The Journey

Life is a journey. The destination, at least perhaps a major stop on the cycle of mortality/immortality, is the death transition in this world. I’m going to bring you on a journey with me that sees the players close to me. This may take the course of days, weeks, or months. I don’t know. I’m going to share it here because this is my way of dealing with this journey towards that milestone of death, of transition from a sublunary abode toward the open question we continue to ask.

This journey is mine only insomuch as I am the wayfarer, as one person called me today. A wayfarer is one who travels, generally on foot. We talked at length about being a guide, or perhaps a guide post for those who are transitioning from this life to the next. The lyrics of the song, which was beloved by a mutual friend who had passed over 20 years ago, are:

I am a poor wayfaring stranger

Traveling through this world alone

There is no sickness, toil nor danger

In that fair land to which I go

I’m going home

To see my mother

I’m going home

No more to roam

I am just going over Jordan

I am just going over home

I know dark clouds will hover o’er me

I know my pathway is rough and steep

But golden fields lie out before me

Where weary eyes no more will weep

I’m going home to see my father

I’m going home no more to roam

I am just going over Jordan

I am just going over home

I’ll soon be free from every trial

This form shall rest beneath the sod

I’ll drop the cross of self-denial

And enter in that home with God

I’m going home to see my savior

I’m going home no more to roam

I am just going over Jordan

I am just going over home

I vaguely remember this song from JB’s memorial and my friend reminded me of it today. It’s a beautiful song, filled with a weary, quiet longing for something more. It’s about the journey of life yet looking forward to the rest at the end.

This story, this journey we will be walking through, is my father’s. I’ve hesitated getting this out to a wider audience because, frankly, I need to get on this road with him and be his legs as he moves forward. The sorrow that others feel can’t be allowed to touch me, not yet. I will be sorrowful when the time has come; for now, I need to be the staff that supports him as he makes his way through this rocky road. He is an unwilling traveler. He does not want this journey and he has sought solace only now, from the few people he thinks understand him. The stages of grieving are full on him. We have moved, I think, from denial, through fear and anger, moving toward depression. He may stay in depression for a while as he processes. He’s felt emotions over and over that he hasn’t felt, probably, in years. We have moved into hospice care, now, at home, and will be spending his last days together.

He has not wanted to take my hand. He has not wanted to be beside me as I travel with him. So I wait, beside him in semi-comfortable chairs, feeding him lemon sorbet or jello, helping him blow his nose, and surround him with the silence he seems to wish. He’s frustrated and feeling inadequate. These are things that Jello just won’t fix.

For my part, I am tactical. I need to mobilize the forces, take control, rally the troops, gather the resources, and march. It’s what I do. I organize, I process, and just take charge. I am not unaware of how much work this is going to be. Long nights, long days, disruptive emotions while trying to work. This is what must be done. Like the baby that brings a new normal to its parent’s lives, my father is bringing a new normal to his child’s.

Believe me, I will ask for as much help as I can get.

I have moved, at least temporarily, into his house, preparing for a kind of solemn homecoming. He’s currently in hospice care facility, stabilizing him for the true journey. There have been many side paths, from asthma attacks, wounds that become severely infected, digestive upsets of all kinds, and the emotional upsets that come to one who must face their own mortality but aren’t quite ready for that prognosis. The side journeys are distractions, albeit painful and stubborn ones. It’s time for me to adult and take the reins, to help him discover a new path and a new way of thinking. If he will just take my hand…

The house is darkened and silent now, as night approaches. It feels familiar and yet foreign. It is not my house but now I must move on this journey with him in this place. I will make it somewhat mine so that it supports me in the work that I need to do. The plan moves into motion tomorrow, as I meet with home care workers, the hospice team at the care facility, and learn how to wrap bandages and take care of bed sores. How do you get someone out of a hospital bed safely? How do I order a hospital bed for the house? At the bank, we’ll discuss financial processes and procedures, designed to help support him in the coming days. Tactical. Functional. Practical.

You are coming on this journey with me, perhaps to be the lantern at the end of my staff. In full awareness of the amount of work coming my way, I need Light to guide me. You are my light. You are my sense of direction, of warmth, of home. I will need you in the coming days and weeks. When it gets tiring and lonely, I will need you. When I am tired beyond belief but still having to make the beds, I will need you. I hope that you’ll stay with me and be my guiding light. Please don’t worry or feel bad. Neither of these will sustain me. Your light, your hope, and perhaps doing a load of laundry for me – that will help.

I leave you now at the beginning of this journey to retire to sleep, to start the new normal, the new process. Please be patient with me. Please be quiet with me, and listen to nature, to the wind, and to the peace of the world. I’ll need this in the coming days. Sleep and rest with me, now, because we both have no idea how long this journey will take.

~TDD

It’s Elemental

You sit outside in the February chill, crisp clear skies are filled with painful white and blue; the contrast at 7000 feet can be retina-searing. The wind swirls by you quickly, in small puffs as if the glaciers hundreds of miles away were panting from lifting the heavy weight of winter. Spring is slow; the green takes months to emerge and even then, its colors are even tardier. Chill breezes cause our diaphragm to expand, to breathe deeply, and let the freshness fill our blood. Our mind clears a little, we feel lighter, connected to some invisible terrestrial life force.

