The arc… bends…

We’ve made it to HumpDay of yet another engaging week in the life of the USA and smaller environs, including my hideout. After just short of a year’s fast from televised news, I’ve been compelled to tune in to the 1/6 hearings because although history does repeat itself, it happens only once in the flesh. Before I tuned out of news-watching, I was an MSNBC girl, mostly by process of elimination, the same process that took place Monday morning before the start of the second hearing. I was early by fifteen minutes, so I clicked the remote, looking for a spot to land. Tried C-SPAN first, three ancient talking heads droning on as to what the imminent proceedings might portend. Looked at CNN, chose not to stick with the panel in place. Stopped by the networks, ABC, NBC, CBS, moved on. They were all still ensconced in the bubble and squeak of their Hello-America-How-Are-You morning fare, instantly reminding me that there’s a too-casual way of addressing world news. So I settled in with my old friends at MSNBC, remarking to Kim, now home from PickleBall, on the changes since we’d last seen the gang. Nearly everyone looked younger, shinier, more rested, which speaks to the reduced political angst they’re tasked with tracking every day, and it’s clear that things are changing for the better, even when we can’t see it happening. So that’s encouraging, as is the fact that no one can stop the truth. It comes out.

A footnote from the first morning’s hearing…

I watched most of the Watergate hearings in 1973 on a little black & white TV while my 3-year-old played and napped, and the names and shenanigans are still vivid. Shenanigans is precisely what they were, as opposed to the sedition that was being fomented by the Trump administration. In fact, by comparison there is no comparison. The recent series “Gaslit” provided a good look back at the quaint and silly misdeeds of the Nixon administration, and a timely contrast with the treasonous crimes of Trump’s. I can’t wait for the remainder of the current hearings. I assume they’re mostly preaching to the choir, but even the choir likes a good schematic.

Onion Choir agrees

***

So yeah, if you’re goin’ back in, might as well dive deep.

All things considered… Russia’s war against Ukraine, racial and political unrest in the US, gun violence off the charts, economic uncertainty [I could do this all day]… our inability to accept each other will end us more efficiently than any of the above. I wish we could get it together, but with age comes realism. I get along with Kim as seamlessly as any experience of my lifetime, but words are as tricky for us as for all other humans and we can mistake each other’s meaning in a heartbeat. In light of that reality, why do we harbor the fiction that the world can learn to get along? It’s an impossible assignment… and yet, what else is even worth fighting for?

The week is not over. Finish strong.

Image

Are we there yet?

How’s the whole space-time continuum thing working for ya’ lately? Feeling a little stretched? Compressed maybe? Are we any closer to understanding the warp and weft of the fabric of our existence? Are we tuned in or out? “Einstein concluded that space and time, rather than separate and unrelated phenomena, are actually interwoven into a single continuum (called space-time) that spans multiple dimensions. So how many dimensions are there in the space-time continuum?”

https://www.wonderopolis.org/wonder/what-is-the-space-time-continuum

This, boys and girls, is what happens when rain and gray skies become the order of the day for days on end… the coping mechanisms run right off the charts into unexplored territory, including black holes.

My brain has run amuck, so in lieu of actual wisdom this morning I offer you memes, glorious memes, which die an ignominious death if not shared forever.

From the current news cycle:

******

******

******

******

******

Image

A random clearinghouse…

Sounds like a subscription sweepstakes, but it’s merely a semi-regular purge of the rubble that accumulates in the general vicinity of my brain, most of it unrelated and not worth hanging onto. It’s all there though, like eye floaters, drifting around, mingling with the legit workings of my mind, coloring what I still refer to as thinking, and gradually mucking up the works. At least once a quarter it becomes necessary to assess, evaluate, kick a few things to the curb, and remember the good stuff.

