It was a week full of wear and a week full of wonder.
Let’s focus on the wonder and the joy for the wear is just too wearying.
Here we have neighbors who know how to ask for help, who know how to help, to engage in the help, and one who sits back and wonders. So my neighbor got a flat tire and asked me for help. I got her car towed, and I asked another neighbor to help us take off the flat so she could get it fixed, and then he installed the good tire when it was done. (I supervised, of course, because they’re all using my car and my tools and my jack, but at least I provided some cardboard for him to sit upon so he didn’t get gravel in his shorts.) And, amazingly, he torqued the lug nuts in a star pattern without me having to say so, which is a miracle in itself and I want a fucking medal for keeping my mouth shut. Neighbors helping each other, even if one of them isn’t as independent as she could be, I should not judge, but I hope she learns a lesson here and gets a spare tire and a jack. Three strangers showed up and asked us if we needed help, and I knew we’re not in New York, Dorothy. It was wonderful, top to bottom, even though it was a trial for her getting a flat. We should look out for our neighbors, a message I want to trumpet as often as I can. It’s where the real world is, angels holding hands as she’s waiting for the ambulance to come. Work this human thing, people!
You probably live near someone. Do you know their name? Can you wave to them when you go down to get the mail? Can you make eye contact or smile just a little? Will you shove a few bucks in the guys hand when he begs in the parking lot, and can you ask your partner for help when you know you’re really hurting and need help, and I don’t just mean washing the dishes? Ask for help. Give some help. All the rest is just noise.
“Hey Mom? You know my friend Nicole? She’s been awful lately, I mean she’s really ragging on Aja about her weight. It’s getting really bad, I mean Aja’s been crying to me a lot about it. But when we’re all together and Nicole drags her, we all laugh, even Aja. Nicole says, ‘oh I’m just kidding you know we love you.” But today Aja found pictures of dead cows in her locker, and… I just don’t know what to do.”
A) “That’s awful! This is the same girl who was messing with you constantly about your boyfriend and all? Well, you can talk to her and tell to knock off the shit with Aja, and see if she backs off. Or.. maybe you just need to find another friend?”
B) “Well, Aja is overweight. Have you ever asked her how come she eats so much? Or hinted that maybe you and her could exercise together, and she’d feel and look so much better once she loses the weight?”
“I don’t want to go to school because all they ever do is call me a pussy and shove me!! I hate it!! I didn’t do anything, I never did anything, they post notes on my Facebook that I should kill myself already, the world doesn’t need pussies, and… maybe I do want to die.”
A) “Ohhh.. Oh no. Okay. I see how upset you are, and I know, this world is full of awful, hateful people. It’s just words, honey, and you’ll see, once you get out of school things will be so much better. People change. But for right now, stay off Facebook and I’ll have a talk with the principal about these bullies, okay? Okay.”
B) “I suppose they see something in you that makes them say that? Maybe they don’t like seeing it? It’s how people are, sometimes. So I’ll tell you what. Come on over here. I’m going to show you how to fight back, and the next time one of them says it, you have my permission to put this fist in their mouth. As for Facebook, just block the trolls and ignore the bullshit, kiddo. It’s just words.”
So. Do words matter? Does truth in all its shades matter? And is compromise still a thing? Is how we perceive words and truth the heart of the matter? Should we teach our children that words can’t really harm us, that our emotions mean little, to ignore them, because nobody can hurt us without our permission?* That truth really is arbitrary? That we all just need to toughen up our skins so we can go placidly amid all the noise and haste?** How long before teaching our kids how to stand up to bullies it turns into “Cash me outside, how bout dat*** (I’ll smash you before you can smash me!) Can we teach our children (and blooming adults) that refusing victimhood does not mean appeasing cruelty? That freedom of speech can walk hand in hand with decency and everyone’s differing values?
I like to think the world is more kind and polite when we’re not hiding behind poison pens, those rare times when we come out of our holes and meet face to face, but then I remember. The world is changing rapidly. We can weed out the “weak,” the dangerous “other” with more economy (and anonymity) than ever before. Maybe I do need some more sandpaper to toughen up this old soul so I can have confidence in my convictions, even in the face of a hurricane.
***Quoting troubled, viral teenager Danielle Bregoli
Taking some time this morning to examine what it means to be a woman who has an opinion and marched for many things, a/k/a hysterical snowflake. Meanwhile my son is growing stronger by the day, I am so proud of him and the bonds he shares with his grandparents. His grandma is in surgery today to get rid of some things that are keeping her from being a healthy, thriving woman, and my candle will burn for her all day. This morning I changed my Facebook background to a sunset that looks like something Hollywood produced, but no, there it was, just a simple snap on my phone as I meandered on a sandbar. How could I (we) have been given that holy moment? Who else saw it, and what did they feel?
This morning I am examining how much time I need to give to support the opposition, because I know this will not be a sprint but a marathon. Social media really beat me down. I hit a wall, and I am only just recently getting my feet under me again. Proof that balance is necessary in EVERYTHING. Phone calls, post cards, and marching is easy, when you think about why an immigrant will risk it all to find hope in any other country but their own. I think about people who refuse to vote or get involved in politics because it’s against their religious beliefs or plays no part in their moral compass. I’m trying to work around the sadness and frustration that our taxes support their way of life without their kicking in a little something.
This morning I think about the dress I wore for my first holy communion. I looked like a little bride smiling next to Father Jim. I went to the school my parents chose for me and did what I was told. It was just what I was supposed to be doing, right? I remember what I learned in science class, what the earth tells us about the ground we live on and the atmosphere that protects us. It wasn’t until I was older that I began to question the politics of religion, that faith and science struggle to co-exist. Looking back, if my parents gave me a chance to choose being Catholic over being a woman, I doubt I would have chosen what they wanted. No wonder we become brides and grooms of the church when we are young, before we can make an informed decision.
This morning I think about the deluge of news from media that gets caught between reporting facts and keeping their subscribers/viewers. Headlines attract viewers which could attract interest in their advertisers. I invest a lot of energy while reading the news in keeping a centered view of things, and reading articles from left, right, and all the above. It takes a lot of time, and I am beginning to feel like I need to clamp down on the amount of time I will give the news.
This morning I thought about the angry woman of me. I make room for the anger because it’s how I feel, but I try not to let it dictate how I will treat others and what the rest of my day will be. The angry woman of me is sad because of the nightmares I had, waking me up crying out “NO!” She sees women reposting Facebook memes, knowing how easy it is to cut and paste, but where are their own, original thoughts? The angry woman of me watches Facebook friends complain about how awful their FB page has become, how wonderfully responsible they make themselves seem to be while they overlook the mess they made in their own lives.
This morning, the angry woman needs to take a hot shower and step back from social media for a while. My phone calls are done for the day. Something good is out there, and I really, really need to get some of that inside of me. And then a friend posts a still from the original “Planet of the Apes,” and I think my day’s agenda has changed. *sigh*