b–In That Mood

So America has officially been recognized as an oligarchy in several studies, for-profit prisons are creating a need for themselves at the cost of young black mens’ lives, racism is alive and well in the streets, school, and jails, the public schools in this country are being intentionally and systematically destroyed, there are persistent and intense attacks on the financial security of all segments of the middle class, the right wants to dismantle the health care system at all levels that are not privately insured, cities and states are broke from trying to fill the gaps left as the federal government withdraws support from its traditional roles. That is just one sentence of the things bothering me very deeply.

My mother was very politically active until she moved out of the DC area. She was in her 70s then and decided that the world was going to hell at too fast a clip and there wasn’t a thing she had been able to do to derail that trip in her 40 years of rather intense efforts. She became very disillusioned but I am not quite sure exactly what bothered her because by then we had come to terms with the fact that the two of us couldn’t discuss politics with each other. She just couldn’t accept that I didn’t agree with her point of view. She would call me all kinds of stupid, fool, dupe, and ignorant. Who wants to hear that?

I think that is a bit of what has happened to the national debate over most things. We talk with those who agree with our opinion and avoid arguing with those who don’t because we have all come to believe that there is no possibility of rationally discussing anything with the other side. I have seen several studies recently that talk about why we are so polarized and why it will probably get worse. I hope the conclusions are wrong. But, in the mean time it really does get worse because we won’t even try out of fear.

I have been reading Anne Lamot’s work and others who are optimistic and find grace and solace in the small things. I think I’m so burdened by the world that I need a break from it. I’ve stopped listening to the news except the headlines just to avoid knowing how many new lives have been taken by Islamic terrorists, ISAL or Boco Haram, or how many children stolen by The Christian terrorist, the Lord’s Resistance Army. I’m sick of the 60 year stalemate in Israel and don’t want to hear a peep out of the morons in DC who just support the oligarchy or some personal agenda instead of caring about this country as a whole.

I’ve been reading Anne Lamot’s work because it gives me hope. I read other writers and will follow links to pieces that give me hope even if it is that I can cook rice with less calories. There is good news. We really do do good things for each other and ourselves.

So I’m hunkering down in my home space of my house and my Friends meeting. Those are what  I have. I’m pretty comfortable in both spaces. It is like so many things, if you leave malleable things there long enough they will conform to the shape of their containers. I love my meeting. I love the people and every time I see one of their beloved faces I feel like I shine a little brighter, like the moon off the sun. Truly, there is nothing like a Quaker meeting that has been around long enough for some members to see it as home, that place where they have to let you in. Like old friends, conversations pick up where they left off. We have a knitting circle where we solve all the problems of love and life. We lean forward to hear each other. Little is as affirming as that. I lead a discussion this past weekend and the lifting up about it is so rare. Even if at some level I did an awful job, they tell me it is exactly what was needed and that is exactly what I need. I don’t have to feel such a failure about voting rights, ISIL, anti-vac people, schools or any of that. My family leaned towards me.


b–Making Yourself Crazy

I believe each of us has favorite ways to make ourselves crazy. You know that stuff when you sit there thinking about all the stuff that has, will, might, or is happening. Sometime it is worrying about how we will survive if terrorists shut down the water supply, where can we save enough water that won’t go bad on you? Could we fill the bathtub or would we just waste it because the dogs got into it or would algae take over. We could use it to flush the toilet once it got grotty enough. Or should you use Grecian Formula for Women or will it take out too much gray, some looks nice but how much makes you look old? I wonder how much that costs. Maybe it’s too late as I haven’t seen a real brown hair on my head for 10 years at least. Then there is the issue of the dog who has taken to eating his food bowls or at least the rubber, non-slid coating from the bottom. Will the bowl now turn over or will the plastic make him throw up after I just get out of the shower and now have to clean it up? The blessing is none of these things has happened yet.

It seems my craziness has a mean streak. I’m pretty fed up with this neighborhood in general. What started me this morning was being unreasonably pleased that the trash men didn’t pick up the trash across the street. I don’t know why I haven’t gone and told them what the problem is but I haven’t. They have lived in that house for like 2 months and can’t figure out that the trash they put in the recycling bin isn’t going to be picked up by the trash men. They also can’t figure out the recycling men won’t take the trash in the recycling bin. I’m waiting to see how long it takes them to figure this out. I wonder what conversations others on the street have about this. Do they watch the trash men and smile as they pass by the way we do? Do they have the same guilty feeling for being such a poor neighbor as to not tell them? But they must all kind of wonder like I do, how long will it take them to figure it out?

