La La How The Life Goes On

Archive for March 2016

Forty-Four

Posted on: March 30, 2016

That’s how old I am today.

I feel good. I knew that I would now. I feel nice. Like sugar and spice.

Please enjoy these birthday memes that reflect my surprise that I am now as old as my mom was when I was a freshman in high school. I recall thinking she was extremely uncool. And old. As proof that all is right with the world, my children feel the same way about me. I was assured by Baby Sister, however, that I’m not super-super-horrifyingly old because I do not yet have “a floppy face.” Good to know. (*Runs upstairs to apply extra retinol*).

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A friend recently lost her grandson, suddenly and unexpectedly. In a time like this there simply are no words to offer in comfort. Megan Devine, a writer on trauma and grief, offers a beautiful and painful truth to anyone who feels compelled to say things like, “Things happen for a reason” or “It’s God’s plan” or “It will all work out for good.” Or for people, like most of us, who want to rush in and find a way to fix the hurt. Her truth is this:

Some things in life cannot be fixed. They can only be carried. 

Anyone who has lost someone special in their life knows this to be true.  A profound loss is never fixed, is never okay, is never erased. It is simply carried. As time goes on, the weight can feel lighter. And yet some days, even decades hence, out of nowhere it will feel like an anvil tied around your neck once again. This is grief and this is loss. And as much as it confirms our utter helplessness in its face, we all know that the only way out is through.

And so we stand with our friends as they carry their loss. We do what we can to carry it with and for them when they cannot.  And we try to offer words of comfort, offered by better writers than ourselves.

WH Auden, Funeral Blues

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.

Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling on the sky the message ‘He is Dead’.
Put crepe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.

He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last forever: I was wrong.

The stars are not wanted now; put out every one,
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun,
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood;
For nothing now can ever come to any good.

 

Philip Larkin, The Trees

The trees are coming into leaf
Like something almost being said;
The recent buds relax and spread,
Their greenness is a kind of grief.

Is it that they are born again
And we grow old? No, they die too,
Their yearly trick of looking new
Is written down in rings of grain.

Yet still the unresting castles thresh
In fullgrown thickness every May.
Last year is dead, they seem to say,
Begin afresh, afresh, afresh.

 

Kevin Young, Redemption Song

Finally fall.
At last the mist,
heat’s haze, we woke
these past weeks with

has lifted. We find
ourselves chill, a briskness
we hug ourselves in.
Frost greying the ground.

Grief might be easy
if there wasn’t still
such beauty — would be far
simpler if the silver

maple didn’t thrust
it’s leaves into flame,
trusting that spring
will find it again.

All this might be easier if
there wasn’t a song
still lifting us above it,
if wind didn’t trouble

my mind like water.
I half expect to see you
fill the autumn air
like breath —

At night I sleep
on clenched fists.
Days I’m like the child
who on the playground

falls, crying
not so much from pain
as surprise.
I’m tired of tide

taking you away,
then back again —
what’s worse, the forgetting
or the thing

you can’t forget.
Neither yet —
last summer’s
choir of crickets

grown quiet.

 

Langston Hughes, Island

Wave of sorrow,
Do not drown me now:

I see the island
Still ahead somehow.

I see the island
And its sands are fair:

Wave of sorrow,
Take me there.

 

100 Years

Posted on: March 21, 2016

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ota_Benga

I talk quite a bit in these pages about race in our country. I know those posts make people uncomfortable. I do it because in order for a wound to heal we have to first all agree that there is a wound in the first place. Then we have to disinfect it. Then we have to treat it with care so it can truly recover.

I receive messages asking why I think race is still an issue in our country. Why can’t people get over it? Why am I being held responsible for something I had no part in doing back in history? The short and incomplete answer is because that’s life. I don’t get to absolve myself of complicity because “I personally never owned slaves.” DERP. We pretty much all fit that category. A good number of us are descended from folks who did, though. But even if we aren’t, we live in this world, and this world is a product of white supremacy.

I was struck by the article above the other day. It details Ota Benga, a Congolese man who was purchased and brought to New York as part of a “human zoo.”

I’m just going to let that hang in the air for a minute.  I want you to read that sentence and feel the horror that should be incumbent upon all of us. A Human Zoo. In the United States of America. New York. Just 100 years ago.  During which The New York Times intoned:

“We do not quite understand all the emotion which others are expressing in the matter … It is absurd to make moan over the imagined humiliation and degradation Benga is suffering. The pygmies … are very low in the human scale, and the suggestion that Benga should be in a school instead of a cage ignores the high probability that school would be a place … from which he could draw no advantage whatever. The idea that men are all much alike except as they have had or lacked opportunities for getting an education out of books is now far out of date.

100 years. That’s about as long as we have been flying. The Theory of Relativity was posited by Albert Einstein in 1905. We were inventing the tractor, neon lights, plastics. So please let’s not pretend we were primitive humans who didn’t know any better, and let’s all get comfortable with the discomfiting truth:

Just 100 years ago, white Americans visited Human Zoos. The “newspaper of record” published a spirited defense of holding an African human man in a cage with apes. Millions of Americans agreed.

Have we come far in the intervening 100 years? Maybe. Unless you read the comments section of any web article about our biracial President of the United States or his Black wife, the First Lady of the United States. Or receive “joke” emails from senior citizen members of various southern republican county parties in which our president is depicted as an ape and his wife a bovine. Or, really, any Fox and Friends newscast where some talking head cannot help but work the word “ghetto” or “gangsta” into a discussion of our President and his (by all fair accounts) classy and decent wife and children.  Where the First Lady of the United States is referred to as a “Baby Mama” without apology. I spent my Friday on an Allen West community web page very literally sick to my stomach with the hate and the vitriol directed at the Obama family. Where his 14 and 17 year old daughters were called “hoes” and worse. Where numerous depictions of the First Family as animals were met with Thumbs Up from other commenters. And any attempts to point out this extreme prejudice is met with orders to “lighten up” or that “it was not meant offensively.” Or, worse, that it was entirely meant offensively because “those people are animals” who are destroying our country.

