acceptance

May 18, 2017 Comments off

“The mole, I’m not
so worried about,”
said the nurse practitioner,
peering at me over the rims
of her eyeglasses. “It’s
the anxiety that
concerns me.”

“I didn’t say anything
about anxiety,” I
pointed out.

“Oh, honey,
you didn’t
have to.”

“This is half as bad
as it was even a
month ago,”
I replied.

We talked
for fifteen minutes.

At one point,
I said, “the best thing
was accepting, really
accepting, that the world
could be very, very grim
for my children, no matter
what I do or say–“

“We don’t know that
it will be!”
she cautioned.

“Oh, I know. I’ve been
reading Arundhati Roy
and Rebecca Solnit, and,
well, dozens of other authors
just this year. There’s hope in
uncertainty, here.”

She nodded.

“What I mean is:
I was ragged from figuring
out what I could do, and how
I could do it, to show that citizens
must not wait for politicians to do
the right thing environmentally.
What finally freed me
from that churn
was seeing that …
if the outcome does end up
being very, very grim,
it will be all the more important
for me to have left my sons
with tons and tons of love
to sustain them through
hardships I can’t
change.
They’ll need
the memory
of all
that
love
to get by,
you know?
So I’ll keep
reading, and I’ll
keep showing up,
where I think it’ll help,
but I’m not arguing anymore,
or fretting about the right words,
or seeking the magic combination
that’ll suddenly engage
the disengaged,
but mostly,
mostly …
I’ll love
on
my
sons.”

When I left
the room moments later,
she told me, “You’re
a lovely woman.”

“Ha!” I wanted to say.
“You should talk to
some of my now-
former friends.”

Instead,
I accepted her words,
and her hug,
too

On heroing

Once upon a college-time, I found myself so useless–to myself, to others, to the world–that I wanted to die.

I challenged myself to find one thing I liked about myself; if I didn’t, I’d kill myself. If I could find one thing, though, I figured I could probably find more … with some patience.

I decided my calves were pretty rad. Seeing that one good thing paved the way for my sticking around to see more, so that one little thing meant everything: choosing life, as opposed to suicide.

Over time, I came to have faith in words. I understood them and became adept at shaping them to express precisely what I meant.

Then I began reading Neil Postman, who helped me understand some of the biases in words and word combinations, particularly English ones. Nouns are especially appropriate to represent some physical items (table; car; sandwich), but help create the illusion of stasis in some more dynamic “things” (language; people; school).

There’s a lot to this, but some of the biggest questions Postman opened for me were about this illusion of stasis, or unchangeability. By referring to “language” instead of “languaging,” English speakers may perceive language as an unchanging behemoth instead of sets of ongoing processes. By referring to people by individual, set names, we tell ourselves each person is one relatively stable unit instead of a changeable, changing entity who does the hard, ongoing work of “personing” in a rapidly changing world.

Some statements presented as fact aren’t, really.

“Projection,” as the term is used by semanticists such as Korzybski and Hayakawa, means that we transfer our own feelings and evaluations to objects outside of us. For example, we say, “John is stupid” or “Helen is smart,” as if “stupidity” and “smartness” were characteristics of John and Helen. A literal translation of “John is stupid” (that is, its most scientific meaning) might go something like this: “When I perceive John’s behavior, I am disappointed or distressed or frustrated or disgusted. The sentence I use to express my perceptions and evaluation of these events is ‘John is stupid.'”

When we say, “John is stupid,” we are talking about ourselves much more than we are talking about John. And yet, this fact is not reflected at all in this statement.

Language might actually be used to conceal more than it reveals.

At first, it felt liberating to be able to see some of the processes behind purported “things” I’d wrongly perceived as more or less stable. Slowly, though, it destroyed my faith in something that had almost always been a bedrock for me: that I could set forth words that showed precisely what I meant to almost everyone who read them. But if meaning is projected onto words by a perceiver instead of simply absorbed as stated, what I stated was far less important than the meanings being projected onto my words by readers/hearers.

With everything apparently objective revealed as potentially quite subjective, then, I lost faith in my ability to English-language … or that there was much merit in bothering to even try. I was especially disturbed by one kind of illusion I began seeing everywhere, especially in my own words: one of scale. Words can help things I’d consider enormous seem small, and can give small things an illusion of comparative enormity.

For example: If it’s a “disaster” when I flub an important meeting, what is it–apart from, of course, a crime–when hundreds of thousands of people lose their homes and retirement funds due to the bad behavior of a small number of extraordinarily powerful bankers? When those bankers aren’t even held accountable, but slapped on the hand by having less-than-incremental fees effectively taken from investors … as punishment? (How is that “punishment”? How does that deter abuse of power?)