My newest craziness is moving. What joy! Here is an cornucopia of things to fantasize about. Now, mind you, as we move forward in this adventure the sources for things to make me crazy kind of diminish but so far we haven’t even seen a house so there are boundless things to go crazy about. What if there is the steep driveway, will it be possible to put in steps with a hand rail so I don’t have to drive to the bottom of the drive way just to cross the street? I want a bay window. Do I want curtains or should I hang plants as a visual barrier, what if there isn’t enough light but I want plants? I so want a good exposure for the the orchids. See, I’m having a ball.

I can’t even decide on a realtor, how am I going to make other decisions. What if the realtor doesn’t really know the area we want to move into? What if he doesn’t find the houses fast enough and we keep losing out because we don’t know about them? What if we chose one and find a better one? How do we know if they are good? How upset will I be when we don’t get the first house I want? What if we don’t bid high enough, can we try again?

And the loan; Word of Warning: DON’T CONTACT QUICKEN they will drive you even crazier. Seriously, we got 2, TWO letters from them just today after I told them last week to leave us alone. Every time the phone rings my hair stands on end that it is them, AmVets or the cleaning service which I used last year who won’t leave me alone despite several demands that they do so. I have had to learn to desensitize myself to being rude and just hang up on them. I don’t want to listen to all 6 rings we have the phone set to so I have time to get to it before the answering machine picks up. I just pick up the receiver and drop it back down now.

I used to want to do that to my mother at times but do you what happens when you do that to your mother? You’d better have a good story about how that happened. So now I make up stories to tell her when I might have done it but she passed away over 10 years ago so it didn’t happen. I’m still trying to develop an approach to the “unavailable” calls. So far I just wait to see who it is but that makes me crazy. Isn’t there some way to set the phone to go straight to the answering machine when the caller ID doesn’t have an ID? How can they not have invented that yet? Who could I contact to invent that? I’ll have to google that.

I have a friend who is better at making herself crazy than anyone I know. She got on a spiritual kick some time back. Now there is a real cornucopia of things to go crazy over and there is no cure. You never get real answers to any of the stuff you can worry about. Her biggest thing is worrying over if the bible is true. What if Mary was a virgin, which I keep pointing out to her wasn’t even a thing until about 400 years after she died. I love listening to her. She makes me feel like a novice at obscure concerns. It is quite a blessing to realize you aren’t the biggest crazy out here. She got this puppy about 4 years ago. She said she wanted a little dog that could sit in her lap, which seemed like a reasonable plan as she lives in an efficiency. She called me to come meet her new puppy. I asked her what breed it was and she was unsure. She said the pound told her it was probably some kind of Chow cross as it had a black tongue. I’m already dubious about this critter. I get there and this thing has paws the size of dinner plates. I just coo that he is sooooo cute. I don’t tell her anything about the giant this puppy could be. Now he’s like 100 pounds! He’s a pony. And I need special clothes that repel dog hair for my visits.

My wife makes me crazy. I can’t imagine living with someone and them not making you crazy. I’ve lived with men and I’ve lived with women. They all make me crazy. I had to chose which crazy was less terminal or likely to lead to criminal behavior. Men usually need nannies. They can’t do basic procedural stuff like get undressed and put their things away. In fact the only things they can put away are the ones they really don’t want you to put away for them. Women generally put their things away or at least shove them under the bed to get them out of the way. Men don’t care, they can step on things without falling better than women can.

My wife generally puts things away but she opens every drawer, every door, and every cabinet when she walks into a room. I don’t know why. I’ve been asking her for almost 30 years what she was looking for. So far she hasn’t remembered. I just walk into any room she is in or has been in and close all inappropriately open things. Sometimes it annoys my friends when I do it in their homes.

I can go on endlessly about how computers make me crazy. I gave up watching TV, well first I gave up on the DVD player, then the VCR, then the TV. It took half an hour just to get the picture and sound to work simultaneously on the DVD player. It was kind of frustrating to watch half a video and then get the sound working. This originally took place when we were trying to watch Lord of the Rings. By the time Harry Potter came out, or maybe it was the other way around, we admitted defeat and had gone to watching DVDs on the computer. Usually we could get that to work. Then I gave up on the VCR because it began to eat tapes and we didn’t see buying a new VCR. Then we got this new box for the FIOS. FIOS has kind of defeated us. Now we just use FIOS for the computer. The TV is collecting dust behind some of the boxes that are half packed. I’ve given up trying to watch anything I can’t get on Amazon Prime.

