What Do We Do Now?

It kind of feels like Dumbledore died all over again, and Voldemort has risen.

Sadness, fear, and uncertainty are pervasive, and one question lingers, “what do we do now?” The answer is we do exactly what Harry, Ron, and Hermione did-we hunt horocruxes.

The Republican version of a horocrux isn’t quite as hard to find as those in the JK Rowling series. The life blood of a red states is hatred, division, and lies (mostly lies told to kind, trusting Americans to convince them to support Voldemort). We destroy these with truth, love, and acceptance. Defeat the bad with good.

The trickier part of the hunt comes when faced with actual threats of racial bias, intimidation against those of different sexual orientations, misogyny, religious persecution, and a populace educated with an overkill of mis-information.

“If you see something, say something” takes on an additional meaning going forward. It requires each of us stand up for marginalized citizens being persecuted. Not getting involved is the equivalent of condoning bad behavior.

Remember that the final horocrux presents the biggest challenge. To eradicate bias in another person requires each of us to acknowledge our own bias. None of us is perfect. Everyone has a valid perspective. We can learn a lot from others, especially when their words are not the ones we want to hear.

Take a walk in the other person’s shoes. Send you love before you. Be respectful of all.

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Scratch Below the Surface

The other day, I watched my nephew play with his Lego figurines. His brow furrowed in concentration as he swapped heads and legs, helmuts and hair. I was struck by how the activity mirrored my niece swapping the outfits and shoes on her dolls. Same game, different toys.

We focus so much energy to highlight differences among us. Perhaps, if everyone looked more closely, we might begin to notice all the ways we are alike.

We all have opposable thumbs and carry both red and white cells in our blood. We all cry the same salty tears. Too many tears, lately.

The next time hate, anger, doubt, or fear focuses the attention on what sets people apart, pause and take a breath. Then, try to note some of the multitude of ways we are alike.

Different hair color, eye color, skin color: same fears and insecurities. Different religion, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status: same hopes and dreams.

Scratch below the surface, and recognize we are all human.

 

 

 

 

Mother’s Day Perspective

It’s Mother’s Day, but Hallmark doesn’t make a card for the many children who don’t have June Cleaver for a mother. I am one of them.

I remember growing up both confused and awed by the close relationship some of my friends held with their moms. At the time, I didn’t appreciate how my mom endured sickness, injury, tantrums, and the selfish, ungrateful energy from her four offspring. She packed picnics, wiped snot, threw parties, swabbed skinned knees, offered encouragement, and restricted empty calories often without a thank you from anyone. I took without giving back. I pushed, tested, and undermined, as mom struggled.

It’s never too late to say thank you. My mother was far from perfect, but she gave me a gift of immeasurable value, the blueprint on life’s pitfalls:

Do not let alcohol take over your life.

Do not use others as an excuse.

Do not say one thing and do another.

Do not double down and dig in when you know you are in the wrong.

Do not focus on the negative.

I spent my early years being afraid of/angry with my alcoholic mother while simultaneously mirroring her. Like a crystal ball, her mistakes showed me my future life.  Eventually, I paid attention. I quit drinking. I learned to take responsibility, tell the truth, and sincerely apologize. Most importantly, I learned to be grateful. I learned to focus on the good, and find the silver lining in hard times, and now I practice daily to embrace love rather than be swallowed by fear.

I witness the children of my friends and siblings challenge their parents, and I can understand how my mother’s insecurities plagued her, how her children and husband undermined her, and how her negative mindset fed the depression that led her further into darkness, away from the perfect person she so longed to be.

My mother died seven years ago, and I am grateful that in death she found peace.

 

Being Human

I recently watched, “The Social Network,” and concluded that Mark Zuckerberg may be a billionaire programmer extraordinaire, but his social skills certainly needed some work during those college years, but who am I to judge? I made a lot of missteps at that age, and though none of them ended in a lawsuit, I still have regrets. My biggest social blunder didn’t even come to light for nearly two decades.