The charge against President Obama, of course, is that he has been “divisive.” That race relations are worse since he came to office because he has fanned them. I challenge anyone holding that belief to list the specific instances in detail. I also challenge you to consider that perhaps relations seem worse because President Obama became the focal point for people who always harbored racist views but who never had any real place to direct them (short of the usual suspect, Al Sharpton). But here’s the reality: Let’s walk into a room and turn on the light. If you see roaches scurrying, you are simply seeing what was there all along. The light didn’t attract the roaches or cause the roaches. The roaches were always there. You just shone a light on them and now you have to deal with the problem. Blaming President Obama for the hate directed toward him is like blaming the light bulb for revealing the roaches.

If you live in a world where you don’t interact with the folks on these websites you may truly believe that racism is dead and that the majority of people wish others well regardless of race. But I challenge you to spend even 15 minutes on a Donald Trump, Allen West or related site and you will be deeply and unequivocally changed forever. And believe me, the irony of seeing hateful racism on the web site led by a Black man is not lost on anyone. Except of course Allen West himself.  But I challenge you to do it anyway. Go to these sites. Read those comments. Take them in, seriously and substantively. I challenge you to consider, after 100 seconds on those boards, whether we are indeed so very far from where we were after 100 years.

http://n.pr/1MmFijH

That’s an article via NPR that asks, “If you set high expectations for your marriage, is it doomed?” It says, “Expecting a lot can make a marriage more satisfying, the study finds, but if people can’t meet those expectations — whether for lack of time, effort or social skills — the relationship will suffer. The study examines the premise that modern-day couples load too many expectations onto the institution of marriage — that it will meet their needs for intimacy, autonomy and friendship, to name just a few.”

I think we can all learn a little something from this study, whether we are newlyweds just back from Jamaica or old fogies coming up on a golden anniversary.What IS the secret to a happy marriage anyway? This study says it is a match between expectations and reality, even with a negative correlation. So even if your expectations for happiness were low, couples who met those low expectations stayed marginally-happily married.

I have found that one key to staying happily hitched is releasing your partner from the responsibility of being your Everything. Facebook is littered with memes about “I married my best friend” and “My husband is my world” and they always make me cringe a little. It sounds all very romantic, but it’s really actually kind of insane. What an awful burden to place on another human; to be your Everything. Can you imagine having to be the Funniest, Cutest, Hippest, Kindest, Coolest, Best Looking person your wife or husband has ever known? Every damn day? For decades? That’s not love; that’s unbearable, unrealistic  pressure borne of neediness. NO THANK YOU.

News flash: The funniest guy I know is not my husband. The hippest guy I know is not my husband. The coolest girl my husband knows is not me. It’s all good. That’s why God created friends. So your life partner doesn’t have to meet all these ridiculous expectations of being The Best, Most, Greatest At Everything to your spec. If my husband had to meet my every single emotional, social and psychological need he’d have little time for anything else except fighting about how he was falling short. This is why couples need to have and keep friends as a couple and as individuals. It can be easy to fall into the trap of thinking you only need each other. But we were individual people before we were a couple. We had friends of the opposite gender before we were a couple. We continue to have those relationships for a reason: because we need them.

We have married friends who take separate trips because they have such divergent interests. Some people raise an eyebrow at it, wondering why they don’t find a way to do things like that together. Well, maybe because doing what they love with others who also love it allows them to return to their home happy and renewed as a wife or husband. Should my husband ever decide to go white water rafting, he will be going without me. Skiing the matterhorn? Without me. Snorkeling? Without me. Listening to jazz for hours on end? Without me.  Should I decide to go shopping in Milan, you can bet the farm that my husband will be AWOL. Making a pilgrimage to the ABBA museum? AWOL. Stalking Duran Duran on a world tour? AWOL. It will indicate nothing about our marriage beyond the fact that we are secure enough to allow the other person the space to have their own interests. My happiness does not depend on my husband liking everything I like. His happiness does not depend on me traipsing along to every event he enjoys but that makes me want to stab myself in the eye. That is a preschool notion of relationships, and every marriage should strive to, at minimum, exceed toddler expectations.

So what does keep us together in the end? He’s my person. The guy I was meant to be with. The guy I want to spend every single day with. And he doesn’t have to be The Funniest, The Smartest, The Coolest, The Everythingest for that to be true. He just has to be who he is.

Although I wouldn’t say no to a little less jazz.

 

 

 

Linky Links

Posted on: March 16, 2016

Some brain candy for not-so-super-Wednesday.lumberg

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And just in case anyone thinks Ted Cruz is a decent alternative to Drumpf, please be advised that he wishes to create Christian sharia law. Because God told him to run. Samantha Bee breaks it down perfectly:

Iyanla Vanzant has a saying that I love: “When someone shows you who they are, believe them.” It means to take people at their word and actions. If someone acts like an ass to you, that person is likely an ass who doesn’t respect you. If someone cheats on you, that person is a cheater. Don’t make excuses for people who aren’t even making excuses for themselves. If someone tells you approvingly that his supporters are “passionate” and that he will pay the legal fees for their violence against those who disagree with him, BELIEVE HIM.  This Trump supporter tells peaceful protesters to “Go to Auschwitz.” This is the quality of human supporting Donald Trump. Trump and his mobs are telling us clearly what life will be like should Trump win the Presidency. Let’s believe them.