Beauty Begets Hope: Missing Amy Krouse Rosenthal

I have not survived against all odds.

I have not lived to tell.

I have not witnessed the extraordinary.

This is my story.

And thus begins the cool-as-hell encyclopedic memoir of Amy Krouse Rosenthal, a book that changed the way I think about writing and living. The book is Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life, and it was published to acclaim in 2005. The copy I hold at this moment is not the first copy I’ve held in my hot little hands, and I’m sure it won’t be the last. Since the day I opened the pages to this book, I’ve been shoving my own copy into others’ hands–“You have to read Amy Krouse Rosenthal,” I say. “She is one of my favorite authors.”

Amy Krouse Rosenthal died March 13, 2017.

That Monday morning, I woke with a feeling of space between my heart and my gut–an uncomfortable space, a feeling of emptiness and dread. I’m anxious by nature, so I’m not new to this feeling of floating doom, but often I can point my finger at some insistent and persistent doubt or worry bubbling just beneath the surface of my consciousness.

And no, I’m not claiming to have powers of clairvoyance although I believe there is something of a mystic in all of us, but when I heard the news, I knew that emptiness was a direct and physical reaction to Amy Krouse Rosenthal leaving this world.

If you are a reader of my blog, you know that I am a fan. If I lived in the Chicago area, it is likely that I would have been a stalker sort of fan, haunting Amy’s favorite book stores, hanging out at The Bean hoping for a glimpse of the coolest writer ever. As it is, living in the southern portion of the state, I only made it to see Amy once, and it was one of the best days of my life because even though Amy was sick, she was full of life.

On her website, Amy describes herself as someone who likes to make things. In her life, she made 30 books, numerous short films, a couple of TEDx talks, three people she loved a lot, and beauty.

We weren’t friends although I did have the great pleasure of meeting her on August 8 in Chicago. Amy, who was sick with ovarian cancer at the time, held a book-coming-out party for her delightful new memoir-of-sorts, Textbook Amy Krouse Rosenthal.

I’ve said it a million times, Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life changed my life. I didn’t like it at first, but then to my surprise and delight, I loved it, I was enchanted, delighted, curious, I wanted to know how she created this outstanding record. It’s beautifully constructed, and the structure is inspired. I have read it over and over because it reminds me  that cynicism is overrated. It reminds me to be genuine and earnest and honest. I thought I might never love a book this way again.

And then Amy got me again with Textbook Amy Krouse Rosenthal. I was lucky enough to get an advance copy with a group of giddy early readers of the book. I read it on the beach with sand on my hands. I didn’t expect to like the texting component as I don’t love texting to begin with, but it grew on me immediately. My phone was sandy and sticky because I couldn’t help myself, I wanted to hear the wine glass sing, to put a message in that bottle, to hear Ted Koch read his poem.

Amy’s memoirs aren’t like other memoirs. They are like walks through her brain on any one day. We get to know her through her thoughts. These memoirs are brain maps.

The truth is, I’ve been trying to write this blog post since the moment I learned of Amy’s death. I want it to be perfect. I want it to be worthy. I want it to be enough, but if I learned anything from reading Amy’s books and listening to her TEDtalks, from watching The Beckoning of Lovely over and over it is this–“Make the most of your time here” NOW, “Make do with what you have” NOW, “Beckon Lovely” NOW because NOW is more than enough. NOW is the right time to live, love, post on your blog, kiss your kids, eat another piece of blueberry cobbler, take a walk, sing with the Dixie Chicks,  watch that big bellied robin in the back yard.

So here I sit with my grief and my gratitude for Amy Krouse Rosenthal and I write.

A couple of months before Amy died, she went on a train to think, and she asked folks for things to think about. I was feeling pissed and depressed and anxious about the election results, and I wrote to her:

I have been thinking a lot about the place of beauty in the world. I’m wondering if it’s still important to put flowers in vases or set the table nicely or make art. And I’m a writer, so this is a big question. But sometimes I wonder—do we have time for all this stuff when things could get so bad?

