Confronting reality on a weekend…

It’s a sunny Saturday morning, 27º and headed for the 40s this afternoon. Monday’s forecast high of 55º will be a bit of a heat wave, and if the wind stays down and the sun stays out, imma plan a river walk, brief though it might be. Meanwhile, I’m quickly forming an attachment to the treadmill upstairs and we put in a solid fifteen minutes together yesterday. Gonna go say hey again before KU-KState b-ball this afternoon since the game will have me glued to my chair for the duration.

Lately I’ve been taking weekends off and deliberately emptying my head of thoughts that clamor for expression… but there are fellow humans in every area of life who don’t have that option and might never at any point. Not to play favorites, but if nobody was working at the hospital, for instance, when our weekend emergencies happened, we’d know we were in a world of hurt. The hard truth is, we’re IN that world now, we just don’t have the knowing yet.

We’re in year three of a pandemic that didn’t have to be like this… a disaster that could have been stopped in its tracks in the same way ebola, smallpox, rabies, polio, and the flu were dealt with… and if our early-detection systems around the world hadn’t been dismantled by TFG… or if any real measures whatsoever had been undertaken after we knew what it was… we’d be in a far different place this morning. But since none of that happened, a world more soberingly real than anything we may have imagined is right on our doorstep.

The brave new world that’s headed our way will register on people’s consciousness dead last here in the heartland, but it’s already being felt in the cities. I know someone who at one point was managing three hospital units including her own, and helping another manager with three or four additional units. Another nurse spent some time in a small African country where people in the hospital were lying on the floor, some of them seizing, with people simply walking over them. She knows it’s only a matter of time until the U.S. looks that same way because, to quote yet another RN, “At some point all of these customer service surveys and trying to turn the healthcare experience into a five-star hotel or resort stay will be shown up for the farce that it actually is. You either are dying and get the emergent care that you need and somehow find a way to pay for it, or you die. No more of this ‘my food wasn’t tasty enough, my room wasn’t clean enough, my sheets weren’t soft enough, the nurse wasn’t pretty enough, the nurse didn’t speak to me subserviently enough… ‘”

There’s a level of incivility toward medical personnel from patients and family members that inevitably bleeds over into interactions among staff and departments to the point that structure disintegrates… chaos eventually reigns… and Americans, of all people, sooner rather than later, walk into New York-Presbyterian Hospital to find fellow humans writhing on the floor for lack of beds and/or personnel. It sounds like a made-for-TV movie, but if you’re connected to the healthcare world at all, you know this country is right on the edge.

COVID and its children have only multiplied and strengthened, regardless what anyone wants to believe. It isn’t slowing down, it isn’t confining itself to the old and infirm, its voracious appetite for living its best life has not diminished. The world’s efforts to be stupidly valiant in its presence are laughable and thoroughly tragic. In my own formative years, we stared polio down and turned it into history, but 65 years later Americans seem to be devolving, most definitely to our own detriment. The vaccine technology that once saved us has become our enemy and I wish I didn’t know that about my fellow man. We are, of all species, most to be pitied, for we so richly deserve our fate. Sometimes you get what you ask for. Probably one of Murphy’s laws…

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Totally random…

Happy 100th, Betty, and thank you.

Remember broomstick skirts? I do, and I was doing fairly okay with the aging process until my throat started looking like one… so now, like Nora Ephron, I feel bad about my neck. Filters (did you know they have cotton-candy hair?) may or may not have been employed in the making of this image, but if any were, they were clearly defenseless against the throat rebellion. Just a reminder of how real life can be…

Waiting for spring with a whole new intensity this year, which is misguided since we’re barely into winter for real. The thought of walking outdoors, on real surfaces, in fresh air and sunshine, is genuinely tantalizing at this point… but since it’s currently 12º out, headed for a blazing high of 19, I plan to make the acquaintance of the treadmill in the 5th-floor workout room in about 5… 4… 3… Time to grease the zircs, oil the hinges, and get this show on the road. Rita Jo’s out there every nice day, finding the cool walking trails, and I’m consumed with envy, so I have to get there… starting with a benign stroll on the flat sidewalk along the Kaw. FIRST NICE DAY!!

Still maintaining my extended fast from TV news, but I’m fully aware that the insanity continues unabated. It’s cause for both tears and laughter, so I look hard for the humor and kindred spirits.

*****

When it’s over, it’s over, but I keep a good thought.

On the subject of current events…

The weekend starts tomorrow, or if you live in #lfk, tonight. Absorb all the good from it…

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Forever…

Oh hi, just me here, thinking about stuff again. We emerged yesterday from ten days of frigid temps, snow, fog, and rain… by which I mean all of 2022 thus far… so today’s high near 60º will feel like a holiday. We may get to enjoy a couple days’ worth before the cold asserts itself again, and this reminder of spring is tantalizing. However… 

… BACK, that is.

A thought: I have three partial rolls of Forever stamps in a caddy on my desk. Considering the number of pieces of snail mail we send in a year’s time, that may be how long they last – forever. The post office will be a distant memory and someone will find these sticky tokens, and wonder… and if that turns out to be the most puzzling artifact in my house, I will have dodged a number of bullets.

If you’re looking for an exquisite read, I recommend The Air You Breathe by Frances de Pontes Peebles. There were passages that literally took my breath away, left me in tears, transported my winter carcass out of the cave. It’s a compelling, layered story beautifully told.

