Breathe…

She sat at the back and they said she was shy,

She led from the front and they hated her pride,

They asked her advice and then questioned her guidance,

They branded her loud, then were shocked by her silence,

When she shared no ambition they said it was sad,

So she told them her dreams and they said she was mad,

They told her they’d listen, then covered their ears,

And gave her a hug while they laughed at her fears,

And she listened to all of it thinking she should,

Be the girl they told her to be best as she could,

But one day she asked what was best for herself,

Instead of trying to please everyone else,

So she walked to the forest and stood with the trees,

She heard the wind whisper and dance with the leaves,

She spoke to the willow, the elm and the pine,

And she told them what she’d been told time after time,

She told them she felt she was never enough,

She was either too little or far far too much,

Too loud or too quiet, too fierce or too weak,

Too wise or too foolish, too bold or too meek,

Then she found a small clearing surrounded by firs,

And she stopped…and she heard what the trees said to her,

And she sat there for hours not wanting to leave,

For the forest said nothing, it just let her breathe.

Author: @Becky Helmsley

***

This breathtaking poem was shared on Facebook without accreditation, which google fixed for me, quickly finding Becky for the documentation she must have. The poem’s title is BREATHE. Reverse Image Search failed me utterly, however, so for now Tree Woman will remain anonymous.

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The sweet discovery I made, three lines in, is that BREATHE is written in the same meter as Billy Joel’s “She’s Always a Woman to Me.” So yes… you can sing it! And if ever a poem needed to be sung… LOUD… it’s this one.

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You become…

QUESTION: How do we know when a new practice has become a full-fledged habit? I say it’s when our access to said habit is rudely cut off and we find ourselves in a near-depressive state over it. Circumstances of various sorts, most of them entirely beyond my control, conspired to keep me off the streets this week for a 4-day stretch that by Day Three had me in a minor meltdown. Since December 22nd of last year my two best friends, after #1 Kimmers, have been #2 walking, and #3 icing. Just let me get out there and walk it off, keep the ice packs in rotation, and all’s well. I didn’t mean to give my aging body an 8-year hiatus, but I’m kind of proud of how it’s been willing to pick up the pace again, now that it can, and this is no time to back off. I’m finding that my once overactive conscience operates on a standby basis these days because I don’t give it much to do. Once that morning stroll around town is in the bag the day is mine to live out, which feels sweetly Zen. And the best part is that the time spent outside in this green green city feels like the most powerful health elixir I could find. It’s good… in the face of all the things… to be able to say “It’s all good.”

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Remember that you are all you really have, which is entirely more than sufficient, so treat yourself with respect and don’t miss the good stuff along the way.

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I can work with that…

Oh hey, my Muse, I didn’t see you there when I sat down! I was lost in thought about HABIT… what it is, how it happens, what it means to humans for good or ill. Glad you’re here on a Sunday morning, you can help me with this.

Over a lifetime, I’ve unconsciously built a wide range of habits into my daily existence, some of them a real bitch to get rid of. What I’m after at this point are GOOD habits, BETTER habits, BENEFICIAL habits, since there really isn’t time left for detrimental processes. I’ve been happy to discover that I’m still equipped for growth, that I can add a new module to the operating system and make everything sync.

I’m talkin’ ’bout my new drug… walking, something I took for granted until in my 20s but never after. Farm Girl ran for acres on sturdy little legs, mostly barefoot. Tripped her way through grade school, danced through high school, went to college in the almost-70s so remembers only pieces/parts. All of that was very real and vital and life-shaping, and it’s mine. I own the ensuing years, after my life-altering accident, and all they held. This morning it feels like I owe tribute to the NOW and the gift of walking out the door and going ’til I feel like heading home. Unless the weather is dire, I can’t sit here much past sunrise without my butt twitching to go outside. I have to latch the Tevas to my feet, get out there, and offer up my daily measure of thanks. By the time I get home there are aches going on… but nothing hurts. It’s an excellent morning when I’ve been out and about, back home and iced by 8am, and this was one of them, go me. Now I have the entire rest of the day to fart around.

