My rally friend and I were at the Kremlin Annex last night. Rosie O'Donnell and performers from Broadway sang to encourage and support the resistance in front of the White House on the 22nd day of this protest movement. It was hot and humid and the clouds didn't bring any comforting rain, so thank you to the performers for singing our hearts happy. LIES, TREASON, LIAR, Lyin' King, handmaidens, t-rexes, and all the blunt signs were out in force, as well as the inevitable cameras (mine included). Rosie starts to speak at about minute 29, and the singing and more songs start a couple of minutes later.
It’s hot, but the windows are open
for the sounds, the bare breezes,
the connections that reach beyond
my imaginings as I sit at my table.
Closed doors and windows confine cooled air,
but they separate me from the raucous cicadas,
the passing cars, the carried snippets of voices,
the reminders that
all is not outrage, fear, turmoil.
Yesterday was a day of talking about poetry:
imagery and the power of figurative language
with ten-year-olds before
hearing, reading, seeing the news of Treason,
of a man who stands for nothing, not even himself.
It was far too literal to compare to
peering down a rocky cliff,
dredging a septic tank,
razing a blooming field,
depriving an infant of sustenance.
The encroaching overlap of the day and my day
as it played out, as it plays out in far too many iterations,
shouldn’t make modeling being kind to each other
seem like a noble act.
The only fealty we should have is to honor and respect
each other. To do no harm.
Maybe it’s like having a peanut free room or table:
We take care to protect those who could be harmed
by our actions. And then,
We take care of those who just need
a kind word, a supportive nod, an encouraging smile.
Humanity. Compassion. Love.
My hospice visits have started, though I’ll refer to them as elderly visits since the people I visit will not necessarily be in hospice. One of the two people I started visiting is, thankfully, healthy enough to no longer be in hospice; he lives in a memory care facility in a senior community. The hospice patient lives in a relative’s home in an in-law suite. Each of them suffers from a form of dementia, amongst other maladies, including cancer.
Before my volunteer training, I had thought that hospice was a physical place where people go to die without being poked and prodded to prolong life just for the sake of prolonging life. But I was wrong. Hospice is a status, whereby a doctor evaluates a patient and estimates that the patient has up to six months to live. Obviously, this is not an exact science, but a general guideline. Hospice care itself is generally covered by Medicare, a person’s insurance, or Veteran’s benefits. Having a volunteer visit is a part of the umbrella of services offered.
My seemingly unending search for a volunteer program to which I could be dedicated has brought me here, to the end of the road, so to speak. After realizing that I need ongoing one-on-one interactions with the same people rather than the occasional help-us-out activity, as well as remembering how important hospice was to my father (he died in a hospice in a hospital), and after seeing a flyer about a volunteer opportunity at another volunteer event, I decided to sign up and see how it goes. Two days of training and a binder full of information to read, as well as suggested books about dying and hospice and dementia, which were not as depressing as I had feared, I was ready. You know, it’s not bad to understand where life may lead us, especially with a mother in her 80s and increasing discomfort trying to hoist myself up from the ground, as well as hints of a droopy jowl.
After my initial trepidatious visits because I didn’t know quite what to expect (even though the training was excellent) or how I would react, at four weeks in I am much more comfortable. It is shocking—in a positive way—how a little bit of experience can dispel a lot of angst. Now when I head out for my weekly visit, I’m not concerned about how I feel or how I’ll do, rather I focus on getting out of the Me Zone. It’s like when I started teaching: initially I was consumed with my stress and what I needed, but after a few years, by gaining confidence in my abilities, I have been able to bring the focus on my students and what they need from me.
The woman I visit, my first patient, exudes both a gentle kindness and a stoic frustration. She seems aware of some of her memory issues since she will try to say something, but the wrong word will come out. When that happens she’ll pause, shake her head, and say, “No, that’s not it.” Then she’ll stop trying to talk and retreat from my attempts at conversation and interaction to just sit quietly. Still needing to engage her, I find myself commenting on the clouds outside the windows. One day she tried to tell me about something she saw, but she could only say, “Black thing,” and then she laughed uneasily. I think she was referring to a bird.
Watching someone else deal with a loss of words—and not recovering those lost words—is scary in an ominous what-will-be-with-me way. At the supermarket the other day, I was in the self-check-out aisle holding this nubby thing that I got for my stir-fry, but I couldn’t remember what it was. Faced with the alphabetical listing on the screen, I blanched at the idea of going through the entire alphabet of fruits and vegetables. The letters b and g came to me, so I started at the beginning of the alphabet. When the image of and word “ginger” appeared, relief rushed through me. It wasn’t the joy of winning something, rather of being released from dread. But that night, when I was telling older daughter this story (maybe I shouldn’t tell my daughters these stories, but I feel that I must), I momentarily blanked on the word “ginger” again.