I was a teeny bit self-pitying at that point, but Amy went on that train, and she wrote back.

Martin Luther King advised “We must accept finite disappointment but never lose infinite hope.” Even in this time of doubtless disappointment, when I witness something beautiful—a tree, a string quartet, the face of a loved one—what I feel is hope.

She wrote a lot more than what I share above, but I want to focus on that hope. Beauty begets hope.

It’s not too much for me to remember. Beauty begets hope.

A couple of nights ago, a friend and I made the most of our time here now and we got tattoos. Beauty begets hope.

A yellow umbrella for Amy and a reminder that I’m enough, what I offer the world is more than enough.

It’s a lesson I may have to learn now that it’s tattooed on my arm.IMG_2479

 

As usual, I want to give you a pair of Amy Krouse Rosenthal books, so if you leave a comment, or send me a message, I will enter you into a drawing.

 

 

National Poetry Month

National Poetry Month begins on April 1 2017. I’ve been thinking a lot about poetry and its place in a country that seeks to denigrate and eliminate the arts. Poetry has the power to bring us together as well as the power to speak truth to power. In anticipation of the upcoming monthlong celebration of poetry, I thought I would take the time to post a few of my favorite poems.  I’m going to start with a long time favorite by the brilliant, late, Adrienne Rich who would have much to say about the state of politics today.

Here are the first few lines

Song

You’re wondering if I’m lonely:
OK then, yes, I’m lonely
as a plane rides lonely and level
on its radio beam, aiming
across the Rockies
for the blue-strung aisles
of an airfield on the ocean.

(read the rest of this poem, here)

 

I’ll be posting links to some of my favorite poems and poets during April. I hope that you will share with me your favorite poems and poets too!

 

A Story About Type 1 Diabetes

Four years ago today, my daughter Audrey was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes. This is our story.

The 49th Year

I smelled it.

Untreated or undiagnosed or unacknowledged Type 1 Diabetes smells like fingernail polish remover, and I smelled that on my 14-year old daughter, Peanut, three years ago today.

I was the only one who smelled it, and I smelled it for a week, on her breath and on her skin. I sniffed her for a week while she slept—and she was sleeping a lot—while she ate, while she watched TV. This irritated her a great deal, and I can see why. Every time she turned around, there I was with my nose in her hair, or trying to get a whiff of her breath. I knew something was wrong.

There were other symptoms, sure. She was losing weight which could be explained away by her age—14. She was hormonal. Her body was changing. Things were shifting as she grew taller. She was eating strange things like Frosted Flakes…

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The LOVE Is Already There

Last Monday, around 11:30PM, I received a private message from an old high school friend. She wanted to share with me the FB post of another classmate and friend of ours–a post that poked fun at folks like me who are using FB to stay informed and to connect with like-minded people looking for constructive and loving ways to protest the policies of the new administration. It was a clever, for sure, but snarky too.

I might not have answered if I weren’t determined to stay awake. You see, my 17-year-old daughter, Peanut, has Type 1 Diabetes. Lately her blood sugar has been dropping during the night. When this happens, I read or watch TV until her blood sugar numbers are in the safe zone. I have a nifty little app on my phone that alerts me to Peanut’s low blood sugars, and I had just returned to bed after watching my daughter drink a half a Gatorade, when my old high school buddy popped in on Messenger.

I was fatigued, and I had to stay up, and my heart began to race. I responded (not unkindly at first although eventually I did get pissy) and this unleashed in my old friend a bundle of ugliness.

I’ve been pondering this post for over a week now. In the meantime, I turned 50 and was the recipient of many lovely birthday wishes, an Italian cream cake baked by my mother an outspoken Republican and baker extraordinaire, and three champagne toasts. I attended a visitation for an old friend’s father and was sung Happy Birthday to by the lovely ladies cooking the funeral dinner.

I finished a book called Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right by Arlie Russel Hoschild in order to try to understand the whole “Make America Great Again” business. I remain baffled (but this might be mere stubbornness) although Hoschild’s book was both an illuminating and tender examination of the tremendous gulf between liberals and tea partiers and a call to action based on empathy.

