Proof positive

About as close to proof as we can get.

So, yesterday I went to see one of my doctors. A provider. She is a very nice woman, and I like her; she’s from Louisiana, so what’s not to like? I give her a break for being an LSU alum, but she understands Mardi Gras, good gumbo, and beignets. I’ve been seeing her for several years now, so we have a groove. The insurance company practically forced me to see her at this point, because I’ve been caught running between the bases about a maintenance medication that she prescribes. The pharmacy would not refill my prescription, that I’ve been on for years and is a necessary maintenance component of my “health plan” and they kept sending back to the doctor for authorization. The doctor’s office said they sent it and kept sending me back to the pharmacy. Finally, one of the office nurses said you need to make an appointment, and be seen, because they just don’t want to fill the prescription if you haven’t been seen in more than a year. Why that message couldn’t have been clearly delivered by the pharmacy A MONTH AGO is beyond me. Fortunately, I won’t die tomorrow because I haven’t taken the daily medication in a month, but it’s important to my overall health. Otherwise, it would not have been prescribed. See how that works? If I didn’t need to take it as prescribed, I wouldn’t be diligently trying to get it refilled. Capeche, pharmacy??? This is unbelievable.

So, I saw the provider yesterday. We had a good visit, caught up on things my body is doing, or not doing, and she said the prescription would be sent to the pharmacy. I mentioned to her some bladder problems, so a urinalysis was ordered. I dutifully peed in the cup yesterday afternoon, and the results came back this morning. No signs of urinary tract infection. So, she asked me if I wanted to see a urologist for evaluation of possibly overactive bladder or something else. Lovely. I am going to work on it myself for about a week to see if I can get it to settle down, will *gulp* cut down on coffee and drink more water to flush toxins. I will definitely not do anything before I get the bloody prescription I have been stalking, the one that brought me kicking and screaming for an office visit yesterday. I am all for affordable care and Medicare for all or whatever mechanism can be formulated, but in my not at all humble opinion, the for-profit insurance industry sucks. And suck is the high-level technical term for them. They, and not my doctor, prescribe for me – they determine what I can have by determining what I can pay for. They can override the doctor’s best advice by assessing prohibitive charges for medications and treatments, and/or by manipulating co-pays so that the insured is bludgeoned and can’t do anything but acquiesce to their nefarious direction. They. Suck.

I feel as though I am entitled – yes, entitled – to voice my opinion that insurance companies suck because of my experience with them over the past many years. It’s not because everyone else says they suck, or looking at insurance company practices and salary profiles, or the politics of corporate executives, or even publicized accounts of other folks’ horror stories with insurance companies. My opinion is based entirely on my experience, and it’s an honest accounting. The facts of my situation are recounted exactly as they have been experienced, and those facts inform my opinion. What I describe is the truth, meaning it’s what really happened. It has actually taken me nearly 30 days to have a duly prescribed medical prescription refilled, and I don’t yet have the medication nor a reasonable (or at least understandable) explanation of why.

All that being said, I have no problem with opinions. I frequently disagree with the opinions of other folks, even when they are considered “popular” opinions. Differentiation has never been a problem for me, so I calls ’em like I sees ’em. And, given more information, sometimes my opinions change. Imagine that. Change. Like in the football games, when there’s a challenge to a call, there is a video replay for the officials, and the in a few minutes the referee intones “After further review…” followed by either affirmation of the original decision, or a revised call. Video is the elixir of the discordant. If we’d not had video for several of the murders of unarmed Black men by the police, there would be no broad-based national resistance calling for defunding the police. Oppressed groups in this country have been calling out these murders for decades, but accounts of this extreme police brutality were discounted, explained away, justified, rationalized, flat out denied. The victim was blamed. The community was blamed. The educationsl system was blamed, drugs were blamed, but the police retained qualified immunity for their part in these deaths. Video, however, has begun to change some of that and qualified immunity is under scrutiny. Maybe blame shouldn’t be the premise of solutions in any of this.

When someone comes forward with a claim of police brutality, and the victim has died, public opinion is rendered across a wide range of cultural and personal experience. A flurry of research seeks to provide a comprehesive picture of the reality of each situation, video of the actual events if possible, similar case examples, character of those involved, circumstantial evidence. Evidence. Hopefully, only real facts have been presented for public scrutiny, but even so, there’s always room for subjectivity. For instance, it’s a fact that Tamir Rice was playing with a toy gun at a playground, and the gun was made to resemble a real weapon. Fact: someone called police to report a person with a gun, and police arrived in response to that call. Fact: Tamir Rice was shot to death by the responding police within a few seconds of their arrival on the scene. Those facts cannot be disputed, but the Tamir Rice case remains a painful and divisive controversy years after it occurred. Did the responding officers really tell him to drop the weapon, and the child failed to respond? Did the responding officers believe Tamir was older than he looked? Could the officers have employed another method of determining the level of risk, and done something other than shot to kill this 12-year old? That’s where subjectivity, bred by historical references and culturalism, poisons the well. Opinion: he should have followed the police commands, and he’s still be alive. Opinion: he shouldn’t have had that gun, even if it was a toy, in the first place. Opinion: the officers can’t take any chances, and if they believed his gun was real and he could have shot them, they had every right to shoot him. Opinions are rife with “if”, but here’s another fact: those of us with opinions were not at the scene, and we didn’t witness the actual events of that day. We weren’t there, we didn’t see nothin’, and we can’t prove a thing.

This quandry repeats for nearly every issue that arises in the media. Whether it’s an unarmed Black man shot to death by law enforcement officers, or a phone call that might be a shake-down of a foreign government by the top of the U.S. executive branch, we weren’t there. We have no choice but to live vicariously, and receive the accounts of the people who WERE there. If they are truthful, things should work out fine. But if they are not truthful, we have a problem. These days, we have a problem. We’ve been lied to so many times now, disbelief is more or less our default. Personally, I don’t trust ANYBODY’S first explanation. I’ll do my own research, thank you very much. That’s what I’m supposed to do – get as much information as I can, to make my own decision. Not get as much information as YOU can to make the decision YOU want me to make.

So. If I get information that I can, from reputable sources, and use that information to formulate my decision, I’ve done my job. If I’m wrong, so be it. If I’m wrong, hopefully I will learn from that. If I’m wrong, circumstances should judge me, not other humans. In the case of the decision I just made concerning my bladder … situation … if I’m wrong about the choice I’ve made, to not proceed immediately to a urologist, then the condition will worsen and I’ll have symptoms to let me know that. In doing that research, and considering my options, I’m looking for evidence. I’m looking for anecdotes, similar cases, comparable circumstances and their outcome. When one contemplates a real estate purchase, the realtor will offer the purchase prices of comparable properties. That’s evidence their proposal is not entirely outrageous, or out of line with the property value of similar circumstances. This is kind of how sound decision-making is supposed to work – gather evidence, look at lots of data, make your own decision accordingly.

When evidence is gathered, I have to remember that it’s not proof of a desired outcome. No matter how many cases of overactive bladder I may read about, none of them can offer proof of the outcome of my case. There are myriad variables – my overall health condition, my diet, my weight, and so on. No matter how many records of comparable properties a buyer may examie, they may find that a final deal on the property of their choice exceeds the average comparable sale in the area, for a variety of reasons…recent renovations, new roof, security system, customizations. Statistical averages are just that – averages. Not all situations are average. Proverbial bell curves and all that.

So. If someone is explaining cause of the California wildfires, they may cite reports on global warming, increased industrialization, etc. As a responsible consumer, I can take that information and formulate my own opinion. I’m fine with that, as long as it’s objective information, and not merely someone else’s opinion. Reports on global warming don’t begin with the premise “I feel” or “I believe”, they begin with the premise “Temperatures in the Norther Hemisphere have increased by x degrees over the past 200 years, and likewise, there’s been an increase in forest fires, and increasingly intense hurricanse, etc.”. I don’t know if I can decide that’s false evidence or not, but I suppose I can make an arbitrary decision to agree or disagree. If I agree, I should know why. Hopefully, I agree because I’ve done my own research, trusted data and experts, etc. If I disagree, I should also know why, and hopefully for the same reasons. In either case, if my stand is based solely on the opinion of someone else that i share self-interest, I feel like there’s a problem there. Just because I share a particular identity with another person, doesn’t mean that we agree everything, or anything. I’m Black, but heaven knows I don’t much agree with Clarence Thomas on much of anything. If he says the sky is blue, I’m at least going to check to make sure I agree. I’m Queer, and I rather like George Takei, but I don’t subscribe wholesale to his opiinions. I’m a Unitarian Universalist, and my faith requires that I honor responsible search for truth and meaning. If you’ve already made up your mind, and then close your mind to additional information (more or less the definition of closed-mindedness) then you and I may have very little to discuss. If your mind is made up, I find it a waste of time making efforts to change it. If you want to learn, if you are open to modifying your position after onboarding new information, then let’s talk.

If my search for truth and meaning begins with someone else’ search, i fail to see any opportunity for growth there. If my search for truth and meaning begins with what is patently untrue, I can’t even call that a search, for truth or meaning or anything else. Simply possessing an opinion on an issue does not constitute truth. Simply possessing copious data does not constitute proof. If one has arrived at what we consider proof, it is merely the overwhelming probability of a particular outcome, but given enough opportunity, the Universe’s sense of humor comes into play and there’s a one-in-a-million iteration of alternative result. We use data and logic and math to give us illusory control and gosh darned mind-readin’ skills. We’re looking for control again, but it’s usually pretty short-lived, if we get it at all. The coronavirus that causes COVID-19 is novel, new, it seemed to come out of nowhere. Well, we’re very smart, so we know what to do. We can beat this. We might disagree on how to do that, but we have the skills, we understand viruses. And so on we go, until…the virus throws a curve ball and mutates. And mutates again. All we can do is follow its lead, and hopefully react accordingly. It’s a good thing we’ve studied viral contagion so diligently all these years, but once again, we’re doing battle with Mother Nature, and the evidence does not point to a conclusion of ultimate and permanent victory for us. There is no cure for the influenza virus, there is no cure for the AIDS virus, or several other pathogenic or epigenic viruses. With scientific advances, we have managed to keep those viruses at bay by preventing infection on massive scales, which provides immunity, so we eliminate the hosts. The virus then cannot replicate, but we don’t exactly kill it, per se. That may be a small distinction, but I believe its an important one: when my mother died, I didn’t kill her, but she is nonetheless dead. There is no law against dying of natural causes, but there are laws against homicide (or specifically matricide). So, there you have it. We don’t need to be getting big headed about “defeating the pandemic”. We removed a healthy environment for it to spread, but we didn’t kill the virus. I hate when we get arrogant and start thinking we’re deities.

