Thursday, July 29, 2021

Love and death

I think about death a lot.  I don't know if I think about it more or less than most people, but I do think about it a lot.  And it scares me, I admit it.  There are so many ways to die, and a lot of them are painful and some of them are gruesome and we don't get to know when ours will happen nor what it will be like.  (Yes, I use 'nor'.  I can't help it.)

Mostly, though, I'm not thinking about my own death, but about Sweet Hubby's.  Even just the thought sometimes feels almost impossible to survive.

But - Sweet Hubby and I have had good lives, and have shared a good life, for a lot longer than some people get.  We've had our injuries and crises, but nothing that has left either of us diminished.  I need to remember that, focus on that, be grateful for that, instead of being so fearful.  And I am, terribly terribly grateful for this life and for this marriage.  I am grateful to Sweet Hubby for being the wind beneath my wings, and to my family for giving me wings in the first place.  So I'll think about that.  A much nicer thought.

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Those damned Christians

I am reading Robin Wall Kimmerer's beautiful, poignant book Braiding Sweetgrass.  Early in the book she shares the Native American legend of Sky Woman, a story full of the bringing of life, the sharing of resources and spirit, growth, soil, animals, plants, harmony, beginnings.

Compare that to the legend of Eve, a story of exile, shame, guilt, the curse of menstruation, the pain of childbearing.  I can't help but wonder why anyone would choose to believe in a god who is so judgmental, so cruel, who forbids the first humans to hunger after knowledge and punishes them and all of us ever after when they disobey.  And we do choose what to believe; let's make no mistake about that.  

So much has been lost to the world by the Christian/European purposeful, systematic destruction of this country's indigenous cultures.  (The same is probably true of Australia and Africa and no doubt anywhere in the world where superior weaponry overwhelmed and decimated superior thought and natural ways of living and relating to the natural world.)  I don't kid myself indigenous people's didn't struggle or wage wars or dominate others.  But the way they have been treated, mistreated, virtually eradicated by intruders and conquerors is an almost unfathomable wrong.

I despise religious institutions, most of which were at first attempts to codify spirituality but soon devolved into being about power and suppression and wealth and division.  I find Catholicism especially disgusting, and, again, wonder why anyone continues to buy into an institution that has given the world the Magdalena laundries, the schools that tore indigenous children from their parents and hammered on them to drive out their native languages and customs, the priests who have abused legions of children without consequence, the towering cathedrals full of gold set in starving towns and cities.

I know it is considered rude at best and shockingly inappropriate at worst to denigrate other people's beliefs, to which I answer "Have your beliefs, cherish them, follow them, but do not for a moment think yours take precedence over anyone else's, that yours are better, than anyone but you needs to believe what you believe.  Your relationship to the Great Whatever is yours alone.  Be content with that and quit judging everyone else."

As Richard Dawkins points out in The God Delusion: there are no Christian or Buddhist or Jewish children.  There are only children born to Christian or Buddhist or Jewish parents.  Left to themselves, every child to would come up with her own mythology and origin story and tenets.  If only we were all allowed to do that, to decide for ourselves individually what we believe, what makes sense to us, what helps us answer the unanswerable questions of how life began and what it all means.  If only.

One last quote from someone who was a heck of a lot smarter and more eloquent than I:

Imagine there's no heaven
It's easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us, only sky
Imagine all the people
Livin' for today
Ah
Imagine there's no countries
It isn't hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion, too


Monday, July 5, 2021

The glee club

I have soliloquies going on in my head (mind? brain? imagination?) pretty much non-stop.  And because I figure I'm probably like everyone else, I assume you do, too.  These un-throated voices have been given lots of names: old tapes, itty bitty shitty committee, etc.  I call mine the glee club.

While these voices address an infinite number of topics, there are prominent recurring threads which have been with me my whole life.  They are:

1) I'm ugly, fat, stupid, old, a worthless idler, a fraud.

2) I'm special.  I'm capable of special things, I'm meant to do special things.

These feel very, very personal, of course, but I'm also guessing they are fairly generic and that most people have some version of both.  But I'm curious about that.  What does Trump say to himself?  I'm thinking that if he has only one of those voices, it's probably loud and fierce, and it's a toss up which one it might be.  What were the messages my dad gave himself?  He was clearly wrestling with demons he wasn't able to talk about.  What were his inner soliloquies?  The woman at the bus stop, the grocery clerk ringing up my produce, the daughter of my friend who died.  What do they think about?  Not the conscious thinking of "here's what I'm doing, here's what I'm going to do", but the sometimes insidious, constant background chatter that tells us who we are and what we are or are not worth.