  • In the nine years since we moved to NE Kansas, the Royals have won the World Series, the Chiefs won the Super Bowl, and this year the Jayhawks are the nation’s college basketball champions. NOW what??
  • Ten years out from retirement, it gets trickier to fill the hours every day and feel productive. Realistically, there are only so many options… but I’ve thought of several just this week so it isn’t a forlorn situation to be in. Walking is first on the list… and I can sit at my piano bench and play again! Since writing is the only real passion I’ve ever attempted to make friends with, maybe I’ll give it more weight and respect moving forward. When you start looking for windows the light shines through.
  • Since the early days of the pandemic, quite a few people I know have been taking advantage of various forms of personal therapy and benefitting greatly. Now that my body is free of nerve pain I think a few conversations with a therapist I’m drawn to could be severely helpful. I’ve entertained the idea for a while, and believe it or not it’s been SUGGESTED to me more than once… what was THAT about, OMG! But I knew that any reference to “picking myself up and getting on with it” … “working past the pain” … “living my life as though I felt well” … “being resourceful, focusing outside myself, helping people who are less able” … and I wouldn’t go back, because I can’t lay my heart open to someone who doesn’t get it. Kinda wanted to save it for a time like NOW, when I can better hear and receive what’s offered to me in the way of wisdom. Counsel coming from someone I have reason to trust, at a time when they aren’t trying to reach me through a wall of pain, could help… meh, we’ll see.
  • Early on, I realized I couldn’t stay in touch with every person I encountered in life and furthermore wouldn’t want to, but I see people doing it. How does that work? Where does that kind of psychic energy come from, what drives the relentless body count? I can’t even maintain the polite minimum with family, let alone acquaintances. There are people all over the world I once fancied myself close to, but in defense of both parties, we barely knew each other at the time. In the case of extended family, the advent of adulthood brought awareness, and with it choices. I choose peace, therefore mostly solitude by default. I don’t make for a good friend, or cousin, or mentor, and I fully admit it’s due to selfishness – I choose personal peace nearly every time.
  • First World nations seem to be plowing headlong into fascism, and why is that? Do people get tired of living well and having their rights respected? Do madmen recognize that itch and rush in to scratch it? The pendulum never stops its arc.
  • It’s good that humans are given a life span longer than that of a gnat, but it’s still far too brief a time for figuring out the meaning of existence, so what are we supposed to do with all these half-formed ideas and incomplete concepts of how things are? It seems like a lot of responsibility for no more information and training than we’re provided, and the failure rate is piteously high.
  • In light of the above, I’m inclined, at this late stage in the game, to adopt a laissez-faire attitude toward absolutely everything. “You go ahead, life, have it your way. I’ll be over here eating what my body wants, sleeping when I need to, observing the world, drawing my own conclusions, and living ’til I die. The whole thing seems not to be so very complicated after all.”

******

So that’s how that all is, thx for listening. A psychic purge, in order to be legit, must be validated by witnesses, and you’re it.

Image

Going mad…

Two memories from the depths of the pandemic… how deadly quiet it got here in East Lawrence, and the absence of sports events on TV. We’d sit on our 4th-floor balcony and talk about how we missed all the walkers, joggers, baby-strollers, and dog-exercisers. Also street traffic, which slowed to nonexistent at times. Sports returned before the outdoor rumble did, and we were like starving refugees, indiscriminately watching every offering. I know some of my theater friends, reading friends, blogging friends might wonder if I actually like watching televised sports or if it’s a way to stay cuddly with Kimmers. Nope, I really mean it, I genuinely get into basketball, tennis, golf, baseball, football. They lose me at auto racing, bowling, soccer, and hockey, but all of it is real people doing real things, so that’s a plus, even if some of them are getting paid outrageous piles of cash for royally entertaining the masses.

DISCLAIMER: The KIMN8R taught me to belch properly, and I’ve learned some choice new language under his instruction, so he has a real buddy to watch ball with… bonus, right?

My earliest memory of “sports” as a thing comes from playing on the living room carpet at my grandparents’ house while Grandpa watched Major League baseball on their little black & white TV. The distinctive cadence of the announcer’s voice, the rumble and roll of the intriguing Hammond B3 accompanying the action, the aroma of Grandpa’s pipe and the crackle of the daily paper as he read it cover to cover before working the crossword puzzle in ink, comforting smells from Grandma’s kitchen… it’s all with me forever. I had the world in those moments… security, love, family, and a sense that there was terrific stuff out there to find out about. So the world of sports, however intense it may be at times, is comfort food to me.

