more 2015 stuff

Posted: January 1, 2016 in Uncategorized

In 2015, I lost a friend I’d never met.  Currie was on my grat list since I first joined it something like a decade ago.  She lived out west, and had a beautiful Golden Retriever named Gracie, and a wild javelina hog liked to come around and cause trouble at her home, and her heart was broken in the way that is so common to the human experience.  She wrote with many words, as I do, so she caught my attention pretty quickly.  In the years that I knew her, she packed all her stuff up and made a journey – just she and Gracie – to move to Florida for awhile, and I followed her photos, her artwork, and her vulnerable, brave words.  Later she would return to the west, where she would live with and care for her dying mother, passing not long after her mom did.

I only knew Currie through the grat lists and the emails exchanged in response to one another’s lists.  I tried a time or two to call her, but she never picked up.  She considered visiting when G and I got married, but it didn’t pan out.  I bought some of her art along the way.  And hers were the grat lists I savored longest and best, so open and wise and willing and real.  There was a brief period when she stepped away from writing grats, and I was bereft, feeling like her step away from the keyboard was a slap…and greatly relieved when her emails resumed appearing in my inbox.

Some people dismiss internet friendships, pronouncing that relationship can only happen in person.  I’m sorry for those people, that they never were deeply touched by the life of another known only via a screen.  Currie’s words shaped my life over the years, and my words shaped hers, and the rabbit trails we would go off on when responding each to what the other had written would slide off into the tens of thousands of words.  I may never have sat with her in the Wee Cottage, but our hearts and minds connected.

Her passing was a very real loss to me.  It’s a strange thing, knowing someone is dying, and knowing that one day she just wouldn’t show up anymore.  She did those of us who loved her in this form the great favor of arranging for a “one last blog” to happen at the hand of family, after she was gone, so the door could be closed and not just left as a question.  I think of her often.  Another grat list friend shared recently something that Currie had written, and hearing her unmistakable voice there in the text was a rich gift, like a touch from beyond.  I shall miss her always, and am grateful beyond expression that our lives intersected for those years.

~~~~~~~~~~

I read a book in 2015 that we had actually picked up at the 2014 Global Leadership Summit, when a team of us from work attended.  The book is Quiet:  The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain.  Her presentation at the Summit had spoken to me, and had caused our team to talk among ourselves and realize how many introverts there were among us.

The book addressed introversion in the workplace, in academia, in child rearing, and more.  I read it slowly over the space of the entire year, in little bits and pieces during any lunch breaks that were on my own.  Swallowing it in small bites like that was very affirming – a regular infusion of acceptance for who I am (like many, I am a mix of introvert and extrovert, but introversion is by far the stronger of the two traits in me).  It helped me to understand my loathing of being broken out into “small groups” and my tension in any “brainstorming” session.  It offered strategies for employers, teachers, parents, and the introvert him/herself for dealing with a culture that has set up extroversion as the superior ideal and introversion as a fault to be overcome.

I’m very grateful for the time spent in the book; it has given me permission to own who I am and stop trying to force myself to be what I am not.  I’d like to make the whole world read it – so the introverts could know they are okay, the extroverts could stop trying to fix us, and the people in charge could alter strategies to accommodate us (they’d receive enough benefit to be glad they’d done so.)  If you don’t know the book, I recommend it for your 2016 list.  I’d love to make time to read it more quickly this year, as my brain tends to lose things pretty quickly, and I reckon the overall picture would be different, when digested in a week or two.

~~~~~~~~~~

Somewhere in the 2nd half of 2014 I was driving my son Caleb to one of his last National Guard weekends, a time I always treasured because it was many hours of just the two of us in the car, talking about every little thing.  He asked me what I thought about the events in Ferguson, Missouri following the death of Michael Brown.  I was uncomfortable, and confessed that I had been avoiding the news stories, sure that it was just another opportunity to get my heart broken over something I couldn’t change – there had already been so many other such stories in the previous years.  As he always has, Caleb challenged me.  He talked long and with great passion during that drive about what he knew of those events, and I listened hard – my kids’ views on the world around us invariably leave me more informed.

“Black Lives Matter” has been a theme I’ve watched closely and prayed over often in 2015.  It’s a touchy subject in my family, as my brother is a police officer and my brother-in-law is a prison guard, both for many long years.   I have family members who almost certainly feel I’m attacking other family members when I occasionally raise my hand to say we have to fix the problem of those in authority behaving in racist and abusive ways.  I hate that – the truth for me about the problems being touched on in this issue is that they aren’t about my brother or my brother-in-law, neither of whom I believe to be abusing others on the basis of race or for any other reason.  I believe there are A LOT of cops and prison guards and other people in authority who are doing it right – surely not perfectly, being human beings, but working with sincerity and good intention and a desire to keep their part of the world safe.

I also believe that there are a lot – fewer, but a lot – of folks in those positions who have either underlying or overt racist beliefs  and attitudes that cause them to harm people of color in small ways and in ways big enough to end lives and provoke riots.  Added to that is the sentiment of the greater public, divided similarly, as far as I can see, with lots of folks doing the best they can to work toward racial reconciliation, and also lots (fewer, but lots) of folks angrily denying that there is a problem, or even claiming that now the white folks are the oppressed ones.  Nearly-50-year-old me gazes back at preschooler me, tuned into Sesame Street and learning even while living in my all-white rural town at every turn to accept and embrace people who are different from me, and I am undone that it feels like we’ve gained almost no ground in the span of my entire lifetime.

