A State of Readiness

I’m waiting at my daughter’s orchestra practice and one of the groups is playing the national anthem. canstockphoto3482506Without fail, it brings tears to my eyes. Oh, say can you see, by the dawn’s early light…It’s an odd patriotic twitch, much like praying to a god I don’t believe in when I’m scared. It’s reflexive indoctrination which serves religion and country well, keeping the machinery of industry and institution well-oiled.

My practice of critical thinking, looking at as many perspectives as possible and making sure that I am cognizant of my own irrational emotional reflexes, has brought me to a detente of sorts. I’ve never felt more uncertain of my future, of my child’s future and of this country’s future. My thinking has become more apocalyptic in nature. I feel the gears of my life subtly shifting toward preparedness.

How does one prepare for the unplanned or unexpected? And is it healthy to always be in a heightened state of concern about what might happen tomorrow? I’ve always been a planner. That is why the shift is subtle, a slight extension of the organizer inside.

In the last few weeks, I’ve been working harder than I have in a long time. I started a new running training program. I’m focusing on finishing my novel rewrites and looking at what I’m actually doing with my writing. It no longer feels like a creative impulse, but a desire to strengthen skills and rhetoric for income and for civic engagement.

canstockphoto1380247Garden planning is on the horizon. I’m working on learning how to grow more year round and with a few different methods – grow lights, cold frames, and hydroponics. I’m strengthening my language skills, readying to speak French in Canada and Spanish in Mexico. And my Russian is cold war ready. I’ve made sure our passports are current.

I’ve tested our water for lead and our air for radon. Long term health seems more critical than ever. I’ve started to cut some of our household expenses, putting more money in savings and college plans, redirecting more money toward the environment, children’s causes and education. I added more volunteering hours, joined a civic organization and have started to attend more community events.

I do not have enough of an imagination to see linchpin moments around every corner, nor do I have patience for any more partisan hyperbole. The click bait from both the left and the right is tiresome and demoralizing. Somewhere in the middle, I’m trying to figure out what it is I need to do to be more prepared, stronger and more technically agile for the future, over much of which I have little control.

canstockphoto8461096Perhaps the shock of the last year – the vitriol, the conspiracy theories, all the Twittering and freaking out by wingnuts did what chaos has always done to me – forced me to find order and structure and calm within. I did not know so many people were so angry. And it has made me sanguine. I did not know so many people blamed others for the problems in their own lives. And it has made me seek more personal responsibility. My response is Newtonian in nature – an equal and opposite reaction.

My life is small and only a measured success, depending on one’s metrics, but as I approach 50, I have come to appreciate the moment I’m in – this fragile time in human history. The big picture does not look good, but I am here. Even though what I do will likely have very little impact, I have decided to do what I can where I stand, with the resources that are at my disposal.

canstockphoto13259787Common sense deems that we are a rapacious lot – locusts that consume everything in our path. And everything is not an endless supply. At a time when we need science and academic pursuit to find innovative solutions for energy, antibiotic-resistant disease, and natural disasters, education and intellectualism are being denigrated. When population controls are needed, access to reproductive and family planning resources are being circumscribed and supplanted with religious ideology.

I don’t believe in an afterlife. The reason I don’t believe is very simple – it’s too easy. Too easy to ignore life on the ground. Too easy to do a trust exercise, falling back into the arms of an imaginary being and not stand on my own two feet. I don’t trust easy answers. Life is complex and challenging. If somebody is giving you an easy answer, they’re lying. If they’re giving you an easy answer when evidence suggests otherwise, they’re lying with an agenda.

