Monday, January 30, 2017

On politics and marathons

Well, it has been quite a week.

The Bannon-Trump executive order tsunami has been nothing short of a shock-and-awe campaign. It's designed to overwhelm and intimidate. It's orchestrated to create chaos. It marries destruction with deception and distraction.

More importantly, its intent is to fatigue us. Its goal is to make us say "Enough. I am not reading another political post. I'm blocking the friends who continue to post political rants. I'm out."

The new administration has used large scale egregious assaults on the fundamental tenets of our democracy to mask lower-profile self-serving maneuvers. They know we'll feel compelled to focus our energies on the violations that threaten the nation's founding principles, and they hope that in doing so, we will have to let some lesser grievances slide.

They believe they can wear us down - make us turn on each other - make us collapse in a heap of resignation and defeat.

They are wrong.

There's a thought that has been going through my head all week. It's the same thought that carried me though the early years of Bud's autism diagnosis: "It's a marathon, not a sprint." The Bannon administration has been sprinting through the first week in office, but we, who resist them, must stay focused on the long game.

What does that mean? It means we stay mindful. We launch immediate counter-attacks on the most egregious violations, but we don't lose sight of what's going on behind the curtain.

It also means we pay attention to our own personal sustainability. We don't try, individually, to fight every issue every day. We communicate, we share information, we take leadership on some issues, and simply lend support on others.

We take breaks. We rest. We post pictures of our dinners on Facebook. We share our joys and our trivia along with our outrage. We don't judge each other when we post vacation photos or memes about our favorite albums in high school or videos of cats (especially not videos of cats).

We understand what it takes to finish the race. We react, we resist, we rise, we rally, and we rest, each as we must.

While you call Senators, I binge on Gilmore Girls. Then I'll write postcards while you get a pedicure or watch the Super Bowl. That is how we win this thing.

It's a marathon, not a sprint.

Today, I'm reading this article to stay informed, though it puts a knot in my stomach. I'm also encouraging friends to call their Senators to urge them to oppose the confirmation of Betsy DeVos, because she poses a threat to public education and, specifically, to the rights of children with disabilities.

Next time, I'm going to take a break and tell you a story about the best thing that happened to our family in 2016. It's not about politics. It's not controversial. It might even make you feel good.

If it does, and if you have it in you, maybe you can run the next leg.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Hope, fear, and the new year

So, 2016 was a kick in the teeth, huh?

Between the heartbreaking loss of so many of the icons of my youth and the heartbreaking win of Donald Trump, the year had little to redeem it. On a much more personal level, it was also the year that we lost Henry - and for that, I will never forgive 2016.

I turned fifty in 2016 as well. Fifty years of life on the planet - my golden anniversary - my golden jubilee. You might imagine that it was a significant milestone for me, but honestly? Not so much.

I was blogging regularly ten years ago when I turned forty, and I wrote this post about the tailspin it caused for me. Turning forty was a Very Big Deal. At the time, forty seemed a thousand years away from thirty-nine. Fifty was different. The move from forty-nine to fifty felt just about as momentous as the move from forty-eight to forty-nine. For the most part, it was a whole lot of meh.

It's interesting, though. These days, when I read the birthday post I wrote ten years ago, I'm struck by what I thought would happen as I approached fifty. I wrote:

This aging thing is confusing. It's a big blurry mess of flash-forward/flash-back. And here's the greatest irony of the whole thing: I've got less than 48 hours left of my thirties, and instead of enjoying it while it's here I keep studying pictures of my current face, examining the new crinkles around my eyes, the extra skin that seems to be growing on my neck. And I imagine myself ten years hence, stumbling across these pictures and examining them again, startled by what I see:

My god, I'll think. I can't believe how young I looked.

But that's not what happened at all.

When I look at pictures of myself from that time, I am not struck by my youthfulness. To be sure, the fact that the now-mature me has learned the benefit of getting one's hair professionally colored instead of using a home-coloring kit may have something to do with that. But when I flip through pictures of myself at forty, I don't think, My god. I can't believe how young I looked.

I think, My god. She has no idea what's coming.

She really doesn't.

Her life and my life are very different. She and I are both married, but to different people. She has a seven-year-old and is struggling to come to terms with the fact that he will never have a sibling. I have a seventeen-year-old who has a five-year-old stepbrother. She reaches out to her friend Gretchen to compare notes, because Gretchen's son Henry is so much like Bud. I reach out to my friend Gretchen with woefully inadequate attempts to console her in the wake of unimaginable loss. She thinks that her President, George W. Bush, is as bad as a President can be, and she can't wait for his term to end. I would give anything to have George W. Bush back in office right now.

But we do have something in common: She has no idea what's coming, and neither do I.

The thought is both terrifying and inspiring. Just five days into Donald Trump's presidency, I am already in a panic about Bud's future in Trump's America - about how the educational system might change, about how funding might disappear, about how services might be impossible to attain. Bud will turn eighteen this year. He will age out of the school system in just over three years. We have already begun submitting paperwork for services that Donald Trump has vowed to cut. I'm terrified.

And yet, last weekend, Bud and I attended a local rally affiliated with the Women's March on Washington. Crowds are not usually Bud's thing, but I explained to him that the rally was to remind Donald Trump to be kind and to make good choices. Bud, who understands the importance of being kind and making good choices, agreed to go with me. In fact, he said, he'd like to make a speech.

So, on Saturday morning, we joined our local rally - modest as compared to many others around the country and world, but huge for us. We heard one of our fabulous Senators inspire the crowd. We signed our names to show that we were there. We browsed the tables and picked up stickers and pamphlets. We stayed at the edge of the crowd, but the energy enveloped us and we felt a part of something big. We found a spot on the sidewalk outside the State House, and I pulled out my phone to videotape as Bud gave an impromptu speech. We weren't there long - crowds are not Bud's thing - but we were there long enough.

After we left the rally, we went to lunch and I checked my Facebook feed to find it overflowing with posts from friends who were at marches, either in person or in their hearts. I was overwhelmed, and for the first time since November 8, I felt inspired. I felt hope. And if my first fifty years have taught me anything, it's the power of hope.

Today, I learned that we lost Mary Tyler Moore, a beloved icon of my youth, which suggests that 2017 is thinking about giving 2016 a run for its money. I have no idea what's coming. But I do have hope. And as I learned from Rogue One, the movie I saw to kick off 2017, the movie that made me think constantly of my friend Henry, "Rebellions are built on hope."

Bring it on, 2017.