Who amongst us has not momentarily forgotten the name of something or someone? When a teenage student tells me that she forgot what she was going to say, I gladly tell her that it will come back to her, making me feel a little less anxious about my own lapses. Other than no longer needing to remember phone numbers, there’s so much to know and keep track of as we get older. But still, these temporarily blanked out words are troubling, and being exposed to someone who has Alzheimer’s is both less and more anxiety-inducing than not. Less because I realize that this is still a person beside me. It could be that since she is not too far along in her disease I am able to experience her humanity, even with few words. And more because she seems so much like a lost child, not able to express herself, not remembering that her parents are dead, that her husband is dead, where she used to live, where she lives now, or even that I previously visited her. So much is lost when we can’t access our words and memory.
She seems to like holding a book, looking at it. But after the first time when I read to her for a few minutes, she doesn’t want me to read. Perhaps she no longer understands many of the words or she cannot create a picture in her mind. This is surprising to me. I had envisioned myself quietly reading to the people I visit. It is such an elementary way that we have devised to experience being together. Now I must think of other ways to do that. The key, I am realizing, is to shed my need to impose upon our time—to fill our time—and to let an hour of being together be the accomplishment itself.
Just about every conversation I have with my middle-aged single lady friends will, at some point, touch on the subject of dating. That part of the conversation generally comes after the updates on children (even if only applicable to me) and work (always applicable and often accompanied by sarcastic comments); angry, frustrated, bleak statements about the latest outrage by the little men and women (ugh—Yeah Feminism!) in charge; then, in a little white flag of hope will be vague thoughts about retirement; and, finally, updates on whether or not we are on the manhunt or not, and how it’s going or why we’re not participating.
We do not bemoan the lack of good men (we’re still hopeful that they exist out there behind a swipe in an as yet undiscovered app or even in line for coffee). It’s more that we wonder if we want to be in a relationship. What’s in it for us? A male friend wondered how I and another friend could still be single since we are both great cooks and have nice homes. If this is the stereotype that we’re fighting against then hope is lost since I have no intention of offering a tasty sanctuary to anyone (except my daughters).
We wonder about the value of a relationship not just because of past agonies, but because of current comfort. None of us wants to lose all that we have gained since the defining breakup. We don’t want to lose the lifestyles we created to conform to someone else’s desires. It took so long to stop doing things for someone else that any compromise could feel like a defeat. And since it took even longer to figure out what we need to make us happy, the thought of losing any progress for a few man-woman interactions is shrug-worthy. Why bother still needs to be adequately answered.
It’s not just that we are post-divorce, it’s also that we’re post-children-at-home. Once you’ve stopped supplying services to your loved ones, it’s hard to go back. Sometimes it feels to me as if the years when I was a full-time mother never happened. It’s a black hole that absorbed my time and memory. Surely no man will need that involvement (and if he does, he should stay away from me and my friends), but once you only need to worry about yourself, it’s hard to go back, even to a part-time position.
Also, once you have dealt with the breakup of a marriage, you lose the illusion that satisfaction can be found in having someone to lean on. It’s not bitterness that speaks, but the reality that dependence, or the expectations that dependence breeds, simply cannot be trusted. Even if you were to be in a relationship now, it would never be as two into one, but always as two individuals, side-by-side. And if that’s the case, why do I need to be with the same person all the time as opposed to doing different things with different people? And why, dear God, do I need to have breakfast with anyone? Can’t a woman enjoy her first cup of coffee in peace without having to worry about looks, conversation, or how someone else wants his eggs?
It seems, doesn’t it, that what we single middle-aged women have attained is wisdom. Or learning how to live as realistic cynics, which, honestly, is probably the safest way to live. Could it be that since we no longer look for someone else to make decisions for us we have shed useless softness, and since we are flexible in the moment neither are we too tough to deal with. No consultations are required before making decisions since we are not hedged in by someone else’s desires or moods or schedules. I would say that we are ideal companions.
The problem, I guess, is that we don’t want to change this lovely status quo for someone who can’t make up his mind without consulting us first.
I went to the Families Belong Together Rally and March in DC with my march friend. At first we couldn't understand how people were grouped. Then we realized that they were gathered around trees: everyone seeking the "cool" shade. You see, no differentiation between peoples, just seeking comfort from the elements. Can diversity show unity any better than that?
I finally got my chance to hear Lin Manuel Miranda sing live from Hamilton--free. Of course, I couldn't see him since we were behind the stage, but all of a sudden I heard a single voice sing and all the phones around me starting popping up in the air to record the moment. Sharing hearts and beauty shouldn't be a hard thing to do or a difficult concept to grasp.
Marching from the White House down to the Department of Justice to walk around it and then to the Capitol. I didn't plan it, but I love how the Statue of Liberty's beacon in the poster is right next to the Capitol in the distance. They really do go together and there were tens of thousands of people marching all over the country to proclaim that.