This week the phenomenon that is March Madness gets underway and we’re happy campers. The First Four started it off Tuesday and Wednesday, and tonight at 9pm we’ll see Kansas against Texas Southern if we can stay awake for it. Joke. We’ll be awake.

In a time when joy has been harder to come by, college basketball has helped with the empty feeling. We cheer the Jayhawks every year and talk about them like we knew them, and we follow kids on other teams as we watch them play week by week. When they hit the NBA, we remember them with a silly sense of pride, like we had some part in it. Nothing’s pure, not much is straight-up what it really is, but the world of college ball FEELS different from pro sports, politics, and war… therefore, it’s mostly encouraging and refreshing. Bring on the big ol’ challenges, NCAA… it’s time to DANCE!

Image

Life in its third trimester…

Longevity is a thing in my gene pool. My two grandmothers both celebrated their 95th birthdays in their right minds… some of my great-grandmothers lived into their 90s… one of my uncles is 92, in shape like the Marine he was, and still living an independent life. Other relatives have beaten the odds as well… kept their faculties about them… lived long and prospered. I consider that a positive thing, as I enjoy living and prefer to do it on as healthy a basis as possible.

“Try to learn to breathe deeply, really to taste food when you eat, and when you sleep, really to sleep. Try as much as possible to be wholly alive, with all your might, and when you laugh, laugh like hell, and when you get angry, get good and angry. Try to be alive. You will be dead soon enough.” -William Saroyan

Since embarking on my 70s almost five years ago, life has changed in both subtle and clear-cut ways. It’s getting easier to stay mellow, partly thanks to the solitude of the past two years, partly due to the changing character of American life, which has taken on a set-adrift sort of feel.

“These are the days of miracle and wonder
This is the long distance call
The way the camera follows us in slo-mo
The way we look to us all… “

But in other ways a mellow state of mind is a total reach, so it’s healthier to feel, experience, vent, exorcise… and move on. “So strange, the world of social media. We think we’re negotiating the rapids just fine, and then with no warning we’re hung up on the rocks of somebody else’s bad day. Or our own.” -source unknown

Being misunderstood… misperceived… misjudged, is a fact to be dealt with for the duration of life, but it’s always jarring when it happens. I’ve never managed to solve the mystery of someone else’s misguided disapproval, so I tend to ignore it instead, which works just fine most of the time, but does add to a general sense of social malaise. Human interaction… for as educated, experienced, and sophisticated as we like to see ourselves… still swings wildly between love and hate… peace and warfare… acceptance and exclusivity. We lack the courage of our convictions so we lamely defend them ad infinitum, with less than positive results. When it comes to human communication we’re a consistent contradiction, our facts in disarray, our feelings spilling over, our frustrations fully on display. Everything’s a competition, an opportunity to be offended, a place to stake a claim. It’s exhausting and simply reinforces my reclusive lifestyle… the energy available to me can be better used elsewhere.

Things happen every day to remind us that the world is a cold and crazy place, that values vary among individuals… and the challenge inherent in human existence to care about each other becomes ever more… challenging. Sometimes there’s a sense that no genuine caring is left in the world and it’s every man, woman, and child for themselves. But when I think about the people I love, and who love me, or at least value my personal welfare… I know I’m inundated by the good life and I’ve never had it better. Perspective is everything.

Image

Snow-day stuff…

Our frantically-forecast snowpocalypse failed to live up to its billing, but things are white outside, we had biscuits & gravy for breakfast followed by a lovely soak, and I feel no impulse to leave the building today for any reason. Totally zen situation. Now, if only it were the weekend, with sports on TV… so soothing.

I’ll never not love rain and snow, the more the better… to a point. Snow, especially, carries magic in its kaleidoscope stencils.

