Life is pretty hard right now, but I spent most of the day with my hands in dirt.
My barn, our house, was very fine today.
Life is pretty hard right now, but I spent most of the day with my hands in dirt.
My barn, our house, was very fine today.
I grew up, as did many folks my age, watching shows like Wild Kingdom and Flipper and Born Free. After years of such fare, I either internalized a phenomenon that I couldn’t articulate until after my son was born or, more likely, I just bore witness to behavior I would acquire on my own.
Said phenomenon was a set of behaviors centered on an attitude. Before Chef Boy ‘R Mine, I attributed the onset of these behaviors and that attitude to any number of things: my sense of justice, PMS, love, exhaustion. After Child-of-Mine’s birth, we coined a phrase to label this state of being, force of nature, whirlwind of 6’ woman with hair on fire. We called it Don’t-Fuck-With-The-Mama.
Think for a moment on every story you’ve ever heard or read about the mama bear, the lioness or the normally sweet-tempered family dog who turned into a wailing banshee of hell’s fury unleashed when the pups, cubs, kittens were endangered.
My child was a medical miracle and his first few months of life involved a lot of doctors and an insurance company who did not understand DFWTM.
I don’t yell. I don’t, generally, curse when confronting the problem. I don’t flail about or commit bodily harm – at least I haven’t yet. But I am either an immovable object or an unstoppable force. I say “unacceptable” a lot.
DFWTM extends to anyone I care deeply about though it is much stronger when my son is involved. Go ahead; ask me about the time I interrupted a board meeting of a health insurance company to question their decision to deny my son a surgeon with actual cleft-lip repair experience? Or the time my son was bullied to the point of blood on a school bus and the driver let him off at the regular stop as if nothing had happened. You’ll not want to ask me about the principal at the local elementary school unless you have a lot of time. It’s probably best that we don’t get into the Unfortunate Incident With My Mom’s Doctor or the ridiculous employment rules that endangered my ex-husband’s life.
I am fiercely protective of who and what I love.
The past months have been DFWTM. This time it’s not my son, but my husband-in-fact-if-not-legally. It’s further indictment of the sad state of healthcare in this country that most of my truly epic DFWTH moments center on medical folks. I have many stories about the wondrous effects medical professionals have wrought. I give praise where it’s due. And I put on storm trooper boots and wage battle when they err. Sometimes the iron fist is velvet-gloved as in the recent statement, “I believe that I must insist you consult with his transplant team before you continue” and other times a tad more confrontational such as the, also recent, “You will not talk to me that way especially when you do not know what you’re talking about.” But it’s pretty much a given that the shit is about to hit the fan, when I quit dealing with the person responsible for the mess and pick up the phone to involve someone else.
After these events, when I sheathed my talons and the adrenaline has receded, I wonder how it is that some of these folks have habituated these behaviors? Do they not deal with lionesses protecting cubs? Or are the lionesses losing their ferocity? Or are the lionesses submitting to an authority who hasn’t earned the privilege of trust?
Taylor Mali’s quote on authority comes to mind, particularly as I have just written an entire paragraph of questions.I entreat you, I implore you, I exhort you, I challenge you: To speak with conviction. To say what you believe in a manner that bespeaks the determination with which you believe it. Because contrary to the wisdom of the bumper sticker, it is not enough these days to simply QUESTION AUTHORITY. You have to speak with it, too.
I entreat you to advocate, vigorously, for those you love. Lives depend on it.
Today is my birthday and I’ve turned 53. I remarked the other day that turning 53 is a nothing year. I was immediately bombarded with exhortations to seize the year and whatnot. I didn’t express myself well.I didn’t mean nothing as a negative. Some birthdays are imbued with an energy related to the number we use to mark the passing of time. Turning 13 is a high-energy number; so is 21. The year of 30 stops some people in their tracks. Or it might be 40 or 50 or 60 or 70. The year 25 was fraught with significance for me. This one, 53, is just another turn of the wheel which is not to say it’s not worthy of being something. Terming it a nothing year was a bad choice of words.
The past year has been rough in terms of sheer disruption; a trend that looks as if it will continue for the following year. A long while ago, I discovered that I’m one of those people who needs routine and structure. I discombobulate easily when the external gets a little too free-flowing even though I generally perform well under such conditions. Though the chaos–often chaos of my own creation–drives me crazy, I don’t crawl under the bed in a fetal position and refuse to act until the merry-go-round stops. As much as I want to.