These days I’m a bit of a humorless git, but hard work makes me happy. It also takes me away from the world of what ifs to a world of what is. I don’t know what the years ahead will bring. I cannot separate out the truth from all the untruths, nor accurately predict whether we’ll thrive or have our lives reduced to shadows of their former selves. I do know that I’m not waiting to find out, nor expecting other people to do the work for me.

canstockphoto21101753Perhaps it’s all a mirage, an indulgence of the quiet anger that I feel constantly beneath the surface. That we exist at the whims of people more powerful, more armed, more moneyed. That our existence may become paltry or cease entirely because lucre has become the law of the land and war the god we serve. It angers me and so I study, train, conserve, and strengthen. It may all come to naught in the end, but it beats the hell out of waiting.

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And Then I Said…Wait, What was I Talking About?

It’s unlikely I’ll come up with coherent blog posts for the next month. I’m running down the clock on my novel and frantically trying to get my shit together for a pitch conference next month. I finally dumped 10 drafts out of the blog pile and am just giving in to writing pithy, disjointed posts. It will be gratifying to short attention spans (mine included), but it’s not a long-term intent for the blog. Until then, LOOK – SQUIRRELS!canstockphoto20383793

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They said, they said

Words mean a lot to me. I’m a writer, so I spend hours agonizing over turns of phrase, the rhythm and bounce of sentences, the thumping of my own little drummers. I’ve been reading George Orwell’s collection of critical essays All Art is Propaganda. 72 years ago he wrote the essay “Politics and the English Language” and it’s still relevant.

I don’t watch award shows or political chest-thumping as a rule. It’s false prophets, cynical staging, coordinated applause, and forced laughter. A public manipulation. Give me the bullet points. Then I’ll know what other people are referencing at the proverbial water cooler.

Mostsquirrelsign.jpg speeches sound like a bouillabaisse of vagaries. Actors go for canned laughter and scripted informality. Politicians buy into the algorithm that if you use certain words repeatedly, the crowds will adore you and call you presidential. Since we’ve heard our current president’s “telling like it is” talk for the last decade (well, it felt like it), we know this is just marionettes at work. But kudos to him for finally learning how to use a teleprompter.

But that is neither here nor there. Politics and entertainment – two arenas where words don’t seem to matter, except that people buy into them. I’m skipping the recycled nationalism and the inflated self-importance and reading the transcripts instead.

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My Zeitgeist

I’m becoming an anachronism and I’m not sure how I feel about that. After cancelling Netflix and Amazon Prime, I am formally cut off from television culture. I stopped watching regular television ten years ago. I haven’t seen a movie in six years. I’m re-watching DVDs I’ve purchased over the years and sending them to new homes.

canstockphoto30711839The decision to disconnect, even more than I already am, came on the heels of several conversations with friends and family. What we watched, what we were going to watch, what we thought of what we were watching – it made me think about how I might be pissing my life away watching fiction.

Perhaps, too, it’s the midlife thing. Vicariously living through others, be it watching sports or watching actors present stories, seems empty. I’d rather kick the ball than watch someone else play the game. I’d rather write the story than have someone else telling me tales.

I began to wonder if this was a natural regression. I am, in so many ways, still my teenage self inside. Introverted with a tinge of defiance and the need for solitude. The other day I was sorting through pictures and realized that the clothes I wear now are exactly like the clothes I wore when I was a teenager. Jeans, t-shirt, flannel shirt. They’re bigger of course, and some of them are higher end (as in more expensive, but more cheaply made).

In between then and now so much has happened. The lessons, so many lessons. All the different people I’ve met and all the places I’ve traveled. How is it that at any moment I feel like I might slam the door to my room and write bad poetry about the cute boy in 6th period? I have returned to the most comfortable version of myself.

And sometimes it feels like everything else was just a detour.

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Degrees of Intolerance

Tolerance is a word that gets thrown around a lot these days. I consider myself a fairly intolerant person. It’s not something I take lightly or am proud of, it just is. My recognition of this fact has come with time and is tempered by a little wisdom.

canstockphoto1399043My intolerance starts with the sensory issues, mixes in a stern grammar marm and ends somewhere around a bellicose drill sergeant. I am in a constant battle with myself not to lose my shit at grocery stores, the gym, in the car (I’m not winning that one), parent meetings, coffee shops, offices, classrooms and here, online. Since I’m not doing time, one might say I’ve exercised an inordinate amount of self-control.

