life-full

I went to brunch on Sunday. I always enjoy brunch, and appreciate–so much–that I have people to brunch with.

There was something special about this brunch: talking with Bill Friday. Specifically, we talked about happiness.

Anthony’s always asking if I’m happy!” I said. “And I’m like, no! And who cares? What if happiness isn’t a useful measure for my life? What if there’s something more and deeper that’s lost by looking so hard at happiness?!”

(This was not a gripe about my husband, by the way; it was about the limitations of language and cultural perceptions!)

Today I talked to my sister Rache. As we spoke, I saw she would have so enjoyed chatting with Bill and me:

Though the histories we discussed were grim and heartbreaking, our conversation was so damn hopeful. “Happiness,” we agreed, was not the yardstick by which we want to measure our lives. We want comprehension, connection, fullness, and fulfillment, not entertainment (alone).

Rache will be visiting soon enough. Maybe we’ll get a chance to sit and talk (things more important-to-us than) happiness with Bill.

But if not? I will hold the joy of those separate, related conversations within me,

for, unlike happiness,

joy is the complex totality that recognizes how all the feelings of life are part of a full one.

Photo courtesy Ra

from where my husband stands

wedding bwA couple of months ago,
I wrote of my husband
that the best thing
I ever did
“was marry
that
sweet
man”

(This continues
to be
the
case)

A few days ago,
he said something
that helped me
understand so much more
than all the books
in the world
could

I can’t remember
his words, or even
the exact context, but
what he said made
clean-water-clear
why I was
so angry
and he was so …
not

A Black man 
grown up in Compton,
he never had illusions
that colonialism or
empire were dead,
or that they were
(ever)
only extended by
the evil hearts
of evil people

He saw
people as they were
and loved them for
who and where
they were,
trusting they were
doing the best they could
with where they
were coming from

I didn’t have that

I “escaped” poverty
and abuse and a
million poverty-
invited horrors
I’ll never forget
no matter what
my salary
reaches;

Having “escaped,”
I saw bad guys
(molesters; wife-
beaters)
and good guys
(everyone
else)

Having “escaped,”
I surrounded myself
with good guys
and, voila!

All was well

Except,
of course,
it wasn’t

And I was
affronted,
shocked, 
horrified 
to learn as
I read (on
the U.S.’s
genocidal global
politics) that
they we were
far less good
(as measured
by outcome, not
squishy, vague,
offered-as-exculpatory
“well-meaning”)
than I’d seen

The feeling
I experienced:
betrayal, at a
whole world
(and worldview)
destroyed

But that’s
not the point here:
I get what happened,
and whether anyone
else does or does
not get it isn’t
that
important

The main thing here
is this:

Seeing the world, now,
closer to how it really is,
I can see from where my
husband has always stood,
and I think …

I’m almost there:

Seeing
people as they are
and loving them for
who and where
they are,
trusting they are
doing the best they can
with where they
are coming from

wrong! :)

I used to hate
learning I was wrong.
It meant I wasn’t perfect,
which sucked
(I thought).

Since reading
The Other America,
I’ve been journeying toward
a different view

The Other America explained that
many middle- and upper-class Americans
can’t conceive
of the vastness of suffering
borne of American poverty
because, quite simply,
poverty and its
horrifying
consequences
are invisible
to them

(they know
no poor people,
and certainly not
many)

That made me wonder:

What’s
invisible
to me?

Since I started
asking the question,
I’ve come to love learning
I was wrong.

(I almost always am,
as it happens!)

‘Cause,
as sung
in a Disney musical,
that means I
can finally
change

and maybe,
just maybe,
do better
(, wiser,
kinder)
tomorrow
because of what
I learned
to see
today

Categories: Books, history, Learning Tags: , ,

books & (bigger) dreams

Almost a year ago, I realized I was virtually alone.

I’d surrounded myself with people who understood I’d endured just about every kind of violence possible, and that I’d witnessed it even when I hadn’t experienced it directly. They celebrated the fact I’d “won” while calling the rest history. They apparently failed to understand what devastating long-term consequences are wrought even when one “wins.”

They had no concept how many tens of millions of people suffer my “history” now, nor–it seemed–any interest in exploring how their comfort helps keep other people subjugated. I was a meanie, for acting horrified; they, meaning well, were mere victims of a mean person who didn’t understand how much well-meaning means.

(Not a damn thing, I understand even better now. Not one damn thing.)

Surrounded by “friends” who didn’t really understand me, or care much how the limited suffering they’d endure under Trump is but a fraction of what others have endured daily for decades, I found real friends: books.

In Glenn Greenwald, I saw recognition of the U.S.’s two-tier justice system (one for the super-rich, and one for the rest) that ensured my family and I would never achieve recourse as poor people in America. The system wasn’t built that way.

With Peter Schweitzer I discovered that elected Democrats and Republicans long ago ditched pretenses of acting on the peoples’ behalf. They said they did, and that was enough to content most people who voted.