I’ve had lunch with friends and lunch with daughters and lunch with mothers. I sat on the porch with my husband on an unseasonably warm day and we drank beers and willfully ignored the fact that it’s not supposed to be 65 in southern Illinois in February. I watched a bunch of 5th grade girls play basketball and grieved for those days when my own children played 5th grade basketball.

According to my Fitbit, I’ve logged 54 miles walking and pondering the conversation I had with that old friend. First I wanted to shine a light on her late-night rantings. I mean, who starts a mean-spirited political discussion with someone at 11:30 at night in a private message? I wrote (in my head) reams of scathing responses that were not empathic at all.

And then I waited. You see, she said one thing to me that evening that I want to focus on here. She wrote to me, in response to my latest blog post about love, “none of us, NONE are buying into your…’I love everything and everyone and every person.'”

She’s right.

That stings. Because I want to love big and expansively. I want to “love the hell out of them,” as Martin Luther King Jr. told his followers. I want to L O V E the way I believe we are intended to, and still I fall short.

I do NOT extend my love to donald trump or jeff sessions or betsy devos. I talk a good game about love because I really do believe in it. But let me tell you, there are days that I spend most of my time watching MSNBC and reading The Washington Post or The Guardian, and what I am filled with is definitely not LOVE. It’s a twisty, knotty, tangled derisive, divisive outrage. And there are days when it threatens to blow my head off (did you see how they silenced Elizabeth Warren as she read Coretta Scott King’s letter?).

So how can I in good conscious continue to write about LOVE?

In the days since my old friend took me to task for writing about love, I’ve listened to John Lewis’s interview on Krista Tippett’s On Being more than once. I printed the transcript from the interview, and I have scoured it for some formula that might help me love those I do not want to love–because that is part of the problem. I want to parcel love. NO sending love to those not worthy of such an elevated feeling.

John Lewis describes love as “a way of being” He contends that love is “a way of action. . . It has the capacity, it has the ability to bring peace out of conflict.” 

I can sort of wrap my mind around this. Love, not as an elevation of feeling, but as a “way of being” in this world. This is what I aspire to. It’s hard work. This sort of love demands presence. It demands that I open my arms to the world as it is, not as it should be or as I would like it to be. It demands that I look at the world as John Lewis does to believe that “the good is already there. The love is there.”

It’s just up to us to make it real.

 

**on another note, yes. I did turn 50. But the blog will remain The 49th Year. Keep reading and loving.

 

 

love–can’t resist without it

What to write? I’ve been wrestling with self-doubt, frustration, lack of time, and plain old pissedoffedness. Instead of writing, I’ve fulminated over FB posts I can’t stand and fissures in renewed relationships that have gone cold over the election of an autocratic narcissist. I flew to Florida with my sister just to drive a car back to Illinois. This was actually kind of fun because we listened to Ellen Degeneres‘ audiobook Seriously. . . I’m Kiddingbought some new shoes at a roadside super shoe store (who knew?), and laughed a lot, but it wasn’t conducive to writing.

In the last couple of weeks, the US lost a classy, smart, funny, even-handed and compassionate President (This is my opinion, and it is one shared by many people–and it’s based on facts. Seriously, there’s no reason to comment if you do not agree; I know you are out there.) and installed into the highest office a Sharpie-wielding contractor who just this weekend executive-ordered the turning away of refugees who might be Muslim in an action that is in direct odds with the values of a majority of citizens who believe in the long-standing American ideal of giving refuge to those fleeing violence and persecution.

It’s enough to make you sick, and that’s just one crazy-assed example of the shit that’s been going down.  It’s enough to make you angry, scared as hell, and too muddled to write.

In spite of all this, in spite of a spiritual fatigue fed by the constant-silencing folks who don’t like messy protests by determined patriots who will not lie down and get with the program of the new administration, in spite of my almost pathological desire to crawl through a portal to pre-November 8, 2016, I experienced something super cool this morning. It woke me up and blew me away in its simplicity and sweetness.