3)  This one is a question, The Question.  Everyone has a central question, a question that is never answered and the asking of which defines us and guides our actions, our choices, our entire journey.  The Question is always particular to each person.  "Am I winning?"  "Can I trust you?"  "Am I safe?"  Mine is "Do you still like me?"  Not "Do you like me?", because I've always known I could get people to like me.  But it's fear of losing that affection, that amity, that haunts me.  It has caused me to hang on to and keep feeding friendships which are no longer alive.  It causes me to spend hours and hours on email every day (I guess the way some people are on social media).  It eats up Christmas, which, since I stopped giving and receiving presents,  has become a time of writing and mailing soooo many cards, even to those people with whom my only connection is that once-a-year hello.  In the past, it has inspired me to make myself the center of attention in every classroom and party.  Since people might not still like me if they knew my true self (see #1), I would at least make sure they found me entertaining and amusing.  (I can see now that I may have been exhausting to be around.)  

Since uncovering that question, pulling it to the surface so that I can work with it instead of simply being driven by it, I find I am more able to calm down and allow people to take me or leave me as they will.  I don't want my whole life to be about being liked.  There are so many more fruitful pursuits than that.  I accept that some people will, indeed, stop liking me at some point, and some will even actively dislike me, as difficult as that is to believe.

One of the most important steps in maturation is taken when we stop defining ourselves by what parents, teachers, friends, our culture tell us we are and begin deciding for ourselves what we want, what we can do, where we are going.  Another step is to stop letting those internal voices define us.  They will always be there; at this point I have no reason to think they'll disappear.  But I don't have to listen to mine, don't have to believe them.  Whether I'm stupid or special doesn't matter.  I just am who I am, I do what I do, I behave how I behave, I improve in the ways I am able to, I indulge in weaknesses sometimes.  I am responsible for myself.

I'm still intensely curious about you.

Monday, June 28, 2021

It's ho-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-ot!

There is a remarkable heat wave where I live right now.  Remarkable in that it's earlier than usual, and also because it's all anyone seems to be talking about.  Yesterday it got up to the 90's inside the house.  Hardly anyone has air conditioning, you see, because this kind of heat is not expected, not here, not this early in the summer, not for this long.

Sweet Hubby and I have fans going in almost every room, and our poor little kitty in his fur coat is sprawled on the floor, barely interested in food, which is also remarkable.  I'm not working out, am not focusing well on anything, but just sweating and drinking water and staying as cheerful as possible, or at least being not too crabby.

This kind of swelter, of course, brings to mind global warming, more aptly called climate change.  It's difficult not to feel terribly anxious about the catastrophe we humans are making for ourselves and the planet.  I'm more worried about the melting ice caps, because once they melt, they ain't coming back until another ice age.

However, I've decided that, rather than be anxious about something I have no control over, I'm going to be very philosophical about this wretched mess.  It looks as though we humans simply aren't going to make the changes we would need to in order to reverse, halt, or even slow the damage we are doing.  And in the end, we are only damaging ourselves.  The earth will heal just fine after we're gone.  Look at Chernobyl, which has become a lush natural preserve after all that devastation.  True, we're taking a lot of other species down with us, but life will continue on the planet once we've done ourselves in.  I certainly can't point a finger at anyone else.  I still drive a car.  It's a hybrid, true, and I take the bus a lot (pre-COVID), but I do drive.  And I travel by plane (pre-COVID) and do all sort of other activities that contribute to the degradation of the planet.  And even if I stopped all of that and lived much more simply, me doing it on my own wouldn't make the slightest bit of difference.  The changes have to be global and they have to be mandated and that's just not going to happen. 

So I'm going to live and enjoy my life, with apologies to the generations to follow.  I'm still going to recycle and compost and turn off lights and take the bus, but I'm going to stop feeling so anxious about it all.  Earth will abide.  We humans will get our just desserts.

Friday, June 25, 2021

Kids - who needs 'em?

I have never wanted children.  Maaaaaybe if I had ever married someone who a) I thought would stick around, 2) would be a great dad, and 3) wanted children himself, I might have considered it.  But my first husband had already had two, to whom he was a neglectful dad, and he'd wisely chosen to get a vasectomy.  Sweet Hubby most definitely does not and has never wanted to be a father.  And I just haven't ever felt that maternal pull.

I am curious about how it is that some people know they do want children.  Where does that impulse live?  In the uterus?  In the guts?  In the mind?  I think about being a mother, and immediately what comes to mind is "Whew, glad I didn't."  My life would have been so different.  Maybe better in some ways, although it's hard to imagine it could be better than it is now.

Part of not wanting to have children has been about enjoying the freedom of choice and movement I have always had, but part of it is just plain cowardice.  I think being a parent takes more courage than just about any other venture I can think of (although bungee jumping is high on the list of scary stuff).  I can barely imagine what it must be like to allow one's child to cross the street alone for the first time, or how hard it must be when their hearts or bones get broken, or when they make choices that seem destined to end in disaster or are simply too different from what one would choose for them.  My life must have been terribly challenging for my parents since just about every choice I made as a young adult probably seemed perilous and way outside their square-cornered boxes.  They tried to advise and sway, but mostly resigned themselves to letting me make my mistakes and then pay the inevitable prices.  Could I do that, or have done that, if it were my child?  All I can do now is wonder.

