About twenty years ago, I took Econ my first term at university. Since it was online, I could fit it in whenever I wanted from week to week.
I don’t remember much of what I studied in that University of Oregon basement Social Studies computer lab. My brain’s been filled with law, contracts, and IT knowledge that’s displaced much of what came before. And yet, reading a political text a couple of weeks ago, I rediscovered an economic concept that matters very much to my life right now: opportunity cost.
Before I read that, I’d understood I haven’t been using my time well recently. I just didn’t have a way to explain it clearly, not even to myself … until I saw the words “opportunity costs.”
When I spend hours on Twitter, when I have arguments not worth having, when I type long essays in states of dismay, I’ve wasted precious minutes much better spent elsewhere. In doing one thing impulsively (or compulsively), I’ve lost an opportunity to do something else that I genuinely wanted to do. Something that might power me through fights worth taking on.
I decided I need to be more conscientious about how I spend my time. I’m making better-for-me choices (virtually!) every day.
Today, home sick with an adverse reaction to something or other, I cheered at this post … and an exchange of comments below it. Athena’s words spoke to thoughts already on my mind, reminding me to actively choose my priorities.
Rather than regret opportunities squandered, I’m going to start saying, “It’s not a priority.” No one else gets to define mine or dictate them to me, though my husband, kids, and manager have some say!
Today, my priority is resting, followed by snuggling, reading, and reflecting. These things refuel me in ways that no amount of caffeine or sugar can.
I need the real stuff. The good fuel.
What about you? Are you getting enough good fuel?
A couple of weeks ago, I stood in a parking lot and typed a comment that was the written equivalent of a howl of anguish. I wasn’t anguished by the post itself, but by (1) how it fit within a broader societal context and (2) the identity of its poster. Afterward, the poster and I exchanged emails.
I thought about our exchange for a day or so. As I always do when I don’t immediately have the right words, I sat down and wrote to find them. The original post had been made private, so I included a poor synopsis of it based on memory.
I saved it as a draft and sat on it.
After I saved the post as a draft, I continued to think about that email exchange. I devoured a couple more political books, the better to understand, express myself, and prepare to organize against a system frightful long before #45 inherited chunks of it.
Importantly, I had a couple illuminating conversations that made me much, much less frustrated with individual people and more resolute about working to shape a better system. I saw humanity.
To post or not to post? I wondered. It’s already kinda outdated now. An exchange yesterday inspired me to post it; it is part of my journey of learning to speak Politics, after all. Still, I wanted to share the link here with a preface.
Going into summer last year, I’d barely ever tried speaking Politics. It wasn’t my bag.
Last summer, I realized I’d done myself a disservice by never really trying. I’d deprived myself of a vocabulary … and left the business of politics to people I didn’t really want speaking for, well, anyone.
I began practicing. I committed to being okay with making mistakes, and hoped others would be inspired when they saw the earth not swallowing me whole when I spoke ineloquently or incorrectly. Eventually, I realized that this meant I needed to also be gracious with others new to “speaking Politics.”
Inexperience has made this easier said than done, but I’m already much better now than I was last summer. I’ve had dozens of face-to-face conversations improved by the learning I’ve done here. I’ve improved my skill at having discussions online, too, but have found it easier to be aggravated online by not-so-individual quirks I now recognize as reflections of systems.
My steepest learning curve has been the last couple weeks. Please bear that in mind if you choose to read “In Politics, Silence Isn’t Neutrality.”
Tomorrow, I’ll post something more reflective of where I am now: oriented toward both action and building common ground. Today, I hope you’ll consider engaging in political conversation or (better yet!) action. This will probably feel uncomfortable at first; as with building racial stamina, the discomfort means you’re growing.
I have a helluva lot to learn, and, man. I’m excited to learn it all in such good company.
“as ordinary people, our fates are tied together,
and … one group’s liberation is dependent on
the liberation of all the oppressed and exploited.”
— Keeyanga-Yamahtta Taylor in The Anti-Inauguration
My little boys love racing each other down a ramp near our house. Yesterday, much to my two-year-old’s chagrin, my seven-year-old, Li’l D, only wanted to run down twice.
“Could you please run down one more time with him?” I asked D. D, seizing the opportunity, said he’d run down it one more time … if I said I was obnoxious.
I weighed his proposal for a moment before mumbling, “I’m obnoxious.”
“What? I couldn’t hear you,” he teased.
“I’m obnoxious!” I said, much louder.
He grinned before racing down the ramp with Littler J.
“Again?!” D asked.
“I’m obnoxious,” I replied.
Both my boys laughed as they raced down the ramp one more time, and I? I laughed, too.
Reading an article on resilience recently, one particular paragraph struck me:
Academic research into resilience started about 40 years ago with pioneering studies by Norman Garmezy, now a professor emeritus at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. After studying why many children of schizophrenic parents did not suffer psychological illness as a result of growing up with them, he concluded that a certain quality of resilience played a greater role in mental health than anyone had previously suspected.
My mother, who was beautiful, vibrant, and offbeat through her 2010 death to cancer, had schizophrenia. I thought my husband understood the complexity of this until we had a startling conversation in 2015. Afterward, I wrote: Read more…
Downpours flooded SoCal streets yesterday, but all had mostly dried up by mid-morning today. This meant I was unconcerned when I set out for a meeting.
Trouble struck when I tried getting onto the freeway. Turning sharply onto the ramp that’d deposit me on the freeway 20 or so feet below, I found my car suddenly floating just above the road. My steering wheel did its own thing.
First, my car veered right toward foliage. I didn’t dare try countering the pull, because I felt like flipping was inevitable.
The car then veered left, taking me precariously close to the thin metal barrier that kept me from tumbling down onto the road below. I kept my hands poised above the steering wheel, ready to seize it when it seemed ready to respond to my touch (without flipping my car).
I managed to miss the barrier by a few inches and steer myself safely down the ramp. My heart raced as I drove northward and contemplated the possibility of different outcomes.
The next 30 minutes, I found myself appreciating with new clarity how tenuous is the connection between tire and road. Every skid and shudder had me on alert.
Ultimately, I made it safely to my destination. My return trip was pleasant. Now, safe at home, I’ll be content to drive nowhere else this long weekend …
In 2004, I experienced my first typhoon in a small coastal town on Japan’s main island, Honshu. I filmed myself standing in the middle of a street while everything shook and swayed around me.
All was silent and still in the eye of the storm. I couldn’t believe the winds would soon whip around me again, but they did. I howled with them when they returned. The windy days I’d loved at home were nothing compared to this.
I enjoyed my later typhoons, too, but none invigorated me the same way my my first one did.
Today, an ocean and a dozen years removed from my first typhoon, I look out my SoCal windows and see the trees thrashing in the wind. The wind rattles my home’s windows, slamming sheets of rain against them.
I don’t know what it is about the wind, but I have always loved it. I will always love it. This wind-advisory afternoon, I’ll snuggle up with my husband and my little boys, content in now … but also remembering the thrill of being one small body standing strong against ferocious winds.