From the sublime to the ridiculous… I see this morning that “urine” is still trending on Twitter because all over America people who think they’re part of a master race are drinking their own pee. Horse meds with a piss chaser for “treating” COVID, as opposed to vaccines… anything to own the other half. This is actually where we find ourselves at the start of Pandemic, Year Three. I can step back, separate myself from all of it, and muse about the implications until ever-present reality steps in again and I want to circle the wagons for protection and support… and then I realize people I used to turn to aren’t there anymore and aren’t invested in what’s up. The shock of that knowledge has worn off, but the ache never leaves.

And then I come across other news and facts, and have to face it that the ridiculous is totally in vogue right now.

DISCLAIMER: The law has not yet been instituted, but it’s on the books.

Ready or not, sublime or ridiculous, we’re swimming in the waters of a new year, human-ing and hoping for the best. Each of us has challenges to meet, unique to us but universal to the race, and that’s where our hearts and minds will be. The year 2022 will inevitably be a stretch in ways we have yet to envision, so I hope we’ll all experience some “outside myself” moments, some chances to be there for someone else, to make those small differences that make ALL the difference. And if we find ourselves with softer hearts when (if) 2023 rolls around, we will have won something important.

*****

Old(er), not old. Age, like sex, happens 99% in the brain.

And that brings us full-circle back to forever, which we all wish belonged to us and maybe does, we’re just not sure how or where. Seems like an okay idea to live like it’s a fact… with everybody’s forever in mind.

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What they wanted…

Artist Credit: Bozorgmehr Hosseinpour
"We wanted to help people
We were smart and driven
We loved science and physiology, humans and disease
So we made a commitment
We signed up
It was an honor

We read thousands of pages
Attended hundreds of lectures
Pulled all-nighters
Took more exams than we thought possible
Finals week felt insurmountable
But it didn’t break us
It made us stronger

We learned statistics and biochemistry
Immunology and pathophysiology
We mastered genetics, virology and pharmacology
We read scientific papers and learned how to dissect them
Papers, not videos
It was an honor

We came running when you needed us
Literally, running down the hallway
To the ICU, the trauma bay, labor and delivery
I need help, you said
We can help, we said
It was an honor

There were moments that we thought would break us
Moments that drove us to journaling, to therapy, to nightmares
Broken babies.
Paralyzed children.
Dead pregnant mothers with three kids at home.
The wail of a mother whose son just died.
We bent but we did not break
We returned because you needed us
And we could help
It was an honor

Then there was fear
Fear of walking into our place of work
Fear that we’d be killed by going to work
Fear that we’d kill a loved one because of our work
There were tears and sleepless nights and anti-anxiety medications
But you banged your pots and pans
You sent us pizzas and called us heroes
You needed us
We could help
So we wore our masks, and our gowns, and our gloves, and our goggles
We decontaminated ourselves before going home and isolated ourselves from our families
We almost broke
It was an honor

How quickly the joy turned to defeat
Elation to rage
You’ve learned to do your own research now
You know better than we do
Gaslighting is your language
Your selfishness is astounding
You don’t want our help when we ask you to stay healthy
Yet you arrive at our doors begging for help at the end

You stole our resources
You hobbled our ability to help those who did what they were supposed to do
You killed our patients by filling our beds and using up our ventilators
We can’t help any more
You broke us
There is no more honor”

- Anonymous

A poem written by a physician after reflecting on the veteran who died in Texas because of the ICU bed shortage. 
Artist credit:
Bozorgmehr Hosseinpour

*****NOT A DISCLAIMER: I read yesterday that people are simply done with COVID and all its iterations, finished, through, sick of hearing about it, and I know in my bones that's a fact. But it doesn't change the equal and opposite fact that COVID doesn't care, it just wants to eat, sleep, live, and reproduce, and will for as long as we allow it. Our refusal to deal with facts is bringing our amazing, incredible, unmatched, behemoth of a healthcare apparatus down on our heads and the implosion will be... simply beyond. We've been warned... and warned... and warned... and we do not care. Sars-cov-2 is now part of the warp and woof of human existence, and the cost will be incalculable. "The fall thereof was great... "

There's nothing you nor I can do about any of it now, unless you're unvaccinated. You have the power to do that much and it isn't too late yet. The variants are becoming increasingly uglier, but the vaccinated are staying out of hospitals when they do fall ill. However tired you are of knowing about it, the death toll goes on relentlessly. And the people who once had the tools, energy, and incentive to help are finding other ways to stay alive. May whatsoever gods there be have mercy on us.

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Friends and family…

Once more into the fire, and tomorrow the answers start showing up… did we find the right nerve? Will fusion be the fix? Will I get my life back? Those are the operative questions, see what I did there?

None of this would be happening without Kim, who told me from the beginning that he was going to keep looking for whatever would stop the pain. I was 57 when he married me, skeletal from grief anorexia and fried from years of caregiving and loss, but still a house afire and totally into living life. Fast-forward to 2021 and increased degeneration from the accident I told you about… https://playingfortimeblog.com/2021/10/04/a-fractured-fairytale/ … has nearly immobilized me, so it’s gradually become a fact of life to be dealt with… will I stay on my own two feet, or is that becoming history?

