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Catharsis

I woke up this morning feeling sick and exhausted and more hopeless than I’ve ever felt in my life. I was surprised by the waking up part, since I felt like I’d never slept. And when I did sleep, I was dreaming about Electoral College tallies. My head hurt, my heart was heavy, and the only reason I got out of bed was because I had a haircut appointment. I spent the better part of the day wandering around like a zombie.

I am a mild political junkie and I love Election Day and participating in the process. If you are Facebook friends with me, you might have noticed my ebullient posting yesterday, until things got grim in the evening. I was giddy when I went to vote, and felt optimistic all day that Hillary was going to win. I called my grandma to talk about whether she ever thought she’d get to see a woman president.  I was hearing from friends throughout the day, checking in to share excitement or see how I was holding up with the waiting, and I was feeling the happy glow of camaraderie. And then in the evening, I started hearing from friends filled with anxiety and confusion. What was happening? How was this happening? What are we going to do?

I have been emotionally invested in elections before. I was depressed when Gore lost to Bush, which seems ridiculous now. I was moved to tears when President Obama won both times. But nothing before has affected me like this election. I’ve never cried off and on all day because my candidate lost. And misery loves company, but it’s grueling to scan my Facebook feed and see how many of us are heartbroken and truly scared about our future.

My despair is very distinctly twofold.

I am ill that Trump was elected. I can barely bring myself to type his name. I hold the office of president in high regard. I respect the office even when I don’t like the individual. But I can’t bring myself to put his name next to that title. (I think I’m solidly in denial at the moment.)

I could rattle off a litany of people I’m scared for, but it’s easier to say just assume that if you’re not a straight white Christian man, I share your anxiety, and I will fight for you. I will fight for you.

But separate from my terror over the bigotry, misogyny, racism, xenophobia, and on and on, is my heartbreak that Hillary lost.

When my sister and I were little, we had a book called “Girls Can Be Anything” by Norma Klein. It was about how girls can be, well, anything: doctors, pilots, judges, EVEN President of United States.

Except that book is a big fat lie. I had it when I was a child and I’m 45 and a woman has yet to serve in the highest leadership role. I knew I wanted it, but I didn’t know how badly I wanted it. I am self-employed and I live in a little bubble and I don’t have to deal with a lot of sexism in my everyday life, but I witness it horribly in my friends’ professional lives. And we have men controlling the majority of the governing and even though not all men are sexist, we need women representing us. If you think it doesn’t matter, you’re wrong. It matters. It matters. It matters so much. We need women representing us and we need women showing girls that women CAN be fucking anything, EVEN PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES. And when it started becoming clear last night that Hillary was going to lose, I cried. Because the most qualified candidate maybe ever lost to a narcissistic incompetent lying bigot. What do we have to do to get a woman elected??

And I feel so sad for my mom and my grandma. They are strong, badass women who have shown me that women CAN do anything and have done all sorts of hard things to make things better for me and women following along behind me. I was so excited for them to see a woman be elected president. I thought we were poised for a huge leap forward, and instead we took about 25 steps backwards.

I should be filled with rage. I’m so confused that I’m not. Instead I’m consumed with sadness, except when I’m completely numb. For weeks I’ve been clicking “angry” on most political posts, but today I can only click “sad”. And I kind of wish I was overwhelmingly angry, because it can be motivating.  You can channel anger into something positive. Sadness weighs you down and makes it hard to move forward.

This morning I cried and cried and cried. And pretty much anytime I talked to another human, I cried some more, and fortunately everyone I crossed paths with this morning knew where I was coming from.  I wanted to call my grandma, but I had to wait until I could hold it together, and when I did, she told me she hadn’t wanted to talk to me because she didn’t want to make me feel worse, because she knew. And then she told me stories I hadn’t heard before, like about when she got the Temple to recognize women as full-fledged voting members in their own right, not as wives of members.

