Tuesday, December 27, 2016

80s Girl

Being over 40 means having every commercial addressed at you, begging money-spending, hoarding of all kinds of material goods.  It’s both funny and depressing. The music is the touch point, I have noticed: artists which seemed avant-garde in the time past currently hawking some kind of ware.  The online, media version of selling wares, anyhow.  It’s unnerving in part because the target is my middle age, my time when supposedly I am in the flush, in the black, willing to spend. Except I am not all these things. Oh, I’ll buy this and that, to be sure—I’m no angel.  But I choose to live a life more simply, to be Franciscan in my outlook on things, on daily decisions, ordinary, everyday. These commercials do nothing for me, and for this I am grateful and, at worst, annoyed. No, I do not think that Lexus will make me happier, or the new iPhone (I only now just got one, and even so I am skeptical of all this power in my hands).  I equally take joy in knowing that what is possible now—that the bright yellow monstrosity of a Walkman, paired with the Nikon camera and its many rolls I developed, or the little notebooks and agendas I kept—that all these meld into this one slim little bit I slide into my pocket. Intoxicating indeed. The future is now, after all.

But the future doesn’t hinge—depend—upon this red wheelbarrow. In many ways, it’s not even as necessary, all this technology and access.  But it connects some things for me, makes possible some things, allows me this moment to pause and consider what I have already written down in life, and to recap it, reclaim it, rewrite it as it should be, not in the fits and starts, the puzzle pieces in which it now lays. To reconsider the me I am now based on the me of pages written past, alone and with friends at writing groups, in classrooms at high school and college, and in between, hot summers spent repressed at home. Stepping into a time pool I hear that soundtrack of my life played on a big headset connected to a giant stereo system: tapes ordered by mail, 12 for a penny, to get hooked on the monthly subscription. Sting and the Police, INXS, U2.  Something about the lyrics, about the soundscape of this music, spoke to me, sheltered as I was.  I would rewind over and over some of the most poignant moments depending on what inspired me in the moment, letting others’ renditions of the world of relationship and love define me some, imprint me, color my worldview. I knew about lots of other music—my friends were this melange of pop and alternative cacophony, and we fought over what was best, and because I loved them all, I loved all the music, or I tried, tried to understand all the music. Because somehow that was understanding them. I wasn’t the biggest fan of some of the pop, the metal, hair bands, rap, but I found something I could like or admire in each genre, and became aware if not a consumer.  And some of these became attached to those who listened, and this became their ears for me, a way to listen as they did, not just see or walk as they did.  It was a pretty pivotal thing, my freedom of choice in music.

So now that I’m in my 40s and watching these commercials with the soundtrack from another time, another version of me and my friends, I laugh. It doesn’t quite have the effect they’re going for—I won’t buy—but I am entertained. And brought back to a time I might not have picked out again from these inner files. Considering this year filled with real personal challenges for both myself and my family and friends, this refresher course on the old me helps me now, with my new sense of self. I’m in a place as the year ends of the cliche reflection, but there’s nothing cliche about it: I am reckoning with  the real and gritty. That’s going to be my new year in a nutshell.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Create Anew

What do I want to be new in my life?
What do I need to leave behind?

A meditation.

I think it might be necessary, as the New Year approaches, to leave quite a bit behind. This has been a miserable year for so many, and certainly a miserable year for our collective consciousness. There is indeed much to fear, much to fight for, much to revile.

Leaving behind and letting go does not mean ignoring. Don’t get me wrong on this matter: there’s much harder work yet to do because of the position we are in. It starts with changing minds and hearts on what matters most, and with meeting people where they are, with understanding while holding fast to belief. I have worked too long and too hard on social justice, on true connection with the God who made us, on openness to all as a way toward common good; I cannot and will not let that go simply because the new world order deems ignorance and cruelty and evil, or dismissiveness of others’ held beliefs and cherished rights, permissible. None of this is.

To look forward into the newness of life ahead, just beyond the parties and gatherings with family, sharing of food and gifts, leaving behind the bile and vitriol is necessary. Lightens the load toward something better, and makes us swift on our feet, ready to take on the charge we all know will be necessary when our new time begins, when we mark another passage in our human way.

We can step back and not look at this the human way, either—to consider God-view, God sense of time. If we ask ourselves what we want to be new in our lives, we can look forward to that newness, but it can also be right here, in the moments of sharing and gathering. It can be in each meeting, each moment we greet another, each time we feel accosted by injustice we’ve become ever-more aware of, but which has always been there. This renewal of self can come in the smallest of moments, and build in the biggest of ways, if we so choose.

I need to choose this; I don’t want to get caught in the wash of anger, but I do want to ride it beyond its simple chemistry.  I don’t want to ignore what’s becoming increasingly more important. I have decided to choose newness in my way of reacting and thinking, to be creative in every approach. To find a new way to face each challenge, and think outside the lines I or anyone else has drawn around the problems, and perhaps even to embrace the problems and allow them to change me in ways I have not yet imagined.