Sunday Morning ~ Coming In

Sunday Morning ~ Coming In

Imfa ilibe odi. ~ Death does not ask, “Can I come in?”

~ Chewa proverb

November 22, 2020

Hi Everyone,

Tomorrow would have been my mother’s 100th birthday. She died ten years ago, a week before we were to gather for her 90th. Instead the gathering was her funeral, but it was still beautiful and she would have loved it. We had five days with her before she died and I was able to gather my siblings from across the world to be there for her last days. She was ready. There wasn’t a moment of anguish as she slipped from joking around while watching jeopardy to a deep sleep, to a permanent one. I miss her but I feel her always with me. I was happy we had that time together as a family, all surrounding her as she drifted deeper and deeper into another world. It was so peaceful. We took turns sitting on the bed with her once she stopped talking. It was a perfect passing with all her children together, talking and reminiscing, laughing, caring for each other. I am so grateful for that. When the priest came to give her last rites we all placed our hands on her. She was covered with a quilt I’d made, an appliquéd tree, with leaves, the shapes of our hands, hanging from the branches. I couldn’t imagine it any better–– leaving this world under the touch of her children, loving her and thanking her. Nothing existed outside that room. 

A dear friend died this week without the warning my mother gave us. So there was no last goodbye, no reminiscing at the deathbed, no hands on him as he received the final sacrament. I never asked him over the forty five years of friendship if he’d have wanted that. Maybe not. And now in this strange and tragic time there is no sitting with his family, no making tea for them, no bringing a plate of food, no encouraging them to take a bite. No planning a funeral, picking music, deciding who does the readings or what to wear. So strange and unnatural. We sit in our separate spaces, a circumstance we read about in novels and history books, not live through. But here we are.

I’m still working through my stages of grief. The reality hasn’t completely taken hold yet; it’s only been a couple of days. I go in and out of denial and grief, still thinking I might get an email or text from him. I think about an after life and what that means. I was certainly raised with talk of heaven and hell with purgatory in between. I was young when my maternal grandmother died and remember overhearing my mother on the phone saying she wanted her dressed in a blue chiffon. Later, I told my mother I saw a lady in a blue dress flying up to heaven, conjuring up a Mary Poppins-like ascent. My mother was washing dishes, and she turned her head toward me and laughed but said nothing. I remember looking at the knot of her apron in the middle of her back and wondering if she knew I was lying. I guess I was trying to reassure her the system was working and didn’t quite get the humor. I don’t know when the literal shifted but during some developmental stage somewhere the whole notion became more spiritual and fluid. It’s not an actual “life” in the “after”. So what is it then? It’s hard to describe but I feel it as more of a presence, a peaceful and serene presence. 

When our friend, Dan, died of AIDS (a painful, tortured death) I had a vivid image of him at his funeral saying, “No! Hey! I’m ok!” as the organ played Danny Boy and we cried our eyes out. Was this my mind playing tricks? Maybe. But so what? It made me feel better and believe him at peace. And now I want to believe Pat is with him, old friends, roommates, groomsmen. Not sitting together drinking beer, but somehow cognizant of being back together in the same club, relieved of gravity and painful joints, tube feedings and nausea, floating free. 

Love to all,

Linda

Sunday Morning ~ Promises, Threats, and Possibilities

Sunday Morning ~ Promises, Threats, and Possibilities

Fodya ndi uyu ali pa mphuno; wa pa cala ngwa mphepo. ~ The real tobacco is in the nose; the one on the finger is for the wind.

~ Chewa proverb

November 15, 2020

Hi Everyone,

Don’t believe all you hear. What we can taste is the reality. Empty promises are blown away on the wind. Oh how I miss Malawian wisdom punctuating my daily conversations. Along with stepping into the backyard to pick a lime or ripe avocado, the experience of life there amid the steadfast belief in a better day was a rich existence. I think I’m allowing myself to miss it more now that I have hope for our state department. It feels like a fire was recently extinguished and we are assessing the damage but haven’t gotten the insurance check yet. I’m in the imagining stage of how to reconstruct. 

What is the difference between an empty promise and an empty threat? They really are  similarly cruel. I have spent many hours counseling women in abusive relationships and it’s incredibly frustrating. As my mother said to me, “When someone tells you you are stupid for thirty-six years, you believe it.” It’s a long hard process to get them to believe otherwise and understand how much better their lives would be without the stress they endure. Leaving an abusive relationship is not easy. The threat of never seeing their children again, of killing their cat, of being murdered keep them in a dangerous and toxic situation. Fear is a powerful motivator and those threats are real. These examples are blatantly and extremely abusive, but there are more subtle, craftier abusers. The ones that tell you everything is your fault, who dangle the pursestrings, who promise glory if only you behave, who tell you they really are leaving their wife this time. I’ve sat with these women and heard all the promises and threats in different varieties. And I struggle with how to get a chink in the wall to shine a light, gently, lest she never come back. Who wants to hear we’ve been duped? It feels so shitty. Especially when your bank account is now empty and there’s some serious egg to wipe off that face of yours. 

