A post on the Facebook group Pantsuit Nation made me cry this morning. It was by a young woman of color working as a Staff Assistant in the U.S. Congress sharing her exhaustion and despair.

I stopped writing about politics on this blog six months ago for a couple of reasons.

First, the sheer volume of blog worthy political activity seemed to quadruple over night. The constant churning of the news cycle meant I was still ruminating the implications of some development when the next one dropped center stage. I could never make it as a journalist with a deadline. Props to those who do!

The second reason I stopped writing about politics was my kid. My strong, compassionate, deeply political, social activist daughter teeters on the edge of an existential crisis because she sees the potential for disaster in her future.

Current events now make previously far-fetched outcomes frighteningly possible in the USA. Things like authoritarianism, populism, decreased civil rights for women and minorities. (Frankly I don’t understand how anyone watches “The Handmaid’s Tale.”) And always the spectre of nuclear war.

As US politics is currently dominated by white men of the generation prior to mine, my daughter has a very real fear that she may not have a chance to do the work in the world that she is driven to do.

The woman in the post this morning wrote, “But I can’t leave this [work] … To leave would be disrespectful to the communities that supported my journey into politics.”

Yes, please stay. We need you. Each generation relies on the next to fix our mistakes.

As I cried tI added some words of encouragement to the 7,000+ comments already on her post. Maybe the outpouring of love and caring from strangers will help.

I think what all the young people dedicated to public service – this woman, my daughter – need right now are trail maintainers not trailblazers. People dedicated to chopping brush, moving aside storm-tossed obstacles, and placing fresh markers so they can see the path.

Ranting in outrage about injustices, or analyzing political maneuvers, feels to me like creating obstacles rather than removing them, so no political rants from me for the foreseeable future.

There is other work to do.

 

I don’t think the words Wide Awake really capture the feeling of not sleeping at night. Wide awake is a daytime kinda thing, implying perky energy and a clear gaze. Fast Awake on the other hand is the sticky glue of being in the iron grip of your monkey-mind that doesn’t know enough to shut up for five or six hours.

It’s amazing to me the things that can plague my thoughts while I am not sleeping:

  • SCOTUS and the disastrous decisions they have made or are about to make – didn’t they see American Hustle? An all Koch Brand government is a good thing?
  • The on boarding list I’m creating for my new assistant, who doesn’t start for another two weeks. Also wondering why the process isn’t standardized since people are hired everyday.
  • Wondering which of my friends is awake right now making lists, drinking tea, reading, worrying…
  • Planning the Passover menu & trying to remember the name of the green bean & asparagus salad I made last year that everyone liked.
  • Ordering and re-ordering the chapter names of the book I tell myself I am writing.
  • Feeling bad that my friends are moving because I will miss them terribly, and then feeling guilty and selfish, trying to imagine how I can help them with the transition.
  • Calculating the number of years it will take to pay off my student loans and how many of those years will overlap with paying my daughter’s college loans.
  • Trying to imagine how to increase my dwindling list of coaching clients and stagnating business while maintaining a full-time job.
  • Whether or not I should get out of bed and go read something or throw in a load of laundry…

The question every morning is where do I put my energy in a sea of competing priorities and deadlines. The question at night is where do I put my attention. Obviously it’s not on sleep.

I love the fact that owls, no matter how cute or fluffy, epitomize resting bitch face. I can relate. But that’s another post.

GreatHornedOwl-Wiki

Time off means different things to different people. For me, stretches of “free time”, also known as “Holidays”, usually mean “Project Management”. Winter break projects usually involve paint, furniture rearranging and closet cleaning. Spring break is generally a major area like the attic of basement, or weather permitting, outdoor work. When you own a house there is always something that needs doing and packing it into weekends doesn’t quite cover the punch list.

The slop sink that I intended to replace before we moved in nine years ago still reproachfully lists and overflows. At least its on the list.

This year my time off was more of a time out.

2013 was a tough row and though I had good intentions of being productive during this break, I just powered down instead. Turned off my email, put my cell phone in my upstairs office rather than my pocket, stopped checking facebook. Even stopped posting to my blog. What I did instead was lounge around the house reading books, went out to the movies, had long, rambly conversations with my husband and daughter, and ruminated.