Naomi Klein, even more importantly, demonstrated the incredibly stark divide between what America preaches and what it practices. For many decades, the U.S.’s elected officials have claimed one thing to its people while doing quite another abroad. Klein’s The Shock Doctrine was the decoder ring that unveiled the purpose behind the pretense.

I read Chomsky and Postman and hooks. Each taught me a little more about the world that actually is, enabling me to see past my reality-illusions into what actually is.

Chalmers Johnson remains one of my favorites. Months ago, I picked up his Dismantling the Empire on a quickie trip to a bookstore. In a few short pages, he revealed almost as much as Klein did in many more pages.

I read so, so much Neil Postman. He died years before I began reading him, but wrote in such a way that reading him feels like a present-day conversation. He, more than anyone, eased the loneliness of (somehow) being stranded among billions.

Matt Taibbi really brought me despair. Before I read his books, I had the illusion the financial crisis of ’07/’08 was maybe just a really unfortunate accident. He showed that simply wasn’t so, which brought me closer to the truth … even if I kinda disliked him for it. A lot.

Bryan Stevenson showed me the joy of working for little changes–and celebrating them–even when enormous changes are needed. Arundhati Roy taught me the value of a newly hard-boiled egg (priceless), even as George Monbiot showed me how to discard “inevitable” in favor of imagining what’s actually just.

Sheldon S. Wolin showed me how deeply democracy was being subverted a decade ago, back when I cared only about my next paycheck. Renegade economist Kate Raworth pointed to a better world, inviting everyone to envision–and create–a global economy based on what we know of economics today, not what a handful of closet bigots decided to pass as indisputable truth close to a century ago.

A year ago, I realized most of my … friends … couldn’t help get me where I needed to go. They could only barely see the world that is, favoring instead the world they wish was.

But my books? They have broadened the world for me, page by page, showing that I need not be constrained by the limited imaginations of those around me physically … when bigger dreams are being dreamed around the world, for me, for you, and for all our children.

(NO)tifications

When I set up
each of my very few
phone apps, I set
notifications
to “off.”

I did this
intentionally;
I want to see the
sky, the leaves, the
wrinkles at the corners
of peoples’ eyes,

and hear
the birds chirping
with the rustling of leaves
behind them, and
chatter off in the
the distance.

I don’t need
notifications
of a virtual world
to interrupt
my experience
of the physical one.

And yet,
the companies
who release these apps
reject my rejecting their
notifications.

“Are you sure you
don’t want notifications?
You’re missing out on
so much good stuff!”

Every.
single.
day,
the
same
notices
I should
reconsider
notifications
and so keep up!!!.

Today, I
looked at those
reminders and thought,
“You know, I know
what I want to keep up with,
and it’s
not
this.

“The fact my
saying ‘no’ once isn’t enough
means maybe I shouldn’t
be checking these apps
at all. Okay, then,
once a day
from home
suits me
just
fine.”

Since
curtailing
online time,
my offline time
is so much more
vibrant;
merry;
full.

If I don’t see
any update
from any friend,
that’s fine;

I hold our
histories
in
my heart,

and I know
we will pick up
right where
we left off
the last
time.

Histories
in my heart
can be eroded
by too many notifications
about too many little things,
so:

even if I don’t
heart your picture
or thumbs-up your status,
please know it’s because
I want to remember
the you I know,
not
what
you
posted
yesterday.

shaved ice

perspective(s)

I’ve wanted to write a post about perspective, but I wasn’t sure how to begin it.

Then, yesterday, my husband turned my three-year-old’s carseat around. Instead of facing backward, looking through my car’s rear window, Littler faced forward and shared my view through the front window.

“Woooooooooo!” he yelled after we pulled out of our driveway and began down the road. “Whoa, whoa, whoa!” He might as well have been riding a roller coaster.

“You like the view, huh?” asked Littler’s older brother, Li’l D.

“Yeah!” cheered Littler, who’d had more than his car seat reoriented.

His whole perspective had changed.

Last week, a familiar horror crept over me while I read. None of this can be changed, I thought. It’s far too late to choose a different track.

The fact I’d thought such a thing was my signal: It was time to set aside the book I was reading. Though it was both illuminating and engagingly written, its content was grim.

I’ve learned over the last couple of months that I must read such things in small doses. Doing otherwise can catapult me into depression. (For example, I shouldn’t have read Matt Taibbi’s Griftopia and The Divide back to back. Spending a couple of days immersed in what exactly a handful of corrupt financiers have gotten away with while millions of others languish in prison for less … left me thinking, for some weeks, there is no way to overcome this scale of injustice.)

What can I read right now that will walk me back toward something like hope? I wondered. I landed on The Guardian’s George Monbiot, whose words reveal wisdom and perspective that reorient my heart.

One article’s title especially piqued my curiosity: “Finally, a breakthrough alternative to growth economics – the doughnut.” Read more…

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

%d bloggers like this: