“Violent Certainities”

We all watched with horror as our Democracy was attacked on January 6th. Many speakers and writers have addressed this coup with much more eloquent and incisive words of outrage than I can muster. I was stunned into silence and my outrage choked me. I have kept a scrap of a Harpers Weekly cover on my refrigerator for many years, at least 20 years. The quote on the cover, by Verlyn Klinkenborg referred to anti-abortionists, but it has continued to speak to me on many political and social issues over the years. The quote comes from his article “Violent Certainities”:

               The more I watched…, the more I understood that there was something 

             terribly hard in these people, a ferocious, alienating certainty. There is a

               look that the human face assumes when  the mind stops considering variables….

And that is what I saw last Wednesday. This “ferocious” certainty  is not the truth. It is based on conspiracy theories or the word of a deranged leader.  Let’s be honest, this IS who we are for a large minority in this country. 

This week more news of violence. Last week, several Republican senators refused to wear masks  as they were confined in close quarters with their Democratic colleagues, everyone in fear for their safety. Obviously the “safety” of their colleagues was not a consideration for these Republicans. So far 3 Democratic Senators have tested positive for Covid. More evidence of “violent certainities” that put others lives in danger.  The far right mob beat and killed , smashed windows, trespassed, vandalized and threatened to kill enemies defined by Trump. The Senators refusal to wear masks is another violent act.  

911 God.

Adios 2020

And don’t let the door hit you in the ass….  2021 will begin at 12 a.m. tonight and unless you are looking at the clock you will not be aware the year has changed.  2020 should really slink away in shame and be begging for mercy like some presidents we know. By  years end, just a few hours from now almost 350,000 Americans will have died from Covid 19. And the worse is to come. I can’t comprehend this number, but I know it is one father, one grandmother, one son, one daughter, one sister, one brother…times 350,000.  The amount of grief in the world right now should cause planet Earth to spin out of the Milky Way into oblivion. Instead we are left to 2021, a new year, to renew our spirit and heal our souls.

This past year I have stumbled. My resentment and my hate of Donald Trump have grabbed me by the throat and almost suffocated me. This was extremely damaging to me and I’m sure Trump really didn’t notice. I am resolved I will learn to practice more tolerance and compassion of others and myself.  Fear is at the base of these destructive feelings and I pray for the courage to turn around and confront the Fear. Working from home has been both a blessing and a curse. I can leave the news channels on all day if I want. I can also turn them off or set time limits in 2021. Late this year I deleted my Facebook account and 2021 will be a test of my resolve to stay off this platform. Let’s face it, 2020 has been a real hot mess, but I don’t have to be. 2021 is brand new! 

 In  2020, I’ve learned that humans need human social interaction.  Knowing that I need family and friends in my life does not make me a dependent wimp. It makes me human and interdependent. The refrain “We can get through this together.” has been sorely tested in 2020. Where is the together? You get thru your pandemic and I’ll get thru my pandemic,  and IF we come out the other side we could be  more divided than we are now. We still have a chance in 2021 to get through this together. Everyone has picked their side but there is another option— we all choose to be on the same side.

The economic and racial injustice in our society became front and center this past summer. Is justice dependent on the color of your skin, how big your pocketbook is or who you know? It sure looked like it. I don’t know if we have taken any real steps towards  justice for all,  but we may be looking and leaning in the right direction. Baby steps in 2021.  Standing still is not an option.

Learning opportunities were very plentiful in 2020. Put another way, 2020 sucked. We don’t like to learn new things because it is hard. So as JFK asked do we curse the darkness or light a candle? I plan to light a candle in 2021.

Give Me A Clue

The butler did it, in the parlor, with a candlestick. The game of Clue is a classic board game with rules, but the game of Life can be played anywhere and has no rules. Hardly seems fair. Am I getting “Hot” or “Cold”? I’m afraid some of the paths I went down were taken when my better intuition was screaming “Stop, you’re getting cold, colder, you’re frigid ….” Am I clueless or just not paying attention?