A sweet secret muse is Mr. Kurt Vonnegut, and I love this story:

Kurt Vonnegut tells his wife he’s going out to buy an envelope:

“Oh, she says, well, you’re not a poor man. You know, why don’t you go online and buy a hundred envelopes and put them in the closet? And so I pretend not to hear her. And go out to get an envelope because I’m going to have a hell of a good time in the process of buying one envelope.

I meet a lot of people. And see some great looking babies. And a fire engine goes by. And I give them the thumbs up. And I’ll ask a woman what kind of dog that is. And, and I don’t know. The moral of the story is – we’re here on Earth to fart around.

And, of course, the computers will do us out of that. And what the computer people don’t realize, or they don’t care, is we’re dancing animals. You know, we love to move around. And it’s like we’re not supposed to dance at all anymore.“

Let’s all get up and move around a bit right now… or at least dance.

All respect, Kurt, you ol’ dog…

***

What’s my motivation? To keep dancing.

***

It was a sweet week, highlighted by having this guy hang out with us for a few hours, play our piano, jam on guitars with Kim, sing, harmonize, fill the house with joy. If you haunt the music-underground in Lawrence in any of its iterations, the swell of talent that’s always just behind the curtain here, you likely know this gifted young man… lucky you.

Vincent Brauer. Remember the name.

***

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Thinking in print…

If writing is one of your best emotional outlets, you know it doesn’t take much to plant the seed of a thought. I was out for my walk just now, in the early morning cool, and in that relatively brief span of time my senses were stirred in more ways than one.

I’m still opting for flat sidewalks ’til the spine says move on again, so that keeps me within the general downtown area, where early mornings are quiet, with mostly dog walkers and food delivery trucks for company. The route I picked out of the hat this time took me past the Salvation Army building, whose yard is currently hosting a tatty old recliner that must be holding onto several gallons of ammonia. Somebody haul that thing off, ‘k? My senses were definitely awake from that point on.

Once normal breathing returned, I started picking up the breakfast aromas along Mass Street and was ready to make the return loop toward home. Just outside our building I met a neighbor out walking a very beautiful, gentle dog with eyes that looked almost human. My neighbor introduced her as Rosie and said that she’s just recently rescued her from a puppy mill where Rosie was a breeder bitch. After successful pregnancies, Rosie exhibited a false one and was kicked out of the facility. No babies, no eat. No shelter, no care, no love, no survive. Beautiful sweet Rosie is clearly one of the lucky ones… she got out. And she’s sleek and healthy and not broken down… because she got out. But Rosie’s lonely. She misses her babies and her sisters. So my neighbor is on the list to get a puppy from one of Rosie’s sisters, who is due to deliver any day. And I hope Rosie’s sadness will turn to healing. I know, still breeders, but we fix one thing and then work on the rest. My heightened senses (thx, pee-soaked chair) are still rolling it around between heart and brain… and that spot inside that says “You see more than you understand.”

A sweet scenario would have been for a good girl like Rosie to meet a nice baby-daddy and settle in with him to raise however many litters of puppies they were blessed with… to be well cared-for… and to die at a peaceful old dog age without ever having been forced into any of it. That’s what my eyes see… my heart will work on the understanding. And already it’s saying “Every girl’s a good girl ’til life happens. And then she’s still a good girl, it’s just public perception that changes.”

Thanks, heart, I can always count on you.

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Unraveling the threads…

The other day I shared this little story on Facebook and it generated a brief but interesting conversation…

My impression was that I surprised at least a few people in the convo, catching them off-guard with a confessional comment or two… and I’ve thought about it since. We give it all sorts of names and labels… apprehension, disquiet, restlessness, watchfulness… but by any description, anxiety can be crippling. The first two years of isolation after COVID began showed me just how intricately-wrapped I was in the arms of silent worry. That sense of disquiet has been with me since before memory, and the reveal came because the isolation left me with nothing but time inside my own head.

