There is something you have to do.

August 10, 2019 § 1 Comment

I watched The Notorious RBG for the second time and was struck again by the behind-the-scenes support provided by Justice Ginsburg’s marriage. Marty was a supportive and loving man who never seemed threatened as she advanced in her career. He anchored her life, encouraged her, and cheered her on when women’s chances for outside-the-home accomplishments were slim.

Marty has been dead since 2010 and I am sure Ruth still misses him every day. Her happy marriage was the coat she wore against the cold when she was young and uncertain, not yet notorious, not yet known by three upper case initials. He was the one she came home to after a day of contentious crusading.

Still, without Marty she goes on, a woman on a mission.

It is rarely as obvious as it is with Ruth Bader Ginsburg and her husband, Marty, that life can have a greater mission, hers to be a legal titan, his to provide ballast, but each of us has the capacity to accomplish something beyond the day-to-day walk of a respectable life.

The personal (the love story, the family) are what we do for ourselves. We live most of our lives enveloped in that reality. It has moments of friction, sure, but that friction is human-scaled, and we can handle it.

But there are larger missions that change the trajectory of something far greater than a single life or the life of a family, missions that create ripples that spread until a community, a nation, or the human race has been changed.

I am convinced that missions seek us out. What we offer is receptivity, a willingness to take a chance, to roll up our sleeves. What the mission offers is a need we can fill, an opportunity to be larger than our individual lives whether we are the crusader for the mission or the one who fixes dinner and offers encouragement.

Life is much easier if the mission never comes calling, and a practical person would pray to be passed over. Even Christ said, “Let this cup pass from me.” But a life without a mission is also smaller, the view more narrow.

If we turn away, our hope is that the mission will move on, find another advocate. But if we are honest we have to admit that it may die of neglect. It is often that second possibility that causes us to say yes.

A mission seems to find the person who will fight for it, and, in a sense, the person becomes the property of that mission. Those afflicted and set aflame by a cause are perceived as saints, martyrs, or madmen.

It helps to have the company of believers and supporters, others to help lift the load—this is hard and lonely work.

RBG was loved by a great, supportive man; that belongs to her, that joy comes from the smaller story that is her life.

What she has done in her public life belongs to all of us and all the generations that will follow.

Note: I think about this as I do the work of running a food bank, sorting squishy produce, making pickups, doing distributions. This is not a world-altering mission, but its ripples have practical results in the real world. Food on tables. A community of volunteers. Friendships. The assurance that no one is alone in their need. We can’t all be the notorious RBG, but we can all say yes to something greater than ourselves.  

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The final days of yearning.

August 3, 2019 § 3 Comments

I’m glad I grew up when I did, when connectivity was restricted to a phone with a curly cord that hung in my family’s TV room–such a public space.

And so, in my one private place, my room, all I could do was yearn and dream and imagine. I spent hours inventing conversations with boys who in real life had said little to me and thought about me even less, putting words in their mouths as we fell for each other.

Those relationships, and even the boys themselves were products of my heated imagination.

Alone in my room I yearned, serially, for each of those boys, imagining hand-holding, slow dances. We could not communicate with each other in that sanctuary. I could only communicate with myself, thrilled as I imagined something I had yet to experience.

The phone was the connection between me and other yearning girls—again public–although I could stretch the cord into the laundry room and close the door on it creating the illusion of privacy, “Do you think he likes me?” But my parents knew right where I was and, come bedtime, made me hang up.

Once in a while the call was from an actual boy–which was awkward with a sister, brother, grandfather, and two parents on a nearby couch watching Ed Sullivan. The conversations were awkward too, never as fluent or romantic as those I had imagined.

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What I have figured out so far: part 1

July 27, 2019 § 3 Comments

 

The bad stuff, the scary stuff, resides in the remembered past or the imagined future. The moment we are in is safe, almost always. The take-away is, live in this moment.

Habit shapes a life. A sedimentary process, habit lays down layer after layer. Just as sedimentation creates rock, habit adds up to something solid and enduring.

A small change, over time, can alter the course of a life. It begins as a slight bump, that causes a nearly imperceptible change in direction, but over time the angle widens and life goes somewhere completely different, unplanned.  The change may be unobserved until you look back, shade your eyes and see the pebble way back there in your past that caused that slight deviation—and here you are, miles from where you thought you were going.

