TMI

I’ve taken myself off Facebook and twitter, not that hardly anyone would notice. Except of course, me, which was the point.

I have shut the door to the party. Once, when I was a teenager, my mother and I were driving into Hartford and we passed by the huge brick Aetna building, I said to her: “I would like to live there so that I could have a party in this part—“ I indicated the vast right-hand wing, “but my room would be here—“ I indicated the equally vast left hand-wing “so I could be alone.” Naturally, she looked at me oddly. But what I was trying to say was that I love people and I love doing things to make them happy, but I find them overwhelming.

So that’s that. Despite FB telling me that so-and-so really misses hearing from me (doubt it) I’m sticking to my decision. Fact is, I don’t miss the party. I do wonder slightly if I am like the ostrich, but then again, I do my bit in my own way, so I feel okay about that.

Interestingly, E.B. White felt the same way about the effect of television: “When I was a child,” he wrote in One Man’s Meat, his book of essays published in 1938, “people simply looked about them and were moderately happy. Nowadays they peer across the seven seas, bury themselves waist deep in tidings, and by and large what they see and hear makes them unutterably sad.”

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Moving Along

I thought I’d tell you about how my life has changed since the election outcome. First, the good news for me, is that I’m white, albeit female so a certain part of my anatomy is apparently up for grabs, but at least I don’t have to worry about Neanderthal types yelling racial slurs or hitting me. So that’s good. But what’s bad is that I am stunned we humans are so tribal, so ignorant, and so full of base hatred for The Other. So I have to try to reconcile that.

But a very good thing has also happened, and it is that I feel united with the majority and I feel a sobering awareness to use my white privilege to stand up for the vulnerable. My sister-in-law told me, “My headscarf is ready if they start registering Muslims.” She is Jewish. But how wonderful to contemplate one hundred million people registering as Muslims in the United States.There is a power in behaving with decency that is less obvious than the shock-value of barbaric outrageousness, but it is the far stronger power, since it is based on values that enrich the soul, rather than corrode it.

“Against eternal injustice, man must assert justice, and to protest against the universe of grief, he must create happiness.” –Albert Camus

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There is Still Beauty

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This morning I watched two squirrels go back and forth, back and forth, leaping from branch to branch with mouthfuls of leaves, dressing up their nest. Yesterday I walked with a friend along the winter beach; the sun sparkled against the dark water, the sandpipers clustered, the marsh hawk silently soaring and the colors of rust, yellow, purple blending into a song of November.

There is still beauty. We humans are love and hate, kindness and cruelty. But the natural world—the natural world just is. And there is a great peace in that.

…Still, what I want in my life
is to be willing
to be dazzled–
to cast aside the weight of facts

and maybe even
to float a little
above this difficult world.
I want to believe I am looking

into the white fire of a great mystery.
I want to believe that the imperfections are nothing–
that the light is everything–that it is more than the sum
of each flawed blossom rising and fading. And I do.

Excerpted from The Ponds, by Mary Oliver

The Line in the Sand

If you voted for Trump

You voted for the KKK
You voted for suppression of women’s rights
You voted for the suppression of LGBT’s rights
You voted for a man who doesn’t pay taxes
You voted for a man who has never served his country
You voted for a man who abuses and insults women
You voted for a man who doesn’t pay his debts
You voted for a man who condones torture

And you know all this.

And whatever fears and frustrations and anger you have inside of you that convinced you that all of the above was not enough to disqualify him from the office of President of the United States says, unequivocally, that you are morally bankrupt.

Know this about yourself.

I live by principles that delineate a line in the sand I will not cross:

I accept personal responsibility for my behavior and my decisions. I don’t blame others and I don’t blame circumstances.
I cultivate compassion for others because there but for the grace of God go I.
I cultivate my own education because I believe an educated mind is one of the duties of being a responsible member of society.
I cultivate the personal courage to face my fears so I can learn and grow from them.

No amount of personal anger, fear or frustration will let me abandon these principles. Because if they go, I go.

What is your line in the sand?

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What’s Missing? Self-responsibility

I was raised by self-made, middle-class parents who taught me to value education, to read widely, to understand history, to travel (so I would be exposed to other cultures) and to give back.

I now understand that I was fortunate enough to have parents who taught me to develop the courage to grow with changing times. I was brought up not to fear change, but to educate myself to move with it.

As much as I can make out, the conservative mindset rests on fear. I recently read a statement that said the conservative agenda today is no longer a political viewpoint, but a rejection of modern society. Rejecting modern society is futile, however, because change is inevitable. Life, by its very nature, is growth and growth, by its very nature, is change.

The truth is that there is only one sure solution to feeling somewhat comfortable in ever-changing change. It is not to dig your heels in and become sullen and accusatory. The anger so many conservatives exhibit is a curtain that hides the fear of feeling inadequate and left behind. But, as Eleanor Roosevelt once said, no one can make you feel inferior without your consent. And so the answer to fearing, and therefore rejecting, the future is to create your own future. And that demands becoming responsible for your own life, which is to say, your choices.

So what are the building blocks of self-responsibility?

Educate yourself so you can be competitive, read broadly so you can be articulate, understand history so you don’t make the same mistakes, travel so you develop tolerance, and give back so you develop empathy.

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Mary Oliver Reminds Us in These Harsh Times

I thought it might be time for something beautiful.

In Blackwater Woods

Look, the trees
are turning
their own bodies
into pillars

of light,
are giving off the rich
fragrance of cinnamon
and fulfillment,

the long tapers
of cattails
are bursting and floating away over
the blue shoulders

of the ponds
and every pond,
no matter what its
name is, is

nameless now.
Every year
everything
I have ever learned

in my lifetime
leads back to this: the trees
and the black river of loss
whose other side
is salvation,
whose meaning
none of us will ever know.
To live in this world

you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it

against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go.

Mary Oliver

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Manners, People. Manners

Yesterday, Richie and I were in Rockport, Massachusetts, a picturesque little town on Cape Ann. There, we got into conversation with a resident. He talked about his work (owning and managing apartments) and how much he missed his wife of fifty-eight years who had recently died. We were three humans, connecting. Then I looked up and saw in his window, a sign: “Proud to be a member of the basket of deplorables.” Oh dear, I thought, a trump supporter. {Still!} We carried on talking in our friendly way and Richie mentioned that we were here for the Gran Prix Cyclocross race. I could feel the man pull back, in much the same way I had when I read his sign. Oh dear, his body language said, one of them. (The Gran Prix is not liked by residents because it tears up the park—although the race hires landscapers to repair it afterwards.) But we continued talking, continued connecting, because we are well-mannered people.

Currently, within the United States manners have been, by some, derided as “political correctness.” They’re not. They are an essential survival tool for a society. When manners go, society goes. Good manners towards another human indicates respect. No, you needn’t agree with their positions on things, but your display of good manners confers to them the respect due to another member of your society and by doing so—and this is key—you also establish to them, your own sense of self respect.

Invariably, rude people are insecure people. As President Obama recently observed about a certain someone who most decidedly lacks good manners, “he pumps himself up by pushing others down.” When we feel threatened—insecure—our instinct is to hit back to force our threatener to feel worse than we do. Ergo, we are not at the bottom anymore!

Manners prevent us from lashing out destructively while we (ideally) work out within ourselves that which is making us feel insecure. The process of working it out is self-responsibility. Accepting self-responsibility is growth. Growth feeds self-respect.

Courage: grace manners under pressure.

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