After graduating college in the mid 1990’s, I laid low in the early part of this millennium after a string of disappointments left me feeling less than human. When I finally began to reconnect with college friends, the catalyst was (ironically) Facebook. I joined in 2008 to keep track of my sister who was working overseas, but by 2009, a friend from college stumbled across my name on a Facebook friend suggestion list, and I was inundated with connections. Some long lost friends took the opportunity to reach out over messenger to learn more about my decade off the grid. Frank, who I dated briefly junior year, asked a lot of questions, and I responded with inquiries of my own. Once we had covered our personal lives, we began sharing updates on other members of our college clique.

We had a mutual friend, Mike, who was not on Facebook. Mike and I met in the early weeks of freshman year when I briefly dated his roommate, Andy (who left school before the end of first semester). Mike and I were best friends from the start. We even visited each other over summer vacations to attend music festivals, or just chill at the beach together for a few days. He was a great guy and a lot of fun.

Mike and I never dated. Our friendship was a simple “be yourself” relationship without the usual sexual attraction stumbling block that trips up most male-female friendships. I remember he dated an underclassman briefly, and some girl from another school during his semester at sea program, but he remained solo for most of our four years. Honestly, I didn’t think much about his dating habits (or lack of them) at the time because I was too wrapped up in my own drama, dating a new guy every term. Mike was always there to listen, and give me advice.

Mike and Frank had been quite close, and when I asked Frank about Mike, he was unusually slow to reply. Eventually, he told me that Mike had recently married and was expecting his first child. Then, I asked Frank if he would give me the contact information for Mike since he was not on Facebook. This time the reply was swift, “Don’t try to find him.” Only adding that it was not a good idea. “Had Mike entered witness protection?” I joked. Again, the reply was slow, and when it came, I was confused.

“It took him a long time to get over it, but he is finally happy. Just leave him alone.”

What did Mike have to get over? I received no reply, but there was only one possible answer. The platonic friendship I assumed we shared was one-sided. Mike had been in love with me.

At first I was mad. How could Mike not tell me? But the thought barely formed when the answer washed over me. He knew I wasn’t in love with him, and sharing his feelings would have ended our friendship. He kept his secret to keep me close. I wondered how long Frank had known. I seriously doubt Frank would have dated me during fall term of junior year if Mike had told him prior to that. Frank had a lot of flaws, but he was a loyal friend. The truth must have come out sometime after graduation. Who else knew? It didn’t matter, I felt terrible, and the only person I wanted to talk to was the one person I couldn’t because Frank insisted I leave Mike alone, but I couldn’t let it go. I Googled the company Mike worked for and emailed him, but received no reply.

Anxious and impatient, I attempted to assuage my jumbled feelings by looking back through my college photo albums and was surprised to discover that among hundreds of images of me and the girls, or my ever rotating boy of the term, were few pictures of Mike, and no good ones-more evidence of how much I took him for granted. I resorted to flipping through our actual freshmen facebook to find an image of his full smiling face.

My Linked In connection was eventually accepted, but I still don’t know if it was Mike or an assistant in his office that cleared my request. His profile image is a cartoon drawing. He will not reply to any personal correspondence. I considered showing up at his office the next time I’m in New York, but I know that isn’t fair. He is happy. I need to quell my own ego, and respect the life he has built for himself.

And because karma is a bitch, the same situation has occurred again, this time with Sam, but now I’m the lovelorn best friend being taken for granted as Sam moves from one drama filled relationship to the next. We hang out in between his liaisons, and I listen to him lament his latest loss, but just as Mike knew better than to confess his feelings to me, I know Sam doesn’t love me. So, instead of seeing my current situation as punishment, I’m trying to be thankful. I’ve been granted perspective on Mike’s experience that allows me to excuse his secret. From my knowledge, I generate the courage it takes to leave Mike alone, to allow Sam to be himself, and to forgive myself for being human.

