Category Archives: introspection

Under the Apple Tree

20170418_173453The house is too still.  Her non-stop action was just what I looked forward to at the end of the day.  And on her last day she had helped me wake by moving from a spot by my knees to lying on my pillow with her paws over my chin and her face on my face.  We would do the routine: get up, go to the kitchen, put on the tea kettle, open a can of cat food, and look out the window to assess the day.  I would head to the bathroom, she would use her cat door and go outside.  I would make the tea and bring it back on my tray to savor the first moments of peace.  She would bounce back in and join me on the bed, licking her paws and cleaning her face, she would then sit in my lap for the obligatory pet and purr.

At the end of the day she would be on the counter, across from the kitchen door, or sometimes come out the cat door to greet me.  On her last day, she was in the kitchen picture window watching me in the car making that last call.  I was tardy and so she left the window, went around to the study and her door, bounced out and when I opened my car door, she jumped right in.  Up on the dashboard, waiting for a drive, or just announcing that she was in my space, she was my companion.

Mum had returned from her trip to Spain and she had been greeted and loved by Mouse. I gave her the update of all the shenanigans and adventures she had the week before.  Dinner was made, mouse served first, and I was off to a meeting. Long day with Hospice and tomorrow was going to be long as well.  I needed balance.

I returned home to Mum’s bedroom light on. That was strange. Her goal was to stay up till 7:30. It was later than that. The kitchen light was on, she was sitting at the table, TV on but muted.

What’s wrong Mum?  She couldn’t speak, then she whispered, “I have bad news.  Mouse is wrapped in a towel in the garage.”

I retrieved the bundle, and unwrapped her to see her limp and lifeless, a bit of blood out of her ear stained the towel.  No broken bones, no gaping wounds, she was still a bit warm and listened for a purr as she was in the morning.  Her eyes were open but it was clear that she was gone.  I brought her back into the kitchen so that Mum could say goodby and I dug a grave under the apple tree.  I laid her down, curled up as she was with me, looking peaceful and said goodbye.  Gently covering her up I gave thanks, checked back in with Mum and bid her goodnight.

She had gone out on her own accord and had been under the lilac bush.  She had been hunting bumblebees and flying bugs as of late and I imagine that she had darted out in full chase and unaware of the car.  The driver didn’t stop and I hope didn’t know.  The next driver saw her on the side of the road, stopped and looked for the owner.   Mum wouldn’t go to the door when they came knocking because she didn’t know them, but our neighbor stepped up, and brought the news to the door.

Fast and lethal.  I knew it was a risk to have and inside outside cat.  I knew that she might live a long and fun packed life. I balanced that with the knowledge that she might be hit by a car, taken by a coyote or otherwise killed.  I took the risk because I needed to have life and non-stop-action to balance my work.  Life is a risk.  I got her at the shelter and gave her the best life I could in the short time we had. No regrets there.  But I have learned a huge lesson.

We are all created in nature and in nature we should live.  I just don’t live in a place where she had a fair chance. And I am guilty for thinking that getting clipped by a car was a smaller risk. I felt she was smart enough to learn fear of cars.  I didn’t count on her natural predatory instincts over-riding that awareness.

I yearn to be where I can walk a dirt road, be in nature, and have a pet.  This week was full of patient deaths.  It was full of tending to those who are grieving.  I found myself tearing up in a staff meeting and coming home bawling as I park next to the apple tree. I found myself lost in the vastness of the silence and rethinking the cost of living off the farm.

I want to float, not dive

7239cf715db990fa2babb5c00ec962e1.b2c7dcabcd02d6b1a207e0dffe7b5242.jpgNot quite ready for the day.

I have my tea and mouse is keeping me company.  I kinda want to be all on top of it and hit the ground running, but today I just want to ease into it.  Like when you are going swimming in the early morning and you slip slowly into the still waters, trying not to make a ripple.  You are one temperature and the water another and the change from one state to another can be a welcome shock, but not first thing in the morning.  Late in the afternoon, in the heat of the summer, you welcome it, along with the other swimmers. But early in the morning, you move slowly into the depths.

