Tuesday, April 5

The Pain of Awareness

Off Kilter

Layers of Perception

Persistence

“And must I then, indeed, Pain, live with you
all through my life?-sharing my fire, my bed,
Sharing-oh, worst of all things!-the same head?-
And, when I feed myself, feeding you too?”
― Edna St. Vincent Millay, Mine the Harvest

Oh, that empty, chewed-up feeling has seeped in with the Covid-19 fear and loathing.  People are tired of the tasteless residue of our deep-fried existence over the past few years. The numbness is wearing off along with our Trumpian outrage and disgust while our familiar friend, pain, has parked herself right in our zero-gravity living room recliner. She's moved in permanently.

For me, this transition out of the doldrums costs a lot. I've become a slug, ponderously dragging myself toward basic survival, not particularly caring about good health, connection, enlightenment, joy. Everything seems to be bare minimum, basic, enough-to-get-by, and hardly worth this small effort. I try to keep connected with family and friends but wind up feeling the dry scratch of awkwardness.

One beautiful loved one seems especially vulnerable right now. He's isolated in an impermanent and exhausting place. No matter how often I reach out my sticky tentacles to connect, reassure, nourish and support, he tells me that bedtime is more necessary and blows me off. I accept this pain caused by the awareness that I've become an ineffectual irritant like that grit in your shoe or the eyelash inside your eyelid. One thing about pain: you know you're alive. If you're not too far along the road to despair, she brings you warnings and maybe even a crash barrier or two if she's feeling protective. As the numbness needed to live in this thuggish world ebbs and flows, awareness of the space I inhabit, its brightness, and its shadows become sharper, critical.

My nightmares are filled with scenes of untethered moments when down seems up and what I know is authentic slips out from under me. I must meditate more.

May all beings know love, peace, and balance.

Monday, February 28

Life in the Time of Darkness

Sister Sadness

“Since when did politics become a blood sport?” I remarked.

At a recent family gathering, I had been asked about what I’d been doing since retiring and responded with a shortlist of what I considered benign activities, including working as a precinct committee person for the Democratic Party in my town.

“You’re a liberal!” gasped my horrified host, who appeared to be winding up for a contentious ideological battle. In the few seconds it took for others in the room to ban any political, religious, financial discussions going forward, I felt a decided cooling breeze of disapproval waft in my direction. At that moment, I realized the depth of anger and resentment most of my family feels toward supporters of the opposition, meaning democrats, progressives, liberals. Snippets of conversation expressed anger and resentment over “cultural” problems such as the “trans” bathroom debates, liberal school boards, black activism, and how beleaguered conservatives must constantly combat the creeping rot of socialism. I left the gathering feeling sad that the Rush Limbaugh, Fox News propaganda machine had penetrated so deeply into my life and the lives of healthy, prosperous people who have nothing to fear but live in fear anyway.

Another family member expressed disgust with the outcome of the 2020 election, believing that unimaginable voter fraud defeated Trump. He was and probably still is so angry that even an authoritarian regime is preferable. In his mind, the violent insurrection of January 6, 2021, is understandable, and its failure to install Trump, the man willing to rid us of liberals and communist anarchists, is a tragedy.

Ironically, many in my clan worked for unionized companies or organizations that negotiated a living wage and benefits for their workers. The most virulent critic of the democrats has been treated for cancer and other ailments paid for with Medicaid benefits. Several clan members hate President Biden because of the pandemic shutdowns and masking mandates initiated by former President Trump in 2020. The “irony” is head spinning.

The latest head-spinner is the republican claim that the invasion of Ukraine is Biden’s fault because he is weak and not responsive enough. Where were these critics in the summer of 2019 when Ukrainian President, Zelenskyy asked Trump to release the $400 million in military aid approved by Congress to combat imminent Russian aggression? Trump withheld these funds for months, weakening Ukraine's defenses at a critical time. He demanded that Zelenskyy investigate Hunter Biden’s involvement in the Ukrainian energy firm Burisma Holdings, a dirt-finding mission to help Trump win re-election in 2020. These actions resulted in Trump's first impeachment for "abuse of power" and "obstruction of Congress." To be clear, Trump, not Biden, weakened the defenses of Ukraine, and republican short-term memory loss doesn't mean everyday folks have forgotten this.

Because of Trump’s quid pro quo approach to foreign policy, the US lost influence and trust among traditional allies. The Biden administration has had to repair fractured NATO and EU relationships and firm up a fraying overseas coalition opposed to Russian aggression. He has done this despite the solid mass of republican obstruction. The weakness republicans complain about is a ploy to divide the USA and delay, obstruct, and damage a focused response to a credible threat to our nation. Personalizing and trivializing these threats is part of Putin’s strategy to gain world dominance. Aligning with China, a Trump and MAGA enemy, further threatens unity among democratic nations. Meanwhile, republican pawns of authoritarianism promote the glories of Putin bullying and declare Biden as “weak” because Russia invaded Ukraine. These destructionists create the weakness they rail against and expect us not to notice their blatant dishonesty. Sickening!

So, how are family relations, these days? Cordial, limited, and, while there are gatherings and brief texts/emails here and there, I remain bewildered and gun shy. As far as religion, politics, and culture are concerned, what seem like apparent truths are lies to magaverse inhabitants. I am not part of this bubble, nor do I want to be. So the common ground I once took for granted with family and friends is whittled down to the basics: love of family and service to the community.

Meanwhile, I continue to endure unsolicited “discussions” initiated by non-family, anti-maskers/vaxers, Biden-haters, liberal-haters, trans-haters, women's rights haters, chemtrail haters, outrageous (fill in the blank haters). Simply standing in a grocery line wearing a surgical mask makes me a target for these angry, loud-talkers who bray about their freedoms while disrespecting the freedoms of others who aren't goose-stepping to their ideologies.

Self-quarantining has its advantages in these alarming times.

“Neurosis is always a substitute for legitimate suffering” – Carl Jung.

May all beings be surrounded by love, light, and blessed peace.