This is the way I spent my Sunday morning (with a whole list of “shoulds and oughts” waiting) – what started out as looking at the pix of the babies I took at our Chandler’s 18th Birthday bash turned into a paean of praise to the Love we’re all born with. And to family: parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles …. And especially the brothers, sisters, and cousins who are our first real friends.
A few weeks ago, as I was driving up to Michigan City, I saw, in front of a small white clapboard sided church next to the highway, this message on the church marquee:
Jesus is coming.
We hope He gets here before November.
Interesting how that stops being funny the more you think about it. Humor often masks fear –and the most common thread of emotion running through all of the public “conversation” this past year is Fear.
Fear that makes people speak and act in haste, say and do things that they never would have if they weren’t tired and afraid and on the defensive. Friends and family members find themselves at odds and become vocal because everyone has been scrubbed so raw by verbal vitriol that we’re all walking nerve endings and it doesn’t take much to sting and hurt.
And thanks to social media, you can find yourself defending a position you don’t really believe in because you expressed it in public, in writing, at some point when you were tired or scared or both.
I find myself again, this campaign year, holding out for it to be over – and I’m not alone. I hear that same sentiment reflected back wherever I go: “I just wanted to be over.” “Is it November 9 yet?” As if we could get back to the business of being normal, ordinary, decent people in a vibrant free society once the election is over.
What does it say about us that we have so let our system of “government” devolve to the place that it barely matters which presidential candidate wins the election because we just want it to be over? Or, better yet, we want someone to save us? Because, ultimately, we have no faith that any of the people who are poised to govern us and serve the public good will actually be doing that.
In reality, it isn’t about politics or the issues or serving the public good ~ it hasn’t been for a long time. It’s about the insidious and subtle erosion of those virtues that our parents taught us and that we try to teach our children: honesty, integrity, respect, and responsibility; the importance of compassion tolerance, and empathy; and of being contributing members of our communities. Or even common courtesy or just plain human decency.
Unless you’re a sociopath you have a conscience. You have one for a reason. Listen to it.
This presidential campaign, especially, has devolved into public displays of intolerance, rudeness, misinformation and out right lies perpetuated and spreading like a disease throughout the public consciousness via social media and so-called mainstream media. And it just goes grindingly on, until we’re all so raw and hurt and weary we just want it to be over. An entire society of individuals who increasingly feel as if they’re being water boarded – because it won’t be over on November 9. Regardless of who is elected as president, the divisiveness will go on.
It’s time to stop this.
You can’t change other people’s behavior by force any more than you can change their opinions by shouting louder than them. If you want strong, honest, and responsible leaders you have to be strong and honest and responsible yourself.
Try not to react to verbal barbs and pot shots from people who are themselves emotionally raw and tired and scared. And try not to participate in the propaganda machine that is social media. If you’re too tired to go and check out that post for yourself and verify that it’s true, don’t share or retweet or whatever.
If you want to have an impact in government, start with your own family and friends and community. Get involved on a local level; do your best to serve your constituents and make your community a better place. As far as this, or any, election goes, if you’re going to exercise the privilege of voting, then take responsibility for educating yourself about the candidates, their track record in dealing with people, serving their communities, etc. Once you have, vote your conscience ~ and be grown-up enough to let other people vote their’s ~ then do your best to exemplify the virtues of respect, for yourself and others, honesty, empathy, compassion, and responsibility that you want to see in you leaders.
It isn’t about Hillary or Donald. Ultimately it’s about each one of us, individually. That old saw about being the change you want to see in the world is a cliché only because it’s true.
It all starts with YOU. So be the person who behaves with honesty and integrity and responsibility, be a person of good conscience who sets a higher standard. Don’t just keep your head down and hope for the best ~ or for a savior to get us out of this mess.
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One of my girls and I were talking last night, via text, because she had been going through pictures to put up in her room, and finding one of her great-grandparents (my parents), coming right on the heels of a photo from her own parents’ wedding started a cascade of thoughts tinged with sorrow for all the life events still to come that “gramma” won’t be there to share with her: her own wedding, the birth of her babies, all the little everyday joys and sorrows.
Even as I reassured her that gramma would be there, and that crying because you miss her isn’t selfish, and how gramma always told me that tears were healing, I was remembering the last time the sorrow had taken me unawares like that. I had put it away, then, the suddenly-fresh-again grief and longing, wrote it out and stored the file away on my hard drive to let time blunt the edges of it.
Yet, within the ache of missing her were also seeds of joy and hope and thanksgiving for the gift that was gramma, my mama ~ so I looked up the file this morning and am posting it here, pretty much as it was originally written, for Quinn, now, and for any of the rest of gramma’s kids, whenever you might need it ~
In the restaurant where we were having supper tonight, I heard Mama’s voice say “Well, Hello!” in that lilting, happy way she had when we would meet up somewhere or run into each other unexpectedly. I looked up with the beginnings of a welcoming smile before I remembered.
Then I craned my neck, trying to see the lady who had spoken to the people she was joining in the next booth, even knowing . . . well, just . . . knowing. Foolish. I told myself that, and several other things, as my throat locked down and the bridge of my nose began to sting. Foolish to think that it was her, and foolish to be disappointed that it wasn’t, when I know so well that it couldn’t be.
I cast about for some other occupation for my thoughts, trying to reason with myself, largely without words, over the next several seconds. Also foolish. My head has never held much sway over my heart when the two disagree. But at least the sudden shower was quiet and relatively short, and somehow James knew after a moment, what it was about, though he didn’t know the trigger.
That was 45 minutes ago, and we’re home now. We even stopped at the pet food store for kitty stuff, and looked at fish and bunnies and birds, and as we were driving home I was mostly okay. But the weight of tears was still in my chest, the tears that haven’t yet escaped making my throat feel raw and sore, and a line from a movie I haven’t seen in years just appeared in my head, a line equally weighted with sorrow: it’s a pay-as-you-go world.
It is. And sometimes the coin you have to pay with is sorrow. And I was thinking, but I haven’t done anything to have to pay for.
Then, just now, as I was writing this ~ because that’s what I do when something moves me deeply and I haven’t anything else to immediately claim my attention, write it out ~ and as I did, I realized: bad things aren’t the only things you pay for in this life.
It’s only been a little over six months since mama went on. I was blessed with her love and laughter for 55 years. 55 years with Mama just a phone call or a few blocks away, and a lifetime of joyful memories to carry me through the rest of it. All that against the few times I am taken unawares like this, when the bill unexpectedly comes due in sorrow that takes my breath away.
It is a pay as you go world, but for all that, these tears are such a small price.
I love you, Mama, and sometimes I miss you so much ~ but that’s all right. You were, and are, more than worth it. ~ January 25, 2013
Like gramma did, and does, I love you, kids, each and every one of you ~ always ~