I’m reasonably functional. No advise needed, mostly don’t mess with the things that make me crazy. Most of them make me perfectly happy eventually, after I get over being crazy about it.

b–Being brave

3/3/15  (clearly I can’t decide if this is a journal, blog or diary)
I asked Facebook friends if they would read what is here and give me some feedback. That was hard because it is putting myself out there and maybe no one cares. I did get 3 replies. I have one friend who had read this yesterday but feedback seems hard for most. One of my paddling friends said sweet things but she hadn’t had a chance to really read it. I kind of feel a need for hand holding. I hope it continues to be good. It would be so helpful if they could points to what works or doesn’t.

3/6/15 I’m listening to Anne Lamott and she talks about the way she developed her particular writer’s voice. The more I hear of her, the more similarities it seems there are in our histories. It is astounding. She said that when she was a girl in the 50s she felt that the world she lived in was “kind of heartbreaking” for people, kids and animals. She took things very seriously, she was bullied for being strange looking and grieved for the world. The grief, sadness, and distress were “unattractive” to her family and you weren’t supposed to have these feelings that weren’t “charming” so she got sent to her room a lot. She was “shamed” into becoming this more adorable person and ended up doing a lot of drinking and drugs early in her life to fit into the skinny jeans the world wanted her to model. In response to the pressure to fit in she developed this writing style in her teens of someone whom everyone loved and wanted her to be. As a writer her task has to been to break through to where her real voice is, who she really is beyond that person others want her to be. So all the anger, and hurt, hopelessness, and rage have returned right there to her sleeves. The outcome of our similarities seems so very, very different until I recall that we really are only about 2% different genetically anyway, what can I expect?

She talks about the necessity of writing because it is her gift and she has a debt of honor. I don’t relate to how she describes herself in  a lot of ways so her actual writing is what really moves me. Writing is something I like to do and am relatively good at. I probably feel more comfortable with my writing because I’ve never really been edited. No one seems to like the bones of my writing enough to put time into helping me make it better. That uncertainty is where the bravery comes in. Is it that I have written so much it is just too hard to pick an chose? Is it so weak that it would be better to just start over with the basic idea? I suppose a writing class might be a place to go but in looking for one they all seems to be about writing fiction. Is that where I should go to learn the writing  craft? How do you learn to write nonfiction, maybe it is fiction I need to learn to write. I will freely admit I can’t do dialogue, it is fake and stilted when I try it, even when writing down real conversations, it feels fake. So, do I give into my doubt about the fiction and not do it? Where can I take what is essentially a blogging/journaling style? Everyone seems to be trying it and what about an audience? Who would I want to give this to and why would I expect them to accept it?

For me to ask others to read what I write there has to be a point to each thing. What is the point? In talking with others I’m known for asking them to tell me what the point is they are trying to make. Sometimes I’m polite about it sometimes I just blurt it out so it is only fair I do that to myself if I’m asking someone to spend their time with me. I need to sit with this a while.

I know I want to tell the story of what happened in my life. I want to justify my failures and be celebrated for my successes against so many odds. I want to compare the today me with the last year me. I think I’ve grown and I want to see it. I’m afraid to see that maybe I’m not as great as I think I am or not as nice as I want to be seen as. I know my writing it to communicate myself to others and the very idea that someone would think I’m trivial or, oh my god, self-centered is kind of shattering but I’d still like to hear useful things even though the criticism is about those fearful bits.

She is right, writing is about yourself. It is self-indulgent, self-centered, and egoistic. If it isn’t, it isn’t true. The reason I want to write is to explore those parts in me. I don’t know any other way to do that. I want to affirm what I think is true, have it challenged, have it revealed and pealed away. I want to use the process to see the procession of grace in my life and how those unearned gifts move me through to a mindful place where I am more and more aware of how none of us is really in control but karma is in play. I want to tell the stories that remind me of how lovely and awful my life has been, how I’ve had angels on my shoulders who let me make awful messes and then cleaned up behind me. There is no way that some of the things that happened to me ended with such joy and satisfaction from anything I thought to do. I want to explore how that happened.

I’m trying to be brave out of hope and need.

b–To repeat what every writer probably says

I’ve already learned that I really have to finish what I start at least in the same 24 hours or so because my mind will be somewhere totally different after that. So, I might polish this but it is what it is.

I love language, I love the English language in all its permutations. I love its complexity, its tones and shades. Of all the brushes of art it is the broadest to me. German is a neat language but it is cumbersome. They make new words by stringing old words together or adopting words from other languages. English usually grows from the streets, occasionally adopting something usually encountered in music or from the web. Those words my mother though of as disgusting slang words spread and a few are finally accepted into formal communications, like using the word selfie for a picture taken of yourself. Or the misuse of an existing word like opinionated to mean having a lot of opinions instead of “conceitedly assertive and dogmatic in one’s opinions,” as Google has it still. I will bristle when called that until I’m reassured the user didn’t know its real meaning.

