This week I've been trying to recover from several non-stop months. I put a lot of life things on pause during the last couple months so I could deal with the unexpected life things that occurred during an overabundance of work. As a self-employed person, I am always grateful for paid projects coming my way. I've got to keep the pipeline full so I can continue to feed and house my family. But the pace was exhausting. I was exhausted.
In the wake of the tax deadline, I put all the remaining things on pause and disappeared to an off-grid nature place to soak in hot-springs, take naps, and eat nourishing food cooked by someone else. It was mostly glorious. The springs were hot, the food was delicious, and the naps were bountiful. Unfortunately, the bed situation in my secluded forest sanctuary didn't provide me a full night's sleep. So I wasn't able to make any sizable dent in the months of accumulated sleep-dep, and I came home not any farther out of the red.
I had grand designs of returning from the forest fully rejuvenated and ready to un-pause all the things I've been looking forward to doing and enjoying once the deadline closed. Instead, I'm still catching up on sleep and feeling sad about my Gramma's recent passing. I guess the sadness saw an opening and un-paused itself. I didn't necessarily chose the order things went on pause initially because that was all dictated by circumstance. Now it seems I may also not have total control over the un-pausing.
There's some kind of greater lesson in there somewhere. Maybe it's about being present for my own unfolding. Maybe it's about the interruptability of best-laid plans. Maybe it's about building-in an allowance for the unexpected. Whatever it is, I'm too exhausted to put it into words this week. I guess I'll let that marinate on-pause as well.
My aim is always to be present for however this experience of living and being human takes shape. In whatever way life is going to happen, at least I can notice it while it's happening. I hope you get to participate in the fullness of your own experience too. See you next week.
Information and Inspiration
I don’t keep up with the latest fashions or stay current with many trends, so there are a ton of things I’m not the first to know about or understand. It seems my all-consuming work and health circumstances of the last week also coincided with an awful lot of things happening out there in the world. I’m not sure there were actually more than the usual number of major global happenings, but I sure feel extra out of the loop as I emerge from my short personal isolation.
Apparently a private citizen now controls a massive, high tech air force. That news didn't break this week, but I just learned about it so it feels fresh to me. It seems like a bad idea no matter when it happened. It's like part of the set-up for one of the many gritty sci-fi futures I am okay to read about in fiction or watch on Netflix, but I hope never comes to fruition in the real world.
And since when is it advisable to not wear a mask on an airplane? The CDC just extended the mask mandate on public transportation so public health officials could study the latest Covid variants driving up infection rates all over the country and give us all some guidance. But instead of waiting for the professionals to do their job, a judge in Florida decided it was actually time to stop with all those (life-saving) mask-wearing shenanigans.
Maybe the world is just too much to keep up with these days. It does seem like there has been an up-tick in monumentous happenings in the world over the last couple years. 2022 has been especially eventful. I know I'm not alone in feeling like this has been a very long year... and we're only in April. Four full months down. Nine more to go if we’re lucky.
Clearly there’s no way to stay in all the loops. I just hope there's at least one person who cares paying attention to the all the things that matter. This week a story broke about something more people should have been paying attention to. 5 years ago the City of Detroit admitted to perpetrating what amounted to a new flavor of redlining. The homeowners over-charged $600 million were mostly Black, and many lost their homes to foreclosure when they couldn't pay inflated property tax bills. We learned this week the homeowners still haven’t been made whole by the government. That we know about it at all means at least one person paid attention long enough to alert some other someone elses. Now it’s our turn to stay in the loop and spread the word.
Ultimately, it matters who is paying attention, to what, and when. And it matters who is telling the rest of us what’s going on. A recent study paid Fox News viewers to switch to CNN for a month instead. At the conclusion of the study, some of those formerly Fox-viewing folks had changed their mind on important political topics. It matters who is in charge of writing things down for the people who come after us. And it matters where it is all written, in what formats and who has access to read and view it later.
I stay in as many loops as I can, both locally and globally. I hope you all pay attention to what you can as well. Maybe pay attention to something no one else seems to have their eye on. I share things that matter through this weekly essay, and I hope you all share important things a little bit further out into the world. Maybe you'll bring someone into a loop they were out of before. And we all need to support each other in as many ways as we can manage.