You open the door to the steaming shower and step inside, cringing at the immediate sting on skin, the itch rising to the surface. Standing with your back to the water, the warmth seeps into your shoulders. Your head, at first feeling the water chill, soon succumbs to its velvet blanket heat. There’s something that loosens the tight body and mind. We feel a slight tingly energy standing in the spray, wishing we could have it surround us more, wrap lovingly like mother’s arms, just… holding us still in timeless comfort. Peace. It soothes us without thought, erasing away demons and letting them circle the drain. Gone.

You shift again.

There’s something oddly fulfilling about taking a walk on bare sand , the slight give of the chill grains as they seep between your toes and scrub off the feel of tight-woven socks. Feet in the mud, soft and silky between toes, almost tickling, and the fresh, loamy scent of water and dirt defying a rain storm. We seem almost afraid of the earth, afraid to let it embrace our bodies. We have a primal dislike for our future home, one speculates. Ash and stone, mud and rock, if we allow ourselves, it helps us feel solid, at peace. Stable. A home. Perhaps a once and future home.

Humans are fascinated with fire. Prometheus’ gift is a blessing to human kind, allowing us warmth and food to last throughout the most extreme winters. The scent of sulfur when the match strikes, and we anticipate the orange and yellow temptation of light and scent to the candle wick. Hand passing over the flame, we feel the touch of death. And life. We learn as children to respect the fires around us, to use them sparingly. It’s almost as if there is an unspoken rule – fire can be wasted. Don’t waste your fire. It is precious to you. To me. Fire heals and harms, is soothing and painful. Fire transforms.

There is a dance between humans and their environment. We have only our senses to feed us data and a brain to transform it into information. These elements inform us, partner with us, sustain us, hold us in life and death. They provide for us and take from us. They use us and we use them. We form bonds of familiarity, affinity, and disregard. I hate the cold. I hate the heat. I like the rain. I’d rather have wind. Why do we find ourselves loving or hating an inanimate element so fiercely?

Perhaps because it is us. And we never do very well in dealing with our own natures. Rocks tumble against each other and wear each other down because they both have pokey bits. Neither of them are smooth. Nature and the elements, they are not necessarily kind to Humanity. Neither, it seems, is Humanity good to them. We are fascinated by our earthly natures, testing and touching those parts of us that are so basic and yet, so foreign. Humans create other humans using these elements – they are our plaster, mud, ink, and pigment, tears nerves, and blood. Compositions in animated elements.

You’d think we would be nicer to each other, being one in the same.

It is alchemy that we search for in our basic parts. It is the alchemy of rainstorm to glacier, of fire to lightning, of plant to paper, of wind to power. That same alchemy can be found in us, nervous system all ablaze with creation and wisdom, intelligence and naïveté. Perhaps, we think, perhaps that amazing alchemy can be found within ourselves, within our creations. And what we never really realize, what we cannot see because we are too close, to microscopically close is that…we already have. Alchemy is everywhere, always, continuous. Breathe. That is alchemy. Thought. That is alchemy. A child born, the aged die – that is alchemy.

We are creatures of wonder in a world of wonder. Wake up from the dream, and See.

More on That

I do my best to stay away from judgments and unsubstantiated rumors. I shun gossip as it has only gotten me into trouble in my life. It’s cost me friends and given me some sleepless nights. I look for a balance in things, in all things, trying to make sure that what I do is even-keeled. When the pendulum swings too far one direction, I know the only way to stop it from swinging the other way in like manner is to just stop the landslide and get off at the next station.

I also love to mix metaphors.

The current state of the world is challenging my judgements and my balance. It seems like it’s doing that for all of us. I am of two minds, literally. I love the chaos, and embrace it. I think this turmoil is necessary for us to be able to shake it all up, put it back together. It’s not one side or the other that has to do the putting back together – it’s all of us. Mind you – I said chaos. I did not say hate, fear, or anarchy of the government-overthrowing kind, I did not say racism, terrorism, or fear mongering. I said chaos. Is it possible to have chaos without these things? Yes, I believe it is, if you keep your mouth shut and just do the shaking up. Many CEOs have done it. Many industries have done it. Have a plan, have some guts, and cause chaos. Change up the way decisions are made, who is in charge of what, or even try the way out idea no one has tried before. Mix pink stripes and green plaid. Chaos can happen in many different ways.

But don’t, ever, mix it with violence, hatred, fear, fanaticism, and lies. That is not chaos. That is just simply wrong – morally, ethically, mentally, spiritually, and physically. These are diseases which need to be healed or eliminated, like the cancer they are. When the balance is out of whack, too much of one or the other, it becomes debilitating – too much love, too much hate. Both are ends of a spectrum, not either or.

Do I believe in all sweetness and light? Hell no. The world is a messy place and work is hard and people suffer. That is humanity. We get out of it by working, fortitude, striving, hoping, building, creating, crying, ordering, breaking apart, and looking up. Chaos is as important as Order. You simply cannot have one without the other. Like love and hate, ends of a spectrum that need respect and balance.

