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From time to time one of my friends announces she is going on a media fast. She (or sometimes he) cuts herself off from the barrage of outside stimulus in order to reconnect to her own mind or body or spirit.  While I admire the discipline, my reflexive reaction is always: I could never do that.

I wake up reading the news and often go to sleep reading it. I try to finish off the day with a novel or a poem, but I am not always that disciplined. And I won’t even tell you how many times a day I look at Twitter. It would be undignified.

Some of it is my intrinsic fear of missing something.  I worry that if I am away from my devices for more than a few hours at a time, some piece of world-changing news will have happened, and I will not have been there in the know and alert to its significance.

But some of it is something else. I feel some sort of deep obligation to bear witness to what is happening out there in the world. I feel as if—from my position of comfort and safety—the least I can do is face up to what is happening to others who live intimately with violence and repression and environmental degradation. I feel like it is my responsibility to do my very best not to bury my head in the sand.

But my resolve is weakening. There have been months of what we call “bad news”—terrorist attacks and natural disasters and police shootings and political scandals. The weight of human suffering is almost unbearable. I am willing to tolerate that though–painful as it is–in order to keep my eyes open and my heart awake.

But there is also an undercurrent of breathlessness that reeks of glee and cynicism. And that is what I find to be untenable. We don’t have a television at home, but whenever I go to a hotel room and turn on the TV, the scrolling red banner that runs under the newscaster makes my heart jump. It makes me think: Something horrible has happened. And my whole body goes on high alert. Then I remember that the red banner is always running. That the TV news gets what it needs—us—not by reporting but by creating fear and drama.  It taps right into our reptile brain, bypassing the genteel frontal cortex.

My own dear state of Oregon has been gripped by a political drama of unprecedented proportions this week. Everyone I know was glued to their phones and radios and Twitter feeds. Each hour offered a new hit of salacious gossip and blanket outrage. Every day was more surreal than the next. I found myself battered from one moment to the next and have landed—hard—in a pile of uncertainty and sadness. I have found myself unclear about how to even analyze what happened or what should have happened. I will say this:  A media driven by the need to stimulate our worst, most primal instincts at an ever-increasing speed will never serve the needs of a pluralistic, deliberative nation. It will never serve a society made up of human beings with their frailties and idiosyncracies. If everything is fair game, there will always be more to attack, to tear down.

This is not to say that I entirely blame the media. I blame the ravenous market that can never have enough – enough money, enough power, enough attention. But I also blame myself. I blame myself for my own addictions to speed, to gossip, to the adrenaline of crisis.

So maybe my friends are right.  Maybe a news fast is the right thing to do. I sure feel as if my own mind and imagination could use a break. But I also wonder if—in the marketplace of ideas—I need to make a purchasing decision. I need to take my one and only bargaining chip—my attention—out of the mix.

So while I still wholeheartedly believe that it is my—our—obligation not to turn away, I am not sure the news media is the must trustworthy intermediary between us and those who we want to honor.  I don’t trust the intentions of the news media at the moment, and I am not even sure I trust my own.

So I think I’ll join the ranks of those who take breaks from the fray. I’ll give my adrenal system and my overtaxed mind a break. And when I come back—which inevitably I will—maybe I will come back with more imagination about how we my genuinely connect, about how we might more humbly and rationally bear witness.

bear_sleeping

It was a bumpy start to the day around here. I hauled upstairs four separate times to drag the girls out of bed. Their breakfast got cold on the counter, and when they finally did come down, they picked at it, one resting her head in her hand, the other closing her eyes while she chewed. The moved through the morning routine at a snail’s pace. Between them, they must have whined I’m tired, 25 times. Finally I snapped back: We’re all tired.

And then I thought, that’s the truth, isn’t it? We’re all tired. These days, it seems as if the answer to the obligatory how are you?  is one of two things – busy or tired. I’ve written here about busy before. But why in the world are we so tired?

Of course, some of us suffer from illness or loss or are struggling to keep a family afloat on low wages with no support. But even for those of us with no excuse, there are some well-documented reasons. Recent research is making it increasingly obvious that schools start classes way too early and that teenagers would both learn more and be less likely to crack up their cars if we started school just a little later. Study after study also shows that Americans—and many others, particularly the Japanese—don’t get enough sleep.

I know I don’t get enough sleep. I willingly trade an extra hour under the duvet for the quiet dark of the house where I can think my own thoughts and brew a cup of tea before the rush of gathering lunch and homework begins, before the email starts flowing in earnest.