And today I have patients to see and meetings to attend and driving to do between one place and another,  all within certain times, all seemingly crowded together. There are notes too. Notes to say what I did and how I met the goals already written.  “Patient will transition through the end of life process with peace and serenity.”  ” Patient received pastoral presence and silent prayer.”  Today is like most days, but today I want to slip into it slowly and purposefully, not reactively. I want to slip into the sacred and let it support me as I go,  I want to float, not dive.

 

Mouse Is In The Garage

I had a heavy week.  I thought I would get ahead of it by doing a spiritual assessment on a new admission Sunday afternoon and while I was at the facility, I would check in with another couple of patients.  I have a flexible schedule like that. However I also had a bunch visits that needed to be done, a week of lousy, rainy and otherwise dank weather, a memorial service and an online class.  Come Friday I was a bit fried.

Balance is the key and so knowing that, I got a kitten and named it Mouse. img_0788

I figured having something very alive was a good balance to being with those who are dying.

But after a long week, I figured I needed something else. Teary eyed and exhausted. I finished up work and even Mouse could not help lift the weight, so I headed down to the village, and I decided to go and get that bike that I have been wanting for a good long while.  I had been down to the Dedham Bike Shop at least a couple of times over the last few years and even bought a bike for my buddy Bea’s birthday. But didn’t get around to getting one for me.

I stopped riding a bicycle about 18 years ago when I was diagnosed with IC and was told that I had to change a whole lot of things in my life to reduce the pain and disabling effects of the illness.  Riding a bike was one of those things. Plus I was either a student or an unemployed CPE intern or simply unemployed, so a fun thing like a bike was out.

imagesYesterday I threw  caution to the wind and decided to go look at bikes and found one that seemed like a good fit. I put a deposit down on it with the plan to go ahead and pick it up this morning.   I felt like I was 5 again.  My first bike was red Schwinn Pixie but with a white seat and it came from the Dedham Bike Shop. I picked a purple one and got a purple helmet to match.  I felt like the kid at Christmas who peaked and saw a bike with their name on it.

It was a good thing too. When I returned home after a meeting last night I was called in to work to help the family of that new patient I had been with last Sunday.  The patient had put themselves on hospice and the family was not ready.  The Patient was ready for death and had said so to me, but the family wasn’t on the same page.  And despite the protests against the illness, the patient passed away.   I got the call and within 15 minutes was on site, but the family had left and so I did what I was called to do.

Went down the hall, entered the room and then spent then next little while with the deceased.  I had found the TV on, the bathroom door open with light streaming out, full light in the room and the sheets of the deceased all askew.  I turned things off, pull the covers up over her feet, shut the door and began to pray.  They had said to me last Sunday that they had forgotten their prayers, so I pulled out a Rosary and said it for them, as I laid the pink plastic cross down.  Returning home I took some time to decompress and thought about that bike.  I went to bed singing “Bicycle race ”

This morning I went down to the village and rode it home, singing.   These same streets that I rode my first little red bike on and all of those feelings of being free came back. Just like when I first learned to ride and go faster than on foot.  And getting the bike gave me some energy to do the chores and put the cat window in for Mouse. She learned to use it and has some freedom now herself.

In her new freedom she disappeared for a while and gave us a scare.  Turns out she went into the neighbor’s garage and before they went out for the night, the door was closed with her locked inside.  They are still out and she is still locked in, but at least I know where she is and eventually they will come home, see my note pinned to their door and I can go fetch her.

And here is where the balance pays off.  Mum was tired at the end of the day and when Mouse didn’t show up, Mum was upset.  Afraid of all the things that could go wrong.  On the other hand, I had an awesome day riding my bike and singing Queen songs.  I figured Mouse would either show up or she wouldn’t.  Either she lives a free life going out and coming, sometimes getting stuck and needing to be found, or she doesn’t.  I choose the former too.   And like Mouse I choose to play when I can.