I said “two minds.” The other “mind” you ask? In that combat against hatred, lies, and fanaticism, it’s hard not to associate the chaos with the evil influences. Many people, including some people who share my ideological views, don’t see that. I analyze and look for holes, and I look for connections, for reasons. I’ve been told that evil needs no reason. Bullshit. Evil doesn’t have a consciousness – we give it consciousness and use it for our own ends. And people – people need reasons. They need a reason to get up in the morning and whether you believe it or not, there is a reason deep down about why they do ugly things. Ignorance? Perhaps. Fear? Generally. It’s the insecurities and ignorance that guide our unthinking minds. But it is hard, so very hard to disassociate chaos from evil. We’ve been led to believe that chaos is wrong, as is evil. Ergo, if something is chaotic, it is evil. Far from it.

I know there are those that would disagree with this statement – but I believe chaos is potentiality. The outcomes we ascribe to it may be evil or good, but it is not the act of chaos which is evil. Intent is everything. I once had a teacher who said that “energy follows intention. If you place your intention into something, your energy, and that of others, will follow.” True then, true now. I think of that when people tell me they can do very little to change the tide of current chaos. I again say, bullshit. I do not think that the current mindset took a year to develop. I think it took decades. And I think it will take decades to move back to a center again.

I’m currently reading Civil Disobedience by Thoreau. Thoreau is no wimp, no mindless, haphazard citizen wandering through his days with nary a care in the world. I love Thoreau for his feisty, fiery, straight-to-the-point statements. There’s no introduction in Civil Disobedience, no prologue, no explanation. Thoreau just jumps in, head first, arms flailing, ready to resist. It seems oddly current.

Must the citizen ever for a moment, or in the least degree, resign his conscience to the legislator? Why has every man a conscience then? I think that we should be men first, and subjects afterward. It is not desirable to cultivate a respect for the law, so much as for the right. The only obligation which I have a right to assume is to do at any time what I think right.

That is the state we find ourselves in, isn’t? I don’t know that Thoreau is actually advocating for chaos. He is, however, advocating for each person to speak their own mind after making their own judgements about what is right and wrong. One thing we do seem to have is a recognition that we should speak truth. The scary thing is that the people in power have a truth that is vastly different than our own. Forget the newspapers and media- listen to their actual speeches and written circulars. Do these legislators actually represent what we feel is right? Or, are we enamored of the fact that they are telling the “truth” as they see it and, much like a terrible fire in a high-rise building, we can’t help by watch the chaos unfold.

What does it take to shape the American, United States American, will? Does it take a cataclysmic event? If things like Sandy Hook, Columbine, Hurricane Maria, a massive earthquake in Mexico, Hurricane Irma, or Stoneman Douglas High School are any indication, they are hardly a blip on our conscience. Does it take leadership and politicians being corrupt and racist, leadership that is directing the course of our lives? Does it take our entertainment industry being thrown on its head by allegations of abuse of women for decades? WHAT DOES IT TAKE TO MAKE US MOVE THE NEEDLE? Is this chaos? Of course it is. Is the intention behind it evil? That’s for the individual to decide. It is the events which are chaotic and need to drive change. Forget a single man’s reasoning and look at the larger, systemic problem – whichever problem it might be. What is it going to take for us to get on board and change the lives we’re living – the stone dead day to day lives or the nothing-can-happen-to me lives? None of us is really like everybody else. We need to stop acting like the mob mentality and extreme hatred are okay. We need order and chaos. We need light and dark. We need to stop seeing ourselves as separate from each other, and see ourselves as a shared humanity with individual voices. An individual collective. Not mindless. Not soulless. We are both – individual and collective. What will it take to bring our individuals together to make changes? I wish I had the answer. Until then, I will keep searching. And asking. And posting.

-TDD

Engaged, Abundant, and Intentionally Full

hi_so_busyI hear quite often in work, in social settings and in my avocations, how busy people are. How are you? Busy. It’s a badge of pride and importance to be “busy.” Busy. Busy bees, working around the hive, always moving, always… doing. I heard once someone say “we should be less ‘human doing’ and more ‘human being.’ I thought they were a little crazy. We’re always humans being, and we’re always humans doing, too. That’s what we do. We just… do. As an adjective, to be busy means “to have a great deal to do.” As a verb, it means to ‘keep occupied.’ The first known use of the word is before the 12C. C.E…. so we know people have been ‘actively doing things’ for some time. Hence, humans have always been busy.

Listen to the word in common English conversation now, and the word tends to be laced with more judgment. Thoreau said, “It is not enough to be busy. So are the ants. The question is: What are we busy about?” The quote is intended to be self-reflective and self-directed. We must ask the question, to what are we applying our time? Is it worthy? Is it constructive for our needs and wants? Does it go to enrich us, feed our families, or improve the greater good? WHY are we busy? It’s easy to be busy: cleaning, cooking, laundry, writing, reading, caring for our families, running people around. Much of the time, we’re so stuck in ruts of “doing” that we forget to ask “why” or “is there a better way?” I find myself continually doing something and then wondering if I really need to be doing this task that task. Is there a different way to do it? Can I make myself less “busy” and more productive? These are two very different things.