The sensory issues have always been a part of my life, but it’s only been in recent years that I’ve recognized why I constantly seek solitude and sanctuary. Under stress, I feel overwhelmed by sound, distracted by color, nauseated by smell. My practice lately has been to say to myself It’s my problem, not theirs. It’s my problem, not theirs.

Yesterday, as I gasped through a treadmill run at the Y, a woman got on the treadmill next to me. She smelled like she’d just come in to take a break from smoking. As an ex-smoker, I’m feeling some karmic resolution. I felt a little nauseous, but made myself keep running, instead of flouncing off in a huff to another machine. It’s my problem, it’s my problem.

The lady on the other side of me started talking to herself. Or was on her phone. Either way, I whipped out a side eye before I could even stop myself. My side eye also includes a visualization of me punching someone. It’s my problem, it’s my problem.

My sensitivity to smell has not always been a negative. Last week, I may have even saved a life or two when I smelled aldehyde outside. Aldehyde can be a by-product in the exhaust of an inefficient furnace. After the gas company checked all our gas-burning appliances, they went over to the neighbor’s. Their furnace was not working properly and CO levels were building up in the house.

*****

Back to putting my shoulder to the grindstone and getting this damned book done. I say that with some affection. There’s miles to go, but it feels like a good place to be.

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The Space Between

An interval of silence

when your arm no longer bows

music at rest

time to breathe

canstockphoto7479668An interval of rest

between reps and sweat

your muscle regroups

lives to fight another set

An interval of breath

dozy conscientiousness

before sleep carries you

into the shadows

An interval of quiet

before the kids wake up

and after the dog has been walked

coffee steam swirls up your nose

An interval of observation

standing in lines

watching the cashier

have a good or bad day

An interval of thought

Mouth closed mind open

walking about

in the shoes of someone else

An interval of grace

for that momentary glance

that says I’ve got your back

for the child still snoring on a school holiday

An interval of peace

a cup of a tea

the list that doesn’t need

to be started right now

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Bits of Sunshine Coming In

canstockphoto2875377In journalistic vernacular, this is going to be a disjointed fluff piece. For months, I’ve been wrapped up in the turmoil that is political life in America and this week, I’m calling a time out. It’s exhausting and depressing – and I’m pretty sure I’ve lost some IQ points in the process. My practice this week is to not read any news until the evening, leaving my day untainted by a sense of apocalyptic foreboding.

The sun has been shining and we’re having a bit of a warm streak here in Minnesota. Despite a few slip-n-slide sidewalks, I’ve been able to get out and walk and feel some sense of normalcy. I perused my yard, taking note of various garden projects and making lists of supplies. It’s premature. These warm streaks are inevitably followed by blizzards and my notes get put aside for a snow shovel. But still, it’s a break in the cold days and bleak skies. And it keeps the Minnesota homicide rate down during cabin fever February.

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canstockphoto9109848I forgot that it was Valentine’s day yesterday. Late afternoon, I stood in line at the drugstore with a lot of men who were clutching chocolate and stuffed animals. It’s a test each year about expectations. I usually have to make up something for my husband to get me, because when I say nothing, he worries that he should do something. Inevitably I end up with some heart-shaped doodad that, until that moment, I didn’t know I didn’t want. I usually ask for spring flowers, which show up in shops around this time of year and are easy to pick up downtown on the way to his bus. We’re a romantic lot here.