If it’s “crushing” to remember a particularly bad memory, what is it, then, when entire villages are literally crushed by American-sold (and, often, -dropped) bombs? Especially when many of those bombs are “gifts” that keep giving for decades to come?

If an especially tasty hot dog can be “awesome,” then what’s the feeling you get standing and looking upon grand portions of the Grand Canyon?

If it’s “amazing” to get a great bonus at work, what is is when a family is granted asylum … and thus given a chance at life when they’d have almost certainly died had they stayed in their (prior) home?

With so many hard-to-see flaws in tools of meaning conveyance, words, I stopped seeing the point of trying to negotiate them.

If I was no longer a(n effective) worker-of-words … what was I, even?

Last week, I was fairly bludgeoned–multiple times daily, each day–by a word that I’d always translated as representing goodness. Read more…

that sweet man

meeting

Hello, farewell

When my mom
met my now-husband
four months before she died,
she told me I had to
“marry that sweet man”

I resisted, of course;
marriage sucked, and
my mom still didn’t know
anything

Except, years later,
I understand she knew
much more than I
know, even now

As Anthony left
the house earlier,
he joked
that I was lucky to marry
such a man as him

“Not to be smug,” he added,
with a laugh

“Yes, I am,”
I replied earnestly,
“And I told your mom
she raised a good man,
just yesterday”

(And then he
wasn’t laughing,
and that was
beautiful, too)

Anthony has
watched me grapple with
centuries of painful truths
in a couple
short
years

He’s supported me
even when he doesn’t
agree with my conclusions,
and encouraged me doing
what I must to
understand
(& change)

He has been
my rock

I don’t know if
I will blog here again,
but I want you to know,
if you take nothing else
from having joined me here,
that the best thing I did
my whole life
was marry
that
sweet
man

daddy love

With our oldest

daddy littler j

With our youngest

wedding bw

Us

Retelling our tale

I recently wrote about the hope I discovered in Rebecca Solnit’s Hope in the Dark. Reading Neil Postman on my lunch break just now, I found a similar sentiment about hope’s power residing in uncertainty: “certainty abolishes hope, and robs us of renewal.”

The entire next page was a beautiful call for hope in a time of rampant change:

Maybe you have to read the whole book to appreciate this passage, but … I don’t think so. And so, I share it, in the hopes you’ll find a similar, healing aha! in it (and maybe, just maybe, read some more Postman afterward).

The fan box

Many years ago, I bought a box of antique fans at an estate sale. My mom gave me the dime being asked for them. 

Before I found the box of fans, I’d complained about being dragged along to sales with my mom. After I found the fans, I felt decidedly more pro-sale.

My older son, Li’l D, discovered the fans a couple of years ago. At least once a month, he’s asked to look at the fans. I even gave him one of his own, and promised him the fans if he still wants them when he’s much, much older.

My husband, Anthony, has witnessed these exchanges. He’s seen the little cardboard box that’s housed the fans for decades and, it seems, decided a better home was deserved. He made that home himself.

For years, I felt my mom when I took out the old box and thought of the gifted dime that bought its contents. Then I felt my mom and my oldest son while sifting. Now, another layer of connection has been added. Anthony is part of the experience of these fans, too.

Someday, Li’l D will pull a small green box off a shelf. When he does, he’ll remember a little of my mom, and a lot of me. And he’ll think of his daddy, too, and how Daddy once sat down to make a fan box in Mommy’s favorite color.

Categories: Family, Love, Parenting Tags: , ,

No pictures required

Out behind their grandmas’ house, my two little boys rocked back and forth on a two-person swing. I smiled as I walked nearer; they’re really growing into friends.

“Don’t take a picture!” commanded my seven-year-old, Li’l D.

“I wasn’t going to,” I said. “I’m trying to take more pictures with my heart these days.”

“That’s good,” Li’l D replied. “Sometimes kids just want their privacy.”

“I hear you,” I said. I do. From now on, I’ll only post about Li’l D with his permission, save perhaps in rare cases where his part in a vignette is peripheral.

Minutes later, I climbed into my car for a rare date with my husband. As I did, my mind was on those two boys swinging in the backyard.

Little by little, they’re getting bigger. Sometimes it aches to see how quickly they’re growing. Times like yesterday, though, my heart simply swells that I get to see them grow into their vocabularies, opinions, and friendship … no pictures required.

Categories: Family, Parenting Tags: , , , ,

Did I write that?

I could write a beautiful, poignant 1,000-word version of this post that’d keep me from my kids for a couple hours. Alternatively, I could write a more succinct, less illuminating version that takes me only ten minutes. I’m opting for the latter.

My sister Rache and I are very similar in some ways. She’s an ASNAC nerd who took me to the Jorvik Viking Center on my one trip to England, so we definitely diverge in some ways, but … in many ones where it counts, we’re clearly cut from the same cloth. Read more…

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