My kids, 18-year-old Peanut and 15-year-old Shel, walked out the door together for school.

This is the first year in a whopping 20 years of having school-age children, that I do not have to run a daily school drop-off or pick up. Instead, I stand at the front door in my jimmies and robe with a warm cup of coffee in my hand and watch them open the front door and walk together into the brisk morning air. I say “love and see you,” because that is what we say here at Jensenville, and they say, “love and see you,” before shutting the door behind them.

This happened this morning, and love showed up. Nearly knocked me the hell down, if I’m telling the truth. Love showed up and I got all wobbly-kneed and teary-eyed. It felt good, folks. It felt good to be so undone by love.

It’s hard to hold that kind of love in one hand while resisting with the other. And as I write that, I realize that it is the only way to resist. It is what keeps us soft and open to those we disagree with.

It’s hard. I know I already said that, but damn, it is hard. There are a lot of conservative-leaning folks who are tired of their liberal friends posting the latest troubling news on FB. They are both overwhelmed and disgusted by our distress. They want puppy dogs and kittens (hell, who doesn’t?).  I contend that it’s possible they don’t want to be reminded of actions that make them a teensy-bit uncomfortable about the new administration and some of its policies.

I am mostly a people-pleaser, and it’s difficult for me to post newspaper articles and calls to action because I know I’m pissing people off. I don’t like pissing people off. I’m not confident enough to piss people off. I feel under informed–what I mean is that I’d like a political science/history degree before I start making statements, but I don’t have the time for that. None of us do.

So I have to rely on love to keep me strong. I saw this video on FB this morning after my kids left for school together, their breath mingling all puffy in the cool air, and maybe because I was still all loosey goosey with love, I cried while watching.

I’m still crying. All that we share.

Love.

Love is something I share with those folks detained at airports, with women whose bodies must be self- and not government-regulated, with the Dark-eyed Junco hopping around in the bare Burning Bushes outside my window, with the people who for the first time in their lives have healthcare and don’t want to lose it, with the pine tree whose shed needles make the winter ground soft to walk upon, with the bullied and the ass-head bullies, with the bigots and the open-hearted.

Love.

We can’t resist without it.

Despair and Hope

So Meryl Streep called donald trump out last night at the Golden Globes without saying his name even once, and he tweeted her out this morning calling her an overrated (btw, you don’t hyphenate overrated) actress and denying again that he did, in fact, mock a disabled reporter. I defy you to watch the video and not see in trump’s actions the grossest display of hatefulness and ignorance.

I don’t know what to do with this information. My first instinct is indignation–you know the kind, stomach all in knots, heat rising from the knots, brain threatening to explode out the nose, eyes, and ears with the injustice of the fact that this creep is going to be the President of the United States.

That’s how I feel at first. But then it’s despair. This despair is a full-body wash sort of feeling. It rolls on from the head down like a dark, heavy blanket someone plucked from a corner in a dank basement and threw over me while I wasn’t paying attention. In other words, it’s real.

But this particular blanket of despair isn’t thrown when I’m not paying attention, it is thrown because I AM paying attention. I could spend my time on this blog listing the trump falsehoods I’ve read in the past few days, the latest Republican-controlled Congress abuses of power I shared on FB or retweeted on Twitter, but you can get that information anywhere–it just depends on where you look. Instead, what I want to do is take a gander at my reaction to this despair–or rather to admitting despair.

I come from a long line of pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps midwesterners. One of my mother’s favorite admonishments was, “Buck up.” And for the most part, that was pretty good advice. I do tend toward emotional over-the-toppery. That said, “buck up” can be internalized and when this happens, I believe it can normalize some bad shit.

When I write on this blog or in an email to a friend that I am feeling despair due to the inevitable inauguration of donald trump, my committee starts up. You remember the committee, don’t you? Some folks call the committee monkey mind while others nicely refer to them as the devil’s advocate.

