Sunday, February 12, 2017

No More Ladies

I'm lamenting, this morning, the loss of decorum in our country. I get the concept of "reclaiming" words to somehow claim their power for ourselves, but I think the execution is off, especially recently.

My wife was a strong woman, and didn't let society tell her who she could and couldn't be--she told me of getting punished by her mother, when she was told she needed to get used to doing laundry so she could be a 'good wife' someday, for replying, "I'm going to *have* a wife someday, and then she can do the laundry." She was in the first class of women to be admitted to (and to graduate from) the US Air Force Academy, and then became a pilot in the Strategic Air Command. She didn't accept not being able to do something just because she was a woman.
What made her the most beautiful person I have ever known, though, was that even with her strength, even with all the boundaries she pushed, even as her body let her down and deteriorated, she never stopped being a lady. In the Air Force, despite being around salty language all the time, she made a point to never use that language. She talked about always wearing perfume when she was in her flight suit, so she could feel ladylike even in such a masculine-looking garment. I only heard her curse once, and it was when she was coming to my defense, on the phone with the con artist that stole my house in Missouri. She had a stoic grace about her that I can only hope to live up to someday.

And she would say to me often, as she would shake her head at the latest thing on the television, that there were "no such thing as ladies anymore;" that young women seemed not to even want to be ladylike, as if retaining their dignity and decorum was a negative thing somehow. As if being a 'lady' somehow made you weak, even though she was living proof that it didn't.

I understand that people are meaning well, but I can't bring myself to call myself a "nasty woman," and pretend it's a compliment and not an insult. Nor do I want to start using the 'P-word,' even referring to pink hats, just because a public figure was crude enough to be caught using the word on a "hot mic." I even lost interest in a group at my church when it was suggested we call ourselves "Women Getting [Excrement] Done." Sorry, but I don't really want to do [excrement]--I mean, I suppose we all do it, and I expect I could change a diaper if I needed to, but it feels like an odd thing to want to announce to the world. I guess I just don't know how we can continue to "co-opt" the things we find offensive, without becoming something offensive ourselves.
I know I am nowhere near as ladylike as my Joanne was--I can definitely be a bit more free with the salty language, sometimes--but it is what I aspire to. Even if it would make me an obsolete relic of times gone by.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

On the Fence

Carrying on from yesterday's writing (which I added here just a moment ago).

I do want to make it more clear that the "Sledgehammer Guy," himself, should not be seen as doing anything noble.  He's not going to be the person who does any of the work to fix anything, all he is going to do is wreck it.  You don't thank the drunk driver who totalled your beat-up old car, even if you were fortunately not injured in the crash, and even if the replacement car you had to buy is nicer and gets better gas mileage.

Nor do the drunk driver's actions become more excusable with the assertion that "things were already broken."  Let's be honest, there's two different kinds of broken: the crack-in-the-windshield, busted-tail-light, dented-bumper kind, and the crumpled-mess-of-metal-that-makes-you-say-"Oh My God" kind.  And enduring the change from the first kind to the second kind is never a happy occasion.
Yes, things were broken already.  But we are moving from "broken" as in, chipped, cracked, flawed, and leaking; to "broken" as in, thousands of shards all over the floor, which will cut our hands as we pick them all up, and will cut our feet if we miss any, which we inevitably will.

Yesterday, I wrote about my hope for the blessing that could come from these recent events.  For every hope, though, there is a corresponding fear.  For me, now, that fear is that once things are openly and indubitably broken, instead of coming together in the middle and starting the work to rebuild things even better than they were, we are just going to have a huge fight about whose fault the brokenness is.  It will be the natural impulse, it will be what feels good at the time, and it will be an unnecessary, ridiculous, and bloody wrestling match on top of the broken shards that we will each blame the other for, and that nobody will clean up even though now everyone is being equally cut.

Sadly, I worry I see signs of this bloody wrestling match already.  The current attitude is definitely not one of working together to rebuild.  The current attitude is, "You did this to us, so now let's see how you like it."  Hopefully, this will change as cooler heads prevail, though I fear it won't.

The key will be to start resisting the emotional pull to combat extreme viewpoints with equally-and-oppositely extreme viewpoints, and to move toward moderation instead.  This will be difficult, because historically, the only group vilified more than extreme liberals or extreme conservatives are the moderates, who want to live in the space in the middle.  They "ride the fence."  They "play both sides." They're "not with us, so they're against us." They just "tell both 'sides' what they want to hear." They're "neither hot nor cold, so I will spew them from my mouth."*
Even with dogs--two dogs can bark at each other from either side of a fence all day; but have a squirrel run across the top of the fence, and suddenly the dogs are in perfect agreement that the squirrel is the Bad Guy.

But here's what I think:  That thing in the middle, that divides us?  It's not a fence.  That's the road.  The two "sides" that we have divided ourselves off into?  Those are called ditches.  Make no mistake, right now we are all off in the ditches.
And you know, honestly, it can actually be a pretty wide road.  There can be a left lane, for people who like to apply the gas more liberally, and there can be a right lane, for those who drive more conservatively, and several more lanes in between so there's room for everybody.
I do know this:  Until we stop arguing about whether the Left Ditch or the Right Ditch is the best one to be off into, and until we straighten out the massive pile-up and get ourselves back up on the road where we belong, none of us are ever going to get anywhere.