When I found myself facing the end of my marriage I spent $125 for one visit to a divorce lawyer an hour away. She’d been recommended by a friend and I was still in crisis. I drove there, crying the whole way, somehow thinking she was going to fix this whole thing. She welcomed me into her office and I blubbered the abridged story and asked her what I should do until he came to his senses and came back. She, in an apparent attempt to save my money as she charged by the minute, said, “He’s not coming back.” I stared at her in disbelief. How could she say that? I was outraged! How dare she? She didn’t even know me! Or him!  I didn’t hear much of what she said next. She may have listed some things to do but she may as well have been talking to a mannequin. I got up numbly and left her office and told myself all the way home what a terrible lawyer she was. She, of course, was right. He didn’t come back but it took some time to accept that my world was crumbling around me. Once the reality took hold, I took care of it myself, went to the town hall and bought a packet titled “Divorce With Children” for a dollar. Then it was a step by step walk toward independence and solvency which wasn’t easy, but it was doable. The first step in that long walk out of the woods, however, was recognizing the difference between empty threats, broken promises, my own illusions, and reality. 

When it was all final I took a trip to France to visit Michel, a missionary priest I was very close to in Malawi during my Peace Corps days. He was the godfather of my son born there, had been to visit us here twice,  and was then retired in southern France. I dreaded telling him about the divorce; he was so close to our family and it felt like such a failure. I couldn’t bear that he’d be disappointed in me or us. I’d written to him ahead of time so it wasn’t a surprise when I arrived. I knew he’d still love me, that wasn’t ever a concern but just having to admit my marriage failed was hard. I stayed in a guest room in the retirement home and shared daily meals and mass with the White Fathers. I prayed and cried, still sorting out how to rebuild what I lost. I prayed for my family, that my kids would be ok, that I would figure out how to make a good life on my own. I was careful not to demonize my ex and Michel never asked for many details. One afternoon, after an amazing lunch in the dining hall where the retired fathers swallowed their medications with their wine, Michel took a nap. I sat quietly in his room and looked around for something to read while he slept. I pulled a photo album off a shelf labeled “Visit to America 1995” and opened it. The album held photos of his last visit to Maine when he’d visited the kids’ school and told stories of D Day. There was a photo of me sitting at our dining table and underneath was written “Linda, my great friend from America”. Next to it was a photo turned backside out. I pulled back the plastic and turned the photo over. It was my husband with the line under it, “Joe, my great friend from America.”  I looked at Michel asleep on his bed and wept. He must have done this when he’d received my letter explaining what had happened to us, turning the photo over as a statement. Finding his gesture was an incredible validation for me. I thought how he hadn’t ripped it up and thrown it away. He was leaving room for the possibility of healing and reconciliation. I put the album back on the shelf and never told him I’d seen that. A few weeks after I returned home, Michel wrote to tell me he’d been diagnosed with acute leukemia and he died six weeks later. I am so eternally grateful I made that trip.

I know I am only a small speck in this complicated country. I know my story is only one of zillions that didn’t turn out so well. But I do believe we can recover from this blight in our history and build something better. We’ve got so much of the world behind us who know what’s in the nose and what’s in the wind, ready to turn over the photo of the last four years.

Love to all,

Linda

Sunday Morning ~ The Naked Chicken

Sunday Morning ~ The Naked Chicken

Linda mphepo iombe kuti uone maliseche a nkhuku. ~ Wait for the wind to blow for you to see the nakedness of the chicken. 

~ Chewa proverb

November 8, 2020

Hi Everyone,

What  beautiful morning. I feel like the house has landed with a jolt and we are stepping out into a colorful new world. Like so many others, I feel like I can breathe again. I feel a weight lifted off, as if I’ve been pinned under a rock with a life-threatening injury. The injury is still there, but at least I can move, assess the damage, get treatment, and start to heal now. That’s what this world seems like to me today. 

What a high tension week; I felt like I was jumping out of my skin. My friends in various parts of the world started sending messages on Tuesday. Many said they were praying for us. It was truly a testament of how American leadership has been missed. I believe in the power of prayer and was buoyed by their kind words. It was snowing on Tuesday as I read them. I wondered about the symbolism, caught in an episode of magical thinking. Was it a sign of  whitewashing the past four years? Or was it the ice queen speaking? I shook my head and tried to stay present. I told myself, “This type of symbolism is the whim of authors in novels and fantasy stories.” But, being a winter lover, the snow gave me a good feeling. It was pretty and distracting. It was surrender, like going in to take an important test. Having studied as much possible, there is nothing left but to do the best you can. It’s a panicky sort of relief. Throughout Tuesday I checked for reports of violence but heard none. That was very good. I felt better as the day went on. I went for a walk with a friend in the snow. I stopped to buy milk. I tried not to perseverate on the feeling I had election day 2016 recalling photos of women putting their “I Voted” stickers on the grave of Susan B Anthony.

