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Can’t we all just get along?

Yesterday I delivered the “inspiration” at my Women’s Council of Realtors business meeting.  As I began to think about where to draw my inspiration, my first thought was Teddy Roosevelt because I just love his persona.  Then at the last hour I went to Susan B. Anthony.  I found out more about Susan B. Anthony in an hour than I ever could have learned in school.  I wasn’t interested in where she was born, or that she was a Quaker (and I really like Quakers) – how many pages her 6 volume book was.  What was compelling was that at 17 she was an abolitionist and began working for the equality and freedom of slaves.  In the 1850’s that took unimaginable courage – especially for a woman.  She was inspired to begin the suffrage movement when she was not allowed to speak at a meeting organized to support the abolition of slavery.  I can imagine her have a moment where she said “I coulda had a V-8!”  The irony wouldn’t have been lost on her – she’s at a meeting to serve the great cause of equal rights and her plumbing was cause enough for her to be silenced.  She would not be silenced.  That moment began a crusade that was her life work, culminating in the 19th amendment called the Susan B. Anthony Amendment to the Constitution being ratified.  Anthony had been dead for years by the time of its passage.

The political divide seems to grow exponentially with each passing day, administration, debt ceiling crisis, threatened shutdown of the government. Cable news pushes our emotional buttons, pokes at our bruises and broken hearts. Cable news producers have discovered the connection the “faux news” and the part of our brain that hooks our emotional center. The limbic system specifically produces/targets adrenaline flow, emotion, behavior, motivation and long-term memory. Our emotional life is largely housed in the limbic system, and it has a great deal to do with the formation of memories. Maybe this is why when we watch cable news with the will of a crack addict or listen to charged political radio in our cars or over breakfast not understanding the slow poison of this impact to our brains. It’s curious to me how perfectly rational people – people I know, highly educated and well read people turn into lemmings who only know how to parrot what they just heard. This experience feels like an infection – a virus – something that is out of our control. How frightening that our ability to be rational, to be a highly informed electorate seems to have evaporated into the coffers of Fox News. I do call out Fox news, not as a partisan jab, but because they seem the most egregious in their inaccurate sometimes outright false reporting of facts. They seem to purposely and purposefully slant facts that create waves of bigotry, false outrage, confused loyalties and finally despair and apathy. Personally – I have to fight the instinct to throw my hands up in response to our political system and the news.

Back to Susan B. Anthony. In my brief review of her accomplishments, her life, her courage, her spunk I came to the realization that as a culture, as a people, as an individual – I have much to learn about civil disobedience, about the patience needed to effect real change, to have an inspired thought and convert that into the will and energy to gather support and steer the boat in that direction. I had a moment of this inspiration and as family, the press, the incessant ratification of big and small lies is co-opted into mainstream news, 1 + 1 = 3, the earth is flat, the sky is purple, more recently, Obama is the reason for the two Ebola deaths in America, 50% of Americans are on welfare, and Benghazi really was a conspiracy of the Executive branch rather than a failure of the State Dept to communicate the issues and security of our foreign embassies and posts not being funded by congress. My first thought is that this is not the world Susan B. Anthony lived in – it’s an unexamined thought. She had nearly an entire gender who thought she didn’t have the intelligence to speak in public, to own property, to divorce, to vote. 1 + 1 =3. So either we find the spark of sanity, blow on the spark and turn that into embers and start a fire.

I hold myself accountable. I hold you accountable.

Here’ a beginning – we cannot ALL GET ALONG while we listen to the trash on the TV. Turn off the cable news, stop listening to the trash talk on the radio. Read the news – even from bias newspapers. The difference is that neuroscientists have found that the response from television centers in our limbic system (emotional) and the response from reading centers primarily in our frontal lobe which controls thought and reason. So when I read a newspaper, a blog, a magazine article I respond to that information with my frontal lobe – the center of reason, thought, logic. When I watch the TV news I question nothing, I react emotionally with my limbic system (fight or flight) and this reaction is seared into my long-term memory because that is the limbic system’s job….to remember the threat.

Once our minds have cleared, we can then tackle getting money out of politics, having 10 week election cycles, starting a third political party, term limits, reduction of the military budget (like that liberal hack Eisenhower wanted to) – taking care of our children and elderly. That’s a beginning.

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Armageddon is exhausting

Bible studies always seemed something other women did. Nice women. Women who have been married to the same man for 20 or 30 years, who have kids in the youth ministry. Women whose taxes are paid on time, who have savings accounts and homes with small mortgages. Not women like me. I’m the woman at the well. Three marriages, alcoholism, entire time spans I am unable to remember due to blackouts, I have been known to curse like a sailor. I have struggled financially despite making good money. I live in a rented cottage (that I love BTW) and the last marriage damn near put me out of business in more ways than one. I am a survivor who is beginning to thrive.

