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cherishing now (and trees)

My childhood home stood on a corner. In addition to having a small lawn at its front, it had one outside the backyard fence along its left side. My mom once planted several small trees there.

A few years after she planted them, she happened to talk to a man who worked with trees. He said that one of the trees should be cut down, pointing to some kind of dark mark inside a gash and saying the tree was already dead. It looked very much alive to my mom, who argued there must be something she could do to save it.

Nope, he affirmed. It’s already dead. It just looks like it’s still alive because it takes a while to for results of death to be evident to the human eye.

My mom, whose mental illness was itself becoming more evident by the day, thought her neighbors had done it–whatever “it” was. They’d hurt the tree to hurt her.

I simply thought it was interesting.

A few months back, I walked across a courtyard and pondered grim political news I’d just read. I looked up at a tree nearest my destination and thought, This is an illusion. Read more…

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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 facing a soul-stealer

A soul-stealer has come to town,” a neighbor tells me.

“Soul-stealer? What’s that?”

“It’s a demon that eats souls. There’s no coming back from this.”

I am standing on a stairwell. A man-shaped demon emanating flames stands a few steps beneath me. 

“Run!” I shout to my seven-year-old, who’s racing up the stairs behind me. “Get as far away as you can!”

The soul-stealer before me has killed both my husband and my two-year-old, and for a split-second I am crushed by the loss. But wordless understanding fills me, all at once; given words, they would be:

Who came back from the netherworld to say this loss is eternal? Either someone came back, or this is propaganda. Right now, I must do everything I can to save my son. And then, then I will worry about how to fix what’s already been lost. Dead or alive, I will find a way. This is not the end.

“You will not get him!” I roar at the demon.

I am suddenly lying in darkness. I wonder where I am and how I got there.

It hits me: That was a dream, and this is reality.

“Thank God,” I whisper, touching my husband before rising.

As I drive to work, I chuckle. I’m glad to have grown up with horror in a family of horror lovers. I learned young that you don’t beat the monster by sitting still.

My political journey is now shaping my dreams. My dreams, in turn, are shaping my political journey, reminding me to fight for what hasn’t yet been lost instead of drowning in sorrow over what already has. After what’s left is secured, I can then look toward reclamation of what appears to have been lost.

I don’t know what’s ahead. What I do know is that I like who I’m becoming. I like that I’ve got this fight in and outside of me. 

Now, to take it from dreams and translate it to reality: doing everything I can to protect what I can of a planet being made uninhabitable long term in pursuit of profits short term.

Changing the world, one plug at a time

I got my family’s monthly electricity bill yesterday.

Electricity bills aren’t usually newsworthy around here, but this one reflected something worth celebrating.

A couple of weeks ago, my seven-year-old, Li’l D, expressed concern bordering on despair over the state of the environment.

“Hey, now,” I told him. “Instead of being afraid about what’s already happening, let’s look at all the things we’ve already done [to make a positive difference]!”

recycle or trashOne of the items we discussed was unplugging electronics while we’re not using them. Li’l D suggested this, so that he felt proud of the suggestion even before he had proof of its impact.

When I saw the electricity bill, I was excited to see the difference. “Hey!” I called Li’l D. “Guess what?!”

I explained to him that we usually have higher electricity bills when his dad’s not working on a show, like now. This time last year, his dad was working on a single-cam show, which meant long hours away from home … and very few hours using electricity here.

On this bill, I explained, we had the exact same usage as we did last year. “If you hadn’t suggested we start unplugging more things and turning off more lights, it would have been much higher–maybe $10 or $15 higher! That’s $10 or $15 of dirty energy we didn’t use for one month, all because of your suggestion!”

Li’l D beamed when I told him this. He skipped off to tell his dad what I’d just told him.

Is there a lot of work ahead to ensure a habitable world for today’s children? Certainly! But much of it needn’t be done by politicians on high. In fact, the little things that we citizens–even seven-year-old citizens!–do day after day after day can make plenty of difference.

One more family being mindful of electricity usage won’t itself change the world, but dozens or hundreds more could make a real dent (even if some are renting and can’t yet go solar, ahem). That’s rad.

Today even more than last month, I’m heartened by the prospect of all we Earth citizens can achieve if we cast our pennies together.

Good Enough Action

Over and over since I began caring about politics, people have informed me it’s my responsibility to persuade them individually how I’m right.

Yesterday, I got a few comments reflecting this same peculiar idea. Those comments–combined with the many like them I’ve heard recently–highlighted an opportunity for me to be very, very clear about (1) where I’m at and (2) what I hope to achieve. (Hint: It’s not making you agree with me!)

I wrote a little about these things last week:

To borrow my sister’s words, I am interested in doing right overall, not being right in any particular conversation.

If you’re mostly interested in being right, I hope you’ll reconsider. You could save lives.

If you’re interested in doing right, let’s talk. Between us, I know we can do not only right but good.

My point? Action, not belief, will change the external world we share. Doing, not grading how others choose to do or merely believing something, will change the world for the better.

Of course, many important acts will spring from a core belief that something is very wrong in a way that’s hurting lots and lots of people. We don’t have to agree about the scope of what’s wrong, or why it’s wrong, as long as we take action to mitigate what’s wrong.

I expanded upon this last night.

 

I don’t know much.

I don’t have the practical political answers I desperately seek.

I don’t even know how to find those practical answers, but goodness knows I’m trying. That’s the whole point of my having a blog called “Learning to Speak Politics.” I don’t know, and I’m trying.