To be clear here:  I am a racist.  I mean, I don’t want to be.  I work all the time on growing and changing, on understanding, on finding ways to hear other voices and perspectives.  I check my privilege constantly, because I possess large volumes of unearned privilege for sure.  I read voraciously.  I seek out stories to help me understand.  I watch for where my thoughts, words and choices contribute to the problem, and I try to bring correction.  I have done these things for many years, and I’ve been doing them about ten times harder in 2015, as the alarm in me has grown at the stories in the news.  Still, I’m a racist.  I know it by some of my inner automatic reactions to things that are different from my own culture.  I know it by judgmental attitudes that rear up and have to be smacked down.  Nothing I am writing here should be interpreted as me having it figured out and lecturing to others.  I am not talking from a superior stance.  I’m struggling.

Here is my great hope and also my great fear:  the tipping point approaches.  We watched it happen in 2015 with gay rights, as people worked tirelessly to change the national conversation, bringing it to the point of changing the laws on same-sex marriage.  While many people are saying “finally” we got to that, I just know how entrenched our culture was against it for so long, and I am blown away that the law got changed “so quickly.”  (I know it wasn’t quick for those fighting for the cause across generations, but I’m just saying – it looked like a fast change, from my particular seat.)  That happened because as a culture we hit the tipping point (there’s a great book on the subject of tipping points that I read a couple of years ago – worth your time for more understanding) and consensus changed enough to change laws.  You can agree with the change or not, and since that’s not the point of what I’m writing, I’ll skip that conversation, but you can’t deny that the culture shifted on this one.

Based on the way that one went, I feel like we’re approaching the tipping point on race issues.  That’s a great hope for me, because I am still a dreamer enough to hope for real reconciliation, though that hope has taken a horrible beating in the past year and a half and sometimes I have despaired and said to myself that we’ll just never get a bit better.  It’s also a great fear for me, because the level of resistance is such on the one side, and the level of weariness and frustration are such on the other side, that I fear we’re looking at riots that will make those in 2015 look small and tame, as we push toward this shift.  If something doesn’t give, I feel like widespread violence will be the result.  For me, I would completely understand if that were the way it went, though of course I don’t hope or advocate for that.   I would understand if people of color got tired of the slow push and decided to start making their point – well, more pointedly. Heading into 2016, I am just trying to figure out what my part is in the conversation, as a middle aged white lady in a fairly rural culture. Hundreds of times last year I sat silent, sharing only with my husband or one of my kids my dismay and horror, torn between the need to fight for what is right and the certainty that many people I love and treasure will take deep offense and feel personally attacked by what is not really aimed at them.

I suspect that in 2016, I may be making more noise on this topic.  I suspect that I’m going to have to trust my loved ones to know that I love them and am not calling them out – that pointing out crookedness and abuse is for the good not just of those oppressed but also for the “good guys” who work next to the crooked and the abusive.  That every cop and prison guard, every teacher, every person in power could hold his or her head a little higher and heart a little lighter if their ranks were purged of the ones who are causing the worst problems right now.  That I’m not betraying anyone by fighting against an evil that is destroying us as a people.

Not a light, inspirational, or fun read, this section – my apologies.  It’s too big on my heart to just walk on through the change of year without addressing it.

~~~~~~~~~~

What a strange medley of entries, eh?  What do they have in common?  Just stuff that bubbles out of me as I finish digesting 2015.  Take it or leave it.  I write it down so I can mark it, and hold it to be checked back on later.

Always interested in hearing your thoughtful, non-trolling thoughts on any of this.

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Comments
  1. Laurie says:

    I miss Currie and only knew her through grats and follow up remarks to those words. It is still a loss this side of heaven to not have her words stop and make me think.

    The abuse of power…..that is in everyone’s lap. The power to be kind or rude to the person checking out my items in the store, customer service personnel on the end of the line…..the power to be kind or rude, superior or thankful for the person doing a job I don’t want to do……the power to see the person …….the struggle with power and people and people with power….it is a challenge but for God my rescuer; my reminder of Who He is, who I am in Him and my role in the power.

    Ly K! ty for your words that provoke thinking……much like the loved and missed Currie.

  2. Laurie Berthel says:

    I wrote some remarks previously and not sure it made one lick of sense……some clarity – continue to not be sure my thoughts make one lick of sense. ly K addendum to my rambling……..the abuse of power is real. But I have reduced it in my life to the area that Jehovah is addressing with me – kindness. Intentional as best I can in my sinful state, seeing what He has done for me. Remembering the kindness He has shown to me and knowing full well He loves people. Amazing most days. He loves people. He loves people. So for me, your reminded me of where the power trip starts – in my heart. How do I react to people different from me. It is a full time day by day gig to keep running that tape in my head – God loves people…….the broken, messy, and more descriptions that fit the sinful people Jehovah loves.

    “Our lives begin to end the day we become

    silent about things that matter.” Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.

    A failure is not always a mistake, it may be the best one can

    do under the circumstances.

    The real mistake is to stop trying. B .F. Skinner Education is what survives when what

    is learned has been forgotten. B. F. Skinner

    “No one gets out of this world alive, so the time to live,

    learn, care, share, celebrate, and love is now.” Dr. Leo Buscaglia

    Date: Fri, 1 Jan 2016 16:44:16 +0000 To: ljberthel@hotmail.com

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