The day passed and the evening came and we all know how that went. I knew the polls could be off, but how many times had I dismissed the polls when they weren’t in my favor then lived to see them be spot on? I’d been reassured but realistic throughout the campaign, especially in the close races. I knew the Maine senate seat was not going to be easy. Then Florida went down, not unexpected, but I couldn’t take anymore. The thought of that state going underwater with seniors living without services sent me into a panic. I couldn’t watch or listen. I went to bed and fell asleep instantly. Denial. I’ve been there before. When I knew my husband was having an affair but didn’t want to face it, I slept. It’s a relief. Tuesday evening I felt like the rock I was pinned under would kill me after all. As much as I was trying to keep myself alive under there and believed the rescue team would come, it seemed I was not going to make it. I woke and I did not look at the news in the morning. As long as I didn’t look there was still hope. I repressed the fact that I lived in a country where half the people voted for this travesty every time it bubbled to the surface. It was more than I could bear. I made tea and puttered in the kitchen. A pandemic and fascism? No. I couldn’t cope with that right then. My son was here (thank God) and bopped into the kitchen, smiling with a spring in his step. I looked at him as he pulled out the coffee beans and asked, “What? What happened?”  After he ground the coffee he said, “Oh, I’m feeling good. Biden’s got this. He’s ahead now in Michigan.” as he shook them into the pot. 

I nearly collapsed with relief. The rock was being lifted!!

After that moment I did not question a Biden win. I knew there’d be drama but was absolutely sure he had this. The rescue team was on it’s way. Yes, I was discouraged by how close it had to be. Yes I was very worried about the senate, but all that was fleeting. But having been so close to the abyss, I felt unadulterated elation, like finding your toddler alive and playing after he’d been missing in a Chuck-E-Cheese. Since then I’ve been disappointed and confused by finger pointing and blaming about the closeness of this race and how far off the polls were. I see it differently. My feeling is that with the sustained sabotage, the voter suppression, the blatant cheating, the Russian interference, the Iranian interference, the deep history of racism in this country, the gerrymandering, the disinformation, after all that, ALL THAT, we still came out on top. This is the predicted landslide in my opinion. If we can take Georgia and Arizona with this handicap, holy hell it was a landslide. Yes. And when the wind blows on that chicken, I suspect we’ll see we gained much more. 

Congratulations everyone. I am so proud to be a part of this. I am ready to roll up my sleeves and get to work. There are so many more rocks to move.

Love to all,

Linda

Sunday Morning ~ Fate

Sunday Morning ~ Fate

Kali konse kouluka, kamatera. ~ All that flies, comes down.

~ Chewa proverb

November 1, 2020

Hi Everyone,

On a trip to South Africa in December of 2016 I was still reeling from our election results. I found myself hoping the electoral college would prevent the inevitable inauguration, knowing that would take a miracle. It was a loop that went round and round in my brain. The other loop was our country going from technicolor to black and white the day the fraud took office. It seemed all the more poignant traveling in South Africa. We drove through a good part of that immense, spectacular country and got immersed in both it’s history and it’s beauty. We visited the museum at Nelson Mandela’s capture site and I stood for a long time in front of a photograph of people voting in the first free election after apartheid. I had a hard time tearing myself away from that image. I thought about our own recent election and the Americans who chose to sit that one out. I wondered how they may have changed the course of our history. The lines in the photograph before me were more than a mile long, snaking around and around dirt paths. People waited twelve hours in some places to cast their vote for the first time. Violence was predicted. People worried there would be no peaceful transfer of power. But what actually transpired that day in 1994 was a mostly jubilant celebration of democracy for the first time in that nation’s history. The election was on April 27 and Nelson Mandela was sworn into office two weeks later on May 10th. In 2016 I was glad we had a longer transition period. Today, I’m wishing it was two weeks. I walked away from that photograph toward the exhibits documenting the struggle to end apartheid and the fierce conviction that sustained the fight to gain representation. I felt sick that so many of us take voting for granted. I didn’t fully realize then how difficult we make it for people.

I am anxious, excited, terrified, and hopeful. The 2018 caravan never arrived and hopefully the violence won’t either. I am joyful at seeing the numbers of people waiting in line here to cast their vote. I’m both aghast and not surprised at the repeated attempts to thwart them. It’s like watching a sloppy chess game with very high stakes. 

We raised our kids without a television and spent a lot of time reading aloud to them. Once a year we’d read the entire Lord of the Rings series and it became part of our family vernacular. When the movie came out, my teenage son and I went to see it. In the first scene with the Black Riders I had my eyes closed and buried my head into his shoulder. His teenage self gave a little shrug to get his ridiculous mother a decent public distance from him and said, “Mum, you know what happens! What’s the matter with you?”  This is all to say, I get anxious about the outcome when I know what’s going to happen. I still get tense when the flying monkeys come out in the Wizard of Oz. I’m nervous when I see instant replays during football games. So the next three days are just ridiculous. My cautious optimism ebbs and flows. I hate being a chump and I cover my ears when I hear someone say, “Yes, that’s what we thought in 2016.” I was overconfident then, too. 

I hope the pendulum is swinging back and we’ll be celebrating soon. I’ve been in a frenzy organizing things as a way to work off nervous energy. I’ve made a quilt and sauerkraut. I’m afraid to stop moving. I go through my address book looking for friends to call in swing states.  I’m holding onto my faith in gravity and the human spirit, and am ready to strap my ankles to tackle whatever comes next. 