*:  For those who get the reference, this last one shows just how far back anti-moderate sentiment goes.

The Emperor's New Clothes?

{This was originally posted on my Facebook account; it got a bit longer than I expected and probably would have been better here on my blog, so I am going to archive it here as well.}

Inspired by a conversation I had today, in which I said that the next +/- 4 years are going to be a "giant exercise in 'reductio ad absurdum.'"

Have you ever had something that was broken, if you were honest about it, but it still kind of worked, and so you just put up with it and fussed with it and 'made it work,' because you didn't want to go through the hassle of having to get it fixed or find a new one?
And then once the thing finally broke the rest of the way, and you had no choice but to repair or replace it, didn't you think, "Wow, I should have done that a long time ago, it's so much easier to use one that works"?

So here's what I'm getting at. I freely admit that I've disagreed with nearly everything our new president has done so far. But there may be a blessing here, and if so, it is this: Things were broken before the election. The income gap has been out of control for years. Large swaths of our population are treated as guilty until proven innocent. Healthcare is still inaccessible for many.

But, things weren't broken enough for the majority to stop putting up with it and finally fix it.
Until now. Instead of patching yet another chip in the windshield, the first thing This Guy does is run up and put a sledgehammer through it, Macintosh-1984-commercial style. All the brokenness that already existed is now being put on unabashed, unapologetic display for the entire world to see. And it's bloody embarrassing, as a country, to know that now the world can see how bad we let it get, just because we didn't want to have to try to fix it.

My hope is that the protests and the record numbers of calls to Congress that we are seeing now are the signs that finally, the majority can't even pretend it still works anymore, and they're finally starting to demand a repair or a replacement.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017


I think I'm starting to find that the road to Hell really is paved with good intentions.

At least, to the extent that the good intentions are the expectations I have about what I think I would like to get done and what I ought to be able to do, and that the Hell in question is the guilt and self-loathing that comes from falling short of that.

I'm in the midst of a week off from work right now.  I went into it thinking that this would finally be the chance to spend the whole week whipping the house into shape and getting some momentum going; I was going to get the Kitchen straightened up and finally start doing some real cooking for myself again, I was going to start going through some stuff that had piled up, catch up on the laundry, take the dog for walks all week, and it was going to make me feel accomplished and good about myself.

And then, as the week goes on, I find myself dialing back, and dialing back.  "You know, it's pretty cold outside, and I did take Bodie for a walk yesterday, so maybe I don't need to do it today."  It's Wednesday afternoon now, and I still haven't gotten the Kitchen in order, let alone gotten recipes and shopping lists together, gotten to the store, and done the "real cooking" I had in mind.  I did finally run the dishwasher, and I'm finally doing a load of laundry; it's done in the washer and I should be hopping up to go put it in the dryer, but that hasn't happened yet.  If I'm honest with myself, what I'd really like is to go to bed and take a nap this afternoon.  But, I probably won't let myself do that.

I know it's all related to grief, especially since there are certain things I do seem to have energy for.  I always seem to manage just fine at work, and to get myself there and back.  Church stuff doesn't seem as draining as things at home do, either (which instead of accepting as a positive, the Hell of self-loathing twists around into "being fake at Church").  And the new hobby I started a couple of months ago seems to energize me as well.
But in general... I don't think I really knew what tired felt like, before this year.

I know I just need to go easy on myself.  Instead of being disappointed in myself that I'm not baking bread, I ought to feel good that today I worked up the notion to do some laundry.
But it's easier to say I should go easy on myself, than it is to actually do it.  I've always had high expectations for myself.

This is different, though.  This isn't something I can fix, it's not something that gets better and goes back the way it was.  C.S. Lewis used the analogy of an amputation; I often think it's a useful one.  And if I had lost a leg, it'd be silly to be mad at myself for not being able to get right back to life as usual.
I would have to take time--probably longer than I would think it should take--to let things heal.
Then would be the slow process of learning to get about on only one leg--and you know, I bet I'd fall a few times while I was figuring it out; and I bet I wouldn't always want to hop right back up to try again, I bet sometimes instead I would just sit and feel sorry for myself for a while.
Finally at the end, once I was all used to it, and I could get around on one leg without really focusing on it that much... Even then, I bet I still wouldn't think it was the same as back when I had both legs, but at least I would finally know how to live with it.

So, yeah.  If I'm having too much trouble carrying on without the part of me that's missing, then maybe I need to imagine the wound hasn't healed enough yet, and maybe rest really is what I need.  Or, maybe I just need to accept that I'm going to be falling down a lot in the coming months or years, as I try to do things that feel like they should be easy, but aren't anymore.  Maybe I even need to give myself permission to just sit and feel sorry for myself for a while, every once and again.
One thing I do know--I am not yet anywhere near that part at the end where I am all used to it, and can just go along without focusing on it that much.