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I have a 5 year old little boy and it has been a hard few weeks to be his mother.

It was hard to turn on the news.  Hard to listen to the names and see the faces of those murdered. Hard to hear about a child being taken at gunpoint and held underground for a week.  Hard to contain maternal hatred for men who would perpetrate such horrors. Hard to contain tears of gratitude and grief for those who stood between a gunman and children to die more valiantly than most of us could ever hope to live, much less die.

It was hard to process the mixed feelings of relief and shame at that relief because the only thing that was different about me and someone else was their unimaginable loss and grief and my luck and chance not to have lived where they did.

Then a murder/kidnapping on a school bus 20 minutes from my parents’ house where I grew up – 10 miles from the bus route my daughter rode for years – reminded me that proximity was a risky defense on which to base my relief.

And, to be perfectly honest, in an attempt to shield myself I pulled away from these stories to a certain degree.  I read about them daily, I offered my prayers and held out hope, but I stayed away from commenting, watching and participating in the hourly drama of it, because the more I watched, the more certain I became of one fact.

There is no real safety for my children.  And that haunts me.

I grew up in a world where mothers don’t die in childbirth and, except in the direst of cases, babies live.  Polio, smallpox, dysentery and other child killers have all but been eradicated due to the advances of medicine.  I walked through an old graveyard months ago looking at all the tiny gravestones from 150 years ago (one family I remember had more than 5) and gave thanks that I live in an age where my children will most likely all live to adulthood – something that didn’t happen for either of my grandmothers, nor any of my great-grandmothers. In that I am so very blessed.  Even with the health risks of Downs, Sawyer has every expectation through science, education and the advancement of compassion to live a high quality life where 100 years ago doctors would have recommended I never see him and that he be thrown into an asylum to rot –something completely unfathomable to me, as his smiling face is my greatest joy every day.

But I have other things to fear – not viruses and disease – something worse: my fellow human beings.

The things I used to lay awake worrying about in the night – that Ezra may one day put himself danger because he doesn’t listen when he should and do something dangerous like run out in front of a car, that Sawyer will one day be taken advantage of and mistreated because of perceived disabilities – have been replaced by more violent actions from the insane adults around them.

When my daughter was growing up my big boogeyman fear was that she may be lured into a van with candy or a puppy and raped and murdered.  I taught her about strangers, was vigilant and kept my fingers crossed, relying a good deal on the knowledge that – statistically speaking – she was probably safe and doing my best to keep the odds of such dangers as low as possible. I tried to raise her to be aware of her surroundings and stay out of high danger situations. She is 20 years old now; so far, so good.

I still have that boogeyman to worry about with my young sons to some extent (I cannot forget about the Sanduskys of the world), but now I have a new one to hate and fear.  One whose insanity cannot be explained away so simply and straightforwardly as a child predator taking one child at a time for their own sick gratification.

Now we have these mass child murdering motherfuckers to worry about.  Ones whose insanity is sneaky and devious and seemingly has no recognizable profile as of yet.  Ones that you cannot warn your children about because if your child is in the presence of this kind of madman, it is probably too late.

How am I supposed to teach my little boy to be vigilant and protect himself when his entire world view is based on the knowledge that he is precious, loved and cherished and that adults are his protectors? Do I shatter that innocence?  Would that be more dangerous?

These crazies operate so far outside of our society’s moral contract that the rest of us cannot fathom their levels of insanity. And quite frankly, I don’t care to.  As compassionate as I can be, these monsters engender no compassion or forgiveness from me – no matter their circumstances, problems or mental diseases.  May they rot in the bowels of Hell for all eternity.

The mindset of one who would intentionally target children is so horrifying and terrible that it is impossible to protect against it. I listen to the arguments from banning all weapons to putting armed guards in schools and know that neither would work.  Neither would stop someone who wants to kill children. There is no sure safety against that.