Stay safe my friends. 

Love to all,

Linda

Sunday Morning ~ Where the Fire Stops

Sunday Morning ~ Where the Fire Stops 

Akulu-akulu ndi m’dambo mozimira moto. ~ Elders are (like moisture) in the marsh where the fire will go out.

~ Chewa proverb

October 25, 2020

Hi Everyone,

I had huge anxiety swings this week; you could chart a graph by the news cycle. It’s been a real challenge balancing staying informed and staying sane. To boot, I watched The Social Dilemma and consequently spent one completely sleepless night. I also attended a deescalation training and, though learned and practiced new skills, got anxious about having to need them. Wow. What times we live in. To address this anxiety I turned off the notifications on my phone and stopped responding to bait set out by those I politically disagree with. This has helped. Cognizant of the danger of listening only to those I agree with, of being tribal, of living in the bubble of my choice, I still make this choice as a mode of self care. I’m aware I might lose perspective when I shut others out, but this week it seemed a better choice than alcohol. The shortening days, the colder nights, the uncertainty, the threats, the downright cheating and blatant lies, good lord, how can anyone be faulted for pulling the covers up over their head? 

I debated watching the debate. I feared doing so alone would be unbearable. I miss having family here to share political drama. In my past life, electoral nail biting with my spouse was bonding. It’s hard to be alone during these times and am nostalgic for the political repartee I’d have with my ex. I can not imagine being part of a couple with opposing views right now. Holy cow. So I relied on social media and felt like I was watching with friends. This technology is truly amazing, no matter what horrors lurk out there. I held my breath during much of it. I’d had an opinion that Biden should just refuse another debate, considering the base comportment of his opponent. But then I thought, he will be the leader of the free world (please God) and will need to deal with adversity. He must do this. He must show us how he handles it. This shit is real. And I have got to say, my anxiety diminished along with time left to watch. 

Biden was not my first choice of candidates in the primary. He was not my second choice. But right now, I am extremely glad he won. I watched and listened and could feel my heart rate stabilizing. I registered a deep feeling of confidence that he is the one to lead us out of this. Yes, he is an old white male, a characteristic I originally railed against. I’m tired of the patriarchy. But, he comforted me. He exuded a calm and wisdom I wanted to wrap myself in. I trust him. I liked when he admitted past mistakes. I held my breath as he stuttered and pulled himself out of it. I admire him and realize I knew little about him before now. I believe he is a good role model. I wondered who coached him in debate prep. I saw how the effort paid off. I thought about his transition team and all the brainpower, energy, and positivity working toward a reasonable recovery.  

I was part of a volunteer group in Malawi in 2016. We sent in our absentee ballots without worrying they wouldn’t arrive or be counted. We were all shocked and devastated by the results. A week later we attended a mid-term conference in the capital to share project status, define goals, discuss cultural issues, and group support. It was a weird conference. It was low energy––fitting for our moods. The future of Peace Corps and the State Department was the elephant in the room we didn’t acknowledge.The Blantyre volunteers had taken the five hour bus ride there and and on the return trip the bus got a flat tire about halfway home. We ended up on the side of the road for several hours. I sat with a colleague the age of my kids, a brilliant woman early in her cardiology career. We talked about our anxiety about the election results. She was about to listen to a podcast, and I swear, I did not even know then what a podcast was. She handed me one of the earphones and told me to listen. It seemed an incredibly intimate gesture; I thought we looked like siamese twins. The podcast was both educating and entertaining me, hilariously. It was everything I needed to hear. I thought these guys were beyond brilliant! How can you entertain, educate, speak for everyone’s frustration and anger in a way that doesn’t turn people away? Are you just born with this talent? Over and over again for the past four years, I have been grateful for that flat tire. I never miss an episode of Pod Save America. Even the ads are funny, or at least not obnoxious. It’s just brilliant. The hosts are former Obama speech writers and aides, are incredibly knowledgable, progressive, and realistic. They always end with a suggestion for what we personally can do to help change things at that moment. 

Friday, they interviewed Biden and it was both booster shot and balm. Yes, he has long and winding answers, but I found myself, again, grateful to this man who has served this country for a very long time and deserves a rest. Instead, he is rising to the call to take on the most difficult job in the world. Here I sit, comfortable and anxious, doing my paltry part and I think, he really is the perfect person for this time. I’m excited about his cabinet and those he’ll surround himself with. After listening to him I feel less anxious about a peaceful transfer of power. I believe it will happen. My heightened fear of violence is soothed. He knows what he is doing. He is the elder where the fire stops. 

Love to all,

Linda

Sunday Morning ~ The Arrow We Look At

Sunday Morning ~ The Arrow We Look At

Mubvi woyang’anira ulowa m’cikope. ~ The arrow you only look at, hits your eye.