So, all that notwithstanding, and back to truth, justice and the American way. The American way is often full of neither truth nor justice, and we know this. When we begin electing people to national office that really believe in things like Jewish space lasers, we’re into delusion again. Reality has once again gotten too much for us to handle, too painful to see, too despairing to admit that we can’t control people dying and suffering. So, Jewish space lasers seems appropriate. It’s like a video game…there’s a clear enemy, and we just need to accrue the appropriate level of weaponry to defeat it. No sweat. If it’s an internet multiplayer game, we can find allies fairly easily, and consolidate firepower. If we’ve got enough allies, we probably don’t even need a good strategy – just blast the crap out of everything that’s wearing a different color than you, and that should do it. If it’s Jewish space lasers, then kill the Jews that made them. If it’s African killer bees, destroy Africa, where they came from. If it’s a virus that came from a bat in China, let’s get rid of all of them, the bats AND the Chinese. Problem with China, though, is there are way more of them than us, and I’m not sure we really want to work that hard. So, if “they” will just say over there, we’ll get onto that later. For now, we can make progress with blaming heartache and disaster on people and circumstances a little closer to home. And that’s exactly what we’re doing.

I will have to say here that blame economy is not limited to dominant culture. It seems to be a part of human nature, to blame someone else or something else for undesirable circumstances that befall us, when bad things happen to good people. I think some of the issue is that we often presume that bad things should happen to other people, not to us. I can understand that. Nobody wants to raise their hand and volunteer for a bad experience, or a negative outcome. Well, maybe there are legitimate martyrs amonst us, but I would contend those are rare. There are unselfish people amongst us who are very altruistic and some, parents for example, who would die for another. I don’t know if they volunteered for that, however, as opposed to reacting altruistically in a given situation. I would consider myself fortunate to react entirely altruistically if finding myself in circumstances that required it. I cannot guaranteess how I might react – I have no proof of the likelihood of any outcome, and equal evidence for and against any probability. my only hope is that i have exercised my inner most Self, my Higher Self, the esoteric part of me that is closes to Source, closest to The Beginning, closest to Universal Truth…to inform the actions of my body and mind and that which is closest to the material. Or something like that. I cannot think my way into love, I cannot think my way into compassion, I cannot think myself into doing the right thing. Those are not thought processes, they are spiritual processes, they are relationship to something larger than my body and mind. I believe that relationship what an urge me toward Home, toward Light, toward something other than discord and diaspora. I said long ago that I believed we are all diasporic. When born on this Earth, we’re thrown out of the only home we’ve ever know in our mother’s womb. We can never duplicate that feeling of sustenance, warmth, safety, dependency. But we keep trying, we keep trying to get back to that, even though we don’t know that’s what we’re doing. I don’t know, but even though we do everything we can to be comfortable here, I somehow think we’re trying to get the hell out of here as soon as we open our eyes. There was a movie a while back, “Look Who’s Talking”, about the birth experience from the newborn’s perspective. Voice overs from the newborn, at the moment of birth, shouted “Put me back! Put me back!”. Willing to bet that’s not far from the truth, and maybe that’s why we’re all screaming as soon as we’re all the way out. I guess we’re still screaming. It’s just not cute any more.

Best laid plans…

I saw a term earlier today that i found really interesting – post-truth society I’ve heard that we are post-racial (which is simply untrue) and post-Cold War (which may or may not be true) and post-traumatic (which is most assuredly not true, since trauma is current and ongoing). But I had not heard the term “post-truth”. It’s interesting to consider if, as a society, we are past the truth, if we have simply dispensed with the truth as a condition of our existence. I would imagine it’s more or less a rhetorical idiom, and might opt to consider whether or not we are post-reality. The reality of our lives is just that. Reality. Whether I’m satisfied with it or not, whether I like it or not, whether it meets with my approval or not, it simply IS. I breathe, I woke up this morning, I am conscious (well, mostly). My eyes blink involuntarily, my eyes are brown, I get hungry. That is reality. I did not ask for any of that, but still it is my experience. So, it is reality. I cannot go past that, or deny that, or change that. As such, that reality is the truth. Thinking of, wishing for, imagining that my eyes were blue does not make it so. My eyes are brown – always have been, always will be.

So, if truth and reality are inseparable, then no amount of repeating or denying reality makes it non-reality. I understand the therapeutic concept of “reframing” certain realities, but there are limits to that. “Reframing” how I interpret or live into certain aspects of reality does not change the immutable attributes of any part of it, only colors my orientation or acceptance of it. For instance, if I feel inconsolably alone because I have no siblings and both my parents have died, being reminded of how many friends I have and how much support I have from other people does not change the fact that I have no siblings and my parents are dead. Instead, reframing my definition of “alone” simply points me to other aspects of the same mosaic, facets of the picture that will allow e to see warmer facets of the picture. There is, however, no denial of reality. Changing perspective in such things often does not seem to be terribly comforting, but can sometimes mute the voice of despair. The discomfort remains, although blunted and sheathed.

We humans do not like discomfort, particularly in the non-physical realm. Our society finds myriad ways to quiet our troubled spirits. We do our best to distract ourselves, anesthetize ourselves, harm ourselves in order to avoid the deafening screams of broken dreams and broken hearts, trampled egos and truths. In some cases, we will do almost anything to stop the emotional torrent, fearing it will submerge us entirely. We fight. However we can, our instinct is to fight. The feeling of drowning threatens to go on forever, and drowning is a horrible way to die. I’m not sure there are any “good” ways to die, but drowning feels particularly helpless, powerless, attempts to breath are entirely futile but…the surroundings are not outwardly horrific. It’s only water, but the context is off. Too much of anything is not a good thing, as they say.

When it feels as though we’re drowning, we try desperately to find solid ground, to elevate ourselves above the depths. It’s ironic that we frequently use drink to accomplish this, at least metaphorically…spirits, booze, liquid courage. It’s a temporary fix, at best, but…desperation is a real thing. You do what you gotta. If it’s not drink it’s pills, or the fruit of the poppy, or blended man-made chemicals with mystical effects. It doesn’t matter, we have to get to the surface, we have to breathe. Unfortunately, in that scenario, the surface is an illusion. We are still drowning, but our minds are powerful, and if illusion is the best we can do, we’ll take it. And we take it, over and over and over again. That is addiction. It’s a disease, a dis-ease – we are not at ease, we are not easy. And we go down again and again and again.

I believe when people are pushed to the limit, when some part of their world dies, some part of their Self dies. Whether that’s physical death, or threat of physical death, or non-physical death, the survival mechanism is activated. People will flail, struggle, convulse both literally and figuratively. When the alt-right marched hundreds of people through Charlottesville VA, carrying tiki torches of all things, their chant was “You will not replace us”, which somehow morphed into “Jews will not replace us”. The operative word, in either case, was “replace”. We are dying, being replaced is dying, and we are trying to survive. You will not replace us. You will not kill us. None of the rest of us could understand that, but it was certainly real for the tiki torchers. Watching that, I could not not get past the obvious nod given to the burning cross, and I am sure that was intentional. They believe they are dying, as a culture, as a collective identity. So, by any means necessary, they are fighting to survive. It would not occur to these folks that change will happen whether they go kicking and screaming into it, or walk in under their own power with grace and dignity. But it’s going to happen regardless, because that’s reality.

Looking back on the insurrection of January 6th, I saw Charlottesville. I saw the KKK marches and cross-burnings of earlier times. I did not see civil rights marchers trying to cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Alabama, or the Mississippi River Bridge after Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. I did not see the nationwide Black Lives Matter protests after the murder of George Floyd. The difference in what I saw? The difference was the hatred, the willingness to be post-truth, to deny reality. The difference was in Charlottesville, in the KKK marches, in the insurrection of January 6th, there was a hysteria and desperation to alter past events. That’s not possible. Those folks are not willing to live in the present, on this plane of reality. The civil rights marchers, the Hurricane Katrina survivors were very much rooted in reality, not in the agreement with the reality, but definitely the acceptance of it. Behavior exhibited by the literal death throes would seem to be the ultimate non-acceptance of reality, and it is ultimately futile effort. Rioting, as opposed to protest or demonstration, seems to be akin to death throes. Perhaps it is the reality of dying ideals and dreams, of crumbling foundations of life as we know it. Whatever it is, vainglorious public displays such as the attempted coup on January 6th are ultimately futile efforts as well. The premise of that insurrection was flawed. There was no fundamental injustice perpetrated against the citizenry by the state, no violation of constitutional decree. The only injustice was the false creed of racist nationalism binding the insurgents to one another. They were not post-truth, truth was never present to begin with. Their rage was activated by the disconnect experienced when delusion and lies came face to face with…reality. Death be not proud, but rage, rage against the dying of the light. Do not go gentle into that good night. Goodnight, my little Roseanne Roseannadanna.

And on we go

Like many of us, I was never taught about Rosa Parks’ activist legacy. I learned only that she was brave, tired by some revisionist accounts, and her iconic act of December 1, 1955 was more or less spontaneous. All but the first is patently untrue. She was very brave, but more than brave, she was courageous. She knew the risks, she knew that she was risking her life and the lives of others close to her, and she acted regardless. To be a colored woman, in 1955 Alabama, hauled off the jail by white male policemen, must have been terrifying. But she persisted. And it was not the first time she had taken such risk, according to points raised in the article included above.

I am sure there are many other stories of the Civil Rights era that we have romanticized, idealized, and de-brutalized over the years. There are many accurate and unflinching accounts of those events that are bad enough. We get the picture, as much as we can, and those events continue to push us to action. As well they should. If we can offer nothing else but a bowed head and a moment of silence for the cost of that revolution, then so be it, but we can offer far more. They pushed; we have to push harder. They risked, we have to risk more. We also have to remember that we all have a place in the effort. All of us are not able, literally, to march or resist arrest or block traffic or storm a building. But there are things we can do, make signs or phone calls or send letters and emails. It takes a village. It takes several villages. But, as Tracy Chapman’s song “Revolution” said several years ago, “Don’t you know, we’re talking about a revolution, and it sounds…like a whisper.”.

