Shaken, but Stirred

canstockphoto27374822I’m the overly cautious driver who slowly backs out in a parking lot. Most commercial parking lots have the functionality of a demolition derby – narrow spaces despite the ginormous size of some vehicles, blind spots, limited turning space, cart racks askew. Add to that the tank-driving, texting mentality of some license owners (you’ll move, right?) and yesterday happened for me.

Backing carefully out, looking both ways, I nearly get rear-ended by a minivan rounding the corner at 30 mph. She honks loudly at me as I slam on the brakes and then speeds away. As is often the case when something like this happens, I think, I hate people and I need to go home.

Anxiety has been rather high this week. I have some weird medical shit happening to my body and have to go to the doctor. I haven’t been for several years except for flu shots, because I’m of the mentality that if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Every time I’ve ever gone to the doctor, I’ve gone in feeling fine and I leave with some syndrome or abnormality that hey, I can either take a bunch of drugs for or I can wait and see. I usually take door #2 and that has kept me upright and functioning for a good 48 years.

canstockphoto5050400Cue middle age. My body has become a three-ring circus. Hairs sprout in places that were previously erogenous zones. My eyes sink into my head – those luminous blues squint through progressive lenses and folds of saggy eyelids. I remember how my grandma always insisted on full makeup before she went anywhere. Now I think it was so she’d look like she had eyeballs.

Medical maladies, thanks to the internet, are either minor irritations or a death knell. Things I could ignore before, now keep me awake at night, as I think up game plans for every possibility. I try to keep myself on routine, make myself go through the motions of working out, but I’m tired and I feel weak. I feel vulnerable.

canstockphoto23413180Politics, guns and religion are making me anxious. Following the coverage of the Iowa caucus, I see people cheering for Donald Trump or Ted Cruz and I want to weep. It’s not the politics, it’s the way they have taken the stereotype of the Ugly American one step further – bullish stupidity and crass hatred. I don’t know why people think this will serve us well.

If we’re going to turn this country into a reality show, I’d like to vote some people off the island. And most of them are citizens.

Much of the public display of religion has become devoid of ethics. It is being used to justify repressing others and it all gets packaged up in an American flag, a cross, guns and a whole lot of whiteness. I believe that we should have the freedom to believe what we choose, up until the point where you’re in my government, in my bedroom or at my child’s school. Or showing up at my Target with an AR-15, when I’m just trying to buy toilet paper.

This is a whole lot of anxiety. It could be this way the rest of my life – just trying to get out of parking lots without getting hit. Hoping that each medical malady is just a bump and not a catastrophe. Trying to remind myself that the social and political cycles of my country ebb and flow.

I could sit in my little puddle of worry and fear, as my world and my worldview get smaller and smaller. I could learn to see the world in us and them terms and dogmatically embrace stereotypes as truth. I could become so blinded by the bad news that I believe the apocalyptic pronouncements spewed by religious and political leaders. We’re all going to hell in a hand basket.

But then there’s life. My daughter came home in tears because she had forgotten to do an assignment and then promptly lost the worksheet she needed to do it. Harshly, I said, “Stop crying about it and figure out a solution.” The forgetfulness and disorganization of a 6th grader was nothing new, but I heard myself. I heard the edge, the anxiety, the anger. This is what happens when anxiety takes over.

I slowed my breathing and asked her what she was supposed to learn from the assignment. She was supposed to compare and contrast Mohandas Gandhi and Aung San Suu Kyi. Wow. I suggested she write an essay doing that. She would turn it into her teacher with the understanding that she might get a zero on the assignment. She worked for two hours and with a measure of pride, asked me to read it.

How easy it is to forget the butterfly effect. Hers and mine. Gandhi’s and Aung San Suu Kyi’s. How easy it is to forget that an individual can make a difference in the world around them – that we do not need to rely on the loudest among us to lead the way. How easy to forget that being afraid does not abnegate responsibility to be kind, to be peaceful, to be compassionate. If everything in the world is going wrong, I’d rather err on the side of loving kindness.


We have a choice when we are frightened, when politicians feed us doomsday scenarios, as we age or when we simply have a bad day. I hugged my daughter and told her that I was proud that she worked so hard to fix a mistake. And now, I must work to fix my own.

 Some Soothing Reading:

When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times by Pema Chödrön

Turning the Mind into an Ally by Sakyong Mipham

Finding Beauty in a Broken World by Terry Tempest Williams

The Green Study: Have We Met?

canstockphoto8155142This past week, I’ve been ruminating about this exhortation as a writer to “find my voice”. I’ve read so much on and offline lately – voices that are passionate, opinionated, hysterically funny, heartbreaking. There are writers with unique voices who have learned how to get out of their own way. I see myself coming towards the Publish button and I promptly lay down in the road.