~ Chewa proverb

October 18, 2020

Hi Everyone,

Last evening I opened a bottle of kombucha and it exploded. I don’t mean bubbled over, I mean, exploded. I had just finished baking bread and cleaning the kitchen. I was about to have a nice soak in the hot tub and thought a glass of kombucha would go well with that. The rain had stopped and the temperature was dropping. I took a bottle of my homemade brew off the pantry shelf and put it on the counter. I took a glass off the rack and flipped the metal thingy that holds the cork in place. I was prepared for a little pop, even a little spillover. I’d made a mess before with kombucha and, worried about wasting the precious contents, have put my mouth over the top to catch the foamy volcano. Thank God I did not do that last evening. I would be dead. I am always a bit cautious when I open a new bottle, but was not prepared for what happened with the lemon/lemongrass concoction. The top blew, and I mean BLEW, off. The contents of the bottle shot to the ceiling in one steady stream like a rocket. I watched the drippy mess cover my pots and pans hanging on the rack and stood in the sticky puddle on the floor. It was so shocking I could do nothing but say, “Oh my God!” over and over. I was on the phone with my friend had to switch to FaceTime just to show her what happened. She said, “You’re lucky it didn’t hit your eye.” The realization sunk in that if I had had my head over that bottle it would have blown my face off. I had that shudder you get when the near miss sinks in. Oh my God, what could have happened. I spent a fair amount of time imagining how I may have opened that bottle with my face over it. Or how it may have hit someone else (assuming there will be a post-pandemic time when someone else may be in the house). Shudder.

I did a quick clean up of the mess dripping off the ceiling. I took all the pots off the hanging rack and put them to soak. I wiped up the floor. I did all this immediately after the explosion. I wanted to contain the mess as quickly as possible. Then I sat in the hot tub and enjoyed the night sky. The clouds had cleared away and leaves had fallen, and I had an amazing view. My face was still attached to my head. Today I will start really cleaning as the initial wipe down was no where near adequate. I can imagine the fruit flies and ants organizing right now. No, today I will get the ladder out and really scrub. Then I will evaluate which of my kitchen tools really need to be there. I’ll clean them off and relegate them to the retired pile, thanking them for their service as I do. This will leave more space for what is useful to me right now. I know this second round of cleaning will also not be enough. I’ll have to wash the floor a third time, that’s how far the destruction spread. It’s ok. I’m under no illusion that cleaning up after a disaster, or even a mishap will be easy. But if I want it to be functional and useful for me, I’ll be happy to put the energy into it. I’ll breathe easier when it is finished and be extra careful when I open the next bottle.

This is how I want to feel on November 4th. I want the explosion to be a signal that the fermentation worked and worked well. We will have a mess to clean up but no sense wasting energy wailing about that. Just get to it and stop sticking to the floor. We’ll make things cleaner and brighter. And we need to be realistic that it will take more than one swipe. This will be a  long-haul clean up job. But unlike my kitchen, I won’t be working alone.

I mailed my letters to voters yesterday at the designated time. I don’t know how the date was calculated but I trust that someone knew what they were doing. I enjoyed writing a note to each person whose name conjured up an image for me of who they might be. I wondered what their circumstances were. I kept to the task and only wrote two or three sentences, but I thought about becoming pen pals with each one of them. I wanted to know their story, where they worked, how old they were, if they had kids. I wanted to share my story and see what kind of connection we might have. I know lots of people who wrote letters and imagine what a great web of interconnectedness we were making. Kudos to the ones who organized all this. May it save the post office and our country. May it lay some groundwork for the clean up job ahead.

Love to all,

Linda

Sunday Morning ~ I’m Speaking

Sunday Morning ~ I’m Speaking

Cenjere-cenjere sakupha nsomba, akupha nsomba n’kombe. ~ Being boastful does not kill the fish, it is the net which kills the fish.

~ Chewa proverb

October 11, 2020

Hi Everyone,

One of my biggest frustrations as a kid was not being allowed to speak. If I were upset by some injustice, I simply cried. Making a point while crying is very inefficient. My mother would say, “I’m not going to listen to you if you are crying.” as if crying were the problem not the complaint. I’d feel like exploding and walk away, crying. On a good day I’d muster my strength and come back with my tears safely beneath the surface. On other days I’d just hate myself as I cried. As I got older and didn’t have answers to make a rational argument, I couldn’t bear the rebuttal or the humiliation so would cry in frustration. Later, in romantic relationships, I was told I was too angry, didn’t know what I was talking about, or the conflict was my fault. I’d cry, withdraw back into my shell and the world of self-loathing. Crying was a good release for frustration but was just so ineffective for communicating. I’d scream, “I’m trying to tell you something!!” I looked like a maniac. I hated that I was behaving that way, and often resorted to breaking something instead of hurting myself or someone else. To this day I mourn the loss of my favorite platter. It was the perfect size, the perfect green, the perfect target of my fury. I kept a fragment of that platter to remind me never to destroy my own stuff again. What was the point of that? It only reinforced that my anger was out of control while he sneered with an I-told-you-so look that made me want to smash his face. I’d walk away, crying. 