Here at the barn, the chaos has reached critical mass. A black hole is getting ready to implode or explode of mutate into a worm hole or something. For various reasons, the barn home improvement project has been stalled for almost exactly a month. No, I haven’t been in a fetal position under the bed. Well, okay. I haven’t been just in a fetal position under the bed. There have been extenuating circumstances: six day power outage, sprained wrist, handyman delays, work obligations and family events.
I’m on vacation beginning today and continuing all through next week. I have an ambitious to-do list. I’m channeling Scarlet O’Hara, shaking my fist at the sky, and solemnly swearing that I’ll never be hungry again. Wait. No. That’s not quite it.
I’m vowing to jitterbug through this chaos and prevent a Big Bang. I cannot live like this any longer. I tend to measure my success at handling life by how much grace and style I can muster under adverse conditions. Grace and Style exited along with Equanimity when the Wa (Japanese concept of peace, harmony and balance) of my home ended up sitting in the driveway with the rotted bookcases. Even worse, Grace, Style and Equanimity had been threatening to move out for a good while before that. It’s time we were all friends again.
The bookcases were offered to a funeral pyre this week. It’s good to have them gone. I’m surprised at how much better I feel when I drive up the hill and am not immediately reminded of just how badly this project has gone. I suspect the Wa survived the cremation and is napping behind a tree somewhere.
At this stage, I can’t envision the end result, but I’m trusting that by doing what needs to be done Wa will return and wrap its tendrils around my heart and home.
With any luck, 53 will be both a return and an advance.
There are three graphics going around Facebook these days that cause me to pause and contemplate. They’re supposed to be funny and the originator probably didn’t intend them to provoke deep philosophical thoughts, but nonetheless.
The last few years have just been something. I remarked the other day that having the rug pulled out from under my feet every 30 seconds or so should feel normal; it should no longer surprise me or provoke nothing more than an off-hand comment of “here we go again.”
Still, I’m surprised, outraged, demoralized, saddened, defeated or whatever emotion the Lucy-with-the-football moment has provoked. This proves something although I’m not sure what. Perhaps it proves that finding contentment in chaos is pretty damned difficult, but I suspect that any of the Buddhists of my acquaintance could have told me that. I wouldn’t have argued with them either because I am having a right awful time with finding any contentment, much less holding on to it long enough to marvel at the positive aspects of chaos.
I tried to abolish the rest of July the other day, but folks celebrating a birthday this month were opposed. In truth, it’s not just been July that’s been a problem so it was a flawed idea – a no solution solution.
Right on schedule, at about the age of 30 or so, I noticed that I didn’t know one single normal person. In talking with other people, I gather this is a rite of passage. Young’uns get this idea from somewhere that at the appropriate calendar moment they will enter the great society of something called “grownups” and much of the drama of the playground, school hallway and sports fields will cease. Decisions will be thoughtful and correct. Maturity and right-thinking will be abound and between bouts of doing the right thing, flossing our teeth, paying our bills on time, and running well-ordered lives, the “grownups” will look around, take a gander at what’s not working and correct it.
Poppycock. This is probably the worst fairytale we tell our children. “Grownups” are nothing more than children without the qualities that make children such wonderful creatures. Worse, the quirks of childhood solidify into something heavy, dark and dreary. There is so much that we don’t outgrow. And some of what we do outgrow, perhaps we shouldn’t. How I would have loved the other day to stand up and shout “Liar, liar, pants on fire!” But grownups don’t do that. If we’ve been through enough classes, employee trainings, and CEU conferences, we might say something like “That’s not my understanding of what happened.”
By the age of 50, most of us understand that “normal” is nothing but a dryer setting. But chances are pretty good that we’re angry about that truth. At least that’s my take when a statement purporting to state the norm is always met by a “but.” “But” is a result of the residual anger from learning the playground bullies are still bullies, the tattletale is still tattling and we’re still using rock, paper, scissors to solve problems.
Some of us embark on Sinatra’s “My Way” to navigate our lives. We’ve learned that the “grownups” aren’t, there is no “normal” and the Buddha is always killed on the road. We resolve to pilot our own ship, forge our destiny, march to our own drummer, yada yada yada. While we’re heaping those platitudes on the Chinette plate of our lives, we pass over Donne’s “No Man is an Island.” Perhaps we never had a teacher make us read that bit of wisdom.