I call them the committee, and I realize that most of us have one. Their voices rise from and mingle the many important voices of my lifetime, and when I admit to feeling despair, they start in with a vengeance. “Who the hell are YOU to admit to despair? Look around, ya’ big baby.” They are mean and bullying. They want me to shut the fuck up. “Look around at your nice house, your nice husband, your nice kids, your nice town. What the hell are YOU despairing about?”

And it does shut me up. I mean, really, who am I to despair? I have so much.

Whoa Nelly! (and yes, I did look up the origins of this phrase and realize that it means slow down horse–I’m okay with that)

My despair is real. It isn’t negated by the fact that I have a warm house to live in and adult children who still spend much of their time in it. It isn’t negated because I live in a small midwestern town whose mascot is a little white squirrel with pink eyes. The committee can’t negate my despair unless I give them permission to do so, and I’m rescinding that permission today.

I won’t tell myself to “buck up” as it pertains to accepting donald trump and the malicious policies this new Congress promises to vote in. And don’t get me wrong–despair isn’t a resting place. I do know that. But I believe it is a place where I can get some traction.

Despairing is human, and it serves a purpose. I do a disservice to myself if I ignore it. After all, what if Meryl Streep’s committee had badgered her into silence. I can hear them, can’t you? “What do you have to despair about? You are winning a huge award. Look at all those glowing and admiring faces out there? Seriously, Meryl?”

**

Just last night I finished reading Krista Tippett’s newest book Becoming Wise: An Inquiry into the Mystery and Art of Living. This book, and Tippet’s interviews on her also essential radio show On Being, delve into the deepest aspects of what it means to be human. Becoming Wise is an essential book for these times, an ongoing conversation that juxtaposes politics and love, hope and despair in an effort to ask questions that might bring us closer to what the Martin Luther King Jr. called a Beloved Community.

 

Tippett posits that in despair, in the depths of darkness–that is where we find hope. She writes:

Hope is distinct, in my mind, from optimism or idealism. It has nothing to do with wishing. It references reality at every turn and reveres truth. It lives open eyed and wholehearted with the darkness that is woven ineluctably into the light of life and sometimes seems to overcome it. Hope, like every virtue, is a choice that becomes a practice that becomes spiritual muscle memory. It’s a renewable resource for moving through life as it is, not as we wish it to be.

And in Daring GreatlyBrené Brown asserts that “hope is a function of struggle,”that hope is a “cognitive, behavioral process that we learn when we experience adversity…”

This morning, as tears of frustration rain down my face, I am also buoyed by these ideas. We, and I use the term with love, are truly in the swamp, and despair is appropriate. I would go so far as to say that despair is essential. A clear-eyed acceptance of the muck we stand in can and will give rise to hope.

It must.

 

 

Things To Love

I want to keep this simple.

I am just home from a walk around the same block I have been walking since the fifth grade. The block has changed a bit. Sidewalks mean that I no longer have to walk alongside the ditch like my cousin Daun and I did when we were in high school and exercising before the first morning bell. Fields of corn and horses have turned into a ball park, a beautiful park with swings and slides, a bike park, a soccer field, a swimming pool, and now a super cool tree-identification park. Each time the block changed, my stomach roiled. I’m not big on change. I liked the fields. I liked the horses. I liked the corn and the butterflies and the quiet.

Even so, it’s a great place to walk. And I am learning to love each change–super-cool-tree-identification center easier to love than ball park, but then I’m a slow-learner.

Just now, I went out walking in order to look for love. I’ve been adrift these past several weeks. I watch the news nonstop. I knit. I light up the house and wrap presents. I drink wine in the evenings and watch more news and go to bed with a fist-sized knot in my chest and when I wake, it’s still there.

Last night, my husband and I were watching TV (the news much to his chagrin–he prefers old episodes of Bonanza) and, of course, coverage turned to trump’s weird tweets about a jacked-up plan for nuclear security. We began to reminisce longingly about the days of George W. and his friend Dick, of how much we miss those guys and John Boehner. My husband said a couple of pretty-unloving things about the administration-to-be, and we sat silently together for a little while.