There is one thing that we all agree on, no matter where your political, religious, racial, ethical, sexual  or any other dividing line in society may be; whether you have children or suffer from a phobia of them; we ALL operate under then indisputable knowledge that children are precious.

We recognize and believe that children who are the least among us in years are in fact the future of the entire world. Just the amount of energy and imagination embodied in one child is so precious to  us as adults who have grown up and lost their wonder that, without children, we would be utterly lost in a cynical world unsavable and unredeemable.

Our children are that redemption.

They are our lights, our beacons, our reasons, our future.

I am terrified for all of them – quite selfishly, mine in particular – and thus the future of humanity.

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No, it is not Cotton. 🙂

Weaving The Fabric of Your Life

Weave the fabric of your life carefully. 

You hold in your hands the strands you have chosen

to use in weaving the fabric of your life.

It may be that you think some threads are more beautiful than others. 
And there may be others you think are muted and dull.  

But do not be fooled.
All of them are necessary.

If you are careful and treat each strand
with the knowledge that the finished composition
can only be one of beauty when all are woven together seamlessly,

then you will be able to look back on the fabric of your life 
and see that,
though it is surely flawed,
it was woven with
love and care –
making it the beautiful manifestation of your
heart’s desire.

That small feeling

of being a small person

In a very big world.

(I am not complete)

That rush of excitement

When confronted with the possibility

That you are not so small anymore.

(I am as whole as I can be)

That sinking dread of fear

When you contemplate

Your abilities and measure them out.

(I wish I were more)

That leaden feeling of commitment

When you pull yourself up and

Decide to be limitless.

(I am standing in my way)

That surging of inadequacy

When you see someone doing

When all you are is being.

(I am ideas without substance)

That blissful realization

That no one knows or can see

Any of it.

(I am the only one who knows)

That sobering responsibility

Of knowledge only you have

And you alone are your own judge.

(I am the only one who can redeem me)

I heard the door open and turned my back to it.  The cold draft from the hall swept through the room and I nestled even deeper into the covers.  I was annoyed at being disturbed from my slumber and eager to get back to the timeless oblivion of sleep. 

Her footsteps were light and quiet, but they irritated me all the more.  I wanted her to leave me alone.  But I knew she wouldn’t.  She never did. 

“Get out.” I said.

“No.  I am not going anywhere.”

I didn’t answer.  Mainly because I knew she was telling the truth – she would sit here and wait indefinitely, damn her – but also because I hoped she’d not disturbed me so much that I couldn’t go back into that dream world and lose myself again.  

No such luck.  She came over to the bed and sat down carefully on the edge. 

God damn her.  She was going to pull me out of this nothingness and back into life. 

All the sudden I was furious. Anger surged through me though I tried to ignore it and stay in my cocoon.  But I could hear her breathe and the sound of it infuriated me.

Why can’t she just leave me alone and mind her own business? I thought.  I feel better now than I did.  What is it about her that messes everything up? Why won’t she just LET ME BE???

Of course, I knew the answer.  It was her job.  She could no more leave me alone than I could stop breathing.  She would wait and wait and wait.  And when she could not wait anymore, she would do it anyway. 

I concentrated on my breathing trying to stave off my anger – and extend my hibernation.  And then I felt her hand stroke my hair.

DON’T TOUCH ME

Yet, even as I snarled at her, I knew I wanted to grab her and hold her tight.

She stood up and backed away carefully, her hands in the air as if I’d pulled a gun on her. I really did not know why I put her through this whole rigmarole.  We’d done this before… many times.  But this was a process and it had to be followed. She understood that better than I. 

All I felt was raw emotion and pain. The other had worked me over good. I did not know how long I had been hibernating this time.  There was really no way to know.  Time does not exist in this part of the mind. 

“Why don’t you leave me alone, you meddling BITCH??”

And with that the dam of internalized venom over flowed and spewed out of me in a turbulent, vitriolic vomit.