It’s been a long time getting here, but fifty years after I first became acquainted with intractable nerve pain, we “know a guy.” There’ve been a lot of starts and stops along the way, most of them total dead-ends, but from here to Wichita to Scottsdale and points between we’ve checked out information and leads and promises and guesses, and it’s always been “We think this could help… we can try this procedure… welp… we tried.” A senior-staff spine surgeon, without so much as sitting down or making eye contact, told me in 2018 that nothing could be done to upgrade the state of my spine, so I came home with something settled in me that said “Don’t bother exercising, it only ramps up the pain.” That wasn’t a conscious decision, but the psyche is a powerful and mysterious universe and knows how to shut us down.

This fall, with things clearly falling apart in the pillar that holds me upright, Kim raised the ante and went in search of any helpful information available. A PickleBall friend told him about his wife, my age, who had robotic-assisted spinal surgery in Kansas City and is walking again without pain. Another PickleBall buddy told us about her own friend, my age, who had yet another KC surgeon do the same surgery, with similar positive results.

Boys and girls, medical robotics have arrived in the heartland and the Young Turks are on it. A primary factor in our move to Lawrence was the stellar medical community here and in next-door Kansas City, and that’s been proven wise over and over. We’ve had critical need for their gifts many times in the eight years we’ve lived in this Kansas cocoon, and nobody has disappointed us so far. And before we’d even settled in, Kim started making himself part of the neighborhood, the community… local… bringing us now to a personable young surgeon with a shiny resumé who knows how to “fix it.”

So tomorrow we’re going to fix it. Please keep a good thought.

Not this part…
not this part…
not even the trainwreck in the middle, just one key spot.

The x-rays are this side of obscene, but the amazing fact is that I stand straight… I just can’t keep moving for more than a few minutes.

Before they bring in the Happy Juice, I’m saying thank you to the guy who got me here, because it wouldn’t have happened without him. However this turns out, he never gave up the quest. When he married me I was under a hundred pounds, brown as a bean, and vibrating with life. Seventeen years later I’m over a hundred pounds, white from lack of sun, nearly deaf, evading seizures every chance I get, and on the cusp of living out my days on a Jazzy. Not sure why I’m even still hanging around, but the heartfelt hope is that after tomorrow it will start getting less tricky by the day to be here.

This isn’t the first time the KIMN8R has saved my life. He’s the cook who brought me back from the edge when we met, and he’s fed me irresistible food every day for all these years. He keeps me laughing, makes sure the adventure doesn’t end, holds me when I cry (a lot), lets me be me, end of story… and he believes in me. From the moment we met, it was going to be him or no one (I said no one, but never tempt fate), and against all odds he’s kept me putting one foot in front of the other.

While preemptively fighting my battles for me, he’s had his own challenges since January 2021, including 45 radiation treatments for an aggressive form of cancer, followed by months of other therapies and protocols, ongoing in 2022. He aced the radiation and went on to double his exercise quotient in order to maintain his conditioning for putting up with me… a job he says he was born to, and he’s so right. He’s at fighting weight and I couldn’t be more fortunate to have him as my cornerman. For six years he helped nurture Robert’s mother in her 90s and made her days far more interesting, fun, and lifegiving than if it had been just me all the time. He didn’t get to do that for his own family and he values it above price. In my world he’s The Guy for all the things.

In the current atmosphere, with relationships coming apart all around us, I remember people who watched two wounded human beings find love and happiness and said “I give it six months.” Have any of them ever felt a twinge over their cynicism, I wonder? Doesn’t matter…

I’m not sure most of #lfk knows Kim Smith has a wife since he’s always by himself, so I’m ready to get past tomorrow, and the three months after that, and whatever after that… and get out there with my ol’ man again.

Let’s do this.

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Anger vs Gratitude…

Woke up yesterday morning processing anger, straight out of a dream… Kim said the growls and grumbling at 6am, which he first mistook for snoring, were truly impressive. I repeatedly ran everything through the wood chipper all day but the fury remains untamed as of wake-up time this morning.

Also, write this down: I DO NOT SNORE. However, my dreams are a wonder to behold for scope and realism. Yikes.

The catalyst for the renewed angst seems to have been a combo of things… fresh statistics illustrating our dismal outlook in the face of COVID and its progeny… the fact that we find ourselves in this position due to humans’ inability to care about other humans… and a heartbreaking article about the burden we’ve placed on the medical world and the toll that’s taking.

The pandemic is as much an industrial-strength shock to the medical community as to the rest of us out here who of course know it all. Those medical people spent long years full of sleepless nights on little food, learning how to save lives, maybe even yours or mine someday. That’s their drive, to make people better and thus the world a teensy bit softer for the landings. And they’re good at it, really good, and they know things, and have seen and done things which you and I do not want to know, see, or do… nor will we, because we don’t have what it takes.

Medical personnel do the jobs they’ve been trained and educated to do on an equal-opportunity basis… pigment, religion, politics, and rude combative patients notwithstanding, they do their jobs. And then one day a snazzy new virus knocks on the door like the skeavy Orkin termite, and the game changes overnight. The breakout quickly becomes the pandemic the world has now been living in for two years, all medical personnel, equipment, and hospital units required for the flood of sick and dying. It’s no longer about “making things better,” there’s no time. You keep the patient on your right alive, if possible, while losing the one on your left. The hours blur while you pull double shifts on your feet, clothed in trash bags and week-old masks because the supply closets are bare, praying you don’t catch whatever this thing is and end up dropping in your tracks. And then you watch that very thing happen to a colleague… and then another. And in a heartbeat, working in the medical field has become more about death than life.

