A simple little story…

art: Autumn Skye Morrison

Sunny but cold. Today feels like one long tunnel. I tried all morning to write a letter, but it isn’t coming out right, so either it isn’t meant to be written, or I haven’t cracked the code of truth yet. For now, this is a better story that somehow speaks to what I was trying to write…

My dad has bees. Today I went to his house and he showed me all of the honey he had gotten from the hives. He took the lid off of a 5-gallon bucket full of honey and on top of the honey there were 3 little bees, struggling. They were covered in sticky honey and drowning. I asked him if we could help them and he said he was sure they wouldn’t survive. Casualties of honey collection I suppose.

I asked him again if we could at least get them out and kill them quickly; after all, he was the one who taught me to put a suffering animal (or bug) out of its misery. He finally conceded and scooped the bees out of the bucket. He put them in an empty Chobani yogurt container and put the plastic container outside.

Because he had disrupted the hive with the earlier honey collection, there were bees flying all over outside.

We put the 3 little bees in the container on a bench and left them to their fate. My dad called me out a little while later to show me what was happening. These three little bees were surrounded by all of their sisters (all of the bees are females) and they were cleaning the sticky nearly-dead bees, helping them to get all of the honey off of their bodies. We came back a short time later and there was only one little bee left in the container. She was still being tended to by her sisters.

When it was time for me to leave we checked one last time and all three of the bees had been cleaned off enough to fly away and the container was empty.

Those three little bees lived because they were surrounded by family and friends who would not give up on them, family and friends who refused to let them drown in their own stickiness and resolved to help until the last little bee could be set free.

Bee Sisters. Bee Peers. Bee Teammates.

We could all learn a thing or two from these bees.

Bee kind always.

~~author unknown

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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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Annnd… we’re rolling…

Photo Credit: Kim Smith 01/05/2022

A few touchstones, a week into the crisp new year, beginning with a roadmap I’m still learning how to navigate…

Anne is a much-beloved kindred spirit.

*****

This has to be said and I hope you won’t have any trouble recognizing yourself in its joyous celebration of humanity…

*****

Some of us require extra grace, so thank you for giving it.

It doesn’t.

On the other hand, once we slide into life’s third trimester of experiencing it all for ourselves… we start knowing a couple of things and remembering what we may have forgotten. I love this photo montage for the way it ties my G’ma Wagner’s era to mine and keeps the love and humanity intact. Some things are universal forever.

And based upon zero evidence other than an odd quiet sense of hope this morning, I see this as a distinct possibility:

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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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Forward in small steps…

My grandmother once gave me a tip:

In difficult times, move forward in small steps.

Do what you have to do, but little by little.

Don’t think about the future 

or what may happen tomorrow.

Wash the dishes.

Remove the dust.

Write a letter.

Make a soup.

You see?

Advance step by step.

Take a step and stop.

Rest a little.

Praise yourself.

Take another step.

And then another.

You won’t notice, but your steps will grow more and more.

And the time will come when you can think about the future without crying.

***

Author: Elena Mikhalkova 

Photo Artist: Rosanne Olson

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On the stroke of midnight…

On the stroke of midnight tonight, you can resolve to be better, if you like…

to be fitter,

to be healthier,

to work harder.

On the stroke of midnight tonight,

you can resolve to become a whole new you,

if you so choose.

Or, you can take a moment to acknowledge what you already are.

All that you already are.

Because it’s a lot.

You’re a lot.

And you deserve to be seen.

On the stroke of midnight tonight perhaps you could congratulate yourself, for coping.

For breaking, again,

and for rebuilding, again.

For catching the stones life has thrown at you,

and for using them to build your castle that little bit higher.

You have endured my friend.

And I don’t see the need to resolve to become a whole new you,

when you are already so very much indeed.

Happy new year.

You made it.

Donna Ashworth

ART by Sherine Tolba

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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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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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Thinking about home…

Looking out my 4th-floor window… talking myself into another day. Before 8am I see a homeless couple on the sidewalk, bundled against the cold and headed east pushing a yellow grocery cart overloaded with belongings, a boy on a bicycle riding slowly next to them in the street. Are they parents and son who found a warm(er) spot to sleep last night, broke camp, and are going… where? What does their day hold? I see people on the move every day from my birds’ nest vantage point, in singles, couples, small “gangs,” and try to picture what daily life looks like for them, hour by hour. Life has changed and the rug has been yanked from under people in such a way that they can’t recover, putting whole families at the mercy of the elements, which is antithetical to what we think America is. The Bigs have highjacked the American dream and it only applies upwardly now, which conveniently happens to be in their direction, leaving the underlings without the necessities of life.

Lawrence America is a benevolent place to be homeless if it has to happen… if the benevolent part is factual. I know the City tries, and is filled with individual humans who go out of their way to help. Last winter got so rough our shelters were maxed out, and at least three of our street people died of exposure… but a fact to be dealt with is that not everyone will come inside… the years and/or their own psychic issues have taught them to trust no one, ever, and then all you can do is pay respect. But as a community, we try… there’s now a fenced camp of wooden and canvas shelters, and other areas of town are seeing additional outreach to those without a roof or table.

With the world breaking our hearts every day, the grace of a gentle environment can’t be over-appreciated. This unique spot in Free Kansas is a microcosm, so the hate and intolerance are present here too, but mitigated by the overall sense that we’re here to live in peace, get along, help when we can. Not every decision Kim and I have made in our lifetimes has been a stellar one, but the one to settle our bones in this place stands near the top, just under “Screw it, we know what this is! We’re getting married.”

Most university towns come with a predictable list of complications, but the energy of about 28,000 students translates its way into every part of life here and it’s overwhelmingly positive. Online question: Is KU a party school? Answer: Since the University of Kansas is a big party school, if you have difficulty focusing on studies you should choose another school. So yeah, big energy, but mostly benevolent, and KU basketball restarts our hearts every season.

Living here, likely dying here, makes so much sense. My grandma grew up in a dugout an hour away, her people having settled in Atchison via New York Harbor, via Germany. After a lifetime in western Kansas, moving to a place with trees and rivers has soothed my soul from day one… this is home.

The homing instincts of humans are much like those of other species, but we have a harder time knowing where that home IS, so we can’t just head south and keep going ’til we get there. For the human species, home is an elusive concept, colored by memory, shaped by circumstance. We have a hard time settling, but our hearts are always looking for a soft place to land, and when we find it, we know it. Nice to be able to say “I’m in a good place” on a cold December morning in an age of abject uncertainty. Amen.

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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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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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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 are what 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.

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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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