I needed a coach. I needed someone to guide me to the sweet spot of point-making without the violent need to smash something to announce that I AM SPEAKING! Well, really I was yelling not speaking, but only because when I was speaking he wasn’t listening. Or he was listening, heard it, and didn’t like what I was saying. Fair enough. We’re all allowed. But then the taunting would start, “You don’t know what you are talking about,” or “Here you go again, same old argument.” in that dismissive tone that was sure to escalate the encounter. His message: “I’m nice, you are angry and unreasonable.” Same old same old. Be quiet, do as you are told, don’t question me, go back in your shell. This is what I heard. This is the flashback I had during the debate on Wednesday. I felt that same fury as I watched that smug man belittle both the moderator and his opponent with his insincere gratitude for the question. The way he said her name in his initial address with the superior expression that screamed, “I am white, I am rich, I am male, I am beyond your reach.” Then, I watched another women, from another culture, wiser than me, navigate an insulting encounter under pressure and confidently state, “I am speaking.” in a tone that commanded respect. It was regal, confident, alluring, beautiful. Two simple words. Damn girl! 

I’m of a generation that missed the boat of early girl empowerment. Our childhood was filled with sappy role models succumbing to the male savior. Even as a kid with rich fantasies I knew that would never be me. Maybe that’s why I loved the Nancy Drew books, until we were told those were no good to read anymore. Something about the way they were written. I never did understand what that problem was. I often wistfully fantasized how different life would have been, growing up female knowing from the beginning of time that your voice matters. You wouldn’t have to yell, or cry, or stamp your feet, or break things. You could just say calmly, “Excuse me, I’m speaking.” 

Imagine that.

Love to all, 

Linda

Sunday Morning ~ Being Bullied

Sunday Morning ~ Being Bullied

Bisani matenda, maliro tidzamva. ~ You can hide the sickness, but we will find out at the burial.

~ Chewa proverb

October 4, 2020

Hi Everyone,

I’d been wondering what the October surprise would be, fearing a new armed conflict somewhere, though the month is still young. Gotta admit, this wasn’t on my list, considering the literal and figurative bubble he keeps himself wrapped in. I didn’t believe it when I first heard. I figured it was some meat thrown to the media to get their focus off the house of cards falling around him. I thought I’d believe it when he’s dead. I imagined him spewing fantasy about a remarkable comeback, stating from first-hand experience that it’s not that bad. Expecting some kind of national sympathetic rallying. Gag me. But, considering the evidence, I now believe he’s sick and more than just mentally. At least that part of this spectacle is true. How severe his condition, who knows? When we’ve been lied to this much it astounds me that anyone believes anything. My appreciation of investigative journalism has reached new heights. I’ve lived with liars. I long ago adopted an I’ll-believe-it-when-I-see-it attitude.

Tuesday’s debate seems ages ago. I was laughing at first, the absurdity and insanity were straight out of an SNL skit. How do you even parody this stuff? Then I started feeling scared and ran to the cabinet for a shot of whiskey. The bully. The mean aggressive abuser. It became traumatic to watch, though, I couldn’t tear myself away. Chris Wallace reminded me of an abused wife begging him to stop, uselessly telling him he’d get what he wanted. I went into one of my childhood fantasies imagining the abuser in a glass cage, raging away but unable to get out. We could be safe. The beast would be contained, petted occasionally by his keepers, fed, watched. Studied. 

I looked for proverbs having to do with bullying but couldn’t find one so searched for ones relating to sickness and this is the only one I could find. I wish I could sit and talk with a Malawian to give me context. I miss the long rides where I could ask the driver to explain such things as he understood them. I love how they relate these proverbs to everyday life. This one has to do with truth obviously, but hearing them describe how to use them in conversation is a rich experience. I miss listening to their wisdom. I miss listening to them put their worries into God’s hands. I’d love to ask them how they deal with bullies.

When I was in sixth grade I was ambushed walking home by three boys, about my size. One pushed me from behind and two stood in front of me. It’s funny now as I think of it, I don’t remember being scared, only angry. I gave them a look of rage, which, apparently scared them and they started to run. I chased them, jumped on one of them from behind, knocked him down, and started wailing on his back with his face in the snow. “You want to beat me up?” I yelled as I beat him in the back. He didn’t even try to fight back, which, as I look back on it now, is pretty sad. He may have been put up to it. The others took off leaving this kid to take my beating. I got up to walk home, filling his hat with snow and throwing it at him as a parting shot. I never told anyone, never was bothered by them again, never felt bad about it. In fact, I felt good. Now that I think of it, they could have really hurt me if that was their intention, but it was probably just an attempt at bullying. If it had happened in the schoolyard I may have acted differently but there was no one else around. If people could have analyzed and judged my reaction I may have been the one punished for overreacting or being violent, or being “just as bad”. Funny, I never felt that way.

Love to all,

Linda

Sunday Morning ~ Dance is for Everyone

Sunday Morning ~ Dance is for Everyone

Gule ndi ali yense, kulakwa ndi kuthyola mwendo. ~ A dance is for everyone, but the wrong thing is to break your leg.

