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 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.


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.