Defining Purpose

Note to you, my friends – this post contains some political opinions which may likely differ from yours.  I respect yours; thank you in advance for respecting mine.

Hi,

The night merged at some point with the morning, although I honestly can’t tell you at what point that happened.  Yet here we are, 5:00 AM – the Sirs walked and fed, the sun preparing for its entrance stage right, and somewhere behind the clouds, the moon is tiredly anticipating some rest.

I’m over-caffeinated, over-tired, and my thoughts are a muddled reflection of both.

I alternated between watching our election returns and watching ‘The Crown’ on Netflix.  Arguably one offset the disbelief that informed the other.  I despair of the choice the US has made.  It isn’t the despair associated with backing the losing candidate – one reaches a point in life where loss is not unfamiliar; rather something that winds its way around the soul, infusing it with a sense of dread, a shortening of breath that mimics a mild panic attack when one tries to determine what is going to happen next.  I am not going to offer you chapter and verse of my concerns and/or fears – they matter little in a forum which precludes dialogue.

My mom told us that following Kristalnacht, my grandfather went to synagogue with the belief that what was needed was more prayer.  Whether his assessment was right or wrong is not for any of us to say.  He lost brothers and sisters in the Holocaust, my mother bore the internal scars of a survivor with a burden on her teen-age shoulders that was unfairly weighted.  Yet, my grandfather, grandmother, mom and uncle made it here along with a few other relatives.  Was it faith that got them here?  Certainly, there were millions who perished who were equally righteous.  Serendipity?  Luck of the draw?  I have no idea.  I do know her reverence for this country, the way her eyes welled when she even mentioned Ellis Island – her belief that her life was to be lived for those who had not.  She was a complicated woman; she was a woman of valor.

Her perception of her purpose for being was fraught with ambivalence.  How the heck can an adolescent assume the responsibility for so many lost lives?  How does an adult fully actuate when she identifies herself with such a legacy?  Somehow it all got distilled into taking care of her family – and that was both a blessing and a burden, I think.

During one of the episodes of ‘The Crown’, the Queen Mum, still mourning the loss of her husband, her home (ok, Buckingham Palace isn’t exactly homey, but still…), reflects that these losses were deepened further by the loss of her purpose as a mother.  Her girls were grown, their paths understandably not reflective of any maternal need.  And so, she wonders what her purpose may be.

Switching back to the election results with tears spilling down my face…I’m identifying way too much.   Here I sit, in a temporary house with and without Andy (he’s still working in VA),  my sons fabulously grown, retired from a career which was defined by taking care of others and anticipating strategies for future success (within my purview).  What is my purpose now?  What is my place in a country in which I am not sure I am a part?  We have done such a powerful job of alienating each other, pouring vitriol as gas on a flame.  We have blamed and shaken fists, self-righteously proclaimed opinions with no regard for debate and conversation.  We have been disrespectful and judgmental, narrowing the width and breadth of love for humankind, replacing it with some weird sense of superiority.

So, before I devolve into Alice when she was carried along by her own river of tears, I demand to know what am I doing here?  What the hell is my purpose?  Here’s my short answer – I’m here to chart a path where I can make a small impact (let me tell you how challenging it is to try and volunteer anywhere – no, better save that for another day), I’m here to show that there is more to this world than self-important excuses and justifications for things that are just not justifiable.  I am here to love my family and small circle of friends to whatever degree they need that love.  I am here to breathe deeply and try to blunt some of the painfully sharp edges that reflect our current narrative.  One smile perhaps at a time, one genuine moment at a time.  I’m here to grow really, really, really old (I pray reverently) and take up my small space with unflinching love.  Even when I don’t see it.  Just means I have to look harder.  So world, I’m coming for you…after I take a nap.

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Saying ‘Yes’ – Though I Really Don’t Know

Midlife – Julie Cadwallader-Staub

This is as far as the light

of my understanding

has carried me:

an October morning

a canoe built by hand

a quiet current

above me the trees are

green and golden

against a cloudy sky

below me the river responds

with perfect reflection

a hundred feet deep

a hundred feet high.

To take a cup of this river

to drink its purple and gray

its golden and green

to see

a bend in the river up ahead

and still

say

yes.

If there is anything that the last few days has taught us, it’s that we can be awed, humbled, frightened, moved and bested.  We can be rendered powerless and exhibit mind-boggling levels of strength and determination.