That’s how it starts. With a whisper. “Do you believe what’s going on out there? Pass it on.”. The shouting and footsteps come later, but it starts with a whisper. The Indigo Girls’ song “Ghost” also echoes that – “…and the MIssissippi’s mighty, but it starts in Minnesota, at a place that you could walk across with five steps down”. We look back at history, and see the end result, the seemingly impossible hill crested, the immovable mountain that a pass has been carved through. We don’t always see, or take into account, the number of attempts that were made, the amount of risk that was taken, the number of failures. Without the failures, there could be no success. Success is generally not for the faint of heart, and rarely the result of a spontaneous effort. We forget that, and we expect instant gratification, perfect effort that ends in success. That’s not how it works, I don’t think. Judging from our history in this country, that is never how it’s worked. But in this land of nearly instant electronic communications, live broadcasts, streaming our lives across the airwaves, we expect things to go much, much quicker. That’s not to say that bureaucracy doesn’t unnecessarily twist even the most graceful artistry into grotesque and unintended gatekeeping gargoyles, but our expectations may be somewhat unrealistic regardless. The proof is in the persistence, which makes the pudding. From what I’ve seen, you have to whip some eggs into submission and stir a concoction of ingredients into individual oblivion before you can approach a pleasingly blended delicacy. The dessert comes after the hard work of the meal, clearing the palate in a lighter fashion.

I suppose where things stand now, however, is the meal is ongoing. We’ve not been able to get past the entree’ and on to dessert. Many people are still waiting to be served the appetizer, and still others are finding the main course hard to chew and swallow. They are complaining about the service, the quality of the preparation, everything. They want to speak with a manager, but don’t trust the one who appears. So, they’re just banging their utensils on the table and starting to toss food items. Before long, it’s an all-out food fight. I’m not sure what the intended outcome of a food fight is supposed to be, other than to destroy the food, the dining area, and impress on everyone the utter and complete rage that you are feeling. Maybe to soil other diners, to generally disturb the peace. Maybe to destroy the reputation of the eatery. Past that, I’m not sure the instigators are getting what they want. There is still no dessert, so the taste of the unsatisfactory meal is still on the tongue. If they want a new meal, they can get that, but they’re still angry. If they want a refund, they may be able to get that, provided they haven’t eaten most of the meal despite its inadequacy. And they’re still angry. So. What can “make this right”?

I don’t think it CAN be made right, until the rage dies down. I think all we can do at that point is abandon the issue, clean up the mess, and try to move forward. We should not visit that same place again, unless we know there have been changes. In the future, we maybe take more care to discern the preparation methods, ingredients, the staff, etc. before making another choice about where to dine. But, when we do that, we’re still taking our chances. You pay your money, and you take your chances. Maybe we decide screw this, I’ll cook at home, and make things the way I like them. OK, that’s a start, but we still have to depend on external sources for parts of the meal – the ingredients, the spices, the cookware, the garnish. Unless we go to live on a mountain top and either grow or synthesize your own food sources, we will starve (and the mountain top will have gotten really crowded).

Democratic ideals attempt to give us a means of living together in this shared space. They are an attempt to polish our millions of rough edges. In a republic, our elected government is supposed to be the means by which the sharing is done. Is there corruption at the level of those elected? Yes. Unfortunately, they are human and easily corruptible. Our system gives us the means to navigate that betrayal, by voting them out. If we don’t take advantage of that mechanism, we can’t complain about them. But, at this point, something else is happening, something I cannot understand. Democratic ideals presuppose common goals – common defense, common welfare, common pursuit of life, liberty, happiness. At this point, I believe longstanding and malicious social engineering efforts have resulted in the manipulation of the citizenry. This manipulation has resulted in the majority of people seeing our enormous trove of resources as finite, seeing our individual experiences as a zero-sum game: there is only so much that exists, so if you get more than what you had yesterday, that means I will lose some of mine. This is a lie. This is a lie perpetrated by selfish and malignant oligarchs who crave power, and have noted that he who has the most toys controls the playground. It’s pretty much that simple, except the biggest issues on a playground usually involve whether or not there are too many kids trying to use the same thing at the same time, or whether something is broken and can’t be used at all. But this is life, and there are millions of us, and we have much bigger issues, like health care and education and where to live. There is more than enough to go around, but not if the ogre decides it’s five for them and none for you. That’s not an issue of resources, that’s an issue of greed. That’s not an issue of global warming and forest fires or hurricanes, that’s an issue of immorality. That’s not an issue of needing to reduce population size or blame people for needing help, that’s an issue of intolerance and oppression. None of that is an issue of the planet and Mother Nature failing, all of that is an issue of hubris. Humans cannot negotiate with the planet, or with the Universe. We are simply not that powerful. Believing that we are is the ultimate joke on us.

This is power. We got nothing.

Winning

This is a dreary day. As far as I am concerned, it is an active crime scene, because we wuz robbed. Robbed of promised snow. This is rain – plain, ordinary, dreary, damp rain. This is not snow. I have seen snow before, and this is not it. I want my snow!

Yes, I understand that life is unfair. It is my lifelong hope that somewhere in the much larger scheme of the Universe, there is justice, there is equity, there is an overall sense of fairness. I would imagine that without unfairness, we’d never know what fair looked like…and so on. But when it’s unfair in the sum total of my experience, it’s REALLY unfair, and I’m generally not too concerned with other corners of existence where unfairness might be occurring. It’s all about me right this minute, so whether it’s about not getting snow (not because I need it, obviously, but only because I want it and for no particularly salient purpose). I suppose that’s how we roll, as humans.

This is probably more than a single post, but I am having more than than a single post-worth of thoughts. Sue me. You won’t get much if you do, but everybody is welcome to try. Most of all me. I have to remember that I’m welcome to try. We’ll see how that goes, but…as usual…I digress.

My community of faith, which I like to call the un-church, had virtual service this morning featuring a very good friend of mine. She is a recently ordained UU minister, and the director of the state UU Justice Ministry. She’s got such an optimistic lean, and in her words, she is generally a happy person. I don’t know that many generally happy people these days; life gets in the way, stress bogs us down, we struggle to stay on our path. But this woman is a veritable sprite of hopefulness, cheerfulness, helpfulness, compassion. She is one of those people who is doing what she was meant to do, I believe. Unlike some other leaders, she has original vision, and that vision includes bringing as many people together as she can find. Community is not a casual word, and my minister friend is adept at bringing people together in community rather than as a group that simply believes they share a common self-interest. There is more to community than that. As a leader, her ego is tremendously disengaged, and she is very obviously invested in communal success. That is the life blood of a movement, in my opinion, and she was speaking of movement in the literal, spiritual, and even political sense.

I have been obsessed with spiritual movement as a necessary component of justice work for quite some time, and it frustrates me when so many would much rather get right to the manual tasks of justice, the marching and the logistics of the marches and the fund raising and the banners and the phone banking, without attending to grounding the effort spiritually. I believe that grounding has to be a factor both collectively and individually. Otherwise, we could all do the work as solitary practitioners, without joining any group. That would simply be less effective, so…let’s make sure we’re standing on firm ground from which to move forward. We cannot stay there. There must be forward motion, and that is why we call concerted resistance a MOVEMENT. We have to move. If we do not, whatever is advancing from the rear will soon overtake us, the winds of change will pass us by, and we will sleep through the revolution. If we remain in the same place, resting on our laurels or paralyzed with fear, we are no longer a movement. We are a memorial, a memory of a bygone time. We have to move. That is Universal law; there is nothing that stands permanently at rest, no matter how slow its movement. So, I was very pleased and felt at peace, spiritually nourished from my friend’s presentation this morning. This has not been my usual experience on Sunday mornings with this crowd, so I’m going to need to hold on to that. I truly hope they heard what I heard, felt what I felt, and will hold on to it as well. We got us a world to change.

As I’m continuing to reflect on another level on the presentation this morning (most would call it a sermon, or “preaching”, but I’m Catholic-raised so those are not terms that easily roll from my tongue, or keyboard), I recall that earlier in the morning I was far more tense, taut, needing to get things done. Things I needed to get done included making coffee (ok, that’s a legitimate priority), going to the bathroom (another legitimate task), checking Twitter, checking FaceBook, making sure I had made progress in my FaceBook game, wondering how and why I still have made so little progress in cleaning up this hell-hole of an apartment, wondering what the hell I did with my baseball cap, thinking I should take the dog out before I connect to the morning uun-church service, searching for one of my medications (which I found but still have not taken), and trying to decide what I am going to eat for lunch. For. Lunch. It was 9:50 a.m. at that point, and I’m contemplating a lunch-time meal.

Such is the life of a compulsive eater. It is also the life of someone who has more than likely underestimated the nooks and crannies of her brain, and how those have changed over more than a half-century. Truth be told, I have suspected for a number of years that I have what is now diagnosed as ADD, but really don’t want or need another diagnosis to explain away any of my defining quirkiness. If that is true, it would inform my choices of how to remain productive and hopefully relevant. I am never going to function well in a corporate or overly bureaucratic environment ever again, nor do I want to. To have functioned there for as long as I did is truly a testimony to oppositional defiance and obstinacy, character attributes (defects, some might say) that have served me well. They served me for as long as I needed them to do so, but I feel as though I am now propelled toward a different way of being in the world, one in which I may have no further need to resist in those ways. But, who will I be? How will I be? What will I do? These are the fear-based crossroads I come to periodically, and usually opt for maintaining a personal status quo. As I like to explain it, I need to know where I’m going before I get there, and once I get there I need to know where all the bathrooms are. Once those points have been established, I’m good for the duration. No need to travel further, right?

There may be no need to travel further, or at least I may think so, but sometimes the road rises up to meet a traveler, and smacks them in the back of the head (at least metaphorically). I realized a while back that ritual and routine are comfortable for a time, but at some point become restrictive, mundane, flat out boring. Boring does not inspire me. Boring does not stimulate me creatively. Boring makes me cranky, and it becomes drudgery very quickly. Somewhere in my core values I have accepted that having alternatives to boring is not an entitlement. Not something I have any right to expect or even receive. I suppose I saw everyone around me getting up every morning to make the donuts, grumbling but complying, day after day after day. This was the working class life I was born into. Living that way demonstrated the maximum attainment and demonstration of responsibility, and seemingly garnered respect from everyone. Work hard, swallow your pride, don’t talk back, do what you’re told, keep your opinions to yourself…you’ll be rewarded in the end. Yeah, I got that – in the end. MY end, right between the butt cheeks.