If anxiety lives under your skin you’re likely to identify with some of this…

I’m saving the pertinent details for my bestseller, so on the “how did I get this way” front I’ll simply say for now that LIFE HAPPENS. It’s been extremely sweet to me in certain ways, though, so I’ve had my good moments, stumbling through life, even at times feeling marvelously (and temporarily) in control of my existence. I cherish those times, which are ongoing. But the flipside that we’re not talking about right now never goes away, just hangs out in doorways and dark alleys waiting to trip me up and put me on the wrong side of myself. It takes only a word or a look, an image from the past, a riff of a song, a perceived disappointment… and that other me takes over. I don’t like her at all because all the things I want to be… she isn’t. I keep thinking year by year that we’ll reach a peaceful settlement, she and I… but she’s tricky and has been running the show far longer than the me I really am… the one who’s strong through everything and knows what she’s doing. (For some reason the witchy half of me just laughs when I say that.)

If you’re me, with Anxiety in the driver’s seat, you drag your feet about making plans, even though you want to see the people involved. It’s complicated. You make all your doctors’ appointments for afternoon because you need the whole morning to get mentally ready for it, which includes showering and dressing. Situations encompassing more than four people are anxiety-inducing because despite spending ridiculous dollars on high-tech hearing assists you can’t hear shit… all the voices and background sounds blend together, obliterating consonants from the beginnings and endings of words, which renders them unintelligible. My glued-on but sincere smile and the occasional nod of my head are intended to convey a general sense of understanding on my part, along with the acknowledgment that it doesn’t really matter, I know there won’t be a test, we’re all just being sociable here… as anxiety percolates.

Phone calls are a test of will, mine against the witch under my skin. The anxiousness attached to this one harkens back to the days before I realized I was losing my hearing, I just knew people were talking softer and faster and why was this happening all at once? I’m realizing that it’s really not such a big deal to have a phone conversation, and it’s where these expensive earbuds shine, so I’m on the verge of winning this one. In fact, since breaking out of the prison of nerve pain, I’ve been taking on lots of tiny challenges and winning, which bodes better for the future.

I’ve learned how to be a duck, calm on the surface, paddling for my life underneath, which as it turns out is the definition of adulting. And I’m learning that the world of my thoughts is the true one… as long as I keep them real. When I was little I wondered what people did after 40 or so, when they knew everything. Just read books ’til they died, I figured.

***

I don’t know the answer to the question posed in the graphic, but I know I’m a champion at letting things steal my joy. I can break my own heart in record time with conversations that never happened, slights that never came my way at all. It’s crazy.

But never mind, it’ll all be in the book…

***

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Living in harmony…

Good morning, fellow conspirators, I hope your day’s spooling out in proper order so far. In my own little world, I was gently awakened with the words “There’s a bagel waiting for you,” and indeed there was. Everything… toasted… still warm…with veggie schmear… after which I was ready for anything, so I walked to Massachusetts… and from there to the Kaw to watch it roar and tumble. I stay close to the head-high railing because lots of bicyclists go back and forth on the walkway and I can’t always hear their shouted “On your right” or “on your left.” This morning I waited for someone on a bright yellow bike to pass, but instead the rider slowed and pulled to a stop. He turned out to be a very cheerful skinny old man my age who immediately struck up a conversation about how much water continues to sluice through town from the west. Turns out he’s a retired professor from Baker University by way of Atlanta, lives not far from downtown, loves to ride the bridge, and has a knack for making somebody’s day. Old people are so precious… if you make eye contact we’ll talk to you, so watch yourself, but we do know shit and we feel seen when somebody acts marginally interested.

