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… and fortitude

Last night, I went to bed crying. I felt like every bit of hope I’ve had these last few months was delusional.

I still feel that, but I did find a little spark in something that happened yesterday.

Midway through the afternoon yesterday, an old work friend texted me. “Are you at LAX right now?”

He was there with his wife. When we met up, he said they’d invited all their friends. None had shown up. They’d been there for hours when he went, “Wait! There’s no way Deb’s not here!”

Thinking of that today made me smile. I might not have hope right now, but you know what? 

Agree, disagree, hope, don’t hope, like me, don’t like me, I’ll show up for you.

I might not have hope right now, but I have love … and fortitude.

LAX 7 p.m. Saturday v. LAX 3 p.m. Sunday

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.

Shaping the future, together

My husband, Anthony, and I began 2016 with the movie Seeking A Friend for the End of the World.

It was so uplifting that I turned it on again after a few hours of sleep. When my then six-year-old joined me on the couch, we had a short exchange about it.

“Are you crying?” Li’l D asked when he joined me. “Yes,” I told him. I quickly explained the movie’s premise.

“So you’re crying because the world is ending?” he inquired, flopping onto the sofa.

“No.” I smiled, nodding toward the characters on the screen. “It’s because of what they’re making of what they have.”

Last night, as my husband wondered aloud how to ring in the new year. I suggested we watch Seeking A Friend again.

“That’s too depressing,” he replied. “Not that.”

“What? Are you kidding?!” I asked. “Now more than ever, it’s the most inspiring thing there is: a reminder of where and how to find hope in scary times.”

“Sure,” he said without a scrap of conviction.

All the same, we rang in the new year watching Seeking A Friend. We both cried, of course, as we agreed that something potentially heartbreaking was actually pretty darn uplifting.

Thus it was that a fairly random movie selection to begin one year shaped how I began the next.

As 2017 loomed, I’ve felt growing trepidation. Donald Trump will be U.S. president in a few short weeks, bringing in a cabinet that’s rejected any pretense of representing the American people. While elected officials have whittled away Americans’ rights in grievous ways over the last several decades, primarily representing corporations and very wealthy people instead, they’ve at least tried to maintain an illusion of representation.

The good thing about that illusion is many Americans less affluent still retained some important rights; the bad thing, that we retained enough of them that we weren’t really fighting to keep them or gain back those we’d lost.

When I said that the good in a Trump victory was that it would at least inspire people to mobilize and fight for our collective rights, I spoke based on the assumption we’d mobilize, and quickly.

Almost two months post-election, I’m seeing more grumbling and finger-pointing than mobilizing. This has concerned me, because the more time we spend squabbling over the particulars of a single election already passed, the less time we have to figure out how we’re going to work to protect each other now.

Watching Seeking a Friend in the early minutes of 2017, my heart eased. I remembered that there are lots of different ways we can help save each other by our individual acts. It’s not about the outcome. It’s about the processes involved in being for and with each other, and how we build our collective knowledge and capacity as we go.

What can I do as one little person against a machine so vast and devastating? I can act in accord with what I believe, not simply believe it passively. I can learn a little every day, and apply what I’m learning. I can share what I’m learning, and listen to what other people are learning to improve my own effectiveness.

I’ll re-register as a Democrat to vote for progressive Democrat delegates next weekend. I’ll continue to become more engaged with the Democratic Socialists of America and its efforts to bring unqualified equality to all Americans. I will, like at my first DSA-LA meeting, savor the opportunity to be surrounded by people inspired to act by a passion for equality, including experienced activists who can pass on their wisdom to those–like me–new to activism.

I’ll become involved in local politics. I’ve made my initial plans, though I haven’t shown up bodily for anything yet!

Most of all, I’ll continuously seek ways to connect people motivated by different but related causes. Fragmented into individual causes, we’ll have a hard time expanding the floor of the cage. Together, we’ve got a real shot.

 

For one two-hour work of fiction, I’m even more grateful this January 1st than I was the last. In that movie, the future was determined. The present moments leading to it were not.

In this reality, the future is not set. We can change what’s ahead.

Despite a few inevitable stumbles along the way, I believe we will.

Grandma Christine’s warmth

My seven-year-old asked me to see pictures of “Grandma Christine,” my mom. “I can’t remember what she looks like.”

It’s not surprising he doesn’t remember. He was only five months old when she died.

I told him I didn’t have many pictures of her. I explained that this was because she destroyed all our pictures while suffering from a kind of mental illness. I added that the loss of all those photos makes every picture I have of her all the more precious.

I promised to show him those pictures I still have, but a day passed. Another day passed. Yet anther day was apt to pass when he exclaimed an hour or so ago, “Your mom! I still want to see pictures!”