But all that said, I can’t help but think that part of our tiredness—the exhaustion we feel all the way to our bones—is more than just lack of sleep.  I can’t help but think that the human organism is overwhelmed by the whole too muchness of things. Too much work, too much stuff, too much email, too many demands, too many bills, too many must-read articles, too many school forms, too many life-changing books, too many songs to download, too many helpful hints, too many choices of barbecue sauce. Too many, too much.

I have taken Gallup’s StrengthsFinder test a couple of different times, and both times I have scored off the charts on “Input.” This is how they describe it: “People who are especially talented in the Input theme have a craving to know more. Often they like to collect and archive all kinds of information.” You can imagine what this looks like in the information age. I could spend 24-hours a day scratching the input itch. Thankfully my children need to be driven to school

A psychiatrist who studies information overload, E.M. Hallowell, has identified what he calls Attention Deficit Trait, or ADT:

It isn’t an illness; it’s purely a response to the hyperkinetic environment in which we live….When a manager is desperately trying to deal with more input than he possibly can, the brain and body get locked into a reverberating circuit while the brain’s frontal lobes lose their sophistication, as if vinegar were added to wine. The result is black-and-white thinking; perspective and shades of gray disappear. People with ADT have difficulty staying organised, setting priorities, and managing time, and they feel a constant low level of panic and guilt.’

Difficulty staying organized? Check.  Setting priorities? Check.  Constant low level of panic and guilt? Check and check. But I don’t think it’s just me. Everyone I know seems to be fighting this battle in form or another. Everyone—as I rudely snapped at my daughters—is tired.

In those precious hours when I am awake and alone with my tea, I seek solace both in the silence of the dark and in the slow reading of poems. There are so many talented poets who have nailed the pacing and freneticism of contemporary life. They are masterful at the jump cut, the darting mind, the threat of the isolation and fragmentation. And I admire them and am grateful for their commentary. But I don’t seek solace with them. No. I am looking for the singular voice, speaking from her–or his–dark kitchen straight into mine. I am searching for a mind still intact. I am straining for a human voice—fleshy and tremorous and undigitized.

Blessedly, there is always warm comfort in Neruda’s Odes, like the “Ode to a Chestnut on the Ground”:

Out of the bristling foliage

You fell

complete:

polished wood,

glistening mahogany,

perfect

as a violin that has just

been born in the treetops

and falls

And Gjertrud Schnackenberg’s “A Gilded Lapse of Time”:

I lower my foot

As if a holy stream were running past,

As if the puddle held a rain-bright cross,

Then reach down to touch

This fragment of the northern hemisphere,

To riffle and disturb

An empty place the rain is rending,

A hole spreading above the world,

A drift of dark reflected—

And Derek Walcott’s “Bleecker Street, Summer”:

Summer for prose and lemons, for nakedness and languor,

for the eternal idleness of the imagined return,

for rare flutes and bare feet, and the August bedroom

of tangled sheets and the Sunday salt, ah violin!

When I press summer dusks together, it is

a month of street accordions and sprinklers

laying the dust, small shadows running from me.

Because I am all about input, now I have to ask: What are the poems that bring you comfort? That slow your breathing? That make you feel just a little less tired?

Shaimaa el Sabbagh In Memory of Shaimaa el-Sabbagh

1984 – January 24, 2015

Who will honor the city without a name
If so many are dead and others pan gold
Or sell arms in faraway countries?
-Czesław Miłosz

Like millions of Americans, I woke up on Wednesday to a front-page photo of a man carrying a mortally wounded young woman across a Cairo street. Oddly, I hadn’t heard a thing about the story despite the fact that the photograph—and the others that accompanied it—had already captured the attention of much of the rest of the world. The young woman was Egyptian mother, poet and folklorist, Shaimaa el-Sabbagh. The young man was her friend, Sayyed Abu el-Ela, a lawyer and activist. On the afternoon of January 24, Shaimaa and Sayyed and their friends were part of a small demonstration intent on delivering flowers to Tahrir Square in remembrance of the fourth anniversary of Arab Spring. The police fired on the group, Shaimaa was hit, and she ultimately died on the street in Cairo.

Shaimaa 2

Shaimaa is one of thousands of Egyptians who have been killed by police since the 2011 uprising, including 17-year old Sondos Reda, who was killed the same day as Shaimaa at a demonstration in Alexandria. As we mourn the deaths of Sondos and Shaimaa, we can’t help but also recall the deaths of Eric Garner and Michael Brown and Tamir Rice, also at the hands of the police.