 

Jonah and The Divine Deep Knowing

Penned by Tori Jamison

Many call to ministry stories begin with a deep knowing or a dramatic moment of realization, followed in quick succession with the knower running fleeing church life to pursue careers in business or as far from the church as possible, diving into family or art or literally anything else, until they can’t anymore – and then they show up at seminary. My story isn’t that at all.  I heard the voice, I felt the deep knowing and my community acknowledged that they also knew I had the knowing and so off I went, confident. I graduated seminary by the skin of my teeth and running as fast as I could get from the institutional church.

images.jpgAnd I’ve been thinking about a lot about Jonah, of “gets swallowed by a whale and is still a punk while sitting in digestive juices for three days and gets his own book in the Hebrew bible” fame. See, Jonah gets this call from God to do a thing (go preach repentance to Nineveh) and he runs. Lots of commentators make a big deal out of him running the opposite direction from where he was told to go, but what I find interesting about Jonah is his confident swagger. He runs but gets on a ship and when the sea gets rough, they draw lots and blame Jonah, who asserts with no nuance who he is and the name of his god, and that they are welcome to solve the problem by throwing him into the sea. The sailors oblige, and into the sea goes Jonah… only to get swallowed by a fish. He skulks and mutters for a while, covered in digestive juices in the dark, and then the text says that he petitions his god with a prayer that amounts to “God has to save me because I have work to do that God gave me to do so get on with it, God!”

I also ran with reasons aplenty from the institutional church but not ministry. I’ve taken all kinds of jobs and calls since graduating, and have met some incredible people, been a witness to the miraculous and the mundane. I’ve seen a baby born and held hands with the dying and everything in between, and yet, l

Like Jonah, I thought that shouting my call while going my own ways was enough.

It isn’t, and I’m worn down by running- the moving every few months to this or that pulls me farther and farther away from the divine deep knowing. What I’ve been doing is in the name of the good work and justice (mental health first responder! Care for the youngest! Communities of belonging and safety for everyone! Farm and feed the world!) but I am increasingly more disconnected from a call to contextualize sacred service in a community.

I haven’t been running from everything in life and I’ve certainly grown and learned.  I came out as queer last year as undramatically as I could conjure simply by putting on Facebook that I was in a relationship with a same gender partner.

Spoiler alert -if an ancient book can be spoiled –

Jonah gets out of the fish but his swagger continues. He preaches to Nineveh and then informs God that God should make good on God’s promise to smite them. God does not, and gives a shade tree to Jonah. When the tree dies, the last words of Jonah in his book are informing God that the tree ought to still be alive, and that Jonah himself is right to be angry, even to death.

I too had my very good reasons for running, but now that I am a distance away by time, geography and circumstance, perhaps now I can reconsider a retooled return. Like Jonah, I have never doubted the deep knowing, but unlike Jonah, I do not wish to end up under a tree angry that it is not enough.

Exhaling into death

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It occurred to me yesterday morning that I have been fearful of the role of full-time hospice chaplaincy for two main reasons.

The first is that I thought I might get burnt out ministering mostly to folks who are actively dying and their families, that the nature of unavoidable death without the affirmation of life might not be there. That without the balance, I would eventually tip over and absorb too much of the grief and not enough of the life.

If you are on my hospice list then you are most likely dying.  Some folks get better with hospice care and no longer qualify for it, but mostly, folks die.

Here is the other point. Frankly I didn’t have confidence that my spunky little self was cut out for the solemnness of the gig.  I met a ton of ministers and others who felt called to hospice while I was in seminary and CPE, and they tended to be very peaceful, calming, and reverent.  I am mostly irreverent and have a quirky sense of humor.  I am also naturally charismatic and sometimes find it difficult to tamper that gift down. I don’t mean to say that I am all that and a bag of chips, but I have that funny personality that is highly interested in others, connects easily to strangers and for the most part, is authentic.  What you see is what you get.

