I’ve been reading about the U.S. immigrant situation and the separation of children from their parents for the last two weeks. My response, from the safety of my own study, has been to sign petitions, send money to the ACLU, write testy letters to my own representatives which, in a purplish-blue state, involves preaching to […]
According to folk wisdom, it only takes one straw to break a camel’s back. While I am not the most prolific of bloggers by any means, over the past year I have managed a few posts commenting on the state of this nation and the insanity that continues to build in the hollowed (formerly hallowed) halls of government in Washington.
But then the straw fell that almost broke my voice. My country, the land of the free and home of the brave, where Liberty lifts her lamp to welcome the tired, the poor, the homeless and tempest-tossed, apparently now considers that God is okay with tearing children from their mother’s or father’s arms and tossing them into jail.
It is still a great struggle for me to write anything in response to this outrageous policy, so I am going to re-blog in a separate post The Borders of Decency that appeared today on The Green Study. Michelle is an excellent writer, and she provides pertinent suggestions on ways to keep up the good fight.
Like the young people of Chicago and Parkland, and countless others who are determined to turn their personal tragedies into a dynamic force for decency and change, we must continue to speak truth to power.
Picture from article by Jessica McBride on Heavy.com, 6/18/18
© Martha Hurwitz, 6/18/18
First, of course, there are the real ones. Wrinkles on my face, wrinkles on my elbows, wrinkly skin on the backs of my hands, and wrinkles in numerous other bodily areas that I am too polite and lady-like to discuss in detail. (You may discover this to be a blatant lie if you are kind enough to read further, so fair warning….)
Perhaps about 20 years ago, I naively thought that getting wrinkles on my face would mean crows feet around my eyes and maybe a few tiny lines here and there that would lend a certain dignity to my looks and convince people to treat me as a revered elder with lots of sage advice to share.
I have always felt a great deal of pride (okay, a bit of snarky smugness) in not being overly concerned about looks, fashion, styles, driving an impressive automobile, or belonging to a prestigious country club. So I was a bit surprised to find that looking into the mirror now requires me to engage in a pep talk to myself about how “wrinkles mean you laughed” and all that other touchy-feely, hippie philosophy that I used to subscribe to without reservation (or real-life experience).
But many wrinkles that aren’t physical arise during these golden years.
The Naming Wrinkle
What do I call myself? What adjectives placed before “woman” characterize me now? Old? Sorry, don’t like that one. Older? Not much of an improvement, and kind of vague. Older than whom or what? Senior? That’s a little better, but sounds as if I’m about to graduate, and quite frankly, I’m not in a hurry to “graduate” from this time in my life because my next stop is probably the end of the line. Elder? I do like the image gathered from cultures that hold older people in a more positive light, but it doesn’t really seem to fit here. So this is still an unanswered question for me. Maybe I’ll try Impatient older woman, left with only one nerve, upon which you are standing, so step lightly. That would work most days!
The Time Wrinkle
Some days I do feel much like I stepped into a phone booth, made a short call, and then stepped out into a world where phone booths are seriously out of date. Perhaps this phenomenon would be better described as a time warp. Wikipedia defines time warp as “… an imaginary spatial distortion that allows time travel in fiction, or a hypothetical form of time dilation or contraction.”
The time distortions experienced during these years do seem to have some relationship to dilation, as any woman who has undergone a D&C can tell you. (I warned you we might get back to bodily images!) It may be temporary or, as one (male) doctor said to me once prior to doing the procedure: “You may feel a little pinch!” All I can say to that is “Pinch, my ass!” These time warps and distortions are confusing, troubling, scary and they often hurt. “Wasn’t it only yesterday ……?” “Will I live long enough to ……?”
The Communication Wrinkle
I am referring to the interesting phenomenon that happens with internal communication among the parts of the human body. One of the first posts I wrote about the physical changes of the older years explained how the different parts of my body no longer seemed to communicate effectively and now were like a dysfunctional family full of self-centered kids all clamoring for attention from a stressed out parent. It was a cute little fluff piece, written as I was getting my feet wet as a new writer. Two years later, I can only say it is no longer cute and funny.
Take putting on socks, for example. For those lucky enough to live in a nice warm climate, this may not seem like a big deal, but during a typical New England winter, let me assure you that several pairs of socks are often necessary (in the house). Putting on socks is a simple task, is it not? A toddler could do it. True enough, but the toddler does not have to factor in a hip that refuses to assist the leg in lifting up the foot high enough so the hands can reach the toes. Ignore this situation at your peril. Straining to complete the task may eventually get socks onto your foot, but now your hip has alerted the muscles in your thigh that they are under attack and they better spasm up and man the barricades! Staving off impending muscle cramps usually requires instantaneous change of position and to that I say, “Yeah, right, how does that work out for you?”
