The Listening Post

The listening post during war was an intelligence gathering station focused on monitoring transmissions. That’s what I’ve been doing for the last month – gathering information. I’ve been reading heavily, eating up news sources left and right, reading in-depth articles. I’ve reached the conclusion that we’re truly screwed as a species. That seems facile. Perhaps I could massage it a bit – we’re in challenging times. Spin it up another notch – it’s a great time for creative thinking.

canstockphoto48358399I’ve circled back to a novel idea that I had a couple of years ago and am now putting my nose to the grindstone and churning out words. The sense of urgency is heightened by the upcoming election. This election is probably the most important election of this American’s lifetime. Not just about who wins or loses, but about the very legitimacy of voting in our American democracy.

The voter suppression tactics, some long in the making (gerrymandering), some that have shown up in the last few years (availability of polling stations), and the more recent, blatant sabotaging of the postal service may break our system. And yes, white people, we’re a little late to this game. People of color have been dealing with voter suppression tactics since 1866.

Anyway, these times right now might be later viewed as the good times. Who knows where we’ll be in a year? Writing must happen now.

28114469I just finished reading Margaret Walker’s Jubilee. It is shocking that this book, written in 1966, did not receive more attention and accolades. The author is a black woman who heavily researched and wrote a semi-fictional historical novel based loosely on her grandmother’s stories. The book, which covers roughly the same period and location as Gone with the Wind, is written from a slave’s perspective. It makes me angry that this masterpiece never once showed up on the recommended reading lists in college or in any other predominantly white literary space.

Like a lot of white liberals right now, I’m knee-deep in books about racism. Many were already on my shelves, because my trek towards deliberate expansive reading began a few years ago. I began reading more works in translation, more works by people who had different lived experiences.

As a white woman, it’s hard not to be depressed by the Karen and Becky tropes. Or the 53% who voted for the load in the White House. Or the ones who are now throwing temper tantrums in stores about masks. I never knew entitlement had created so many whackadoodles. And of course, the Whackadoodle-in-Chief talking about those mythical suburban housewives, of which I could be considered one.

canstockphoto53920997I call him a whackadoodle, but that makes him sound less dangerous than he is. Mostly because I think it’s the enablers that bear my wrath. He’s just an organ grinder monkey.  Set up to perform, to distract, to entertain the slack-jawed masses while our rights are being impinged upon, our votes suppressed, our pockets picked clean.

So here we are, in the middle of a global pandemic, with a jackwagon at the helm. I am angry nearly all the time. But it’s an anger that has become tempered, redirected, and incisive. This might be useful. Or it could just be more negative energy out in the world, I don’t know. I often say that emotion without action is just so much noise. Perhaps I’ve written less publicly because it is already so noisy out there.

Despite, or because of, this constant seething state, I’ve become wildly productive. The paralysis in the early months of the pandemic has worn off a bit. Perhaps I got bored with being in that lethargic state. Maybe I’ve got live free or die zipping about in my head. The people who use that mantra, usually gun-waving anti-maskers (sorry New Hampshire), would be surprised how easily that phrase can be adapted to an entirely different ethos.

My adaptation is that I don’t want to live in a prison of my own anxiety or fear. I’m going to be louder, more political, intolerant of views that compromise the health, dignity, or rights of my fellow humans. For people who prattle on about divisiveness, it’s an easy muzzle for those of us who have often valued civility over justice, manners over standing up for others. I’ve always been relatively quiet and introspective, but the alchemy of anger and age is creating an element of fearlessness. It’s go time.

canstockphoto12869795It’s go time for all my creative urges as well. In addition to taking 5 million pictures of annoyed birds, I’m practicing/working on The Green Study Podcast. It’s not going well. I’d hoped to give it a try for September, but when I listened to the first episode, I realized how incredibly boring I sound. How’s that for self-promotion? Anyway, it’s still in the works and at some point in the future, you’ll be able to briefly listen to and then abruptly mute, the dulcet sounds of my musings. I might rename it The Sleepening.