Who? The culprit is me. I’m guilty. I did the deed. I’m always right, until I am amazingly, incredibly…wrong. I’d rather blame you, but I know it’s not you, the other guy, any “other” in fact.  For many years, the truth and I rarely crossed paths. The traits I hated in you were really mine. You done me wrong and I was a victim. The problem was I rarely took responsibility, but when I did I was responsible for everyone else’s behavior towards me. I deserved it, I caused it and I had to stay until I changed it. Running the whole world was my job even when I thought I was a victim, I was just bad at it. It’s hard to be a good actor when you’re  acting in bad faith.  

Where? Anyplace that I called home. There was no geographic cure. Wherever I was I weaponized my arrogant self-hate against myself and others. My reactions and over-reactions were not tied to a spot on a map. I couldn’t outrun myself. Finally I stopped following the bread  crumbs, turned around and said “Boo!  Give me what you got.” It was a messy place for awhile, but at least I wasn’t in a witches pot being prepared for dinner. There were small towns in Iowa that I still think of as where I fell from grace. Time to forgive myself. Colorado has been my place of healing and my return to grace. 

Surely a  heavy candlestick is a good weapon, but I prefer using words.  Words do matter and can destroy an opponent without bloodshed and crime scene tape. Both sharp and blunt words can be effective weapons in taking the life out of someone’s dreams and hopes. My fingerprints can’t be lifted off a destructive rant or lie. Verbal abuse doesn’t leave bruises, but still leaves a mark on the soul. Your tears and my tears are clues a crime has taken place. And of course there’s always “Actions speak louder than words.” My betrayals were news worthy. I now know how powerful kind words are so I might not pick up the weapon of hurtful words so easily

Cue the Pink Panther and Inspector Jacques Clouseau or Sherlock Holmes. Everybody loves a good “Who Done It?” I’ll give you a clue….

Uninhabited Planet

I’ve been having this weird feeling lately that I’m not really living in my body.  An awareness of me watching me, observing my own life, is a strange sensation. So is this the Covid Conundrum? Social isolation may be isolating me from myself. Do I need personal relationships to have a relationship with myself?

Earlier this year, I could walk into “my coffee shop, my home away from home, my office” and be greeted by a familiar face who asked me if I wanted my usual chocolate and raspberry scone. Albeit on a transactional level, they saw me, they knew me and vice versa. Pleasantries were exchanged about the weather and the news while my coffee was being dispensed.  My table was occupied—by me. I had boundaries. I wrote and I worked and life was good. Maybe the best aspect of my coffee shop was the friends who joined me there for coffee. I told them to meet me at my office and they knew what I meant. 

As the world began to open up after lockdown I had to make difficult decisions. Did I feel safe in particular settings and would my friends understand my limits? Several times I had to cancel plans to get together because I was overwhelmed by fear and stopped by a strong belief that the situation was not safe. Friends had different comfort levels and I wanted to be like them, but I had to trust myself. I questioned my decisions and their decisions too, and I began to feel like I was becoming judgmental of myself. I compared myself to others and began to watch myself navigate the post lockdown world and see how I appeared to others. Why wasn’t my comfort level with being out and about the same as some of my friends? Did they know something I didn’t know? 

So now it looks as if vaccine could be widely distributed in my risk level in early 2021. The end of the long experiment of Covid isolation and social distancing will produce unknown results. I know I can’t drop my Covid identity immediately, and I’m not sure what changes the year long Covid world has produced in me. I’m afraid I won’t recognize myself and  I doubt I will be able to slip back into my old roles and life with ease. I’ve  changed and I won’t be the same as I try to fit myself into the new me. It will be interesting.

Vaccine? Who said vaccine?

Demolition

What happened when Humpty Dumpty couldn’t be put back together again? Maybe somebody picked up the broken pieces, threw them all away and began to use new materials to build a new Humpty Dumpty, or maybe some old pieces were saved and new pieces found to rebuild a hybrid Humpty Dumpty. I am conjecturing on a nursery rhyme which is pretty silly, but these questions seem to fit my concerns about returning to “normal” after the Covid crisis. Can we gather the broken pieces of our society, economy  and political environment and simply glue them back together?  Better yet, do we even want to put the country back to where it was before Covid?  

