The Big Picture these days is like a Gordian Knot. From the domination of the patriarchy and its greed for power and resources, to the negation of any kind of true social and legal justice, fixing the Big Picture is going to take public persistence, strategic action, and (ultimately) creative cooperation to either unravel or discard the current system.
As a White, progressive, middle class extended family, we support working toward re-building our society into a world view that values all life, that prioritizes ethics, equity, compassion, and diversity, and that supports the development of the best of human potential to solve problems in ways that meet the needs of all sentient beings. We make an effort to find common ground – even with antagonists – as a starting point, and often that starting point begins in learning about, understanding, and accepting the truth of each person’s personal journeys and experiences. But too often antagonists don’t want to find common ground, and so there is no place to start or proceed, especially since we are living in a world that seems to have lost all shades of gray.
Decades ago, my (now) adult son was mugged and beaten by three men of color who robbed him of the meager amount that was available via his ATM. Because he was nurtured to understand the influence of the local environment in which these men most likely lived, he was able to move beyond anger and “hate”. As an adult, autistic and afraid of violence, he still lives his life committed to social justice and intersectionality. The road he travels is bumpy, indeed. But he persists in the best way he is able: by intelligent research, analysis, and writing.
When my grandson was 7 or 8 (he is now 17), he became enamored of firemen and their uniforms. Every week, he visited our local fire station, getting to know the firemen personally. Finally, they gave him a discarded uniform, including sections of the hose. He was so excited, he even wore the stuff grocery shopping.
I suppose his love of “costumes” was reinforced by the fact that we are a family with some history in theatrical performance, and his progression into costumes of “authority” was fueled by his feeling secure and protected when he wore them – fire fighter, EMT, detective, police, Dr. Who, Jedi.
So, despite all of his commitment to fairness, ethics, justice, and the goals of Black Lives Matter, and despite his acknowledgment that our system of policing needs to be overhauled, he cannot ignore his empathy toward the plight of some law enforcers – the cop who gets shot and leaves a wife and baby behind; the cop who doesn’t come forward and report unnecessary police violence because he is afraid his partner won’t give him the backup he might need in violent situations; the cop who needs his job to support his extended family.
In addition, my grandson is involved with an online game along with a young POC policeman from the Midwest who has become his friend. That cop has an unmarked police car that is his to drive and even take home. But he does not want to park that car in his driveway because he is afraid to make it public that he is a cop; he is afraid of his family being victimized by opposition forces.
The backlash my grandson gets from his “social justice warrior” friends when he tries to explain his feelings about the police, in his words, “hurts his soul.” But he perseveres in trying to explain why he feels the way he does.
We talk about these things over the dinner table. I tend to come down on the radical side of issues. He is a reminder to me not to forget that each individual has a personal history that is often ignored by critics – a history that might have room for some deserved “walk a mile in his shoes” empathy.
Many of today’s police are trained to believe they must be invincible and to accept violence in order to survive. In some ways, they are victims, whose own fears and bigotries have been co-opted to support a narrow view of law and order. My grandson reminds me that there often are understandable reasons why many of today’s police do what they do; there are understandable reasons why some folks are driven to rob convenience stores, at lethal gunpoint, for basic necessities. To keep our humanity, our empathy, strong, we need to be able to see some gray within all of the overwhelming “either/or” culture.
While Rudyard Kipling was a man with controversial political views, I am one of those who is able to look at art apart from the personal reputation of the artist. So I share with you a personally edited version of Kipling’s “If”, dedicated to my grandson. Edited pieces are in bold.
If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it all on you
If you can trust yourself when all folks doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And not worry if you seem too wise;
If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And move beyond the stress of loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all folks count with you, and some too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ of your soul beguiled,
Your love of life will have no limit,
And you’ll find your destined place, my child.
I invite any readers to open a discussion of what I wrote here (harkening to the style of the original “blogosphere.”) Or at least leave a comment.
In 1967, I was married and had a five year old. While others were in Washington protesting the Vietnam War, the most I could do was make a peace banner and hang if off a branch on the tree half-way up our driveway.
What I would have love to have done is political street theater, like the Yippies, who became famous when they banded together in the mid-sixties to “Stick it to the Man”. At the 1968 DNC convention they organized an absurdist counter-convention — including nominating a pig for president. They named themselves the Youth International Party to give themselves a sense of legitimacy.
Their colorful protest methods were tailor made for the television cameras .For example, once they poured into the vast main concourse of Manhattan’s Grand Central Station 3,000 strong, wearing their customary capes, gowns, feathers and beads. They tossed hot cross buns and firecrackers, and floated balloons up toward the celestial blue ceiling. They hummed the cosmic “Ommm,” snake-danced to the tune of Have a Marijuana, and proudly unfurled a huge banner emblazoned with a lazy “Y.”
While Yippies were a radical bunch, their basic philosophy paralleled the movements today to establish equality in all areas of American life: We want everyone to control their own life and to care for one another … We cannot tolerate attitudes, institutions, and machines whose purpose is the destruction of life, the accumulation of profit.
The Yippies used mockery, ridicule and silliness to call attention to the wrongs of our society. Imagine how our current president would be affected by this kind of outrageous public contempt. What if a new generation of Yippies performed an exorcism on the White House, the way they did it on the Pentagon in 1967 at the “Be-in” protest against the Vietnam War.
This is how it went back then:
The initial conception of the protest had been to occupy the Capitol, but that might have sent the wrong signal to the public, suggesting that the marchers wanted to shut down the democratic process and thus were offering only more political negativity.
So, instead, they came up with the idea of an exorcism that would levitate the Pentagon 300 feet. Since the five-sided pentagram was symbol of the occult, representing evil forces at work in the world, the Pentagon was a natural symbol of the evil war and itwould serve as a far more resonant target than the Capital.. Time magazine later reported the intention of the proposed ritual would turn the Pentagon “orange and vibrate until all evil emissions had fled” and the war would come to an immediate end.
On the makeshift altar before the Pentagon, a number of competing rituals began simultaneously to unfold. Ed Sanders, of the rock band the Fugs, delivered an impromptu, sexually suggestive invocation punctuated with repeated calls of “Out, demons, out!” Allen Ginsberg declaimed mantras for the cause.
Two hundred pounds of flowers were trucked in and distributed to the crowd. When military police and marshals confronted the protesters, images of gun barrels blooming with daisies became the iconic photographs of the day.
As we approach November, I can’t help wishing there were a new version of the Yippies to dramatize the absurdities of our current Cheeto-in-Charge. I’m not suggesting that they disrupt the convention; rather I’m suggesting that for the two months before elections, a swarm of costumed political pranksters organize “guerilla theater” events to draw the attention of the public and the media to (my words) drive tRump even more crazy.
If he is even the least bit superstitious, I’m sure that anything smacking of magic and mystery will fuel his paranoia and insecurities. So how about an exorcism on the White House to rid it of negative energies — racism, bigotry, misogyny, elitism, etc. etc.
While there are no more Yippies, perhaps a gathering of witches:
ON MIDNIGHT LAST Friday, all over the United States, an alliance of magical practitioners called the Magic Resistance gathered Tarot cards, feathers, orange and white candles, pins, water, salt, matches, ashtrays, and unflattering photos of President Trump. The objects are prerequisites for a binding spell, an incantation typically used to keep someone from harming themselves or others, like a magical straitjacket.…
..Magic (and particularly witchcraft) has been a form of protest for decades, probably centuries, but protest magic has burst into the media and broader public consciousness only twice in recent memory: during the 1960s and now, during Trump’s presidency. In the ‘60s there were the yippies, but also the Women’s International Terrorist Conspiracy from Hell—W.I.T.C.H.—a pointy-hatted wing of the women’s liberation movement.https://www.wired.com/story/trump-witches/
In 2016, the anonymous W.I.T.C.H. movement was resurrected by a group in Portland, Oregon, inspired by the injustice they see in the world around them, and in their own backyards ….. Sometimes they hand out tarot cards at events, edited to include a message such as “A vote for the health-care bill will mean DEATH for millions of Americans” on the death card. On their YouTube channel, they posted a video of one of the rituals they performed before a protest: the “binding” of Donald Trump.
The exorcism of the White House can be done virtually on a specific night over Zoom or some other platform. With enough chatter about it over social media before hand, perhaps the mainstream media might also cover it. The point would be to make our Hitler-Wannabe nervous and insecure as he is surrounded by the notion that mysterious enemy forces, over which he has no control, gave gathered to erode his power and his sanity. What great fun to add some fun to ensuring that he loses the election.
These are the sites I used for background information:
All around me. All around my insides as well as my outsides.
I am used to being able to have some control over my life of 80 yeas. I get it that Covid 19 is in the driver’s seat right now. One of my “talents” has always been that I am able to find some pieces of myself to hang onto even in the midst of various forms of chaos; but I can’t seem to find any of those pieces.
As grateful as I am for the support and protection of my family, that all comes at a cost. And the cost is my sense of self at a time when very little is making sense at all. My reality has succumbed to the total chaos that rages all around me.
I am bummed that I don’t seem to be able to handle any of it. Mindfulness? Meditation? Forget it. Chaos rules my mind. I just want to sleep until I can wake to a better reality. And so I sleep. A lot.
I used to be able to gird my loins and launch myself into some creative craft project that would, at least, surround me with a brain buffer. I used to be able to take that chaos and re-purpose it into pretty decent poetry.
Is it so terribly hard now because I am old? Because I have used up my finite resources? I feel totally depleted. I don’t know who I am or why I am.
My late-diagnosed adult autistic son writes about trying to understand who he is in the context of his undiagnosed, fragmented journey.
My late once-husband, who tended to be single-minded, once told me that he wonders what is at my “core”; he saw me like an onion. The layers get pealed back and there’s nothing at the core. And this is how I saw him.
You stand firm and fundamental
in your solitary nesting place
apart from your leafing, budding sill-mates.
You remind me of someone I know
So, I am an onion. Each layer is a period of my life that I created and lived and survived. My layers are what I am. Does that mean I have nothing at the core? Nothing solid, impermeable? Does it matter?
Maybe it does, if I find myself adrift in a chaos that is being absorbed by whatever is left of who I am. Do I even have another layer in me, or is that all there is?
Of course, I’m late again. Of course I’m still trying to get my crazy sleep schedule under control. Of course I’m eating too much chocolate. Of course I’m still experimenting with medical marijuana, which is the only thing that can get me to fall asleep. Last night, I put some alcohol tincture in a glass with V8 juice. It tastes like a Bloody Mary.
It still took at least an hour for me to fall asleep, so while I was lying there, I listened to one of my playlists on Spotify. It includes most of the songs I liked over the past 50 years. As I listened, I realized that I could put the songs in an order that reflected where I was in my life at the time each song was popular. I might try to do that at some point.
Listening to each song brought back very specific feelings, some of which I wish I could choose to forget. I have always tended to make choices based on what I wanted or needed. It’s not that I didn’t consider the wants and needs of others involved; but, ultimately I did what I wanted.
When I lie in bed at night, waiting for the THC to kick in, I let each song take me back, like the images in a photo album, to past places. When my mind reviews what my life was like each time, I feel regret. Regret about how little I understood myself and what little wisdom I had. Regret that I never learned how to “plan” — financially, physically, inter-personally. Regret that many of my choices negatively affected other people. Regret that I must have been very emotionally immature.
Throughout these 80 years I never set long-term goals, but rather I took advantage of opportunities (which worked out fine as far as my various careers, but not so fine in terms of my various relationships.)
It’s obvious to me, now, that the men with whom I chose to have a relationship were chosen because I knew they would not be around long. (The exception was my late ex-husband, but that’s a whole other story.) I knew, instinctively, how to get them to leave when I was ready to move on. In the meanwhile, each contributed, in his own way, to something I wanted or needed in my life. (Perhaps I also knew, instinctively, that there was no one man who could give me all I thought I needed; and now I see that I didn’t particularly care what they needed as well.)
From the perspective of decades, I am finally realizing several things: I am a bit of a narcissist; I am good at manipulating situations and people; I need people more than they need me; I like beginnings and endings and don’t do well keeping things going in the middle; I never knew who I really was. I’m not sure I even do now.
Here I am, already having missed a day venting my madness. This being late seems to be a trait I developed in my very late years. I used to arrive at my destinations at least 10 minutes early. None of that matters much any more anyway — and not because of the Coronovirus Pandemic, which has caused a lock-down and which gives folks too much time on their hands.
Today I’m mad about “Time.” It really seem to go faster as you get older. It takes me longer to do everything, including figuring out new things on this blog platform. You might have to bear with me for a while as I continue to climb the learning curve.
When I moved in here with my family, my grandson was 5 years old. Now, at age 17, he has completed his high school education as a home schooler. Twelve years, in the blink of an eye.
Today, I’m mad at Time, which can take me at any time. And I can’t turn it back to fix what I screwed up.
I will try to be on time tomorrow.
I have not been motivated to write on this blog.since the beginning of the year. Adjusting to chronic insomnia with no remedy that works is exhausting. It’s also depressing. As is the fact that I unknowingly sent my removable dental partial down the garbage disposal and so I have no front teeth until I can get to a dentist and go through the whole process all over again. And the fact that my plans to get some shots for my painful arthritic knee have been postponed while I shelter in place. And I planted some seeds indoors that are not doing well.
Yet, all of my “Little Picture” angst is just small potatoes compared to this frightening global pandemic exacerbated by the corruption and stupidity rampant throughout tRump’s America. This “Big Picture” is enough to make me not want to get out of bed in the morning. As life goes on, the more depressed I get.
They say that “depression is anger turned inward.”. Well, if I have a choice, I’m going with anger, which has fueled my writing before. So herewith, I will be indulging my Mad Old Lady anger while I still can. Feel free to commiserate in the Reply options.
I am challenging myself to write something every day; you can subscribe (see bottom of right hand column) to be notified when I post.
I don’t mean that we Elders are the plague; I mean an awful lot of us Elders are afflicted with the same “plague.” It’s called There are lots of kinds of insomnia and there’s no cure for any of them. There are a host of “remedies”, however, and I have tried all of them (see the end of this post), to no avail. So had the author of a book I read several years ago, Insomniac, by Gayle Greene. The book was published in 2008, and you would think there would have been some progress made since then with a treatment that works. I contacted Greene last year to see if she ever found a way rid herself of insomnia Basically, she said no; all she could do is schedule her life around it when she can, take sleep meds when she has no other choice, and keep looking for a solution.
Here’s a review from The Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine: Insomniac, by Gayle Greene, provides an interesting perspective and offers support to those with treatment resistant insomnia. It also offers a fresh perspective to readers who are also medical providers. The author defines insomnia in a way that sets the stage for the discussions that follow, as “Insomnia is when you can’t get the sleep you need to feel good, for no reason other than that you can’t.” By the end of the third chapter, the reader has a very clear understanding of the problems faced by insomniacs.
Greene’s book is both a memoir and a research paper. If you don’t read the book, read the whole review. Here are some of the facts she shares in her book
⇒ A third of the American population suffers from insomnia enough to complain about it; in people over 65, estimates are as high as 60 percent.
⇒ Sleep has little part in medical curricula today, when doctors get an average of one or two hours’ instruction in sleep and sleep disorders. The patient with a chronic complaint of insomnia will usually be referred to a psychiatrist.
⇒ With all due respect, this is so ass-backwards, Greene states. The reason I want more sleep is so that I won’t feel depressed. I need sleep not to avoid my life, but so that I can live it.
⇒ This is what she learned from interviewing a range of sleep researchers and experts (all given citations in her book). We do not know….the nature of the basic neural mechanisms underlying primary insomnia. Nor do we know the identity of specific neurotransmitters that might be involved, or even whether specific neurotransmitter systems are involved. The genetics of the disorder are also not known.
⇒ The behavioral model (change your attitude, change your ways) has had, perhaps the unfortunate consequence of discouraging research into the neurobiology of the disorder.
⇒ Insomnia is a subjective state.. There’s no blood test that it shows up on, no biopsy or x-ray that picks it up, and it doesn’t even show up on the EEG….. How much easier it is to tell us, as many clinics do, that we have “sleep disordered breathing,” or apnea.
⇒ Exercise helps some people, but not all. “In order to make a difference, it has to intensive, enough to raise the core temperature (inside body temperature) to two degrees Fahrenheit for about twenty minutes, which happens with twenty to thirty minutes of aerobic exercise….. Since only people who are in shape can sustain vigorous exercise for twenty minutes or more, they’re the ones whose sleep is likely to be improved.
⇒ Some billionaire who has a relative with terrible trouble sleeping…should endow a private foundation. There should be patient advocacy groups for insomnia, but they’ll need to stay independent of the pharmaceutical companies.
I wish every sleep doctor would read Greene’s book, which explores the various and complex reasons why folks have insomnia, including the gut-brain connections and the individual ways that insomnia manifests itself. For example, I have the kind that prevents me from even falling asleep, from having my brain trigger what Greene calls the “sleep switch.” I get relaxed and tired, but that last step evades me.
At the end of this month, I will have a sleep study. I am going to give the doctors there a copy of this post.
Of all of the remedies I have tried for my insomnia, I have to admit that I like the effect of medical marijuana (and I like the buzz I get before I fall asleep). But trial and error has proven that I need sometimes 4 times the recommended dose to have any effect on my sleep. That would cost me several hundred dollars a month, and I can’t afford that. CBD helps with my daytime energy and mood, but has done nothing for my sleep issues. And it’s not cheap, either.
I even bought some EMF fabric shield to cover my electronics at night. At my age (80), doctors will not give me prescription sleep meds. Hell, I’m 80. What’s it going to do, kill me? Not sleeping is killing me and is depriving me of having any kind of satisfying life.
I no order of chronology or non-effectiveness, here is a list of what I have tried.
Soto Bio-tuner; hypnosis; environmental changes; behavioral modification; yoga breathing; every pain and sleep-associated OTC on the market; a range of herbal, amino acids, and other supplements (sometimes combined); oxycodone (I’m running out of my old dental RX; I only take it when I can’t take the sleeplessness any more); binaural beats; relaxation, meditation, and music tapes; hot showers; massage (when I can afford it); decades of depression meds; tapping……..
Badly arthritic knees and a troublesome torn rotator cuff preclude me from doing the kinds of exercises that might tire me out enough to crash into sleep.
“Set your alarm and make sure you get up every morning even if you are tired,” they tell me. Yeah, sure. After finally falling asleep at 3 a.m. or so every night, I’m not about to get up at 9. Maybe 11. Sometimes noon or later. When I finally sleep, I often sleep deeply and have great dreams. But I miss half of the day.
There are still no advocacy groups for and by insomniacs to help spread the word and urge researcher and doctors to keep digging to discover the biological insomnia triggers and causes. There are plenty of support/forums for patients, but all those do is give us more places to complain.
How different my holidays are from when I was a child, part of a large extended Polish family, for whom Vigilia (Christmas Eve) was a major event, with all of the traditional foods and traditions.
The only thing I have left is one ornament that says Merry Christmas in Polish.
After I got divorced, since my kids would spend Christmas Eve with me and Christmas Day with their Dad, we started our own food tradition. I let the kids choose. They wanted a meat fondue. And we continue that tradition today. Having to wait for our chunks of protein to simmer until ready means that we have to sit around the table for a while (unlike our usual “eat dinner together and then go our separate ways”).
We tend not to eat beef, so we usually have chicken; but this year we broke with tradition so that Lex, my grandson, could try beef. (Which, unfortunately, he likes.)
We did manage to make and decorate some cookies — from Baby Yoda (which Lex devoured rather quickly) to the wreath “painted” by my art-major son-in-law. (I have to say that I love that Lex wears the “Jughead” hat I made for him all of the time.)
My daughter has successfully installed replacements for the traditions I left behind. Over the past week or so, she has cooked dinners from the various ethnic traditions of our genetics — German, Swedish, Lithuanian. We often have Polish and Italian food, so there was no need to repeat those. And it’s a Christmas Eve tradition for us to watch Polar Express together after dinner while we have dessert. I decided to forego yet another watch and retired to my computer to struggle with this post. (I am still have problems using this new fangled WordPress platform; but I’m intent on figuring it out; I have been at it for three hours now.)
Somewhere in Yonkers, my younger cousins are feasting on their home made pierogi, carrying on the old traditions,using recipes that have been handed down for generations. I have yet to find store-bought peirogi that come anywhere near those our mothers made. I’m too lazy to do all of the work to make my own.
I don’t know if they sing Polish “kolendy” (Christmas Carols), but I know they get their families together and share old memories. I’m not in touch with them these days because he is their president, and he’s not mine.
I have fond memories of those Polish Christmases as a child. I probably don’t remember them the same way that my cousins do.
I’m a poet. I am all Eye.
December 24, 1948
There is no mistaking this immigrant clan
for anything but a matriarchy,
bringing from its Polish homeland
the fundamentals of family, earthy foods,
a deference to the will of the grayest female.
The men earn hard money, revere their vodka,
as it was on the farms of the old country.
The rest is woman’s right and work.
So, when the magical time of Vigil Eve draws near
the men disappear into their smoky enclaves
to share sad fatherland memories,
while the women gather in her kitchen,
a determined lineage of daughters,
by birth and marriage, armed with
the culinary legacies of generations.
For days, they roll, flour, fill, and pinch,
while we children sit on the floor, eye level to legs,
playing with scraps of pasty dough,
lulled by the soft humming of female voices,
the steady rumble of snowy urban streets.
The night flows with prayers and feasting,
as families gather at the gray lady’s call,
reviving ancient rites of pine and light,
singing the language and history of their people
carried across oceans of fear and hope.
They sing of homeland yearnings for freedom and faith,
of the tears of mountaineers displaced and despaired,
of the battles of heroes to free the heart’s land,
of mystical mothers and magical births.
Generations of voices in harmony
drift through the lace-curtained windows
open to the cold winter night, that night
when animals talk, wishes are granted,
and ancient rituals forge the primal bonds of blood.
I wrote this when I was in my mid-thirties, when life was an adventure. At almost 80, my life now is a different kind of adventure.
And it’s more than the eyes. The WordPress I used more than a decade ago is a different animal. I’m on a very slow learning curve. But they say that learning new things is good for the brain. Maybe so, but it’s not always good for the stress..
As I get older, I need things to be more simple. Only nothing is simple these days. Even though the “Ayes” had it in Washington and voted to impeach the Big Orange Turd, it’s still complicated, and it’s not going to be easy.