The thing about English is that it is so easy to weave words into the most amazing images. The gradations available in English are limited only by our own linguistic sense. When a word doesn’t exist we can make it without the gargantuan constructions of German. I don’t know how other languages make new words. In this globalized world it seems adoption is so common. But taking language as we used it in our daily lives and reweaving it is so attractive. Rap music is really poetry to music. Listen to the language in it (beeping out the cursing and obscenity) and how words are layered to make more than a picture but a relief sculpture with great depth and detailed where desired.

We play with language. It really does mould our view of the world. Examples from Addicting Info that just popped up on my Facebook:

“Government spending?” No, we’re “investing in America.”
“They’re not ‘entitlements.’  Social Security, Medicare, and Unemployment are “earned benefits” that we PAY for.”
“’Gun Control?’ How about “gun safety?”

I really became aware of it when I was reading fairy tales in the German. English really changes the tone. The word choice really matters. I found the children’s stories really scary in German. Some are in English but I was horrified as an American reading what they told children in the 1800s. It has an impact that can last a lifetime. The art of writing to me is to take words and refocus or to extend focus. The narratives we write are to give context to concepts, to explore how our conceptual framework structures our lives. Ultimately I want to answer the question, how do we build a community that supports all of its members in the ways they need? So I write to address all the subsets of that question.

Who are members? What needs can community fill? Where does the individual start and stop and where does the individual fit into a community? Does the community really address everyone’s needs or are there those who don’t belong in that community? If there are those who don’t fit, where do they go and then how do communities with different needs coexist in a global setting? How can we build a world where conflicts don’t become wars? Most conflicts are over relative things like religion, laws, economic systems, scarce resources. Can we move the conversation through changing our point of view? I believe so and I believe that change comes through how we talk about them. Language matters so much. There are so many examples from advertising slogans to the way laws are being made about how we talk about science. Politics is the first and final place where we recognize manipulation. We have called it propaganda. It has to do with who is the good guy and who is the bad, who is taking and who is giving, who is working and who is mooching.

I want to steer clear of overt politics in speaking of language but it is such a rich pot of examples of the use/misuse of language. It is the most typical place you find language used to lead or mislead.

b–Searching for Grace on a Snowy Day

I’m kind of obsessed with grace these days. I am blaming it on Anne Lamott. She makes me think of this all the time as I read her stuff and as I think about the ideas she has shared over the years. I wonder if there are similarly gifted writers who focus on serendipitous gifts. Now I’ve become a seeker, looking for the grace that underpins each day. It is there somewhere if I have the perseverance to search for it.

Looking out the window it takes a bit of a stretch of imagination to see the beauty and gift of ice all over everything. The dripping, cold stuff falling from the sky isn’t rain, isn’t snow, isn’t sleet, isn’t quite anything. I guess the closest thing is slush. Depending on where it hit it becomes. The upper limbs of the bushes and trees are coated with this crystalline coat of heavy ice. I fear the weight will break them. Gutters have ice dripping out of them and the backup of the continued fall may bring them off the houses. The layer of ice on the ground is too terrifying to contemplate. But tomorrow will be school, probably a 2 hour delay because it is supposed to be above freezing all night, which it isn’t now.

I suspect grace is all about perspective. 10 years ago a 2 hour delay of school would have been a blessing to a teacher. 10 years ago a 2 hour delay of school would have been a curse for a parent without someone to take and deliver kids. Usually the bus comes at 6:20 but now you got yourself and them up and have 2 hours to “kill.” Grace might be all of you making a real breakfast together. It might be letting one of the kids read to you. It might be letting them go back to bed and you get to do more on the work due when you get in. How tricky it is to anticipate grace.

At this moment it is not having to make excuses for not going out, not having to say it scares me to drive. Right now we have toilet paper, bread and milk. Now it is feeling secure that even if it isn’t clear tomorrow it will be the next day and I will be with the kids at school, be able to get and buy more toilet paper, bread, and milk. How fortunate I am to live now. How fortunate I live here where all those options are available.

I’m enjoying the pinging of the ice on the window, like a small wind chime. I can write and enjoy the storm without worry. I sometimes lie in my bed at night and listen to rain thinking about living in a cave, a thatched roof home, an animal skin tent and how they lived with rain that seeps into, under, and over just about anything. Even tent camping 10-15 years ago when it rained at least I’d count on the underside of the tent getting wet. How did people live their lives knowing this icy rain would seep into their lives and there was nothing they could do to stay dry or warm? How is this thought not a chance to see grace? Finding the balance between wet and dry, warm and cold really is hard when you haven’t discovered plumbing, home heating, and tile roofs? Now wonder the Romans were so clever. I am glad I waited to be born until I was.