Months have passed, you’re still pulling all your shifts and more, and now the monster has a name… Coronavirus. Or COVID-19. Or just COVID. There are even approved vaccines available… but not for you… because medical people, some of the first and longest-exposed, are not at the top of anybody’s priority list, which should have been an early indicator of where it would all end up. We only hurt the ones we love… or need like air and water.

Now you’re lonnnng months into the process, which feels less like a battle and more like an endurance race. You’ve gone from hero… “Doctor, please, help me!” “Nurse, I need you, please!” … to zero. “No, I DO NOT HAVE COVID, YOU’RE LYING!!” “It’s a HOAX! I can’t die!!” Nurses and doctors have been assaulted, insulted, spit on, screamed at, and blamed for letting people die of a scary disease those same people refused to vaccinate for. In the hopeless melee, the lofty goal of making things better dies a quiet death, and people we desperately need for our own selfish purposes are simply not there anymore. Their own institutions, in many cases, haven’t backed them up, haven’t provided the safety measures needed, haven’t compensated them for their heroic over & above sacrifices. The public, in too many places, has turned on them in ways we could never have imagined. These nurses and doctors see their lives trickling out, day by day, for a goal that no longer feels reachable… and for a populace that wouldn’t know the difference if the landings were made softer… and they’re finding other, less soul-killing things to do.

In parts of our nation where COVID and its variants are rampant, the bright shiny people who wanted to make a difference are walking away. Why risk death for people who don’t in the least mind if you drop in your tracks because they refused the antidote? Or because your employer doesn’t want to pay extra staff. Or “extra staff” is now a figment of the imagination. We won’t comprehend what we’ve lost until they’ve all taken their gifts elsewhere.

The pandemic is nowhere close to being over. Two thousand people a day are still dying in the “greatest nation on earth.” It hasn’t magically disappeared, it hasn’t been prayed away, it’s with us for the duration, however long Mother Earth lets us stay in the nest. As so often happens now, the minority chose for all of us, and life here will never be the same. I’m exorcising my rage today by paying homage to every person in the medical community who has tried, against insurmountable odds, to change the outcome, to save all lives possible, to make a difference. Thank you for BEING THERE and for using who you are to slow our slide to hell. Really, truly… thank you forever.

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Heyyy, guess what day it is… ??

Here we are at HumpDay again, boys & girls, always an opportune time to assess where we’ve been and where we’re going. Any given week has the potential to end better than it started, so a word of hope… or solidarity… or humor can make all the difference.

Week #50 in the Year 2021 has held these bits of knowledge so far…

The pandemic unleashed by a deadly virus and multiplied by earth-dwellers who refuse the antidote, colors every part of daily living now. And the “greatest” nation leads the civilized world in death and suffering. We are an incomprehensible species, set on our own destruction. ‘Splain that, Lucy…

“We’re not taking it because we have no idea what’s in it.” Fair enough, provided all of your bodily choices are based on similar information.

A related thought:

And a point that neatly sizes up our current situation:

Our plates are full, here at the end of our second pandemic year, with much to sort and discard and much to reconcile with what we knew of truth. It feels better not to drag the same ol’ ratty stuff into a shiny new year. A head-on look at everything that’s transpired in the last twelve months is likely to grab us by the nose and take us down a rabbit hole of feelings, so there’s that, but since truth and facts are prime, it’s necessary to make the trip.

And then, for the sake of health, happiness, and that other thing… rhymes with health… we disengage from it all… and breathe… separate the truth from the litter and keep moving. I say it a lot… “Keep moving.” Life doesn’t stop for us, it doesn’t care, it’s not made that way, so we go with it or find ourselves hauling the ass-end of it all the time.

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Journaling toward peace…

Last week while triumphantly purging my Drafts folder, I found this piece from 2016 sitting in there untitled, and I remember receiving an okay to print it but for some reason never did. It was written by someone I know, after TFG won the White House in 2016, and reads like a road map to where we find ourselves today, so now is its time to see daylight.

A compelling viewpoint, shared by permission…

11/09/2016 – Physically ill this morning. America got the president it deserves. May the “greatest generation” and their ignorant, bigoted offspring live long enough to see the suffering that their choice creates. I’m fearful for B’s safety, and my own.

11/10/2016 – My spare thoughts are given to the idea of leaving, and if and/or when that might become a necessity. Not the best sleep I’ve ever had.

11/12/2016 – As I’ve had time to process, I’m feeling more resolved to see what comes and to approach it with optimism. Leaving would only help place the country even more in the grips of the ignorant deplorables who believe that God and their newly-elected president will save them from all they hate. And we’ll see. Perhaps he’ll ruffle feathers on both sides of the aisle and actually stir positive change. Or, he may fall under the spell of the conservative puppet masters and do real damage. But my fear of the latter doesn’t promote health in my own body/psyche, so I’m letting it go – as best I can. I’m working out, I’m eating well and being the best I can be, so that my life is enjoyable for me and a refutation to all those who believe that their god should, and will, smite me. I felt physically ill for the first couple of days, and was filled with bitter anxiety, and I’m letting that go. Living well, and happily fulfilled, is the best revenge.

