The official word…

Today is rolling out in Second-Coming font size… the reddest of red-letter days in long years… because life has changed. This morning was my 3-month post-op visit and I’ve been cleared to do anything I feel like doing. Wow, I wonder if they realized who they were awarding carte blanche to — things could get dicey. The x-rays show everything’s precisely in place and healing perfectly, and there were no red flags, so all systems are norminal, and off we go.

My surgeon gave me a great hug, and I got to tell him about Sunday afternoon when Rita and I hiked for 90 minutes on rough trails. His nurse said they have 50-yr-old patients who can’t do that, so I’m humbled, and I’m primed to take advantage of the years Dr. Carlson has returned to me, even though all of it still feels slightly dreamlike.

We’d planned to have lunch at Crushed Red, a favorite KC noontime spot, but it was barely 11am when my appointment ended, so we came home instead. Our entire discussion on the drive back was where to celebrate over food, and we finally settled on The Roost, pulled the car into the parking garage, and walked there. It wasn’t until we were flirting with each other at the bar that we realized we were in exactly the right place… back in one of the prime locations where our Lawrence sojourn started, among people we know, who seemed genuinely happy to see us, making it a true celebration. So far today we’ve marked the occasion with good food and Bloody Marys, and it’s been a day worth writing home about. Guess this blog-spot is home…

And we just got a text that sweet friends are coming to celebrate with us this evening, although they won’t know it’s a party until they get here.

Thank you for hanging in with me through all the times when I’ve come here to vent and whine. On this day, by contrast, I’m full of knowing that at least SOME of the rougher parts of life really can get better, which in turn changes everything. Please don’t ever give up.

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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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Life forces…

No force on earth holds the power of a single word

spoken in haste from the human heart,

no blow strikes so sure

no arrow so deep.

.

I love you, says DNA, tho I do not like you

so let’s speak no further lest we uncover truth that will end us.

Mayhap someday this core we’re protecting will acquire a name…

a bold new label for the ages.

.

For now we call it personal choice, my world my rights, freedom,

as it divides and plows asunder

the stuff of life that won’t be regained once gone.

Labels will not cover it.

.

Becoming the predominant species has not in turn

prepared us for being fully human, for living, for crossing boundaries on our way home.

Our spirit of adventure has been jaded by the journey

and we settle for the dull, the well-worn… the safe.

.

As a winning animal we are shabby and embarrassing, an unworthy victor.

Octopi outdo us for sensitivity and gentleness…

Crows and elephants care more deeply for their dead…

Nurse ants lick the wounds of fallen comrades.

.

Humans have evolved beyond such weakness

and we are right or we are nothing at all.

The Proud are highly amused by our

acts of love and goodwill…. all weakness and lies…

.

No force on earth holds the power of a single word

from the mouth of one esteemed.

Nothing after will hold the power to restore what is lost

in that searing terminus.

.

No force on earth holds the power…

so we disarm the words by assigning better motives

cutting slack

dissembling…

.

… and surrendering our inherent dominance,

we let the words gouge, stab, wound, and defeat us,

while the power of unconditional love goes unspent, unused, unemployed

in the pursuit of happiness… and freedom.

JSmith 11/14/2021

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Sunshine and rain…

It’s good that spring and summer were here to greet us as we emerged from our caves after the long COVID winter because doing it the other way around would have been infinitely more challenging. The sunshine and rain, trees and flowers, warm days and kind breezes are just what the doctor ordered and we’re using it all to full advantage whenever possible. There’s apparently more rain coming in the next couple of days, and then back to sunny temps. Life is good, the world is sometimes a hospitable place, and I’m grateful to be here still, in a community that generally embraces the broad spectrum of humanity and the incredibly endless variety offered by this planet.

Yesterday I got to see a friend from the past and it was everything. John came to Kansas just in time to help me jump-start things again after the effects of the virus and the long containment… my friend Lyn showed up and affirmed that I’m not done yet, and she was excellent medicine – it’s healing when someone’s on the same page with us, no explanations needed. Lyn and her husband Rob came to see us here in Lawrence a few years ago, and when I laid eyes on her yesterday it was as if no time had passed since then – we were instantly laughing and hugging and sitting down to remember together, all the good stuff, the crazy stuff, the awful, the unbelievable, the indelible. And to catch each other up on The Intervening Years, the Synopsis. It’s an amazing feeling to be loved by someone who doesn’t HAVE to love us for any reason – thanks, Lyn, you were right on time.

*****

You know how people are, the minute we feel better we’re full of advice for everyone around us. To wit:

*****

Lunch is being discussed at the moment…

I hear it’s actually gonna be tuna sammies, fresh-cut watermelon, baked beans, and tater chips. I’m in.