We are in crisis : an unstable or crucial time or state of affairs in which a decisive change is impending; especially : one with the distinct possibility of a highly undesirable outcome <a financial crisis>  We could be past the point of no return, heading back to the way we were is simply no longer an option. In my lifetime I have faced crisis, such as Rogers death, which left me no option to return to the way things were. It was a matter of don’t look back, I wasn’t going that way. 

So facing forward while evaluating what was broken and what was working in the past seems the way to go. My life has fallen apart more times than I would have wished, and the first step I needed to take was to accept it was as bad as it was. Denial blocks any motivation to make changes and protects the status quo, no matter how awful it is. So when things fall apart, start from where you are and keep moving, but keep learning and evaluating each step of the way. The strengths I had needed to stay with me,  but my weaknesses needed to be left behind or transformed.  A personal crisis may highlight poor coping skills just as the Covid crisis has highlighted broken social systems, medical systems and economic systems.  Our President’s incompetence and  lack of leadership are liabilities putting our country’s future at risk.

Opportunities for growth are usually preceeded by pain and confusion. Change is scary and often we are forced to change or wither in our status quo. See how the bird has to break the shell to enter the world or the butterfly has to crack open the cocoon to emerge as a beautiful  thing. There is no returning to the shell or the cocoon. We all hope for spiritual wings as we return to the unknown, our world transformed by crisis.

Go Outside and Play

When I was growing up on the farm Mom suggested more than once that we “Go outside and Play.” We were bugging her and she wanted us out of her hair. Most of the time we wanted to go play outside, inventing games and running in the green grass and hiding out in the trees.  My Mother never told us to make sure to put our masks on, stay six feet apart and wash our hands when we came inside. This is where we are today. I don’t understand how we got here, but we are here. Do you remember those posters showing germs as ugly little creatures to teach children to wash their hands and cover their coughs and sneezes? We need this poster plastered on billboards, Facebook and Instagram for visual learners like me and most of us. It is tempting to say if we can’t see it, it doesn’t exist, but then the body bags should be a clue. Can we really “protect” our children from the catastrophes of the real world.

Baby Boomers, remember the Atomic Bomb drills from elementary school? We were taught to crawl under our desks and cover our heads.  This later came to be known as the “…bend over and kiss your ass goodbye” drill. I worried about the atomic bomb and wondered if the cement walls in our basement would be a good bomb shelter. I believed adults when they told me this would protect me. The nuclear arms race was really a children’s game with deadly consequences. Are you out of snowballs or not? We agree the game is over, we have no more snowballs and won’t make anymore. It was trust, but verify, then, as it is now. Snowballs are not nuclear war heads, children may understand this better that adults.

Vietnam and “….our boys come home in a box.” Still not men, 17 and 18 year old boys died in the jungle. They were our sons, brothers and friends and we were in shock that death came to claim our young. Young bodies and minds were permanently disfigured, the trauma of war still claiming victims even today. Children saw their Mommas cry when their older brother returned home a double amputee. And the anger that tore this country apart left children with questions that couldn’t be answered. 

We had fire drills but we never had active shooter drills in elementary and high school. Certainly worrying about getting gunned down in the halls of my school was not a fear I had. Talking about who was dating who and how much fun  the weekend party was were my concerns. Sandy Hook happened when I was in my forties and everything changed. How do you protect first graders from bullets? How do you protect students with no where to run, maybe hiding under their desks? Children are afraid to go to school and must practice what to do if someone is shooting at them. We hope active shooter drills will at least help children feel they have actions to take in the face of fear—a tiny sliver of control.

Childhood innocence never lasts very long. Reality comes in and steals it away. Is there hope in the face of catastrophes that define our lives? Read the sidewalk chalk for notes of solidarity during the Covid 19 crisis and count the Teddy bears in the windows. Neighbors checking on each other, feeding each other and comforting each other. After this virus passes, when we are able to put our lives and hearts back together, my hope is we will have learned to stand together and love thy neighbor. Then let’s all go outside and play!

