Saturday 11/25, 9:53 a.m., Salt Lake City. It’s hard to know what to do with the grief of this world. I look at this man and his dog and feel the pressure of disappointment on both his heart and my own; I can feel the loss of the dream he had for his own life and experience that loss with him. For I don’t move about my world so as to push it away from me; I welcome it to settle within me and become part of my experience; I let it teach me and humble me so that I can grow more each day in understanding and perhaps one day maybe we humans can be a collective, empathic, love-filled whole again.
Going to meet a new (pet sitting) client two weeks ago, I walked up to her apartment to have her tell me I just missed the police escorting her ex-boyfriend and his cardboard boxes of life out of their once-shared apartment.
She is a fully-woke, always-present, powerful “feminist” (in quotes because I really hate labels) heart surgeon fellow with the financial and emotional support of both the University of Utah and her family and friends, and is happily-here in white-male centric Utah in a patriarchy-infused specialty standing strong against XY superiors telling her not to become friendly with the nurses, yet found herself in a situation where her relationship had devolved to the point where her Wednesday break from the hospital was spent with cops because the restraining order against her boyfriend for abusing her meant that the man she once trusted and made a life with couldn’t legally be near her without a law enforcement officer.
And as she relayed the story of how she was denied legal help in filing the order of protection–“They wouldn’t take it because I didn’t have any bruises”–she was reflective and kind and talked about it as if she was living fully in the now rather than in the realm of unanswered “whys”.
And again, somehow I meet the most remarkable people in my work, and I’m grateful to be allowed into their story.
For as she talked about how no one would take her case, she lamented her own privilege–financial/emotional support, the ability and resources to write her own legal documents–and a mere 30 minutes after her abuser had walked out with cops, spoke not of her own trials but of the wider insult of systemic injustice wherein a series of thinking errors has led to a culture in which women are basically forced to evacuate from their own lives, forgotten by a society that condemns them to their fate, then blames them for not being strong enough to leave.
And in looking at her, knowing that this terribly stressful thing had just happened in her life, watching her finesse her painful experience into a teaching moment beneficial to our entire society, it was as if she was integrating all the stories of our world so that she could hear the bigger sound.
Because we all have trauma, but the internal recitation of the world’s crimes against us is an energetic trap and, in the end, we’re all responsible for what we bring to the story of our world.
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“Eddie Vedder admits that he changes the lyrics and meaning of the song when he performs it, but he wrote the song with one story in mind. The song was written during the first gulf war, when “Papa Bush” was President, as Eddie calls him. The story is about a young Grunger kid, all dressed up in his flannels with the long greasy hair. His brother goes off to fight in the war and gets killed. He gets a letter that comes in one of those yellow army envelopes and learns of his brother’s death. So, all upset, he decides to go out and walk it off. On his walk he passes by a neat, middle-aged or elderly couple sitting on their front porch having some tea, and he sees that they have an American flag out. He gives a wave, because he feels like he relates: “The flag, my brother, you know…” But they don’t know, of course. They don’t know what’s underneath the grunge and the long hair. All they see are the outward appearances, and they don’t wave back.”
Today I unfollowed a FB page when one of the members group-texted calling Bernie supporters ‘burnouts’.
It was all pro-Hillary and blah blah blah, look at how over-intellectualized we are followed by invented narratives and name-calling like five-year-olds.
And maybe I’m rushing too quickly to protect myself from those unlike me, but when time is short–and honestly, it’s actually short for all of us, all the time–it becomes less possible to entertain living within such an unsightly, formulaic dynamic. Because I’m more than the sum of one-word branding and finding space inside to nurture myself has been hard, and I’ve grown intolerant of a world quick to call names while simultaneously wondering why the world is so messed up.
And interestingly, I didn’t get too upset about it, like I might have at one point in time.
It just made me think of this song. They played it at the Bernie Sanders rally last year.
I went with my younger daughter, Livy (who’s named after Mark Twain’s wife; born in the year 2000–11 months after the Y2K “disaster”, 10 months before 9/11–on the same day as Twain, and gifted too with writing ability, and cursed, as he, with too many ideas) because as we walked back to the car, the sun was going down, and I was like, why not live the big dreams?
Why not believe in a better world? Why not use my passion to unplug a world that instinctively questions the goodness of a broken-hearted grunge kid? Why shouldn’t I live a truth in which the ideas spoken by an older politician gives me hope that the world won’t forget the tender people in tatty shirts?
For when you look at what we do with our thoughts–mindlessly cataloging human beings so as to protect our emotional selves–we are magic beings creating poison worlds, distancing ourselves from one another for no reason, lost inside a world in which somehow it makes more sense to create a docudrama of nefariousness out of someone waving than it is just to pick up our goddammed arm and wave. And why should I not let my heart hold to that hope we can do better? What is so unbelievable about a big dream?
And driving home, we turned up Yellow Ledbetter as we sank into the sky and clouds of a magic day, and passing the golf course, I was singing along with the mournful lyrics–and yes: I was so dreamy that day–but when I looked at Livy in the passenger seat of my car, window down, hair blowing in the air of a warm day, the earth was tilting towards a star and I was like “look at that big dream.”
Look at that art project of sky and skin. The sky painted color that’s actually just air and the girl of tender-hearted benevolence imprinting the world with a more grace-filled future.
In May, Isle de Jean Charles (Louisiana) residents became the first American climate change “refugees”, resettled in advance of a crisis event with the help of 48 million American tax dollars. Today, due to flooding (an event NOAA predicted years ago would worsen in LA due to climate change), 20,000 Louisiana residents have been rescued from their homes, 10,000 are in shelters, 6 people are dead, cars are left on roadways and buried under water, homes and businesses are destroyed, and taxpayer-funded Federal emergency aid has been granted (an estimate of cost not yet available but is estimated to EXCEED the $1.5 billion for the floods Louisiana had this March). If you want to believe that climate change research isn’t “proven” (in quotes because, in science, NOTHING is really ever “proven”; research either supports or does not support certain hypotheses) or that it isn’t human-caused, that’s fine. Please don’t. But you cannot deny that human behavior–emissions from vehicles, focusing
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I’ll admit. It makes me curious. I see the dude on the left–nothing special–and I hear he’s jumping back into public life with new penis pics after the first ones a few years ago and the humiliation of his then-pregnant wife, and it makes me wonder what he’s got…