I didn’t think that my calling was to hospice.  I figured it was to helping people with addictions, and homelessness, and hospital type stuff.  I love hospital chaplaincy and did well in training with the cases where it was messy.  Messy with bells and whistles going off.  Messy with theological issues.  Messy with emotional responses.

This is what I discovered.

In the hospital, death is there and is often sudden.  Unexpected.  As chaplain you need to have your spiritual tanks filled because you respond to some deep stuff. People are plugged into machines, the heart is monitored, beeps and alarms go off. People rush in and rush out trying to save the patient. The main purpose of the medical team is curative,  everybody jumps in at the code to save the life and the chaplain holds the sacred space.

A 17-year-old wraps their car around a tree and the family comes to the bedside, faced with issues of taking him off life support or organ donation.  The baby’s heart isn’t working and he has to be medevaced to Children’s hospital.  You are called to take someone to see their loved one in the morgue after death from an overdose and you lead them to a cold room, generally far away from the rest of the hospital, and generally underground.   Shock is the response to sudden and unexpected death.  It is surreal at times.

Death comes unexpectedly and on the emotional intensity scale of 1-10, 10 being full on, you give spiritual care and support, holding the sacred space for the family and the patients.  It is a fast inhale, like when you are being startled and you quickly hold your breath for dear life, hoping death will not take it.   And sometimes you go from emergency to emergency and you have to be there, one patient emergency after another.  All of you, present and with The Divine because you are the symbol of the sacred in the moment.  It is exhausting, but I was good it.  I can hold my breath for a very long time.

In hospice, it is like a long and cleaning exhale.  Death is not unexpected, it is unavoidable, for the most part.  There are folks who struggle with accepting death, their own or the death their loved one.  Hospice is provided only if there is a medical indication that curative medicine will no longer help.  To be on hospice you have to have a terminal diagnosis with death imminent, generally less than 6 months.   Hospice is when death has knocked the door has opened.

And with the exhale, it seems that the tension of intensity , the holding your breath against sudden illness and unexpected death,  is released. The emotions are still there, but not as tense.  The grieving process has begun.  The emotion has moved from the shock of not accepting that death has come,  to sometimes welcoming the relief from suffering that death sometimes brings.

In this place, with patients and their families, my true self can be present without filtering.  Not to say that I was fake in my other work.  I was authentic, but I feared that I could not be authentic in hospice full-time.

Well I seem to be wrong. This calling fits like a glove.

I can hold the space sometimes  and relieve the tension by bringing life back into the room of the dying.  “Tell me a little bit about your loved one” I say.   I can get the story telling started because I am genuinely interested in the life of the patient.  Family members get that. They can feel it  and respond by sharing the life that their loved one lived.  Granted I am still new at this type of gig. But if I can be my true self right from the get go, then I am pretty optimistic about it.  All things will sugar out with time. I am hopeful this calling will get sweeter.

 

 

Bennies

Bennies.

Not what you are thinking though.  I am thinking healthcare and insurance benefits.  I just spent the past couple of hours signing up for them and I am the lucky one.  

Lucky because my new employer offers a whole host of benefits which include medical, dental, vision, long and short-term disability. Then there is also insurance for credit fraud, benefit plans for lawyers, pet insurance and then the pre-tax, directly from your paycheck savings account.   There were 24 different areas to pick from.  I made my picks and I will be paying 3.8% of my gross pay for insurance per month with a potential of 1.43%  of the gross in costs for healthcare.  That is about 5% of my gross.  And that is affordable access to healthcare.

This new policy  will kick into effect 90 days from my hire date and I can breathe a bit easier.  I say that with the silly notion that large employers are keeping watch at the current health care payment fluster cluck.   I will be sorry to say goodby to the current coverage I have, but I am the lucky one.

I have been covered for the last year and a half on Mass Health, the Bay States version of the Affordable Care Act,  also known as Obama Care. In graduate school I was covered under a student health plan that basically covered very little.  When I graduated I was able to get onto the public coverage and because I was still training for chaplaincy, I didn’t have an income. As in I didn’t have a job.   The coverage was basically free to me and every medical expense was covered and 99% of my medications.   I could pick up my thyroid medication and instead of a 20.00 co-pay, I paid out 1.75.  One dollar and seventy-five cents.  Less than a cup of tea.  Even my Epi-Pen was free because of Mass health and the CVS pharmacist found coupons to make up the difference.

I totaled up my health care costs based on billing submitted by my providers and it came out to about 78 thousand, of which only a small fraction was paid out to the hospitals and doctors, but under contract, I was not billed.  I benefited from Mass Health profoundly.

Health maintenance is critical for me to be engaged in the larger community.   In order for me to work full-time, I have to keep self-care in the foreground.   That means that I have to put the needs of my body, mind and spirit before the needs of others.  I can not sacrifice me to serve others, I must serve myself first so that I can be there for others.   If I don’t take care of the vessel, I can not sail.

I am not unique on this. We all need to have good, not adequate, but good health coverage. By we, I mean all of us.  Good prenatal care, infant child wellness, preventative care, emergency care and end of life care, including hospice.   If we see the Dr. before the issue gets bad, or get our teeth cleaned on a regular basis or take the medications we should, then can you imagine what good would come from it.  More of us could do the work we are called to do.  More of us would take care of things before those little things become disabling.

So the issue then becomes: are we entitled to good health care?

If we look at the greater good, what is good for all of us in a society, then yes.  People do better when choices for care are available and affordable.   Society does better when the populace is healthy and can engage in the workforce.  Businesses run better when their employees are healthy. Our economy can grow when the population is healthy. Our country can focus on other issues if this one can be solved.

Looking at the costs billed from providers; hospitals, Dr.s and procedures like labs, I was shocked at the difference between the charge and what was paid out.  A blood test with a full metabolic panel was over 568.00 while the provider was paid 40.00.  It is like going to Savers and seeing a cashmere 4 ply designer sweater priced at 5.99 when you know that it retailed at over 400.00 and it probably cost 50.00 to grow, harvest, spin, dye, knit, ship, and stock at the store.

So here is the long-winded idea.  I got the sweet deal in insurance last year and now I continue with a sweet deal though my new job.   But I shouldn’t be the only one.  We should all have the ability to access affordable health care.  For the benefit of the individual and society as a whole.

 

 

I am not a preacher

imageBlizzard

Well, not really. At least not yet, there is very little wind. Certainly not huge gusts that make the trees creak.  There is heavy wet snow  and walking home tonight was lovely in a surreal kind of way.    The ambient light created from street lights, and glow from the nearby highway, gives everything a pink and orange edge.  The sun set hours ago and I swear it is so light out I took the photo without a flash.  I miss the dark deep of a North Country snow.  The stillness I crave in the storm is dispersed with sounds of cars unaccustomed to driving on greasy roads.  Just say’n.

Yet my joints don’t know the difference. My hips hurt and I am a bit gimpy. Which I expect with a good-sized Nor’easter.  Yesterday was worse than today and no amount of hot tubs, gentle stretches or over the counter meds help.  I didn’t leave the house and spent most of the day up in my studio working on a pattern draft and playing with Mouse.

Today I mustered and got myself to Church and was treated to validation of my calling.

On Fridays and Saturdays many of my preaching buddies are working on sermons and programs.  Not me. I was grateful for that yesterday.  I love to write and I love the exegesis required for a good sermon, but I don’t like preaching.  I don’t like reading scripture in front of people. Here is another secret: I don’t really like participating in a service.  It is too much like organizing a play  in which you are both the director and the actor.   Plus you gotta know the script. Which given my dyslexic way of thinking and the way the words often tumble out in the wrong way, I get anxious.  So instead of  being in the moment and getting my worship on, being totally connected, I am uneasy.