As for safety, my conversations with B and various coworkers have been revealing. It’s only us, those of us who consider ourselves “enlightened whites” who are truly upset. One year into Obama’s first term, the black populace at large gave up on their (misguided) dream that their black savior had arrived to put right all that had been done, for generations, to demean and belittle them. And those who were never misguided, such as B and most of my coworkers, and who realized that one man – even if granted 8 years – could never overcome that much baggage, are resolved, as they have been their entire lives, to wake up and move through another day under the leadership of whoever is sitting in that seat. As they rightly point out, they were being gunned down in their own homes and during routine (profiled) traffic stops as much, if not more, than ever under Obama, so what’s the difference really? Their schools were being defunded and consolidated into even more wasteful and poorly run “charter schools of excellence.” When your skin color or race has been a key to oppression your whole life, and you learn from infancy not to trust leadership, then leadership does not matter.

B was sad for me that I was so hurt by it, but he was not in the least surprised by the outcome or any more worried about his future or safety – he lives with that fear every day anyway, something I had not fully understood. So, we’ll stay put unless things get crazy and we are physically threatened on a regular basis.  And in the meantime I’ll try not to be mean-spiritedly joyous when the deplorables suffer. The day after the election, General Motors announced that they were laying off 2000 workers in Ohio and Michigan, two states that voted for Trump because he’s going to get their jobs back. Imagining their confused, devastated faces brought me more glee than I care to acknowledge. But that’s as unhealthy as my own anxious depression. Those are lives and children and aging parents and stories too. I won’t become the fount of hatred that I detest in my “enemies.” Here’s to improvements where we can find them and strength to stand up and speak when those around us are being abused.

11/21/2016 – We’ve all had a lot of processing to do, and each of us does it in our own way.

Initially I read every bit of news, no matter how painful, in the vain hope that I might read something that would reverse the actual truth. But instead, I got an unbalanced helping of articles that said “it won’t really be as bad as we think it will be, it can’t be because…” and the alternative, which was always along the lines of “here’s how easily Trump will erase Obama’s legacy and gut: (your choice) the arts, gay rights, healthcare, etc.”

So then I stopped reading the news entirely, escaping into retail therapy and fluff pieces on psychology and history.

Now I’m back somewhere in the middle, taking my truth with the lumps so that my eyes are open, but not getting too bogged down in it.

Otherwise it is much the same here. Work, household chores – and now that it’s getting cooler, cozying up in the evening and staying to ourselves.

11/22/2016 – And now we wait, as the President-Elect prepares to appoint White Supremacists to key government positions and mixes his own business dealings with the machinations of world government. We wait. And in the meantime we LIVE.

We don’t have the luxury of allowing rampant ignorance to thrive.

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Personal choice…

There’s a fun little thing that happens to some of us when we cross a certain threshold on the I-can’t-believe-I’m-this-old track: it sort of stops mattering whether other people like us very much. Except for animals and babies… we still care about the innocents because they look straight at us without trying to hide anything and all they want to know is whether we might hurt them.

Here’s the deal, people can like me or not, it doesn’t matter much either way… I have far less time on this planet than I’ve ever had before and I can’t spend it worrying about things I can’t change. It isn’t that I don’t care, it’s simply none of my business what anybody thinks of me, thank goodness. Jeez, look how many I’s and me’s are in this paragraph alone and it’s obvious to both of us that it’s time to lay it down. Nobody with this many rings around the ol’ cankles has the latent energy to deal with that much id, baby. I lied about the cankles.

What is this gibberish and why does it pass for sanity-based some days? Could it be that’s what the world feels like in my head when I’m being honest? Ah, yes… yes it could. This has been a time, so people really should lower their expectations and get over it because most of us are doing the best we can. A lot of “doing my best” these days is sarcasm-based and slathered in humor because I wouldn’t survive without it. Humor gets its funny from sideswiping truth so closely you can see the paint-transfer marks after it goes by, and there’s almost nothing better for getting through life.

Christmas is a logical place to start this morning…

TOPICAL…

Another thing about humor is that it isn’t always funny.

I like being a baby boomer and except for the obvious drawbacks, I like being older. It takes a long time to get here, with a lot of mishaps along the way, but it’s more than worth the trip. The mishaps and setbacks have built a system for the long haul and I’m here for it.

Boomers are fierce…

We know shit.
Rarely the first time at least.
We know this for sure.
If yours doesn’t, mine would say you’re lucky. Maybe knowing how to say things is the greatest threat of all.
Pretty sure there’s a book or two in me that will never see daylight.

*****

If life and truth are compadres, we all end up here…

“The parts of yourself that you gave away… ”

Never, never, never regret the giving.

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Broken world…

a_broken_world_by_elsilencio-d3735pv

the world got broken

we weren’t sure that could that really happen

but it did and now

we’ll probably get blamed

JSmith 12/07/2021

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The view from here…

Overcast Sunday morning, but headed for the 60s this afternoon and Kim’s jonesing for a bike ride or some PickleBall… we’ll see what’s in the cards. But first a nice soak for the ancient bones.