There are no more 30-years-and-a monthly-check guarantees; that’s been gone for a while now. Joke is on me if I think toiling away to make “the man” successful is going to get me any kind of security later in life. But wait a minute! This IS later in life, and I have a goose egg for security later in life. There is not going to be any monthly pension check, or life insurance, or even health insurance from my previous employers. I paid into Social Security for years, but these days it’s not clear whether or not that system will be able to return my investment within the next few years. So, it’s no wonder I feel as though my back is against the wall when I have idle time. It’s no wonder we’re all looking over our shoulders wondering when the ax is going to fall, the other shoe is going to drop, lightening is going to strike, or a rogue asteroid is going to finally take a wrong turn. Now personally, I’m not feeling particularly threatened by the possibility of axes or shoes falling, or lightening striking, or even asteroids crashing into the Earth…but arrival of a mother ship from another galaxy? Now we’re talkin’. That would upset some white supremacy and turn status-quo upside down. Wouldn’t THAT be somethin’?

As I am writing all that drivel, I’m wondering what exactly it is that I want. I have been asking that question about the insurgents, and the radical right-wing extremists – what exactly do they want, other than …not this?. I suppose I would do well to ask myself the same question. I am doing what I can to change status quo in my little corner of the world, and speaking up about why that needs to be changed and how there is essentially no equity for marginalized communities, but … exactly what do I want? Can I draw a picture of it? (I guarantee you I cannot draw a picture of it, because I cannot even draw recognizable stick figures, and then…back to those circles that I couldn’t seem to master in kindergarten) Anyway, I am beginning to wonder if I do myself a disservice without a vision that I can articulate, at least in some actionable fashion, with definable goals, objectives. Something concrete. Something beyond “an end to racial bias and we should all live in peace”. I’m told that I should be the change I want to see, but that is gonna take a minute. I don’t need to be about the business of creating yet another linear project plan, but I DO need to know what the broken things might look like if they were fixed. There. I’ll get right on that.

Wherever you go, I go.

Baby, it’s cold outside

I woke up to a deliciously chilly temperature of 25 degrees outdoors. Of course, it’s only delicious to me because I am not outdoors, I am in my artificially heated nest, under a binkie, with socks on and a cup of hot coffee. I will, however, go out to experience the cold first hand in just a bit…probably after my second cup of java. The dog is already stalking me on the bed, targeting me with those beady orbits of laser-intensity pleading. Must. Not. Make. Eye. Contact. When I succumb to her frontal assaults and take her outside immediately, in the rain, in the snow, in the blazing heat…I find that she has played me. Again. She runs around, sniffing everything, digging, eating unidentifiable things in the mud…and does not excrete anything. So. I ain’t playin’. She’s a con, and a crack head – she got her secondary treat already this morning, so…I repeat…I do not feel the need to contribute to her addictive behavior rituals any longer. We’re gonna need an intervention before too long, and I’m not willing to facilitate that, or pay for it. So, the little cur is S.O.L. on getting her way.

On another subject entirely, I remain completely amazed that someone like Marjorie Taylor Greene has been elected to the halls of Congress. She is full-on crazy, and not the fun or amusing kind of crazy, the dangerous kind of crazy. Apparently, she believes the California wildfires were the result of secret Jewish space lasers. This kind of thinking is the product of too many violent video games, perhaps? It sounds like a cartoon, in actuality, and she resembles a cartoon…like maybe Lucy from “Peanuts” all grown up, with a handgun, and still mean and sadistic as ever. Where the hell is Peppermint Patty when you need her? Regardless, this woman needs to be expelled from the House, although I do have some pause about negating the will of the equally crazy people who elected her. I do support her being removed from committee assignment, though. She’s not fit to provide input on groceries let alone education. Goodness. I have encountered more sensible people at AA meetings, while they were still drunk.

And on another subject even farther removed…and back to me…was thinking about my parents this morning. Always an interesting topic for me these days. I was remembering the night of my high school graduation. Graduation ceremonies at my high school were quite the big deal. It was Catholic all-girls school, finishing school by the old-time standards, I guess…but with some academic excellence. We pristine young ladies did not graduate in cap and gown, we took the stage in…formal bridal-type attire. White, of course. With a bouquet of red roses. It really was quite beautiful, and was something of a debut into society. Or college. Oh, the places you’ll go, said Dr. Seuss’ Horton. I knew I was going to college, but I really didn’t quite know what that meant, except freedom and not having to wear that god-awful blue and white school attire. We even wore saddle oxfords, which I really believed were instruments of Satanic abuse. When I first enrolled at that school, in the 6th grade, the uniform skirts were a sort of small-paned plaid or houndstooth check, navy blue, black, and white. Pleated. At some point, they changed the skirt to a navy blue and white plaid, medium to large pane, still pleated I think (can’t quite remember). Some of us used to pull the white threads out, one by one, until we had a solid blue fabric, and of course the nuns frowned upon that mightily. The school blouse was white, and in 6th grade, there was the option of monogramming the collar. The uniform sweater was navy blue, and not just any navy blue sweater – there was a certain place to purchase the, it could have been the school, can’t quite remember that either. Regardless, there were a great many rules about one’s attire. I am surprised they didn’t have official panties, or maybe they did and I just didn’t get the memorandum on that. I do believe there was a rule that you had to wear them, however, which became more of an issue in high school, I would imagine. It was New Orleans, and as with many things in New Orleans, we were somewhere in between tradition and current reality, so some things were way more relaxed by the time I graduated than when I started, but … you still had to toe the party line. In your saddle oxfords, of course.

So, I digressed a bit there, but back to my parents. Apparently, it was my mother who drove the decision to send me to that private school. My father wasn’t all that enthusiastic about it, but he didn’t really put his foot down or anything (not that it would have mattered – my mother was the only alpha dog in the house). Just like when she decided I needed to repeat kindergarten, because I was just too immature at 4, she decided that I needed more of a challenge than my parochial school provided in grades K through 5. So, off I went to private school…with white people. This proved to be rather traumatic, because all the kids at my parochial school looked like me, and I was considered pretty smart. All of a sudden, here I was in this sea of white faces (there were a half-dozen or so Black girls in my class of 64) and I was having academic trouble. I wasn’t considered any kind of academic star, and then there was a socio-economic class divide. My parents were school teachers – a large percentage of the other girls’ parents (at least their dads) were doctors, lawyers, something. They had more money, had bigger houses, had bigger cars, had better toys. I noticed that pretty quickly, and felt…out of place. That never really left me. But that’s a much longer story, for another day.

Back to high school, and high school graduation. My parents had already gotten divorced by the time I graduated, and my mother outright hated my father at that point. She knew, and I knew, that he had left her for this other woman (I still call her the Chihuahua, a short brown yappy thing with big eyes). She had been accusing him of having an affair with her for years, which of course he denied or kept quiet, but *whoomp* there it was. So my mother was one big pot of bitter witches brew, and that was usually spewed on me after my father had left the house for the last time. That’s when I became stupid, was never going to amount to anything, and gruesome men that she pointed out to me on the street were “my last chance”. Little did she know…. But, suffice it to say that her spiritual and emotional abuse was at stellar levels, and I believed it. I didn’t think I was going to amount to much, and that also stayed with me up front for me many, many years. It still rears its ugly head from time to time.

With all that going on in the house, just me and her, I didn’t have very much of a relationship with dear old Dad. He had been saying for years that my mother had “warped my mind” against him. It took me another 30 years to figure out that he had not done anything to give me an alternative version of him, to forge any kind of relationship with me. When she wasn’t in the picture, he was OK with me, we were fine, but he let her abuse him and abuse me, and I had to figure a lot of things out for myself. Since he was physically absent a lot of the time…working, at a job and the other woman, i guess he was a busy boy…I had only my mother’s view of the world, and of him, to rely on. I didn’t realize for decades how angry that made me, how I felt that he didn’t care, that what she was saying about me must have been true because he didn’t dispute it or disagree with it. He came home after his second job, got a cocktail or a beer, sat down in his special chair to watch television, and usually went to sleep. Usually, she had taken him to task about SOMETHING, or complained about me for SOMETHING, and the carping just went on and on and fucking on. He got another drink. I never saw him falling down drunk or anything, and he talked normally, but he would always tell people that if they had to deal with my mother, they’d drink, too. Somewhere in there, I learned that drinking was some kind of escape, and I held onto that.

The night of the graduation was a big deal for me, of course. My grandmother and my great-aunts had come in from Lake Charles because the only grand-daughter was the star of the hour. I was in heaven because my grandmother was there, and she was so radiant in her pride. She was proud OF ME! i had on this stupid white gown (a bridesmaid’s gown, from a ritzy bridal shop – me trying to select a gown that fit and that i could stand to wear should have been a sit-com episode) and these stupid red roses, but I was on stage. And there was applause for us. They were able to announce that I had received a scholarship to Tulane, which was only supposed to be for one semester but we didn’t know that and kept asking for it for almost the duration of my college career, but that is also another story entirely). So, the stern looking nun managed to turn up the corners of her mouth when calling my name to receive my diploma, and i managed to walk somewhat normally across the stage to snatch it from her wooden arm. But I was … a graduate. Damn. I had begun to have doubts in 10th grade that I would ever make it, but here I was. A graduate! My mother was proud, my grandmother was proud, my great-aunts were proud. Life was good. I was a good person, I had nothing that I was hiding in my room, no secrets that would change the way people felt about me. That was all non-existent during the event, and for the first time in SO long, I was at peace. Maybe even happy.

As everyone was milling about for photo opportunities after the ceremony, with clinking glasses and the titter of those who understood social graces, someone nudged at my billowing sleeve to get my attention. I cannot remember who that was, but they said, “Your father is at the back door.”. I might have responded, I might not have made a sound, but I remember walking back into the building, and down the hallway, and to the door in question. I am sure I didn’t tell my mother or anyone with me where I was going. I went alone, as I still do when there’s something heavy for me to deal with. My father was standing awkwardly at the doorway; i don’t believe there was anyone else around. He was properly attired, looked quite respectable, not like some undesirable or anything. Just a man. He probably said something, I don’t remember, but I remember him holding out a small gift-wrapped box and kind of smiled (he wasn’t a big grinner or anything, unless something really tickled him or he’d had a few drinks and was with buddies). I took it. I didn’t know what to say. I didn’t know how I should react. I was thinking someone was watching, and I didn’t feel…free. He was only there for a couple of minutes, then it was done, and I might have said I need to get back inside, and he said OK, and then he walked away. He walked away. I think I felt some kind of way, but I don’t remember what that feeling was. I told my mother, of course, and she immediately derided him for coming to the back door, slinking around. I think some kind of way I felt like he gave a shit, that I understood what a risk that was for him and how she had been the wall between me and him. But I couldn’t say that. I didn’t understand that, and it was too overwhelming to contemplate, especially since the glass were clinking again that night and I put it away in my mind for the next 30 or so years. I opened the gift later, at home, and it was a rather nice ladies clutch wallet, with a coin compartment that had a clasp. I remember it distinctly, it was real leather with a fabric insert, and it was a gold or mustard yellow color. I still remember that like it was sitting right in front of me. My daddy did that. My daddy did a lot of things, but that one was good. I wish I could have told him that.