How are you doing? That’s such a loaded question, isn’t it? What’s your mantra?  What are your days like? What gets you through the day?

28 thoughts on “The Listening Post

  1. Yay you! I’m still working on crawling out of my pit of despair and lethargy. Two steps forward. Three steps back. LOL–not! But I AM trying to try or I’m at least committed to trying to try. I’m so exhausted from the seemingly endless cycle of anger and deep sorrow. Ugh. Maybe today is the day. Or tomorrow ….

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    1. Part of me just sort of snapped. If things are going to be this bad and if, as it seems, they will continue to get worse, then how do I become a force to be reckoned with and not just complacent? One of the biggest things that has helped me, though, is figuring out how to help someone else. It got me out of my head and gave me a little focus. Even refocusing one’s attention on those in our direct vicinity is useful. It’s so easy to get lost in the anxiety and sense of hopelessness. The other thing is to give yourself a break, moments at a time, to find the small joys. It is such a simplistic idea, but true – we stand up for what and who we love. Reminding ourselves of that love, only bolsters our strength. Anxiety saps it. But, as you say, it’s not a consistent thing. I’m feeling mighty brave today. Tomorrow? We’ll see when we get there…

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      1. So true! I’ve struggled with anxiety my whole life and I definitely managed it better when I was teaching. Outward focused. Mentoring. Being a source for others … All of that took me out of my head. Now I’m IN MY HEAD all of the time!! And it’s a scary place sometimes. I’m working on it though. Baby steps. Thanks for the inspiration.

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        1. I’ve struggled most of my life with anxiety, which inevitably leads to depression. I really like the Buddhist technique of just acknowledging those feelings without letting them get a grip on you. At some point, they become old familiar friends. “Oh hello, it’s you again”.
          Pema Chodron’s books have been helpful to me. Baby steps, one day (or even hour) at a time – good, manageable strategies. We’re all in the same leaky boat!

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  2. What a good idea — I’m looking forward to your podcast. Your blog posts are anything but boring and I know your podcasts will be just as good and interesting.

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      1. That’s fabulous Michelle and very positive. Psychologically I have been managing living through the pandemic relatively well, but what I am noticing is, I have less patience, a shorter attention span and I struggle getting into books — A first for me because I am and always have been an avid reader. But I am listening to podcasts — Michelle Obama’s, The Lincoln Projects and Al Franken’s. I am relieved at how our local and federal government in Canada has handled the virus but I am just horrified by what is happening in the US with COVID and the election issues and democracy in general.

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        1. I think we’re all feeling a little beat down by the unrelenting stream of bad news and corruption. There is a sense of helplessness and perhaps that is why I’m so angry. It doesn’t seem like any of the people who were elected to serve us are doing what needs to be done. Mostly Republicans, but I want to hear loud Democrats, everyday in front of microphones. I’m sick of civil discourse in the face of a blatant disregard for norms, laws, the Constitution. It should be gloves off time now.

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        2. I completely agree with you. Enough already. I cannot for the life of me figure out why there are not verbal demonstrations going on now. Where is Bloomberg? Where is Oprah? Where are the all the activist celebrities and billionaires with huge platforms? Where are constitutional lawyers? This is no time to be passive.

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  3. Interestingly, I just searched for Jubilee on the 2 Hennepin county library reading apps (Libby and CloudLibrary) and they don’t have it. On the library website it says they have 1 hard copy (ONE). Isn’t that strange?

    It is available on Audible and iBooks however.

    >

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  4. Good to “see” you again, Michelle. You always say what needs to be said in a way that is wise, forceful, and still compassionate. I agree that the coming election is the most important test our country has faced—and that’s saying a lot. I may not have a good night’s sleep until November 4 … and after that, well, that remains to be seen. My ray of hope lies in how many are willing to stand up and fight the good fight. I love that the label “nasty” is becoming a badge of honor.