The annual Fall Purge juju has hit and I’m primed to pare things down some more. Looks okay on the surface, but my brain remembers what’s stacked beneath. Cyber files, mostly, including thousands of photos, but there are still various bins and containers lurking, some of whose contents feel threatening to the touch during rough times. The psyche and I will get to all of it… sometime, at the right time. [Thx, my friend, for that convo this morning.]

And just when I was thinking it was safe to go back in the online waters, my Emotional Support Canadian resigned this morning via Twitter, pleading exhaustion. Says we’re on our own here. Didn’t even sound that regretful. Go home, America, you’re drunk – you’ve managed to lose goodwill from people who actually wanted to like us.

Soooo, what have I found for the disenchanted Sunday morning subculture that is us?

DISCLAIMER: I don’t identify as atheist, because who am I to say? And I don’t identify as Christian because I put in the time with them that allows me to have a say. In my 74+ years, life has taught me, humbled me, broken and remade me, caused me to call on all remaining brain cells, and given me incentive to stay the course. In terms of the universe, I know nothing except what it tells me, and this I know… whatever/whomever made/caused/set in motion the cosmos in which we find ourselves… we are it and it is us. Every molecule that ever existed is from a single source, which indicates a creator, either intentional or not. So… was whatever started this whole thing benign? Benevolent? Neither? Had a plan? Never gave a shit in the first place, just birthed a gigantic cosmos and wandered off? Did he/she/it do the whole thing as an experiment… or a taunt at an enemy… or did it hit a lever and OOPS?? Does it hate our guts, wish he/she/it could be rid of us? I mean, something keeps trying, but we keep insisting on masks and vaccinations and such…

This much I’ve learned…

  1. WE are the boogeyman.
  2. Nobody’s coming to save us.
  3. There is no Planet B.
  4. Kindness and cruelty are equally powerful – we choose.
  5. Earth would be healthier without us, but we persist. The least we could do is stop shitting in our own nest.

Not proselytizing for Abject Unbelief here, just a fan of clear-thinking approaches to all of life, so a little thought-food for the unfaithful…

DISCLAIMER #2: The above is neither a christian-bash nor a boast of any kind, it’s an invitation to all of us to be brave about truth. If it offends you and/or makes you want to shoot me dead, ask yourself why that is. Only you can say.

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Sea changes…

Whether we’re true believers, hangers-on, or equal-opportunity revelers, the holiday season from Thanksgiving to Easter exerts power over all of us. It’s hyper-represented, and thus misses the mark every year, by which I mean world peace is yet to be realized, and peace almost anywhere has become a myth.

For someone who likes to imagine herself a communicator, I’ve clearly done a piss-poor job of it over the past ten years or so. I’ve sat here at my computer, thoughts preoccupied with the immediate, and watched the world change, moment by moment, event by event… observed while the prevailing mood of the country rolled from benign tolerance to annoyance, to resentment, to violence… and I still have a hard time believing where we find ourselves at the end of 2021.

If I had a dollar for every time I’ve said “I don’t get it” in the past decade, I’d buy a lovely dinner for the first person who could map out a schematic of what’s happened, and why almost nobody wants to talk about it. I’ve had conversations with a few former stalwart conservatives whose thinking has morphed over the years, and without exception they’ve been happy to tell me what drove their change of heart… things like morals, ethics, concern for other humans, how people are treated around the world, money, greed, blurring of government and religion, crime at the top, and so on. On the other hand, no 2021 conservative I know has shown the slightest willingness to have an adult conversation with me about the world and their take on it. If I ask a question, I’m intrusive and threatening. If I answer one, I’m rude and aggressive.

“I don’t get it” is no doubt a huge tell in the age game, probably a thing boomers say. But I’m just being straight, I want to KNOW. I want to know why we ended up locked in this cage of solid lines, solid walls, a complete stonewall. Everything that happens in the world affects us from womb to tomb, and the past decade has been packed with trauma and upheaval, so why would we think life wouldn’t have changed us in the process as well? There are people I care about who are so transformed as to be unrecognizable, but I still care. If they’re close to me, or were before society started unravelling, I’ll ask them questions… because I want to know who they are NOW. It’s no secret that I’m not the same person I was twenty years ago – life happened and it set me off in all new directions, for which no apologies are owed. Okay… so I’m a different person, you’ve changed, talk to me about what took you down the road you’re on… human things, not statistics, not rants, not I’m-right-you’re-wrong… simply, here’s who I am now, and because I love you I’ll even tell you why.

Somebody a lot of people claim to worship said “You have not because you ask not.” I’ve asked to the point of being summarily kicked to the curb… or I simply know I’ve asked for the last time “Who are you at this age? Can’t we have a conversation?” and if I push the envelope one more time I’ll be locked out and blocked.

How then do we lower some of the walls, open some windows, figure out how to trust each other? I’m hanging out here in the wind, an open book, knowing my liberal friends and family have my back, and wishing those I love on the other side would be straight with me so our relationships aren’t permanently broken. How can a simple two-sided conversation be so threatening? After everything that’s happened, it seems disingenuous to pick up and go on as if nothing has been altered and pretend we still know each other.