If we are paying attention, (and often we are not), life gets our attention with a gentle movement of air, like a feather.  Sitting still, our mind is quiet and we become aware that we have discovered a solution to a problem.  Figuring it out has seldom worked for me. Life really isn’t a math problem to be solved. This is good news for me as math has never been my best subject. 

It turns out sitting and being still is  productive, or at least a gateway to getting out of our own way.  “Be still and know that I am God.” has always been so comforting to me. If only I made it my first choice. 

“Excuse me.”  Someone around us wants our attention, often times to get us to move out of the way or listen to what they have to say. Excuse me is a polite way to ask permission to enter someone’s personal space. Usually “Excuse me” is said a couple of times and louder if need be. If I am not aware of my surroundings and the people near me, I become deaf to their words and presence. I may not hear them or even see them. My personal space can be a lonely space without contact from the outside. One is a lonely number, and ours is the only opinion

“Mom watch me!” As a child, whatever move Tyler had mastered he wanted to show me. Such innocence in his request, and I didn’t always watch. If I had to do it over again I would watch every time and tell him how great he was. Sometimes he would catch me not listening to him, (other things were so important) , and he would demand “Mom, listen to me. You’re not listening.” And later I would demand the teenager, Tyler, to listen to me.  “Stop texting and look at me, pay attention to me!” Sooner or later we will be “called out” by loved ones if we are not paying attention. We all need to feel like we matter and are worthy of others attention. The voices in my head can be pretty demanding too. “Why are you doing this? You know better than this.” Even if I know how things will turn out I may fool myself into thinking that this time will be different. The voices in my head can direct me to positive and negative actions. Do I always have to listen to those voices? Can I trust myself? 

At times, life seems like a whack-a-mole arcade game and I am not wielding the mallet. Is it all random? I’m just going along, minding my own business and bam I get hit on the head. I could be left with a mild headache or a severe head injury. Life has my attention now, and I better be listening and learning. Denial can be a first response but it better not be the only and the last response. I could get back to this silly whack-a-mole game and not even realize that there are different games that don’t require a sledgehammer to get my attention. And still it’s the sledgehammers of Rogers dementia and death that have fundamentally changed me. I had to pay attention, even when I thought I would be unable to live with the truth. Today in the still, quiet moments or in the hectic beat of daily life I never forget what the sledgehammers have taught me and I am a better person because of this.

All inclusive cruise. comes with free coronavirus and quarantine. 

P.S. Postscript

Postscript: a note or series of notes that are added at the end of a letter, article or book

What follows are postscripts that were NOT added.

Hamlet: To be or not to be that is the question:Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, Or to take arms against a sea of troubles And by opposing end them.
P.S. What’s a guy gotta do to get a drink around here?

Marie Antoinette: Let them eat cake                                      P.S. Save a slice for me.

Robert Frost:Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.                                                                                   P.S. Damn!  Phone was dead and I couldn’t use google maps

Henry David Thoreau:

 I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when it came to die, discover that I had not lived.

P.S. I’m sad. My neighbors were awful but I can’t get pizza delivered in the woods.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe: What is important in life is life, and not the result of life.                                                  P.S. I hope that makes sense.

Friedrich Nietzsche: He who has a why, can bear almost any how.                                                                                      P.S. So what do you think?

George Bernard Shaw: A life spent making mistakes is not only more honorable, but more useful than a life spent doing nothing.                                                                           P.S. I never make mistakes. Now What?

Lou Holtz: Life is ten percent what happens to you and ninety percent how you respond to it.                                   P..S. I have the polls to support this.

Donald J. Trump: Article 2 says I can do anything I want.       P.S. I did check and Vlad agrees with me.

Yogi Berra: it ain’t over till the fat lady sings.                    P.S. I need a fat lady now!

Thanks to my best friend Susan who suggested I write on P.S. Good Idea❤️❤️❤️

 

 

 

Running Away

I am now jogging 3 miles a day 6 days a week! Yes, that deserves at least one exclamation point. After aborting several times due to knee pain, I followed my doctors suggestion : start slow and build up slowly. As you all know going slowly and patience are not what I am known for. And yes I am too old, but I am doing it anyway. I am thrilled that I am able to run again and even have those moments when running is easy and it feels good. Seeing different areas around my home makes me feel like an explorer who is seeing the old with new eyes. The view from 67 is hopeful, realistic and makes me laugh. I laugh because it really is funny how life has slapped me around, but I’m still standing, running and content.