From the category of Unsought Information… you see me talking about walking to various states. Here’s the deal… I’ve always heard that our north/south streets were named in the order the states entered the union, so here’s what I did, I googled it. Right there’s the fraction of difference between thinking you know something and finding out. Here’s what I found…

ARE LAWRENCE’S STATE STREETS REALLY NAMED FOR STATES IN THE ORDER THEY CAME INTO THE UNION?

Great question! The answer is, sort of. Here are the states by order of entry into the Union. If you go by this list, the state streets in Lawrence are numbers 1, 2, 3, 11, 5, 13, 9, 6 (Massachusetts). Then numbers 14 (Vermont) through 27 (Florida) are in perfect order. Then it goes 32, 30, 38, 31, 29 (Iowa). It seems that after Iowa Street, the city planners pretty much gave up. Here is a great article on the reasons (or lack thereof) behind this order. It’s interesting to note many of the southern states were purposefully left out.

***

Okay, there ya’ go, make of it what you will… or can. My job is to keep walking cross-country.

***

Currently making the rounds online is a rant that requires a second and third look and a well-measured rebuttal, which someone has been kind enough to provide. I hope everyone on social media who reads the first installment will also read the second. The first makes one kind of statement, the second another.

From the article accompanying the quotes:

“The most interesting thing about the initial post is the sense of victimization coming from the original poster. It seems to say that having to pay attention to issues of justice and civil rights and being asked to acknowledge the ongoing impact of historical oppression and what role each of us might play in keeping others down somehow takes something away from them.

“Being asked to see and care about victims of injustice doesn’t make you a victim yourself. The logic there is so strange. And what does it mean to shove being gay down someone’s throat? Because of course it would be reasonable to push back against someone actually cramming something down your throat, but in this context ‘shove it down my throat’ usually means ‘did something publicly in my line of vision.’ Not the same thing.”

.

A commenter said: “I spend so much time surrounded by straight guys who talk about nothing except women’s bodies and sex, but my pride flag bumper sticker is apparently throwing my sexuality in people’s throats.”

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See interpretation below…

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We want to believe that the divisions are many, but it’s really all one thing and nobody wants to deal with it down to a nubbin until it’s actually solved… how to survive together on a small planet.

Raises hand. Looks closely.

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Let’s talk about home and comfort…

Friends will be surprised to hear that I walked to New Jersey yesterday morning. Strolled from 8th to 9th to Connecticut to New York to New Jersey, which kept me on good sidewalks and brought me out at the train station, ready for the return loop home. Went out just after 7am but it was already getting steamy, so 45 minutes’ trekking was about right. This morning I woke up later and it was already breathless outside, so I’ve declared this to be Paperwork Day (why do we still have PAPER work??), while soothing any trace of guilt with iced coffee. Oh, there’s all that laundry, too, of course, good thing I conserved energy right off the bat, so wise…

The days grow ever weirder while that other shoe takes on weight, so here’s some nonsense I saved for just such days…

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I love you, fellow weirdos, we must hang together. Or we will hang separately…

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Thomas Wolfe wrote a whole novel centered around the fact that You Can’t Go Home Again, and someone’s explanation says “If you try to return to a place you remember from the past it won’t be the same as you remember it.” I think it’s the other way around – we can’t go back because the people who never left won’t let us be anything other than the labels we wore then. That strikes me as an important fail-safe… if nothing changes over a lifetime, a society is dying, so home has to be wherever we find ourselves.

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I hope your heart feels at home today.