We are not mean people, and yet I feel mean-spirited, angry, frustrated, and anxious. I know what it is–I am surprised. I am shaken. I am shocked, and I do not know how to process these feelings of groundlessness so I turn to anger. It’s easier, after all, to be angry than it is to face the deep abyss of who this election tells me we are.

And it all feels a little silly to me too. After all, I have a very nice life. My house is lit up with lights and candles. My tree is in the front window, and beneath its piney-looking limbs are way too many presents wrapped with bows. I just took two loaves of cinnamon bread out of the oven, and I’ve got a ham in the crockpot. The next few days, I will spend time only with people I love. We will eat too much, exchange gifts, sing Christmas carols, go to church, laugh at each other’s jokes, drink Christmas punch, and be stupid awesome together (that’s for you my cousins!). I feel a little silly being so sad.

And yet I am.

So I am looking for things to love. And I wonder if you would too. At least for the next couple of days. I have to tell you that each time I go outside, I find something to love. The natural world is so full. Today the treetops were furred with starlings. Their soft, dark bodies perched in the bare limbs filled my heart. They are always there, aren’t they. But when the days are stark and the trees have shed their leaves, I can see them. What a gift.

There is so much love in the world, and it is love we have to cultivate. It is only love that will save us. I believe that, but it’s easy, so easy to forget. So I thought maybe we could help each other here. I’d love it if you posted pics (I think you can) or stories of things to love in the comments below.img_2303

Happy Holidays!

On Making

I’m still angry, still sad, still reeling from the results of the election. I don’t want to be shaken out of it or empathized with. I’m not licking my wounds; I’m allowing them to fester. People continue to remind me, on the “news,” on FB, on Twitter, that donald trump (I refuse to capitalize his name) was right, that he knew what the American people wanted, that folks like me underestimated his appeal. I don’t agree.

But here’s something new, sad and frustrated and clenching-my-jaw frustrated as I have been, my Christmas tree is up. Hell, I have two Christmas trees this year. The ornaments are hung and the house is strung with lights. Cinnamon-scented candles burn alongside their dark green pine-scented sisters. The stockings are hung on the chimney and the presents are wrapped, each one with a bow, and under the tree–ALL the presents are wrapped and under the tree.

And in the midst of all this light stringing, ornament hanging, candle burning, present-wrapping frenzy, I completed a 1000 piece puzzle in two days.

This is not me, friends. I am a woman who gets her tree up two weeks before Christmas if I’m lucky (and then leaves it up till mid-January, but that’s another story). I save wrapping presents until the last possible moment. I get candles out, but I sure as hell don’t burn them because the scent is too sweet and cloying. I am not a first week of December Christmas-is-in-the-air kind of gal.

What gives?

This morning I took a walk like I do most mornings, and I stumbled across a trump/pence sign that someone has obnoxiously left in their yard in the spirit of bad-winnerism. I stopped for a moment, and pondered kicking it over–I didn’t, by the way. The funny thing is I didn’t even want to. And that bothered me a wee bit because I’ll be damned if I’m going to be complacent, to believe that everything is okay because Wolf Blitzer and Carol Costello say it is.

***

Two weeks ago, right before Thanksgiving, I attended a collage/writing workshop at Spalding University  where I did my graduate work in creative writing. It’s always good to go back, to spend time with the women warriors who make up my writing group, but this time it was particularly powerful because in the wake of great loss, we created. For a couple of hours three days in a row, eight women gathered around a table. We scissored up magazines and glued random images and words together. We made stories in that room on the 3rd floor, and it felt so good.

Then I came home, turned the damned TV back on, and proceeded to watch an endless cycle of non-news about the new president-elect. And I started beating myself up for letting the blog languish. “What about your promise to write every week,” the committee taunted me each night I hit the pillow without putting pen to paper or fingers to keyboard.

But I HAVE been making.