I struggled to my feet as rage kidnapped all my senses.  I could feel it pouring in hot tears from my eyes, hear it ringing in my ears, taste its bitterness and smell the stink of sweat and fear radiating off me. Yet I seemed blinded, or at least unable to comprehend the little I could see, as I stumbled around the room.

I fell into the desk and wiped all my beautiful research onto the floor and stomped it. 

I cursed myself and, eventually, God for my existence.

All the while she watched.  Tears ran down her face, but no sound escaped her lips.  She allowed me the release unmolested and without judgment.

And then, after the rage had hollowed me out and left me trembling, I fell to my knees and began my confession.

Only then did she come to me.  She knelt next to me and stroked my hair.  I grabbed her around the waist and held on with everything that was in me as the sins and guilt tumbled from my lips into her lap. 

She had heard it all before, I knew.  But this was a process.  One I had to go through over and over and over, apparently. 

When I was done, she rose in front of me, seeming to drift out of my grasp effortlessly, and pulled me up with her.  She led me over to the couch, sat me down and produced a basin and cloth from nowhere.  As she bathed my face, neck, shoulders and hands, the last remnants of rage, pain and sorrow eased and then left me.  My head that had been pounding stilled; my throat, sore from curses, healed; and my eyes, burning and swelling with hot pain, cooled and abated. 

“Now.  That is over.” She said.  “Better?” And I smiled.

I looked over and saw my desk had been restored.  My research carefully stacked again, just as I had left it before, I was sure.  The entire area was clean and ready for me – as if by magic.

“Why?” I asked.  She simply shrugged in response. 

There really was no need for her to tell me. I knew everything she knew. 

Just as I needed the other’s torment, I needed her healing.  Maybe one day I would reach a point where the other did not come.  Maybe one day I would not need either of them.  But for now I did. 

The other is gone – at least for now.  Only you can decide if and when she comes back.  Maybe she won’t.  I do not know.  What I do know is that you have to come out now.  You cannot hide in there forever waiting for time to take the reigns out of your hands. Then it will be too late and you will bear the blame for it.  And from what I have seen and heard from you, you don’t need any more guilt.  You have enough as it is, don’t you think?”

She kissed my cheek and all of the guilt, fear, blame and doubt blinked out of me.  All of the sudden, I did not know how I felt. 

I just was – and it was wonderful.

She went to the door but turned to me as she opened it. 

“I have told you this before.  I am telling you now.  And I will tell you again if you need me to – you are forgiven.”

And with a slight wisp, she was gone.

I am not a very good decision maker.  I know people who are and I admire them for their decisiveness. However, as much as I wish I could, I cannot count myself among them.

That does not mean that I don’t make decisions (it is not exactly something you can avoid doing), nor is it that I make bad decisions (although that has certainly happened over the years), but I have a problem knowing when enough is enough when it comes to extrapolating the possible outcomes of the choices. 

I can get paralyzed by the possibilities.

Once a decision is made, I can follow through without much of a problem, but up until that point I can worry myself sick and silly imagining.

Except on certain occasions.

There have been a few times in my life that I have made a snap decision without thinking much about it. 

I have been ruminating for a few months on doing something that, on the face of it, seems like a good idea. I have even convinced myself of it.

Except.

You see, I had this decision to make years ago as well.  I had it offered up to me on a silver platter once….and without the issues that would make it difficult now. 

I turned it down flat. 

And I was flat wrong

The door of opportunity opened and I slammed it shut.

I should have taken what was offered to me and run with it. But I had such an aversion and a visceral reaction to the idea that I immediately thought, “There is no way I am doing that.”

I did not weigh the possibilities and benefits.  I did not think about how far ahead it could get me.  I did not think about the fact that I may never get the opportunity again.  And there may have been a few self-esteem and emotional issues holding me back, about which I was not fully aware at the time (I was 24, give me a break).  Ones that didn’t allow me to either recognize my own potential or maximize the opportunities given to me.  Had I been confident, thoughtful and more strategic at the time, I would have jumped at the chance. 