So, that is what came to mind this morning. I am not understanding why that is so emotional right now. I am feeling that I let him down, that I gave him a reason to walk away, and never come back. That I gave him a reason to believe that he was right, that she had “warped my mind” against him, and that I was the one who had walked away. It took me a very, very long time (and a lot of therapy) to become convinced that it wasn’t my fault, that I was a child, and he was the adult. That I was a child, and she was the adult. We all had these inappropriate role reversals, and sometimes I was the only adult in the house. That wasn’t right, but it was normal. I might have been functioning as the only adult, but I had no fucking idea what I was doing, and neither did they. I had consequences, and I guess they did as well. My father was not a happy man. He did marry the Chihuahua, but I don’t know if that made him happy. He died at 68. He had a pacemaker, and he was on dialysis, in ICU. That doesn’t sound like a particularly happy ending to me, but maybe there are no happy endings.

When things go viral…

My question is…ready for WHAT?

So. The race was on to get a COVID-19 vaccine, and big pharma delivered. First, there was Pfizer. Then came Moderna. Now, bringing up the rear is Johnson and Johnson. And now comes the logistics, and probably politics that we can’t even see. Which vaccine is better? Which one should you get? Can you actually get ANY of them at this point? I can’t even get a refill of a prescription for a critical maintenance medication that I take, so I’m not holding out hope on a COVID vaccine at this point. A lot of people are freaking out, after getting a sound-bite crash course in molecular biology, and trying to determine whether the messenger RNA vaccine would be the better choice, or the adeno-viral. Just before their heads explode, they’ll decide to just eff-it and drive to the bar for pre-happy hour commiseration. Without a mask. Without distancing from anyone. So, there you have it, that moment when a plan backfires and all you get is a face full of exhaust fumes.

When I heard there was a third vaccine now on the market, my first thought was how unscrupulous people would manipulate the distribution system to ensure they get the vaccine first. After hearing some of the droning on the news media about the relative merits of the new vaccine, and the comparison between it and other vaccines, my second thought was…since the new product is seemingly less effective than the first two, will that be the one that is pushed on underserved communities? on people with no insurance or inadequate insurance? from the reports i was able to digest this morning, the new vaccine is about 65% effective for the disease, for mild to moderate cases, and not including the new variant from South Africa and maybe others. So, take a number and wait for a definitive explanation on what this does for the infected population. They. Don’t. Really. Know. it’s a virus. so is HIV, and there is still no definitive anti-viral for that, nor a cure, and it’s been out there for way longer than this corona virus. we’re still on the carousel, on the merry-go round, and the ride isn’t coming to a stop just yet.

I saw an interview with a 31-year white woman on CNN this morning, and she has COVID-19. She was a healthy adult female with no underlying co-morbidities, no high risk of contracting the disease, a mother, living a seemingly reasonable and responsible life. She has been hospitalized because of the disease seven times, is now on a feeding tube because of damage to her digestive system, and some days cannot get out of bed. She has four children, and is grateful for a robust support system. Life as she knew it came to an end when she contracted the disease, but she remains hopeful that her condition will not last forever. Nobody hears stories like this, and I’m sure she is not the only person with an ongoing struggle like this. This could happen to anyone, and that’s why everyone should be doing whatever they can to avoid getting and transmitting this infernal thing, but … many are not. Go figure.

Corona virus aside, I am still wrestling with how and why a a person obviously not in touch with reality has been elected to Congress. Further, though, I am not comprehending why her affiliated political party has not rejected her nutsy-cuckoo QAnon and conspiracy message. They have not rejected her, they’ve rewarded her. The GOP placed her on the Education Committee, as though she’s a normal person. She’s not a normal person. She’s dangerously on the fringe of the reality that contains most of the rest of us. Unfortunately, she’s not alone, and her fringe minions are even more dangerous in numbers. She’s mean, vile, and has apparently modeled herself after the ex-President, not caring anything about truth, or the impact of her words. Her words, like his, are not just living on the outskirts of truth and reasonable behavior, but hurtful and emotionally devastating for those directly impacted. Calling mass shootings “false flag events” to discount the gun-control argument is just hateful, and she is very intentional about hurling that narrative whenever she can. She is worshipping at the feet of the false idol, who remains an naked orange vortex of enraged and starving narcissism, who is unabashedly using her for the attention fix. All she’s got is aggression, and a gun, no different from a Compton gang member, but with far less provocation. She’s just an empty, angry woman who is desperate to have some relevance, because she knows otherwise, she really has none. She could be relevant, but this is not the way to achieve relevancy. So, once again…by any means necessary, with emphasis on the m-e part.

Marjorie Taylor Greene is one person, but the GOP has made her representative of something much bigger. I am puzzled by the whiplash-inducing turn around of their leadership on the impeachment conviction, on their initial leanings toward rightly calling the insurrection several steps over the line. Kevin McCarthy has, again, risked his life for his exiled emperor by refusing to comply with conventional wisdom about airline travel except in cases of dire emergency. Apparently, making up with his commandant was a dire emergency, so he saw no other choice but to kneel “kiss the ring” of his Don in Mar-a-lago. (media pundits have not tired of bringing up the image from the “Godfather” movies, with Don Corleone patting the head of an acolyte kneeling before him, kissing the ring he wore signifying his rank as leader of the “organization”). In the movie, during scenes like that, the Don was known to say, “This thing you do for me, I will not forget.”.

Mitch McConnel, likewise, has done a 180-degree turnaround since the January 6th insurrection, and has retreated in his indignation about the assault on democracy, and the endangerment of his life and the lives of his comrades. He’s now mostly silent on penalties for the crime of inciting the insurrection, of sedition, and somehow believes we should just move on. He apparently believes his opinions and following still carry the weight as when the GOP enjoyed majority status in the Senate, and there isn’t anyone to tell him any different. He demanded, and got a delay in the Senate impeachment trial, in exchange for retaining the filibuster rule. Now, he and his little demon army are planning to filibuster a Cabinet nominee. He hasn’t changed one spindly hair on his chinny chin chin (and I’m not cutting him a break just because he really doesn’t have a chin). I’m hoping the Democratic majority leader will find a way to bitch slap him back into his cave so he can search for that ring…the one ring…my precious. My precious…*slurp*.

So, if it was possible, the GOP has somehow managed to advance to the rear of normalcy, decency, reality, truth. Again. I don’t know what they believe this will get them, as a party, as a movement. This country is not really a democracy; democracy is an idea, a concept. Our form of government is republic, and ultimately, that is functionally the same as the concept of democracy – government by the people, government that is not over-sized, the people elect representatives that do their business. Those are common principles and values, or should be, for this weird bi-party system we function under. Only the thrust of how we achieve those ideals should be in question,. In my lifetime, the Republican Party was more the fiscally conservative methodology of providing democratic representation, while the Democratic Party was more socially focused. Those methodologies shit, though – during the Civil War, and Reconstruction, the Republican party was more concerned with the infrastructure of slavery on the social level, and the Democrats (particularly the South) more concerned with the economic ramifications of ending slavery. I’m no historian, so those are rough generalizations, but suffice it say that partisan politics was…very different back then.

What is not different about the “how” of our democratic ideals, about the mechanics of that machinery, is … the incessant and overriding quest for individual power, for being right, for the adulation of the constituency, of the personal reward. That remains constant. Leader is an archetype in the human experience, this we know. Whether it’s on the football field, on the work crew, on the playground, there are leaders and there are followers, and there are those who are ambivalent and don’t really care about organizing or facilitating anything until they are directly impacted by circumstances. That’s just kind of how humans roll. Ultimately, that’s ok, because one would assume there’s an inherent common interest for most endeavors, so if the leader wants to do the work, everyone benefits. If the leader gets a slightly larger share of the benefits pie, most of us are ok with that as long as everyone else gets a reasonable share. The problem is, who gets to decide the size of a reasonable share. In the our form of government, the assumption is the people decide but elect leaders who will implement that decision. When the leaders decide to implement their OWN decisions, based on a non-representative but personally supportive interest group, then we have problems. And we have problems. Back to the COVID vaccine – how do we know distribution will be based on the larger common interest, and not on the personal interest of those elected leaders? It’s not like they haven’t betrayed us in the past, and not the distant past. It’s been a continuous series of betrayals for large groups in our society, and large numbers of us figure that we can’t trust anybody. So, you want me to let somebody stick a needle in my arm for this virus y’all can’t even agree on what it does, how it might or might not kill me, and the only thing I know for sure is there are BILLIONS of dollars rolling through all of this but i can’t even buy my own food anymore because i can’t get even a $8 an hour job. And screw you twice because I got no transportation to even get to where they could give me the shot, but I can get me a 40 from down the street and don’t have to listen to your shit no more.

So, do we worry about Marjorie Taylor Greene, or do we worry about whether Johnson and Johnson is not worth the stick in the arm? Do we worry about what the ex-orange crush might be doing in Florida, or do we worry about whether we need to keep the fences up at the Capitol in case of more trouble? Do we worry about white supremacy and domestic terrorism or do we worry about whether our national standing will make it possible for international terrorism on our land? I suppose the common element is … we worry. We’re all about to open doors and wondering if there’s a bucket of water ready to drop from above. We’re all waiting for something to happen, something we didn’t expect, something not good, something we aren’t going to like. So, come on – bring. it. on. But we’re scared, and we’re just full of that bravado that kids have when they’re walking through the cemetery on a dare. Please let me get out of here without a ghost dragging me into a grave. Please let me get through this day, this week, without getting some virus that kills me, without having to go to the food bank and still not having enough to eat. Please let me get back to my house, my sense of safety and familiarity, and what i can control. Pleae, please, don’t let Them take my guns, or my dogs, or my check because then i won’t feel like i can control one damned thing. So if They come for any of that, I’m gonna have to fight. I got nothing else, so yeah, I’m gonna fight. I’m hearing They are coming, and They are coming for me specifically, so I’m ready. I’m ready. I’m SO ready.

Sense and non-sense

I think it’s reasonable to assume there are sensible people amongst us, and non-sensical people. When I meet people for the first time, it would be a really nice value-added component of the human design if I could determine their sensibility before subjecting them to a field test of the Myers-Briggs or Enneagram on the fly. Those are error-prone, at best, and many non-sensical people are unexpectedly quite clever. It’s in my nature to presume that glib and intelligent people are sensible, but late, that is proving to be a dangerous premise. Every non-sensical insurgent does not wear moose horns and expect penal institutions to serve organic food. My bad.