That’s what I realized this chilly morning when I strode past that stupid trump/pence yard garbage. I haven’t been writing, but I have been making. And as long as I follow the impulse to make, hope breathes. Hope doesn’t exist within some pie-eyed dream, but breeds during dark times in art and language and witness.

Hope is as Vaclav Havel wrote, “not the same thing as optimism. It is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out.” Havel asserts that hope is “a state of mind . . . an ability to work for something because it is good.”

I’ve had those quotes on my bulletin board for years, and when I looked at them today, I realized that hope is art. Hope is making. It doesn’t matter what we make–whether it be cookies or gingerbread houses or dish rags. It doesn’t matter if our creativity manifests itself in a  beautifully lit Christmas tree or a perfectly installed car battery, we are makers. And making heals us.

Things are fucked up. There’s little doubt about that. But here’s the awesome reality–in direct conflict with soul-crushing anxiety and confusion and sadness, I continued to make. I nurtured hope like a small flame in my chest, and I didn’t even know it.

I must continue to nurture hope. We all must.

We are makers, all of us, no matter how we voted. Making is the physical manifestation of love in the world. Some of us make cakes while others make friendships while still others make words shimmer like jewels on the page. Making begets hope.

That’s why my house is lit, why my Christmas tree flickers in the front window. I’ve been making–reflexively. It doesn’t mean that my heart isn’t beating a bit too quickly or that my hands aren’t clenched or that I am not still so fucking shocked that at times I can barely breathe.

It means that hope isn’t a gift, it’s hard-ass work. We have to make it ourselves

 

Of Champagne and Elections

I’m sorry I bought that champagne–a better bubbly than I usually buy (as if I am a connoisseur of good champagne). Truth is, I tend to buy prosecco if I want something sparkly.

But last Tuesday was special, so I walked to the liquor store and I spent some time in the champagne aisle, holding the bottles up, squinting as I read the labels, finally picking one, forking over the money, bragging to the nice man behind the counter–“I’m going to toast the first woman President tonight.” I carried that bottle home in my backpack and the sun glittered in the promising sky. Damn, it was a good day, a brilliant day, only gonna get better.

I’m sorry I showed my girls (yes, the 17-year old was getting a glass too) the champagne, how that crinkly white foil top peaked (still peaks) up over the milk jug, how I winked when I said, “That’s for later when we toast the first woman President.”

That night, a week ago, as the bottle of champagne got farther and farther away from our reality, my girls and I tried to smile. We said things like, “Ohio will go our way–it just takes a while.” or “Michigan is blue. No worries.” or “We can win this without Florida.”

I’m sorry we weren’t prepared. I’m sorry that contrary to everything I believe, love didn’t trump fear, that fear and hate and anger and displacement trumped love. I’m sorry we didn’t drink the damned champagne.

I’m sorry I do not yet feel like getting to work, do not feel like bucking up or getting with the program. I’m sorry that Hillary conceded and that the media got on board with nary a word to the appalling lack of experience Mr. Trump possesses. I’m sorry that the KKK has planned a rally for December 3 to celebrate. Sorry that Steve Bannon will be a chief strategist in this new administration. Sorry that everyone seems to believe we just need to get together behind Mr. Trump as if the republicans haven’t played obstructionist politics for the last 8 years. We haven’t had a full Supreme Court for months!

I’m sorry that when my husband pulled the Clinton/Kaine sign from our yard, all I could muster was a bitter laugh and another deluge of tears. I’m scared and angry and I’m so fucking sorry that anger won’t save the day and that the electoral college won’t save our country. Did I mention that Hillary won the popular vote?

Here’s something else I did–I appropriated my daughters’ grief.  You see, I felt so damn dumb, so tricked, so ridiculously naive. I remembered how I sauntered home with that champagne on my back, how cool and sure I’d been.

 

“I’m so sorry,” I cried.

“Sorry for what?” they asked.

“Sorry for teaching you to believe, for letting you believe we could win this thing.” Yes, I really said that. I may have been feeling a teensy bit sorry for myself, maybe even wallowing. Okay, for sure wallowing.