Either I’ve asked the wrong questions the wrong way… the right questions the wrong way… or there was never going to be a right way to start with. Communication is by nature at least 2-sided, so I’ve obviously over-talked because what I’m hearing from the other side is crickets. People forget they unfriended me years ago for being liberal-minded, we make a chance connection, they send me a Facebook request, I say yes (oh, Pollyanna, girl… sigh), they see I haven’t altered my worldview since last time they disowned me, they confront me with what are later described as rhetorical musings (with question marks at the end), I answer (being an old bag with a heart o’gold), they take offense, and within three minutes I’m out on my ear again. Will I never learn? No, no I won’t. It’s just how I roll.

I make enemies because I care and I won’t shut up. I lose people from my life because I talk to almost everyone the same way… I say my truth and I don’t dilute it to a ridiculous degree to keep from offending. What I should have been saying to people I love is “Don’t talk to me about your politics or who’s done what and how much you hate it. Tell me what you care about, what keeps you getting up every day, what life means to you now… and talk to me like you want to be there. I’m not being confrontational, I just miss you.”

And then I remember that I’ve done it too… I’ve dropped people like they were hot after the second time they slammed me in front of the gods and babies on Facebook… and I doubt that felt right to them either. Doesn’t seem quite like comparing apples to apples, but I’ve been impatient and unkind plenty of times during this challenging era.

From birth we know who we feel safe with, who we want to be around, who our people are, where we find comfort and peace. We of course also know who we don’t trust, who makes us clam up and be an observer, whose views scare the daylights out of us, who makes us feel less-than… and ain’t nobody got time for that.

You wouldn’t think a person would forget a thing like this, but it slips my mind that there are fellow humans who genuinely dislike me, disavow me, and have no interest in hearing my name again in this lifetime. None of what I’ve said is about those people… they have personal freedom to stay off the path I’m on, and that’s how that works.

The world has shifted under our feet and relationships we once thought couldn’t be broken are in ashes. It feels necessary this morning to acknowledge that, accept it, and keep moving. I’m sorry for my part in the brokenness… but I don’t give up without a fight when something matters, so I’m sure I’ll continue to annoy and disgust people I don’t even know are looking.

For now… let’s think about holiday lights.

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If wishes were fishes… page 142

Reprinting a page from my COVID Diary about this time last year…

Day 248 – 11/18/2020

It’s a blustery day, sunny and windy. Parks & Rec installed tarps on the north fence of the PickleBall courts and every morning since then the wind has blown from any direction but north. They’ll hit it right again one of these days but had to give it up after a half-hour this morning.

Kim’s making banana bread mini-loaves, a bi-weekly occurrence, which he shares at PickleBall and tucks into the little food pantries on Mass Street. Makes the house smell amazing.

I’m scouting out good stuff today, like this picture Rita found from our wedding reception when I was still under 100 elbees. We were in the wonky kids’-church area and it makes me laugh that Kim had a door handle in his neck and never even felt it. “What, me worry?”

Just Married – 2004

What we hoped would bring an end to the chaotic limbo hasn’t, and the charade continues unabated while the world falls strangely silent. If I had a time machine I’d go back and talk with my Great-grandma Salome Wagner, who lived through the Civil War in southern Indiana and was forced to quarter Union soldiers on her farm. I’d ask her when she first began to realize that the United States consisted of two nations… and how she kept her heart from breaking. No time for such foolishness, then or now, but it comes to us anyway… the disbelief, the denial, the anger, the senseless bargaining, the overflowing grief. I’d ask Grandma Sally if she reached acceptance before she died, and if neighbors ever trusted each other again in her lifetime.

I’d hop in my ride and go see my Grandpa Reese for a while. He could tell me about fighting hand-to-hand in WWI at 17 and coming home to the gratitude of his country. Same with anyone who made it through WWII – nothing but appreciation for a job done. Korea, too, as far as I know. Maybe things started south during Viet Nam and we’ve never really pretended to be one nation since we brought our military personnel home to derision and contempt. This pacifist is of the opinion that if we send them, we support them.

There’s a long list of people I’d call on in my time machine, people who could provide much-needed perspective and objectivity, and I really wish I could have conversations with them. I’d be sure to get some hugs and advice from my mom while I was out there…

On the silent days I miss everybody louder.

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There’s nothing more freeing than truth…

The past week held a little of everything, which I’m still processing. Forward progress happened… news of the world disappointed and sickened us again… the daily goodness we depend on was all there… and we learned more things about the people in our lives.

I’m still abstaining from TV news and benefitting from that new habit. Reading the headlines for myself is a different animal from hearing them pounded to a pulp by the various talking heads, and it worms its way into my psyche far less. It’s all still happening, still every bit as appalling and life-altering… but when I walk away from the written word, my brain knows there’s far more hope in the world than we’re being led to believe.

The past couple of weeks have been a watershed… a time for facing truth. The bent of the nation and the world is a totally real thing… corporate fascism is bursting with energy and drive in the civilized world, and the peculiar ethic, the tenets, the morés that fuel it have by now filtered down to the man on the street. A 3-minute conversation is all it takes to turn a buzz-word into a breakup. Who we are is out in the open, and it isn’t who everybody THOUGHT we all were.