I’ve been pretty lost today, and the only thing that has made sense has been connecting with people. So you might’ve gotten a message from me just telling you that you matter to me, much like I got messages from several of you asking how I’m doing. I’m profoundly grateful for that, especially for those of you saying it’s ok to lick our wounds for a day or so, but then we need to pick ourselves up and get back to it. And for those of you saying you don’t know what the answer is, but we need to do something, so let’s talk about what that might be.  She is right, we are definitely stronger together.

I hope we’re wrong. I hope things aren’t as grim as they feel. I hope I get actual sleep tonight and I hope I feel better tomorrow than I did today.  So somehow in the face of my own crushing hopelessness, I still hope.

And because I know this makes everything a little less bleak, here’s a picture of my dog. Goodnight, friends. Get some rest. I love you.

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Share the road, motherfuckers!

Of all the kinds of asshole there are in the world, I have decided that the worst kind are the fucking crazy kind.

Tonight my dad and I had just set off for a bike ride, enjoying the unseasonably cool July weather. The local trail system goes right past his neighborhood, so we jumped on and headed off, riding through a nearby park ready to cruise toward downtown. We had to cross a major road, but they have done a pretty decent job trying to make the crossing as safe as possible. The light was red when we got there. We waited for the walk signal, and then set off in the crosswalk. Unfortunately, the jackwagon in the monster truck also waiting at the light decided not to yield the right of way, and came alarmingly close to running me down in his impatience to turn the corner. I shouted and stopped; he stopped. When I realized it was safe to cross, I started up again. As he turned behind us, he yelled at us. The car behind him yelled at us also. When the driver of the truck yelled “fuck you” at us, my dad yelled it back. We had the right of way, asshole.

What happened next was truly frightening. Mr. Crazy Asshole drove across a four-lane road, off the road, across the grass, to cut us off on the trail, where he got out of his truck and approached my dad (who was ahead of me) yelling profanities. Are you fucking kidding me? I don’t remember what he called my dad…an old fucker, maybe? So, yeah, nice job respecting your elders (or just other humans). He definitely called me a fucking cunt. That’s an unspeakable word in my world, so to casually toss that off at a stranger, I’m thinking you have some issues. And perhaps the most insane part was one of the things he screamed at us was that it had been a mistake and what did we want him to do about it now? Um…how about not go completely insane and threaten us? At some point he decided he’d accomplished whatever he set out to do and got back in his truck and drove off.

I’ve had people yell at me on my bike before, but never anything like this. I just don’t understand why people get so angry at the mere presence of bicycles. We weren’t even riding IN the road, just wanted to cross it to ride on the goddamn trail. And unbelievably, when we were riding home and crossing at that same intersection, the oncoming turning car did yield the right of way (thank you, person!) and the car behind her leaned on the horn. What. The. Actual. Fuck. Fortunately everything in between was uneventful and fun.

I told some friends about it when I got home and one shared that she carries pepper spray when she rides. That’s really not my style, but neither is getting verbally assaulted by nutbags.

And I will say this: adrenaline makes me pedal fast.

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The giant hamster wheel of life

It’s Friday night. I’m on the couch in pajamas, eating pizza, alone, catching up on my DVR backlog.

If time-traveling 20-something Wendy were to appear right now, she would die. Oh, the horror! Friday night. At home. Alone.

Current Wendy could not be more content.

I used to consider it a failed weekend if I didn’t have something fun to do both nights. “Fun” = going out, unless I were having a party or some kind of social gathering at my abode. Now that would kill me. Or at least leave me exhausted and in need of a weekend. Today a quiet weekend at home with Ruby Dogwonkafonka is one of my favorite things, and if I go too long without one I get twitchy.

What a difference 10 or 20 years makes.

It’s convenient that I’m happy staying in, since at the moment I don’t have a lot of extra dough for going out. 20-something Wendy, I blame you – if you had stayed in a little more, maybe we’d have more cash reserves now – see, this is all your fault!