I sat down on the stool in front of my computer. Li’l D joined me there, snuggling up next to me as I loaded my tiny folder of photos labeled “Mom.”

The warmth of Mom flowed from those photos until I got to one longtime readers will recognize: the moment my mom met her first grandchild, and smiled a genuine smile for the first time I’d seen in years.

Li’l D scampered off to play with his new toys as I stared at the photo.

Mom and Li'l D

In my blog’s most popular post, “Dear Mom,” I expressed some of the abundant joys and sorrows of being my mom’s daughter. In the two years since I wrote that post, I understand the joys so much more clearly.

I also understand what a privilege it was to be raised by her. I know this might sound strange to someone who’s read about pieces of the poverty, abuse, predation, mental illness, and cancer that entailed, but those were mere fractions of an overall experience bound together by her love, compassion, forgiveness, and hope.

Had I experienced all that hardship without her insistence–and demonstration–there could be better, I would not be where I am today.

I like where I am today. I like how I am facing enormously complicated, harrowing truths while finding ways to effect change and retaining my optimism.

How do I know to do these things?

I learned them from my mom.

So today, as I remember the warmth of my son pressed against my side, asking questions about Grandma Christine, I also remember the warmth of being nestled against my mother.

The warmth itself fades, but the memory of that warmth is unquenchable.

Note: If you’d like to read more on the joys and hardships of being my mom’s daughter, please read the series I compiled–largely for my husband–last year:

Talks with old friends

I talked with an old friend yesterday morning.

She had made coffee at 6:15 a.m. so she’d be ready to chat at 6:30 a.m.

As I drove to work, Jane and I talked on the phone about many things. One particular exchange stood out after we hung up after I reached my office.

“I’m trying to give myself breaks. I can’t really effect positive change from a place of constant distress, y’know?” I said.

“I’m writing that down,” she replied. She felt exactly what I meant.

deb jane

Me and Jane, more’n a decade ago

I wanted to write down a lot of what we said, but I couldn’t.

Instead of marking the words, I marked the feeling: the feeling of safety that comes with having loved and quarreled with and come back to loving someone without reservation.

For the first time in what seemed like ages, my distress melted away. I was just Deb, chatting with a dear old friend and savoring every second of it.

I tried to return to the feeling of Jane-talking throughout the day. I’d find it in moments here and there, but it kept fleeing when I thought about all the change I wasn’t making happen right now!

Today was a little different.

I’d told Jane yesterday, “Rain is nice. When it’s sunny out, which is most the time here, I feel like I have to get things done. When it pours, the load is lightened. I feel so much more mellow, like, ‘You know what? Today would be a good day to do half as many things.'”

It poured today, as if to remind me.

After spending extra time in traffic this morning thanks to the glorious downpour, I stopped at a gas station and messaged my sister and a new, supportive Twitter friend, Michael, while filling my tank: “Wish I knew how to relax right now.”

Step away, Rache and Michael both told me. Take a social media break!

I smiled. I was grateful to have them looking out for me.

Soon after, I read with a little boy who asked, “Will you be coming back tomorrow?!” (“No,” I told him, “but I’ll see you again next month!”)

At work, we had our holiday party. I fought valiantly and won the only prize worth keeping: poop slippers, which I seized at the very last second.

And there was something else, too: I’d solved a riddle. Thanks to Jane’s candor, I was able to piece together some part of a truth it’s pissed me off to have perpetually just beyond my reach.

The joy from solving a riddle is directly proportional to the time and energy it takes to solve it …

… and whether a friend helps you solve it.

1012356 slurp

Same as always on Friday, I inched home slowly in Friday afternoon traffic.

Unlike always, I smiled all the way. Why? Well, wouldn’t you know:

I talked with an old friend yesterday morning.

largeleaves

The sweet convergence of past and present

Thank you for staying.

I owe my seven-year-old some snuggles, and I promised my husband I was about to step away from the computer.

I couldn’t step away yet, though. There was something else I had to say, so I sat here for a moment longer, trying to figure out what that feeling was. I finally found a name for it: gratitude.

I’ve learned a lot of hard things the last few months. They made me both sad and angry, and I showed lots of both those emotions. I’ve already said sorry for being a jerk, so I won’t dwell there again.

What’s left to say, I think, is thank you. Thank you for sticking around while I figured out what I believe, and how to start expressing it, and got back around to understanding we needn’t agree on much of anything to support each other in friendship.

I’m glad you stuck around. I’m glad you didn’t throw up your hands and go, “That’s it! The Deb I knew is gone! Done here!”

You could have. You didn’t.

Thank you for staying.

Thank you.

Categories: Blogging, Reflections Tags: , ,

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.

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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.

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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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