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canstockphoto7037830If you have a compulsive personality like I do, the real trick is to turn that negative into a positive. I cancelled Netflix and Amazon Prime to curtail a binge-watching habit. I traded it in for a free language training program called Duolingo. I’m not into product promotion, but this is a fantastic online program. I’ve been reviewing, in short snippets, my Spanish, Russian, German, and French every day for the last week. Once I get back into the groove, I would like to start some Hindi and Korean. It’s user-friendly (my 12 year old got me onto it) and is self-paced. I feel parts of my brain light up that were collecting dust.

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If only my cats were this useful.

In my attempt to eat less packaged foods, I’ve been cooking. As a rule, I don’t particularly enjoy cooking. I’m so accustomed to quick food that the preparation, cooking and cleanup seems interminable. A meal from scratch can take 2 or more hours, and it takes my family all of 15 minutes to eat it – even less to grimace on the first bite and make themselves a sandwich instead. It’s not a gratifying experience and I’m stuck eating a soup nobody liked for the next week.

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Writing has been going well for me. I’ve been more productive in the last couple of weeks than I have in months. I need a finished manuscript done by April for a writers’ pitch conference. I had to let go of preconceptions about how and when I work. I purchased a cheap laptop which I drag along to all the places where I wait – all my daughter’s rehearsals and lessons and practices.

I finally trained myself to use Scrivener, which I had purchased with a discount after NaNoWriMo in 2012. It’s a challenge to learn it, but my novel and notes were becoming too unwieldy in Word. I’m finding it useful, but there is definitely a learning curve.

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As an American, I’m highly trained in instant gratification. Instant entertainment, instant food, instant information. Cooking, reading longer form news, not trying to incessantly fill every space with sound, images and ideas – it seems that this is emerging as a new intention for me. It’s not just slowing down, but giving myself time to unravel all the tight, angry tension that I’ve felt for the last year.

canstockphoto34597907Lately, what I’ve been observing in schools, coffee shops, offices and sometimes in my own home, is that we are batteries that are never fully recharging. Our information comes in fast, short bursts. We lie to ourselves about multitasking. We pride ourselves on odd things like functioning on little sleep or how many emails we get or how many friends we’ve acquired on social media.

I’ve been thinking about the concreteness of life around me, a life not lived ephemerally through my phone or computer. It’s not as interesting or exciting. It defies instant gratification. There is no drama, nothing that inspires rage or jealousy or triggers eating and shopping sprees. I realized how addictive some emotions can be. I’ve felt addicted to anger with all the online reading, an anger I usually reserve for driving. The space left when I turn off all the noise is unsettling.

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Useless trivia I will remember instead of where my car keys are:

I watched my daughter’s orchestra perform at Orchestra Hall last week and ended up with a melody stuck in my head. That’s when I found out that a pop song I knew from the 1970s had liberally lifted from Rachmaninoff’s Symphony No. 2 in E Minor, III. Adagio.  Perhaps, if you’re an oldbie like me, you recognize the tune. The Rachmaninoff estate now gets 12% of royalties due this pop singer. This same singer also borrowed from Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto no. 2 in C Minor, Opus 18 for another pop single.

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That Wasn’t on the Lesson Plan

You need some love?canstockphoto3020791

He said it a second time in a low, creepy whisper. The teenager was 6 feet tall, 250 pounds completely dry. He’d been whispering at me the last five minutes from the back of the room. What’s your name? Are you mad? Need some love?

I could feel the muscles in my neck and shoulders tighten and I began the scenario run down, mentally practicing blocks. Thinking about how to leverage advantage. He was wearing pants halfway down his ass which would easily be yanked to hobble him at his knees. He was too big for punches or kicks, but a downward fist or upward knee to the nuts would bring him down.

His words were meant to be intimidating and my adrenaline rose. I’ve heard these things from random boys and men my whole life. I am an ignorer and can usually count on the behavior getting much worse before it goes away.

I could hear the blood pounding in my ears. I inhaled and exhaled slowly. If it were an elementary school kid, he’d be saying he had to go to the bathroom for the 50th time or that he didn’t feel good or that his crayon broke. But this mutant boy/man is crossing a threshold and he sees every interaction with a female person (even someone likely older than his mother) to be an opportunity to sound like a rutting boar. He still just wants attention. But it makes me feel ill.