The smallest part can stand in for the whole. One flower with one insect walking on one petal can embody the wonder of nature in its entirety.

 

Ego blinds. It causes a person to see everything through the lens of self. It is like that old joke: “But enough about me! Now tell me, what do you think about me?”

Ego is the primary tool in the kit of survival. It justifies snatching something for the self that would benefit whoever snatches it first.

Boredom is the source of all great ideas. A mind, when even slightly entertained, won’t bother to come up with something innovative. The mind is lazy and is just fine with idling and watching puppy videos.

There is a peaceful calm that comes with age as long as the din of an aching body doesn’t shout down that calm.

With one exception, we are, and will always remain, separate from each other. We come together—and then we walk away, each gathering our observations independently. Humanity is a long playing-out of the fable of the blind men and the elephant. Each of us puts a hand on a different part of the elephant and calls what we have touched reality.

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The eye of the beholder.

May 7, 2019 § 5 Comments

What is real? Real is what you witness with your senses–then it is interpreted through your mind, your preferences, your past, and reality becomes personal.

How do these personal realities co-exist?

Let’s say we walk in tandem, briefly sharing the view. Side-by-side, we come as close as we ever do to seeing things in the same way, but even then, what we choose to notice will differ.

What we notice is based on a lifetime of noticing, a lifetime of learned preferences. Because of that filter, even when together we see different versions of the world, each of us perfecting our individual perception of what-is.

As we go along together we talk, trading an approximation, not of what-is, but of how we perceive what-is, a perception shaped by our individual experiences, our place in the world, our historical moment.

As the one who has gathered those experiences, those observations, we believe we know reality.

But when it comes to knowing reality, each of us is one of the blind men with a hand on a particular part of the elephant, each of us describing, based on what can be perceived through that limited touch, something too big for any single human being to comprehend.

We can become strident about it, insisting that what we have decided is true is the only valid way to describe the elephant. We can be humble and ask others to tell us what they have learned about the elephant. But ultimately, we come to our own conclusions and then forget the question entirely, assuming we know all we need to know about the elephant. « Read the rest of this entry »

Choosing off a limited menu.

January 15, 2019 § 4 Comments

 

At first, life is an all-you-can-eat buffet.

Stuff yourself!

There’s plenty more in the kitchen!

 

 

But time and mortality begin to take

options off the table.

 

So far it is just friends and family members—

Ones who are older.

Older than we are anyway.

 

We watch them peruse a narrowed menu

and feel sorry for them.

But the day will come when

we too will have to choose off a limited menu,

one that won’t disagree with who time

and circumstance and our own

I-am-immortal behavior

have made us. « Read the rest of this entry »

Think I’ll write a poem.

September 23, 2018 § 3 Comments

You can tell it’s

a poem

by how it

looks.

*

Even if it doesn’t rhyme—

poems don’t rhyme

all the time.

Verse is terse.

And imagistic.

*

Leafless trees are

gaunt old men standing

homeless in the snow.

*

Tomorrow is a page

unwritten

–or better yet,

a page unturned. « Read the rest of this entry »

Safe in this moment.

September 16, 2018 § 4 Comments

You are safe in this moment.

If you weren’t you wouldn’t be reading my blog post.

Everything is fine. Neither fight, nor flight needs to be called in. No action is required.

So, take a conscious breath…and let it out slowly.

But maybe you are only fleetingly in this moment, the words on your screen registering intermittently because much of your brain is occupied with scouting ahead, scanning the future for that gray speck you just know will be trouble when it gets here.

Your body, which has a hard time distinguishing between present and future danger, responds, not to the words you are reading, but to what you are imagining. Muscles tense, your heart gallops.

When that looming threat fails to materialize, you will probably convince yourself you’ve robbed that bad thing of its power by calling it out, by naming it.

This mirrors the magical thinking that assured you, looking under your childhood bed was what turned monsters into shoes and dust balls.

Chances are, you had nothing to do with containing the perceived threat, which was probably not a threat at all, but just a blot on the horizon as random and transient as a cloud shadow.

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