Not so when I speak extemporaneously in a AA meeting, or in a one-on-one in a hospital setting.I can pray at the bedside of the dying and the injured without notes.  I can expound ad infinitum while being authentic and I won’t remember exactly what I said, or the way I said it.  I just know that when I connect with people in that way, the spirit shows up.  I can give a testimony, tear up and get an amen.  But be the pastor in a congregation every Sunday?  Nope. Not me and not my call.

Melanie, our Priest at St. Paul’s has the gift.   Today she did a baptism and when she was pouring from the silver (historic) pitcher to the font, she stopped abruptly and exclaimed “Wait! This isn’t water.  This is the wine!” Talk about being baptized into the blood of Jesus, which would have totally  ruined the beautiful baptismal dress of the candidate. She then got the correct silver pitcher, but the water was too hot.  Trying to make sure the water wasn’t too cold, which might have produced a cry of anger, someone had brought the water to a boil and it was still scalding hot.  Melanie then called for colder water and several folks scrambled to get some.  She was able to turn a potential disaster into an epic win for the preacher.

And I got to be present instead of being anxious and it didn’t matter that my hips were killing me and that I was chilled and kept my coat on during the service or that I had my clunky blizzard boots on.  I was reminded that I had a Sunday of friends and worship and that my gifts of ministry are just that; mine.  Different from what is sometimes expected, but valid all the same.

I was hoping to go into work tomorrow, yup was looking forward to it, but got an email that we will have a snow day.  Whoop Whoop.  Here’s hoping we actually get some decent snow.

 

 

Tell me why you fear him

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His name is Omran

In 1986 I was a student in London and thought that it would be great fun to travel with a buddy I had met at school.  Susie Morgahni’s family was living in London after immigrating from Beirut.  The cause was war.   Her parents had applied for visas and were planning to immigrate to  Youngstown Ohio when the school year was over.  Susie talked about to heading to back to Lebanon to see her brothers and grandmother one last time.

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The Morganhi’s had opened their London flat to me and it was a home away from home while I was abroad, and so when I heard Susie talking about the plan to travel home to Lebanon I asked if I could go too.  There had been a cease fire, and hostilities had settled. It would be a non-tourist type trip. I would be in the homes of friends and I felt safe about it. I could see the Cedars of Lebanon.  They said I would be an honored guest.

So the plan was that we would fly to Cyprus and then take a ferry over to Lebanon.  I called the states and told my family, who were less enthusiastic and they put up some strong opposition.  But I was 21, so I didn’t listen. I wanted to see the world for myself. I hated the US at that time. I thought that Ronny Ray-gun was going to cause the third world war.

Susie went ahead of me but I was going to meet her at the airport, head to Limassol take the ferry over,  be met by her family and have a fantastic reunion.

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When I arrived in Nicosia I saw armed security guards and instantly felt alarmed.  In customs they took my passport.  It felt like everyone was looking at me. The customs official glared at me angrily, pointed to the chairs and gave me directions in a language I did not know.  He took my passport, pointed at me while talking to other officials then went into an office.  He came back out a few minutes later and started to question my intentions.

Why was I in Cyprus?  Why did I want to go to Lebanon? Did I have a contact number for the people I was going to visit?  What was the relationship I had to them?  Why had I come from London?  Was I really a student?  My name was Alexandra, maybe I was Greek?

I was terrified.  They pulled my passport and I was connected to the American Embassy. I could head back to England or stay.   What ever my choice, I wasn’t going to Lebanon.

The school was closed for the week, so I had nowhere to stay over break .  Being completely naive, I figured I would stay in Cyprus for the week and at lease see the country.

The country was beautiful. I headed to Limassol and found a place to stay.  I found some Canadian troopers who had been assigned by the UN as peacekeepers and they spoke English.  I ended up having a terrific time for the first couple of days.

Then there was news that the United Stated had bombed Libya.  There were protests in the streets, effigies of Reagan being hung and the American Flag being burned.  I had never been so scared to be an American and so thankful that I had associated with Canadians and the Embassy.

