i hadn’t thought of it in those terms before. but – suddenly – it was just as obvious an interruption to me as night is to day.
resilience is a support organization in chicago – “empowering survivors ending sexual violence” is their byline. their presence is powerful, necessary, moving survivors forward in healing and advocacy, providing education and empathy. there was nothing like that on long island in 1978.
my life was forever interrupted. and i just realized that. because – back in 1978 – i filed it all away – all the trauma, all the grief, all the stripping of innocence, all the betrayal – i placed it on a shelf in my heart i didn’t want to access, a place i didn’t want to go. no one really talked about it. i moved on.
only i didn’t.
the night-that-turned-my-day-dark wrapped itself around me and, in all likelihood, affected every single decision – good and bad – that i made from that day forward. it acted like a filter – like the kind you screw onto the front of a 35mm camera lens, coloring every scene in the aperture, every experience in life. just as in so many of these stories, no one was made to take responsibility for this act of life-interruption, for the thing that would skew everything in my heart. i was nineteen and he was free. he still is.
there are defining moments in our lives that lay down a blanket of circumstance, that wound in all directions. sexual violence is one of those.
even now – 45 years later – though i cannot dredge up all the minute details as they seem locked up on that shelf – i can feel the interruption of my life – the unmooring – the visceral line of before and after.
the sun is setting through the trees and i suddenly see clearly through the woods, without underbrush. i can feel the night fall.
the thing that has helped is that 45 years has granted me people who have been there, who have held me in grace despite it all, who have loved me even as i – at times – flailed.
i wouldn’t hope for anyone to experience the pain of sexual violence of any sort. but, because women are insanely statistically likely to be victimized and betrayed in this way, i would hope for their resilient spirits and bodies to see the enormous life interruption for what it is and to rise in the sun the next day – surviving – accessing hope, surrounded by loving support, empowered.
it’s disconcerting to round the corner to your street and see five fire trucks parked there, lights on, hoses at the ready. more fire trucks continued to arrive, police cars blocking the entrance to the road at both ends. the instant we got out of the car in the driveway it was obvious. there had been a gas line puncture; natural gas permeated the air, heavy in the warm humidity. the firefighters directed us residents into our homes, our tendency, otherwise, to stand on driveways and discuss the happenings. it took a while, but the gas company came, a worker climbed into the hole (i would assume that person receives hazard pay) and, much like the story of the boy and the dike, somehow plugged up the puncture. after some time, the fire trucks left one by one and a semblance of order returned to the neighborhood, though no one was anxious to light a bonfire or a grill or cause any sparks for a while.
the news of more wildfires – again – still – in california is overwhelming to read. with temperatures hovering at one hundred degrees and drought a repeating theme, i cannot imagine the insurmountable task of the firefighters, the constant worry about loss of lives and homes and wildlife.
and then, on the other end of the wet-dry spectrum, the floods in kentucky. worried about the owner of the tiny house we stayed at south of lexington, i texted her. she and her whole family are from the hollers of kentucky, growing up near rivers that are now flooded. i didn’t hear back, but checked facebook and found that her church was underwater and she had – already at that time – devastatingly lost two neighbors.
both extremes. catastrophic.
it seems that these events never end. one morphs into the next into the next. our fragile planet suffers while politicians debate inane issues and, from all evidence, seemingly seek to stoke their own financial objectives. meanwhile, in every corner of the globe there is mighty confirmation that this good earth is in crisis. this puts each of us in crisis, our children, our children’s children, the children of our children’s children. and yet, politicians, in every corner of the globe, sneer and attend to their own shortsighted power grabs. wow.
it would be hard to choose to be a firefighter. it would be hard to work for the red cross, crisscrossing this country in an attempt to attend to the extreme needs of its populace. it would be hard to be a climate scientist, likely frustrated out of their gourds watching and listening to the pushback of idiocy.
and there are more it-would-be-hards. it would be hard to be a teacher or a school principal, as the new 2022-2023 school year rapidly approaches and the worry about potential school shootings revives after summer break. it would be hard to be the manager of a grocery store, the managing director of a concert venue, the owner of a dance club, the grand marshal of an idyllic holiday parade, the owner of a movie theater, the director of a medical facility, the leaders of a religious institution….