Vigil at dusk. Representatives from different faiths spoke; very powerful expressions from faith-based perspectives which basically boil down to treating each other with respect and dignity. This is Mark Levine (Democratic Delegate to the Virginia House of Delegates from Virginia's 45th District) speaking from the Jewish perspective against family separation. Except for the Christ candles, which I didn't hold, it was a lovely gathering and affirmation that We're Not Backing Down.
Two horribly contrasting images of people have lodged in my mind. There is the vile image and the poignant image.
There are the people who are okay (pleased, I dare say) with ripping children away from their parents, with taking healthcare away from children, with manifesting that vile thing that lives in them on the rest of us. These people can explain why they do these things, logically and with big words, and they can even expound on the purpose of boundless pain.
Unfortunately, this ease with evil is not new to our world.
There seem to be stories from every generation that reveal curdled hearts. These people, whose minds and souls are sealed within vast vats of self-serving rhetoric, cannot be fathomed. These are the people who, generation after generation, have enslaved, branded, burned, lynched, pierced, shot, macheted—and still they have the audacity to think that their actions are valid, have a purpose that is more than to manifest evil.
How does a person skip compassion? I understand the meaning of the term “dehumanization,” but its very inhumanity still boggles the soul.
I hate to say “these people,” but sometimes blanket statements feel necessary. And one more: These are the people who never find blame in themselves because these vile acts are what brings about the world they want.
Then there the people who touch you because there is no artifice to them. Their presence shakes you to contemplate that which makes a person good. The connectivity does not degrade or propel, rather it is the gentlest nod of inspiration to simply be in the moment, of the moment, expecting nothing gained, except the internal breeze of positive soul meeting positive soul.
Such interactions remind us that all is not bile and bluster. They remind us, don’t they, that generally it is children and the elderly, with no axes to grind or ladders to climb or ideas to prove, who let us settle into a shape that does not shift—a self we can find comfort within. They remind us, too, how important it is to have shelter for the soul—that there is within a place that cannot be invaded. To know that our core (and the core of so many) has not been corrupted. To know with solidity that a mind can mesh with another mind in respect that can be akin to love.
There are tears of sadness, and tears of joy.
There are pangs of pain, and palpitations of hope.
There is suppression that cannot smother.
There is the will to never succumb to the sordid nature of evil and hate.
There is hope to propel and prevail, for never is it all lost.
We must find, create, inspire all that may be a bulwark against all that tries to debase.
We are each other’s soul supports, especially now.
Too many epiphany moments may be unbelievable, but not enough can make you slide into a complacency that starts to feel like boredom. It’s not helpful for all insights to be incremental. In that case, are they insights or merely a growing awareness? I need the occasional ah-ha moment to jolt myself back from the inertia of comfort into self-assessment.
A few weeks ago, as I read about another non-profit created by a driven woman out to save the world, I could feel myself about to dive into the usual lamentation that I have done nothing, that I have not pushed myself to achieve what should be achievable—look, she did it—when the ding ding ding of realization descended: if that had suited my personality, I would have done it already. I’ve tried to save myself the angst of this cycle of recrimination before, but this time my mind went beyond accusation to insight: I’m a one-on-one person. Strength for me is not in numbers: of people, of actions, of activities. There have been opportunities to move mountains, but I have always shirked from them to come back to my quiet activities. The “rally the troops” attitude just doesn’t work if you’re the only troop and you’d prefer to read a book, take a walk, bake a cake, go to bed. And that doesn’t make me a bad feminist or bad person. It makes me who I am.
It was at this moment verging on tense disappointment that the ding ding ding occurred, but only because, perhaps, I am finally letting myself acknowledge—and respect—who I am. I talk. I listen. I joke. I interrupt. I probe. I want to hear people tell the big and small stories of their lives. What could be better than looking into a person’s eyes as she tells you an anecdote that defines her? What could be better than telling a tale that surprises yet doesn’t. Those are the moments that I thrive in, that bring me joy. One-on-one. The intimacy of relationships and small groups is where I live.
This realization brought me back to thinking about how to spend my un-designated time. As much as I need to be alone to think and gather my energies, I need, too, to connect. Over the years I’ve done a variety of volunteer activities, but nothing more than a couple of times. Nothing seemed right or had enough direct interaction. I don’t want to help someone who will help someone. I don’t want to live in the abstract. After editing a book for an organization that never got back to me, I decided that I don’t want to use my skills, but myself. I don’t want to keep defining myself by my roles and abilities; it’s time to go forward robed just in personality.
As these things happen, shortly after that realization I learned about an opportunity to be a hospice volunteer. I signed up for the training, did the pre-training reading and viewing, read a couple of books that I thought would help me understand what I was headed for (Caring for the Dying: The Doula Approach to a Meaningful Death, Henry Fersko-Weiss; Being Mortal, Atul Gawande) all of which helped me to see that the topic didn’t get me down, rather it made me thoughtful and inspired to engage. Then I participated in the two-day training program itself.
