Friday, October 26, 2012

THE SACRAMENT



We are 11 days away from the 2012 Presidential election.  Everybody is pretty much sick of politics at this point.  Me included, even though presidential election years are like Mardi Gras to me.  Spectacle, tradition, ritual, absurdity, and at base deeply important – even “religious”.  I treat voting like a Sacrament.

Our state has gone to an all mail-in ballot voting system, which I really dislike.  I LOVED going to the polls on Election Day.  It was high school civics class come to life.  My polling place was the local elementary school where my boys were students.  I saw familiar kids, teachers, neighbors, and poll-workers – a true sense of community.  I loved being handed my ballot and walking to the booth to cast my votes amid the hubbub of activity around me in the school cafeteria.  It reminded me why I was voting at all.  I loved getting my “I VOTED” sticker, which I wore proudly the rest of the day, like ashes on my forehead.

Now I have a different voting experience.  My ballot arrives in the mail about 2 weeks before the election.  I don’t open it until the day I set aside for voting.  At that point I sit at the dining room table with my Voter’s Pamphlet and a cup of coffee.  I become quiet, focused, and intent on making my final decisions.  I might read once more about each initiative, the “for” and “against” arguments.  I might read once more the candidates statements.  And then I draw my line next to the name of the one I’ve chosen to vote for with great care, ensuring the black line is neither too thin nor too thick.  I feel like the altar guild ladies preparing for communion.  Everything just so.  Because I want to be sure my vote will count – no errors.  Then I put the ballot in the envelope and sign my name carefully where indicated and drive to the post office to mail it.  I absolutely don’t trust leaving it at my door for the mail carrier to pick up.  I must see it slide into the slot of the huge mail box outside the post office, left there by my own hand.  Amen.

This may sound seriously neurotic.  To me it feels seriously patriotic.  Voting is a right, a responsibility, and above all, a privilege.  I think it is the most amazing thing, this representative form of government of ours.  It’s broken now, I know that.  Money, lies, betrayals, “fixes”, apathy, cynicism…it’s all in stark evidence this year.  That makes me sad for our country, for our democracy.  But I won’t give up.  I still believe my vote counts.  The only way we lose this grand experiment, this model of democracy that people in other lands are literally dying to emulate, is to stop voting.

My vote is my prayer of thanks for those who fought so that I’d have this privilege – our nation’s founders, the soldiers who fought for independence and freedom, the women who marched and were jailed and tortured to win me, their sister, the right to cast a ballot alongside men, the Freedom Riders who stood shoulder to shoulder with their brothers and sisters to desegregate the south and eventually win the right to vote for all.  Our history is about preserving – and serving – this big, messy, majestic United States of America.

My vote is also my prayer for hope for the future.  It really does matter who is in the White House and what that person’s vision and leadership will manifest.  It really does matter who is in the Legislature and whether their positions on issues (that will become the laws we must all obey) are those which will benefit all Americans.  It really does matter who sits on the Supreme Court and is the final arbiter of dispute, interpretation, and enactment of those laws.

How can we do anything less than to cast a vote for those who are most likely to embrace the inherent humanity of every American and set policy that will respect, uplift, and benefit every citizen?  How can we do anything less than to take this right seriously, cast our vote joyfully, and shout “Halleluja!” on Election Day? 

At least, that’s the view from here…©

Thursday, October 25, 2012

WITHOUT THIS, WHO AM I?


Turns out I do have a career.

I've spent my entire adult life explaining that I never really had a career -- I got that degree in Sociology at age 33 after supporting Hub through a bazillion years of school and training programs, then when I was all set to go to grad school (Women's Studies/Communications) we got notice that our adoption was about to happen.  I literally walked out of the class registration line at UW and never looked back.

I stayed home with my boys until the youngest started middle school.  Then one of my best friends talked me into applying for a job in her foster care program at a local social service agency.  I worked there for the next 10 years.  Was that a "career"?  I always just felt it was  'job' I lucked into and that I loved mostly because of the people I was working with.

