Blame the Sixties

I am often glad the my mother died when she did.  I remember just two months after she died, was September 11, 2001.  I couldn’t locate one of my brothers who I knew was either in New York City or Washington D.C. on a rare vacation.  Phone lines were so jammed they all went down and it was difficult to communicate with anyone the first day or so. Everyone walked around in a stunned silence.  I was glad in the months following that my mother never had to experience all of that.

I am glad she isn’t experiencing what we are now.  There are a lot of things I thought would have changed since I was growing up in the late sixties and early seventies.  I thought we would be “further along” in our progress in a lot of areas.  I suspect we could be but there are mechanisms in the way keeping us from it – money, power – those things often prevent illnesses from having cures, lives from being lived, freedoms from being enjoyed.

I know people who exhaust themselves running about on social media railing at injustices and the horrible state of our country and the world.  Mom would have shaken her head at them.  She would know how little change they are going to bring about by ranting and raving and only looking at the negative. She would only have to glance around in her own community to know what to do and how to help – quietly, locally, personally.

There are so many things that the shouty people obsessed with newsbytes fail to notice.  Things that are going on right in front of them, the things they really could make a difference at if they reached out and touched the living in their communities instead of only believing in the ones on their screens.

I am not a shouty type (I am like my mom in that way) – it takes a lot to get me to that point.  Don’t get me wrong, I’ve written my rants to the newspapers way back when that was what you did.  I still have a couple of the clippings. My mom did not agree with my point of view at the time, but she accepted that I had it and was proud of me for speaking my mind.  I’ve changed a lot. I don’t speak my mind as much as I used to.

I absolutely believe, perhaps naively, that if you keep an eye on the negative, but promote positive alternatives, positive solutions, positive events, that the love and kindness inherent in the positive will grow and the negative will shrink away.  There is far too much over-sharing and over clicking on the negative in the world today.  It deepens wounds.  It infects and it corrupts and it fails to really provide a forum for the good that is out there if one is willing to look for it, stand by it, lift it up and shout about it instead.

Good can heal.  Bad can heal, but it heals in a twisted, stunted manner.  Good can heal and continue to spread and grow.  Over time my world has become very small for many reasons.  Perhaps that limiting feeling has actually been a plus for me.  I notice the world closest to me in minute detail.  I feel the sounds, taste the colors, listen to the sensations….It’s the physical world closest to us in which we can affect change. (I wanted the verb there to be “effect” change, it feels more powerful, but the grammar gods say no….)

I think overexposing yourself to the negatives eats away at your soul (or your character if you don’t think souls are a real thing).  Look at anyone who has had to live with an overly negative person.  It feeds on them.  It hurts them every second they are exposed and they grow into a life where they share the same negativity.  We learn from those closest to us.  I think obsessing over the negative is eating away at the core of people and when they share the negative it is as though they are sharing a nasty disease with their closest friends.  Why would you want to make your friends sick?

The worst thing you can do for an enemy is validate them by constantly thinking about them and worrying about them and saying their names.  Stop speaking to the negative, the evil – speak about the good, shout about the wonderful, only voice peace, love and kindness.  It’s okay, I heard you groan just there.  I heard how kum-ba-yah it sounded myself.  (Blame the Sixties – I read a lot of Flower Power propaganda and listened to a lot of pop music.)  But it is true.  You attract what you put out there.  The more negative you put out there, even if you are only sharing “news” with others, is going to come back at you.  Don’t you deserve better?  You do, you deserve better.

Sure, when I do this, when I walk around trying to get people to smile, I get knocked down once in a while, like last week when I tried to connect with the clerk at the ticket counter at the movies.  I walked away and could not participate in her hate, her anger, her negative speech.  It hurt my feelings quite a bit that I extended a smile and words of kindness and they were essentially spat upon and ripped to shreds in seconds right before my eyes.  But it is her loss.  I won’t accept her negativity.  It’s catchy and best for me if I am not near it. I will move on to the next person and try again.  One person at a time.  We can make a difference one person at a time, because of the ripple effect.

What if people tried, just for one day, to ignore all the bad news and be with those closest to them connecting over the laundry or walk in the park?

What if people tried, just for one day, to experience their community instead of their politics?

What if people tried, just for one day, to share  their spirituality instead of their religion?

What if people tried, just for one day, to connect their souls and not notice skin color?