Every day for an introvert is filled with never-ending thought… endless attempts to process it all… to figure out where one is and why…

Inevitably, a large percentage of my thought process becomes about current events, in this recent era more than ever. In our naiveté as Americans we want to believe, like Pollyanna, that all will be well no matter what because… well… we’re Americans. While incontrovertible facts tell us we’re becoming a less healthy republic by the day, we continue finding comfort in our determined delusions. Memo from a Baby Boomer this morning: America is very much in trouble, democracy is holding on by a hangnail, and we’re seeing nothing on the horizon massive enough to take out the impending fascism that’s bearing down on us. It’s ugly, but it’s truth we need to hear.

Reality does have a way of barreling right over us without a backward glance to survey the damage – that’s how “what ifs” come to us. A basic reality is that each of us is one person… one. We can do only what we can do. But when we pool our efforts and resources, human existence starts to take on a whole different look, so take heart…

And then to make yourself available.

We’re powerless to fix much of anything in the world… so the only logical place to start is with us. Be the real you today… I’ll be thinking of you.

Image

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.

Image

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.

Image

She let go…

The other day, scrolling online, I saw a concise little 30-day challenge, formatted in such a way as to enable us to dump all our angst before New Year’s Day, and I didn’t even save it to my False Hopes folder because…

  1. those things always seem a little too pat
  2. I get halfway through and wander off
  3. more failure… who needs that??

Better that my conscious self show up in the right place at the right time to get precisely what it needs.

She Let Go

She let go. Without a thought or a word, she let go.

She let go of fear. She let go of the judgments.

She let go of the confluence of opinions swarming around her head.

She let go of the committee of indecision within her.

She let go of all the ‘right’ reasons. Wholly and completely,

without hesitation or worry, she just let go.

She didn’t ask anyone for advice. She didn’t read a

book on how to let go… She didn’t search the scriptures.

She just let go.

She let go of all of the memories that held her back.

She let go of all of the anxiety that kept her from moving forward.

She let go of the planning and all of the calculations about how to do it just right.

She didn’t promise to let go.

She didn’t journal about it.

She didn’t write the projected date in her day-timer.

She made no public announcement and put no ad in the paper.

She didn’t check the weather report or read her daily horoscope.

She just let go.

She didn’t analise whether she should let go.

She didn’t call her friends to discuss the matter.

She didn’t do a five-step Spiritual Mind Treatment.

She didn’t call the prayer line.

She didn’t utter one word. She just let go.

No one was around when it happened.

There was no applause or congratulations.

No one thanked her or praised her.

No one noticed a thing.

Like a leaf falling from a tree, she just let go.

There was no effort. There was no struggle.

It wasn’t good and it wasn’t bad.

It was what it was, and it is just that.

In the space of letting go, she let it all be.

A small smile came over her face.

A light breeze blew through her.

And the sun and the moon shone forevermore.

Here’s to giving ourselves the gift of letting go…

There’s only one Guru ~ you.

―Rev. Safire Rose

Oops, found it. See? Entirely too perky for present company.

Image

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.

Image

Hope and spontaneous joy…

Hope and spontaneous joy… I said those words yesterday to a Facebook friend who brings me happiness daily, a fellow writer of words but about half my age, so a fresh perspective with every post. Interestingly, we were talking football… and the consensus was that whatever sparks real happiness these days, bring it.

“What if I couldn’t write it down… ” That’s the mantra that moves me outside myself on challenging days and puts truth in front of me. Write it, say it, erase it, or share it.

… or it will kill you.

People who know me know that the highs and lows are what set me down in front of the keyboard. When life’s all chill I just live it. The great and awful days send me to this therapy chair every time.

Keep your friends close…

***

Not entirely true, I’m okay with my stand-up-and-take-it record. But I have nothing against softness…
Yeah, never learned chess
I’ve caused buttloads of hurt to people in this life, and being right isn’t a worthy reason.
It leads to hope and spontaneous joy.

Image

Hey… it’s Wednesday

Here we are at HumpDay once again, boys and girls, on the downhill run to the weekend.

WHY I LOVE WEEKENDS, by some pore ol’ retired thing

  1. They do not contain medical appointments.
  2. The already Zen pace on my side of the equation slows to an imperceptible crawl.
  3. The weekend menu is outstanding.
  4. The trace of guilt over being lazy goes totally underground for a couple of days.
  5. Sometimes weekends mean seeing actual people… and we know there’ll be more of that ahead.