The metamorphosis from survive to thrive has included an effort to deepen my faith. A few years ago, I was invited to go to a bible study with a friend of mine at a local church. My feeble attempts to be self-directed in this effort had proved both boring, unproductive and another reason to doubt if I could ever be a “good” Christian. Growing up as a Catholic, we weren’t exposed to bible studies and I had honestly never missed it. Another path led me to a Presbyterian church, one where I enjoyed and learned from the sermons and I jumped in with both feet – singing in the worship band and volunteering in other areas. The church surrounded me during the very painful end of my relationship. It was in the last year of that marriage – the bitter end where I honed my skills walking on eggshells and keeping my mouth shut, that I began this journey of learning about my spiritual history. It’s a daunting task and I was apprehensive.

The first night arrived and I showed up early, paid the small fee for my workbook and walked into a large room with 8 or 10 tables of 10 women each. We introduced ourselves and were given the basic framework of the study for the next 12 weeks. My first was a study of David….David the hunk, the breakout star of his family, beloved of God. He was an adulterer, a murderer and he waged lots of war and was beloved of God. Much of the book of Psalms is attributed to David so he was a songwriter, a singer, and beloved of God. It was a challenge and at the same time, David was so very human (and super human) and in a strange way I related to him. I had my own sorted past where I woke up out of a blackout and did the walk of shame, or created such pain in my relationships, friendships and in my family from my addictions that I’m sorry would never be enough. The video rolled, the ladies sat with rapt attention to this delightful Texan with blonde hair who was full of “Amen’s” and “Thank you Jesus”. My years of attending mass had not prepared me for this experience. I was grateful for the Catholic church schooling me on the Psalms and despite my snap judgment of the video, the material and the presenter, I hung in, did the homework and began to study scripture with a passion and a will.

The past three years have been a an ongoing series of video driven bible studies on James, the Psalms, Isaiah, Thessalonians….and I ended up facilitating these at my own church with a much smaller group. I have grown to love and find community with these women – looking forward to each new study was blissfully challenged until last week when our study took us to the very cusp, just the breath of the end times conversation and straight into the book of Revelation. I woke up the morning after the first serious conversation centered on Armageddon – who gets to be lifted up – who is banished, the dragons, horned beasts, the anti-Christ…my head was on a rotisserie. I have artfully dodged this conversation for my entire adult life. As a recovering alcoholic/addict, I was convinced that the imprisoned Apostle John was on a very scary acid trip. There are as many points of view about the end times as there are Christian denominations. I have avoided them all like the plague. I preferred to be content with not knowing – that God is big, that he knows our hearts, and that the Gospel of Grace prevails.

Being in recovery and being a Christian is often life on the razors edge. Some Christians think that everyone must be a pronounced believer in order to rise on the last day. Others think the signs of the end times have already taken place. Still others believe that the end will happen in God’s time. I happen to believe that God is the Great Creator, that he also created geology which in turn creates new land and also creates earthquakes and tsunamis. He created us with free will – which means we come to Him voluntarily (or not) and that we have the free will to heal or hurt, we have the free will to love or hate. This isn’t a theological discussion and I am not a biblical scholar – more like a rookie. The discussion that horned beasts will foretell the coming of the Anti-Christ and we will be divided by who is saved and is not feels like a spiritual caste system. This is a big discussion – but the literal interpretation of this piece of scripture seems to not do it justice OR John, in prison, starving, 92 years old and alone – penned his deepest fears, his wildest imaginings of the end of time as a reflection of his own end. My Christian sisters might be wagging a finger or praying for my salvation if they read this.

On the other hand, my friends in recovery tell me to step away from that which makes me crazy. This makes me crazy, so for the moment, and for the sake of sanity and sobriety – I’m stepping away from the End Times. I will rely on the God of my understanding. I will leave the beasts, the Anti-Christ, the horned creatures to someone else’s imagination – I will leave it all in God’s good care.

I'm not a saloon girl anymore....

MisMatch.com

IMHOT4U: 63 year old slightly overweight, balding unemployed man who goes to the gym twice weekly, drinks moderately (translation – several sixers a day) seeks slender, fit and toned woman 40-49 who earns over 100K/year, has no children, is beautiful with sweet breath first thing in the morning, and is ready to devote her life to a relationship filled with little pills of various colors, hard work and future alimony.  If they only told the truth – this would be IMHOT4U’s real profile.