“Life is simple, yet we continue to make it complicated.” Confucius was right – we are creatures keeping busy making many things complicated, if not everything. Complication is not creation. It’s just a headache waiting to happen. What do we complicate with “busy?” Our relationships. “How are things?” “Really busy, you know?” These opening salvoes in communications with others beg us to talk about what our activities have been. “Hey, look at me! Look how IMPORTANT I am! I’m busy.” People ask me how have I been, and generally I say good. They might ask what I have been up to, or say “I read your latest blog.” That gives us something to discuss. Sometimes people tell me “wow, you’re really busy,” I think “not so much.” I think about the actual activities to which I apply my time and feel like it’s almost all time well spent. Mostly. I also wonder if some of the time I’ve been spending, like wadded up cash in my pocket, is really being put toward worthwhile things. Have I been a slug? Or have I been working on bettering things? My mind is a busy place.

Relationships get complicated, but how? They get complicated in the swamp of judgment. Not judgment of ourselves – judgment of others. Are our friends busy with work? Busy with “play” or busy with children. Ask yourself right now…, “Do I place more importance on one type of busy than on another?” If you’re honest with yourself, you probably do.  busyguyThere is an implicit bias in North America, particularly the United States, that if you’re busy with children, your life has far more importance than if you do not. American businesses are geared toward relieving parents in times of hardship and our social services and whatnot are far more supportive of parental and childhood needs than of those without children. Think, “mental services” versus “child services.” Reflect and be honest – which do you think is more deserving of financial and labor support?

I do not have children of my own, and most of my friends know this. Most of my acquaintances as well. I have other friends who do not have children and hear some of the same ‘feedback.’ There is an underlying judgment in my brand of “busy” versus the parental brand of “busy.” My busy is not as worthwhile or important as raising children. My busy is not as meaningful when it comes to my time, and in fact, my time is worth less than a parent who has children. This has frustrated me for a very long time because it is disrespectful and demeaning. It is discriminatory in nearly the same way we are dismissive of other genders, races, or religions because they are not “of us.”  Whether we have children by choice or not, the underlying aspects of our US society is that if you’re not propagating the species, you are not as worthy as someone who did. Let’s examine some of the cultural bias that is out there, beyond my own empirical evidence.

An interesting article on the “childless by choice” stance was written by the Daily Beast, on the book, Shallow, Selfish, and Self-Absorbed: Sixteen Writers on the Decision not to Have Kids.  The article, and the book, are an interesting exploration into the psyche of people who have chosen not to have children. The best line of the article is this: “Why is it that so many Americans, no longer content with having their freedom, also seek to dictate what we may think about how they use it? Why must they be coddled and congratulated for every choice?”  Each time we make a judgment about another, what we’re really asking for is someone to validate that my choice, or the choices I have made, are valid and worthwhile. My choice was the right one. Your choice, not so much.

Newsweek reported in 2013 that our ability to choose to have children is bad for the country as a whole, our country’s future, and thus we were being selfish for not breeding for a better future. It was, is, our civic duty. childlessLet’s look at some other ideas. In 2015, most children (more than 72%) exited foster care with a permanent connection to a family. Thank god we have more children to fill the homes of foster care parents, who might otherwise be childless. Over 135,000 children are adopted each year, with thousands more waiting to find loving homes. Of non-stepparent adoptions, about 59 percent are from the child welfare (or foster) system, 26 percent are from other countries, and 15 percent are voluntarily relinquished American babies. If we didn’t keep having more children, those ranks would diminish, and we couldn’t have that. My sarcasm has a purpose, I assure you.

No one questions why someone had children. Perhaps they should. Have we not seen enough bad situations where parents are not well-equipped to raise the next generation of human beings? Having children is sometimes more than a simple choice, to be dismissed as thoughtless, selfish, and greedy. There is an overwhelming sense of having to justify yourself -parent or not- that is exhausting. This is true with every decision we make in life and when we judge others: how can we know the motivations, needs, desires, or restrictions placed on another’s life. How can we make a judgment about how they spend their lifetimes? How can be the judge of their “busy?”

I have been accused of judging people’s “busy.” I have heard people say, “she can’t judge my life. she doesn’t have children.” For the most part, this is a misinterpretation. Having been judged often enough for not having children, I am keenly aware of the need to not judge back. Small_bee-honeycombRounding this out, the misinterpretation comes when I am frustrated with people who use the excuse of “I’m too busy with my children. And if you had children, you’d be too busy to do what you do.” It’s the last part that is misrepresented. I accept busy-ness. I do not accept “you have more time because you don’t have children.” We all get 24 hours in the day – there are no exceptions that that law of nature. I do not accept that I am “less” busy because I don’t spend my time fostering the next generation. How we all choose to spend the freedom and time that this country affords us is just that – our choice. Everyone is busy. Everyone is dedicated to something, creating something, involved in something. While you might have chosen children, I chose a different path, for some very specific reasons. I might not feel the need to share those reasons. You might not feel the need to share the reasons for having children. Either way, it’s okay. We need to recognize that we are both busy and that we dedicate our time to our individual, worthwhile pursuits – and keep judgments to one’s self.