Everyone has an identity  and that includes their politics, their religion and their race.  Those things are important.  But as we move about the planet, couldn’t our identity be less about the labels and more about what’s on the inside and our mutual hopes for a brighter day?  We really only have today.  Not one of us is guaranteed tomorrow.

 

Excerpt from “Every Kinda People” written by Andy Fraser, sung by Robert Palmer  (I really miss him).

“It takes every kinda people
To make what life’s about, yeah
It takes every kinda people
To make the world go ’round

You know that love’s the only goal
That could bring a peace to any soul
Hey and every man’s the same
He wants the sunshine in his name

It takes every kinda people
To make what life’s about, yeah
It takes every kinda people
To make the world go ’round”     (from https://goo.gl/eACQHY )

 

Maybe listen to it here:

Giving and Receiving

I want to write about giving.  Giving gets written about mostly during the holidays.  I think it is an all  year round thing for me personally.  It gives me a lot of joy to lend someone a hand, to answer a call for help or donations, to listen when someone needs it.  Everyone gives what they can in their own way.

A few weeks ago the office sent out a memo.  They were collecting donations of school supplies for a Back-to-School Drive.  I had initially skipped over the email, but when I was at the store standing in front of a partially set up display of Crayola Crayons, I remembered it.  The shelves were full of cases of the small box of 24 crayons each, waiting to be opened and displayed for sale.  I couldn’t tear myself away from the sight of all those brand new crayons – all that potential.  A new crayon is such an exciting thing – a whole box – well, that’s just wonderful.  From the first trail of waxy color running across a page until whatever masterpiece is completed -it is exciting. I bought a case of them and a few other items.

I felt compelled to explain to the cashier that they weren’t for me.

“Kids should have crayons,” I said somewhat feebly, after explaining it was for a school donation drive. But it was something I believed, crayons, pens, pencils, markers, paper – all those means of self-expression, they should have them.  They should have an unending supply of them for their entire lives.

“That’s great,” she said.

“I have what I need,” I said. It wasn’t what I wanted to express.  I didn’t know where to go from there.  That part made her look at me though.

I am sure like all children, I was given gifts growing up.  There wasn’t a lot of money so they were reserved for birthdays and Christmas. Once a friend gave me a little book – not on my birthday or Christmas.  I remember holding it proudly as I hopped off that last big step from the big yellow school bus.  I don’t recall what book it was but I recall my mother taking me aside to tell me that I had to give it back.  I did as I was told but this time I had asked why.  Why did I have to give it back? There wasn’t anything wrong with it.  It was nice. It was a nice thing between friends, I thought.

“We don’t accept things from others because we don’t want people to think we can’t afford them ourselves.”

“Okay,” I said, but I was a muddle of feelings – confused, ashamed, sad, embarrassed.  And I had an odd feeling, a sort of sickly revelation of the type that shakes the foundation of what a small child holds fast to as truth.  I had a feeling that my mother was wrong.  Can parents be wrong? I also had a feeling that this line of thought was an area in which I needed to tread lightly for fear any of the words in my head might escape through my mouth.

It didn’t make sense to me, but the message was clear.  Don’t accept charity. I gave it back mostly because somehow I thought I had brought shame on the family in accepting it. If we couldn’t afford it, we did not need it. And we should not want it?  I loved that little expression of kindness from my friend and was not allowed to have it.  It had made me feel special and I had needed that gesture and didn’t even know how much.  Now as an adult, I can feel the insult that was returning the little book.  And it was wrong.  My mother was wrong.  Can parents be wrong?  Oh boy, yes.  There are loads of things that people cannot afford that they do need.   Love and kindness are free….and should be freely given and accepted.

I give myself things all the time now.  I buy myself things. I create things. But I have not known my whole life how to give myself love and kindness.  The free things. I had not learned how to give those things to myself, to fulfill that need.  I have been starting by giving myself time and experiences, but it is a process.

Yesterday at the grocery store, I bought a rather considerable amount of cat food.  A shelter had put out a call for donations on Facebook.

“These aren’t for me. I only have two cats,” I said to the teenage boy ringing up the seemingly endless piles of cans of that mushy pate version my cats won’t even consider eating.  I didn’t want him to think that I was a crazy cat lady, or worse, that I was eating it myself.

“Sure,”  he nodded rolling his eyes.  I really need to stop trying to strike up conversations with cashiers.

 

(to be continued)