If I can blame myself for their disappointments, their sadnesses I will. It’s my MO. After all, blame is a pretty good insulator. If I’m all pissed off at myself for failing my kids, then I’m not spending a lot of time feeling their pain, or my own.

They set me straight pretty quick-like. “Don’t be sorry, Mom,” they said. “You didn’t let us believe in anything.” They didn’t say dumb-ass, but I’m pretty sure they were thinking it.

They already know I’m not the fairy godmother of happiness and well-being and safety. They already know that pain and grief and anger are handy emotions to harness when change is necessary. And it’s more necessary now than ever.

I’m pretty sure it’s time to crack open that champagne.

 

 

So, the Election

I started a shit storm on my FB page by posting this meme:

fb-meme

It made me uncomfortable. So uncomfortable, in fact, that I wanted to delete the entire post. I felt FB naked up there. Everyone who cared to (probably a lot fewer people than I imagined) could read what people were writing on my page in defense of Donald Trump. Others could see that I violated a new sort of FB creed–the one that says you shouldn’t post about religion or politics on your feed because it’s unseemly. I felt very unseemly, folks.

A couple of days ago, a friend of mine posted an hysterical photo of his wife, their two babies (under two years old) and himself on Halloween. One baby is dressed in a sweet little costume, and both babies are frowning and crying, while he and his wife smile with the sort of pained smiles that young parents often wear. Under the pic, he explained that he doesn’t often post pics to social media because he thought it too easy to only show the fake parts of our lives.

What a bad-ass thing to write!  It is easy to post pretty pictures that depict happy families, children winning awards, delicious home-cooked foods, bottles of good wine, sun-drenched afternoons–and we all like to see these things. I know I do. I love to see my friends living their lives to the hilt with beauty all around. God knows, all I have to do is turn on CNN to learn that things aren’t all that peachy.

And still, my friend has a point about the fakey stuff that occurs on social media sites or anywhere else we are trying to create perfect stories for the consumption of ourselves and our friends (and enemies too, because God, don’t we like to stick our bright, shiny happiness right up in the faces of those who rub us the wrong way?  okay, maybe that’s just me).

So back to the shit storm. I didn’t take it down.

Over 140 comments later, I am still trying to figure out why it bothered me so. Why I felt ashamed. You see, I want people to like me. It’s as simple as that.

It comes down to vulnerability. (Seriously, Brené Brown)  To be vulnerable is to be susceptible to emotional injury, easily hurt, to be susceptible to attack. We look at vulnerability as a weakness, but I am learning, a wee-bit slowly, I think, that vulnerability is a strength. Vulnerability is the only place where love can thrive.

 

This election is important for more reasons than I care to write about here, but the fact that so many folks are going to vote for Donald Trump is, in my opinion, the most compelling aspect of what is going on in this election and in our country.

People are in pain. And whether or not I understand the pain or its origins, I won’t dismiss it. In fact, I believe we dismiss it to our peril. Donald Trump is banking his bid for the presidency on our dismissal. His fear-mongering, his hate, his outlandish lies all depend on our continued determination to dismiss a contingent of the population I prefer to pretend doesn’t exist.

That’s why I allowed myself to be vulnerable on FB this week. That’s why I left that post up and engaged in a lengthy discussion about abortion. I made a vow to myself when Donald Trump got the nomination that I would listen to the often ugly and hurtful things he and his supporters said, that I would not whole-cloth dismiss him or his support as an ugly anomaly.

It’s hard.

I don’t like it one bit.

But if I truly believe (and I think I do, I think I do, I really think I do) that love is big enough to hold us all, then I have to practice love–dammit–and this week that meant being vulnerable on FB, listening to shit I didn’t want to listen to, engaging in conversations I didn’t want to have, leaving it out there so anyone could read it.

I want the election to be over. I want to weep with uncontrollable joy when Hillary Rodham Clinton wins the election and becomes the first female President of the United States.

Until then . . .

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
there is a field.  I’ll meet you there–Rumi