I work to calm myself down and decide not to cripple him for life and spend time in jail on an assault charge. But my brain is churning – I think of snide comments meant to humiliate and destroy. Anger. Anger. Breathe. And back to stoicism.

You need love?

He thought volume was the problem. This time the teacher heard him and sent him to the dean.

canstockphoto24048860Another boy is using his phone to take pictures of a girl in the room. She asks him to stop and he doesn’t. She raises her hand and the teacher locks up his phone.

I ask another boy to put his phone away a second time and he gets up and walks away from me in a show of defiance. He gets sent to the dean’s office.

The boys in this class talk more than the girls, often talking over each other in a bid for attention. The few students who have a genuine desire to learn, sit through this boorishness for an hour and a half.

When people talk about public schools, I find the conversation to be fairly superficial. All the talk about teachers’ unions and curriculum and complaints about taxes are simplified political talking points with no hint at solutions. And offering up for-profit Christian madrassas is unlikely to solve the complex problems of teaching and managing students with diverse learning abilities and economic backgrounds.

I’ve been volunteering in classrooms since my daughter entered the public school system. It’s a large public school system, where reduced lunches can approach 70% and where the attempt to mainstream and equalize has become an unwieldy juggernaut.

Admittedly, elementary kids bring enough charm and curiosity with them to offset most behavioral issues. Middle school kids are all over the board and a bit feral. High school kids are worrisome. They are a foreshadowing of the future.

canstockphoto1076788Both my husband and I are products of public education. I went into the Army to pay for my college degree. My husband spent summers roofing and doing part time work to pay for his. We are autodidacts in that we pursue learning on our own, so perhaps we didn’t have as much riding on the quality of education. We never assumed it would be all we needed. We don’t assume that for our daughter, either. The emphasis in our house is always on the learning and much of that doesn’t come from school.

Unfortunately for a lot of kids, school is it for them. It’s not happening at home and all the years people have been deriding teachers and public education have paid off. Those attitudes of disrespect have infiltrated families and students, and it shows up in the classrooms. Education is now characterized as some elitist hobby and no billionaire with a theological ax to grind is going to change that.

Public schools and teachers are being asked to do impossible things. Behavioral and learning issues plague nearly every classroom I’ve been in. 10% of the students take 80% of the teacher’s time and attention. It would be easy to blame this on mainstreaming, but the sorting hat of the past put a lot of kids in the wrong classrooms, where growth was limited. It’s easy to see why equalizing learning space became a thing.

While people are content to sit back and play the roulette wheel of blame (it lands on parent, teachers, unions, government and students themselves), few are able to offer anything helpful or substantive.

canstockphoto13763092Smaller classroom sizes, improved buildings and higher staffing levels are needed. Parental accountability. A culture that supports learning as a worthwhile pursuit and doesn’t like to brag about its ignorance. Curriculum that is implemented and maintained for enough time to see what actually works, instead of going with pedagogical light bulbs that seem to turn on and off on a whim.

I wrestle every year with how I feel about public education in theory, especially when it comes to my own child in practice. I understand parents who advocate for school choice, although how this helps rural kids or kids with transportation issues or poverty level children or special needs children, I don’t know. And while I understand those who home school for religious or academic or safety reasons, not every family is capable of supporting that kind of system.

canstockphoto41865678So where does it leave the rest of the kids? Because people talk about caring about the children, but what they really mean is they care about their children. Every student is the future of our country. They’re going to be the difference between my generation living out our golden years or being soylent green wafers.

I’m done at school for the week, albeit a little unsettled by my recent interactions. But I remember, too, that when I walked into class this morning I overheard a student tell the teacher, I saw Michelle in the hallway. She’s coming to class. I’m glad because she helps me.