Turns out my family, concerned for me before I left London, had contacted the State Department and I had been flagged.  I returned humbled from the experience and I came to love the freedom of this country and the assumed safety I had always felt as a white, privileged citizen.    Susie made her trip to her homeland and returned to London as well.  When she made her trip to the states as an immigrant later that year, we picked her up from the airport and hosted her for a couple of days before she flew off to join her Mother in Youngstown.

I was so very lucky to meet people who  were from different backgrounds than me. I was so very lucky to live in a different country and lucky to be welcomed into homes as a stranger.  As such, I was treated with the utmost hospitality and felt honored.

I have strived to show the same here in this country.    I have made friends with  Jamaican domestic workers on H-2B visas  and have invited them into my home at the holidays to share a meal.  I have hosted Chinese immigrants, who have finagled their way here through a complex network of “marriage”and extended family.  I have celebrated with friends who passed the test and became citizens.  I encourage my daughter to travel in China when she was 16.

My own family is not from here. They finagled their entré as well.  My grandfather immigrated from England and made a couple of attempts, then married my grandmother to get citizenship.  My brother in law has a green card.  Other ancestors came over on boats. From Germany in the 1800’s and from England in the 1600’s.  Every one I am related to is from away.   They came becuase of the myth that here, in this counrty, we are all equal.

His name is Omran. Tell me why you fear him.

He is a refugee and has the rotten luck of being born in the wrong place.  I welcome him.  I welcome those who have gone through all of the visa vettings and green card ques, those that are being detained at our airports. I welcome them.  There are those that wish to do harm to those who have freedom.  But it is not Omran.

We have taken a dangerous turn this week.  Banning people and building walls will only make things worse.  We are to welcome the stranger. We are to give hospitality.  His name is Omran.  He is welcome in my home.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hope showed up

16142597_421040801560465_7118998267674492025_nI called my friend Desirée yesterday to ask a solid favor from her.   Perhaps.  That was the pretense really.  I called her because I feel a need to hold my breath as this giant wave of discontent approaches and I need to slide down deep under the current to let it pass over me.  I need to be able to hold my breath, to be ready to come back up and to swim strongly out of the rip current.    I am a strong swimmer, but these waves are dark and fast and are crashing down, threatening to take us onto the rocks.

I have been quiet these 6 months, resting and refocusing.  Making ready for what lies ahead. Des and I talked about transition and all that comes with it and what we need to find in it.  Community.  Community is what I left in Vermont.  I knew who I was in my community.  I knew who I was in my life, but all of that changed.  Des and I talked about the inauguration, the Women’s march and the new executive orders that have been signed.  We talked about the feelings and what we experienced on Saturday.

She was in Santa Fe, in her new home and I in Boston.  She spoke of the mass of people and the hope that they carried with them.  She spoke of the community that was all around her.   I spoke of Boston and how it was like Marathon Monday, with opening day at Fenway and the Red Sox playing the Yankees, but add to that a super bowl win. That was the 175 thousand that marched.  But without the bravado. Without the drunk and brawling, over the top, chuckle heads with smeared paint on their faces.  Without the winners and losers.  It was like the best of Boston, the best of the world showed up and said we are here. We haven’t left.  Justice and Equality showed up and with it babies in snugglies, kids holding signs, grandmothers and fathers, some using canes and some just wearing pink hats. The students and the doctors showed up  after their shifts and the police stood witness to democracy in action.  Hope showed up along with Everything is going to be alright.

Des told me that I needed to write this.  I said, I have no idea what I said, you write it.

Then this morning my muse came back.

We know that storms come and that the currents and waves can do damage.  The winds of war seem to be in the air as well.  So we make ready.   We store up our good will and our kindness and our ability to give to others our of our own stock when required.  We batten down the hatches and bring in the boats.  We hunker down and get grounded in our spaces and wait it out.     And with some storms, we go out in the middle of it.   We naturally seek to help others in times of need.  Some people get caught in the storm.  We go out to bring them in.

