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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No More Misogynist Feminists

The title of this blog post is thanks to Madonna, who tweeted out same recently.

It took me a long time, I am embarrassed to say, to understand Madonna. I thought her in-your-face sexuality was a cave-in, a return to the subjection of women by sexualizing them. When, of course in fact, she was taking charge of it. Her “Boy Toy” belt buckle particularly rankled me. But just like the LGBTQ community co-opted “queer” to become a statement of power and ownership, Madonna co-opted and empowered her own sexuality by taking ownership of it.

Now Madonna has, in a succinct sentence, captured what I feel about women who aren’t voting for Hillary because they find her “untrustworthy.” Oh for God’s sake. Hillary has devoted her life to public service, her every move is scrutinized. I find it trust-inducing that the only thing her detractors can find to detract is missing emails that have not resulted in anything detrimental happening to our country–unlike the propaganda of WMD that led to the Iraq war, or the deliberate dishonesty that led to the housing bubble meltdown. . . Oh, the Clinton Foundation? The donation detractors point to was signed off by nine separate government agencies, not Hillary.

Ladies, tell me what it is about having a woman in the highest office in the country—a women who is more prepared to do the job than anyone in recent memory—that you just can’t abide. Perhaps it will be the illuminating of women’s rights—just like President Obama’s terms have illuminated the rights of Blacks—that you find disturbing. Equal pay for equal work, the right to decide what to do with one’s own reproductive system, the exposure of the casual, insidious sexism all women live with—these will naturally rise to the surface when a woman is President.

If you say you “distrust” Hillary, please form a thorough, coherent, fact-filled argument as to why. Vague intimations about her “corruption” or “untrustworthiness” are not facts. And when you’ve gotten your argument down and you think it’s a solid one then do a little more thinking and determine why this makes her uniquely unqualified to lead. Unlike, say, the generations of men in government, whose lives, when the rug has been lifted, have been rife with mistakes, corruption, and cronyism. I believe Hillary’s life of service is more committed, honest, and authentic than her peers. I believe she is more intelligent and prepared than anyone else has been for the job. If all you can muster against her is “untrustworthy” then your attitude is misogyny, plain and simple.

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The Call of the Wild Rice

Let’s go gather some wild rice. After all, it grows on the fresh water tidal inlet very near where I live. What? You’d rather go to Costco? Naw, we can’t go to Costco, not while there’s abundant wild rice just begging to be harvested. Do I know how to do it? Of course I know. How do I know? Well….I read about it and really, there’s nothing to it. You get in canoe, one person paddles around in the rice, the other person whacks at it with a stick and before long, wild rice is piling up in your canoe. Then what? You take it out. Obviously. There’s nothing to do after that?

Well. Probably. But I’ll find that out when we’ve gotten all the wild rice.

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Me, ricing

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My sister, paddling.

Not much rice is in the canoe. We decide the birds are eating it all. (There are a lot of red-winged blackbirds. Hundreds. They are on the rice stalks. This mollifies my sister somewhat since it tells her that this stuff we are attempting to harvest is, in fact, edible and not another one of my sketchy ideas.)

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Our harvest.

Obviously, the canoe did not get filled up with wild rice.I research what happens next. My sister goes to her house to take an allergy pill. Turns out she is allergic to nature. I dry the rice, as per YouTube instructions.

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I dry and parch the rice.

I parch the rice, ditto.

 

Next the rice needs to be hulled. YouTube says Native Americans stomped on it with soft deerskin thingies on their feet. That seems difficult.

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I squish it with my hands. Ouch. I don’t have soft deerskin mittens.

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I rub it with a rock I picked up on the Maine seashore. That seems to sort of work. But not really.

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Maine seashore rock.

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With hull.

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Without hull.

I hull the frickin’ things one grain at a time. I invite my sister over. She declines.

 

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The almost finished harvest.

I have taken “Gather Wild Rice” off my bucket list.

Cherish the Ladies

Our cyclocross season began last weekend with Rochester. A Category 1 race on Saturday and a Category 2 on Sunday. From my non-racer perspective, a C1 race means that the officials are Very Attentive about UCI rules. Must be wearing pit pass. Must have right size tires. Must not feed. The first two rules are yadda-yadda. The last is more of a problem. The “No Feeding” rule states that the racers can carry water with them, but cannot be handed water. However, many ‘cross bikes don’t have water bottle cages on them and skinsuits don’t have pockets. Cyclocross is a cold weather sport (theoretically) and the race lasts an hour, so the whole hydration thing isn’t supposed to be an issue. But it is becoming one, due to climate change.

On Saturday, when the Elite Women raced, the heat index was 97 degrees Fahrenheit. After their hour of racing, the women crossed the line for the final time and fell over. Literally. One racer was taken to the hospital for heat stroke. The race organization, seeing the sprawl of bodies, brought over bottles of water and ice. Now it was the Elite Men’s turn to race (they race after the women) and Rochester, a race organization that Gets Things Done, set up a hose to spray the men as they raced by and had people waiting at the finish line, handing out bottles of cold water to the men as they finished. Great! You say.

Not so great, I say. The race organization should have known that the very high heat combined with no water combined with strenuous activity would lead to problems. Why did they wait to see the triage that was the women’s race before instituting adjustments? Why, in a nutshell, were the women the guinea pigs?

The Rochester race organization is superlative and they put on a great race. They would deny this implication of neglect. And I would believe them. Because this casual judgment that women are less valuable than men is insidious. It is certainly not limited to cyclocross racing.

But you have to start somewhere and call it out when you see it. So let’s start here. Women work just as hard as men during the race. Elite athletes are elite athletes. Enough with the casual neglect that speaks of a blind spot.

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The Vulnerati

There is a pervasive myopia, and it is, that talent and success come to fruition solely by the genius of the person in question.

No one has ever done anything that is worthwhile alone.

There is always someone or someones who maintain the foundation of—lets call it that incubative stuff they put in petri dishes—that matrix, so that the cells can grow, unimpeded. There is always someone who provides one or more of the following: financial support, child care, housework, emotional support, intellectual support, physical support.

Leaving out this other half —and it is at least half—of the story in a profile of a successful person perpetuates the tired, and let’s face it, untrue trope of the solitary genius.

Walt Whitman had, not only his sister, but a wife to wait on him and take care of his every emotional and physical need so that he could create in petri dish splendor. Edward Weston had Tina Modotti. And so on.

I am looking forward to the day when a profile of a successful person—of any gender—includes the other half of the story, which is, of course, the whole story.

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