~ Chewa proverb

September 27, 2020

Hi Everyone,

The summer before my first year of college, my father sat me down to discuss finances. Well, calling it a discussion was a stretch. My father didn’t really discuss anything, though, he always advertised the encounter as such. They were more like declarations. He would tell us what time we were to be seated at the table, he in his captain’s chair, the one enduring his painfully drawn out proclamation sitting diagonally across in the smaller mate’s chair. It always took place after supper but never before the stock market report. Digesting the meal was problematic for the victim (me in this case) anticipating the familiar tete á tete, so it was best to eat lightly. Sometimes it would be sprung on us just as we were going out with friends. That was the worst. One never knew how long these would last. It would depend on his mood and how much he’d had to drink. Usually the more wine the better, but post prandial often meant only one glass and that was not a mood changer. The stock market report was also a factor. His stamina was impressive; it could last for hours. My friends were familiar with my family dynamic and knew not to wait around.

That summer I was happily getting ready to move out of the house and on to college. I couldn’t wait to eat a meal without being told what a disappointment I was and was looking forward to freedom. So when summoned to this financial meeting I took my seat, assuring myself these ego-crushing lectures were numbered. On a positive note, one never had to worry about having a response. He did all the talking and the subject’s role was to nod and agree with whatever he said. That was the quickest way to get to your evening plans. However, sometimes, depending on what I was being forced to agree to, I’d argue. This always came as a shock to him and would send the entire family scattering. That never went well. In my seventeen plus years I’d learned when to confront and when to submit. This took skill. Submission usually meant spending the tortured hour (at least) mentally problem solving how to work around his demands with the least possible damage and detection. I can nod and plan at the same time. 

The lecture often started with the same preamble: how hard he had to work to support us, how lucky we were that we had all the comforts we did, how he was discriminated against and worked from the time he could remember (he had to sell newspapers on the sidewalk for fifteen cents a week! A WEEK!). This would then merge into how ungrateful we all were, how we didn’t understand how hard he had it, on and on. If it had been in a softer tone it may have evoked some sympathy, but it was always angry, like he hated me for having an easier life even as he gave it to me. He was paying for college. That was never even questioned and I’ve gotta say, I wasn’t overly appreciative at the time. I felt like it was combat pay for getting through childhood in that house. I also worked since I was ten, taking over my brother’s paper route. I babysat from age eleven on and when I was fifteen got a job in a tailor shop downtown making $1.75 an hour. I loved that job. My father required all my earnings go into my savings account, an account with his name on it. The five of us had been warned that the first person saying, “That’s my money and I can do what I want with it.” will be kicked out of the house so fast “you won’t even know what happened!”  We silently acquiesced, I for one, thinking what a relief it would be to be kicked out of that house. The only money I kept was from babysitting, careful not to buy anything that would reveal my stash, which, was literally under the mattress concealed in a flimsily locked diary. I was told my bank account was for college so felt I was contributing, though never would have pointed that out. If you liked your job it wasn’t really a job. You were not suffering enough.  

On that August evening, plans with my friends on hold, I was given a list of all the college expenses I would be responsible for: books, fees, transportation, and food. This was three weeks before my first class. I said, “Ok, no problem.”  thinking, wow, that was easy. Then he erupted, “What do you mean NO PROBLEM?! You talk like you are making a million dollars!”  Uh oh. There’s a different agenda going on here. Danger. Shouldn’t ever think it’s going to be easy. I cautiously said, “What I have in the bank should cover all that.” He smugly sat back in his chair, raised his newspaper and smirked, “You can’t use that money.” 

I cannot describe how much I hated this man. The goalpost was always moving, rules never clear, and sabotage always around the corner. He had utter control and enjoyed watching the destruction his bombs created. The realization sunk in that my last three weeks home would now be an anxiety ridden mess figuring out how to earn more money quickly. I stood up, resolved not to break, and left to meet my friends, making sure I was out of sight before i started crying.

Extra babysitting was easy to come by then so I was able to earn extra cash. I planned to eat as little as possible and never come home. That would eliminate transportation costs. I kept my last few paychecks from the seamstress job, and got another babysitting job once I got to school. People in my college neighborhood had well stocked fridges so night time babysitting meant I could eat there and get homework done. I would never admit defeat but I didn’t flaunt success either. It was a stealth game and it always irked him that he couldn’t flatten me, though in later years, he respected me for it. 

I spent years recovering from growing up with a man who hated women and thought he was indestructible. I think of this now for obvious reasons. Perhaps my past is what gives me my sense of optimism that creatures like him bring about their own downfall, which, in his arrogance, he did. Survival and thriving means finding a support system, learning how to get around sudden roadblocks, keeping our energy up, and relishing the sweet reward whenever that becomes ours. And it will. 

There’s a way through, always. Plan. Be strong. Don’t give up.

Love to all,

Linda   

Sunday Morning ~ New Shoots

Sunday Morning ~ New Shoots

Bango likauma, libber linzace. ~ When one reed becomes dry, another one shoots out.

~ Chewa proverb

September 20, 2020

Hi Everyone,

I’m sitting on a small cliff overlooking Cobscook Bay. The sun just came over the horizon, the tide is going out, the campfire is blazing, and the water is boiling. I’ve got my tea and that makes my morning about perfect. It’s the last day of summer, though you’d never know that by the temperature. My tent is just behind me and on this cold morning it was an effort to get out of my toasty sleeping bag. But I could sense the sun about to break over the distant trees and needed to be out here to feel it’s first light.