Would it be surprising to say that everyone in the training, both the trainers and the soon-to-be-volunteers, was a lovely person? I don’t think so. What joy it was to spend two days with people whose hearts aren’t hidden far up their sleeves.
In this hospice program, many of the clients have memory issues, rather than having reached the end of suffering from cancer, which is what I had expected. The apprehension I felt about engaging with people whose memory was a victim of their disease was somewhat alleviated when we toured a memory care facility. A few residents joined us for the tour and sat with us as we learned about the activities and services the residents receive. Their joining us wasn't to explain anything, other than their presence made it clear that they didn't quite know what was going on and this looked like something fun to join. The distance between perception and reality was breached in seeing that age and significant loss did not diminish humanity.
My hope for myself is that I don’t come up with excuses to stay home, but that I find fulfillment in the mutual reciprocity of giving of self. And that I ease into the quiet meaning that is created by two people being side-by-side, together.
Has the world changed?
It still revolves around the sun.
Daylight comes in the morning and
Dusk darkens into evening.
Some shout yes, others shout no.
There are those who no longer love,
And those who want to love.
I’m just checking because there must be differences
Since hate and negativity are in ascendance everywhere
I read and hear.
But if I look
I see the unfurling seeds and
Petals floating in the warming air.
It is then that it comes to me that politics is not life,
And we, the you and me who breathe breath into the world,
Will overwhelm, always, eventually, that which tries to break and impede.
Our stance, our backs, our commitment
To optimism, to believing in the eternal
Triumph of good over evil.
Gray clouds hover over the dimming day,
I turn to an empty room and into that which hovers
I sigh a prayer of and for compassion,
For seeing that your toes and mine need to tread lightly,
Honoring that which exists without us, beyond us;
That differences that define should not negate.
But I worry that they cannot perceive
My humanity because of
That state but do not
Look into my eyes,
Be close enough to have no fear:
Why do you want me not to live freely?
Why do you want to shout over my voice?
Why do you not recognize my needs—my humanity?
We each have a life to live,
Overcome the call to smother, instead
Remember that no one is always right.
I will not cause the earth to tremble or the
Heavens to fall.
It is merely my voice and my heart—
Beating against yours
For acknowledgement that I have
A right to my opinions, my presence,
Let's march, rally, volunteer, and raise our voices tomorrow against gun violence in our schools, in our public places, in our lives.
My Weapon of Choice: Teacher Voice
No glass of wine, bottle of beer, or Colorado gummy bear can make my mind fuzzy enough for long enough to stop the realization that is finally solidifying.
I have wished that I was a religious person for much of my adult life. Hence moving to Israel at 22 and wondering about becoming a rabbi last year. I have wished that prayer could reach into my depths, and for religious rites and observances to motivate me, give me meaning beyond rote repetition. I have longed for inspiration from a fast or adherence to a food restriction that would propel me to deepen my commitment. Throughout, I have wondered what I lack since I have remained steadily unmoved.
Yet, my perceptions and groundedness, I realize, have remained steadfast in being connected through time and space with Judaism, with being a Jew. I have finally realized that the basis of my morality, my concerns, my commitments, my perception of what is a good life and a good person, are based there, and in the unending stream of generations that has continued to hone and embody that way of being—a belief that embodies one’s entirety. The consistency of the believers has enabled the wonderers, like myself, to be grounded in a truth that for us is human-inspired rather than divinely inspired. Perhaps we each are meant to have our role to make the whole.
I have always wondered and longed for meaning that I thought religion could foster. Alas, I am not an acute observer of rules, regulations, or restrictions as set down centuries ago by or for this God. But while I thought this created a hollow space within, I am realizing that all this time my internal space has been filling up with a connectedness that reaches as deep as any sacred prayer or act could.
Finally, I have ceased to ache for what I lack; instead, I perceive that inspiration—meaning, purpose—comes from an interconnectedness that transcends direct guidance, propelling the self without command, rooting purpose within that expanse. An expanse which is the underlying beat of compassion that connects us all, the breath of the earth and its manifestation in all that is, here, within each of us.
Compassionate congregating occurring each moment we interact, engage, think about another, the other, the not me, which, within this connective thread, is somehow me.
Crying when hearing other people’s stories.
Smiling when watching other people’s joys.
Perhaps I lost a reality that I thought I wanted, but perhaps, too, that desire helped form who I need to be.
An essay that I wrote about trust issues is available for reading at JWI.org.
How many times can a heart break?
This is not a rhetorical question.
Why are guns more important than lives?
Again, not a rhetorical question, a cry from tears cracking a heart.
Why is there a gun show in Miami this weekend?
Again, not a rhetorical question, a plea for a different future.
Why are the lives of children less important than gun sales?
Again, not a rhetorical question, a wonder that is revulsion.
Why do men need to pretend they’re superheroes with assault rifles?