Winter Appreciation

For many, winter storm Juno has been a bust (sorry friends in NYC), but in coastal Massachusetts, we surpassed forecasted snowfall totals thanks to colder than expected temperatures. Fifteen inches so far, and it is still falling.

Normally, the short days, gray skies, and frigid, blustery winds create an unshakable chill in my bones and a strong dislike of winter. However, as part of my goal to “focus on the positive,” I’m sharing things I appreciate about winter.

For example, this morning, the wind crusted snow into the window screens. I can’t see outside, and I giggle like a kid hiding in a snow cave. I hear the storm outside, but I only see it when I open the sliding glass door.

I know tomorrow the rays of sun will peel the snow off the screens allowing me to witness the bright white world. The air will be clear, crisp, and quiet as our thick covering of sparkling ice crystals absorbs the sounds.

We’ve also had a fair share of winter reprieve days when temperatures climb above freezing and hold there until dusk. On these days, I lace up my shoes and run outside. The wind not even a whisper as I peel off my gloves & zip down my outer layer, smiling the entire time.

Even days of mixed frozen precipitation leave a little miracle behind. Last week, the rain froze on roads, fields, and trees, but after the clouds cleared, the sunlight sparkled liked diamonds on the frozen surfaces-a brilliant peace offering, or perhaps, an apology.

I love that with the leaves off the trees, I can hear the the gentle lapping of the waves against the shore down the street.

I love the delicate light at dawn, that maintains its softness until just before night.

I love the clear, crisp freshness of the air with an enhanced smell of salt from the sea.

I love to curl up on the couch after dinner, and read a book in front of the roaring fire.

In fact, that sounds like a great way to spend today!

Live, love, & appreciate, even in wintertime.

Not Fade Away

On Saturday, his face, his smile, his laugh all filled my mind. I didn’t wonder about it, the approaching anniversary of his departure was a logical trigger, but today he appeared in the street, as if he’d been here all along, instead of moving six states away two years ago.

I paused. Was it a mirage? No. If I imagined it, I would visualize myself with combed hair and better clothes. Unable to fix my appearance, I walked over to say hello.

He looked great, as always, but also happier and more relaxed than when we said goodbye. His prior disposition undoubtedly being partially my fault. He came back this weekend for a wedding, and will be gone tomorrow. I rambled, of course. It can’t be helped in this kind of situation, but I’m pretty sure I avoided saying anything stupid or embarrassing.

Hours later, I’m still reeling. I had important things to do this afternoon, but instead, I went for a swim. Now it’s getting late. I should have dinner, but my mind is distracted, searching for the key that unlocks a different ending for us. I’ve missed him since the day he left, and our three minutes of idle chit chat today only served to remind me.

Two years ago, he gave me a silver pendant on a chain. One side a compass, the other an anchor. Back then, I thought he was the anchor, providing stability in an uncertain situation.      I was the compass. Later, I realized the truth. I remained anchored here while his compass pointed him somewhere else. After six months, I undid the clasp and put it away.

Today, I put the necklace on again, just for a day…or two.

Have a Heart

I recently told a friend of mind that being positive is a choice.

This declaration came after he spent three hours ranting about the terrible things that make up this world. He highlighted the many things there are to fear, and mistakes people in power make.

I used to spent my time and energy thinking about what was wrong, rather than appreciating goodness, love, and beauty in the world. Since shifting my focus, I’ve noticed hearts appearing everywhere.

Heart large

I find heart shaped rocks on the beach, and pick them up. I have a nice collection going.

   heart shaped rock pile

I take pictures of heart shaped puddles left after the rain,)heart puddle

…and heart shaped knots in wood.

Heart shaped woodknot

Every time I see a heart, I smile

I’m smiling a lot these days.

heartshaped rock inside

I compared my friend, who was choosing to be negative, to Darth Vader. Then, I suggested he search for his inner Luke Skywalker. Love is inside us all. Realize that, and you will see it everywhere.