A long-lost relative drew me into a political discussion recently, which stayed civil until I asked him how he could align himself with one of the most heinous human beings on the planet. His answer, “You make it about him, an undignified coarse-talking buffoon of a personality. I voted for principles. I learned a long time ago to live day to day on PRINCIPLES ….NOT…. Personalities. So….Judy, if we can’t compromise in our relationship, then we have to do the next best thing. Cut ourselves loose from one another.” For the second time in 20 years, you mean, after a 3-minute conversation. I have yet to find a 2021 Republican who will talk with me… just talk, and listen, and talk some more, with thoughtful silences and an indicated willingness to consider any and all facts. Apparently it’s a guiding PRINCIPLE not to do that.

The same relative told me, “I loved Robert and Judy Latta. This Judy Smith person I can’t deal with.” THE FACTS: Robert Latta died a violent death and didn’t come back, and Judy Latta, in many necessary ways, went with him. Judy Smith is who I am. You never knew me.

The division we knew was there, that we can feel building month by month, is too real for words. Until now we’ve been able to cover parts of it up and pretend it’s really nothing and it’ll smooth over. But people are finally saying outright “I don’t like you, please go away,” so I think it’s here to deal with for the foreseeable.

People don’t appear to want to talk, discuss, consider, think, instead preferring the lines to be drawn in indelible ink and never trespassed against. If the U.S. falls apart, it will be due in large part to the fact that most of the population can’t understand, and is not interested in, the differences between fascism, communism, democratic socialism, and democracy. The words themselves become the meaning and the power, and the human capacity for discernment and comprehension takes a hike – it’s all too threatening and complex to deal with.

The fact that truth is hard to come by in this era makes it a supreme challenge to keep the meaning in our relationships. What, we’re now asking ourselves, are those connections really all about? What makes them different from anything else out there? Why do we cling to myths and fairytales? Maybe I don’t want to know the answer to that one…

Despite my relative’s disavowal of The Former Guy, he’s still the de facto head of the GOP, still shaping its posture, still tainting whatever its values were. And as my chosen life coach John Pavlovitz wrote in September of this year…

“In this iteration of our nation, the elemental decency that should define human beings is no longer a universal requirement. The base-level expectations of those we live in community alongside simply do not exist anymore. There is no standard anymore.

For so many people here, it is no longer just about a sharing a difference of opinion on an issue or about voicing opposing political ideologies or even about the expression of personal or religious freedom—it is about inflicting as much pain as I can to people who I know nothing about and who have done me no direct wrong.

I’m not sure where we go from here, but I know that this version of America isn’t worthy of our or anyone’s children inheriting.

We’re going to need more good people becoming louder about what is and isn’t within the bounds of civilized society.

We’re going to need to name what is unacceptable and to demand decency and safety for all of us.

We’re going to need to collectively hold on to our souls or there will be nothing beautiful left to leave after we’re gone.

We have to do better.

We need to reverse the Trump Effect on America.”

And then made a golden idol of it.

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A confession…

Boys and girls, in light of our ongoing relationship over the years, I’m obligated to inform you that I am armed, dangerous, and a threat to polite society, as evidenced by a whiplash experience over the weekend. Be forewarned is all I’m saying. It was one of those caught-off-guard, konked on the head surprises that we’re never waiting for and all we can do is absorb them.

It’s well-documented that I’m a liberal-thinker, it can’t be disguised or hidden, nor have I ever tried. It’s a part of me I appreciate most, no apologies. Over the years, as the lines have been drawn with an ever-finer marker and the ways we think about life have utterly diverged, about half my extended family has broken off communications, for which I don’t blame them – when you don’t share an inviolable worldview, what do you talk about finally?

A test of mettle arose this past week when I received health news about a relative who had cut me loose for my wanton liberal ways… or so I assume because he closed all avenues of communication and I didn’t hear from, or about, him for long years. After seeing the message I did the adult thing, scrounged around for a contact address, and wrote him and his wife a genuine note of love and concern, which… son-of-a-gun, opened that door right back up. He was ever so grateful and kind, going so far as to send me a Facebook request, which I validated… and that’s when the fight started, except that I don’t fight. He saw my posts, realized I was still that awful commie liberal witchy-woman he kicked to the curb all those years ago, and we had a conversation… calm and measured on my part, increasingly hostile on his, including a totally incomprehensible shaming for remarrying after my first husband was killed. This from someone with multiple marriages under his belt. And then he swiftly bailed and blocked me from any further contact. That’s twice, buddy, jeez.

Kids, I tell you this to let you know there’s no road through to the other side right now and may never be again. We speak two different languages, hold differing moral codes, and our outlook on humanity is terminally split. I’ve tried all sorts of ways to hold thoughtful exchanges with family and friends who abhor my take on life, and I can testify that it’s an impossibility at this point. As soon as a real conversation threatens to break out, they’re outta there every time.

So watch your backs… I’ve been officially declared toxic to the health of a family member; therefore, who knows what further mayhem I might get up to. I’m a small 74-year-old woman who has very limited contact with the world outside my door, and who will never show up on the doorstep of people who hate my voice, even if invited… the trip alone, at this point, would attempt to kill me. So what are people worried will happen? That I’ll expose a feeling they didn’t know they had and can’t acknowledge? That I’ll “force” them to talk with me like two adults? That I’ll ask a question they don’t know how to answer? That I’ll try to drag them into some mystical woo-woo place of real communication?

I have plenty of experience, but few answers… much heavy sadness, but few regrets. I’ve been transparent and dealt in truth as I know it. And life goes on, even as it’s perpetually ending…

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