It’s overcast this morning, with only a slight breeze, and it feels like the world’s at a standstill… everything static… to remain this way forever. But hark, what do I see from my window? People and dogs. Gird your loins, folks, life goes on.

Case in point…

And the trees know when it’s time for change…

Just about when we think we can’t stand the status quo another minute, we look around and our immediate situation has morphed into something else entirely. In light of what looked like an endless slate of dental appointments, I’m pleasantly surprised to find that I have only one left… this time around. Friday we see a neuro about my back. Patience… patience… and the world turns.

Maya Angelou’s profoundly simple statement of fact will stay with me…

Image

Good hearts are safe homes…

I have brazenly committed a crime this morning and I have no shame, because I stole a piece of writing (and life) that’s too exquisite to keep to myself…

Naomi Shihab Nye

Wandering around the Albuquerque Airport Terminal, after learning my flight had been delayed four hours, I heard an announcement: “If anyone in the vicinity of Gate A-4 understands any Arabic, please come to the gate immediately.” Well — one pauses these days. Gate A-4 was my own gate. I went there.

An older woman in full traditional Palestinian embroidered dress, just like my grandma wore, was crumpled to the floor, wailing. “Help,” said the flight agent. “Talk to her. What is her problem? We told her the flight was going to be late and she did this.”

I stooped to put my arm around the woman and spoke haltingly. “Shu-dow-a, Shu-bid-uck Habibti? Stani schway, Min fadlick, Shu-bit-se-wee?” The minute she heard any words she knew, however poorly used, she stopped crying. She thought the flight had been cancelled entirely. She needed to be in El Paso for major medical treatment the next day. I said, “No, we’re fine, you’ll get there, just later, who is picking you up? Let’s call him.”

We called her son, I spoke with him in English. I told him I would stay with his mother till we got on the plane and ride next to her. She talked to him. Then we called her other sons just for the fun of it. Then we called my dad and he and she spoke for a while in Arabic and found out of course they had ten shared friends. Then I thought just for the heck of it why not call some Palestinian poets I know and let them chat with her? This all took up two hours.

She was laughing a lot by then. Telling of her life, patting my knee, answering questions. She had pulled a sack of homemade mamool cookies — little powdered sugar crumbly mounds stuffed with dates and nuts — from her bag — and was offering them to all the women at the gate. To my amazement, not a single woman declined one. It was like a sacrament. The traveler from Argentina, the mom from California, the lovely woman from Laredo — we were all covered with the same powdered sugar. And smiling. There is no better cookie.

And then the airline broke out free apple juice from huge coolers and two little girls from our flight ran around serving it and they were covered with powdered sugar, too. And I noticed my new best friend — by now we were holding hands — had a potted plant poking out of her bag, some medicinal thing, with green furry leaves. Such an Old Country tradition. Always carry a plant. Always stay rooted to somewhere.

And I looked around that gate of late and weary ones and I thought, This is the world I want to live in. The shared world. Not a single person in that gate — once the crying of confusion stopped— seemed apprehensive about any other person. They took the cookies. I wanted to hug all those other women, too.

This can still happen anywhere. Not everything is lost.

~ Naomi Shihab Nye

Image

But did you die?

Things… they change. Having taken a step back from the abyss lately, I’ve been dragging my psyche into fewer angst-ridden areas of life, but I’m nevertheless acutely aware of the controversy swirling around Simone Biles and other Million Dollar Babies of the sports world this year, and particularly this week. Apparently some round-headed pretender who likely couldn’t pull the trigger on a chin-up has called Simone Biles “a selfish sociopath” and “a shame to the country” for putting her health and well-being ahead of gold medals. According to Charlie Kirk “We are raising a generation of weak people like Simone Biles.” She’s so embarrassingly weak she does death-defying gymnastic moves nobody else in the world has ever thought of. What a taker.

So hey, if you live through it, no harm done, right? Everything for Mother America. That sounds a little 3rd Reich to me, so I’m giving Byron Heath a guest-essay spot this morning…

*****

This realization I had about Simone Biles is gonna make some people mad, but oh well.