The latest example of a dangerously non-sensical person is Marjorie Taylor Green, a U.S. Representative from Georgia. She claims to represent GA-District 14, which includes Dalton. I haven’t looked up the demographics for that district, but wonder if any people of color living there believe she truly represents them. She is rabid. Stalked a kid, who survived a mass shooting, on a public street to challenge him about why he was advocating for gun control, telling him he couldn’t defend his “stance”, and that if there had been an armed officer present at the shooting it wouldn’t have happened. She intentionally recalled the shooter’s name in her seemingly endless harangue, which occurred before she was elected to public office. The victim did not respond, and later said that he was utilizing his mindfulness meditation practice to enable him to keep his composure. What a classy woman! Since her installation as a member of Congress, she’s been loudly and snidely displaying her gun, and defiantly iterating her “right” to carry it to her Congressional office. As the owner of one of my favorite bars used to say, “Let’s go to Disney World with THIS m-effer!”.

Once again, I don’t quite understand what any of these people want. If Congress, the Supreme Court, the governors of all 50 states miraculously came to their senses and agreed the Presidential election was indeed stolen, and the recently inaugurated President is illegitimate, then what? OK, so we throw out the new guy, bring back the old guy, and THEN what? Can someone tell me exactly what next steps they want to see taken? Do we pull back COVID-19 testing efforts, and back to letting each state decide what to do and how to do it, with inadequate supplies of the vaccine? Do we pull out of the Paris Climate Accord again – is that the big issue? Do we re-issue permits of oil drilling on federal land and construction of pipelines that disrupt access to water supplies? If we did all of that, would THAT satisfy these “patriots”?

Even if these angry hordes got their way, there is no force in the Universe that can reverse the ever-increasing deterioration of normalcy that COVID-19 has brought. There is nothing that will open schools and businesses and eradicate the risk of infection. There is nothing that will keep people alive once the virus has wreaked full body havoc. So, what is the goal of ongoing episodes of crowd hysteria and sound bites of people behaving badly (incredibly badly)? I contend there is no viable goal. Things will never revert entirely to pre-pandemic circumstances, and thank goodness for that. Let’s say we traveled back in time to January of 2019, before George Floyd, before Jacob Blake, before masking became a bone of contention. We’d still have division, we’d still have food insecurity, we’d still have killing of unarmed Black men at he hands of law enforcement. Quite honestly, we’ve had that for decades. The only difference is the mask. If people really thought it through, the mask could be their salvation – they could get away with all manner of incivility, and be remain incognito. Y’all ain’t even competent thugs.

Marjorie Taylor Greene is just a really bad example of the best and brightest the GOP has to offer these days. Her mess isn’t even original, just repetition of party talking points. She once owned a CrossFit gym…hooray for her…maybe somebody dropped a kettle bell on her head or something. Despite the lack of substantive content for her outrage, I would still be really interested in why she’s so unwaveringly pissed. From what I can see from her bio, her life is pretty good – married, with three kids, nice house, family-owned business (she sold the gym, apparently). What the eff is she so pissed off about? While I am the first to admit that external trappings do not translate to happiness, I just can’t figure out why a sane person would go so far out of their way to be so intentionally nasty. She’s apparently a QAnon afficionado…so perhaps she has uninvited mental images of Satanic rituals or something making her a bit testy. Whatever it is, there are some fine medications on the market that might help, and I would hope she avails herself of same.

I have been that enraged in my life. I have not, however, vented my proverbial spleen in public and emerged without consequences. There was always pushback, retaliation, loss, damage…and that was only when anyone had bothered to listen. People the world over are not only listening to this horrid shrew, they are debating and discussing every one of her outbursts, word by word. This gives tacit legitimacy to her ill-formed arguments, but also to her right to use them as weaponry in the public square. This is behavior that should not be modeled by public officials, or by rational adults at any level of society, which brings me to another point: how the HELL did this woman get elected? I don’t think she concocted her wobbly platform just last night, after the 11pm news, so it’s nothing new. I’m willing to things like gun control and QAnon are her signature issues. So, repeating – how the HELL did she get elected? The people who voter for her, those are the people I want to know about, because if they weren’t at the Capitol on January 6th in person, they were there in spirit. I don’t want to meet up with them or their spirits any time soon, but … I know they’re out there. And that’s only Georgia. They’re out there in Louisiana, and Mississippi, and Missouri, and North Carolina, and every other state in the Union. To me, they demonstrate that volatile level of mental fragility that could explode at any moment. With my luck, and my propensity to attract charming nut cases, I’d be the one who inadvertently lights their fuse, and they’d blow like a super-nova. Accordingly, I want to know who they are, where they are, and have a working knowledge of the rules of engagement. As an old t-shirt said, I’m here for a good time, not a long time. So, if the likes of Marjorie Taylor Greene are gonna pollute the air with stuff that isn’t very much fun, let’s hurry this up a bit before the bell tolls one too many times.

This is probably what some folks really want it to be like.

Hot times

It seems that, despite the gravity of pandemic and insurrection and everything else that gives us pause these days, people are looking for distraction. The veritable meme-palooza featuring Bernie Sanders in mittens proves to be evidence of that, and it goes even further. In true capitalist economy fashion, the mitten market is burgeoning – an Popular Mechanics article fascinated me, since I wasn’t quite seeing an obvious connection between Popular Mechanics and mittens, but one was made: (https://www.popularmechanics.com/adventure/outdoor-gear/a35280484/bernie-sanders-mittens-vs-gloves/)
Following the article discussion, there is a sampling of mittens for sale, with prices ranging from $50 to $115, which I found … amusing.

There is now a debate in the country, courtesy of Bernie’s mittens, about whether mittens or gloves are the best option for cold weather. The article above discusses fill material, shells, dexterity considerations, and hybrid 3-fngered options that allow use of the index finger and thumb. I suppose that would sanitize the time-honored tradition of “giving someone the finger”. A quick search on mittens, mittens vs gloves, gloves, and Bernie Sanders mittens yielded double-digits of pages with similar content, some way more technical than Popular Mechanics, some offering guides on how to make your own mittens, and more than one explaining how Bernie’s mittens were made and how he came to have them (the poor woman who gifted him with those has been besieged by potential customers…but she’s not in business and really wants to be left alone, thank you very much).

America, America…crown they good with brotherhood…and crown thy hands with…mittens. Or gloves. Or both, if you want to guarantee your hands will spontaneously combust. Your choice. Some of us don’t have access to either, so we do what people have been doing for eons – blow into your clenched hands, put your hands in your pockets or under your armpits, sit on your hands, whatever you have to do. If you’re in a situation where none of that works, and you need industrial strength mittens/gloves, you know what to do or you would have another job. I’m from Louisiana, and we don’t generally need to consider the subject of hand warming quite so seriously. Conversely, we spend quite a lot of time figuring out how to navigate 100% humidity and heat index of over 100 degrees, so if people need to know how to keep cool while still complying with laws requiring clothing of some kind, we can talk.

Anyway, we need distraction. We’re into crisis fatigue, and I would venture to guess people are finding ways to disconnect from the avalanche of information we’re getting lately. There are daily press conferences, often multiple, on the pandemic, the mechanics of the virus itself, the vaccine, how to get the vaccine, screwups with vaccine distribution, stories about people with the virus, people who have died from the virus, and most importantly, who said what about any of these subjects and who disagrees with that. If you want a break from the virus, there are other subject matter areas – the insurrection, the impeachment trial, people who have been arrested for the insurrection, who is to blame for the insurrection, participants, replay of videos from the insurrection. If your eyes are not rolling around inside their sockets yet (and making that little bongo sound from the cartoons), you can check out the really minor stuff, like the millions of people out of work, the overloaded systems for unemployment benefits, evictions, homelessness, other health care issues, school re-openings, hunger.

The President is signing executive orders so fast he’s likely to start a small fire on the Resolute Desk. He was sitting with nearly a foot-high stack of them on the corner of the desk, determinedly explaining each and every one, signed it, then reach up for the next one. He has not been playing golf. He has not been Tweeting. He’s been engaging in the time-honored tradition of work. He signs executive orders, which are the result of some consultation and planning, I would imagine, then gets on the phone with the Russian Prime Minister. I hope he has time to use the bathroom and maybe have a glass of water or something. If he’s trying to let people know that he’s working, I think it’s a successful effort.

I find it reassuring and comforting to see the President getting down to work. It feels as though he’s sure of what he’s doing, and providing as much transparency as is prudent, letting people know a lot about what’s going on in the White House. It’s nice to see, even though I know there are still a LOT of people who have nothing good to say about this new administration, and want to see everything revert to the previous chaos. I cannot understand that, but maybe that’s a good thing. I fear that if ever I do understand illogic of that calibre, I will have lost my hold on reality. So, no rush on that.

What I do understand, though, is why people are going slightly ballistic about their inability to have their hurrs cut or their nails did. When you feel like everything normal has been taken away, you’re going to rebel. Especially if you ain’t grown yet. Before this “lock-down” of the pandemic response, I was not someone constantly out of my domicile looking for new things to do. I spent a fair amount of time at home, accumulating more useless crap in my living space and reassuring the dog that she had enough treats for the apocalypse. What I am missing, however, is spontaneity. If I chose to stay home on a rainy day, or a sunny day, that was fine. But if I decided to call a friend for a late lunch at a favorite restaurant or watering hole, that was also fine. That’s what has become difficult, if not impossible. Some establishments are simply closed, but even if open, I need to plan a bit for the excursion. I need to make sure I have a mask handy, and my personal choice is outdoor dining, if possible. Most of the time, it’s easier to just have something delivered to my apartment or pick it up and bring it home. Many people are unwilling to make those changes in routine, and that drives me slightly cuckoo. So, I get it.

What I also get about this “new normal” is that I’m fortunate to be have choices like having food delivered or sprinting into a restaurant to get take out, as opposed to being food insecure or going hungry, as many do ordinarily but even more so these days. I’m just not willing to risk my health or someone else’s just to say the gummint can’t make me do something I don’t want to do. Arguing about rights in this context is just silly. To live in this country, there’s an implied contract of protecting the common good, so I’ve got news for all those unmasked rebels – the gummint makes us do stuff we don’t wanna do EVERY day. We have to wear clothes, we have to comply with traffic lights, we pay sales tax on stuff we buy (even the haircuts and the nail salons), we pay property tax on cars and houses, on the gas that makes the car go, the power that runs your computer so you can spew your hatred on Parler or Twitter or wherever else you go. Your gun wasn’t even free – if you bought it legally, there was probably sales tax; if you licensed it, like you’re supposed to, there was probably a licensing fee. Even if you stole it, somebody somewhere paid all that. We pay for practically everything we touch, even if it’s naturally occurring, like water. All of that is what makes it possible for the ambulance to show up when your drunk ass falls down the steps or crashes the car into something. So. Think on that for a minute, Ace.

