changed
And I have no hopes
For anything new to help

On November 6, the Shine Expansive
A very exciting personal growth workshop
Stood before me like a shining city on a hill
But I got depressed the day it began
And was significantly depressed for all three days
But the Shine did have power – enough power to
Keep me moving, with even some real high points
And I came away with a new mission statement
“I shepherd my flock”
Which seems to pull together
All the threads of my life up to this time

But my mood swings
Remain unabated
What of the Brainwave Optimization?
What of the Shine Expansive?
What of any of it?
What of positive change in the world?
The dawning of the Age of Aquarius –
My youthful dream?
What of my hopes for humanity?
For the world?
What of peace on earth?

winter dark 8

But then there is this blog…
Born 11/24/14
Now 21 days later – an adult?
Not in blog years – still a baby
70 followers in three weeks – unprecedented
In my personal experience with writing blogs
1085 page views
261 on one particular day
55 yesterday
So many people posting beautiful comments
So many people emailing me encouraging words
So many people telling me on the street
How much the blog means to them

Except for an occasional poem
My writing had been stuck
For over a year
Now completely unstuck
My sense of purpose in my life
Fully reborn
My mission from the Shine
“I shepherd my flock”
Being lived out

winter 1

I have now several very potent flocks
The community of people sharing the blog
My community of co-workers at my store
One of my blog posts is in our cashier log book
At my boss’s suggestion
And many of my colleagues are talking about it
I will soon post one of my blog entries
By the time clock
(Again my boss’s suggestion)
Where all my coworkers can read
And maybe return to the blog on their own

My customers are a flock
I tell them about the blog in the checkout line
The other day, two customers
Friends to me but strangers to each other
Discover that they are each fans of the blog
And begin an animated conversation about it
My boss says
“When you print up business cards for the blog
Give them out to customers”
Amazing support from the store
I had thought that if I gave out cards
From my cash register
I might get in trouble with the brass
And so I will print them up and give them out
The blog creates for my customers
A sense of connection with our store
With our staff
With each other
With the cashiers of the world
And with me

winter 2

And what of those cashiers of the world?
About ten years ago
Working as a cashier
At the Enmark gas station on Merrimon Street
Standing in that little kiosk
Selling gas and cigarettes for a year
Until I got fired for calling a customer a bitch
But oh she deserved it
I didn’t just use the term
When she said
“How dare you call me a bitch”
I looked her straight in the eye and said
“Sometimes it just fits”
She took it badly
But I never regretted it
Even my boss did not blame me for it
“I never would have fired you for this
But she went straight to a company VP
I had no choice.”
It was a great moment in cashiering
Though obviously a strategy
I cannot recommend in this blog
Except in moments of great trial
And when your integrity demands it
I used to teach Empowerment Training
At a local community college back in Chicago
And taught people to say “Fuck you”
When no other assertiveness technique worked
And when their sense of self
Was at stake

But I digress
But then it’s my poem
And I did tell you to curl up in a good chair
With a good cup of coffee

So there I was spending all my work time
In this little kiosk
I wrote a blog on customer service
My own model
Authentic Customer Service
I got really very excited about it
46 posts, 2650 page views
Check it out
There’s really some very good stuff on it
A great payoff from that at times boring
At times very stressful job
Along with some very good
Experiences with customers
(No coworkers there in that lonely kiosk
One of the biggest downsides)

winter 3

So I have this blog
My ability to keep writing when I am down
Unprecedented in many years
Perhaps the Brainwave Optimization is working
And the Shine Expansive
And my newly refined but longtime mission
To shepherd my flock
I have a walking stick that Annie gave me at the Shine
When she so ably facilitated us
Through our mission-developing process
A flag hanging from the handle reads
“I shepherd my flock”
Amazingly more apropos for a staff
Than if it said “I sell more widgets this year”

So maybe I do have more light in my personal life this year
Even as my grueling moods remain unabated
Maybe I don’t get to have my whole Christmas list
Delivered for me under the tree
But then the human race
My brothers and sisters
Do not get to suffer appreciably less this year
And maybe you readers of this poem
My brothers and sisters
Still have pain in your lives parallel with my moods
My brother still has his cancer
My friend Bob still has his grief
From his wife Nina’s so-recent passing
My roommate Jesse has his
Search for a fulfilling job
My old roommate Tom has his
Pressing need to unload
His desperately financially depleting house
My old roommate Will has his frustrating
Quest to live out his calling as an artist
My store has its battle to contend
With all the supermarkets
Flooding this saturated market
My coworkers have their struggles
To make ends meet on paltry wages
To live out their gifts
As artists and musicians
To manage their relationships
Their health, their work aspirations

winter dark 7

Everybody, it seems
Has their struggles and their sorrows
Caroling at the hospice last night
In the Community Room
I looked around and it looked like only us present
“Where are the dying people?” I thought
Then I looked to my left and saw
In a little pod, three of my dear friends
Who have had tragic losses
In the last few years
I realized that we were singing
Not just for the shut-ins we were visiting all evening
But also for ourselves

We – all of us
Need to buck up our spirits
At this dark time
We – all of us
Need all of us
To come together
To love each other
We – all of us
Need this poem
We – all of us
Need to create
Whenever we can
However we can
We – all of us
Need to hope for the future
For our writing and painting
And music-making
And our gardening and cooking
And parenting and love-making

We need to come together
As we are reading this poem
As we read this blog
We are coming together
As all of us staff at my grocery store
Are serving all of our customers
We are coming together
As all of our customers
Rub shoulders in our store
Stand next to each other
In our checkout lines
Greet and often hug their friends
You are coming together
As all of us front-line customer servers
In all of the various stores
Serve all of our customers
Who, at other times
Are all of us
Who, when we are not working
Also patronize these other stores
We are all
Every one of us who deals
With customer servers
Coming together