It’s Friday! Again! Wow! Have a super good weekend…

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We carry on…

It was a fun weekend, resulting in a train of thought that’s still on the tracks this morning… and the main nugget is that the hum and swirl of American life rises out of a rich network of subcultures thrumming with energy and heart. Some of our societal microcosms are readily visible on the surface, with signs and symbols we know at a glance… service organizations like the Lions Club; religious groupings; a worldwide fellowship for magicians; the Hell’s Angels; and a club for every possible area of human interest under the sun. Saturday night we got to meet a subculture we previously knew almost nothing about – the world of gyms and cage fighting. When you “know a guy,” you go there.

A young veteran we love and respect owns a gym in the KC area with some other people including his wife, and in the interest of positive advertising, physical fitness, and pure badassery, he’s fought his way to professional status and a spot just under the headliner on the card… so it was time we saw the show for ourselves. A sweltering hot evening, long lines of fans, huge fairgrounds pavilion with big open windows, BBQ, drinks, a light-show going on, music that was primarily heavy-duty vibrations felt from the feet up, long tables arranged concentrically with ends toward the cage, and chairs designed by Satan himself for maximum torture. Knew I was gonna be in trouble, but I wasn’t missing this, even though the undercard consisted of something like fourteen fights before it was our man’s turn. And it was great – we were with friends who are family and everything was laughter and hugs and a feeling I’d forgotten over the past eighteen months… belonging. I found myself doing things I vowed I’d “never do again,” like sip a sistah’s drink when offered, shake hands, hug people face to face, laugh and talk unmasked in a public gathering… but almost three months of being fully vaccinated, plus our negligible transmission rate, makes all the difference. The people-watching was sublime – no worries about the generations coming up, America… they’re beautiful.

Kim has taught me a lot about boxing, which was of absolutely no use in this venue – the action is fast and furious, three 3-minute rounds, and there may have been only one match that lasted through two. Most of the amateur matches were over in under a minute, with someone either knocked out or tapping out, followed by hugs and camaraderie all ’round. These guys fight out of various gyms and mostly know each other, and the whole operation, under the glitz and glitter, is squeaky clean, everybody checked again before entering the cage, everything recorded and monitored. That said, there’s a thing in all of us that loves a winner, and we can turn primitive in a heartbeat when that’s on the line. I can still scream with the loudest of them, and I welcomed every chance to stand up outta that chair. A colossal thank you to DM Bruce Associates for their co-sponsorship of the night and their sweet hospitality to us as always.

Our man Deron “The Pharaoh” Carlis won by knockout in the 2nd round and walked away unmarked, so the evening was a total upper, and when we came home after 10:30, 8th Street was all lights and people, with the streetside dining areas full. We hope the city will let those stay open all summer!

When the light goes… when life dies down to an ember… it’s easy to think it might be finished, never coming back, never the same again. But being in that pavilion on Saturday night, with people from all over the NE corner of Kansas, having Deron’s (ridiculously young) parents come over to hug us, and seeing other people we’ve met since moving here, full of happiness and hugs, was a little revelation: I still need other humans, they aren’t all impossible to communicate with, and it feels good to care. Who knew cage fighting could do all that?

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Lurching toward spring… page 232

Day 364 – 03/15/2021

I slept ’til 8am, thus messing with Mother Nature by recovering my lost hour from Daylight Saving Time. HA!! Thumbs nose, laughs, trips over a space heater, ponders a lost jigger of salt.

It’s a Monday again… and who knows? We did finally get our downpours yesterday… all afternoon… and now we head into a week of mixed reviews – wet or dry, chilly or warm, breezy or still. Sounds like life as we know it.

Kim picked Marcelo up at 11am yesterday and they blew town. Rita brought lunch and a cold bottle of Praia, and Seth & Adam stopped by shortly after with the beautiful remains of Warren’s birthday cake, a 3-layer cocoa dream made by Adam. We were all still laughing around the table when Kim showed up, making it a true party – he’s missed those guys all year.

Life halted last March with a decisive act – we came inside and symbolically closed our door to any and all invaders, and I promised myself I’d stay out of the public fray until some sort of ALL CLEAR happened. Tomorrow I will have kept my promise, and that means something to me after watching so many people break their word at every opportunity. I’m in no rush to get out there, but knowing I can do it now with a clear conscience is cool. We’ve had both shots and we’ll stay masked for the foreseeable, but I’m making a list:

  • Barbershop
  • Pedi
  • Dentist
  • Chiro
  • Pain Doc

I think Kim’s list says “PLAY PICKLEBALL” and “RIDE BIKE,” but we should both be ready for prime time by the 4th.

Life stopped with little warning… and we adjusted. As life returns to our community and the world, we’re being afforded grace to meet it as it comes, a little at a time… and this feels better. Fourth of July it is, then, a fitting Independence Day and a worthy goal.

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