we-the-people face down emergency after emergency. i would think that all we really want – now’days – is to think that our safety – whether from climate crisis or gun violence or extreme aggression or marginalization – would be foremost. all we really want is to avoid catastrophe. all we really want is to believe that the leaders of our communities, our states, our country have our best interests – and not their pocketbooks or personal agenda – at heart. heart. yes.
all we really want is to not pull down our own street-that-we-live-on – wherever it is – and see a multitude of fire trucks and a catastrophe – from anything within human power to prevent – that is insurmountable.
four of us. there were four of us at costco with masks on. me and three costco associates.
yet, we personally know more people – right now – who have covid, who just got over covid, who were just diagnosed with covid, who are in the hospital with covid – than at any other time during the pandemic.
yes. it is a royal pain to wear a mask. yes. they are completely optional. yes. you don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do. but every time – which is daily – we hear about someone else “testing positive” it serves as the impetus to – again – put on our masks before heading into the grocery store, into costco, into the home repair store, into crate and barrel, into the ace.
maybe we are overly conservative. we wonder this aloud. as artists, we have taken many chances, we have risked much, including financial stability. these choices – as artists – have not rendered us the label “conservative”. our political views are not conservative. our leaning toward simpler living is not run-of-the-mill conservative. “granola” maybe, but not “conservative”.
but the whole mask thing has us pondering over and over and over. in truth, we are trying to recognize the interconnectivity of everyone – what we do affects you, what you do affects us. we are trying to – in community – be cautious, be responsible. and we are trying not to test positive.
weeks – maybe even a couple months – ago we railed against it all. for one day we literally went into every store maskless. it was liberating. we could breathe easily, we could smile at other people. we wandered, our faces exposed, reveling in what-used-to-be. we exchanged glances at each other, an “ahhh”, rebels out and about.
later we heard that an entire family we knew was covid-positive. they were very ill and it had already lasted at least a week. we sheepishly donned our masks the next time out.
with all the home tests, we know that “the numbers” are not actually significant these days. there are many, many more people who have covid (or have had covid) than the government is aware of. it’s not like john or jane doe picks up the phone and calls the cdc when their home test is positive. we scarcely know the reality anymore.
we missed the phil vassar concert – twice now – because of this. we still haven’t dined out in our own town in two and a half years. you can still count the number of times we have dined out – period – on two hands over the entire course of this pandemic. we measured our risk those times and the benefit outweighed them. they were opportunities to be with our children, our family or ones very dear to us. when phil was playing a very crowded people-sandwiched-with-people summerfest last saturday, we were playing phil vassar on our deck, sipping wine, singing along in the waning light. granola.
yes, it’s completely optional to wear masks. and yes, you don’t have to do anything you don’t want to; you are free – well, unless, of course, that includes things that the “apolitical” (ahem!) supreme court is now overturning or wishing to overturn, in which case your freedoms are limited and anti-abortion, anti-gay marriage, anti-contraception, anti-equality, anti-environment-protection, pro-gun-carry, pro-christian-only-public-prayer, pro-gerrymandering rulings will rule over you, should their push-against be successful. kinda makes masks child-play.
it gives me pause for thought as i think about all the people who have been giant and loud anti-maskers. are these all the same people? (yes, that’s rhetorical.)
the other day in costco i was walking down an aisle. coming the other way was a young woman, a worker, also in a mask. our eyes met. our eyebrows raised up a little. tiny lines appeared at our temples. and we exchanged a little granola love. i swear i could see a rainbow appear out of nowhere, peace signs floating, unicorns singing lyrics, something about “liberating strife”.
i took off my mask after i exited. and i breathed in the air of the land of the free and the home of the brave, the sweet land of liberty. from someone’s car radio system i could hear aretha spelling out “r-e-s-p-e-c-t….just a little bit…”
my sister texted her dear friend was in the hospital, with covid, on oxygen.
i tucked my mask into my purse, to use the next time.
