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Posts Tagged ‘hope’

Lessons in injustice, lessons in love

My mom and I share(d) a birthday.

This year, for the first time in many years, I didn’t write about it on my blog.

“It feels weird,” I told my husband at the end of the day. “But it’s not about how much I love and miss my mom. It’s about my changing relationship with my blog.”

Anthony ruffled my hair and said he understood.

This morning, as I sit cross-legged in the dark and listen to my boys snore, I am inexpressibly grateful for my mom.

From the time I was very young, my mom taught me about injustice. She pointed it out to me when it appeared in my life, and she explained it to me when I discovered signs of it in the great big world outside.

She showed me how injustice is systemic without ever using the word “systemic.”

She spoke occasionally with despair, but more often with hope: Nothing I saw was forever. Nothing I experienced could not be changed.

When my older son asks me about death, and homelessness, and Ferguson, I answer. I try to answer in ways that won’t overwhelm him or make terrible obstacles seem insurmountable.

As my mom once did for me, I want him to see injustice … and to know it is not inevitable. That his actions can chip away at it in small but meaningful ways.

Some of those I love think I am wounding him by sharing hard truths, but I know better.

By sharing them with love and hope, I also share with Li’l D my mom.

young mom

Mom at Li’l D’s age

Mom’s body died when Li’l D was only five months old, but her spirit lives on in me and my siblings.

It also lives on in our kids, who know–thanks to her–not only that injustice exists, but that it can be diminished by our fierce and loving acts.

This 11/5/16 post transferred from L2SP 9/15/17.

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Categories: Love, Parenting Tags: , , , , ,

starfish

This August has been beautiful. I may well be happier than I have ever been.


Me of last August could not have conceived of this. In a world so full of so much suffering that need never have been, how could joy be permitted? How could hope be reasonable?

Last September, I created a separate blog to learn to speak Politics. I (usually) didn’t want to bore or inflame people here, and beside that, life and politics were two mostly unrelated, easily separable things.

Simply put, I understood the world far, far too narrowly.

By documenting so much of my journey there, much of it was lost here. I helped sustain the illusion that life and politics are separate, and that they can be treated as such without consequence.

What does this have to do with happiness, anyway?

Quite a lot, actually. And explaining this has a lot to do with … starfish.

There’s an inspirational story where a person comes upon someone throwing starfish washed up onto shore back into the ocean. 

“Why throw a few starfish into the ocean when there are so many you can’t reach? What does it even matter?” asks the passerby.

“It matters a whole lot to the ones I throw back.”

There’s good in that story, of course, but it’s only part of the story.

How did all the starfish get there? Was it by natural forces absent humans, or did humans have a role? If humans had/have a role, what role? How do we change the outcome of multitudes of starfish left to dry out and die on the sand? If we treat only the outcome, and only for a few starfish, have we really done much worth praising, or simply forestalled death–for a few–for a few days?

A year ago, I didn’t know to ask such questions. Six months ago, I was pretty certain all was futile, but I kept asking questions in case I could reach a less grim conclusion.

Now, the questions flow easy, and I have a solid understanding of the gargantuan starfish-expulsion machine that lands so many starfish on the shore. It makes the sea pristine and spacious by extracting all unwanted–to it–life from areas it perceives as its domain.

I see the machine and I think, yeah, we’ve gotta throw back as many starfish as we can. Because even if we’re just buying those cast back into the ocean a few days, those could be the days that matter. Those could be the days it takes to break the machine and restore a more natural, kinder order to more living creatures.

Though I’ll slowly move many of my L2SP posts over, it’s not because I still believe all is eternally, hopelessly grim. It’s not because I want you to agree with me, or because I care if you do. 

It’s because a lot of work went from crashing into despair to rising back into hope.

This is where I have chosen to tell my story as it unfolds, so this story–about starfish and salvation–belongs here.

Categories: history, politics Tags: , ,

we will

On Thursday, I had an experience that kinda changed everything for me. I’m not able to write about it in detail, but the core of it was me asking:

Can you change any of what happened yesterday? No? Then what do we do about making tomorrow better?!

Yes, I wrote a sad post yesterday. Yes, it was about how much yesterday influences today, especially for people who grew up in chaos.

But, you know what? That was already the remnants of something that had to be let go, for me to move on.

Because in that moment of arguing for tomorrow (and someone going, the next morning, “DEB FOR PRESIDENT!!!”), I saw: 

This is what it means, to show care for what happens next, for everyone’s children.

My own littlest is snuggled next to me as I type this and think,

Fuck, yeah. The future’s gonna be okay.

We can–and will!–make it that way!

Categories: Reflections Tags: , , ,

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 margin hearts

This morning, I finished William Deresiewicz’s Excellent Sheep: The Miseducation of the American Elite. I daresay I drew more hearts in the margins of its final chapters than in total throughout all the other books I’ve read this last year.

Most of what I read doesn’t really warrant being smattered with ♥♥♥. It’s mostly grim, and blunt, and important for me to keep reading no matter how much it hurts my figurative heart when I do.

Some of what I’ve read goes beyond describing what’s wrong and into envisioning what “right” might look like. It’s those visions of something better for all that inspire me to draw hearts in the margin of my non-fiction reads. My highlighter hearts are the opposite of all my furious, borderline hopeless margin notes, which speak to the hard work I’m doing with my head. Margin hearts, on the other hand, reflect the hard work that I’m doing with my heart: finding the chutes of green among the rubble of American inequity and militarism, searching for and attuning myself to voices of hope with dust still heavy in the air.

sample shelf.png

Books are oriented three different ways on my in-progress shelf. The leftmost books, with words falling down like rain, are books I’ve already finished reading. Books with words climbing upward are ones I’ve begun, but have set aside for the moment. The remainder, I’ve yet to start reading. Read more…

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).

Hope in the Dark

In 2015, my goal was to read one book per month. I barely reached it, but was glad to have beat my 2014 reading. Having grown up immersed in books, it depressed me to have lost my stamina for reading.

This part-year, by contrast, I’ve already read almost twenty books. I’ve crammed in minutes of reading wherever I could, trying to learn more about the many connections between seemingly unrelated phenomena. Understanding these connections has felt pivotal for being able to describe them, especially those least intuitive, and perhaps find ways to help effect much needed, positive change within and outside my home country.

I spent several months last year in a state of genuine shock at the world I saw uncovered by my book reading. I’d vaguely understood there were some injustices happening somewhere out there, but only began to comprehend their scope and scale last summer. Seeing how many millions of people have suffered and died needlessly, whether of hunger or treatable illness here or bombs and drones abroad–for decades, under command of U.S. Republicans and Democrats alike–sent me toppling into despair.

I don’t regret raging. I don’t regret grappling aloud with my despair. These are understandable, even appropriate responses to discovering what great and sweeping cruelties have been and are being worked by my country right now.

Even when the shock finally wore off, anger and great sadness lingered. I stumbled forward with little hope, desperate but clueless about how to start working effectively now for a better world for my children … indeed, everyone on this planet.

Genuine hope finally found me a few weeks ago. It came (wouldn’t you know it?) in the form of a book. Read more…

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