Well, alrighty then. I guess I’ll show up next week, too.

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That Oxygen Mask: Self-Care When You Feel Like You’re Drowning

canstockphoto17316349For some people, self-care is reflexive – a function of healthy esteem and respect. I am not one of those people. On a sinking ship, I’d lower the lifeboat and wait for everyone else to get in. It’s not altruism. It is that I tend to put myself low on the list of priorities. Everything and everyone else comes first. There are scenarios where this is lovely and heroic, but in most cases, it just means at some point I’m going to be drowning and I won’t understand how I got there.

I tend to learn the hard way, but as I round the corner to fifty, my self-care skills have improved. Not stellar, but improved. I have a cue card on my desk to remind me of daily self-care habits. It seems strange that an adult woman who is fairly confident and self-aware would need to cue herself to floss or read a book or take vitamins, but I am easily convinced that doing the dishes or volunteering an extra shift is more important than taking time for my mental or physical health. It’s a bug in my system and it’s too late to rewrite the whole program, so I find workarounds.

daily-self-care-habits

This is my cue card. It’s laminated. I’m weird.

I’ve used this card off and on over the last six months. It took me a long time to figure out priorities. The red ones are critical for me. When I don’t do those, my brain and body functions decline and my judgment is impaired. I imagine that this card would look different for each person. I don’t do everything on the card every day, but I do more of them than I would without the reminder. It’s about bringing mindfulness to one’s life. Lately, I’ve been forcing myself to really adhere to it, just to right the ship.

A lot of people are experiencing anxiety right now. I ingested the toxicity of politics and it left me depressed with bouts of anxiety and insomnia. I tried to counter with action and will continue to do what I can, but the detachment I’ve begun to feel from my country and fellow citizens tells me that the grieving stage is over. I’m stepping back, re-orienting myself and getting back into the fray with more thoughtfulness and less fruitless engagement.

canstockphoto469949That being said, I unraveled quite a bit. Sleeplessness and anxiety will do that to a person. I had to remind myself that I’m no good to any person or cause if I’m letting myself fall apart. My self-care dropped to minimal standards. Good job on that shower, lady.

As someone prone to depression, listening to and reading all the hostility and feckless commentary meant that it was internalized and became universal in my thinking – the world seemed full of horrible, hateful humans. That thought would bring anyone down. Detaching from everything sounds suspiciously like not giving a shit, but I’ve come to understand that space and boundaries are critical to one’s mental health.

When I was in the Army, one of the training exercises involved reacting to a flare attack under direct fire. Flares turn night into day and can be very disorienting. The key strategy is to move out of the illuminated area through a series of rushes and crawls. Once out of the lit area, you regroup and reorient to continue the mission.

canstockphoto13687973Regroup and reorient. It’s mission critical, whatever your mission might be. There’s a lot of disoriented people running around striking out at any moving target. Even the proverbial winners of this election seem a little discombobulated, still hollering campaign insults and meming away.

On a personal level, rest, decent food, exercise, connections with the people we love (who aren’t still acting like politically deranged assholes), this is the way forward. We don’t owe our mental and physical health to political entities or causes. Get off Facebook and Twitter. Take a moment to breathe. Go outside. Take a shower. Get some rest. You can’t save the world if you can’t save yourself.

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Refuge

canstockphoto10595770I’d forgotten what it was like to lose myself in a book and not the news. Admittedly the books I’m losing myself in lately have been Orwell’s 1984 and Gene Sharp’s The Methods of Nonviolent Action. But I’d forgotten about what grounds me.