I’m just trying to figure out why, with all of this gummint intrusion, people are choosing to die on the hill called a mask. It’s a piece of fabric a few inches wide, and this is the biggest issue in your life? I suppose I should understand and be tolerant of that, since thousands of people (some close enough for me to reach out and touch) are still willing to take a stand on a slightly larger piece of fabric that protects nothing but the memory of a failed domestic war effort of more than a century ago. But that’s another story. I suppose if you just need to be mad about something, anything will do. Anything. Black President in the White House? Be angry. Be very angry. And people are very, very angry. There are hilarious stories, fortunately not lately, where people assaulted fast food workers because they were out of chicken nuggets. A man was murdered in a Popeye’s drive-up line in a dispute with another driver over the chicken sandwich (which I found tasty but definitely not worth shooting someone). And of course, there are brawls and murders every football season over a score, a play, a penalty that should or should not have been called, who’s the better team. I will say that alcohol is frequently involved in these extreme situations, although I can’t vouch for the chicken nuggets altercation. People, people, people – calm the eff down, or up. Meditate, do yoga, go to the gym, punch a bag, lift weights, throw a ball, do something. If you really DO need to kill someone, please make it for something worth your while, like self defense or something. Not fast food. There won’t be any fast food in prison, so please hedge your bets; just some unsolicited advice. No charge.

I was telling some people earlier that I was still very unsettled about being out in the general population these days. Homeland Security issues a bulletin today, saying the threat of domestic terrorism was elevated. I could have told them that. There is a prickly feeling in the air, and it’s not a cold front. There are psycho Congresspeople who want to kill the Speaker of the House, the former Vice-President, or any Democrat who is not nailed down. They are open about this, loudly proclaiming their rabid opinions whenever there’s someone around to listen. It would be wiser if more rational people didn’t listen, but there’s a kind of morbid fascination to witnessing the zombies. I believe they really are dead people, no souls, no brains, fighting their own rigor mortis and decay. They are lost, but dangerous, so I suppose they will need our attention until they begin to literally fall apart, as zombies are wont to do. The rot smells even at this distance, so there’s another reason for me to keep my distance.

I’m hoping it snows tonight, although most predictions say it will only be for a minute. It’s been abnormally warm so far this winter, but I’m still hoping for a good snow. I hope it holds off for a bit, though – I am considering making an order for mittens and a folding chair so that I can enjoy a day like Bernie. Maybe I’ll wind up as a meme, too.



News…or olds

I nearly spit out my coffee when I heard a CNN host report that conservative news outlets are reporting that when the new POTUS is speaking of “unity” he is really calling for more divisiveness. What is now being called “MAGA media” acknowledges there is a need for unity, but claim the existing divisions in the country are the result of the radical left faction and its push for things like voting rights and impeachment of a President who incited an insurrection. Radical and patently unfair stuff like that. I did not realize that a dog could hear a non-existent dog whistle. I would imagine that constitutes auditory hallucination, but I’m not a medical professional so what do I know? When in doubt, make up a conspiracy if there’s not one. If all you have is old news, just repeat it until people believe that’s what is happening now. I just hope the DSM will include this kind of stuff in its next edition. With pictures. (I’m probably going to need to edit this post later, because I’m gonna probably go on a caffeine-high rant in a second, which means it will consist of many words, some of which may not connect to anything in particular.)

After cleaning up the coffee dribble, I listened to CNN interviewing Charles Blow, a NY Times editorialist. His new book is The Devil You Know: A Black Power Manifesto. It talks about a variety of issues relevant to Black empowerment, such as voter turnout and employment. He also speaks about white allies, saying “…holding a placard and then returning to brunch” doesn’t quite cut it. Martin Luther King, Jr. had also begun lobbing comments toward whites before his death, saying that white moderates were somewhat disingenuous in the struggle for actual empowerment of Blacks. From some of what I heard Charles Blow saying earlier (sporadic, since my coffee intake had been involuntarily reduced), the only people who are going to be totally invested and totally committed to total empowerment of the Black community are its own members.

I’ve heard this before, and I wrestle with it. Sentiment like what Blow iterated remind us there’s always a line drawn between the races, no matter how much welcoming, tolerance, friendliness, like-mindedness there is between us, there’s always a line. We can agree on concepts of ideals of justice, practices of government, the practical manifestations of prejudice and systemic oppression. We can be passionate about all of this, fight together in the streets, sit at the same table when hashing out policies, break bread together, make music together, make money together. But…there always seems to be a line in the sand that cannot be successfully crossed. I don’t know any more whether or not that is emotional, or experiential. It’s frustrating.

In any group, there is always “group dynamics”. There are introverts and extroverts, leaders and followers, jokers and thieves. Always. When there are gender, sexual orientation, ethnic and racial dynamics, things get a little more complicated. The male of the species continues to do what they’ve always done, and require very little invitation to demonstrate their dominance, regardless of sexual orientation. There has been a lot of progress on that over the years, but men naturally take up more space in groups, whether it be how they sit or stand with legs widespread or simply their physical size. The natural frequency of their voices carries further, and they are often more easily heard. Black men, brown men, Indian men, Russian me, European men, Asian men…it matters not. Additionally, I contend their auditory organs are somehow deficient in a mechanical sense, because they often don’t fucking listen to voices that transmit at lower frequencies, but I digress.

Beyond all of that, race and ethnicity further complicates group dynamics, as cultural norms outside the United States are some brave new world for many of us in this country. Inside this country, however, race and skin color are such weighty issues that we can barely carry that baggage any longer. My biggest issue with it is…when I’m in a group where I’m the numeric minority and we’re “interacting”, if I get shut down, is it because I’m just an asshole or is it because of cultural norms? This can make a person nuts. I CAN be an asshole, but so can a lot of other people. Am I imagining that a white male who is being difficult is getting more air time? Am I imagining that he and I are behaving in roughly equivalent fashion, but I get shut down and he does not? Have I not been honest with myself about my behavior? Am I second-guessing myself again, and need to be more assertive? By the time I’m done with asking myself all these questions, everyone is heading out for coffee after the meeting, which ended 10 minutes ago. If I WAS supposed to be assertive, the time has passed.

So, maybe I’m just such a dysfunctional specimen of society that I’ll never get this correct. But…what exactly would be correct? My recovery program teaches me that I should do the next right thing, do the best I can, and if I err, make amends and try again. OK, that’s great, but everybody doesn’t run their lives by the principles of a 12-step program. Some people really don’t give a hoot, and don’t ever ask themselves whether or not they have taken up too much space (and that is gender non-specific). Some of us are just wired like that, and that’s just how it is. So, when skin color gets thrown into that mix, we all (and I do mean all) wobble between self-righteousness and incompetence. I believe that I have worthiness and dignity and deserve respect…but when I’m dealing with other people, I’m more concerned with whether or not their actions are informed by their agreement with those attributes. But how do I know?

A lot of my experience has been that people say things they don’t mean, that people pledge their allegiance to lofty ideals that sound golden, but their actions don’t match up with what they say. Christians justified slavery in Europe and America by claiming they were doing God’s work, and their brutal treatment of slaves was not in conflict with Christian teachings. I’m not aware of where the word of God commands anyone to make one person the property of another, deprive them of freedom to leave, and whip them into a bloody pulp if they attempt to employ their human agency. But, literacy and reading comprehension are not the strength of everyone.

Back to the heavy baggage of race, this experience of the disconnect between what people say and what they do is, on the surface, simply an issue of trust. When I don’t trust my boss in the workplace, I steer clear and give them a wide berth. I document our interactions, because I expect that if there’s a difference in opinion about a negative outcome to the relationship, the objective testimony will render…justice. When those rules are not followed, however, there’s a huge disconnect for me, as the subordinate, and the power imbalance is insurmountable. When the management structure upholds my boss in their distrustful practice, that’s not fair. THAT’S NOT FAIR! You can’t trust these people, you see…all this core values mess and human resources policy and we care about your experience here is just some more bullshit, because management is going to stick together no matter what. Right? Right. And so no matter how many other managers I might have, I never trust one implicitly, because I’ve still got that first experience tattooed behind my eyelids…and that voice in my head screaming “don’t trust them. ever. you know that it’s never going to be fair”. This is not a peer relationship.

When there is a peer relationship, and similar dynamics play out, the psychological damage can be even more unsettling. If I’m participating in a social organization, or maybe an activist organization, I have a reasonable expectation that everyone shares roughly the same interest, or goal. A KKK member is probably not going to have any interest in joining a chapter of the NAACP. Unless they have an ulterior motive, in which case they’re going to talk the talk and sound like they love Black people and truly believe they should be empowered. Things like that have happened, and we all know it, and it stays with us because it gives us a reason, justification, to withhold implicit and unbridled trust. When I am consciously aware of that happening for me, I am realize that I’m making a conscious decision to restrain myself because…if betrayed…again…the cost will simply be too great. In some case, depending on the shared endeavor, the cost might be reputational, or even financial. In all cases, the emotional toll is devastating. The expense could be financial, loss of a job, or a loan, a business opportunity.,.or a piece of your heart. The pressure and stress of feeling that you have to choose correctly when the stakes are that high is overwhelming, and for all of us – no matter what color – sometimes the more concrete choice is to offer blanket distrust. I’m not trusting anyone. It’s easier, and I’m more in control of things. If I’m betrayed, I have only myself to blame, because I knew I couldn’t trust anyone. So, there. I’ve reduced the variables in the equation, and now I can get another cup of coffee and move on.

Unfortunately, the equation leaves a lot to be desired in controlling playground relations. The biggest issue is that we can’t do most things on the playground alone – the merry-go-round needs a bunch of people to push it. If people don’t move along on the monkey bars, there’s a pile up. If something breaks, we need tools, supplies, maybe outside help. So… everybody sucks + me by myself = 0. OK, so let me find all the other people who feel the way I do, but … I can’t trust them either. So, everybody put on your game face, suit up and show up and we’ll all play whichever game proven to be in our best interest. What we want. What we believe is the way things should be.