Yesterday I was excited to show my daughters Kerri Strug’s famous one-leg vault. It was a defining Olympic moment that I watched live as a kid, and my girls watched raptly as Strug fell, and then limped back to leap again.

But for some reason I wasn’t as inspired watching it this time. In fact, I felt a little sick. Maybe being a father and teacher has made me soft, but all I could see was how Kerri Strug looked at her coach, Bela Karolyi, with pleading, terrified eyes, while he shouted back “You can do it!” over and over again.

My daughters didn’t cheer when Strug landed her second vault. Instead they frowned in concern as she collapsed in agony and frantic tears.

“Why did she jump again if she was hurt?” one of my girls asked. I made some inane reply about the heart of a champion or Olympic spirit, but in the back of my mind a thought was festering:

*She shouldn’t have jumped again*

The more the thought echoed, the stronger my realization became. Coach Karolyi should have gotten his visibly injured athlete medical help immediately! Now that I have two young daughters in gymnastics, I expect their safety to be the coach’s number one priority. Instead, Bela Karolyi told Strug to vault again. And he got what he wanted; a gold medal that was more important to him than his athlete’s health.

I’m sure people will say “Kerri Strug was a competitor–she WANTED to push through the injury.” That’s probably true. But since the last Olympics we’ve also learned these athletes were put into positions where they could be systematically abused both emotionally and physically, all while being inundated with “win at all costs” messaging. A teenager under those conditions should have been protected, and told “No medal is worth the risk of permanent injury.” In fact, we now know that Strug’s vault wasn’t even necessary to clinch the gold; the U.S. already had an insurmountable lead. Nevertheless, Bela Karolyi told her to vault again according to his own recounting of their conversation:

“I can’t feel my leg,” Strug told Karolyi.

“We got to go one more time,” Karolyi said. “Shake it out.”

“Do I have to do this again?” Strug asked.

“Can you, can you?” Karolyi wanted to know.

“I don’t know yet,” said Strug. “I will do it. I will, I will.”

The injury forced Strug’s retirement at 18 years old. Dominique Moceanu, a generational talent, also retired from injuries shortly after. They were top gymnasts literally pushed to the breaking point, and then put out to pasture. Coach Karolyi and Larry Nassar (the serial sexual abuser) continued their long careers, while the athletes were treated as a disposable resource.

Today Simone Biles–the greatest gymnast of all time–chose to step back from the competition, citing concerns for mental and physical health. I’ve already seen comments and posts about how Biles “failed her country,” “quit on us,” or “can’t be the greatest if she can’t handle the pressure.” Those statements are no different than Coach Karolyi telling an injured teen with wide, frightened eyes: “We got to go one more time. Shake it out.”

The subtext here is: “Our gold medal is more important than your well-being.”

Our athletes shouldn’t have to destroy themselves to meet our standards. If giving empathetic, authentic support to our Olympians means we’ll earn fewer gold medals, I’m happy to make that trade.

Here’s the message I hope we can send to Simone Biles: You are an outstanding athlete, a true role model, and a powerful woman. Nothing will change that. Please don’t sacrifice your emotional or physical well-being for our entertainment or national pride. We are proud of you for being brave enough to compete, and proud of you for having the wisdom to know when to step back. Your choice makes you an even better example to our daughters than you were before. WE’RE STILL ROOTING FOR YOU!

Byron Heath 07/27/2021

*****

I have excruciating memories of Kerri Strug’s sacrifice for those farging bastidges. No one should ever ask that of any athlete.

*****

Image

It’s HumpDay… best get over it

Stay positive, they said. Buck up lil’ buckarette, revive the Pollyanna cosplay, keep a stiff upper lip (??), be HAPPY!! It’s all gonna be fine, getting better by the day, never stop smiling, they said. And they’re right, of course, they always are. So why the underlying sadness… the melancholy… the odd sense of disappointment, when we’re finally emerging from America’s worst trial in terms of death and illness since the early 1900s, and have so far narrowly avoided a fascist takeover of our form of government. Why the long face, bubie, that’s what I’m asking myself lately.