Information and Inspiration
At some point during my childhood, my mom started doing a very clever thing whenever my sister or I misbehaved. She would confront us about our naughtiness and conclude with "I don't know what the consequences will be yet, I'm going to think about it. Try not to worry." It was agony at the time, fretting over what punishment might befall me. The actual atonement was always far less intense than anything I cooked up though my imagination, but the process itself made a significant impression on me. It got me thinking about the consequences of my actions.
In that way, I think it was an effective parenting technique. Possibly too effective, since to this day I still consider the future results of almost every decision I make or action I take. From big things like should I quit my job and start a business, all the way down to the minutia of what order I should tackle house chores to be most efficient with my time.
I see it as both a blessing and a curse. On the one hand it has kept me safe from harm. Like the time I almost tried to reach the very top shelf in my kitchen through the leverage of one foot on a rickety stool and the other knee on the counter. The moment before I shifted my weight irreversibly onto my counter leg I had a vision of the immediate future. I saw the series of unfortunate events that would unfold if the stool gave way (which it was sure to do). In my mind’s eye I saw what I would knock over as I fell and what those objects would knock into and which of my body parts would land on the hot stove, in the sink full of dishes and onto the hard floor. So I abandoned the rickety stool in favor of a nice stable kitchen chair and retrieved ingredients from the top shelf, avoiding all calamity.
Another aspect of the blessing/curse simultaneity is that the future occurs to me as much more concretely present than it does for some other folks. The future is not just a vague potentiality, I feel the shadowy echo of that future in the present moment. The accompanying existential dread is very real and can sometimes be hard to shake. Of course it works the same way with potential positive consequences as well. The future is not all doom and gloom. When I foresee a positive future result, I also feel a little bit of that in the present moment. It’s exciting and inspirational. It keeps me going.
It could be very easy for my propensity toward consequence consideration to result in decision paralysis, but somehow I went the opposite direction. I am a very decisive person. I know my decisiveness is also partly born of my willingness to pivot and try something different if the first approach isn’t working. I also assume it’s because I'm prepared to take responsibility for any eventual outcome. If I’m owning the success or failure equally no matter what happens, I might as well be the decider of the decision I'm taking responsibility for.
Unforeseen consequences are harder to contend with. For example, this week I unknowingly ate something I am allergic to and my (extremely powerful) immune system tried a little too hard to help. I have never before had any kind of reaction to the foods I ate, so I did not consider any of those things as potential dangers. Nevertheless, my body went into FULL PROTECTION MODE and I ended up in the urgent care in the middle of the night for an intervention.
The main symptom-splosion began to recede a few hours after the very kind nurses handed me some pills to swallow as the drugs took effect. Now I can clearly feel the consequences of the whole ordeal. My skin feels like somebody wrung it out like a wet towel. I’m still swollen in unlikely places. And I'm exhausted. Apparently it's a lot of work to be poisoned and a lot of work to recover.
The only good consequence is that the steroids they put me on to resolve the allergic reaction pepped up my brain, so I was unnaturally alert for work after only 4 hours of uncomfortable and itchy sleep. This is a fortunate consequence because with the tax deadline looming in just a few days I didn't have time to postpone any client meetings. So there I was, meeting with clients on zoom, not outwardly presenting like I'd been up half the night feeling terrible. Lucky break.
I take much of what life throws at me in stride. I feel just as much of the melancholy, despair, fear, guilt, and upset that anyone does. I just bounce back quickly. Which is truly a testament to the power of practice. I spend time doing physical things with good alignment so that when I am moving through the world more unconsciously, I am more likely to move in a way that’s good for my body. I’ve had a lot of practice considering the consequences of my actions, so I can move through the world in a deliberate and intentional way much of the time.
I’m not flawless, of course. I make mistakes and misjudgments just like everybody else. One distinction I see for how I go about it is that I consider the broad picture consequences, not just the effect I will personally experience. There is an important lesson in that for greater society. Plenty of people consider the consequences of their own actions insofar as they are affected. We need to do more considering of what other people will experience as a result of our action or inaction. And we especially need to consider what will happen for the people who think, act, and live differently than we do. If we start doing more of that, then maybe we can finally fix some things in the world that desperately need fixing.
Information and Inspiration
The longer the war in Ukraine lasts, the worse it gets. The survivors are facing increasingly desperate situations and the aggressor is maintaining his line of righteous excuses for all his war crimes. The news coverage shows unrelenting tragedy. Sanctions seem like they are having some impact, but I am still confused by a lot of the rest of the political rhetoric. Western powers don't want to enter the fray with troops or ships or tanks because then it would be WW3... but isn’t what's happening to Ukraine worth the whole world fighting back against it?