The Attitude Wrinkle
Although I am someone who generally sees the world from a positive perspective and tries hard to lighten the mood and laugh at difficulties and troubles, I find myself tempted frequently to slide into self-pity, irritation and sadness. This time of life requires a great deal of fortitude and spiritual strength, even in the best of times.
In June of 2016, Huffington Post photographer Damon Dahlen took portraits of 14 women aged between 50 and 90 and in the accompanying article Shelley Emling said these women “roll their eyes at ageist (and sexist) standards of beauty. Rather than fight the inevitable effects of aging, they see the lines on their faces as a road map of their lives. They are the etchings of many years fully lived — and each and every one of them has been earned.” To that I say “Amen!”
Usually I start thinking about possible New Year’s resolutions right after Thanksgiving so I’ll be prepared, but I don’t have to take them seriously because any promises made right after a major holiday are null and void. This applies to resolutions made before a major holiday, too, so between Halloween and New Year’s Day, I’m good.
Changes in behavior have to start on a Monday that falls on the first of the month, but only if the weather is nice and the moon is full. That’s a known fact! Otherwise, it’s okay to wait until the following month (or year, or holiday, or whenever). January 1, 2018 would have been an awesome day to start those serious changes that I want to make. It was not only a Monday, but the beginning of a month, the beginning of a brand new year, the weather was reasonably nice for New England this time of year, and the moon was full.
My motivation for not making any specific resolutions was based on the fact that for most of my adult life I have listened to the fake newsreel in my head convincing me that “next Monday,” “next month,” “on my birthday,” “after the holiday,” I definitely will change, and “this time it will really work.” In the meantime, of course, it’s okay to continue the same behaviors, because changing any old time is just not possible!
As Dr. Phil always asks: “How’s that working for you?” Not so well would have to be my honest answer. Barely a week into the New Year, and evidence is mounting that my decision not to make resolutions hasn’t worked any better than making them. Clearly, I needed to reconsider and make at least a few serious resolutions. But “which ones? how many? when do I start? My head aches, I’ll think about that tomorrow.” So imagine my excitement when I opened my news feed this morning to a New York Times article titled: “9 Ways to Be a Better Person in 2018.”
“Here’s what we’ve learned about living your best life in 2018, using lessons from some of our most-read Styles stories of 2017. We encourage you to be a better prepared, less anxious and more showered person in the new year. ” Anya Strzemien, 12/28/17
- Make your bed. I can do that. Heck, I already do. Check!
- Wear weather appropriate shoes. I do that, too. What do I look like? A high school student waiting for the bus in a snowstorm wearing flip flops? Laugh at my big clunky Sorrel boots if you want to, but my feet are warm and dry. Check!
- Wash Your Hair. Pretty sure I learned this one at an early age, but I guess it’s never a bad thing to include on a better person list. Check!
- Schedule Sex. I know we are a nation of over-scheduled, multi-tasking, device-dependent maniacs. But maybe a better idea than adding a sex appointment to your iPhone would be to let intimacy grow from the experience of being together sharing a quiet evening, and actually talking face-to-face. Besides, SIRI does not want to know that you plan to do the deed on Saturday night.
- Accept the things you cannot control. As a philosophy this is a good idea. However, I believe there are some things that should never be accepted, even if they are clearly not under my control. Taking this one seriously involves self-understanding and discipline. I am generally able to do this, but will keep working on it. Check!
- Distract yourself with a fairy tale. I’ve done this too much in my life, so no check here. It’s fine to indulge in some royal-watching or brief fantasies of winning the lottery, but I think I have to pass on this one as a way to become a better person.
- Embrace your age. Absolutely, without a doubt. I have earned every grey hair, every wrinkle. Not too crazy about the arthritis, weakening eyes and ears, and other common problems of aging. But it’s good to be here, no matter what shape I’m in. Check, check and double check!
- Pack condoms. Seriously? Doesn’t this belong in the scheduling section? I was forced to go back and read the whole article to figure out the purpose of this one (beyond the obvious, that is). Turns out it was one small item in a long article about survivalists preparing for an apocalypse. Apparently condoms can be used (beyond the obvious) as “makeshift canteens, a fire starter, elastic bands for an improvised slingshot to hunt small game,…inflated they can also be used as fishing bobbers or signaling devices for semaphore,….” Give me a break here. Wouldn’t balloons do the trick? Sorry, but this one sounds like that old excuse about buying Playboy to read the articles. Yeah, right.
- If you suffer a setback, just keep going–and going out. This article was about Hillary Clinton and how she responded after her loss of the election in 2016. Overall it’s a good philosophy, but needs to be put into context. Some setbacks are serious and the old stiff-upper-lip response is not a healthy one. Still, I’ll put a check here to keep myself from over-dramatizing small setbacks or using them as an excuse to postpone doing what needs to be done.
While commenting on this list was fun, I don’t believe that most of these items would make me, or anyone else, a better person. Perhaps more organized, or less anxious, or prepared for the Zombie Apocalypse!