I don’t know about other folks but I need space and time to do any serious thinking. I know and rely on my capacity for fast processing, organization and quick decision-making every day. These are skills I use like whipping up a weeknight dinner without a recipe. But ruminating is more like bread baking.

Bread needs to be mixed, left to rise, kneaded into itself, divided, rested, baked, cooled and stored. A few simple steps over a good space of time. That is luxury: the time to pay attention.

My time out is almost over and I am trying to not jump the gun and feel it slip away before it’s actually gone. It’s an unfortunate habit of mine to feel bad that vacation is ending before its ended. I can’t be the only one who does this.

While it has been very useful to be quiet, I find I still have so many things I need to say, to myself, to you.

And so begins 2014.

Happy-new-year

The news from Syria is hard to follow. Not that its difficult to track what is going on, who the players are or the international stakeholders, but the very real, very specific civilian death, injury and destruction. I know some people in our local Syrian community and it’s very hard not to see their faces in the images on Al Jazeera English.

I am starting think that Syria may help decide the fundamental direction of our global society for the next thirty years. Here’s why.

The Arab Spring was possible in part because of the information stream going in and out freed people of their isolation. The world was watching. So even if the government shot them down in the street someone would find out about it, someone would be accountable. Cold comfort if you are the one dead in the street, but if what you are fighting for is worth dying, for at least you will not be invisible.

Now the Chinese are using weibo to protest. And getting away with it if they are taking on the provincial or municipal government. Not quite Twitter, the Chinese micro-blogging has more than 300 million users. That’s a lot of messages to filter for “human rights”, “democracy” and “Tienanmen”. I was reminded how many layers there can be in Chinese communication when I heard last month that the Chinese government blocked Ai Weiwei’s “Gangnam Style” video because the homophones he uses in the parody are roughly “F**k your Mother” (the Communist Govt). And its got a good beat.

So what does this have to do with Syria? In the midst of the Internet and cell phone black out the Syrian government has imposed across the country, the UN is working on an International Internet Treaty. Who owns the Internet. The answer to this question will be our future.

Formerly the Age of Information, in the new Age of Participation when we are all citizen journalists and a Twitter alert can cause a riot, who controls the flow of information controls the world. If the UN decides that each Government has to have the right to shut down Internet and cell phone usage (like Syria is doing) at their discretion, then we are headed for a Sci-Fi future that is anyone guess. The pressure is coming from (surprise) China, Russia, Iran and other Arab countries.

The UN should focus on creating some treaty that calls for checks and balances in times of turmoil (like Google & Twitter providing dial-up numbers to Syrian activists) so every member nation has to adhere to information protocols like the Geneva Conventions. Hell lets just add it to the Geneva Conventions since these situations will always come up in times of war/coup.

This is really the final frontier for free speech. If we do not make a global commitment to ensure globally diversified Internet access we have chosen our future. The fewer telecommunications providers the easier it is to flip a switch.

Decisions are being made. Attention must be paid.

I did a bad thing.

I calculated the amount of money my husband and I would owe in additional taxes if the R&R ticket becomes reality. The proposed GOP tax structure that would, among other things, take away the earned income child tax credit, deductible mortgage interest and deductible student loan interest, would increase the check we write to Uncle Sam by roughly $10,000 every year. That is some chunk of change for a family not even in the 4%.

Now I know a lot of people don’t like doin math but at some point folks have got to add up the seriously negative impacts of the GOP agenda and recognize that R&R economic policies would spell disaster for the US.  That may sound alarmist, but I think we need to sound the alarm that this election is going to be really important. Not just ideologically as to how we define ourselves as a country, but serious nuts and bolts policies that could initiate a decline that could take generations to recover from. And I am not even mentioning the M word today.

Trying to sort out the information being disseminated by the media and slogging through the political “messaging” is tough even if you pay attention. Its also disturbing to watch facts distorted until they are fiction and lies spoken as truth. Every day.

As wearing as current events are whenever I consider withdrawal someone invariably remarks that they don’t pay attention to the news “because its too depressing”. That’s so lame it forces me to stay in the deep end with the grown ups.

Its only a few weeks until September 4th. I’m sure I can hang tough through the clown show. More importantly early voting starts in my little swing state on September 1 so we can start to get down to business. I will schedule my rest and relaxation for November 7th. Possible the rest of that week.