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Expectations v the real world…

It’s a beautiful 4th of July, but it’ll be a quiet one… nobody in this house is in the mood to celebrate the recent annulment of independence on what was a holiday in its honor. Independence is solely for straight white Christian men, so all the glorious speeches today about what it means to live free or die will ring hollow and mean little. Fireworks are a sad joke… they torture innocent animals while everything goes up in smoke and noise, truly a metaphor for the day. Women have been put firmly back in our “place” which we’re supposed to “know” and adhere to. It’s been made crystal clear that we are brood mares, entitled to room and board but tasked with every responsibility men don’t care to own. And since the Court has for the first time in its history REMOVED rights from U.S. citizens, we can realistically kiss them ALL goodbye. So far, we’ve seen the demise of women’s hard-fought right to manage our own bodies, the striking down of birth control rights and freedom even for married couples, and the right of every human to breathe clean air. Now Clarence and Company are taking a second look at Obergefell, and anyone who thinks the right to marry the person you love won’t be erased… is delusional. As the dominoes continue to fall, swerving conspicuously around Clarence’s mixed marriage, once illegal and calling for death-by-citizen, they’ll get to our right to vote, and women will truly be out on our ear. But none of this is new nor recent… Abigail Adams’ entreaties to her husband were made nearly 250 years ago.

***

We stand helplessly by as we watch democracy being systematically dismantled, the power of change having been removed from our hands while we weren’t watching. It’s all very sad and maddening, and in the end inevitable. Self-government requires that everybody pull their weight, contribute to the good of all, stay informed, and vote. We’ve lost much of that, along with the capacity to face truth, deal with it head on, and make the changes required to actually fix anything. Thus, the oligarchs are taking over, the Supremes are legislating from the bench, the legislature is ruling from the minority, and the presidency has been damaged and weakened. We came within a hair’s breadth of tyranny on January 6 of last year, and we are nowhere close to being out of danger as a nation. If there are American citizens left who feel an urging to help set things right, now would be the time.

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Crucial to bear in mind…

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And it contains no glee nor happiness.

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I wish everyone an honest July 4th, eyes wide open. Celebrate the wins, grieve the losses. Fully own the independent spirit that lives inside you, a force no one but you can cancel. Stay strong… Lady Liberty’s about to go through some things and she needs our support. And to quote John Prine, “I still love America, I just don’t know how to get there anymore.”

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Reality intrudes…

This was a ridiculous week to run out of my antidepressant and forget to pick it up… the week the Supremes decided to burn it all down. And now I’m awake early on a rainy Saturday morning, reading headlines. Just saw one alluding to Evangelical Republicans’ delight and joy at the pain they’ve managed to cause for women, for the environment, for the security of same-sex marriage, for the warp and woof of U.S. daily life. Looked at the article behind the headline and its tone was one of crowing success, disdain for human emotions and conditions, and overflowing with we-won-you-lost glee. The fact that it makes conservatives so happy when we’re sad tells me it would be a long trek back to actual relationship, and maybe that’s how they prefer it… throwing it all in our face and walking away.

Words are so freaking cheap, made that way by improper and dishonest usage. It’s a trip of the tongue to say you love someone, a trick of the brain to vote for people who will hurt them. I see younger people saying again that both parties are the same, the mindsets are identical, nobody’s to blame for anything, everybody’s to blame for everything, none of it means squat. They’re mostly young enough not to have memories of what fascism did to Germany, was allowed to do, was invited in to perpetrate, so I don’t take their declarations very seriously. There are two mindsets at work in the nation, and they have little in common. One has heart behind it, the other fear and control. One leads to life, the other death. It’s distressing to watch people cling to lies and desperation… on the other hand, I cannot help them without removing their freedoms as ours are being dismantled. One thing conservatives aren’t taking into account in their celebrations is that the Supremes’ decision to sacrifice the environment in favor of money will affect each of them in equal fashion with the liberals they want to end. Unless we have a few kabillion extra bucks lying around, we’re all eventually going to die the same suffocating death, so maybe don’t laugh too hard or too soon.