I’m not sure the end game described is ultimately a bad thing. Product yield based on satisfaction of self-interest isn’t horrible, but it’s impractical and maybe impossible. There are millions of individual self-interest pots, and they aren’t identical. To manage that, we have … politics (by many names, but that’s a simple one). That’s how we attempt to organize the common needs, the common goals. Sometimes we forget, however, that organizing common goals to enhance the successful outcome of the individual goals…but we’ve been so busy discrediting and dishonoring and discounting those, so only the largest ones seem to be visible, seem to count, seem to have merit.

This is how we get to that 1% vs 99% dynamic – yours is worth more than mine. Your job, your talent, your kind. Your life. As long as some arbitrary attribute over which we have no control determines our value, we can’t go very far. We can’t mutate, quite literally, into some better form of live. That’s how viruses survive, and prove themselves virtually indestructible in some cases. Hatred, and its expression as racism, heterosexism, xenophobia, religiosity – those are hardy infections. They don’t change much because the chief symptom is a closed mind, and the most fertile environment is isolation and darkness. After all these years, that baggage really is too heavy, so we’ve set it down and rest on it, because we’ve been walking with it for a long time and we’re so devastatingly fatigued.

It’s definitely dark, and now it’s raining because there’s a storm moving in. The playground is empty, so nobody can play. We can play indoors, with family, but it gets pretty boring after a while. At some point, somebody’s going to venture out there into the bad weather, and figure out what other people are doing to cope with the bad weather. They may need to go to another neighborhood to find someone, and when they do, they may be amazed to find the sun is shining over there, the clouds are behind them, and there’s another playground a block over. They may find they love it when a plan comes together, and it’s a new plan altogether. Amazing how that happens.

Maltese playground closed for Coronavirus

Lack of discipline

So, this morning, as I pass by the row of medication bottles without making eye contact, I am contemplating discipline. I have an aversion to it, apparently. Oppositional defiance is somewhat energizing up until it doesn’t work for you, when it yields harmful consequences. I can’t tell where this comes from…maybe parents who illustrated both ends of the control spectrum? I enjoy placing blame on the rigidity of the Catholic religion, but I could be somewhat biased. I suppose finding the root is unimportant, but as usual, I digress.

Discipline, one of those annoying words in the English language that can be used in disctinctly different ways (discpline, distinct, different – too many words beginning with “d” for my liking, but the coffee hasn’t kicked in yet). A discipline is a course of study, a branch of study, such as engineering. To be disciplined is to adhere to a code of conduct, or follow instructions toward a designated outcome, such as *ahem* taking medication every day as prescribed, or following instructions. I am a fanatic for variation, but ironically, routine causes me to feel somewhat secure. So, I wobble between wanting the familiarity of routine, and resenting the lack of variety. If I take the same path every day while walking the dog, beginning and ending at the same point, I look for ways to vary the intermediate experience. When I reach the first intersection, or opportunity for a turn or curve, I want to make a left turn one day, and a right turn the next. Anything to make some part of the experience variable. Extra points for symmetry, and/or rhythm with which I am mildly obsessed; left once, right once, right once, left once. There’s a rhythm to that, somehow; anything except step, step, step, step, point A, step, step, step, step, point B, repeat. B-O-R-I-N-G.

Now, the bizarre point of this obsession with rhythm and variety is that…it involves some degree of risk, and with the level of constant anxiety and fear that is also part of my inner machinery, risk is not always my friend. Risk and vulnerability seem to be much the same thing, so I would very much like to feel as though I know where I’m going before I get there, and once I get there, I would like to know where the bathrooms are. This does not seem like a lot to ask of the Universe, but I am told that control is not always mine for the taking. Bleh. So, I suppose I will control what I can when I can, accept things I cannot control, control things I can, and hope to know the difference before I have bashed my head into a wall too many times for comfort.

I’m not sure if this constant push for variation and variety constitutes lack of discipline, or just a quirk. I have more quirks than the average bear, I imagine, but it’s part of my charm and I don’t see that as a bad thing. Until, once again, they stop working for me. When I pass up the medicine bottles, there are no immediate negative consequences. My inner 5-year-old is doing a happy dance, and gleefully thumbing her nose at every authority figure she has ever know. After a couple of days of waiting for the 5-year-old to wear herself out, I might be feeling the effects of not taking some of the medications. Now, one would think, I would pull up the big girl panties, put the little one to bed, and take the bloody pills. But no, I’m going to put it off. I’ll need the right drink, at the right temperature, in the right cup…so not time yet. Oh, I’ll do it when I eat…it’s better not to take medication on an empty stomach, right? BUT I AM ALWAYS EATING, so there is always a right time. Oh, I’ll do it after I eat, but…the dog really needs to go out, so I’ll do it when I get back inside. When I come back inside, it’s out of sight and out of mind, and then it’s somehow the next morning, and so it begins again.

While this silly cycle is repeating ad nauseum, the point at which discipline evaporates is, I suppose, the point at which I consciously know that I am avoiding and procrastinating and resisting the regime, the routine, the compliance. There, that’s it – compliance. I do not want to comply, I do not want to submit, I do not want to conform. Even better, and more to the point (just got a visceral fist bump right then) – conformity. THAT’S really the issue. I never want to conform. If I am one of 100 people are going to the same place, for the same reason, I want to be the one who takes a different street, or a different bus, or who walks instead of drives or drives instead of walks. Anything to be outside the bell curve.

As I’m exploring this in relation to discipline, I am wondering how much of this is simply attention-getting behavior. Hmmm. When I was a very little kid, I seemed to get a lot of attention. I was the only grandchild, I was cute and precocious like a lot of little kids, so being the only child and the only grandchild, I was a princess. I shared nothing, Everything was all mine. My mommy was ill, but there were more than enough relatives to compensate, and I thrived. Every dish was prepared with me in mind, every trip out of the house was taken with me in mind, and everyone’s schedule took me into account. As it should be. Life was good, until it changed, until mommy began to recover and daddy was told to get his act together and provide for his family. And so, abruptly to my child’s mind, I was plucked out of the lap of luxury and *poof* instant nuclear family was downloaded and activated. The only problem was…nobody involved quite knew what they were supposed to to. Not me, not my parents, not anybody. Mommy had post partum depression, so she was a little off the rails. Daddy was working (although part of his job semed to be philandering and running the streets, if you ask me) so he wasn’t even in the train yard. I was…I just WAS. I had clothes and shelter and enough to eat (goodness knows I had enough to eat, ’cause I was chubby and looked a bit like Mrs. Potato Head).

But attention…not sure I got that early on, at least not appropriately. I remember my mother sleeping for huge parts of the day, so it seems like I amused myself a good bit. I don’t think I was endangered much, although I did nearly cut my thumb off trying to cut an orange once when I was about 5, but that can happen to anyone. Looking back on it, as much of it as I can remember, I do think I got in the habit of trying to attract attention, in the same way as my high-energy dog when I’m spending too much time in bed. A lot of the response I got was – would you stop jumping around? Be quiet – I can’t hear the television. Shut up! I don’t care what you ant to do right now! Would you keep still – stop squirming!

In all fairness, it was just me and mommy for 99% of the time once we had moved away from my grandmother. I do remember going to City Park regularly, where they had a Kids Land, and swings, and I enjoyed that. There were other people there, other mothers and children, and it was a popular place. I remember going to the library with her, and developed my love of reading. They had story hour, too, and that was OK, but I liked being able to take the books home. Being out was cool, being home…not as much the older I got. The tension between the big people was something else entirely. They didn’t have a huge circle of friends, so I didn’t have a huge circle of friends. My mother’s sister was nearby, and she was a lot of fun. They seemed to get along fine, and she would take me places. I adored her, and much later, I wished she was my mother. But that’s another story entirely.

So, back again to discipline and conformity. I always felt something was out of place on me…I think I knew my home wasn’t like everybody else’s home. My mommy was a little…different. I always knew that. When I first started school in New Orleans, I had already been to kindergarten once, in Lake Charles, but I was too young and my mother said I should repeat it. She was right…I had not even been adequately potty trained when I went the first time. I don’t know how she knew to insist that I repeat the grade, but she was absolutely right. And I was still chronologically a year younger than a lot of my classmates. Regardless, it was the beginning of routine, and conformity. I remember when we learned our shapes, one teacher always made a big read circle around my circles, because where I connected the arcs one line didn’t connect evenly, it overlapped the other one and wasn’t smooth. This was apparently a problem, because it didn’t look like anybody else’s circle. Hmm. I may still do that, but I haven’t had a lot of reasons to manually draw a circle over the past 40 years or so, so…impact remains minimal. But once again, for me to remember that more than 50 years ago seems rather significant.

So, is the insistence on non-conformity attention getting? Is that my goal? Probably. I’m not sure that’s a huge issue, except when it is. Sometimes it’s inappropriate, I would admit…and now it’s like second nature, a default switch. The older I got, the more I became comfortable with the notion that even bad attention is better than no attention, and so it became my life’s work to get attention by nearly (and I emphasize nearly) any means necessary. For quite a while, I’ve had at least some discretion about not taking up too much space in certain situations, like…funerals, formal meetings, etc. But there are many times when I feel daring and throw caution to the wind, knowing that I am likely inappropriate in some humorous or risque’ verbosity, but opt for the laugh, the gasp, the reaction. I don’t have the…discipline…to resist that urge. The need is screaming loudly inside my head, and it drowns out the more rational monotonic voice of conformity, the one that says “you don’t see anybody else behaving like that, do you?”, which is my mother’s voice. So, there’s the connection, perhaps. Conform. Everybody knows what they’re supposed to do. There are rules that “normal” people follow, good people, smart people. There are rules. You must not be normal, or good, or smart if you can’t get that. What a disappointment you are, embarrassing me like this.

So, whomp, dere it iz. I never wanted to be normal. I still don’t want to be normal. Unfortunately, I frequently want the rewards that I perceive come from normalcy, like love, and companionship, and security, and family. Respect and tolerance and the understanding that even those of us who march to the beat of a different drummer still have rhythm, and can make a pleasing sound. That should not be too much to ask. My resistance to conformity, all these years, is not based on inability, or lack of will power, it’s based on a refusal to accept someone else’s rules for my life. Usually, my resistance stops at the line of crossing into enemy territory where I can’t win the battle. (wisdom to know the difference once again). But if you want to explain to me why I should not cuss as much as I do, or why I should not talk so loudly, I will probably tell you that I can talk as fucking loud as I want, and those are your rules and not mine. That usually does not win me friends nor influence people, but it has taken me a long time to find my voice and I am not going to squelch it now. I’m too fat, too old, and too tired. So, deal. Or don’t deal. The sun will rise again tomorrow regardless.