Since I first saw the images and started reading about Shaimaa, I cannot get her out of my mind. I can’t stop thinking about her five-year-old son, Bilal, and about her friends who held her as she died. Shaimaa was doing what poets do—using the power of metaphor to re-assert individual memory and spirit  into what seems a chaotic and inhuman system. She was carrying flowers into the public square to honor the dead. She was speaking the symbolic language of remembrance and hope and rebirth. And she was shot down in broad daylight in the process.

In the cascade of daily tragedy, it is tempting to succumb to the series of “yes buts.” Yes but Shaimaa’s death was not as brutal or violent or horrific as this other act of brutality or violence or horror. Yes but this killing was not as ruthless as the one that happened two weeks ago or yesterday or this morning. Yes but Shaimaa was not tortured quite as torturously, so we dismiss her death as not quite as senseless and not quite as deserving of our attention and move on to the next horrific tragedy.

I am stepping out of the yes but stream. I am declaring my refusal to participate in the ranking of brutality. Not only is it soul-crushing, but it incentivizes those who trade in shock and terror to become ever more imaginative and callous in their campaign of broadcast thuggery.

Rather, I am going to look to Shaimaa’s life—and her sacrifice in death—as a window into the wondrousness that is the human spirit. One of the things I most want to remember about Shaimaa is that she once spent months touring the Nile Delta studying and writing about traditions and practices for making flatbread. And that in November, she supervised students who studied and performed the traditional Alexandrian dances that surround a birth. And that she wrote an ode to her lost handbag:

What might she be feeling right now
Maybe scared?
Or disgusted from the sweat of someone she doesn’t know
Annoyed by the new streets?
If she stopped by one of the stores we visited together
Would she like the same items?
Anyway, she has the house keys
And I am waiting for her

I am going to remember that she chose to celebrate the small rituals that give humans meaning in the face of turmoil and murder.shaimaa 3 I am going to remember that she was courageous not just on the day that she carried flowers through the streets of Cairo but on all the days before when she stood for what is life-giving in the face of what is brutal and destructive.
Last year, Tilda Swinton gave a talk at the Rothko chapel where she said: I believe that all great art holds the power to dissolve things: time, distance, difference, injustice, alienation, despair. I believe that all great art holds the power to mend things: join, comfort, inspire hope in fellowship, reconcile us to ourselves. Shaimaa el-Sabbagh spent her all-too-short life on the side of dissolving injustice and mending hope, and that is how I am going to remember her.

There are no platitudes to offer a five year old whose mother was murdered as she laid down flowers of remembrance. To quote Pope Francis on his recent trip to vissilenceit victims of the hurricane in the Philippines: “All I can do is keep silence and walk with you all with my silent heart.”

But for poets—in the United States and abroad—silence is exactly what we cannot keep. We cannot keep silence while journalists are being beheaded and arrested, while cartoonists are being executed in their offices, while poets are being shot down in the street. We must keep making and writing and painting. We must keep protesting and laying flowers down as offerings. We must stand for that which creates in the face of so much that destroys. We must stand on the side of mending what is broken. We must stand with Shaimaa.

In Love & Awe

heart-vintageanatomy-graphicsfairy007red

Thanks to the fabulous Erin Coughlin Hollowell, I have recently been following Jeffrey Davis’ Quest 2015. The basic premise is that smart, imaginative people send out prompts throughout the month of December asking other smart, imaginative people to respond as they set their intentions for 2015. It’s a very cool thing.

But, as much as I hate to admit it, I’ve been a C- student. I love getting the questions and reading everyone else’s responses. I lurk around the edges. I’m just reluctant to spill too many of my own frailties and uncertainties into the lap of the world.  So I’ve mostly been living in my head and cheering from the sidelines.

Yesterday’s prompt, though, is stuck in my craw.  The question was posed by the incredible fiction writer, Pam Houston, and this is how it went: Sit quietly and ask yourself, what in the last day or week or month has made your heart leap up? Not what should, or might or always had, but what did. Make that list. Be honest, even if it surprises you. Keep the list with you this month. Add to it when it happens. Train yourself to notice. Then ask your self today, how can I arrange my life to get more of those heart leaps in it?

Those questions have continued to knock around my head. The truth is, my heart leaps constantly. Sometimes several times an hour.  It leaps when the phone number for one of the girls’ schools pops up on my phone. It leaps when my husband is 15 minutes late, and I can’t reach him. It leaps when my mother leaves a message saying “call me back.” My heart leaps when my dog chases a ball onto the sidewalk too near the street.