It’s always about the meanness, the cruelty, about how much butt-hurt people can cause to fellow citizens who are just trying to get through life. Where does that come from? What shapes one party of people into a given mindset, world view, automatic response? What has molded conservatives in such a way that the first thought is to PUNISH? To make people PAY for their supposed wrong-thinking. To line all the ducks up with a laser and forbid them to move. Where did they get the idea that they need to tell every individual what to do and how to live? And that by not following their edicts, we’re sinning. Clarence Thomas, having scuttled women’s right to full personhood… the right of married couples to use the birth control method of their choice… and the right-to-life of humans who need to breathe Earth’s air going forward by quashing climate change response… now wants to take another look at the case which decided same-sex marriage. He of course hasn’t mentioned Loving v Virginia, which makes his own mixed-race marriage to Ginni possible. After Clarence leaves, they’ll dump that one too, if not before. If Ginni ends up being indicted for the 1/6 insurrection, all bets are off.

In these years, with every part of life in turmoil and all of it changing, I’m okay with the fact that we’re two nations. We always have been, so we might as well accept it, deal with it, and try to live through it since our basic differences haven’t always kept us literally at war with each other. Until the major issues can be resolved, the two-nation thing keeps us from grabbing each other’s throats in any organized way, so it’s a necessary buffer, which is no doubt why we’ve built it, all of us, working together. Imagine that…

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And now we are here.

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The widening gulf…

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What’s left to say… after days spent digesting the Supremes’ breathtaking display of misogyny, gun mania, white supremacy, and transparent fascist yearnings, the anger only grows, deepens, and takes on a life of its own, all of which is patently unhealthy. It isn’t that we didn’t know… we’ve been well aware on some level since we realized we were the opposite sex that we’re also, by default, the inferior sex. Oh, but never mind… ask any incel, sex is sex, and women are what’s here for the taking. We’ve been shown once again that as females in our society we have no standing or input regarding our own selves, and especially as regards reproduction… you know, like livestock. Our thoughts, wants, needs, health, or well-being have no meaning to the males in charge – we exist simply as seed-bearers, the bringers of continued life on the planet, with our own humanity disregarded. Nor do they actually give a rat’s ass about the fetuses involved.

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In two months I’ll be 75 years old, so clearly the discussion doesn’t concern me. Except that it does because it’s a moral issue of the highest order. We’re not allowed to so much as harvest organs after someone dies unless they personally signed off on it pre-exit, so women officially have less control over our body parts than a corpse. Both my mom and g’ma would be dismayed to see this day… pretty sure they thought the struggle for equal humanity would have been resolved by now. We’re a family of optimists.

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I get angry… injustice is my lifelong nemesis. I vent on social media, posting a flurry of righteously indignant comments and memes until the poison starts to leach out of my system. And then I go to ground again, much to the relief of my long-suffering friends and contacts. Meanwhile, nothing has changed except that the atmosphere has grown a little more toxic everywhere.

***

I wish I were less helpless to kindle positive change. I’ve felt pretty comfortable in this country for most of my life, which in itself is a clear acknowledgement of privilege, but the U.S. isn’t everything we were taught to believe it was as school children… sad but no longer shocking. We’re not all that… some days we’re not any of it. Are we even still TRYING to get it right? Honest answers only.

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A message for the power-driven …

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Reality being what it is, certain attitude adjustments are required from time to time, so I’m making a big note of this today and getting on with it.

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The trick is to keep moving…

This morning it struck me that ten years after following John’s suggestion to start a blog, I’m still here. You know the old question, “Where do you see yourself in five years… ten years?” If anyone has ever gotten that one totally right, I’d love to meet them. The past ten years have been packed with events, milestones, eruptions, and weirdness… who among us could have predicted COVID and its ongoing effects? And now someone I love is miserably ill with it for a second time, despite two shots, two boosters, and vigilance, so it’s never going away. We’re stuck in the circumstances of our own ignorance and inflexibility… twin curses of being human.

Speaking of which… the effects of ignorant inflexible human behavior are on display every few days now in the 1/6 hearings, showing us how deeply entrenched kakistocracy has become. Just as during Watergate, it’s demoralizing to hear and read the things said and done by people who were elected to work for the good of all. The money they’ve made off with. The laws they’ve broken. The lives they’ve destroyed. Apparently it’s necessary, every fifty years or so, to hold up a mirror so Miss American Pie can see if she’s done yet. The assessment from here is that she’s on life support, hemorrhaging, her coffers raided, and she’s being stripped for parts by the worst of the worst. It’s an uphill climb for people of goodwill who want her healthy and happy. More of an Everest, really.