Again, not a rhetorical question, an acknowledgement that their desires create massacre-makers, not saviors.
How is it that the gut of too many lawmakers is shriveled with dollars?
Again, not a rhetorical question, a demand for action, change.
How can a parent mourn a child, a child lose a childhood friend, a custodian clean up so much spilled blood, a parent comfort a grieving child, a teacher experience empty seats, a sibling grasp loss, a grandparent bury a grandchild, a country keep letting it happen?!
There are no rhetorical questions here, only a demand for swords into ploughshares, assault weapons into rain barrels, bird feeders, planters—let there be growth, not death.
We are angered beyond enough.
We are drained so deep to drive demands.
With so much abhorrent information coming out about this administration and its servants in congress, I constantly vacillate between disgust and utter disgust. There is no space for nuance. That horror comes, too, from a seeming echo chamber of “strong” men around the globe. Suddenly the world seems so small, constricted, and blatantly focused on power and ever more wealth for the arrogant who demand control of we, the masses.
I fear the rabid infestation of antisemitism, of concocting scapegoats, of the vile up of us and down of them, of the dangerous inability to see each person as deserving of respect that is racism, of the profoundly offensive misperception that men are better than women because they are men. There is only to scream in horror over and over and over again. How is it that these people keep slithering back?
How can one not be stressed?
There is to mobilize in whatever way suits you because it is not okay that we finally understand history, finally understand—even with media, mass media, social media—how the rulers grab power, attain power, hold onto power; finally understand the ad nauseum cycle of the rich and powerful trodding down the rest of us, we of the small voices.
This has been seen before; otherwise, where would these voices have come from?
- Never, never, in nothing great or small, large or petty, never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy. Churchill
- Let us realize the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice. Martin Luther King, Jr.
- Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has. Margaret Mead
- A woman is like a tea bag - you can't tell how strong she is until you put her in hot water. Eleanor Roosevelt
But as I sit here on a rainy day after brunch with friends, I can’t help but wonder if these men are experiencing a non-stop grinding in their heads, the non-stop voices of critique that penetrate, a non-stop inner voice that is never satisfied because the turmoil generated by self-hate cannot be appeased. Why do we need to continually suffer because of the dark inner worlds that far too many men live and fester within, and try to smother through silencing our outer voices of discord?
Before my divorce, and long before my ex-husband tumbled all the way down, people would say that I am strong and he is weak, that his need to control me, insult me, belittle me, indicated how small he feared he was. I, who trembled to hear his accusations, his grating voice hollowed of compassion, never believed them. The visceral dynamic of an abuser and the abused, is tough to alter. Eventually, though, I was able to understand how that internal plague could function in others.
There was never any satisfying him. No gift, no matter how well thought out, was good enough. No act of kindness was ever satisfactory. Groveling from the heart might have worked, but I could never muster such a diminishment of self to serve him sufficiently. There was no gratitude for anything.
On the drive home from brunch, thinking about how calm I was after being with, talking to, relaxing with three good friends, I felt grateful. It is not hard to be grateful. To accept that who you are is enhanced through your connections. To acknowledge (even the deepest introvert among us) that strength and determination and confidence flow from a stream/well within that is fed through a stream/well outside of the self.
Leaving my marriage was a giant marker that I would no longer put up with a bully; that I would no longer scream in anger and hurt because of someone else’s desperate ego.
My lot is with those who make me feel grateful to be living my life, who make me proud of myself simply because I’m trying to be as good as I can be.
Now that I see that my past and present have merged to make me realize that neither can be wasted if I want to maintain a shred of dignity.
My mother, who lives about a half-hour north of Parkland, Florida, learned about the shooting when I finally reached her on Wednesday night.
“Did you hear the news?” I asked, needing to talk to someone.
“No, I was at the movies,” she asked, immediate anxious worry in the voice of this woman whose daughter lived in Israel for many years.
“Don’t you listen to the radio in the car?” I asked, anxious that I need to tell her about a school shooting, about 17 dead, about so many teens dead, about loss so very close, about losses that I assumed would somehow connect back to her.
“We were talking.”
She went to services at her temple on Friday night. She said they it was devastatingly moving. Teens spoke who lost camp friends in the shooting. An adult spoke who lost a childhood friend. And the rabbi spoke up, against guns, apologizing for not having voices his stance sooner.
Time for tears is the same as the time to speak up. Let’s hope more religious leaders finally find the moral strength to speak up for life, and not the capacity to kill. There are those who wonder why more people don’t connect to religious institutions: if you silence your voice, no one will follow.
We need to find and use our own voices. Perhaps they were schooled in a tradition, but if that tradition no longer serves us, then we need to go beyond it. Go beyond the confines of what was, and learn to use it to twist into a new future.
To the women in your life.
Our voices are not sealed in a safe,
Or buried under a tree,
We are the envelope
Unsealed by the steam of empathy.
Once open, listen.