As a matter of fact, looking back on myself at 24 from 17 years into the future, I realize what an idiot I was.  If Greta is ever offered a similar opportunity at that age and turns it down for the reasons I did, I will have a fit.  I will do everything I possibly can to change her mind. 

No one did that for me.  And, on the one hand, I wish someone had. At least then.

But on the other, not so much.

Because the visceral reaction my younger self had to the opportunity back then is the very reason I am choosing not to pursue it all these years later. 

In the last 17 years I have learned a lot. 

I have learned about responsibility, duty, trust, honesty and work ethic.

I have learned about myself, both my strengths and shortcomings …and hopefully how to both accentuate and mitigate them.

But there is something that tends to get squashed down as you learn all of the above. 

Your inner voice.

Your desires and spontaneity. 

Your id and ego get pushed around by the superego so much and so often that we not only ignore them completely, but we vilify them for wanting.

Or…NOT wanting.

We learn to ignore the part of us that reacts and says, “I don’t want to.”

Ezra says that sometimes. Depending on my mood and the situation, the answer to it is either (1) “I didn’t ask you if you wanted to, I told you to.  Now go.” (usually used if I tell him to pick up his room or eat his vegetables and that was his response); or (2) “I know you don’t. I don’t want to either, but we have to.  So come on and let’s get it over with.” (used to commiserate not wanting to go to school or get shots or the like, but still teaching that some things have to be done no matter what we want).

As we get older, we think more in terms of what I should be doing instead of what we want to do. 

How many mothers can sit down for an hour during the day, shut out the world to read 50 Shades of Grey?

Ok.

How about while knowing that the dishes need doing or dinner needs cooking or laundry needs washing?

Not so many, uh?

Most of us would start thinking about all the things we should be doing and allow that to trump what we want to do. I know it is a small scale example, but Pavolv didn’t have to use the Liberty Bell and a fillet mignon, either, now did he?

Given a few decades of that, it is not surprising that we over extend ourselves and stop listening to the little voice inside that simply says, “I don’t want to” and get bullied by the one that screams, “I didn’t ask what you wanted, now did I?”

But I am not going to do that. I am not going to be pushed into something I don’t want, even if I am the one doing the bullying. 

I am going to believe that the reason I don’t want to do this is because there is a better way, another option, an opportunity that I can’t see yet coming down the pike. One that will be infinitely better for me and mine than the one I am passing on. 

I cannot believe that at two different times in my life I have been presented with the same idea and that both times my gut tells me no… and then that there is no reason for it.   

There has to be another way to get where I want to go.  A way that suits me and who I am.  I don’t know what it is and I don’t know how to even figure out what it might be.  But I have to trust that there is a path for me that gets the same – or better – rewards. 

Gulp. 

Holy cow, I had better be right about this.

A 14 year old girl lay on a bed in a pale yellow room.  Yellow was not her favorite color.  Right now it was blue.  In later years it would be green. You can tell from her wardrobe. 

She was reading Gone with the Wind for the first time.  It was spring and the pale yellow bedroom was in the deep south of Alabama.  Her mind, however, was roughly 200 miles north, in Atlanta, Georgia.

Now, you have to keep in mind that this was 1985 and she was 14.  Whatever racist reputation the book has to the broader world outside the South was totally lost on her – as it mostly is even to this day.  She had read Twain with the same obliviousness: that of a white southern teenager who understood the South from that perspective alone.  She was neither privileged nor disadvantaged, walking that treacherous line between the two. She was also only slightly aware of the events that had played themselves out a mere twenty years before in Selma and Birmingham… and Montgomery.  The only thing she cared about that had to do with Montgomery was that she would get to go ice skating on the next trip they took there – Daddy had promised she could. 

For her Gone with the Wind was all about the story she’d been drawn into. 

The beauty and romanticism of it thrilled her.  The story pulled her through it.

She could feel the breeze and smell the barbeque at Twelve Oaks.

She was wrapped up in characters who fascinated her as much as the language Mitchell had masterfully crafted into beautiful images in her mind. 

