Don’t you hate it when life tries to teach you stuff?
Life, knocking at the door: “Hey, it’s me, here for your lesson. It’s time.”
Me:”Oh, hey, hi. No thanks, I’m good here with my glass of wine and Netflix. I think the people upstairs with the endlessly barking dog could use your help, though. Wow, that is seriously annoying. Go get ’em!”
Life: “No, I’m here for you.”
Me: “Look, I get it. You’ve got a boss you have to answer to. I’m really fine. Oh, remember all that stuff we learned a few years ago? I was curled in a ball and cried a lot? Good times! So that counts, right? I learned stuff, I’m not curled in a ball anymore. It’s all good, right? I mean, seriously, that dog. He barks constantly when they aren’t home. Have a heart and think of him. His owners surely need to learn a few things.”
Life opens the door and walks in, looks at me with raised eyebrows. “Really?”
Me: “Awwww, dammit.”
Yeah, I really hate that shit. So, we had the election, and the inauguration (I can’t even capitalize it in good conscience), and whatever the hell this is now. I’ve felt angry, nauseous, adrift, overwhelmed, and I’ve been eating too much. And that’s the part that really hurts — especially after I worked so
hard long to lose weight. And I would like to point out that my son recently got sick enough to stay home. That never happened during the Obama years. Just sayin’. The facts don’t lie. Oh, ow, see? You can’t even joke about that stuff now.
So, what?!? What exactly, Life, do you have to teach me right now? Can’t you see it’s hitting the fan, like the paint on Spin art? I had to work this weekend to meet a deadline, my son is having senioritis, two great coworkers are retiring soon, my siblings are meeting this week to sort out how to best help our parents who are in their late 80s — old age is a riot, isn’t it? — and my dating life is in the toilet. And this morning the piece de resistance was getting a familiar pain in my left eye, and seeing the telltale bloodshot eyeball. Of course, scleritis. Why wouldn’t I get scleritis right now? Don’t worry, folks, it’s not dangerous, just annoying and requires lots of ibuprofen for 10 days.
Life just looked at me with that “are you finished?” mom face for a few minutes without speaking. I hate when she does that.
And then I couldn’t help but recount all the recent encounters of my friends showing up in my life when I need them, and the fact that my siblings can meet and work together, the substantive conversation I had with my son about how he’s really doing. And on top of that, two things that are helping ground me in this new era. And that’s the life lesson, tucked into the gratitude. Until I can find how to ground myself, I’m a liberal fall leaf getting carried down the orange Cheeto River.
One thing was the workshop I just finished on bystander intervention. I will blog more details soon, but in the meantime, if you are upset that people are feeling more free to say hateful crap, it’s a great thing to have a few techniques and a plan in your back pocket. As a reserved person in public (dancing is totally different!), all my life I have thought if I only were more bold, I could be helpful in a situation where someone is being targeted with hateful, sexist, racist, or, heck, even drunken speech. Guess what? It’s all about knowing yourself and using your strengths.
Dammit–know myself!?! As all my half-assed attempts to meditate and center myself flash though my mind, Life starts to chuckle — she’s not the most empathetic person. So before she comes knocking on your door, too, if you are in the Boston area, check out Rona Fischman’s class. If you’re not, try to find one near you.
The second thing that helped was reading a book called, Just the Facts, by Davis T.Z. Mindich. Well, I haven’t finished it yet, but it’s still helping. The subtitle is: How “objectivity” came to define American journalism. Apparently it started in the 1830s, and that was a violent era under Andrew Jackson (“I was born for the storm and calm does not suit me.”) with mobs of middle class white men dueling and caning people and disrupting antislavery meetings as they tried to preserve their, um, privilege. It did make me twitch a bit, but it made me thankful dueling and mob violence is slightly less prevalent now. In this world of fake news and the prevalence of the perceived equality of everyone’s opinion on social media and blogs, it’s a good place to get grounded in.
So I have some history to look back to, and I have learned I can dig around in my reserved bag of tricks to call out inappropriate remarks to help others both in work and in stranger situations. Rona emphasized anything you can do to prevent small incursions on civilized discourse helps it from becoming a bigger problem. And you have to know yourself to do it.
Me, holding the door open: “Thanks so much Life; you were right! I guess it’s good to be uncomfortable sometimes. It helps you grow.”
Life, settling comfortably into one of my chairs with a drink next to her, crosses her legs and squints dispassionately at me through the smoke of her recently lit cigarette.
Me: “Right. What do you want to watch on Netflix?”