No, I'm glad to have lived my life as I did, and don't regret nor grieve my childlessness.  However, as I age I find myself wondering who will show up for me when I'm old, old enough to need  help and company and cheering up.

When Mom died, which was unexpected, my sister and brother and I immediately showed up for Dad.  I mean immediately.  He and Mom had been on vacation, on a river boat on the Mississippi,, and my sister and I were there are the airport to greet him when he flew home alone.   We basically never left him.  My sister especially, with the rest of us pitching in, spent the next - and last - year of his life making sure he was taken care of and not alone. 

Who will do that for me if and when I need it?  I'm pretty close to my nieces and nephews, but none of them lives close by, and they all have their parents and their children and their lives.  I can't really expect them to stay with me (although I do expect visits and will make sure they know that, gosh darn it).  If SH dies before me, who will ease the aloneness?  Thinking about this is the one and only time I wonder if maybe having kids might have been a good idea.

Is it possible to adopt a 40-year-old, do you suppose?

Thursday, June 10, 2021

Is this how Tippi felt?

I'm sure I'm not the only person (I tend to assume that if I have a thought or feeling, most people have had the same thoughts and feelings; I think of myself as sort of spectacularly average) who has fantasized about wild animals being drawn to me, because they recognize my Snow White-like grace, charm, and innocence.  I've imagined birds landing on my finger, wild bunnies taking carrots from my hands, raccoons exploring the contours of my face, deer approaching to be petted.

This fantasy, of course, ignores the fact that wild animals are wild.  What they know how to do is survive in a world where they can only eat what they kill or find.  Actual encounters with wild animals are dangerous, and would be made more so if I actually gave expression to that fantasy.

This has been brought home to me just recently.  Three times this week, I have been divebombed by different pairs of crows as I walked through my neighborhood.  I understand they were only protecting nests, and they didn't hurt me or anything, but even so, it was scary.  They flew so close, I could feel the rush of air from their wings as they went by, and they cawed loudly right into my ears.  They were relentless, truly committed to driving me away, and no matter how many times I assured them that I was just trying to get home, they kept at me for several blocks. 

If (or perhaps when; I tend to think it's inevitable) there is a massive infrastructure breakdown of some kind, and there is no grocery store and no hot and cold running water, I don't think I'm one of the people who will survive.  Nice to know the crows will be all right, though.

Saturday, June 5, 2021

A reluctant lark

I wish I were more like my mom.  She was the nicest, most good-natured, loving person ever born.  But I'm more like my dad, moody, spiky, with a tendency toward passive aggression.  Like Dad, I was a natural night owl, and could barely stand Mom's morning cheer.  When I was a teen, she would come into my bedroom and throw open the curtains, singing "Rise and shine and greet the new day".  No matter how much I growled or whined, she never seemed to catch on to the fact that her a.m. energy was too much for me to bear gladly.  Although I eventually became less grumpy when I woke up, even into adulthood, even into seniority, I could stay up until midnight or later and sleep until mid to late morning.

The past few years, though, I have been alarmed to see myself turning into a morning lark, unable to sleep past 6:30, sometimes awaking as early as 4:30.  I see now that when I was wishing to be more like Mom, I should have been more specific.  This was not the trait of hers I wanted to emulate.  These days I find myself nodding off at 10:30 in the evening, sometimes missing chunks of whatever movie Sweet Hubby and I are watching or whatever book I'm reading.  I fight the sleepiness, grimly avoid going to bed until at least 11pm, but my days of being a night owl seem to be behind me.

Of course I realize that it makes perfect sense to simply surrender to sleepiness whenever it occurs, taking a nap or going to bed early, waking up when my body is ready to.  Why fight it?  It's not as though I have a job I have to get to, or deadlines I have to meet.  Why all this resistance to my natural, though changing, rhythms?

I've come to see that it's a matter of identity.  I have always identified myself as a night owl.  There have been times I would stay up all day, all night, and all the next day and be perfectly fine, with no loss of energy or spirit.  So to find myself snoozing and snoring before the crack of midnight makes me feel old and not myself, not who I think myself to be.  Giving up my identity as a night owl feels like a concession to age, like taking the legs off my step bench in order to still do those vigorous workouts without collapsing.  And if I make those concessions, isn't that just admitting I'm old, and won't the aging process speed up because I'm conceding?

Since I can't seem to change my body, I guess I need to change my attitude.  So here goes:

I am grateful to have lived long enough to experience the ravages and detriments of aging.  And I'm going to do my best to live as though aging gracefully will extend my healthy life by ten years.

So there.