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.

 

 

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

 

I Get To…

October.

For the last four years, October’s shorter, leaf-blown days signal the end of tennis season. This year, as the mums fan out in yellow and orange and deep purple blooms, as the Burning Bushes in my back yard go red, one oval at a time before dropping leaves like feathers on the grass, as tiny webs fly through the air and stick to my still bare arms, October ushers in the final tennis season.

Peanut is a senior, and last week she played her last high school singles match and qualified with her spunky doubles partner, Marie, for the state tournament where she will play her last high school doubles match.

Each of the three years prior to this one, I’ve welcomed the end of tennis season, the last of the all-day-long Saturday tennis tournaments, of the after-school matches that run from 4-8:00. Welcomed the Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday night Subway-less suppers, the end to the midnight oxy-wash laundering of the dingy white tennis jersey. And because Peanut has Type 1 Diabetes, the end of tennis season means that we don’t have to worry so much about overnight lows or stress-induced highs.

We catch up on our TV shows, the ones we have been DVRing since the new season began. We take walks at night and eat sit-down dinners.

As we all know, I’m a dreader. Normally, I would be dreading the state tennis tournament in Chicago. I would dread the long drive from southern Illinois. I would dread the city traffic, the distance between the different tennis sites, the cold weather, the early morning matches, the old Holidome where where we stay every year, but something funny has happened to me. I’m not dreading it. In fact, I don’t think I’ve dreaded one silly thing since tennis began.

This year, I get up early on tennis days to make sure that Peanut’s uniform–one white track shirt and a black skirt–are clean and folded. I pack the cooler with cold drinks and nuts and ibuprofen. I fill the car with gas, if the meet is not at home. These are not new things. I’ve been doing them since Peanut entered high school as a freshman. What is new, is that I look forward to all of it.

I’m not all-slumped shoulders with a deep woe-begone voice chanting in my head, “Another fucking tennis match, and I won’t be home until 10:00, and we’ll have to eat at Subway or McDonald’s for the 15th time this week.” The woe-begone voice never even showed up this year. Instead, I am Mrs. Giddy Anticipation, beaming out rays of happiness and joy. I get to attend another tennis match and watch my girl play again. I get to watch her hit her low heavy ball cross court. I get to sit with the other parents or joke around with the other tennis girls who call me Mama Bridge, and instead of embarrassment, I embrace it. I am Mama Bridge.

Is it possible that the ever-annoying, interfering auto-correct is correct when changing dread to dream or read or bread or tread? Has something changed? Is it me?

I think so.

About a year ago, I decided to insert get to for have toSomeone suggested it in an essay or a book. It might have been Shonda Rimes in her funny, smart, and entertaining memoir, Year of Yes.

I have to say, I always thought I should to learn how to say NO before I worked on yes, but because a wise, book-loving crone sent this book to me, I thought I’d check it out–and guess what, she was right. Shonda thought I should embrace my wonderful life, and I think little by little, I took her advice.

I don’t know if get to for have to came from Shonda or Pema or Glennon or Brené or Katrina or Amy, but I’ve been reading a LOT of women this year, women who know what it means to fail, to strive, to fall down, to dare getting right back up, to laugh, to cry, to be flawed and beautiful human beings, and by Goddess, I’m learning something.

I don’t know what will happen when tennis ends, but I don’t have to know. I’ll probably cry when Peanut hits her last volley, tosses the ball up for her final serve. I’m sure I will grieve a bit, the way I grieved when Peanut’s brother Lefty’s pitching career ended. Endings are a drag.

But you know what, endings are also beginnings, and I’ve been practicing all year at beginning again.

I’m learning, friends. I’m sure I will dread again, but I hope to remember how damned good it feels to dream or read or tread or even eat bread.

Tomorrow I will hop in the car, stop to pick up my awesome mom who is going with me, and drive our happy asses to Chicago. I plan to sing the whole damned way.

On Falling or Getting Up

Falling isn’t failing.

This is what I keep telling myself because I fell Friday night, hard. Tripped over the lip of concrete that surrounds the swimming pool in my sister’s backyard. Tripped and went flying, propelled forward, my feet chasing my body, trying like hell to get beneath it. I stayed parallel to the ground, but not on the ground, long enough that my brother-in-law ran to catch me.

He couldn’t catch me.

The part of my body racing my feet finally won, and I went down. Thank God for my hands. The two old pros slowed the motion so my face slid on instead of smashed into the concrete.

