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.

26 Comments on “A State of Readiness

  1. Thank you, once again, Michelle, for always being an oasis of wisdom and reason. I marvel at your ability to organize and express your thoughts (which are quite reflective of my own). This post is another “keeper.”

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Donna. I’m trying to find a positive personal spin on things, so that I don’t get bogged down by the toxicity. I keep reminding myself to sort out what is useful and helpful from those things that are not.

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  2. I so admire your ability to hunker down and get things done. I wish some of it would rub off on me.

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  3. Michelle, this is a very powerful post. I get the sense that if just you alone are as convicted in real life as you seem to be in this post, then the rest of us might relax a little, because we’ll come out of this mess just fine. But we need more people thinking this way. A lot of us feel this way, myself included, but are just stewing in displeasure, or angry tweeting, or scanning headlines on our phone, sleepless in the middle of the night, looking for the one that says he’s been run out of town. If the last forty-however many days (well, the last couple of years, really) have proven anything, it’s that no one is going to lead this charge, to stand up and say no. That’s the scariest thing, in my mind. No one with any kind of power is saying no. It’s going to take people like you, and others like you.

    I think differently than you about God, though. As a former agnostic, I myself found it very difficult to fall back on the things you call “too easy.” In fact, I’d say the opposite is true – that it would be a lot easier to ignore life on the ground if there were no God. I think what we do only matters because there is a God. If there isn’t, then we came from nothing, we return to nothing, the sun engulfs the planet as it dies, and until then it’s just a really long episode of Survivor.

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    • I worry about the gap between words and action when I write posts on this blog. Personal integrity is important to me, so whether or not I feel strongly on any given day, I’m still in motion and doing the things I need to do.

      The cowardice on display in Washington is embarrassing. Very few politicians will emerge from this period in history with either dignity or integrity intact.

      I had to laugh a little when you described life without God as being a really long episode of Survivor. There’s part of me that actually sees it like that. I suppose there’s a fork in the road where, as a nonbeliever, one has to choose nihilism or deciding that the moments have to matter even if eternity doesn’t. I’ve gone with the moments. I figure we all come up with the belief systems that make life more manageable. Mine boils down to “well, the sun could blow at any minute, so I’m going to really enjoy this cup of coffee.”

      Liked by 3 people

  4. Wow ! Well thought out ! There is no right or wrong here in many cases, all you can decide on is what is best for you in you life at this time, so that you do the best for your child.

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  5. I share your concerns Michelle. So many of us do. Sometimes I think we don’t need to do that much because anything as discordant and negative as this administration will self destruct pretty quickly, but then I am also amazed at how deftly the sword has been wielded already against the checks and balances that keep us on an even keel, and against the knowledge base and funding that protect our interests, as you mentioned in your post. And of course we have all seen the patterns that are emerging before, in other authoritarian movements across the globe.

    My mantra is “What goes around, comes around” and I’m hoping DT moves into his comes around phase sooner rather than later. I don’t know how much damage might be done in the interim.

    I’m still searching for a relevant response to this new reality. I hope I can pour as much energy into my own as you are into yours Michelle, because you are so right, it beats waiting.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us.

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    • Thanks, Ilona. Perhaps it’s all the reading on economics I’ve been doing, but I’ve begun to think of my life in terms of micro and macro actions. The micro actions are what we do in our daily lives to support our families and health and sense of well-being, while the macro actions are the things we do that contribute to a broader stage. Finding the balance between the two is critical for me and requires constant adjustment.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I also have been surprised that so many people are angry and blame others for the problems in their own lives. Maybe that’s what the election results reflect. Maybe that’s why racism and anti-Semitism are on the rise. Perhaps this is the culmination of decades of a declining sense of personal responsibility that produced a litigious society and resulted in frivolous lawsuits.

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    • The scapegoating of targeted groups is nothing new in history, but this is a relatively prosperous time in our nation. While there are people who need help and policies that could improve lives, the level of rage seems out of proportion. I’m wondering if all our selfies, literal or proverbial (like this blog) have narrowed our vision to the point we’ve lost true perspective.

      In addition to that, the internet often amplifies opinions and feelings, by finding like groups. People begin to mistake their opinion as being right and in the majority, because they easily find others who agree with them. It also makes it easier to find support for fairly repulsive ideas.

      I think every generation pulls the “our generation was more responsible” card. The world has changed so rapidly in the last 20 years that most of us are still trying to catch up. Some people, no matter when they were born, will always blame others. And some people will willingly shoulder burdens for themselves and others.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Your prose is heartfelt and elaborate. It paints a true picture of who you are, what you see, and what you feel. I can tell that you world is painted with color compared to other people. Most of all, however, I hope to develop such depth and color with my own words. Truthfully, this is the only blog I care to take the time to read. Also, what music was your daughter’s orchestra playing? And what instrument does she play?

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    • Thanks for taking the time to read my blog and your kind words. My daughter plays viola and violin. She is in several orchestras, but her professional one plays classical music. She also plays in a rock orchestra – they seem to play a lot of 80s hits.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I admire anyone who loves Strings. And you are welcome, I just want to encourage you to keep using the english language. You’re very good with it.

        Liked by 1 person

  8. I shut off my blog feeds for a while, but I’m back. I have a friend who “wants to be ready,” but doesn’t know how. I’m sending her this post.

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    • I’m in and out of blogland lately. I’m in the “go time” for getting ready for this conference, so trying to get myself to focus on that (with little success). Hope all is well – you’re still on the list (possibly to your chagrin) of people I need to get back in touch with.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Indeed, you are wise, and there is calm in that wisdom. Seriously, this is less angry than other recent posts, which is good, I guess. Anger gets you to a place but stops you there.
    I know what you mean about finding purpose in work. I’ve been shutting down lately, disappearing into the numbing effects of Netflix and ignoring my writing and reading. I feel like I’ve squandered hours when I resurface. I can do a small thing if I write a small thing. But what about reading? Isn’t that just sitting and escaping too? Maybe, but it feels like connecting somehow.
    Sorry, what was I saying? Oh yeah: good post! Glad I tucked it aside to read.

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    • Anger is a hard emotion to stay with and exhausting. I suppose I can say this is a very focused, productive time for me, but I’m not sure it offsets the many cumulative months, nay years, of finding ways to anesthetize and distract myself. I just have to ride the wave while I can. Low tide is surely coming. Thanks for checking in, Ross – always good to hear from you.

      Like

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