It takes me awhile to wake up to my own reality sometimes.  I so often fail to see my own gifts, talents, and skills as meaningful in "real world" vernacular or valued by "real world" criteria.  But the other night, as I made the pronouncement to Hub that I make periodically:  "I'm taking a hiatus from organizing anything for 6 months!  I'm going on Sabbatical!"  Sabbatical?  This is something career people do; not people like me who just volunteer their time.  And why, lately, do I feel an almost desperate need to just STOP inventing, organizing, facilitating, planning???

Maybe because this has been my career for nearly 40 years.  I started being an "organizer" in 1973, at age 23, when I woke up to the Women's Rights movement and took to the streets in support of the Equal Rights Amendment, with other feminist friends formed a Consciousness Raising group, helped organize the first ever Women's Conference at Triton Community College outside Chicago where we were able to entice Germaine Greer to be our keynote speaker....

And it went on from there.  I have ALWAYS organized and facilitated something for some cause or personal growth issue near and dear to me.  Peace actions, clubs, political campaigns, women's issues, co-op preschool and PTA, foster care, intentional community, men's and women's personal growth workshops, retreats, and support groups, meditation Sangha, ecstatic dance, elder awareness, church services, parties, benefits....

I'm not unique in this.  Not by a long shot.  I just never have given my work the title "career".  But that's what it feels like; something I've learned to do through study, trial, error, mentoring, and experience.  Mostly I do it well.  And it's hard for me to say no, so I do still have passion for it.  I just get tired and sometimes just want to "show up"; not plan and/or be the show.

Having said that, I also have a fear that without this work I will have no connection to community, no friends, no social life.  And that's when it hit me that my fear of "retiring" is much the same as that experienced by those who retire from a more clearly defined career in their chosen and more identifiable fields (teacher, doctor, CEO).  If I don't do this work anymore, who am I?

Pondering, not yet ready to draw my pension, but feeling the tug of letting go of some of the responsibility and stress of my self-employed, and unpaid, career.  Ambivalence reigns and I'm just looking at this with warm curious attention for now.  Not gone yet, but maybe cutting back to quarter-time.

At least, that's the view from here...©

Saturday, October 20, 2012

CRUISING SPEED

Aware that the "voice" of this blog is fairly upbeat has contributed to there being no posts this far into October.  Every morning this month I've gotten up with the best of intentions to write.  Every morning I make coffee, glance at Facebook, read a few emails, pour some more coffee, make my day's "to do" list, page through the newspaper (yes, a real one, delivered to my door), give Facebook another look, chat with Hub, sit down and crochet, add something to the "to do" list, drink some more coffee, wash a few dishes, look at a magazine.....you get the idea.  Stuck in Neutral, idling.  And that's on a good day.

At least I'm not usually in Low.  Low is a gear with which I have some familiarity.  Low is where I sometimes plug along, trying not to break down completely by the side of the road, especially after a particularly long stretch of road taken in Overdrive.  So, while Neutral doesn't advance me to any destination, it's better than Low -- cuz Low is mostly sitting in a chair crying.  Low is mostly feeling like the pull on the engine is more than I can take anymore.  Low is a chugging, clanking, near death rattle that seems endless and overwhelming.  But what I've learned -- hard lessons aplenty -- is that no matter how low my Low gets, I know I will somehow, sometimes with Herculean effort, jam that clutch in and reach ever so tentatively for the gearshift and knock it at least back into Neutral.  

Last Friday I did slip into Low, then stalled.  Hub, my mechanic extraordinaire, rushed in with patient diagnostics, just the right tools, and the sweet whisper of his confidence in my ability to self-correct and get back on the road.  I cancelled a few things jammed up on my calendar, saved energy for a couple of things I felt I still wanted to do at least marginally well, and took the rest of this week off.  Needed repair.  Lots of self care, quiet time, cocooning.  And touching my own heart.  Listening, in meditation, to that inner voice that tells me I am not that Ego that lets this crazy life make me a crazy person.  

I lose my way sometimes. My brain chemistry freaks out on me.  But I have big heart, healthy body, sound mind, and a Soul that dances.  I am shifting back into Drive, the winding road in front of me and adventures that await.

Soon re-approaching cruising speed, but with a light foot on the accelerator.

At least, that's the view from here....©