How does a child imagine evil
If it has not happened to her?
Creativity is, sadly/happily,
Oft based on reality.
Do not placate us,
For that suffocates.
Do not put us on a pedestal,
For that petrifies.
Why are there still millennia of assumptions to strike?
Why do men continue to hold and control
When women have been the
Foundation upon which their façade stands.
Tired of fighting merely
To be seen, heard, heeded.
Why do they insist on an unrelenting superiority?
Equality, I assume (who knows), cannot hurt.
Why weigh threats against tears,
Arrogance against heartache?
We are not the unknown,
We are their mothers, grandmothers, sisters, wives, daughters, cousins, nieces.
Why do they feign confusion that we deserve/demand
R E S P E C T.
Haven’t we been singing about it for a while.Hello, hello can you hear me?
Have we coddled and comforted too much:
Transferring her ego to support his.
Destruction by love.
Surely it is easier to climb by helping
Easier to thrive by sharing
Do not kiss my forehead,
Sidestepping my content for
The fullness of my body.
Stand before a woman,
Imagine you are her mirror image,
What do you reflect back, what do you ignore?
Is it a suggestion or the details of a person.
What is it about women and sex? Why do our faculties for observation and nuance, so in-tune in public settings, suddenly become akin to a toddler’s?
What is it about men and sex? Why do their capacities to let women take care of them suddenly evaporate, leaving a vacuum in which they surge to prove something about themselves?
When I was in college a young man told me that he would take me to the airport in the morning. Somehow that morphed into having sex in his apartment, and somehow that involved his using my vagina as a prop for his penis, and somehow the shock of the situation muted me, paralyzed me, so that I became that prop. A crying prop, but one who was scared, shocked, and utterly still.
Why I suddenly became terrified of this guy who moments before seemed a bit of a fool, someone I could use to get what I wanted, still upsets me. He could barely get it up, yet I was overcome by such a paralyzing inertia that I said nothing as he put cooking oil on his penis because I was so dry, rather than stop and think about why I was so dry.
My anger at him and my disappointment in myself have never abated because that situation or variations of it seem to keep happening to other women and men.
What are mothers of sons teaching their sons about women and consent?
What are fathers teaching their sons about self-respect and respecting women?
As a mother of daughters, I can tell you that the phrase “no one is to touch you without your permission” was on repeat loop.
How is it that we still f-ck up such a basic interaction?
How is it that women, finally schooled to speak up, don’t?
How is it that men can possibly think that women are vessels for their needs?
What has been the impact of all those lessons on bullying and boundaries and “No Means No” if we are still incapable of understanding a silent withdrawal into self or a hand pushed aside?
What is so difficult about it? I don’t care about a millennia of behavior: we are not in caves and no man needs to overpower a woman to prove anything about his masculinity.
I am fed up.
Time’s Up. #Metoo.
Equality. Feminism. How is it so hard?
We’re different, but not so much.
If the little voice in your head that’s always assessing the situation or critiquing your thoughts and actions suddenly gets awfully quiet or overbearingly persistent, it is time to go home. Straight to sleep.
Do no harm.
Men, how about pretending that your ego doesn’t count? How about always consider someone else’s ego before your own? A variation on the golden rule.
Generalization: women are more reticent; men are more boastful. How about we consider those basic guidelines in all our interactions?
I’m on a loop of suggestions that go out without an echo, but I’m going to ascribe to the butterfly ripple theory. Or the “my voice matters as much as any one else’s voice” theory. Or simply, I can’t be quiet. I have no black dress to wear, this is my black dress.
I am a basket filled with severed headlines whose savage stories seep into the sweet staleness of daily life with visions of the horrors of hate.
What is there to hate in a world of autumn golds, a glowing moon, the shy happiness of a child growing into confidence, the anticipated joys of future gatherings, connections, friendships?
Why must the haters project their shriveled sense of self onto us, we who don’t demand the scepter, but simply want to share?
Perhaps I am wrong and it is not heated hate that drives them, but simply the dust of disregard. The burden of being unable to care about anyone but those within the first degree of separation.
Surely it is time for interconnectedness to battle those who thrive on division, those who stand on their own paltry hills versus those of us who have a conscience, a purpose, a path that is not single-file even when alone.
It is true, isn’t it, that nothing can be personal when there is so much sanctioned pain, when the evil of egos controls.
Emotions that raise the bile within my throat form, but I don’t want to share that emotion; thrust from me the fire pit that burns with my own form of hatred and amplify instead the voice that cries with the urgency of the invisible turned visible.
No longer will we be the onion of the metaphor, needing to be peeled to be revealed, so hidden were our voices our pains our perceptions. No longer. No.
We stand howling the rawness of truth—of so much pain handled on our own, in our minds and bedrooms; of dealing with the drip and deluge of indignities individually; of trying for strength amidst the crushing insinuation of smiles;
We must acknowledge that my interior, is yours ours, and now we must reach out alone together, a chorus to hear heed.