I don’t care to argue with you with my limited time.

I don’t have enough time to seek perfection, so I’m aiming for “hopefully good enough.”  We don’t have enough time, as a species, to sit and fastidiously devise some perfect master plan to save the planet and each other. We’ve got to take what steps we can now, and then take better ones as they reveal themselves in the new knowledge we’ve amassed by acting.

I don’t care if you believe me. I will tell you what I believe. You can decide for yourself what to do with that. I spend most my limited free time right now reading, listening, and updating my (mis)understanding as I learn new things. I own that, not responsibility for what you believe or when you believe it.

I don’t control when you listen or if you ever care to hear me.

I don’t care to tailor what I’m doing to please you specifically. If you want to see something different and more persuasive-to-you put into the world than what you’re seeing so far, please go create it. That’s up to you. In the meantime, I’ll use my knowledge, my experience, my passion, and my skills to try many different things I think might reach even one person. Nothing will reach everyone, and some people don’t even want to be reached.

What do I care about, then?

I care about people who are dying needlessly–as I type this–due to powerful lack of concern for their well being by powerful politicians and their funders.

I care about the now-children who will die if adults don’t band together pronto to protect the earth. There’s still hope, if we take decisive action immediately. If not? It’s over.

So if you want to join me and others seeking solutions, great! Let’s ask questions, listen, and hear each other–on the big stuff, themes and patterns, not the nits that are equally easy and unproductive to pick.

I’ve found many good action-oriented resources, which I’d be happy to share; my favorites so far are Brand New CongressDemocratic Socialists of America, and MPACTUS. Still, there’s no guidebook here. I’m doing what I can with what I have.

Don’t like what I’m doing? I enthusiastically urge you to go do better with what you have.

Please! Go! Do it! I’m not about to stop you.

Mighty

When I was little, my mom took me to a few town halls and political rallies. I remember some of those experiences–especially meeting Representative Peter DeFazio, who later wrote me a letter!–fondly.

Yesterday, I took my seven-year-old, Li’l D to his first rally. We met up with a couple thousand other Angelenos opposed to the Dakota Access Pipeline.

protect-sign

“Why are they even protesting?” asked a couple of young men who passed us as we walked toward the rally. “Isn’t it over?”

I shook my head and said, “No. The Army Core of Engineers denied easement, but DAPL proceeds. They’re fighting against the ruling and still very much on the ground in Standing Rock.”

“Damn,” murmured one.

“Yep,” I said, as Li’l D and I parted ways with them.

I’ve told Li’l D that there are hundreds of oil pipelines crossing portions of the U.S. Apart from transporting fossil fuels whose extraction contributes to climate change, they break and explode often, resulting in pollution, injury, and even death. While the rally was about one pipeline, I explained, it was also about all pipelines, fossil fuels, rights of indigenous peoples, and the rights of children who deserve better from adults. (He already knows about the inspiring Our Children’s Trust federal climate lawsuit, which can’t proceed quickly enough for me!)

Li’l D made his own signs, of which he was proud. He held them up for five or ten minutes before handing them to me. (Of course!)

d-signs

While he quickly grew bored, I was invigorated by the palpable love, passion, and commitment of the people around me.

I wrote last week about some of the many ways individuals can express their loving might. You are mighty, I concluded.

Marching yesterday, I felt in ways I can’t begin to articulate that our individual might is eclipsed by something else: Our might.

We are far mightier than we realize.

We are mighty.

 

Pennies together

A month ago, a dino I know talked me into joining Nano Poblano, her November daily blog post challege.

“No problemo!” I told her around roughly a half-dozen birthday beers. “I could write eight posts a day with everything I’m learning now!”

It seemed like a great idea, because beer.

image

Soon after starting the challenge, I discovered that writing about politics every day is exhausting.

It’s especially exhausting when you’re reading about all the very terrible things you never realized were being done with your tax dollars and votes.

I was wiped out by mid-month, so I started writing shorter posts. It was an improvement, but I was still tired.

By the end of the month, I was so very ready to be done … but I was grateful for the challenge all the same.

By forcing myself to write every day, I had to face a lot of questions and issues I might not have faced otherwise.

I had to face burnout, and to face the implications of burnout.

Something really, really good came from that: I stopped trying to obtain perfection. I sought “good enough” instead.

Seeking good-enough in my posts helped me understand the same approach is invaluable as a citizen approaching political change: There will never be the perfect moment or perfect information, so I must begin by doing what I can now!

I understand much of what’s led us to here and now. I understand you and I must band together now if we are to stop potentially cataclysmic climate change accelerating right now.

I don’t have time to keep reading depressing tomes on everything done wrong to date.

image

Depressing tomes read as of mid-November

I must begin pursuing solutions that might improve the future, since every second I waste stewing over what’s done is a second I’ve lost to change what’s ahead.

I can’t wait for perfect solutions. None of us can.

We must do the best we can with what we have, and trust we’ll gain more understanding and tools as we go.

I’m casting my pennies–my ideas, my hopes, my passion–into a save-the-world fund.

My pennies won’t go very far alone, but you know what? If we each cast in a few pennies, there’s no telling what we might buy together.

So, please: start casting in your pennies, even the ones that don’t look very shiny at first glance. Maybe shiny isn’t what we need, after all.

As our pennies amass, take stock of the totality of what we’re gathering and know: alone we can do a little, but together, we can and will change the world.

Thanks to Nano Poblano, coming posts on Learning to Speak Politics will be focused on seeking and building solutions.

Enough ruminating. There’s work to do!

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