well, maybe i can make one exception: when driving and faced with a dead-end corner and a one-way street. one way.
otherwise? not so much.
the headline read, “florida isn’t the only state pushing legislation that could be harmful to LGBTQ students.” there’s also idaho, georgia, iowa, tennessee and oklahoma. not to forget texas and whatever other states have jumped on the bigotwagon since this headline. what?! apparently, these are states in which leadership has decided there’s just one way. and it’s theirs.
as the proud mother of a gay man, i have to wholeheartedly disagree with these folks. any idea of “normal” that they have conjured up is a warped righteous positioning of power and control, some sort of strange arc into absolutism. it does make one wonder about the possibility of people who need to compensate for something in their own lives. it is astonishingly arrogant, haughtily heartless, cruelly uncaring, blindingly bigoted, disgustingly discriminatory, and sickeningly small-minded in the most prejudiced of ways.
i’m guessing, then, that these same huffy lawmakin’ folks are sittin’ around makin’ it their business to raise questions about people, ponder others’ sexuality or gender, disparage people who identify differently than they do. they are wringing their hands and plotting how to silence them, to marginalize them. because their one-way is the only way and lives that may be richly influential, steeped in open-mindedness and the embrace and love of all humankind should be silenced and marginalized.
though it does not follow the sun across the sky, this sunflower graces our yard and reminds us of constancy.
in ukraine the sunflower is a symbol of peace, a laying down of nuclear arms in 1996 and a time of restoration. it is rapidly becoming a sign of solidarity, of push-back, of resistance against the invasion by a country intent on the evil destruction of all in its path. i glance out back and offer a prayer to the universe for peace, for the ceasing of this lunacy. i sigh each time.
i have held a special place in my heart for sunflowers. even in rusty metal the sunflower grants warmth and holds vigil, loyal and open-hearted. a stunning blossom, big and loud in kind of a direct you-can’t-miss-it way.
sunflowers are in the same large and diverse flower family as daisies. their little sister, daisies, are our favorites. they walked us down the aisle, they grace our table as we eat. cheerfulness, innocence, joy, purity…flowers of simple form offering hope and new beginnings.
even tinier sisters, chamomile flowers in their beautiful simplicity are said to be purveyors of peace, poise, calmness, humility, rest, renewal. chamomile is described as a flower representing kindness, and, in its victorian era symbolism – energy in adversity.
i find it exponentially ironic that this is the national flower of russia.
yes. i know. it was auto-generated. the three mailings (first class mail stamps cost $1.74) and the three emails and the text were all auto-generated. and all of it? dehumanizing.
we are no longer on molina healthcare since during-the-year 2021, but for a company that literally charged $19,927 for the period of time we were, a balance due of 27 cents seems a bit inconsequential and the threat of policy termination and coverage loss – in the middle of a global pandemic – while they claim to be “caring about people and advocating on their behalf” and “helping those most in need” – well, it would seem that a bit of real-people-ness might need to shine through.
i know that we have grumbled before about healthcare in the united states; this will not be an out-and-out rant, for i’ve written that in previous posts and want to have a bye for future ones. but it is surely a tad bit humorous to think that a company with a january 2022 net worth of $16.24 billion – billion! – cares about 27 cents.
even funnier is that as soon as i knew we had an outstanding balance over and above our premiums – this 27 cents – i paid it online. yet the letters, emails and texts kept coming, even a month after we no longer had their services. auto-generated, aggressive, uncaring, impersonal.
molina – in their employee handbook, as part of how they describe their core values – states: “we focus on what is important. ‘it is a business of nickels.’ little things matter and the nickels add up.”
ahhh. yup. i’m guessin’ they must. focus on nickels, that is. “we are careful with scarce resources.”
this is a company that bases their existence on the early clinic of their founder, “where caring for people was more important than their ability to pay.”
