Where did all the blue skies go

IMG_0940

I started to write a post on the 4th of July and decided not to publish it, didn’t finish it. I couldn’t find the words to express what I was feeling, couldn’t quite figure out how to acknowledge a celebration of our country’s freedom when so much of the world is not free. I don’t usually get political here and it felt inauthentic somehow, though my feelings were 100% sincere.

That was four days ago, and I think had a fair amount to do with a new friend I’ve made, through my cousin – a fellow who lives in Iraq. I reached out to him after the latest spate of suicide bombings in Baghdad and he was, of course, devastated and angry. He asked to see photos of the mountains and woods where I spent the long weekend; he wanted to see beauty and positivity and freedom. He sent me a photo collage of the victims of Sunday’s attacks, and it was a collection of beautiful, young, vibrant faces.

The next day there were attacks in Saudi Arabia. This week two young black men in the US have been killed by police for the “crimes” of selling music and driving with an allegedly busted tail light. Last night, snipers shot and killed five police officers in Dallas and wounded several others.

I do not know how to react to any of this. I am infuriated and saddened and tired of feeling helpless and I don’t know what my recourse is.

I do know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that Donald Trump is not the answer to any of this. Hate begets hate. Intolerance begets intolerance. Ignorance is dangerous and hubris does not a successful leader make. And I do not want to speak his name more than absolutely necessary, so that’s that for now.

I am in New Orleans again, working through the final third of the book. And it is hard to concentrate on what at times seems such a trivial pursuit in light of all that is happening in the world around us. But this is my job, and so I will do it.

Since I was last here about six weeks ago, there have been terrorist attacks in Syria, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Turkey, Somalia, Israel, Yemen, Pakistan–and that’s just off the top of my not-terribly-informed head. Since I was here, a monster shot and killed 49 people at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida.

There is so much to grieve in this world. And there is so much to love and admire, to those of us who are fortunate enough to live in places where we are allowed to love and admire who, what, and when we choose to.

I’ve been accused of having a Pollyanna-like outlook on things. I don’t. I’m more realistic than I let on. But there are many people who can speak of the world’s atrocities much more eloquently than I can, and I appreciate the opportunity to learn from these people and their words.

I have long been saddled with a need to give everyone the benefit of the doubt, to believe that people are inherently good. I am fortunate to have many good people in my life.

But it’s a scary, uncertain world, and I am aware of this. So if I veer toward light and love in the things I write and post and choose to talk about, do not mistake it for blindness. I can’t fix all the bad, and so I choose to try my best to contribute more good.

Time for coffee and Chapter Ten.

Close the door, put out the light

IMG_7665
I had the loveliest soundtrack for my morning meditation today — the pouring rain. Within the past year someone asked me what my favorite sound is, and that was my answer. I don’t have favorite anythings, really, but pouring rain is in the top few.

The lyric above is, of course, from “No Quarter”. However, my introduction to Led Zeppelin came in the form of a handmade copy of “Houses of the Holy,” and the bomber jacket-clad underaged bouncer who made it for me wrote the song list incorrectly. For years I thought “No Quarter” was “The Rain Song,” and since many of the band’s song titles — and most, if not all, from that album — bear little resemblance to the lyrics, I dwelled in ignorant bliss until someone-much-cooler-than-I-am corrected me.

When I was a sophomore (wise fool) in college I was friendly with a group of gals on my floor — they were most definitely cooler than me — and one day we were sitting around in someone’s room talking and listening to music. A song came on and someone said, “So-and-so had never heard of this song before!” to which everyone replied with astonishment. “I mean, everyone knows this song, right?” she continued, and we all murmured in assent and nodded. She looked right at me and asked, “You know it, right?” and I nodded with great fervor and a look of incredulity that so-and-so had never heard of this so very knowable song before.

Every now and then I remember this, and I wonder, still, what song it was.

This meditation thing continues to be a very interesting process. They say that one thing that can occur during practice is that long forgotten memories will emerge. In some cases these can be unresolved sources of stress, and that has absolutely happened in the past week. But during one of my sessions it wasn’t specific stress, I just couldn’t get out of this one room in my childhood home — the sunroom, for those of you who know my childhood home. I pictured aspects of it I hadn’t thought of in years — the sunbleached green carpet, the pale yellow radiator, the little shelf that shared an opaque, frosted window with the powder room off the kitchen. The curtained cupboard where we stored our board games. The clock on the ceiling.

Why was there a clock on the ceiling?

I got an out-of-the-blue apology via Facebook mail from someone I de-friended years ago, someone I’d never really friended much in the first place and so hadn’t thought about since the inciting incident. Apparently, and now it’s vaguely familiar based on the exchange that had taken place five years ago, he tended to respond to my optimistic posts with extreme negativity. This was a very specifically difficult time in my life, a time when I was dealing with a serious health issue in my immediate circle, and I was terrified and I had to be strong and I was falling apart on the inside but putting on a brave face and playing an active supportive role for the person whose health was compromised. And so I guess I was posting positive statements akin to “This too shall pass” “From great suffering comes great wisdom” “Brightness follows every squall” and other saccharine dreams … and he was responding to them with comments akin to, “Yeah, but if it passes there will only be more horrible things ahead” and “nope, suffering begets greater suffering” (he’s not articulate enough for that one), and “actually, extensive flooding usually follows squalls, and with that comes poverty, disease, and more destruction,” and so on and so forth. And I guess I asked him, publicly, to stop raining on my one-woman parade (which is really just a walk) and he told me to “fuck off” (that’s an actual quote) and I defriended him.

Wow I’ve had a lot of caffeine this morning.

Anyway, so I got an out-of-the-blue, five-years-later note from him that read: “If I was a dick to you in the past, I apologize”.

Twelve step program, table for one.

I responded with, “Apology accepted, we’ve all been dicks at one point or another”.

I don’t really know what my point is in sharing that. Maybe it’s that there is no statute of limitations, in my opinion, for apologies. And that, even though I do very much love the rain, I do not like having my spirit dampened.

Life is hard for all of us; that’s the nature of the beast. But to me, the more connections we can make to one another, the richer and more beautiful it can be.

Many people in my life are going through challenging times — breakups, financial troubles, health issues, family challenges — and for these friends, and for me, I wish many moments of reprieve, however temporary, from the pain. If you’re reading my words, I promise you you are not alone. There is nothing to lose and everything to gain in reaching out if you’re going through dark times.

This post took an unexpectedly somber turn. Kittens! Baby sloths! Sea otters holding hands!