I’ve been contemplating age and aging and the giant hamster wheel of life for a while now. I feel like somewhere in my early 40s (which is where I still reside) I reached a point of clarity or something. I’m not young anymore, in spite of what people think. This is not a bad thing, even though when I refer to myself as “middle-aged” people recoil and assure me that I’m not. Hi, yes I am. In the US the average lifespan for women is something like 81 years, and I can do math. I’m also not old – I recognize this. The math thing, plus I have a 97-year-old grandma. She is old. She also reads my blog, so hopefully she isn’t offended by that statement. She shouldn’t be. Oldness has nothing to do with awesomeness, and the timing of this rambling contemplation could not be more fortuitous, seeing as tomorrow she is receiving an honorary doctorate from University of St. Francis. She is not your grandmother’s grandmother. (That makes me giggle.)

This awareness of what is and is not old seems to be one of the universal stupidities of young people. I remember saying things like, “I’m sooooooooooooo olllllldddddddd” when I was 25. Or 27. Or 32. And I hear/see on Facebook people in their 20s and 30s say things in this vein all the time. And now, I realize how stupid they sound. They’re not old. They’re aware of the passage of time for maybe the first time ever, but they’re obviously not old. And there’s no getting this message through, because they think they know everything.

Now that I’m in the middle and looking both directions, I don’t at all assume I know everything – that is one thing I have learned. You think you do, and then you get older, and you realize how stupid you were when you thought that. There seems to be a lot of realizing how stupid I was. It’s amazing that our parents don’t roll their eyes at us more often than they do. I can’t wait to see what I’m doing now that makes me laugh at 40-something Wendy ten or twenty years from now.

One pattern we seem to repeat is in thinking that our generation has it sooooooo much harder than any previous generation, and nobody understands our experience, and we are so maligned by the generation ahead of us. And then we get older and turn on the generation behind us because they’re whiny and they feel maligned and misunderstood. Except you’re not actually anti-the generation behind you, you just wish they understood all the things they could be learning from the benefit of your experience and hindsight instead of waiting 20 years for their own hindsight, but hi, they’re young and know everything. Hamster wheel.

I was reading a thread on Facebook last week with some millennials talking about how maligned they are by older generations (I really need to find another word for “maligned”) and it prompted me to send this note to another Gen X friend who I knew was also reading along:

Dear Millennials,

Here’s the thing…

It’s not about the label.

All young people are stupid. And not in their own way. In EXACTLY THE SAME WAY EVERYBODY ELSE WAS, BUT JUST A LITTLE BIT WORSE, because internet.

And someday you will get really, really, really old (like, 42) and you will realize what an idiot you were in your 20s, and you will see it in all the people who will currently be in their 20s, and you will laugh, and you will understand your parents better, and everything will be fine.

Love,

Gen X and the Boomers

 

I have a lot of friends who are younger than I am, and I hope you know that I love you, and I look forward to you pushing me around in my wheelchair someday. I truly don’t think you’re stupid except when you’re talking about being old. 😉 And this isn’t supposed to be a “young people are idiots” post. It’s intended to be about how great it actually is being in that dreaded over-40 zone. Or how funny the passage of time is. Or who knows. It’s possible I lack focus tonight. It’s possible this is because I’m also watching Say Yes to the Dress while writing this. It is Friday night, after all. (20-something Wendy is dying of shame right now.)

But my 40s are great. So far, anyway. Another cliché proves itself to be true: so far every decade is better than the one before. I’m not so hung up on stuff like what do people think or what everyone else is doing. I’m less concerned about “should”; I’m more interested in what makes me happy. I remember clearly the night that happened, too. I had been invited to a going away party for some casual friends who were moving. The time had come to get myself together and as I was walking upstairs to change clothes, I realized I didn’t feel like going, and then it clicked that I didn’t have to. So I didn’t. I stayed home, and it was so nice that I started refusing invitations more often. I got way more selective about whom I spend time with. If I spend time with you now it’s because I really want to. I’m not sure why it took me so long to catch onto that one.

I thought I had a funny cartoon set aside about aging or clichés or something along those lines to accompany this, but I can’t find anything in my “hold” folder. What I did find is this picture of snuggling lions. I have no idea what I saved it for, but it’s adorable, so what the hell. When I find the cartoon, I’ll save it for the lion post that clearly I intend to write some day.

cuddling lions