“if we don’t receive your payment, your policy will be terminated and you’ll lose your coverage.”
we paid our 27 cents. molina healthcare lost at least $1.47 in that exchange.
there is really nothing unhappy about polka dots. it is rare that polka dots are scorned, even more rare that polka dots are looked upon as harbingers of negativity. polka dots get a bye in the fashion world, seemingly always advancing to the next round.
yesterday we spent about five hours on the phone with spectrum trying to fix our internet. we unplugged our two-in-one modem-router combo, drove to the store, exchanged our equipment and tried to self-install (underscored in its excitement rating) and then spent another hour on the phone. it was never fixed and we are hopeful for today, as a tech person will come and “evaluate the problem”. we were ridiculously weary with internet-failure by the end of the day and solaced ourselves with a favorite holiday dvd movie snuggled around the laptop under the covers before sleep.
our dear friends texted us a youtube of a spectrum skit on SNL that we could watch on our phone. it was hilariously accurate and made us laugh. we had literally spoken to an insane number of reps during this tech-debacle. chris was one of them.
i liked him immediately. he promised me a ferrari and a pizza as well as finding us a “package” to fix our internet grief. i told him to keep the pizza and he thanked me profusely because, on a diet sans pizza, he has been craving it and did not want to think of me, his newest friend, eating pizza. i told him to maybe have a piece of pizza, that life is too short. it’s not good to crave things and deny yourself everything. anyway, after our philosophical discussion, he again said that he would find a plan and he would fix our internet once and for all. he was basing our success on “my demeanor and clothing choices”. my ripped jeans and moccasin boots railed in protest but recognized we weren’t on a video call, after all, and gave up the fight. it sounded like clothing really mattered to him and so i’m imagining that he had a dark blue gingham-checked shirt and jeans with a solid dark-blue skinny-but-not-too-skinny-to-be-out-of-sync-with-his-body tie and very cool rich medium brown tie shoes, since brown shoes seem to be really vogue with blue these days. though chris was delightful to deal with – since it could have been different and dry and kind of like having a tooth filled at the dentist so I was relieved to be laughing and joking – chris did not fix our internet. neither did any of the other reps, all nice and scripty polka-dot-ish, but unable to address the problem.
so, no ferrari, no pizza AND no internet.
we are determined, after last night’s movie made us predictably mushy, that today will be a polka-dot kind of day.
we mantra: the tech will come – dressed in spectrum attire – and voila! fix the internet. we will suddenly go from 30mbps (an old time warner cable plan no one told us to upgrade) to ultra wifi 400mbps (I will believe this when I see it). we will have no issues with brand new equipment we just brought home. we will easily engage wifi on all our devices. we will carry on, having woefully lost a whole day in spectrumland, but rapidly recuperating back into reality.
we will be in polka-dot happiness with real polka-dots.
the pudgy pigeon was in the doorway. it didn’t move as we approached. it didn’t move as we took photographs. it didn’t move as i spoke to it and it didn’t move as we moved on. i worried about it after. something seemed awry.
while we were in colorado, we looked at a shutterfly book of pictures taken in 2013 – what was columbus’ 80th birthday party – merely eight years ago, so little time, so much time. but the difference – for us – is between 50-something and 60-something. and there is, shall i say, a difference.
our bodies changing-changing. our faces morphing into, well, i hope, slightly more wizened faces with less self-consciousness and more solid aplomb. aging. we read in headlines today, “fillers, procedures are wiping out generations of beauty.” (jamie lee curtis) we stand firmly in the camp of less-is-more. mmm…firmly and, yet, still, a little shakily, noting this youth and body-image-society.
when the exposure notification availability showed up on the iphone, i x-ed it out. it comes every day and every day i delete it. i’m not sure we need any more reminders of covid exposure. we are already hyper aware of the dangers of this virus, the breakthrough possibility, the guidelines. last night we talked about all the places we would go were it not for this pandemic. the list was seemingly endless and we were in wonder about missing all of it.
we know that others are out there living life as any other day, as in any other time. i don’t know how to do that right now. any moment i forget about it and start talking about something fun to do or someplace fun to go, i remember. the benefit-risk factor is mightily dependent on, well, every facet involved, including higher threat and protecting ourselves and people we love. but i do know this – if it is for my children, i will do it. though we don’t get to exercise it much, that risk is unconditional.