I was lucky to get this spot. I arrived at the ranger station an hour before they opened hoping to nab a spot on the water. A ranger pulled up in a truck and asked if I needed help. I told him I wanted a campsite which, I know are first-come-first-serve. He told me I could drive around and see which are free, “But” he said, “ I know number thirty is open and it’s a nice one for tent only.” I drove through the quiet park to number thirty. I had to walk through a bit of woods from the car, up over an outcropping of rocks, onto a peninsula that jutted out into the bay.  I caught my breath and ran back to the car to save my spot as first in line. What a sweet birthday gift it would be to get that spot. When other cars started pulling in I decided to go stand by the window, masked and cold in the drizzling rain, but determined there would be no question about who was first.  

I got the site, gleefully set up my tent in the rain, covered all my other gear with plastic, and went back to the car to explore the area. There are plenty of coastal trails to hike and the forecast was for clearing. I walked for miles in the grey, windy drizzle but the coast is always gorgeous no matter what weather. I was back at camp well before sunset and as I cooked my supper the clouds started breaking up. I ate amid the most glorious light performance. It was a great start to the next year of my life. I thought of my mother, who hated camping but would have been happy if I was happy. I looked around for a sign she was with me but didn’t find one, so thanked her knowing she’s out there somewhere.  

When it was dark and I saw the first few stars, I crawled into my tent to read until the book got bleary, listening to the calm water and loons calling, and slept like a baby. I hadn’t angled the tent flap appropriately to watch the sun rise from my sleeping bag, so got up early and lit a fire. Sunrise with tea. I sat for awhile, taking in how quickly those rays could warm me, happy, and thought I’d check my cell phone and see if there were any birthday messages to make my morning even better. The first one I saw was a cryptic group thread saying how bad this year was going, and on Rosh Hashanah no less. I panicked. What? What happened now? I scrolled and found voicemails and other texts with the news. My heart fell, sinking into the rocks I was sitting on. 

I’ve always been as fascinated with the passage from this life as with the passage into it. I worked as a hospice nurse before going to midwifery school and find the experiences similar. I’ve thought about how death gives meaning to life and how cognizant I was of minute details every time I was with a person who had just passed. I remember standing on the doorstep of a family’s home to direct the coroner to the house. It was after midnight in a rough neighborhood and I remember watching how the streetlights reflected on the cars as if it were magic. I looked at the scroll of peeling paint on the railing. I watched the doctor get out of his car and thought how big his eyebrows were as he looked at house numbers. I wondered if he kept his clothes laid out next to his bed for times like this. I wondered at myself for wondering all this as a young woman riddled with cancer lay stiff in her bed, her mother wailing in the living room. I’d had to tell her she was gone.  

I recollected while absorbing the magnitude of the loss for our country now. I watched the dry wood catch fire and thought about how amazing it is to strike a match and have it burn. I put the matchbook back in my pocket with the toilet paper. I put milk from a nearby farm in my tea and wondered why it hadn’t separated. I noticed the water boiled almost as fast as it does in my electric kettle at home and wondered why some fires are hotter than others. I looked at how huge the tides are here. I thought about how the tide doesn’t care who died. I thought about the power she had. Was it like the tide? Could I somehow relate the two? I thought about the collective gasp of horror that rose when the news broke. I thought how strange it is that one person should carry that kind of weight and wondered what it felt like to her. I thought of her like an ant, so tiny, so strong. 

I admit I have been frustrated with all the handwringing the past few years with every new illness. I’d cringe at what was at stake. Why not be calculated in handing it over to a protege with fewer health problems? There was a tiny window, but nothing was guaranteed and who could have known what would happen. It’s no use thinking about that now. Face it. We’re here, left to pick up and carry her torch on the path she paved for us. We have the power and she knew that. She is an angel on our shoulders now. Face it. 

I drove to Reversing Falls and walked along the coast, in and out of denial. Reversing Falls is formed by a narrows separating two bays where the water current reverses with the tides. The Passamaquoddy called this “Place of boiling water”. When the tides are changing the outcropping of rocks beneath the water and the change of directional flow make it look like the water is boiling. I sat and painted on a rock in the sun, the water boiling all around me, and thought, yes, things can be so different from how they appear. I thought of how my perception of this country has been shrouded by unrealistic notions of goodness and reality is now sinking in. I felt the same way as my marriage ended. This can’t be happening as it most certainly was. Then I thought of how everything got better when I accepted reality and worked with what I’d got. I wondered how we let so many women’s lives rest on the shoulders of this one woman, now gone at the worst possible time. 

I watched the boiling, roiling water and wondered how many brilliant women like her had been exterminated in the camps? That thought led me to think of what a strange species we are for all the reasons that make no sense to survival. 

I thought I’m happy I believe in angels. It’s comfort now.

Rest In Peace and thank you. We’ll take it from here. We’ve got this. 

Love to all,

Linda