We spend so much time judging how other people have dedicated their lives that we might just miss our own in the process.

Knowing oneself is the ultimate goal. The end game. Knowing others is icing, and we could argue whether or not we really know others. Know thyself means that we don’t overcommit, we don’t promise what we can’t deliver, we know our own limitations and can work toward them. Too busy? Complaining? Maybe it’s time to reset your boundaries; after all, you’re the one that set them to begin with. Own your life and don’t let the “busy-ness” own you.

Judge if you will… but it’s time for a nap.

~TDD

sunset

-TDD

 

 

 

 

 

 

Darker Thoughts

Let’s take a moment to review history, shall we?

Hitler-Hindenberg-Tannenberg-1933The violence in Germany exploded after years of being fueled by hate-mongering government officials and military leaders, as well as those who had the ear of Herr Hitler. Watching this video on the History website, one cannot be unmoved by similarities: http://www.history.com/topics/kristallnacht/videos/rise-of-the-nazis. Are the conditions the same, with extreme poverty and unemployment? No. But, if you take an apathetic educated class of people, who do not oppose these seemingly small incidents, you get the same effect.

What happened, four years later? Yes, it took four years for Hitler to be in power before this…

On November 9 to November 10, 1938, in an incident known as “Kristallnacht”, Nazis in Germany torched synagogues, vandalized Jewish homes, schools and businesses and killed close to 100 Jews. In the aftermath of Kristallnacht, also called the “Night of Broken Glass,” some 30,000 Jewish men were arrested and sent to Nazi concentration camps. German Jews had been subjected to repressive policies since 1933, when Nazi Party leader Adolf Hitler (1889-1945) became chancellor of Germany. However, prior to Kristallnacht, these Nazi policies had been primarily nonviolent. After Kristallnacht, conditions for German Jews grew increasingly worse. (http://www.history.com/topics/kristallnacht)

fascismOn May 27, 1941, President Roosevelt conveyed a radio address to the nation, citing an “Unlimited National Emergency.” This emergency was brought about by acts of aggression by the Nazi Party within Europe. Prior to this, more than a year, the Nazis and Hitler had invaded Denmark and Norway (April 1940.) FDR knew that the Nazi Party was hell bent on global domination and that we needed to act to protect the world because, in his words, it was in our best interests to do so. Waiting to act until the Nazis were on our shores would be tantamount to suicide. He begged isolationists to crack the shell, get involved, and above all things, care.

In 1956, the American Nazi party was created. Over the years, it has changed its name and is now the New Order. Remember that the name of this party is the  “National Socialist Party” – something that feels very left-of-center. A variety of divisions within the group have caused it to decline and now, far more conservative, white supremacist, hate-based groups have risen to the fore – The KKK, Aryan Nation, The Order, New Order, and White Patriot Party have filled the vacuum the German Nazi party have left behind. I write this here because it’s important to note that the term “Nazi” isn’t necessarily applicable to the kind of violence that we are seeing in our nation today. White supremacists have picked up the iconography of the National Socialists and made it their own.

On November 4, 1988, President Ronald Reagan made the following Statement, on the 50th Anniversary of Kristallnacht:

Fifty years ago, on the night of November 9-10, 1938, German Nazis committed a nationwide pogrom against Jewish people. By the next morning, scores of Jews were dead, hundreds were injured, and many synagogues, shops, and homes lay in ruins. This vicious attack became known around the globe as “Kristallnacht“—”crystal night” or “the night of broken glass” from the mute evidence of shattered window glass it left in so many streets. Half a century later, we mourn every victim of this pogrom and we rededicate ourselves to preventing repetitions of such brutality anywhere and everywhere.

The world had been ignoring many warning signs in Germany and elsewhere of increasing anti-Semitism, disregard for human rights, and eugenically motivated assaults on individual dignity and worth. Kristallnacht surely should have alerted everyone that time had run out—that the “peace in our time” proclaimed hopefully by British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain only a few weeks before was not to be. It took World War II to eliminate the Nazi threat to humanity and to our most sacred values.

WAR & CONFLICT BOOK ERA:  WORLD WAR II/PERSONALITIESKristallnacht was the opening salvo in violence across Europe and really was an orchestrated attempt to fan the flames of chaos and domination. Americans entered the war only once our personal interests were attacked, mainly because most Americans could not fathom how a war in Europe, the rise of hate-based ideologies, and fascism could affect the cozy American shores. Indeed, even FDR called these people “smug” and full of “smugness.”

And what do we have today? Do we have a similar nation of people who are smug and confident that “Nazism” could never happen in America? In a recent post on Facebook, God posted a picture with this caption: “You don’t get to be a Nazi and a proud American. We literally fought a war about this. The whole world was involved.” People who hate are counting on the ones who don’t to wave the banner of free speech and the First Amendment and give them their “right” to speak and protest and rally. They, and every American, have the right to do so. Thank god. However, should those same people be allowed to actively inflame the other side by carrying guns, equating their right to speak to not letting others speak? Carrying a gun to a rally you are protesting is inviting killing. It is begging for it. In the end, it wasn’t even a gun that killed – it was a man with a car and raging hate in his head.