And my heart leaps when I hear that a grand jury has acquitted yet another police officer and that the global ice sheet is at the lowest level in recorded history and that the United States is torturing people in overseas dungeons and that coal companies are dynamiting the tops off mountains and that bees are falling dead out of trees like rain and that the government is spying on basically every human being on the entire planet.

My heart leaps every time my text bell goes off or I see the word “breaking news” scroll across a screen.

So in other words, I am in a constant state of “leap,” and—in fact—the primary adjective my family uses to describe me is “jumpy.” I can imagine a full-blown catastrophe in half the time that it takes to type the word “catastrophe.”

But I don’t think that is what Pam was talking about, and frankly, that’s not how I want to live.  Plus it drives everyone I love crazy.

I am yearning for the other type of heart leap, the leap of beauty and awe rather than the leap of anxiety and fear. It’s funny how close fear and awe live in the body. And that’s appropriate really, isn’t it? Awe cracks us open to that which is bigger than us, to the unknown, to the mystery. And we’d better admit there is something fearsome in the mystery or we’ll have other things to worry about.

But in my daily worries, I’m skipping past the awe and running straight for the fear. I fear the call from the school because I love those girls so fiercely that even a wisp of a thought that something might be wrong brings me to my knees. And there is such animal joy in watching that beautiful dog of mine run at full-tilt, I hate the fact that I shatter that moment by imagining her in the street, the screech of breaks, the thud of impact.

Maddie2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And isn’t the grinding fear of climate change just the underside of loving the earth and her inhabitants so frigging hard? But, in 2015, I want to feel the love before the terror sets in.  The French artist, Hubert Dupra, has for years been working with insects to create sculptures. Here, he provided caddis worms with gold leaf and jewels in a small terrarium, and the larvae build their cases from the environment. Eventually, a caddisfly emerged.

Caddisfly

Everything about that makes my heart leap. Yes, the beauty is breathtaking, but also the imagination, the biological impulse, the collaboration between insect and human artist.

What a world we live in! I owe it the respect of a little awe before I push the panic button.

I am a baby of the first order. I can’t watch violent movies. I am repelled by songs that are woman-hating and threatening. In fact, we had to walk out of Slumdog Millionaire because I couldn’t handle the first few scenes. Once I get those images—or lyrics—into my head, I can’t get them out. It’s as if they become part of my makeup, and Robocop and RiFF RAFF are not what I want to be made up of.

Our pediatrician once suggested that I read a book called The Highly Sensitive Child for some help in raising my daughters. After I read it, I thought “My daughter probably isn’t a highly sensitive child, but I’m pretty sure I am.” As a result, I have developed a habit of protecting myself. If content gets too intense, I turn away. I shut it off. I excise it from my consciousness.

This is a week where I have sorely wanted to do that – to just turn it off. Along with the rest of America, we spent Monday evening anxiously awaiting the outcome of the Ferguson grand jury, knowing that no matter what happened, it would partially define us as a country. We listened to the tortured nine-minute statement by County Attorney Robert McCullough as he indicted everyone—the media, the public, Michael Brown—except the officer who shot and killed an unarmed teenager.

I took a big deep breath, and then I turned it off. I spent the rest of the night heart-sick and worried, but relatively cut off from the rest of the world. Tuesday, though, we were barraged with images and evidence and testimonials. We were inundated with outrage on one hand and celebration on the other. It seemed as if the whole nation took to Twitter and Facebook, and the collective impact was overwhelming. It was—bar none—the worst Facebook day I have ever had, and boy did I want to shut it off.

But I decided I could not. That it would be irresponsible and inhumane to turn away from what my neighbors were telling me. Young black men were pouring out their fear of walking down the street in their own neighborhoods. African American moms were sharing their anguish at having to warn their sons about the life-threatening possibilities of an encounter with the police. And you know what? Friends and family members were also spewing racial vitriol, calling Michael Brown a thug, and celebrating the failure to indict. I needed to see that with clear eyes, too.

And it doesn’t stop at Ferguson either. I can’t turn my face from the gang-rape of an 18-year-old freshman at the University of Virginia. Or the suffering of Peter Lanza, the father of the Sandyhook shooter, who decided he was ready to tell his story to the New Yorker.  I can’t ignore actress Diane Guerrero whose parents were whisked away by immigration officers while she was at school, leaving her to fend for herself at 14 years old.