So I sound a teensy bit bitter….but I am a single woman in my middle fifties, more Rubenesque than slender but underneath the menopausal Ruben remnants is a fit person and don’t you know that I did martial arts in my 40’s, play tennis when my shoulders aren’t frozen and if I had time like kept women I could go to the gym and be fit and slender. It begins – My mind starts to vigorously defend my curves.

I boomerang from that dark place in my head to shades of Helen Reddy – “I am woman, hear me roar”. I am a reluctant “member” of Match.com. In this more self actualized place, my inclination is to walk away from the future possibility of bliss-filled mornings, sunset walks on the beach, candlelight dinners. Leave the world of online introductions and try it the old fashioned way. The bar scene doesn’t work – I don’t drink. I work long and intense hours and when I get home, the last thing I want to do is go be a prop anywhere. Church gets interesting – they are all married or really messed up and their ex spouses are in your bible study – how totally awesome is that?

It appears that the world of online dating has found yet another reluctant subscriber. Its a world of deception where there are men who say they are 57 – if they are 57, I am a slim 35. There are men who take photos of themselves in hot tubs or the swarthy shirtless shots (ewe), and others where they resemble a serial killer or an FBI wanted poster. I become alternately discouraged and terrified. In a vain attempt to take the high road, I honestly say I am 55, I am average rather than slender, I use real photos of me with and without makeup, I don’t drink and won’t join you on wine country trips….I get absolutely no response except from the shirtless 75 year olds resembling Charles Manson.

This process creates an obsession – a drive to enroll in weight watchers, cozy up to my favorite plastic surgeon and find a salon that offers just a little botox – which I have so far handily resisted. If only I had a tiny waist or had my boobs done I would be worthy. Its really a sick place that I only occasionally visit and thank God – not for long. Once in a while, a nice guy comes along which leaves me helpless and mind-tied because I am actually am a rookie at dating – and since I don’t drink, liquid courage is not an option.

I have women friends in my life who have simply given up – who defend their “NO VACANCY” signs by saying that they are happier without a life partner, that they could never get naked in front of a man again and are certain that something battery operated replaces the touch of another human being. While I understand this intellectually, I try to divorce myself from the concept that leaving my soul open to love again is an unworthy risk, an endeavor that results in desolation that I can’t bear and will cover up with “I’m FINE” (translated FUCKED UP, INSECURE, NEUROTIC AND EMOTIONAL). I see beautiful, successful women in their 50’s and 60’s that prefer their NO VACANCY SIGNS to the risk of rejection. I keep telling myself that I am in a business where rejection is a daily dish and I have very short toes – so bring it on baby. The truth is somewhere in the middle.

Match.com is a visual process – and despite what the advertisements say, its about your stats and your looks first. If you get past that, bravo – you might have an opportunity for a real relationship. Given all of this contradiction, confusion, mixed motives and messages, I remain connected to the fact that I am a single woman and that out there in the universe, there might be a guy who adores my mind and loves my Rubenesque curves, someone who wants to listen to jazz on vinyl, who can encourage and be encouraged…..I will never know if on my forehead is a bitterly blinking NO VACANCY sign.

Joe...

on Grief 11 years later

Before taking his light into the next room,  Joe spent his moments here protecting, healing the sick, mending the broken, embracing the addict and me.   Grief moved in to my heart and invaded my soul that day.   A decade later, still pays me the occasional call.

Fresh as yesterday, a song, a film, a book, a memory and I fill the tub with briny water heaved up until the fresh turns to a sea of sobs and snot.

Wild, gripping, wrenching, explosive, unpredictable.  Grief has no boundaries – cares little for timing.  Leaves me full and empty at the same time.

Grief  –  insists –  exhausts –  grips.  I open the ziplock bag with Joe’s scented scrubs breathe in deeply.   On special occasions I wear them to bed.  I pick up his long irrelevant cell phone and listen  – “This is Joe – leave a message” over and over and over again.

Grief demands this.

His departure shocking, sudden, unexpected – and I am left unprepared for these demands.  With indiscriminate cruelty, I am lulled into a blissful sleep only to drift back and crash into the shattered reality of my empty bed.

Grief,  the grim teacher reminds me that living is richer with this strange bedfellow.  It demands my full exposure, my naked soul,  the gut wrenching longing and ancient wailing that I share with no one for this is a most private relationship.

Always surprised by and strangely grateful for its return, more infrequent now but still insistent that I welcome wildness, without expectation and embrace full catastrophe.

The alternative is an unimaginable desert.