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    1. Hi Donna – always happy to “see” you again as well! I am learning to sleep again. I feel like I’m in training for something that will require a rested, stronger, less anxious me. Perhaps that’s the slight shift in perspective I needed – to acknowledge that things are pretty bad, but I won’t be ready for what is ahead if I give up today to anxiety. How are you keeping yourself sane these days? Are you writing the next book?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks for asking, Michelle. Another book isn’t a high priority for me right now, though kindness remains central—especially activist kindness. I am doing lots of writing, though. The YOLK blog, of course, and also many essays (serious, humorous, political). I’ve overcome my fear of rejection and am submitting them quite vigorously, which is giving me a new hobby: collecting rejection letters. Happy to say, each rejection gets easier. It’s a good and overdue life lesson. My best sanity restorer is early morning walks, during which I count the bunnies, raccoons, and coyotes along my route. It fortifies me for the day. I’m looking forward to your thoughts and words in the coming weeks. Your voice is important.

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  5. I’ve been busy reinventing the house and especially now that it’s going to become a classroom / resource room / caf & playground for 3 again.. hopefully the littlest grand’s daycare will continue to remain open / save many marbles. Can I just say I breathed a joyful sigh of relief at Biden’s VP pick? Still such an unscripted battle ahead, but stay well! 🙂 We’ll all keep fighting for the long overdue changes.

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    1. I like the phrase “unscripted battle” ahead. I, too, was pleased with Biden’s pick, but probably for more nefarious reasons. I kind of hope he dodders off into the sunset and we end up with her as president. I do feel fortunate that my daughter is older, since it leaves time for me to do all the things I’ve been putting off. And I was glad that she got into a college program for HS students and all her courses are online. Her high school finally announced that they’d be going remote, too. So glad you are able to provide the space and resources for your grandkids. I’m sure it will be challenging, but there will be a lot of happy moments that would not have occurred without these circumstances. Hopefully you’ll have more of those than not!

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  6. If the future involves looking back at this time as the good old days, I better take deep breaths and brace myself. You do have the right idea though, in my opinion. Get angry, and use it as fuel for creating something great. My mantra, pre-pandemic, was “don’t think, just do,” but maybe I will create another one. “It’s all uphill from here.” Good post. Gives much food for thought. And good luck with the podcast. I hope to be hearing it in the future.

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    1. Yes, sorry to sound rather pessimistic about the future. For me, that kind of thinking serves as an impetus to prepare – mentally, physically, resource-wise. I always figure it’s the safest approach and the preparation makes me better for it. Thinking of preparing for whatever comes as opposed to waiting for the other shoe to drop or for someone (hell, anyone) to do their job and get our country sorted reduces my anxiety because it does focus on actions. I’m a combo of think/do and have found one without the other doesn’t yield the best results. Thanks for the good wishes about the podcast. I am really going out on a limb – we’ll see if I have the skill set for it!

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  7. I love that we use the same words, mostly. Jack Wagon and Whack-a-Doo are mine. I also say, The-idiot-who-thinks-he’s-in-charge. I do realize that he is, but I can’t ever bear to say it.

    Like you I’m more frustrated with those that support him. I’ve never understood why and at this point I feel like they must be from somewhere else, it’s something I can’t comprehend. Some of my friends have mentioned that their relatives who supported him are finally breaking away. Of all things the post office was what did it. At least there’s that????

    Podcasting is hard at first. I tried it with a friend a bit back but I found it a lot of fun and was sad when we had to stop.

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  8. Real change only happens when you make people uncomfortable….when they look at themselves and their responsibility for the greater good of the whole. Some people consider it negative to call out the wrongs in the world….but I prefer to live in reality. Life isn’t a bed of roses and perfect all the time….sure, there are days to be grateful for, but to deny someone to speak their truths is selfish and lacks compassion. Rather than trying to negate someone’s pain and suffering, lend an ear and don’t try to make light of their truths. BE REAL, BE COMPASSIONATE, BE LOVING.

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  9. I want so much for these past four years to be behind us, and at the same time, I fear the worst scenario – so much in fact that I dare not say it. With so much being questioned about the integrity of our upcoming election, I’m concerned it will be subverted. How can we have faith in the election when people are fearful of coming out to vote and mail-in voting is in peril?

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