we are finding that maybe we are more conservative, more cautious than others as we weigh our activities and destinations. it’s frustrating. we are a year and a half into this and, while vaccinations help us significantly, there is no stopping a mutating virus that wants to spread without the cooperation of everyone.
at the end of this pandemic, when there IS one, we will look around at the wreckage. lives and health and homes and jobs and security have been decimated. there are those who have been ultra-cavalier and have blatantly denied and defied any safety measures. there are those who have gone to disney, who have gathered in large unmasked gatherings, who have traveled widely. and there are those of us who have not. it’s a wide spectrum where, really, the most prudent route seems a narrower band of collaboration. and it – truly – sometimes makes me ponder what we’re missing. and, even though i ask ‘why?’ time and again, we stay on the track we have decided on, committing to an end to this insanity.
i suppose an argument against the way we are navigating through this would be that we are living out of fear, that we are limiting ourselves in a limitless world because, even when we have no guarantee for life in ANY given circumstance, we have bowed to covid-19, a frightening reality that makes us pay attention. it makes me sad to write that.
at the end others will have lived through it and have traveled and celebrated and eaten out. and hopefully we, too, will have lived through it. but our experience-list will be shorter; if traveling and celebrating and eating out are the things that count we have the tiniest list. our experience-list includes a serious respect for medicine, for science, for experts trying to help us mitigate this. it includes a deep concern for others and a wish for their good health and well-being. it lists to the end goal and not the short term. it includes the very-fewest visits with beloved children and family, in some cases none, tearing at my heart, painful. it includes much home-time, gratitude for this place in which we work and learn and cook and grow and dance. it’s much narrower than we would have imagined and, yet, it is rich in ways i also could not have imagined.
and next year, or sooner, i hope, maybe our experience-list will include irish fest and farmer’s markets and eating at the bar at wine-knot and restaurants in chicago and exploring in north carolina and live-in-person conversations with people who have been there for us, national geographic live events and long stays in the rocky mountains with mornings at cabin coffee in breck and winterfest in cedarburg and a slow dance party revisited on our patio, with people spilling into the kitchen, making drinks and preparing hors d’oeuvres.
maybe our experience-list will include a booster shot and no masks and fewer headlines about staggering loss and more news about communities coming together in support of each other.
maybe our experience-list will have less worry and less fear. the end goal.
jen told me yesterday that the 1918 pandemic, though most often referred to as a two-year pandemic, actually lasted two and a half years.
two and a half years.
i shudder to think of the toll this pandemic will have taken if it lasts yet another year or more. we have learned so much; we have learned so little. the pandemic has been like a kaleidoscope and like a microscope, both. it has scattered us into constantly changing patterns and it has brought everything into minute focus. yet i wonder where this will take us.
artists aren’t typically conservative in-the-boxers. we take risks, live gig lifestyles, put ourselves out there, are vulnerable and push back against things we consider inequities, ironic double-talk, disinterest in humanitarianism, opacity where transparency is touted. we aren’t quiet, for it is our job to speak – in whatever medium our talent. we are, as artists, there to raise questions, to promote pondering, communicate ideas, tell stories, express emotion, encourage engagement, inspire connection and collaboration, reiterate interdependence of all people.
though this burden does not remain singly on the shoulders of artists, even banksy has participated in making statements about safety and guidelines in this pandemic. i’m not sure how much more blatant it needs to be. encouraging covid-19 responsibility, his work in the london tube in july 2020 was titled, “if you don’t mask, you don’t get.” he spray-paints the words, “i get lockdown, but i get up again” at the end of the video featuring his rats on the tube.
though attendees were 100% vaccinated, the invitation read, “masks required at all times unless actively eating or drinking.” they provided masks, sweet ones with the initials of the wedding couple and a heart. the venues had high high ceilings, exposed rafters and ductwork. the wedding was outside, cocktail hour was outside, dancing was outside.
when the rain came, we all kept dancing. outside, twinkling lights all around, we breathed in fresh air. even with masks on.
“a lot of people never use their initiative because no-one told them to.” (banksy)
initiative (noun): the ability to assess and initiate things independently; the power or opportunity to act or take charge before others do.