Where we find ourselves…

Truth can shock us upon first hearing.

I have yet to meet the elephant I won’t discuss. As Kim likes to say, “I ain’t skeered,” and there’s very little that has the power to back me off of issues I care about. In this third trimester of living, it feels like there’s less to lose by simply being me. If what I say here or outside my door drives you crazy, makes you want to hurt me, beat me, make me write bad checks… that’s a you problem. For me, a diary with accountability has been just the ticket for getting through the past ten years of intense stress and change, and I owe a deep debt of gratitude to John for his discernment and wise advice. Also apologies for embarrassing him on the regular, but he did ask for it, when you think it out…

This is all coming from an old girl who cares far less about far more things than she used to… and far more about the things that actually matter.

Is that too much to ask?

Meanwhile, it’s hot. Damn hot.

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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.

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Sunrise… sunset…

There’s everything to be said for second chances. We don’t all get one in every situation. In fact, the greater the need for a second shot, the less likely we’ll be afforded one. They’re handed out like candy when we’re little, so someone should warn us early on that life doesn’t continue in that vein and that we should think, first of all, and then wait to act on an idea until we’re pretty sure it’s a good one.

When I came to a semi-conscious conclusion a few years ago that life as I’d known it was ending, in terms of physical capabilities, I failed to consider the major ramifications of shutting down. Not that I had a real choice… when pain rules, you do what it says, and it took me to some dark places before Dr. Carlson put a stop to it for me. But going to ground and closing the door in your third trimester of life is a serious undertaking which requires equally serious effort to reverse.

Change is underway. This morning, like an actual person, I drove across town again on a valid license to check on a friend, stopped at Einstein’s for a bagel, paid for it with my updated credit card whose pin number I know, parked Kim’s truck back in its spot without destroying anything anywhere, and I feel slightly reborn. It’s like someone raised a curtain and there was the world, big as life and twice as natural. It’s ridiculous… at almost 75 it feels in lots of ways like I’m just getting started.

I hope the central message floats to the top of all the I/me/we, and lights up in neon: DON’T QUIT!! Whatever’s stopping you from living your life… physically, mentally, spiritually… don’t give in to it unless that’s the only choice available, which was coming true for me until six months ago. If there’s any chance to maintain a vital life of your own… do it. It takes great energy to come back, and the time consumed is staggering. But step by step… slowly we turn… and life goes on.

There are Memorial Day observances around town today, and something big going on in South Park for kids, but things were pretty quiet this morning after Busker weekend. One block of 8th street is still closed, with booths in place, so it ain’t over ’til it’s over. Feels like a Sunday…

No typos detected.

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The celebrations of life…

This weekend is Busker Fest in Lawrence America, a 4-day street-performer extravaganza that includes various sound-stages close to downtown, music everywhere, art parades, food booths, merch booths, contests, feats of derring-do, delights for the kiddos, Farmers Market, and untold other good stuff. It started the year before we moved here, and that’s probably the only one we’ve missed. What we love most is knowing it’s happening and that families are having a great time… we watch the steady stream of walkers heading from East Lawrence to Mass Street, and grin big… the underlying vibe here is a healing one. When I’m out driving or walking there isn’t a heavy sense that half the people around me hate what I love, or that I’m a minnow who somehow slipped into the piranha tank. Other than the occasional pygmy shark, there’s been no real threat detected most days.