The reluctance by literally everyone other than Ukraine to put boots on the ground reminds me of the lead-up to the novel coronavirus becoming a pandemic. The WHO didn’t want to call it a global pandemic even as it spread from country to country faster than wildfire jumping the county line. Unfortunately, by the time whatever threshold they were waiting for was reached it was too late to start dealing with what was going on. The fire was already over the line. We should have taken the tiny virus more seriously and we should have done it sooner. Same thing with Putin. The powers of the world should have taken his antics more seriously and they/we all should have done so much sooner.
Now it's gone so far that it's almost out of control. What happens when Putin fails to take over Ukraine? What happens if Putin destroys Ukraine entirely and takes over the empty husk? Will he actually face international war crimes charges? Or will he continue to be insulated against consequences for his actions by his power and influence? Isn't his way of being in the world worth the world fighting back against?
I understand that fighting against injustice doesn't always mean fighting with tanks and troops. I get that we're fighting with other tools, like sanctions and social media. Possibly the only good thing to come out of this mess so far is how united the world seems to be in their opposition to this aggression. But it still seems like the international community is doing too little too late. And everyone is watching.
Just like climate change and racism and poverty. I don't want the world to end before we make it better. And if we don't fight for policies and practices and systems and institutions that address climate change, combat racism, and eliminate poverty, then those ills will definitely swallow this world. There are examples every day of where we're headed if we forget some things are worth fighting for (or against).
I just saw an announcement for a video game that takes place in the Harry Potter universe and promotes all kinds of terrible ideas. One of its designers apparently used to run an anti-social justice YouTube channel, so the tone of the propaganda isn't surprising. But it is upsetting. The original book series has been a soundtrack to my life for a long time. Like my own personal bible, I draw inspiration for being a better person from the anecdotes and characters within it. But more and more it is co-opted by bigots and fascists. So, I wonder if I should even keep using it? Then I think: why should I give it up if my interpretation is the version that’s better for the world?
I guess it comes down to whether it's worth fighting for.
In the case of HP, there are any number of other fantasy series to fall in love with and be inspired by. Terry Pratchett is probably just as well-known as JKR and has much to offer from his catalog. And there are all the beautiful coming of age stories by queer writers and authors of color that have come out over the last decade. But my desire to hold on to the HP story is not so much a defense of HP. It's more about not letting the assholes take whatever thing they want and ruin it. If I never say "no, you can't have that," then won't they eventually just ruin everything? Like the "ok" hand symbol or the swastika.
The case of HP is made even more complicated by the fact that one of the people I want to rescue it from is its creator. And therein lies the ultimate problem: too many people still like that franchise to abandon it to the ruiners. It's worth too much money (and money equals power) to leave it in the hands of racists and bigots.
Just like America. I often think about moving to another country. I have family roots in Europe and a skillset that could land me a job in almost any place. But I haven't pulled the trigger on that yearning yet because it feels like there's too much at stake here. One the one hand, I'm like "fine, America, you want to be racist assholes? Fine! I'm leaving you to wallow in your own suffering!" But then I remember there is too much power here. I can't leave all the money and fire-power in America to people with a clear deficit of empathy without also bringing all my concerns about what they will do with all that power along in my luggage.
If everyone interested in making the world safer and more just leaves, there won't be anyone mitigating the harm that could be visited on the rest of the world. If I leave America to go work on global issues in another context, that would be fine. But I can't escape the issues created and perpetuated by the US simply by relocating my domicile. There's nowhere I can outrun bigotry. So for now I stay and fight.
Which is basically what is happening with the war in Ukraine. Putin has been acting like a megalomaniac for a long long time and nobody did anything real about it. The international powers just let him have whatever he commandeered. Annex Crimea? Fine, have it. We'll stand over here and waggle a disapproving finger at you. But he tried to take all of Ukraine and Ukraine said no. And this time it seems to be working. At least for now.
Making the world safer and more just feels like something worth fighting for. Whether it takes a war of weapons or a war of words (or both), it's worth the effort and energy and expense. We should all do as well as Ukraine and say "No. Get your hands off what I love. You don't get to ruin it." We should all embody that spirit however we can within our own personal spheres of influence and fight for everything worth fighting for.
Information and Inspiration
Jaydra is a human in-process, working to make the world a better place. Sharing thoughts, feelings, and observations about the human experience.