I can’t help but notice how simply exhausted the trees look.  Everything but their trunks looks bowed and submissive.  I feel like they need the winter.  They need the rest.  As impressively as they stand, as they cradle the birds (who were having an absolute flight fest yesterday as they celebrated the end of the storm and were just heading in droves over to each other’s houses to catch up on the neighborhood news), as they release their leaves, I can feel them sigh.  It’s enough.  Just a little break, a time to be fallow.  It sounds silly – I look at them and my eyes fill.

I had the misfortune of hearing an Ann Coulter sound byte where she was opining about the presidential campaign in the States, and defended her use of the word  ‘retard’ as a descriptive.  My shoulders sagged, my head bent and my breath caught.  Really?  Please don’t lecture me on the finer points of free speech.  I’m tired.  I’ve wearied of the season – the glaring examples of ugliness, the mean-spirited back-and-forth that in my view diminishes any substance to drivel.   Name calling – on Facebook, Twitter – are we done yet?  I am interested and intrigued by opinions other than my own, but honestly I don’t do offensive posturing well.  You lost me with your first epithet, your first invective.  I’m done.  I need the arrival of the fallow season.

I try (emphasis on ‘try’)  to ask myself a few questions before I open my mouth (unless I’m singing of course) – “Is it honest?”  “Is it true?”  “Is it kind?”  Would that these would be the rules that govern our more incendiary social conversations.   Of course I realize that there are many who prefer the in-your-face discussion, voices raised, opinions morphing into facts – bet they don’t like me very much.  I will not engage.

And so the day moves inexorably into its morning, and the sun is still hesitating to make an appearance.  As the clouds cast shadows on the remaining golds and reds and yellows above me, I honor the insistent posture of the trees.  I stand with the people who have lost so much and still rise with some belief and inner conviction that there will be a new season.  And though I am not sure why, I too say ‘yes’.

Swinging? Like On A Star?

Ok, at last check there have been over 19,000 hits on this little blog o’ mine, and I am beyond amazed that there are more than three people following me on a regular basis (well, seven if you include all the kids..um…eight counting my sister…ok, my sister-in-law and parents-in-law – that’s eleven).  I feel a responsibility to you – to be as honest as I can be and with any luck, be occasionally interesting.  If something tickles your inspirational fancy – all the better – it makes my day.

But there’s something going on in the media which is so blatantly flawed and untrue I feel it only right that I try to set the record straight – at least among my friends. You’re welcome to share this with whomever you choose, or just keep it entre nous – your call.

Every news channel, newspaper, e-magazine, etc is referring to Virginia and Florida as “swing states”.  Friends, I’ve lived in Virginia for twenty odd years now.  There is nothing ‘swinging’ about Virginia.  Nothing.  Nada.  Nil. If anything, we would take umbrage at the intimation.  Forget that whole ad campaign “Virginia Is For Lovers” – we’re as much for love as any other state (except Hawaii which is all about love).   We  have a lot of Civil War battlefields, Jefferson’s home (ok, there may have been some swinging going on there, but who’s here who can provide any specifics on that?), a couple of good amusement parks and some great wineries.  Arguably one could go zip-lining in the Shenandoah and you might swing a little if you choose to do that.  We have big malls, strip shopping centers, a lot of geese (who by the way are monogamous), farms and some gently rolling hills.  The swings in our playgrounds don’t even go very high (or low).   I have some friends who have experimented with ‘swinging both ways’ – but none of them live in Virginia.  They’re in DC and Maryland.  We don’t even do much swing dancing here.  Most of us don’t know how to do it (although my in-laws are quite good at this).

And Florida – really?  Have any of you been to Florida lately?  Of course not, it’s the summer – who goes to Florida in the summer?  And those people who live in Florida through the summer aren’t allowed out of their houses, for they’ll keel over from the heat if they venture forth.  Yes, DisneyWorld is there – and when I visited with the boys twenty-five years ago, some of the rides did swing a bit.  Save for that and the disruptions of hurricane-force winds, there is nothing moving in Florida, let alone swinging.  Wait, I’m wrong – golf clubs – yes, there are golf clubs swinging in Florida.  Is that what we’re talking about here?  And if so, what the heck does that have to do with any reportage about the election?  Does either candidate want to golf?  No one’s asked me, but I wouldn’t think now is a good time.

Sigh…this is but one of the many reasons why I’m a political neophyte.  If I think the terminology is strange and incredibly inaccurate, you can only begin to imagine what I think of the theatrical productions.  This is why I stick with Broadway – things really swing there.