We will not be shunted stifled.
It has become too much, too blunt, too vast, this desire of the traitorous rulers to encage our minds our souls our selves, we will not retreat succumb enable.
Look at me and see me. I am not a reflection of your world and your desires.
Somehow (unimaginable inner strength / the basic drive to live free) we—women and men too—have survived and our rise will not be thwarted by their animosity.
During my divorce I discovered that as my mind stopped being a dungeon full of his words and images of me, I lightened and lifted into a self that is proud of being, dreaming, sharing. Once shed of his demands for who and what I should be, I was able to be—and to know that being is admirable.
No longer controlled by a man—or fighting his attempt at control, I learned that this life is not a game to be won, of winners and losers, rather it is
A cohort creating, expressing, nurturing, with the intellect to speak down the generations so that the vilenesses will always be seen for what they are. We have raised our young to recognize that we will always fight. We have always stood against the waves of tyrants; it is here, in the steel within.
Now we are a herd, women demanding to be heard beyond the tables around which we intrinsically congregate.
Succor, it is not a bad word. It contrasts with the pain too many men drag down to us.
They have called us strident, nasty bitches to demean us, but I see it as a badge of honor.
Perhaps there won’t be a reckoning and karma won’t play havoc upon their minds and lives, nevertheless we drive on, urged by millennia of women and men ravaged because they held no earthly riches. There may be religions about honoring the least of us, but that doesn’t mean actions speak louder than words.
It is on me to know that my core—both inside and out, for that is how we must be—will not be debased by the criminals who conquer even after being vanquished, generation after generation. What has changed is not the cycle of good and evil, but our recognition that rain wears away, pebbles divert, sighs howl—and that each of us is part of that process.
“If I am not for myself, who will be for me?
If I am not for others, what am I?
And if not now, when?”
-- Rabbi Hillel
Virginia Democrats: Let's get out and vote on Tuesday!
Let's push for positive people policies with
- Ralph Northam for Governor
- Justin Fairfax for Lt. Governor
- Mark Herring for Attorney General
- Your local state delegate
- And if you're in Fairfax County, YES on the School Bond.
and let's start turning the tide against the horrible policies and personalities that come from the other side.
For information on voting, go to iwillvote
Plunging people past optimism
Into chasms of chaos
Where deep inside all we can spot is the light
From others, who, like us
Refuse to succumb to the lure
Of me me me me me…
Or maybe, our me is different.
It is a grand
That grants, bestows, recognizes
The beauty within each shade,
Each manner of bending,
It is not nice to merely pretend you care
About something that is other than
Mine and money
Because if all you care about is mine and money,
Then the rest of us,
Have so much to do.
To push back
We had hoped, hadn’t we,
That the world that has always been at war,
Had finally surpassed that expression of self.
But since it is still our sad reality,
We cannot shelter in place—
When wails reach us through walls and
Battles between continue to rage,
But, there, beyond the horizon,
Some of us still perceive what is not, yet,
Except in the hearts of those who beat
From the root to the crown
With tendrils interwoven, strengthened,
Supported by conjecture
That there will be a time
When those joined in solidarity
Can cause to cease arrogance and tyranny
To foster a Resistance
That will become the Expression of
What it means to be a person.
We/Us not supine
Because ‘tis better to Persist
This is the time, too,
To support those of us
For whom life is not a grand plan
But moments of together.
Their burden is not to change the trajectory,
But engage in the simplest acts
Of love of compassion of union.
For isn’t that the point?
To create the space for each of
To love and be loved
Until our final breath.
It is getting cool in the evening, here, in Northern Virginia.
I took a walk earlier and bought new flannel sheets since the set I bought last year I gave to my younger daughter. I raided my home to give to her and her boyfriend; a young couple needs so many things and I was glad I could give.
Last year’s flannel sheets are navy blue, this year’s are light grey. I can’t say I regret the switch. Something about pale gray sheets soothes me. They don’t jar like white, and they don’t try so hard like navy.
Another reason I went to the store was to finish my 10,000 steps; almost 6,000 from canvassing for governor. Such a beautiful day. So many people out and about, but the people who were home were lovely and motivated to vote for the Dems, to vote FOR and also against. The people I spoke to were so representative of those of us who oppose the direction that t- and the selfish haters are taking the country. Women (how ridiculous that we have been made a minority). African-American. Arab-American. Gay-American. Indian-American. Latino-American. Let us vote, push against the terrible tide of bullying tyrants. Home at 11,003 steps: accomplishing more than the mission!
My ex-husband tried to control me. Restrict my thoughts and friends. Determine what is good for me and what is not. I have no desire for my government to be worse than he was. Him, I could divorce. We need to separate from the direction that the government and the racist, sexist, polluting politicians are taking the country, before we lose the ability to speak up and out. Divorce now.