CVAOne death. It’s hard to believe it was only one death. Yet, one death is all it took for Kristallnacht to happen.

In the fall of 1938, Herschel Grynszpan (1921-45), a 17-year-old ethnically Polish Jew who had been living in France for several years, learned that the Nazis had exiled his parents to Poland from Hanover, Germany, where Herschel had been born and his family had lived for years. As retaliation, on November 7, 1938, the agitated teenager shot Ernst vom Rath (1909-38), a German diplomat in Paris. Rath died two days later from his wounds, and Hitler attended his funeral. Joseph Goebbels (1897-1945), the Nazi minister for public enlightenment and propaganda, immediately seized on the assassination to rile Hitler’s supporters into an anti-Semitic frenzy.

If you do not believe that Steve Bannon has not already looked at this incident as an opportunity, you are most likely mistaken. In the book, “The Devil’s Bargain: Steve Bannon, Donald Trump, and the Storming of the Presidency” and in more than a few public interviews, this type of situation is an opportunity for chaos and upheaval. It is an opportunity to turn the world on its collective ass and upend the way the government works. He, in turn, has a President who is not exactly devoid of hate. A few of his quotes:

“When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending the best. They’re not sending you, they’re sending people that have lots of problems and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bring crime. They’re rapists… And some, I assume, are good people.”

“Our great African-American President hasn’t exactly had a positive impact on the thugs who are so happily and openly destroying Baltimore.”

“If I were running ‘The View’, I’d fire Rosie O’Donnell. I mean, I’d look at her right in that fat, ugly face of hers, I’d say ‘Rosie, you’re fired.”

devil'sbargainAnd we have a public who still supports this president or is, at least, tired and wanting to tune him out. It’s tiring to deal with children. Think… “The Omen.” Perhaps this child isn’t being a cranky 2-year-old on his own, perhaps he has help, encouragement even. Perhaps he has a master manipulator at his side, in his head, driving him to do crazy things because he’s truly weak. I am not a conspiracy theorist. Far from it. I’m skeptical more times than not. The rise of fear-mongering and staggering displays of outright violence have shaken my skepticism.

So, please, let’s do a summation:

  • A President who is indifferent at best and hateful at worst to wide swaths of people, including women, blacks, immigrants, and Mexicans, who lacks conviction to follow through on policies and is not well loved by global leaders;
  • Supported and encouraged, driven by an aide who wants to see the entire world burn in a fire of chaos; a man dismissed by many Washington insiders and administration officials as “unclean, uncouth, and lacking any sense of the world around him;”
  • A fairly apathetic American public who believes “this can’t happen to us, we’re too smart|diverse|educated|rich for the Holocaust to happen here.”

Trump is not Hitler. Trump is Hindenburg.

I am not happy with the American Public. I want in my soul to hide, to get away, to just go away from the hatred. And that is just what these people are counting on. Which pisses me off even more.

Let me reach down, pick up that gauntlet, dust it off, and cram it down their throats.

~TDD

A Moment, Sir

I just sat at the kitchen table, finishing up a lovely boneless pork chop and mixed veggie stir fry, and told my husband I feel four and a half months pregnant. I feel like I’m slogging through the last few weeks, dragging my tired mind and body toward working on building a new house, flush with all the possibilities, and yet, it’s too fast. No, it’s too slow. Work is crazy. Work is good. Work is crazy good and frustrating. When the people with vicious motives are allowed to run rampant, it’s a cross between being so busy your eyes spin and so mad, your ulcers flare. No, no ulcers here – just the worn sense of loyalty to someone who has been very good to me and is being unfairly treated because he spoke up. There are some truly crazy people out there and yes, you and I work with them. The saving grace is that I’m 1000 miles away now and not subject to the day to day “sturm und drang” of it all. You have to wonder how people stay in business when “buttheads,” as my CEO said once, are allowed to stay. Luckily, my world is not overflowing with them. Here, I have cats and wireless headsets, and the washer and dryer to keep me company. It’s far more pleasant that gossip. And hate. And hubris.

But, I digress.

194168-Illustration-from-The-Sorrows-of-Werther-by-Johann-Wolfgang-Goethe-Posters

Back to my pregnancy. Anyone who knows me knows there is a world of improbability in that statement. This has to go to building a house. This is the third house I’ve built, if you don’t include a complete renovation in an 1889 Victorian Cow Farm house. I do count that beast. I have loved every one of them. There’s part of me, at this stage of the build, that is very antsy for me to have my part – that’s the interior design. I have to wait – for walls, roof, electrical, drywall, and flooring. Then, I get to play. But, in this preliminary time, gestation if you will, I have to wait. I get to scan plans and magazines and design studios feverishly, waiting for my turn at the work. Yet, these rough ins are just as important if not more so than finishing. I know this. I find a good foundation more important than anything. And Doyle, well, Doyle has surpassed his own expectations and risen to be very good at shepherding the process. He really has given it his all and I am so proud of what he’s done. There’s always some challenge with a build, here and there. You minimize the expenses and go with the solid work. The people we’ve chosen have been outstanding. Doyle is fortunate enough to be able to work every day near the build so if something comes up, he can be there. We slaved over the plans to make it right, and then over the choices of builders. All in all, we’ve done well so far. We’re probably about 1/2 way through, and hence, the four and a half months.