What runs through my head as my feet move and I breathe hard, is not likely to win the Pulitzer Prize for literature. It goes something like this: “ It is 8:20, 8:50 will be a half hour so lock it in and stop looking at your watch. Pay attention to what’s in front of you— no falls. Which way to go? This way. Not too cold this morning. I have to go to work so better move fast when I get home. I wonder how Tyler is doing today. What the hell should I write about this week. I can’t think of anything. How about this..no..how about this? What am I going to wear today? God I’m so glad I can run! This feels good. I am so grateful I CAN do this and I AM doing this. Keep going….” My musings will not bring world peace or cure cancer, but I take comfort in the mundane. Many years ago when I ran I often tested out the “perfect” comeback to whichever battle I was in. Why didn’t I say that? That beeach, how dare she? Or I imagined how my current boyfriend would fall in love with me. So yes, the mundane is comforting.

Why on earth would I freely choose to go through the painful ordeal of beginning to run again and working up to 3 miles? The short answer is I didn’t start out to do this. I simply wanted to see if I could jog to the end of the block. Maybe I could do 2 blocks? I felt ok, so let’s see if I can go a little further. Work up slowly the doctor said.  So I began and kept promises to myself, slow and steady. 40 years ago I used to chant “ A for effort, no A for pretty.” Nike and I chanted “Just do it!” I write, play banjo, crochet and run with a “Just do it!” mantra. I explore new things without expecting that I will be an expert, again starting out slowly and keep going.

I run from my home back to my home, I end where I started. So I am running away from home at the same time as I running back to my home! Now that’s a conundrum for sure….  The thing is I don’t care, coming or going, I am still running. 

Lifelines

I am thrilled to introduce Molly, the newest member of my family and Roscoe’s baby sister. Molly is a dear, and reaches out with her paw to get her pets. Molly G. is very tiny, only about 7 pounds. She of course has a pink harness and leash. Roscoe has a lime green leash with at least 5 knots tied in it to shorten how far he can roam. I can’t let Roscoe get too far over his skis! If I keep him close to me I can pull him back quickly and scoop him up if I need to. Too much freedom could be a dangerous situation for him. He has poor impulse control, especially where big dogs and squirrels are concerned. I have never used a leash where he can go out quite aways from me because I have control issues too.

Sometimes I think I should have a leash that would hold me back from my verbal diarrhea that has, and most assuredly will get away from me again. So yes, I have some poor impulse control too. Still I can’t shake the feeling that my “knots” have also held me back from saying what needed to be said and telling my truth. If I let the truth be tied up in knots and remain silent, than I am lying. Don’t go too far, don’t say that, don’t be angry, just DON’T. So how many knots should I untie today? It is my birthday so this seems a good question for today. 

I think I can let people-pleasing off my leash. No use trying to control what other people think of me, it is totally a waste of time. I don’t have to laugh at jokes I find offensive, or bite my tongue when others are being mis- treated. The only “people” I need to please is myself, and I trust myself to know that I am very pleased to be loving and caring. No one can punch right through me because I am both solid and transparent. I can’t be pushed around by others opinions, and I can be transparent with who I am. I don’t have to adjust myself to other people. It is simple to be myself, but very difficult too. It will take me a bit of time to get this “knot” untied, but I am starting today, now.

This feels good!  How about I let go of the “I’m too old.” excuse. I know I can’t do everything my younger self could do, but I can do lots more than I think I can. I can’t be an elite runner,  but I can run 3 miles a day. It’s very unlikely that I will win a Grammy, but I can play banjo and even sing. My writing won’t show up on the New York Times bestsellers and I will continue to write anyway. I can learn how to do many things that are not age limited.  Untying the ”I’m too old” knot may take a bit longer due to my mild arthritis, but damn, it will get done.

When I get to the end of my life, I hope I will not be tied up in knots. Maybe a bow!

I’ll try anything once.  Alice Roosevelt