I want warmth, not the threat of so much frigidity. Even mired in distress, there is no giving in. We are each the modern incarnation of those before us, our ancestors, who strove against oppression for freedom; we continue to be part of the arc that bends toward justice. There is no back then to go back to: there is only forward. There is always forward.
My eclipse trip to South Carolina with a good friend turned out to be what we had hoped for (except for the cloud cover at totality): an adventure. The adventure ended up spending the day at Green Pond Landing staring at the sky with a charming English gentleman we met at a coffee shop in nearby Anderson, SC.
Both of us are single women who don’t spend much time trying to change our social status, since we’re both living the lives we have and with enough experience with disappointing dates to know not to have realistic expectations for change. Nonetheless, having the attention of a handsome, thoughtful gentleman with an accent for the day made a small opening into my comfy closed mindset.
First off, let me state that there was no flirting. We were three people who flowed with the day: each adding to the collective experience. A platonic threesome. Neither my friend nor I subverted our intention of having a lovely eclipse experience together in order to gain the attentions of a man. No one was elbowed to the side, the conversation was not hogged, and there were no coy hair tossings and eyelash batting. We are mature women who value our friendship over any dalliance.
But we were attended to, and it was refreshing. Yes, of course we could carry the blankets and the cooler (how else did they get into the car), but wasn’t it nice that he offered to take them from the car to where we decided would be the ideal spot to experience the eclipse. We shared our sandwiches and snacks with him (he was completely unprepared—he didn’t even have eclipse glasses until we gave him our spare pair), and he took us out to dinner. The day-long conversation was a hopscotch game between bits of personal history, the eclipse experience itself (yes, you can have a somewhat thoughtful conversation wearing eclipse glasses), and, of course, the fall of the American Empire with t- at the helm.
The details of the day, though perfect for conjuring in my mind’s eye when lying in bed before sleep, have more heft when I think about how the experience made me feel as a woman. There was the smooth, relaxed interaction of a confident woman who did not undermine her personality in the presence of an unattached man in an attempt to attract said man. I was not running down Possibility Lane, and still, yes, he seemed to be attracted to me. (We did exchange numbers at the end of the day; alas, he never contacted me even after I contacted him after a couple of days—but still, the exchange at his request.) Nor was I waylaid by my shadow self who always comes to life in a date situation, wondering if I would want to touch this man, if I would want to spend any more time talking to him, and even (in the best of times) if I could imagine being naked with him. Nope. I was focused on the moment. And him, he did what many men I meet seem incapable of doing: he listened, he asked questions, he seemed to care about my comfort, and he did not mansplain. None of us were eclipse experts—and he did not take it upon himself to pretend that he was one just because he’s a man. We Googled any eclipse questions we had. We three lived the day thriving on the exchange of tidbit stories, and the casual and open way that one story leads to another when you’re not censoring your every comment.
While younger daughter joked knowingly that he wasn’t found on OKCupid, and even I joked about how it just might be true about meeting someone when you’re not trying or expecting to, there was more to the day than this specific interaction. It offered a hint at what might be possible: that my future might not only hold re-creations of past relationships in which I was Hercules to their Princesses. I had decided that a balanced and supportive relationship was an impossible achievement, so why even bother attempting to meet anyone. But now, I see that I was wrong. Yup, Eclipse Man made his appearance to illuminate the point that I need not always assume the worse. It also made me realize that, while not courting courting, you never know what can happen.
But, simply, this experience reinforced my understanding that friendships are the core relationships in my life (after my daughters and my mother, of course). Not only would I not have traveled to see the eclipse, but I would not have been in the upbeat “let’s see what happens” frame of mind if I were not with my friend. I also might not have let down my guard, at least not enough to have had a daylong conversation that gives me hope that I will meet my match.
All in all, an excellent trip. (Of course, I didn’t do the driving; the traffic was horrible in both directions.)
I’m definitely planning on a 2024 eclipse adventure!
August 1985. Married.
August 2007. Divorced.
Still using checks with married name and
PO Box (that hid my intentions).
A reminder each time I use one
(crossing out last name, PO Box,
writing in maiden name, my home address),
To note the difference that time makes.
Ten years since the decoupling
Has dulled wrenching tears into
Unwelcome, unfocused remembrances.
I am past dwelling
(is that a reason I shy away from men—
no desire to re-live
when exchanging histories?)
Though cynicism lingers.
Twenty years of marriage:
They can be perplexing to recall—
What tone do I take that
Hurts the least, yet respects
The years together?
Ten years of divorce:
A bridge between then and now—
The pain of living with wanting to forget,
But not wanting.
Disappointment in a cancelled paired-vision.
Regret in decisions and directions taken—or not.
Failure removes the sheen of romance
That had been vibrant.
Sometimes it’s hard to see the pairs, always pairs.
Even if their grass is not green, there is still
Something about those ten twenty thirty years together
That I have lost.