Turns out early morning on a Saturday is a great time to drive across town, who knew? I had an errand at 7:30 and since everything around downtown is blocked off for the festival, I took different routes there and back, soaking up the cool morning air. There were people out everywhere but very little traffic, and I was truly in Free State Kansas. Tiny piece of unsolicited advice from The Big Sister… never shut down and give up on living, it’s hard to ramp it all up again and put things back where they belong. Pain started shutting things down shortly after we moved here… I stopped talking on the phone due to hearing loss… I lost energy for being social due to both of the above… and a senior neurosurgeon told me there was no way to stop the nerve pain in my body. Things… they happen. My driver’s license was expired for six months, which didn’t matter that much since I was never behind the wheel anyway, but another six and I’d have had to retake all the tests and jump through a few other hoops. There are small mercies…

Life returns, to bodies and to societies, although it’s sadly true that both usually have to hit rock bottom before coming back.

Key-change is key.
I’m grateful to the special people who’ve gotten me this far… and with a legal driver’s license even!

******

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Breakthrough?

It’s been raining for days. It’s raining when we go to bed, still coming down when we get up. It’s wet, gray, fairly relentless, and requires a certain mindset, which is under construction as we speak, entailing reminders of green forest and spring flowers, justifying everything. And hark, what do I see in yon sky? Wonder of wonders, it be the SUN! Lo, life continues, boys and girls, despite every indication to the contrary. Not for all… but for us, the “lucky” survivors.

Even with sunlight now pouring through my windows, it’s hard to settle into thoughts of daily life as it used to be. The brokenness of our society is increasingly hard to ignore, to look away from, to deny, even more so this week with the slaughter of 19 children and two teachers. How do we deal with the heartache, knowing we can’t fix it but can only live in its midst and try not to turn into one of the bad guys? We don’t know, we’ve never been here before, and even my grandparents’ stories of the Civil War are not that instructive in these circumstances, although we are indeed engaged in a great barely-civil war of the spirit with our brothers and sisters.

Maybe our culture of “say the nice thing, do the nice thing” has rendered us incapable of truth in our relationships, even the closest. Does our desire to please, to be uber-accepted, keep us in circular mode… never quite getting it right but never giving up the effort? When do we hop off the Official Good Person treadmill and do a status check on who we are? You know, now, today, after everything that’s happened. I guess some of us stop treading when the world shuts down for a pandemic and we can suddenly hear ourselves think. We start slow-walking it when a million Americans die from the still-ongoing pandemic. We careen off the track when our babies are relentlessly slaughtered in their classrooms. We go into neutral when the whole world seems to be at war and rushing headlong into some kind of dystopia. And then the thoughts get really loud. Bossy and dictatorial. Words like “Stay awake!” figure bigly in the inner conversation. Simultaneously, it’s easier now to remember that I’m simply a creature on the planet, trying to survive without harming anyone else, doing my Girl Scout best, pretty much end of story. At this point, what seems doable to me as a human animal is very basic:

  • Want the good stuff for yourself and the world
  • Work toward conditions in which the good stuff will thrive
  • Don’t hoard any of it

Every human.

There’s no way to stop the decay without removing the two-headed monster of money and control. The monster has been alive and expanding since the first white man set foot on the soil of this continent, so it’s like… a big problem. Who’s gonna slay the dragon? Who ya’ gonna call? On the other hand, where ya’ gonna run? I’ll keep fighting with the only weapon I own, my words, in case they might have some effect somewhere that I’ll never know about. Since I always read what I write, the words are mainly for me… to keep me honest, to maintain sanity, to sort the world into digestible chunks, to keep the fulcrum balanced under the humor/angst see-saw.

Right now, with the sun lighting up the trees, I’m giving it all over to a strange sense of joy, inexplicable but undeniable. The feeling is completely welcome here, especially since it’s the foundation for all other emotions.

******

******

Kim just got home from PickleBall and said there’s a wall of black in the western sky, headed directly for us. That’s okay, can’t rain on my parade, I’ve already talked myself through it. You make it an excellent day, please, and if anything I say resonates with you, ever, come talk to me in comments. I know you’re out there. 💙

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