Concrete surrounding a pool is a much different surface than say the concrete in your garage. Concrete slabs surrounding pools are rough. They are not made for falling, but rather to help wet folks with wet feet stay upright when they have emerged from the cool waters on a hot day. There are many ways to make concrete slip resistant–broom finishes, special aggregates, even mixing clear plastic grit into the sealer. Either way, I should have veered toward the grass–a muddy face would have been preferable.

I didn’t want to get up.

That’s not entirely correct. I wouldn’t get up.

My brother-in-law leaned over me–remember, I am lying with my left cheek plastered to the slip-resistant concrete–and very gently said, “Bridge, let me help you up.”

No thanks is what I told him. No thanks, but I’m just going to lie here for a while. This may or may not have been accompanied with some light moaning. I just wasn’t ready to get up.

**

You see, it was Friday. It was early–about 8:30. There was still wine, for God’s sake.

My sister and I had happy-houred with our parents in their warm and welcoming kitchen. I like them all so much, those three. Two of them made me and the other one was made by the same folks. We drank red wine and ate cheese and crackers. When our parents left for a dinner date, my sister and I lifted the bottle which still had some wine in it and went to her house for marshmallow roasting and continued fun.

I ruined the whole night by falling down.

Yes, people fall down all the time. Even when they haven’t been drinking wine. I fall down a lot. I have a tendency to shuffle–pick up your feet dammit!  My sister and I walk most days, and she has seen me do some version of that body forward, feet trying to catch up fall many times. She once saw me take my fall to the grass where I did a rather athletic tuck and roll to avoid the concrete sidewalk. She has seen me slide onto one knee so gracefully it could have been a dance move, and she’s seen me correct a fall when I’ve already kissed the ground.

Come to think of it, I didn’t ruin the night by falling down. But getting up was going to put a damper on things. Most of the tumbles I’ve taken have been pretty invisible to others. I wasn’t going to be able to disguise this one.

**

There was a time when a scraped up face and a black eye wasn’t such a bad thing. A friend and I were talking the other day, and she remembered how when she was younger these sorts of injuries were like badges. I remember that too. When I was sixteen, my boyfriend the quarterback threw a fast ball from across the street, and it tipped off the top of my glove and slammed me in the cheek and blacked my eye. A scab that looked just like the stitching on a baseball popped up on my face. I couldn’t wait to go to school the next Monday because I looked bad-ass.

I do not look bad-ass now.

**

My brother-in-law sent my lovely sister outside, and she urged me to get up. I got up wobbling and bloody and let her clean my face with a warm wet towel. I let her call my husband who walked down (we live on the same street–I know, I know, I am so damned lucky) and retrieved me. He put his arm around me and comforted me as I cried and cried. And he, along with my daughter, Isky, cleaned my wounds again. They were so kind. Everyone was so kind. Kinder than I would have been.

The injury I have on my face is the sort of injury your damned teenager might come home with, the kind of injury that might cause a certain kind of parent to wag a finger and say things like–I told you drinking is bad, you should have been more careful, I hope you learn something from this, this is a character builder, or even I oughta kick your ass.

I wanted to kick my own ass. Falling isn’t failing, but it sure feels like it. And failing is embarrassing, right? So why is falling embarrassing? Would it be so damned embarrassing if my knee and not my face was all banged up? After all, I can’t not look at my face.

I don’t think it’s me I’m worried about. I think the bad part of this injury is that everyone else can see it. I am 100% out of my comfort zone, out in the world, vulnerable. Everyone can see me. The real me. The one who is broken and damaged and scared.

Last night I was changing the bedsheets, and I found a large notecard that had fallen between the bed and the table where I stack my nighttime reading material. Sometimes I write quotes on notecards because Anne Lamott told me to in Bird by Bird. On this notecard I’ve quoted Brené Brown twice:

What people think of you is none of your business!

and

Knowledge is only rumor until it lives in the bones.

Well, shit. When I signed up for the Brené Brown class on Daring Greatly and Rising Strong, I wasn’t aware that she was psychic.

I get the message the universe is sending, and I don’t really believe the universe sends messages.  Just like I don’t believe God gives you only as much as you can handle. Why in the hell would she do that, and what would she base her decisions on? Would a strong response to a facial injury put me on the This One Can Handle The Bumps list?

Okay, I’m getting off track, but I want to make it clear that I don’t believe lessons are handed out in any cosmic way; however, I do believe that our lives, or my life at least, does afford way too many opportunities for growth. So yeah, everyone can see that I don’t take a hit as prettily as I used to. I’m wiser now (yes older, but I’m going with wiser), and what crone-becoming doesn’t have a scar or two? It’s day four, and the bruises are fading, the scratches are scabbing, that swollen eye is open again, and I just might see a teeny tiny spark.