There were azaleas and dogwoods in bloom outside her very window.  Her father had taken to digging dogwood sapplings up when he got the chance and bringing them home to plant in the yard for her mother to enjoy the first few splendid weeks of Spring. Daddy’s own unique way of bringing her mother flowers, she supposed.

But, for the girl, the dogwoods she could see with her own eyes paled in comparison with the lovely north Georgia woods Mitchell described so skillfully. 

She learned to flirt from Scarlett.  And, she had to admit, she’d learned a few other things from her as well. 

Melanie taught her about turning the other cheek. Although Melanie generally annoyed her and made her feel guilty for liking Scarlett as much as she did. 

It could be argued that she had, sometimes cautiously and other times recklessly, pulled from the good and the bad of these two fictional characters and implemented their tactics her own life.  Subconsciously – most of the time.

She desperately wished now that there were more of Atticus Finch in her than Scarlett.  But Harper Lee’s hero was an embodiment of virtue that even Gone with the Wind could not handle. And, besides, it would be several years until To Kill A Mockingbird would make it to her bedside table.  When it did, however, it would never really leave again.  She would re-read it periodically for the rest of her life.

This weekend, however – and more than a few years past 1985 – that same girl looked out the picture window in her living room at the dogwoods she could see with her own eyes.

And for the very first time it dawned on her.  She had done it unconsciously, but she had done it . 

Reluctantly, the knowledge of the dark side of her beloved South raised itself in her mind.  She acknowledged the unflattering and embarrassing truth about that South of 150 years ago.  It was not something you could ignore. 

But in true Scarlett fashion, she would not think about that right now; she would think about that another day. 

Right now the azaleas and dogwoods outside her window were too beautiful to ignore. 

Margaret Mitchell had been right about the beauty of the north Georgia woods.

She knew it for a fact.  Because she now lived in them herself.

Alright.  I will concede that maybe I should not post when I both read something that disturbs me and, at that time, also have PMS.  I may tend to be more abrasive and caustic in both my analysis and explanation of my point of view. 

Here is my basic question: why is it that the party who believes in small government as one of its main tenets also thinks that the same small government should have in its limited powers the ability to tell me what to do with my body from the type of sex I can have to medical procedures (or the ability to refuse them) based on their religious beliefs? How is that not a contradiction in terms?? The purist among them would do away with whole departments of government arguing that, not only are they not needed, but they infringe on personal choice and liberty and it is not the role of government to do such things, yet it IS somehow the role of government to make the MOST personal choices in this life for me because a religion sets forth a dogma you would like to impose on me.  That goes against the very basic ideals on which this country is founded.  

It would not be so bad if I had a choice to separate the two, but I don’t.  To vote my conscious on fiscal and small government issues, I have to vote Republican.  To vote my conscious on social issues – especially the right to privacy – I have to vote Democratic.  There is no third option.  If I vote Republican, I get the kind of economic policy that I think is best for our country.  But I run a HUGE risk. The Republicans who can be nominated by the party have to be so socially conservative that I have to fear what they would do to the right to privacy if given half a chance.  So I have to decide which is more important – the economy or personal liberty.  On the flip side, the Democrats generally hold that the right to privacy is sacrosanct in medical and sexual cases, yet they put forth other social and fiscal policies that I feel are outside the realm of government, which is insulting. 

So which principles do I compromise? Which is more important, my pocketbook or my body?

Well, most people I know will go with what is most likely to impact their day-to-day life.  Which means if you are straight, even if the Republicans manage to ban gay marriage and, if you are married, and they manage to pass laws restricting contraception, you aren’t really that effected.  And your personal wealth may increase, so while you disagree with those things, you would rather trample the right to privacy of others and line your pockets than stand by personal privacy issues and have a more socialistic government. 

What the hell kind of choice is that in a free society? I have to compromise my principles either way!

It is wrong.