Maybe we don’t see and hear enough of the good stuff – the things that cause us not to despair of human existence. Pretty sure we don’t, and it’s the universal lament of old farts: “Where’s the GOOD news? Tell us about the GOOD people, the people who know how to care about somebody besides themselves. Show us why it’s okay to be human.”

Kim still walks every morning unless it’s pouring rain, a habit that gets him out in Main Street America as it’s waking up and affords him a window to things he’d otherwise miss. This morning as he came through the cut on his way home he saw someone sleeping on a bench under an overhang, shorts, bare feet, a jacket over him, guitar case covered with stickers, and a small pack of some sort. He came across the street for a few supplies from home and when he got back to the bench the sleeper was awake and shivering. Kim offered him a homemade Razzleberry muffin, some juices, an apple, sweatpants, socks, and a pair of Keene’s. The clothes went on right away while Kim came home again for an afghan for him, then sat with him for a while, making quiet conversation. When asked if he needed money, the traveler said “Oh no, I’m fine! Well, a dollar would help.” Kim knew if the guy was hung over he wasn’t in the mood for a lot of words, and it didn’t matter that he didn’t know what happened to his shoes, so after ascertaining that the guy would be able to navigate on his own, Kim gave him what cash he had on him, to get a better start on his day. Kid probably in his early 20s, either a newbie on the street or somebody who’d played a gig, things happened, and he found himself sleeping on a bench, for whatever combination of reasons. All of this took place while I was still sound asleep in my comfy bed, not a clue in the world.

ME: Did it make you feel fatherly?

KIM:

ME: Did you feel protective of him?

KIM: Oh, right away! Yeah, could have been me so many times… and… yeah.

The kid… who does have a name, shielded to protect the innocent and the guilty… put off such an aura of having ended up in the wrong circumstances and not at all sure what to do about it, that on subsequent passes through the neighborhood, Kim’s tried to spot him, just to make sure he’s okay and headed somewhere better before nightfall. But no news has to be good news in this case, for now at least. And for now, thank you, universe, for the good-hearted, who save us day by day.

Image

Previous Older Entries

Playing for Time

"How did it get so late so soon?" ~Dr. Seuss

Mitch Teemley

The Power of Story

John Wreford Photographer

Words and Pictures from the Middle East

Live Life, Be Happy

Welcome to my weekly blog on life's happiness. We are all human and we all deserve to smile. Click a blog title or scroll down. Thanks for stopping by.

Wild Like the Flowers

Rhymes and Reasons

The Last Nightowl

Just the journal of an aging man looking at the world

Jenna Prosceno

Permission to be Human

Flora Fiction

Creative Space + Literary Magazine

tonysbologna : Honest. Satirical. Observations

Funny Blogs With A Hint Of Personal Development

ipledgeafallegiance

When will we ever learn?: Common sense and nonsense about today's public schools in America.

The Alchemist's Studio

Raku pottery, vases, and gifts

Russel Ray Photos

Life from Southern California, mostly San Diego County

Phicklephilly

The Parts Of My Life I Allow You To See

Going Medieval

Medieval History, Pop Culture, Swearing

It Takes Two.

twinning with the Eichmans

Vox Populi

A Public Sphere for Poetry, Politics, and Nature: over 400,000 monthly users

rarasaur

frightfully wondrous things happen here.

FranklyWrite

Live Life Write

Social Justice For All

Working towards global equity and equality

Drinking Tips for Teens

Creative humour, satire and other bad ideas by Ross Murray, an author living in the Eastern Townships of Quebec, Canada. Is it truth or fiction? Only his hairdresser knows for sure.

john pavlovitz

Stuff That Needs To Be Said

Gretchen L. Kelly, Author

Gretchen L. Kelly

KenRobert.com

random thoughts and scattered poems

Margaret and Helen

Best Friends for Sixty Years and Counting...

WordPress.com News

The latest news on WordPress.com and the WordPress community.

Musings of a Penpusher

A Taurean suffering from cacoethes scribendi - an incurable itch to write.

Ned's Blog

Humor at the Speed of Life

Funnier In Writing

A Humor Blog for Horrible People

%d bloggers like this: