When my mother died, I got her china. I only used it once. The teacups were cracked with thin scars, so that the tea seeped through them onto the saucers, leaving dark stains where the tiny fissures had formed.
I kept the teapot and the sugar and creamer, though I lost the lid to the pot during a move. I displayed them on a shelf. The rest of the set, I gave away. The treasure of one generation often winds up as “so much junk” for the next.
It’s not that I had fond memories of the china, or that it ever held stories from meals shared. It was not the china from when I was growing up. It was something that she bought later in life, when she was creating her world with flowered and delicate things. The woman always had a sense of longing about her, as though she had missed something along the way, and was trying to catch up to make a life that reflected what was just out of her reach.
We all feel that way sometime—that the thing you are aching to hold is just out of reach. The poignancy of life is contained in small chipped cups and unrealized vision.
This is one of those mornings where I’ve hit a default setting: numbness that comes with a creeping depression. I don’t go to my manuscript. That story will have to wait. Instead I sit in the glowing light of a computer screen, trying to capture the tone of this familiar friend and feeling with words and metaphors that will write me alive and back into the world.
No apologies from the dark waters of thought. No struggle to try to make myself happy. Everything that comes to a writer is a gift. Don’t run from anything. Don’t edit. That’s how Stephen King got to be famous. He wrote his darkness with unabashed and disturbing honesty. Authenticity will set you free.
Besides, no one will care if you couldn’t sleep, or that you tossed and turned, gnashing teeth on a million decisions and indecisions in the middle of the night. But a story that recalls the pain of finding love in a small chipped cup–well, that gives purpose to the day.
Imagine the United States of America five years from now. What do you see? Are we repairing our infrastructure? Are we still worshiping at the altar of fossil fuels? Does everyone have affordable, sustainable healthcare or are people going into bankruptcy because of a serious illness? Are we still at war in the Middle East? What does our country look like?
Are you more interested in cute kitty videos on Facebook than you are in understanding the policies of our elected officials? Is social media taking the place of social studies in your life?
Is this all just one big bummer? Do you hide from the challenges before us by saying “I don’t watch the news, it’s just so negative.” Truth is, I’d rather not watch the news either. The 24/7 feed of bat-shit politicians practicing hate on each other is horrid. That being said, I don’t want to find myself tangled in a status quo five years from now that is only feeding our brokenness. So I have resolved to pay attention.
In spite of the problems that are literally engulfing us, I have a great hope, based on experience that informs my heart and tells me that this country is filled with a lot of people doing their best to live a good and decent life. People are great and a lot of our politicians suck. The disconnect is staggering.
Our country is broken. Infrastructure everywhere is creating problems that are affecting not just our bridges, but also our water supply. The lack of investment in alternative energy continues to pollute and poison us. Schools have become baby sitters with a lack of standard, resource and respect to turn out a thoughtful citizenry. In short, we are at the most important turning point in our history.
If you set only one goal for yourself this year, let it be this: to investigate our presidential candidates with a critical eye and choose wisely based on using your brain and not just repeating something you heard on television or from a friend. Then, make sure that you get out and vote. We don’t have many rights left in America, but the right to vote is still ours. So use it and use it well. Stand in the light of your truth and be counted. And before you mark your ballot, make sure that you have thought about where you want our country to be five years from now. Remember we don’t need a savior for our nation, we need an evolution of consciousness.
Picture this: late evening and you’ve been traveling since noon, east coast time, headed for the west coast. You feel grimy. Why? Because planes, even if you showered 10 minutes ago, always feel grimy. They are long flying tubes filled with people who cough, sneeze and fart into their seats, and when those people get off of the plane, you get onto that same plane and it’s one of those wash, rinse repeat things, but without the wash part.
My husband and I flew from Tampa to Denver and then caught a small regional plane for the last leg our journey to Oregon. The baby plane. I don’t mean the plane was small, though it was, I mean the plane’s passenger population contained at least four children under the age of two. I know when I see a little child at the gate, that child will be sitting directly behind me. I know this because I have some sort of weird baby plane karma with the universe. And last night’s flight is the case in point.
I sat directly in front of a young mother holding a squirming, exhausted and up past her bedtime, 18-month-old. The kid looked innocent enough, smiling and cooing, pulling herself up to peer over the top edge of my seat and presenting that angelic little face that God gives them so parents won’t pass them off to the next band of roving gypsies when baby goes into evil twin mode. And then the plane took off. Sweet Baby behind me turned into the devils spawn. Her little legs kicked the back of my seat with the gusto of soccer player, as she tried to escape from her mother’s embrace and terrorize the plane. This kid had a scream so high-pitched that had there been any glass on board, it would have shattered. Sweet Baby may have a future as an operatic soprano–she sure has the lungs for it.
Once the devil’s spawn started crying and shrieking, the rest of the babies on the plane joined in. It was a regular cacophony of screech and scream, punctuated by the cooing of a handful of mothers, helpless to stop the conspiracy. My husband said “You know, I feel just like that.” Me too, if tantrums were allowed for adults, I would have had one, right there in my seat. I would have stomped my feet, whined about the noise and wailed that I wanted to be home and in my own bed, surrounded by peace and quiet. But like all the adults on the plane, I kept the thought of those actions to myself and suffered the chaos and grime of the flying tube on its way to Oregon.
It’s hard enough to be a parent, and harder still to be a parent on a plane where you are helpless in controlling the determination of such a small human being. As the plane was landing, all of the babies stopped crying. Clearly the whole thing had been planned. They probably met at the changing table in one of the airport restrooms and plotted their little baby tyranny.
As I waited for luggage, I saw the young mother who sat behind me with Sweet Baby, who was now an angel again. She looked at me with that cute face, smiled and rested her head on mommy’s shoulder as they walked away. I was compelled to tell the mom, that she was a good mom. Really I thought she should receive some kind of award for hanging on to a kid whose only objective on that flight was to see if she could burst any eardrums.
The proliferation of the human race depends upon women who are incapable of thinking about how all babies have an evil twin just waiting for the right opportunity to come out. Usually on planes or in grocery stores. I imagine young women fantasizing about having children and tsk, tsking when they see children throwing tantrums in the market. “That will never be my child,” they think. By child number two, when the kid is rolling in the aisles of Safeway screaming, young mommy will simply step over them to get to the tomato sauce. That’s just the reality of parenthood.
It does take a village, and sometimes it is the villager’s job to just endure while conspiring innocents screech and carry on, and chagrined parents do the best that they can. The only acceptable revenge is the mantra that you hear the more experienced mothers utter throughout their child’s life: “just wait until you grow up and have kids!”
Do you have weird baby plane karma? Everybody has a baby plane story–what’s yours?
What do Kim Kardashian, Miley Cyrus, Catholic cardinals and Fifty Shades of Grey have in common? They all seek to define women in ways that lack equality, balance or common sense. Other people, mostly men, have been telling women who they are ever since the apple incident in the garden. What men seem to forget is that there were two sets of teeth prints on the apple, and that should have made us equals right out of the gate. But we have come a long way, baby. Unfortunately as with all fights for equality, extremism rides on the fringes of a movement, a fact that especially now, we would be wise to remember.
This year a group of Catholic cardinals will meet to discuss women. There will be no women present for the discussion, though a report about who we are and who we should become will be made available after the meeting. And, in the spirit of liking girls too, the Cardinals have created a little contest whereby you can make a one to two-minute video of what you think to be an important women’s issue and send it in to the Vatican for review. I kid you not!
If you know Christian history, you can attribute the exclusion of women in the all male hierarchy of the Catholic Church to Thomas Aquinas, whose document Suma Theologica is the basis for a catechism that teaches women are temptresses and seductresses. Therefore they should never be allowed to preach the word of God or hold any leadership roles. The translation of that holy diatribe indicates that women are sexually insatiable, asking for it all of the time, sucking every good man she meets into her vortex along the way, and well, they just shouldn’t be allowed to join the club, lest they create disaster in the form of a world-wide sexual implosion.
It’s not just the Catholic Church that keeps women, second-class citizens, it’s that the military model upon which this big church was built, is still evidenced in corporate hierarchy and structure. Business as usual is also a boys club, but with an occasional “some girls allowed” mentality. Though a woman doing the same work as a man is worth only .73 cents to his dollar.
Some have argued that Miley Cyrus makes a feminist statement with her unabashed sexuality. I don’t particularly like her. I think she’s gross and while I support her right to express herself as she sees fit, to me there is nothing about her that demonstrates competence beyond self-promotion. That makes her less of a heroine and more a part of the problem. Yet like Miley, I believe my body is my own. I don’t want a government in my uterus and I don’t want to explain myself for how I choose to dress.
That brings me full circle to that meeting of cardinals. It’s not news, really. Only a short time ago, Congressman, Darrell Issa paraded a group of all male religious leaders before congress to discuss women’s birth control with nary a woman in sight. The fight for equality takes a long time and it is going to be tinged with extremism on both the front lines and on the opposition’s push back. Women wanting to be seen as strong, confident, smart leaders have difficulty getting out the message when Miley Cyrus is over in the corner humping a wrecking ball with her tongue hanging out, all the while postulating our empowerment through slut-dome. Push back to that example is the congressman from Montana who wants to ban yoga pants in his state because they are too suggestive. Suggestive of what? Oh yeah that “we are so insatiable” theme. To my first point; extremism rides on the fringes of a movement and if we are honest, we have to admit that we are all trying to find the line and the crossover.
Between prude and slut is the line of my comfort zone. For instance, I won’t go see Fifty Shades of Gray because it’s about a rich white guy who thinks it’s sexy to tie up women, employ enough force to result in bruising and once again underscore the myth that we need to be oppressed because of our imagined sexual insatiability. I fear the truth about Fifty Shades is that it normalizes violence against women by dressing it up and calling it erotica. I refuse to be a sheep and go “Oh wow, what a cultural milestone.” The film is a microcosm of the macrocosm: Rich white man, proliferating the subjugation of someone for personal use or pleasure. I won’t buy into marketing that tells me I’ve missed the point and that Fifty Shades of Gray is about something else. It’s not. A hundred bucks says that both Cyrus and Kardashian will tweet what an “amazing” film it is, and of course will taint the word “amazing” for me forever.
While women have made great strides in the past hundred years, we have a long way to go. Genital mutilation, honor killings, sexual exploitations and a gender biased worker compensation that keeps women poor, continues around the globe. Women in the United States rank only 27th in the world when it comes to health and well-being.
Kim Kardashian has a right to stick her naked butt into the camera and call it art if she wants to, but I don’t think she helps the cause of moving women forward. I guess I stand somewhere between the right to wear yoga pants and Kim’s right to be an ass.
I could be wrong, but most of the women I know think as I do about this: Kim’s ass pointed at the camera, Miley’s permanent tongue hanging out to the world and the cardinals video contest for women are not symbols of liberation anymore than Fifty Shades of Grey is a symbol of erotica. These are symbols of stupidity, a far swing in one extreme direction while we continue to search for and create an authentic equality based on intelligence, competence and kindness. Until women gain that stature, we will continue to be a world out of balance.