In all this, I am reminded of Garrett Hongo’s masterful and heartbreaking poem about a shooting he saw callously reported on television. Here it is in full:

The Legend

 In memory of Jay Kashiwamura

In Chicago, it is snowing softly

and a man has just done his wash for the week.

He steps into the twilight of early evening,

carrying a wrinkled shopping bag

full of neatly folded clothes,

and, for a moment, enjoys

the feel of warm laundry and crinkled paper,

flannellike against his gloveless hands.

There’s a Rembrandt glow on his face,

a triangle of orange in the hollow of his cheek

as a last flash of sunset

blazes the storefronts and lit windows of the street.

 

He is Asian, Thai or Vietnamese,

and very skinny, dressed as one of the poor

in rumpled suit pants and a plaid mackinaw,

dingy and too large.

He negotiates the slick of ice

on the sidewalk by his car,

opens the Fairlane’s back door,

leans to place the laundry in,

and turns, for an instant,

toward the flurry of footsteps

and cries of pedestrians

as a boy–that’s all he was–

backs from the corner package store

shooting a pistol, firing it,

once, at the dumbfounded man

who falls forward,

grabbing at his chest.

 

A few sounds escape from his mouth,

a babbling no one understands

as people surround him

bewildered at his speech.

The noises he makes are nothing to them.

The boy has gone, lost

in the light array of foot traffic

dappling the snow with fresh prints.

 

Tonight, I read about Descartes’

grand courage to doubt everything

except his own miraculous existence

and I feel so distinct

from the wounded man lying on the concrete

I am ashamed

 

Let the night sky cover him as he dies.

Let the weaver girl cross the bridge of heaven

and take up his cold hands.

 

No. I can’t hide behind the preciousness of sensitivity, though I want to mightily. As Hongo says—I feel so distinct, and I am ashamed. These stories of anguish and suffering are the stories of my neighbors, yes. And I am obligated to really hear what it is they have to tell. But they are also stories of my country and my culture, they are the stories that I help create—over and over—by turning a blind eye and refusing to examine the rot in the systems we perpetuate and submit ourselves and our children to. Even as I write this, I feel sick to my stomach. I know these are stories I have taken into my body and that they have become part of my DNA. But the thing is, they were already there. I am already implicated in the shooting of unarmed children and gang rape and the isolation of mental illness. And it is my responsibility to keep my eyes clear and my heart open. That’s the least I can do.

Grandma Edna

Grandma Edna

Yesterday the darling-but-not-very-speedy-clerk at my local yarn shop took what seemed like hours winding five skeins of red worsted weight yarn.  I spent the first few minutes tapping my foot and pacing, but then I settled into one of my favorite pastimes – full-throttle eavesdropping. It’s one of the benefits of being a middle-aged woman.  People will talk about anything right in front of you, thinking either that your hearing must be going or that you have already heard it all anyway.

But as it turns out, my dear yarn winder was in a dither over what to wear in her hair at her upcoming wedding.  On skein two, I learned that the colors were red and gold and that the attendants—several of whom were sitting there at the table leafing through bridal magazines—were to find cowboy boots tout de suite. But she wasn’t sure what to wear in her hair—fresh flowers, a tiara with a veil, a fancy clip? One of her friends and soon-to-be-bridesmaids broke in: “Do you have your grandmother’s veil?” Her response was swift and categorical: “I have nothing from my grandmother.”

That hit me like a punch in the gut.  Oh sweet girl! Nothing?  I mean I don’t have my grandmother’s veil either, but I do have her funeral hat. And her kitchen timer. And a soap dish shaped like a chicken.  I have one of her mixing bowls, a box of doilies wrapped in tissue, and her recipe for pecan pie, though I am almost certain she got that recipe from the back of the corn syrup jar.

So I do have all those things—and I have a few treasures from my other grandmother as well—but I have other things, too.  I have her outright love of electoral politics.  In 1992, I scrounged together enough quarters and dimes to call her from a payphone in Dupont Circle the morning after Bill Clinton was elected. I had been out all night in the streets of DC with the other young idealists, and I just wanted to hear her voice. “Ah honey,” she crowed, “I haven’t slept that well since Roosevelt died.”

I have her crazy inability to make a decision. Just when I think I am close, I start to consider the benefits of the other side. We’re both Geminis. We’re meant to dither.

I can trace my handwriting directly from hers. Hers was tiny and immaculate, but her capitals were three or four times the size of her lower-case letters, and her Ws had a little curl at the top of the right hand bar. She handed that angular writing down to my mother, whose handwriting is slightly bigger but is still mostly composed of sharp corners. It has those epic uppercase letters though. That sensibility came straight down to me. I’ve allowed for a few more curves, but the capitals and the Ws are a testament to DNA.