The reason I get so mad and riled up against the Republicans is because I am most familiar with them and on a lot of things, I relate to them more.  I have voted Republican most times I have ever voted in my life.  And I would be lumped in with these people who somehow feel they have the right to tell other people what they can do with their own BODY. I am beyond offended by this. 

It is the same principle as to why I so vehemently detest racists.  I am Southern. I love being Southern.  I love everything about the South.  With one glaring exception.  I detest our history when it comes to civil rights.  And when the guy down the street starts talking about how glad he is we are white, or other such nonsense I get really, really pissed.  Because HE is the guy who makes other people think I am racist because I am Southern.  He makes all of the rest of us look bad. 

And these right wing evangelicals sicken me for the same reason. If I am a believer and go to church and want to vote Republican, I get lumped in with those who want to trample rights in a misguided attempt to “protect the family.”  They somehow think that because the majority of the country is both Christian and straight, they can get away with pushing their religious beliefs off on the rest of us because they are in the majority.  Even though the most BASIC right that we hold most dear as Americans above all else is the freedom from religious persecution and the separation of church and state. 

This country was founded on the very principle that NO religion should be able to dictate to another because it was the majority belief of the people.  Hell, most of the pilgrims who first came here came to escape that very thing.  But 200 years later we would allow a majority religion to say that since it teaches that certain sexual acts are wrong, they should be banned.  That is the very definition of a slippery slope. 

You may think that it doesn’t affect you since you are straight. But I tell you that if you allow the government to tell you that there are sexual acts two men cannot engage in, then it won’t be long before there are sexual acts that you cannot engage in with your own husband or wife.  How does that sit with you?  You want the sex police telling you what is natural and what is deviant? You want to hand over your ability to make that decision for yourself to some government entity based on someone else’s interpretation of a 2000 year old book, whether you believe it is divinely inspired or not?  You know where they do that?  Iran.  Saudi Arabia.  Afghanistan.  Is this the direction you want your country to go in? 

And I will tell you right now, that no matter how bad you think Obama is and what socialist agenda you think he is pushing that will infringe on your personal rights and liberties, there is NOTHING in his social policy as dangerous as telling you who you can love, marry or sexually express yourself with or in what way. There is no policy of his saying I cannot make medical decisions with my doctor because a religion may disagree with that decision. 

I don’t care whether or not you think homosexuality is a sin and an abomination. In a free society it is not government’s right or jurisdiction to interfere in my most personal decisions. I don’t personally agree with abortion and I don’t think I could ever do it myself.  I also think that once a fetus is viable it should be illegal because you are then interfering with another person’s right to live (and you have had plenty of time to have an abortion before viability), but I cannot agree to across the board outlaw abortion because each woman has to make and live with that choice.  I would  not ever want someone else dictating something so personal to me, so I cannot agree with dictating to others, even if I may personally agree with it. To have a choice myself, I must agree to allow someone to make a different choice than I would make.  That is freedom.  Even evangelicals know that God gives a choice whether to follow Him or not. As the all powerful God, he could just Make It So, could He not?  But He doesn’t.  If He did, freedom and choice would not exist. 

At least I know that when Obama leaves the White House, my paycheck may be smaller and government may have grown, but my ability to be a self determining individual in the most basic and important way possible – whether it be sexual or medical – will still be fully in tact and will not be undermined by a specific religion’s interpretation of what those rights should be. 

Government’s duty is only to protect individuals from others, not ideas, and not from ourselves.  We don’t have the Thought Police here.  At least not yet.  But if you allow the Sex Police or the Morality Police, you are just one step closer every single time. 

Does this not disturb you? How is it that in a society who holds personal and religious freedom so very dear is it possible that a Rick Santorum can possibly rise to prominence with ideas like this?  And conservatives think Obama is more dangerous??  It is horrible socialism to come and raid your paycheck, but perfectly fine for the government to be in your bedroom or doctor’s office?  Which is more important to you?

The economy is so very important, but it pales in comparison to my right to my body as an individual.

For another post on this subject, go here.