Last month, I did a clearing out of my books, donating or selling a third of my collection. As I looked at each book, it was like looking through a photo album. Remember when…

Long wooden steps led down to the back alley from our apartment. I rarely walked down them at night. There was a tavern below us and usually there would be one or two men taking leaks on the brick wall by the back door. During the day, from the the time I was 5 years old until I was 12, when we moved away, I could walk down the alley, cross the street and there, in a gray, square building with wide steps and heavy wood doors was the public library. There were three floors. The top floor had the children’s books.

canstockphoto22317573The heavily waxed wood floors would creak with every step and occasionally fluorescent lights would flicker, but this was my sanctuary. No matter how bad it got at home, people here had to be quiet, with only the flip-flip-flip of catalog cards, the rustle of turning pages.

There was an area with kids’ chairs and tables and sometimes I’d read there, but more often than not, I’d be on my haunches in some back corner reading a book. The librarian helped me learn how to use the card catalog. Whenever I went onto the 1st and 2nd floors to look at grownup and reference books, I felt like I was a reading rebel.

I checked out as many books as I could carry. I’d drag home Ed Emberly books to learn how to draw animals and joke books to try and make my mother laugh. I loved the Childhood of Famous American series, reading about Annie Oakley, Harriet Tubman and Will Rogers. My favorite heroes were Nellie Bly and Abraham Lincoln.

canstockphoto8060578I’d owned only a few books as a kid. My mother lent me her copy of Robin Hood and His Merrie Men. It was a book my great-grandmother gave my mother while she stayed a summer in England. I read that book over and over. When she let me have it for keeps (well into adulthood), I had to have it rebound, so yellowed and fragile its binding and pages.

I had some newer books that my grandparents gave to me at birthdays and holidays. My grandfather worked for a bookseller, visiting libraries all over the Midwest, so there were random books – African Folk Tales, Nancy Drew, Sherlock Holmes and Mark Twain. My other grandfather, who I’d met once in my lifetime, came from Alaska with a book about the Eskimos called The Reindeer Trail. He gave that to me along with some homemade molasses cookies that looked like glossy, hardened lava wrapped in tinfoil.

I’ve been struggling these days to be attentive to self-care when so much is happening beyond the walls of my study. Depression and anxiety are wearing me down. So instead of reaching for booze, or what I crave most when I’m anxious – a pack of cigarettes and caffeinated coffee, I reach for a book.

As I watch the parade of old white men signing and grinning, the news dominated by smirks and back patting, I realize that in truth, they’ve always seemed like aliens to me. That they do not represent me. In every reincarnation, I’m still only a peasant – my life changed on a whim by forces beyond my control. I call and write and am civically engaged, but it often feels like spitting in the wind.

canstockphoto3140121Every once in a while, I’ll be doing a mundane task, like folding laundry and it strikes me that those men in power have likely never done that. Of course, I’ve never kissed a million asses, either or misunderstood the word ethics. Worlds apart. In most of those worlds, I don’t count. Only power and avarice are recognized. Reality deems that despite all the destructive things being done in the name of power, my life still relies on the vicissitudes of the common moment.

Whatever happens, I will still be caring for my family, making sure my daughter gets an education, volunteering in my community (although whether it’s tutoring or smuggling will depend on the times), trying to make sure we all stay healthy and strong – even if it’s so bad that we’re treating our own water supply and whispering to each other the real news of the day.

canstockphoto5738584No matter what happens, my days carry a sameness. I pet the cats. I water and care for an indoor garden I’ve grown of roses and lavender. I laugh with my daughter. I hug my husband close and remind myself of the realness of my life and not what I read in the news. I type and write until my hands ache. The delicate balance of loving what I have in my world now, while not putting blinders on to the dangers that will soon infect us all.

canstockphoto10170102Refuge. A place to make it all stop, if only for a few moments. We need it now more than ever. So I open a book and walk with Orwell’s Winston. His world is more bereft of joy than mine. And it’s a schadenfreude about which I have to feel no guilt. It just might be us in the future, but that time is not yet now. The sun is out today and Pete, our one-eared tomcat, stretches out at my feet, on a warm spot of carpet. Turning the page makes the loudest sound in the room and it comforts me.

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