I have several pages of bulleted notes for blog posts that I couldn’t get to this week for a number of reasons too mundane to share. Anyway. Since I am marinating in my own sweat in my overheated office, today you get what is uppermost in my mind.

We have been having some extreme weather over in my corner of the world. Record setting highs and lows, drought followed by torrential rain that’s over so quick it runs into the sewer rather than soak into the ground, and its the same all over. Its kind of tough to talk about the poor polar bears when people are dying because they are afraid to open their windows, so the news of the record loss of ice in Greenland comes and goes.

And being that this is America, the country that invented credit cards, we can put off thinking about global warming and climate change till a little bit later. Whenever that is. The problem with long-term impacts never being a priority is that it becomes the present in no time at all. Discussions about environmental concerns are getting to be like talk about guns control – all-or-nothing dug in positions, specious arguments and open disregard for facts. Its maddening.

In the midst of this awful drought more and more fracking permits are being issued. Permission to take millions of gallons of ground water, combine it with chemicals like arsenic and pump it into the ground to extract shale gas. Using diesel to fuel the extraction equipment and contaminating the drinking water with, among other things, methane and radioactive materials.

If you dismiss all the (present and future) environmental impacts, electricity from natural gas fracking is even cheaper than wind power. Why is that equation OK? It makes it hard to be sympathetic about out of control wild fires in Texas when you find out their water cant be used to fight the fire because it is full of fracking chemicals that will feed the fire.

We all make choices everyday that could chip away at some of the underlying causes of climate change – even as we wait for politicians to legislate sensible behavior around emissions and other sexy policies. Part of the problem is that even our individual choices are complex. Paper or plastic being one of them. The plastic bag uses petroleum, the paper bag is a (potentially) renewable resource, so which one is better? Why your own reusable cloth bag of course.

Its hard to find a balance between doing what you can and not being judgemental about what other people do or don’t do. Another skirmish in the mommy wars, akin to how long you nurse and using day care, is the kind of diaper you choose.

When I was pregnant I got into the whole cloth diaper debate.  My mother used cloth diapers with six children and I had little desire to repeat the experience, but I was trying to make a responsible choice. What I discovered was that a bigger problem than the half-life of used Huggies was all the paper & cardboard in landfills. Something like 40% of the garbage pile is recyclable paper and cardboard. Done. I pledged myself paper product recycling to offset my (grateful) use of disposable diapers.

I have been recycling since the days when you had to drive to a drop off your newspapers and cans. Now we have curb pick up and still not everyone recycles. Even the easy stuff like newspapers and aluminum cans. It doesn’t seem like environmental issues are a right now kind of problem yet. By the time they are a priority we will already be in the midst of disaster. Sort of like the whole drought thing with the crops burning up and food prices projected to be even higher this winter.

At least the short-sighted choices with dire future outcomes makes for good science fiction. And a lot of that science fiction starts with severe class divisions. What happened to the Occupy folks again?

Because I can barely contain my rage/outrage over what is clearly and without apology a War on Women, meaning the current House Oversight Committee hearings on regulations requiring insurers to cover contraception, I will instead focus on the the Ohio Crazy House, I mean State Legislature.

Oh so many f’d up things going on in Ohio, its hard to narrow it down. Today’s mini-rant features one prominent and one sneaky move. Yesterday a bill (HB 284) intended to expand the scope of what a physician assistant can do, suddenly included removing their current permission to insert or remove an IUD.

Physicians Assistants can be trusted to prescribe controlled substances like opiates and cannabis, issue a Do Not Resuscitate order and pronounce someone dead, but they can’t be trusted to touch an IUD. No wait its not about trust or medical skill, this provision was included because a State Rep believes that a fertilized egg is a human and an IUD prevents fertilization. Can’t get in the way of how many children the Good Lord wants you to have now can we. Nope. Not in Ohio.

Another piece of pending misguided legislation is House Bill 191. This piece of brilliance would restrict public schools from holding classes before Labor Day or after Memorial Day.

Am I the only one who thinks its insane to reduce the number of school days when we already require fewer than any other industrialized country? There is no federal requirement but most schools are in session for roughly 180 days. That 80 days of vacation not counting weekends. This might have made sense once upon a time when we all had to help out on the farm in order to eat come winter, but that has not been the case for a very long time.