No man is an island,
Entire of itself.
Each is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thine own
Or of thine friend’s were.
Each man’s death diminishes me,
For I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee.
I’m not good at planning. I never have been, but like Charlie Brown, I continue to try. I set out from a to b with the simplest path in mind. I’m never very far when chaos reminds me I’m not an island and the rich, often rewarding, continent of my life is going to complicate the straight route I’ve planned.
I had plans for this weekend that were derailed before the first footstep. Before I could alter them appropriately, a tragedy unfolded killing folks I don’t know and I’m caught up in the tolling bells. While learning of that horror, I read of others and now Wordsworth’s “The world is too much with me” is complicating the hope of the Easy Way to prevail.
The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon;
The winds that will be howling at all hours,
And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers,
For this, for everything, we are out of tune;
It moves us not.–Great God! I’d rather be
A pagan suckled in a creed outworn;
So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;
Or hear old Triton blow his wreathèd horn.
Someone I knew, who died a few months ago, used to go on a media fast once a year to celebrate his birthday. For thirty days, he partook of no television, newspapers, Internet. It sounded like a fine idea, but I don’t have the self-discipline to effect such a total block. Periodically, I’ll declare a media fast lite where I refuse all but the lightest forms of media entertainment ignoring politics and the mayhem of what we call “news.”
Is finding contentment in chaos achieved by blinders? Maybe? Is it necessary to allow my senses to be assaulted by the mayhem with only literature as a bandage?
And why is it that I think if I could only restore order to my home, I could find some equanimity? I know this last thing to be true, because it’s worked so many times before. Is it because by controlling what I can, I buy into that childish myth that when I’m a grownup I’ll have the power to right wrongs?
Liar, liar, pants on fire.
I’m off to self-delude.
This guy speaks cogently about a long-time wish of mine – long, uninterrupted stretches of time to get stuff done. My inner adult and inner child are squabbling at this very moment trying to force me off this sofa to get ready to go to work. I have a daunting to-do list including a fair amont of creative type stuff. Tomorrow morning, the to-do list will include everything that’s on it now, plus some more stuff. This will continue. Finally, a crisis will arise and there I’ll be, off the clock late in the evening, finally getting something done.
This speech was not a revelation TO ME. If my time is fragmented, so is my work and I end up with pieces hither and yon. I sit down down to try and aggregate them and I’m interrupted yet again. I’ve never been able to explain to folks that when that happens, I have to rewind and start over. While being taking to task for having not completed a creative project, I explained I needed an uninterrupted stretch of time. The response: “Well, we know that’s not going to happen.”
Yes. Yes, we do.
Do you really want to help? Really? Perhaps you might look at the “cutting costs” part of Appalachian Power’s, ahem, “commitment.”
Once again, my power is up and down like a yo-yo today. This is a regular occurrence – day in and day out. I talked about this yesterday when my power went out for no apparent reason. Here I am today, again, talking about it still. Are we really in this together? Does your power go up and down all day long every day? I bet not.
This problem predates the Derecho by months and years. Perhaps all that cost cutting including reduction of personnel has something to do with the fact that Appalachian Power linemen were mournful sad when they looked at the neglected right-of-way that houses the pole that serves my house. Although they were right there and could see what a mess it is, they couldn’t do anything about it. I was instructed to formally request attention to the right-of-way.
Funny that. I can report an outage online with nothing but my phone number, but to request attention to the underlying problem of my frequent outages, I have to provide my account number. Since I pay my bill on time, I don’t have one laying around. Trying to get the number online has been difficult as the server keeps resetting. Perhaps the server farm is served by AEP and their power is yo-yo-ing.
So, Don, I’d appreciate it if you’d get somebody out here to tend to that right-of-way. I’d do it myself, but your website says that you don’t want me to because you’re awful concerned about my safety. I’m betting the real reason is that you think I’d sue the pants off of you if I got hurt. You’re probably right.
I hear tell that it’s likely Appalachian Power will request another rate increase to pay for the damage from the Derecho. I also hear tell that y’all have an agreement with the state that guarantees a profit. I wonder how many folks doing business in West Virginia would love the guarantee of a profit? Why, Don, with a guarantee, you can provide people with truly terrible service and still satisfy the shareholders. Isn’t that nifty?
With a name like “Agnostic Mountain Gospel Choir” how could I not have two?