I’ve rationalized my moderate ramblings as being thoughtful and respectful, but I have serious doubt about whether I’m being fearful rather than respectful.  I’ve decided to spit out the topics that seem to enrage people all in one post. I apologize for the length of the post. It’s longer than my usual fare. Time to rip off the bandage.


I’m an American leftie and a fiscal conservative, but not the kind of fiscal conservative that believes that social issues should be tied to fiscal policy. I don’t want the state monitoring my calls or my uterus. I don’t think compromise is a dirty word. I loathe that classic misdirect of picking on poor people, while ignoring the military industrial complex and corporate coddling.

I believe strongly that many problems in Congress would be solved by term limits and campaign finance reform that doesn’t get gutted. Seriously, how many more mummified, befuddled congressional representatives do we have to listen to? Apparently they’ve got a really good health plan, because they seem to live a long, long time.


I am skeptical of organized religion – especially those with religious doctrines that still relegate women to chattel and second class citizens. I don’t know ANY answers about the existence of a higher being and I don’t think any other humans do, either. Some humans just like being more right about what they don’t know.

I think, too, belief systems get used to justify really horrible behavior – by nearly every organized religion. I am curious and interested in all belief systems, but I am rarely willing to talk about it, because I’m not sure that I can retain a tone of civility and respect when we start talking about theological rationalization for brutality and judgment by other humans.

Guns and Mental Health

Background checks. No loopholes. Serious regulation of high capacity weaponry. Those weapons are for one thing only – killing a lot of people quickly. For those with home arsenals in anticipation of the zombie apocalypse or less likely, a totalitarian regime (seriously, the government can’t even run websites, much less a takeover of your yahoo asses), see your local mental health experts.

Elevate mental health problems to the level of a physical illness. Give it the funding, resources, media blitz. Make options available, accessible and affordable to families and institutions when someone goes off the rails. Right now a majority of our mental healthcare system resides in the form of law enforcement and a lucrative prison system.

Gender and Race Wars

I have never made life decisions based on traditional gender roles. I’ve done what I wanted to do. I’ve mocked those that think because of my gender, they can suss me out. I’m raising a daughter who is strong and confident and doesn’t give a toss if you think she should dress like a girl. I resent inequality for chromosomes of either ilk. I think boys have a tough uphill battle fighting stereotypes and societal expectation as well.

As for racial disparities, I can read and try to understand, but I’m not going to pretend I have any true knowledge. All I can do is ask questions and listen to what those in the know have to say.

My personal experiences have informed me that being a decent human or a complete jackass have nothing to do with gender or skin color. Here’s the bottom line, though – there’s history and residual resentment and stale attitudes and some systemic shit that needs to be fixed. There is work to be done.

Whether you need to call yourself something or not, we should all be proponents of not judging other people’s intelligence, strength, abilities or worthiness based on their gender or skin color.


I apparently have the basics down, but I don’t find it that interesting of a subject to write about or discuss – enough other people are doing that. The cultural obsession with it in marketing and entertainment has made it all a bit artificial and tiresome and whatever meaningful enjoyment it has, well, there doesn’t need to be that much talking, lighting, costumes and choreography. Unless, of course, that’s your thing.

I think civil unions should be available regardless of sexual preference. I hate the phrase “the sanctity of marriage”, especially coming out of people’s mouths who have just had their married hands on a staffer’s butt. Keep religious laws in the church and out of the state’s legal protections for committed couples.

Fashion and Beauty

I am baffled by the current Western beauty culture. High heels? I don’t understand footwear in which you can’t run.

Weight. Bored with this paragraph already. I’ve struggled to meet life insurance table requirements my whole life. I’ve been in the middle of a thousand conversations with other women about bad/good foods, working out, diets – it’s incredibly tiresome. And so much of it is informed by bad nutritional information, fads, and corporate marketing gimmicks. How do I feel? Do I feel strong, nourished, energetic? I will only get there by feeding myself well, making my body move and confronting body image dissatisfaction with common sense and kindness.

I am an average looking woman and that’s all I’ll ever be. To try to meet cultural standards would kill me – it would take away time I could spend doing things I like to do, it would require chemicals and injections and spackle, possibly some duct tape. It would require money that I could otherwise spend on books and traveling and experiences. It would require me to stare in the mirror, coldly and cruelly, assessing what work should be done next. When I look you in the eye, what you should see is a smart, intuitive, generous and funny human being. If not, I’m still strong enough to knock you on your ass.

Well, I think that about covers everything that could alienate readers. I don’t expect people to agree. I have friends with entirely different opinions and beliefs and we still like each other. That’s the kind of world I’d like to live in – where divisiveness and trolls don’t rule the day, where you and I can disagree and still be friends. There. Now that feels authentic.