Thursday, November 24, 2016

Thanksgiving Morning

It is 63 degrees in my house (I just turned the heat on), and I am in bed bundled in a sweater and under as many blankets as I could reach without getting up.  Silas -- bless him -- just delivered a cup of tea.

Out the window, the sky is brightening to cottony white, and on the tree that fills half the window, the lemons are finally yellowing.

Today is Thanksgiving.

Naturally, I am thinking about being thankful.  Study after study have shown gratitude is healthful and transformative (Forbes article,    Huffington Post , NPR, Ann Voskamp) -- and I've wondered about this.

It's easy for me to crank out a list:
clean running water
a house with thick walls
clean air
clothes that are warm and I get to choose
a marriage
healthy husband
healthy kids
siblings and parents I'd choose
safe school
safe streets
a car to drive
grocery stores
sunsets, how much the sky speaks
stunning physical beauty
road trips
teachers of all sorts
hearing my kids laugh
scent of brininess in the air

...I can keep this going for a long time.  I like brainstorming thankful lists.  When I can't sleep at night, I go through the alphabet and list as many things as I can for each letter that I'm thankful for:

and almost always fall asleep before F.

List as I may, though, I rarely feel impacted by the exercise, even when I try to deliberately be thankful in the midst of a funk, even after embracing Ann Voskamp's 1,000 gifts challenge (keep a running list of what you're thankful for all the way to 1,000 things; it transformed her) --  nothing's "happened."

I remember my mom telling me a story about walking down the bike path one day and being grateful for her feet.  As she walked she kept thinking about her feet -- the wonder of how they held her body, their lack of pain, the distance she could journey on them, what it would be like *not* to have feet or healthy feet, and she finally was in tears, grateful for her feet.

I think she was on to something.

Listing the things I'm thankful for verses steeping in thankfulness and *experiencing* it is different.  Every morning I have to wait for my tea bag to steep and turn my water into tea.  This takes time, which I'm realizing I seldom bring time to my thanks.

I'm also thinking about how the power of an address  -- eye contact, in undivided attention, speaking to someone personally.  It feel different when I'm thankful for my kids and when I take Eden's face in my hands and tell her how I'm thankful for her.  It's different to vaguely be thankful for the streaks of color across the sky and to thank the Creator for it, and stop there for a minute.

Today I probably won't pause much; I have a turkey trot to walk, coffee to drink with friends, fruits and vegetables to spray paint for the center pieces, parades and football to watch, and of course much to eat with people we love.  But, as I move from here to Christmas -- the wildly paced season of want and do and shop and give and make and -- and then into a new year, I'd like to steep more, turn to tea.

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

Morning After: the Election

Dear Nation,

You have chosen this.  As the map bled in solid swaths of red last night, you were speaking.  

It's hard to make my mouth say "we" -- "we the people," "we, Americans" -- this is the voice of "we"?

We have spoken.

Waking this morning in the dark, the echo across this vast country was almost audible: what now?

The United States just got out of the shower and is standing naked before the world.  We've been exposed: our (putting on my big girl pants to speak in "we") driving fear about people who are not white, our resistance to a salty strong woman, our willingness to usher Jr high crudeness into the While House, into the history books, to make a man who mocks and gropes and boasts President in front of our children.  We've chosen to disregard assault.  To disregard racism.  To toss international relations to the wind. 

What now?

As I heard my husband (who is not an early riser) pulling on clothes at 5AM for a stress-run, I asked half into my pillow, already feeling heavy and sickened, if it was really true.  Yes.  The disorientation of a slow rumbling  earthquake, the shock of the ground itself moving. So many structures we've all called safe -- will they hold?

I am white.  I have a steady salary.  I can pay rent and have a secure place to live.  I was born a US citizen.  What did it feel like to wake up this morning as a person of color, as an immigrant, as a lesbian or transgender, as someone experiencing homelessness?    

What now?

Many of us spoke yesterday at the polls and our voices didn't carry.  So what do we do with those voices now?  How do we keep speaking without cursing?  I know today brings choice: the choice to spit anger at everyone because I feel angry.  The choice to blame and blame and blame and blame the primarily white, uneducated men of our country, to blame parties, to blame white women, to blame our entertainment industry for normalizing the vulgar, to blame Hilary for being unlikeable, for lying.  To blame our country for lacking leadership.  The blaming list could be long.  Then there's the choice to despair.  To fear.  To project, predict, and become paralyzed.  There's the choice to leave the country -- the jokes about going to Canada are only half in jest.  There's the choice to write off the whole system -- the party we don't like, the candidate we didn't vote for, the people we disagree with -- and to wash our hands of it all and check out.

But -- as true as any of that is -- it won't help.

I grew up at a Quaker school, and the song we always sang was the Shaker song "Simple Gifts." I haven't thought about that for a long time, but this morning, it's in my head.  I had a friend in college who interpreted the end in a new way: "to turn, turn will be our delight, til by turning, turning we come 'round right."  She used the words as a reminder to turn toward when our impulse is to wall up and turn away.  It's been a good reminder throughout marriage.  And what am I if not also married to this country?  So this morning, I have no answers, but can sit with the query, as Quakers would call it, of how to turn toward.

'Tis the gift to be simple, 'tis the gift to be free
'Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right, 
 'Twill be in the valley of love and delight.
When true simplicity is gain'd, 
  To bow and to bend we shan't be asham'd,
To turn, turn will be our delight, 
  Till by turning, turning we come 'round right.

Saturday, November 05, 2016

I Can Do Whatever I Want

These days, I collapse by 10 every night.  And even with such faithful sleeping, I still hit a midday lull around 2PM and can hardly get through the hour.  I think this has to do with -- well, now that I'm writing, many things, like the adrenaline of the first months of school waring off, and all the germs the kids bring home and smear around the house-- the shift in seasons and daylight.  Mornings are colder and darker, and we're entering the time of year when our rhythms naturally turn inward (yes, even here in sunny California).  In any event, every night, utterly exhausted or not, I go to bed because I have to -- tired Bronwen is not a force to be reckoned with (particularly if you are under 5' tall) -- because rallying the kids out of bed, off to school, through afternoon activities, dinner and back into bed's been burning my emotional energy more than usual; exhaustion's not an option.

I didn't realize how constrictive and rigid this has felt until tonight when I pressed "next" at the end of Gilmore Girls (a pleasure I missed earlier in life) as many times as I wanted.  Ben's out of town and for hours I've been sitting on the couch working on the photo calendar I make every year for my family (because now it's November -?), eating rice krispies and burning through season 3.  Now it's nearly 1:30 in the morning, and I'm getting a bit cross eyed, but it's nice to remember I can do this when I want.  I wasn't sure there for a minute.