I suspect my grandmother might have been a bit of a tough customer as a mother. She was lonely and mercurial and expected her daughters to fill the void. She had a stink-eye that was unparalleled in the Western Hemisphere, and she could turn a cold shoulder for days at a time. But that’s the blessing of grandparents.  She never—ok, rarely—gave me the stink-eye, and there was always a pot of coffee on. She clipped out gossipy newspaper articles and bought my favorite candy bars for her freezer. She met one of my daughters before she moved on and just missed the other.

No, I didn’t wear my grandmother’s veil to my wedding either. But I treasure my chicken dish, and I still can’t make a decision to save my life. Seeing her handwriting on the back of photo can reduce me to tears, and I wish to good God I had had enough quarters to call her last Tuesday night after the mid-term elections.  And this week, I am going to make her pecan pie recipe, and I hope you will, too.

 

Grandma Edna’s Pecan Pie

3 eggs (beaten)

1 cup sugar

1 cup white karo syrup

1 cup whole pecans

1 tsp. vanilla

¼ cup melted butter

Pour into an unbaked pie shell. Bake 325 degrees. 50 minutes.

tangled-cords

I hope my daughters will remember the sweet times – the family trip to celebrate my parents’ 50th wedding anniversary, the time I let them stay up until midnight in the middle of the week to play in the snow, the evenings spent carving pumpkins and decorating the Christmas trees.  Breakfasts and dinners and car rides full of music and silly talk. I am acutely aware that our days of sleeping and rising under the same roof are numbered, and I want them to have those tender days to call on when they’re far away and lonely or scared or wondering who they are.

Yesterday was not one of those days. It was not—shall we say—one of my finer hours in parenting. I was up at 4:30 a.m., rushing, rushing.  Making breakfast, packing lunches. Reminding: tap shoes, physics assignment, overdue library book. Reminding again when I found the tap shoes on the kitchen counter. Dog walking and feeding. Then driving. One daughter to school, then home, then the other. Driving. To work, 15 minutes late.  Apologizing for being late. Apologizing in the next meeting because the first one ran 15 minutes late. Then emailing, talking on the phone, meeting.  Looking up, leaving work 15 minutes late to pick up the small daughter. Apologizing for being late. Driving. Cooking dinner.  Reminding: homework, piano practice, permission slips.

Then, about the time the dishes were all in the dishwasher, I asked one of my daughters a question about her plans for the next day. She didn’t answer because she was playing a game on her device. The other one was watching YouTube on my device.  I asked again.  She didn’t answer again. That is when the wheels came off.

I went on a rampage that started with “you are disrespectful of me” and ended with “the future of the Republic is in jeopardy.” I covered all the bases—mind-rot, phones compromising relationships, precious and finite hours being spent on stultifying entertainment, corporate control over the imagination, and the downfall of a nation rendered too stupid to govern itself.

Mama, my older daughter said, It’s just a game.  That gave me an opportunity to rev up all over again, but by that point I was losing steam, so I just walked into the other room and burst into tears.

Eventually I apologized for going berserk. And so did they for not listening. But I can’t stop thinking about it.  Not really the disagreement between me and them.  I think we’re ok. They know that once in a while I go bat-crazy and that it’s not really an indictment of their character or a predictor of their future success. But it did open my eyes to what I think about our lives, and by that I mean all of our lives, not just my family’s.

It’s all just too much – too much work, too much school, too many activities, too many forms to fill out. Too much friggin driving. All of it.  It’s out of human scale, it defies the realities of time. And yet we keep doing it, and we keep expecting our kids to do it. And then, we’re surprised when they want to spend their evenings plugged into some kind of pre-tested, numbed-out entertainment. They don’t know what to do with themselves when they’re not rushing around, and they’re bone-tired to boot.  No wonder they want to listen to moronic teenagers shout at each other on YouTube. No wonder they don’t answer when we ask them about their Spanish tests. No wonder.

I do regret yelling at my daughters and demonstrating a particular fierce brand of crazy. But I somehow I don’t want them to forget it. Somehow, I want us to keeping thinking about it, to keep fighting back. When they are alone at night in their own apartments—someday all too soon—I want them to ask themselves how they want to live. I want them to ask themselves whether the country is going to hell in a handbasket and whether YouTubers are leading the way.

 

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