pendulum-1

I imagine mothers, at 4 1/2 months pregnant, thinking, I’m only 1/2 way through – no more morning sickness, probably, munchies, excitedly thinking of names, gender, rooms to nest. There’s the dread of the last month, feeling like it’s so close, you want it over and yet, terrified that something will go wrong. Finally, the day arrives and you push through the pain and anguish, the fear and the doubts and here it is – a beautiful creation that you’ve given the world. We’ve released our creation to the world and for however long destiny or fate decrees, it is ours to share and then ours to provide to those who remain. A legacy of some time for future generations. I am convinced it is what humans were born to do – create things.

Sounds mushy. Meh. It’s true. Cope.

For me this house in particular denotes freedom. I have worked thirty plus years to fulfill this dream: a house that I have built where I can live comfortably, that has my mark on it, that is all that I’ve saved and worked for, and ultimately, means I can be free from the “sturm und drang.” It is freedom in the sense that I can begin my real path in life, whatever my real work is. The house excites my sense of style, creativity, and design. It fulfills my desires for beauty and an open, inviting home to share with the loved ones in my life. It is freedom from, yes, say it, the every day, the corporate, the mind-numbing what-everyone-else-does. Of these houses that I’ve built and loved, this one feels truly ours. It is what we’ve built together – his engineering and form, my design and feel. We compliment each other well, when he lets me have what I want. Seriously, this is some strong mojo here, building this together. It really does feel like a true partnership of ideas. And damn, it’s big. This house means something.

For all the speed of this whole build, now, I want to savor the journey. I want to feel pregnant with design ideas and thoughts, visions of how it goes together, how it feels to entertain, what the lighting illuminates, what dances on the ceilings, how it sounds and smells, during the build and after. I walked through the basement last weekend and it smelled like… a house build. It’s the only way to describe it – fresh cement, wood chips and worn bent nails across the floor, mud puddles and dirty foot prints, tracking the smell of slightly decaying tree debris. There is that smell that a house build has, an aromatherapy of desire and anticipation that tingles. Tantalizes. Begs for an Atlas Moving Truck. And maybe just a little Sherwin Williams and Pottery Barn.

patienceFor now, patience is at my bedside pillow, a comfort on the warm nights of waiting. That virtue sits beside the stack of design magazines and catalogs, next to a day-old ice tea and an alarm clock that reminds me the work never really ends. With some perseverance, it can become true Work. Yes, this house is freedom, of a very personal kind. I want the moment to last only so long as it needs to, before the memory becomes dust. I want the shackles to fall and the darkness to become light. I want crooked things straight, the path laid out before me. A moment, sir, to savor the wind and the rain and the rushing torrent, before I can be free to grow in the sun. On a beautiful lanai overlooking a fresh, lushly forested mountain. In the house that Kris and Doyle built.

Briefly, On Aging

“Never do I return home with the character I had when I left; always there is something I had settled before that is now stirred up again, something I had gotten rid of that has returned. …our minds are recovering from a long illness; contact with the many is harmful to us. Every single person urges some fault upon us, or imparts one to us, or contaminates us without our even realizing it.” – Seneca

 


Maya Angelou, 86

I rarely think of myself as an “age.” When someone asks me how old I am, I generally have to calculate it. My age doesn’t come readily to my mind. I take the year, subtract my birth year, and there you have it. Not so hard but it amuses me. I, along with every other person I’ve met, feels that they are not their physical age. Inside, in our guts, we all feel our youth.

Even funnier is when our gut does not comply. No, in this case I mean our actual gut. It is more sensitive to what we eat or don’t eat. Drinking to excess hurts more. Our joints hurt in the hot or cold, it’s tougher to want to move, to think, to do just about anything. Entropy is fatal, I know that, and yet… it has taken up residence nearby. I don’t like that. My mind still feels as if it’s seventeen, ready to have my body stay up all night or do a cartwheel. Yeah. Not so much. Our minds are youthful gymnasts where our bodies belie the truth of our age. My father, at 84, is fond of saying ‘these Golden Years are not so golden.”

I find that at times, our minds can get a little lost, too. I have learned a whole lifetime of Elizabeth Warren, 67language of self-talk and most of it is not good. There are soundtracks that I’ve forgotten about, repeated phrases that are said in my head, at a whisper, that I’ve just learned to accept. The vernacular gets tiring at times but still, I fall back to it when it’s comfortable. I hate it. I know it’s wrong, I know I don’t want it there…but…yeah. I get stuck in my mind quite often, generally in a feedback loop of negativity and failure. It’s entirely self-directed. There are times, though, when I also get frustrated with my fellow humans. Kids who play really loud thumping music, wear their pants around their knees, or are crass and rude in public. I try to laugh it off, think, “this is what my parents said, too” and then I think that I am adopting the rigor mortus of aging. My mind and habits and ways of being are crystallizing. Apart from the inevitable pains of deteriorating flesh, this horrifies me most of all.