We are serving our customers
Trying to put a smile on their face
Trying to put a smile on our face
Trying to get our customer’s needs met
Trying to check them out
Quickly and accurately
Bagging their groceries tenderly
Ripe avocados on top
Trying to exchange some pleasantries
And, when we are lucky
Even some meaningful exchange
Some “What’s been a highlight of your day?”
Trying to be real for each other
And to be kind
Trying, trying, trying
All of us humans trying
To make things work
To make this a better year
And when we are lucky
To love, even

winter final


19 thoughts on “Just that time of year…

  1. Wow, Majo – so glad I had the blessing of meeting you and getting to know you. You are amazing. I will dedicate time in my life to lift you up mightily in prayer – my heart, my love, my soul will be attached to your well being with reverence and fervent effort. Love you!


    • Wow, Diane! Am I lucky and honored to have you focus this kind of loving, healing intention on me. If my blog prompted only that, all the work would be well worthwhile. This one definitely goes in my rainy day file -copy/pasted and voice recorded. Thanks.


  2. As a customer, a SHINE Expansive comrade, a Jubilant, and a fellow human, I am so grateful to be a part of the flock you shepherd! Your writing, like your presence, is real, raw and beautiful. No matter how the winds change and the moods shift, I know you and your writing “won’t fucking back down.” Shine on, Majo.


    • Wow Jessica – . This one definitely goes in my rainy day file -copy/pasted and voice recorded. It’s so much more powerful because “you were there” and know from the inside my gifts and my struggles. Thanks.


  3. Christina – Thanks for the well-wishing. It means a lot to me. I seemed to have no bad effects from scrunching in the back seat. Caroling was a good experience for me – and it seemed like also for you. Did you see my reference to it in the poem?


  4. Hi Majo..This blog is a true gift to us all. So glad I met you outside the credit union the first week you were here. What a blessing.


  5. Tears and laughter… Thanks for posting. Have you heard about reality xmas music? Like this poem it keys into the bittersweet of the season… More honest than the sugary one-sided hallmark
    version of the season. Cool that your boss welcomes your poetry. If i lived there i would shop at your store just for that!
    The everchanging nature of life… Thank goodness…. Some flavors are preferred over others… But it is all part of thr dance. Thanks for the honest reminder and the good company along the way.


  6. WOW Majo, you are finding your place and it is dazzling. Perhaps the deep places you can go, though not so much fun, are what make you the artist and leader and flock tender that you are. You can lead the way through with your honesty and vulnerability and shine a light forward, where others may fear to go. Things are happening for you and you are going to where the doors are open and that is magic. Keep feeding us with these posts and with your art and bravo, bravo…


  7. Today I awoke relatively early and stumpled to my computer to check on a few things.
    Warm coffee in hand, and soft throw blanket wrapped around my shoulders. Then I read your invitation to do just that while reading your latest blog post. I truly felt that I was in your world for my ten minutes. Hopefully in the approaching new year there will
    be more time spent there. Love ~ Kathy


  8. Woke up to a rainy morning in the woods. Am on a 4-day silent retreat at a Buddhist temple. One companion part of yesterday, but no one here today but the dog and me. This is a new experience, with little guidance, but reading and long stretches of meditating already tell me there is healing energy. “Escape” from holiday insanity and darkness does not sound very positive, and was received with confusion at best, by the ones I left behind. Your blogs and the vulnerability and hopeful dreaming and stories of choosing love somehow, somewhere every day are SO affirming and healing to me, here on the other side of the mountains. Bless you at this dark/light time of year and time of life. Buddhism is teaching me the absolute necessity of awareness in a life well-lived. There are no results promised; last night I read that “the path is the path”. Happiness is fleeting, no matter how it contrasts to the rest of life. Knowing you makes me happy, and I thank you.


  9. God bless you, Majo! What a wonderful honest expression of what goes on for you and so many in this tumultuous thing called life. Thank you for your words, your love and your light. Peace to you – along with joy, health and wealth!


  10. Majo – you have a wonderful gift for touching people’s hearts (mine for sure) with the oh so honest expression of your ups and downs, good and bad feelings, securities and insecurities. I feel that much of the power your words contain reflect the truth that we all have these but few of us are open, brave, or willing enough to lay them out for others to see and hear; to take that risk in our quest for healing at that deep level. I feel that by your example you give me and others permission and the inspiration to do the same. Thank you for this gift that you give. Many blessings my dear friend – all good things to you in the days to come.


  11. Majo thank you for blessing us in sharing such an intimate poem. I too struggle mightily with my mood swings in the midst of our human struggles to live our lives as best we can. I am convinced looking at the long run me, you, and everyone else is slowing improving. So have cheer in this at times shitty emotional and environmental season. Beats Chicago in the winter for sure!


  12. Just after reading this I had to vacuum up the dog hair and I realized that I’m always blogging in my mind (isn’t everyone? maybe not) but my daughter has said for years that I needed to start a blog and she and others have said I needed to write a book. The other day she said “Mom, let’s write a book” and that opened the idea in a different way from before. So I came back to comment and clicked “like” and at some point I realized that I was signing up for a blog, so there you have it. Maybe I’ll do it. Thank you!


  13. Brynda – partly I blog because I think this is stuff that people ought to read. It always starts just with me needing to express myself – but there’s something extra and special that happens from putting it out there where people can read it. And when I get comments, that’s really hot – thanks for this one.


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