And with this political storm, we are all in this together.  Not me from my side and you from yours. But all of us, at the same time.  Make ready.  Plan ahead and most importantly don’t lose hope.  This too shall pass.  It might be nasty now, but it will pass and those that can and should venture out into the middle of the mess will.  Of that I am sure.

We are better than what the storm wants us to think.

 

Where do you shop?

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Coming out of Roche Bros, a Westwood la-de-da supermarket where they have baggers who will take your loaded cart to the car, load it in  and return the cart for you, I saw a Trump bumper sticker.  And I wondered who in their right mind would be voting for that guy, let alone announcing their political point of view to the world.  Then I thought about the location and where entitlement exists unchallenged. This is an old money supermarket.  There are a lot of Volvo’s here.   We like the way things have always been because we have always been in charge and we like it that way.  We will vote Trump because he would get the job done and you can’t have an angry woman in the oval office.

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I like to go to Star market because the folks that go there, people who shop and work there, come from all sorts of different places and cultures.  We are all there just doing our weekly shopping or working our shifts.   I feel like when I buy an avocado  from South America there will be someone who is from there either putting it on the shelf or in their shopping basket.  Same with the local cod.  Someone has a fisherman in their family. The woman who serves up slices from the deli on the Sunday shift as her second job also massages me on Monday and then takes off right after work to pick up her kid from sports practice.   For the most part high school kids ring you out and you bag and haul your own groceries.  Star Market is also closer to home.   We are just trying to live life, get all the errands done and get back home in time to help the kids do their homework, get supper on the table and we drive all sorts of different types of cars.  Some are beaters and some are brand new, but most of them are practical and with some sort of Boston Sports sticker on the bumper  and on the back windshield.

ackNow I could go across and up the street a bit and hit Wholefoods, which is a whole different world. Nestled right at Legacy place, the high-end shopping mall in town,  I feel like I have to put on my yoga pants and carry trendy canvas bags to into the store.  I would also have to take out a mortgage to shop there, the fruits and veggies look pretty perfect but the prices are often double of what they are at Star.  The other thing is that I notice that customers strike a certain pose of celebrity hiding from the press with their baseball caps and bug eyed sunglasses and the staff (vs. regular employees) are not very friendly.  It is like I am at the wrong club and everybody in the store knows it. This is a nouveau riche market, a poser wanna be nouveau riche market, where going green is not really understood, but it is a trend so therefore watch me shop organic with my Gucci bag.  There are Teslas and Mercedes SUVs and Lincoln Navigators and if there is a bumper sticker, it is an  ACK .  Too self-absorbed to even vote and if they did, it would be for whoever is most popular in the Wall Street Journal’s Weekend editorial.  Not that they actually read the editorial, but that they can spot the name on the headline from across the shopping isle.

Now I am being a bit cheeky with my descriptions of the various markets around town. My sharpness is showing in that I am making generalizations about the people that shop at different stores and that somehow the store I choose, and the the people that go there are, better than the others.   I am challanging the elite while being elite in my own thinking.

I think that human nature tends to have us group in like styled tribes,  we stick together with those that are most like us because it makes us feel like we belong.  I belong in a group of mixed marbles, some broken and cracked, some perfect pinkies or yellowed Tiger eyes. Most of the marbles are scratched up a bit.  But,  I grew up going to the market with my mum who still goes to Roach Bros. in her Volvo wagon * I traveled up to Roche Bros. the other day because they have loose leaf tea and Star only has bagged tea. Very elite of me.

However,  I thought about why I now go to a different market and I think it because I have learned that I feel better in my group of mixed marbles then in the tribe I grew up in.

Where do you go to market?  Do you pick the place due to style or location?  Do you feel apart of when you go or out of your element?  Funny how something so simple as a market can be a statement of who we see ourselves to be.

*Mum is not voting for Trump.  She vigorously defended her market choice and has said in the past that it was easier to get to when she was teaching in Westwood, she knew many of the students that bagged groceries there and she is a creature of habit.  Why change now?