Now, to be fair, I never really did like some of those things, even thirty years ago. Thumping bass music has always given me a headache and kept me up at nights. People who are rude and embarrassing in public have always made me want to run away. Some of that is just who I am. I do my best not to judge and I am aware that I do have my own likes and dislikes. I work hard to keep my personal affectations personal. I think what I’m most annoyed about is that people in our country seem fit to impose their own likes, needs, wants, bad days, dreams, complaints, and problems onto others. It is as if there has become a shared responsibility for individual emotional need. Egotists and narcissists. I don’t think that’s something that has sprung up because of my age; I think it is a symptom of the age and the culmination of our social experiences in the digital world. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” seems like such a quaint notion. I feel so old to even wish for that state of social interaction.

Ruth Bader Ginsberg, 84I, personally, tend to like the weird. I like the people who wear plaid and polka-dots over their cartoon-festooned flannel pants. I have had my hair purple and red, orange. I am convinced that the only people who make good coffee in cafes have more than three piercings and four tattoos. I like to challenge the status quo, and myself, probably more often than is healthy for my career or friendships. And yet, the relationships that I have garnered over the years also celebrate the weird and off-beat. I am variety girl. This is why the idea of crystallized thought forms is so horrific. I can’t settle. I never seem to buy the same shower gel twice. I hope I never do. I want to experience all the smells.

A few years ago, I was head over heals for Crossfit. I loved and still love the variety of Oprah Winfrey, 63physical challenges. I had a wonderful coach, Saul, who is an example to all of us who have spent our careers in the Information Age. He lived, and ultimately escaped, it to move into the Crossfit arena. Saddled with poor posture and a computer attached to our fingers and wrists, we who were born in the computer age have suffered for this digital art. We’re aging differently in America because of it. When I started doing Crossfit, Saul worked with me to help me understand how to adapt a computer-wrecked body to do the physical work of Crossfit. It wasn’t easy. I think, though, that the most important lesson I learned from that time at Crossfit and with Saul was that if you think you can do it, you can do a little more, and that the only constraint to keeping you from a goal is your mind. There comes a time when you hear the feedback loop of “I can’t do it,” and you just say screw it, and you get it done. You push through the mind block and the pain is gone. You can do it. What you feared would happen, failure, doesn’t because you just chose to do what needed to be done. I can’t do it becomes I did it. There is that moment, that quintessential moment, when your ego (fear) gets out of the way and you really remember that you can do anything you set your mind to do. I’ll never forget the first moment that happened, on the rowing machine and ready to puke, when I realized that the “I” that is Kris is my only set of chains. I can do what I set my mind upon.

Of course, without wings, I’ll never fly, but that is another challenge entirely.

 

Tao Porchon Lynch, 96And, let’s be honest: walking with a broken leg or some other injury like it precludes this mind over matter thing. What I’m talking about is that niggling little feeling you get when you are ready to get up from a chair and think, oh, what if my knee gives out, or my back hurts and I can’t walk further. This is your mind controling your boundaries not the actual state of your body. And, when it comes down to it, this is my point: when we succumb to the mind telling us we can’t, then we age. That is aging. This is why variety girl may always be variety girl; the idea of letting my mind ‘settle’ equates to aging, to getting old, to stagnation and ultimately, to decay. I hate the feedback loop of negativity and when I do recognize it, I kick it to the curb. Like my knees, I have to overcome the idea that my choices in life, my thought processes, and my decisions have to be ‘settled.’ I’m doing what I can now to preserve my mind and keep it nimble. If this means always pushing myself into new activities, and failures, so be it.

Judy Chicago, Artist, 77

Women have the extra baggage of hormonal changes as we age, coupled with the ideas of how we’re portrayed and valued (or not) as we age. Our roles as women shift from beauty icon to mother to crone in American society. Yet, women over the age of fifty aren’t what they used to be. My mother, at 50, struggled with an identity and self worth. She was sickly and rarely got out of the house. Today, I’ve seen 80 year-old women bodybuilders, skiers, gymnasts, dancers, artists, photographers, and singers. The paradigm of aging for everyone but especially women is changing. Women no longer see themselves as dried up husks, finished with childbearing and rearing and set out to pasture to care for the aging members of family and ultimately becoming that aged old crone. Older women are vibrant people capable of bringing real depth and art to society, to be role models and champions of aging well, gracefully, with energy and life. The one thing our generation has brought to America is the idea that getting old doesn’t mean wooden rockers. It means hair-band rockers.

 

disruptorIt’s work, this getting older thing. It takes paying attention to your body and your mind in ways that you didn’t think necessary before. It means moisturizer. It means one glass of wine, not one bottle. It means taking care to push mental boundaries and never get stuck, and at the same time revel in what you have learned. Appreciate yourself but never settle. The brilliant moment is when that epiphany happens: the mind is the only prison we really have and that achievement can be had at any age if we really want it. We don’t need anyone to toss us the keys to get out, either. We can walk right over to the wall and get them ourselves.

-TDD


 

“Spend your time with those who will improve you; extend a welcome to those you can improve. The effect is reciprocal, for people learn while teaching.” – Seneca