We also have the shortest school day of any country – 6 1/2 hours compared to 7 1/2 or 8 hours in the EU. US kids seem to need a lot of free time to fish in the creek and play stick ball, or play video games and run the streets. One or the other.

The sponsors of HB 191 say it is about stimulating the economy by increasing the amount of summer we have for tourism.

So from my perspective the State House plan is to keep women from using contraception so they get pregnant, and then because summer vacation is so long they have take their children to King’s Island multiple times. And then when they are older, those same kids can work at King’s Island because they have been So Poorly Educated They Don’t Qualify for Anything Else.

Forward thinking – thanks State Reps!

Went to a funeral last night.

The grandmother of my oldest friend died at 92. This was the kind of death that people call a relief because she had been ill and incapacitated for the last five years or so. Hospital bed in the middle of the living room, diapers, oxygen and IV.

Watching people die is never easy. The impulse is to hold on to them as long as possible, and so my friends self-preservation doesn’t factor in. Like a frog boiled in water that is heated slowly, she was unable to see the toll caring for her grandmother took on her.

My friend has had a hard life, and will likely continue to have a hard life. Her brother died last April at 46 of a heart attack leaving her the sole care-giver for both her grandmother and her mother, who is on disability. She will keep going and support her Mom but at this point its not clear which of them will bury the other.

It is difficult for me to see folks who still call me by my childhood nickname. My friend is effectively the last one who really knows me from the past. Who I was before I crossed the river to the never-never land of the suburbs. It might as well be Mars.

The chat turned to kids as it does once everyone has them, and my friend remarked that I had lucked out because my kid is so well-behaved. No drugs, no drinking, no smoking or running around in the middle of night with dangerous boys – everyone laughed remembering just how much of that we did. I said ‘Yeah, I am very lucky indeed’.

Another friend started asking me how I “broke that cycle that we are all in” with my kid because she was really worried about her niece. I said ‘the difference is my daughter has nothing she needs to escape from that can’t be accomplished with a good book’. I got a blank look.

I told her when we were kids we were escaping from crappy lives into whatever danger or reality altering substance was available. A giant game of chicken because, so what?, past present and future all looked the same. I got a nod.

Finally I said to her, ‘You know what? Tell your niece her life right now is not forever and she can get out if she wants to. She just has to want to’. I got another nod.

I wish I could remember when or why or how I decided I had to get out and do something different. I would like for there to be some epiphany I could share with others and be all inspirational like Geoffrey Canada. But all I got right now is – You gotta want to.

I hope thats the end of the funerals for a while.

Another parental Croan that should be a bumper sticker.

Similar to the more civilized “definition of insanity”, a bastard child to the “Law of Attraction” of Secret fame, “keep doing what you done, you’ll keep getting what you got”, is a phrase that implies both fatalism and stupidity.

Without going too Oprah, I am trying to figure out how to be open to a different future by stepping into the present. Unfortunately, some days are so influenced by the past that they don’t even deserve to be called the present.

It’s not just a matter of identifying false beliefs or unraveling negative self-talk, although that is a significant chunk of behavior/mod work right there. Old beliefs start out as threads, then twist themselves into cords and then braid themselves into a sturdy rope. A Gordian Knot of complication

Cutting the knot may be quicker than figuring out how to untie it, but it still leaves a pile of the ties that bind. Thats where I am right now. Trying to figure out if unraveling the frayed pile of my habitual thinking is a way to create something new, or if I should frugally chuck it all in the closet for some unspecified future need. Is there a future if the past isn’t even past? How much of this crap am I obligated to keep?

Part of my spectacularly circular thinking is the fact that “what I done” has worked pretty well for me so far and “getting something new” could be awful. The warm safety of knowing you can’t win and never will.

In the interest of potentially generating scads of new blog-fodder, I am willing to experiment, try a little something new. Ghandi said ‘You can’t shake hands with a clenched fist’ so that may be the place to start. My clenched fist always feels like power but it clenches the past and uses it as a weapon to bludgeon the present.

I will never be known for my “willow” qualities, but I think I can open my hand and see what happens. For a little while at least.