Becoming a better person has much more to do with how we treat people (particularly those who are weak and dependent on the kindness of others), about the choices we make that affect the health and welfare of this planet and all the creatures who call it home, and in the way we engage with those whose backgrounds and beliefs differ from our own.
Instead of making the same recurring resolutions that I mostly don’t keep, I think I will just make a greater effort to live by those important values that make the world a better and safer place for everyone.
©Martha Hurwitz, 1/6/18
Pictures from Pixabay
אדוני said, "Let there be...." And there was... Even אדוני grew tired of speaking and rested. Keep speaking your truth Your words create worlds Nourished with understanding. Speak when you are able Be silent when you must. Rest when you are weary. Souls are fragile. Words are not. They are not lost. They travel in the wind Take root in distant lands And blossom there.
©Martha Hurwitz, 12/27/17 Inspired by I've Told You so Much Already
This sermon was given by Rev. Patrick O’Neil, at the First Unitarian Congregational Society of Brooklyn, New York, on January 21, 2015. Sadly it is even more relevant today than ever. I share it in honor and memory of all those lost lives in Newtown, in Las Vegas, in Orlando, in Texas and so many other places. Whatever the actual age of the victims, they were somebody’s children.
Among the most accomplished and fabled tribes of Africa, no tribe was considered to have warriors more fearsome or more intelligent than the mighty Masai. It is perhaps surprising then to learn that the traditional greeting between the Masai Warriors – Kasserian Ingera – means “And how are the Children?”
It is still the traditional greeting among the Masai, acknowledging the high value that the Masai always place on their children’s well being. Even warriors with no children of their own would always give the traditional response – “All the Children are well.” Meaning, of course, that peace and safety prevail, that priorities of protecting the young and powerless are in place, that Masai society has not forgotten its reason for being, its proper function and responsibilities. “All the Children are well” means that life is good. It means that the daily struggles of existence, even among a poor people, do not preclude proper caring for its young people.
I wonder how it might affect our consciousness of our own children’s welfare if in our culture we took to greeting each other with this same daily question: “And how are the Children?” I wonder if we heard that question and passed it along to each other a dozen times a day, if it would begin to make a difference in the reality of how children are thought of or cared for in this country.
I wonder if every adult among us, parent and non-parent alike, felt an equal weight for the daily care and protection of all the children in our town, in our state, in our country, could we truly say without any hesitation, “The children are well, yes, all the children are well.”
What would it be like if the President began every press conference or every public appearance by answering the question: “And how are the children, Mr. President?” If every Governor of every state had to answer the same question at every press conference: “And how are the children, Governor? “Are they well?” Wouldn’t it be interesting to hear their answers? What would it be like? I wonder…
What would be your answer?
©Martha Hurwitz, 11/6/17
Inspired by Daily Prompt: panacea
A recent post by Rabbi John Rosove encourages compassion as a response to the heartless statements and decisions being made by President Trump. I ache to agree completely and without hesitation. Instead I find myself struggling with the very question that the Rabbi answered by recommending compassion–a struggle that has consumed me since last November.
One of the first public conversations I had following the election of Donald Trump was in a setting where I expected compassion. If not compassion, at least a verbal exchange that did not mimic the vicious campaign that had just ended. Instead, I heard this:
“He’s a piece of s***!”
In no way am I advising or trying to influence anyone who has been or may be directly hurt or abused by the blatantly racist, homophobic, anti-Semitic, anti-Islamic negative rhetoric or actions that have occurred and are occurring still. I am not completely immune or safe from some of the rhetoric and actions. But I am lucky enough to benefit from insulating factors that at least to date have kept me an arms length from harm. I do not assume that I have any moral high ground.
Abuse can occur through public actions, statements and decisions, or privately at the hands of someone who is supposed to love you. People who are forced to struggle through the after-effects of abuse, whether it was public or private, must have to wrestle with the question of compassion; struggle with what their emotional response is going to be. Compassion is not a concept limited to a small group of people.
Christians speak of turning the other cheek.
The Dalai Lama said: “If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.”
The Prophet Micah told the Jewish people they must do justice and be merciful.
I recall a Torah study session in which I participated some years ago, when the portion of the week contained the story of the rape of Dinah (Genesis 34). A woman who was a therapist working with sex offenders made this statement: “I doubt that anyone wakes up one morning when he is 5 years old and says, ‘I think I’d like to be a sex offender when I grow up.'” I doubt Donald Trump woke up one morning when he was 5 years old and decided he wanted to be what he has become, either.
Still ….. What does it mean to be compassionate–in general and in this specific instance? Why should I struggle to be compassionate toward someone who demonstrates so little compassion for anyone else?
A common argument is that compassion, like forgiveness, may be less for the benefit of the offender than the one who was offended. Perhaps, to paraphrase A.J. Muste,
“There is no way to compassion, compassion is the way.”
Perhaps … But I’m still struggling.
©Martha Hurwitz, 9/7/17
Inspired by Daily Word Prompt: finite