A Euro in My Pocket

November 15th, 2020

Do I miss travel?  Yes, but not with the aching emptiness it appears some people do. Unless Facebook reminds me, I spend almost no time thinking about where I was on this day in past years, nor do I dwell on where I am supposed to be right now or in the months to come. What I thought would happen simply didn’t, and that’s that.

Yesterday I had an interesting experience when I wore a pair of pants I haven’t put on in a very long time.  I felt something in the pocket and when I fished it out, I saw it was a Euro coin.  I know I didn’t taken these pants last summer to the Baltic,  so the coin must go back several years.

”What am I going to do with this?” I wondered.  It’s useless clutter in a coin dish, and I have no idea where my leftover foreign money is at the moment so I can’t stash it there.  I did the only thing I could think of:  I put it back in my pocket, where it will stay, zipped in, through the washer and dryer, hikes, beach walks, and whatever other use I put these pants to until travel begins again.

I am going to treat it as an amulet, a good luck charm. One day I will take these pants to Europe and there it will be, awaiting its chance to be once more out in the world. What will it buy me?  A metro ride, a bottle of water on a hot day?  Wait— I know! I will give it to the first person I see who needs it more than I do.  I rub my fingers in circles over its outline as I write, invoking it as a blessing  for better days to come.

Our Long National Nightmare Is…..???

November 6th, 2020

The most memorable quotation from Gerald Ford (well maybe second to his claim that Poland was not a Communist country) was his announcement that Richard Nixon had been excised from the presidency.  Ford’s statement that “our long national nightmare is over” was perfect.  The Watergate hearings felt like a slow motion train wreck with an unraveling conductor at the controls.

Many people are probably remembering Ford’s words this morning, as it appears the current president  is headed for an ignominious departure as well.  This time, however, it is hard to know exactly what has been resolved.  Yes, we won’t have to worry about his ability to abuse presidential powers.  Beyond that, little is clear.  I am a terrible prognosticator, but when I tell the story of the future, here is some of what I predict.

1) Biden will win decisively in the end, both in popular and electoral votes. That will not stop Trump from continuing his preordained strategy of suing right and left over dubious claims of fraud.

2) This will result in an effort to get a stacked Supreme Court to rule in his favor.   Roberts and the three Trump justices recognize how badly the reputation of the court would suffer if a decision appeared to be partisan. To avoid putting the three justices on the spot, the court would like nothing more than to deny hearing the appeal by claiming there is no constitutional issue at stake.  If there is one that requires them to get involved,  I think it would hinge not on the balloting itself but on whether a competing slate of electors contradicting the results of the vote was a violation of the voters’  constitutional rights. If they cannot avoid a hearing, the Trump justices will not all vote in his favor, to keep the appearance of being above partisanship, and Trump will not be successful in the end

3) Meanwhile Trump will use the interregnum to damage the country as much as he can.  He will lose the popular vote by such a margin that the entire country must be punished, with the possible exception of those states who voted for him, if he can figure out a way to selectively reward and punish.  This means no stimulus. To hell with us

4) He will also fire and/or begin prosecution of anyone he perceives as an enemy.  Fauci and Wray are as good as gone, and I suspect Barr will be out fairly quickly  as well, because he will not go far enough to satisfy Trump.

4) Trump will move quickly to use his pardon power for his children and son-in-law, but will not go much further than that, because he doesn’t really care about even his most loyal toadies.  Hey, if he is hurting, nobody else’s predicament matters.

5) He will stop doing the job altogether.  Other than doing hurtful things, he will thumb his nose openly, and just play golf and tweet.  Meanwhile, Melania and Barron will decamp for New York because she has no interest in helping with Jill Biden’s transition.  Unless her prenup (which she renegotiated before agreeing to move from New York to the White House) makes it worth her while to stay married, she will file for divorce soon.

6) Once either his malice and/or energy for vengeance has run out of targets or he has run out of time ( more likely the latter), he will arrange with Pence for a pardon, then resign.  This will get around the issue of whether he can pardon himself and will get him out of all the trappings of the transition—welcoming the Bidens to the White House and standing on the stage while Biden takes the oath of office.

7) On Inauguration Day, instead of letting Biden have his day, he will hold a rally announcing the launch of his 2024 campaign. This will enable him to use other people’s money to keep going around the country doing what he loves best: sowing division, undermining his “enemies,”  and basking in adoration.

No, we will not wake up from this  nightmare nearly so easily.

Alive

October 27th, 2020

I’d be satisfied if over the course of my life I have nudged even a few people one step forward on their own paths to transformation. Now, as I embrace a new chapter here in Canada, I owe a big nudge in my own thinking to Howard Thurman, one of the great Americans of the Civil Rights Movement, who served quietly as mentor to Dr. King and other movement leaders, and as an author and theologian over the course of a long, distinguished life. In reply to some earnest soul who had asked him how to become a change agent for a better world, he said, “Ask what makes you come alive and go do it. Because what the world needs is more people who have come alive.”

No ink blot, no inventory, no personality typing can give more meaningful insight to who we really are than the answer to that question.  It’s easy to cheat a little and say another person does that for us, but I’m talking about something we have all by ourselves, that we make, or express, or do.  Having lived away from the people I am closest to for much of the last few years, I can say without a doubt that many things I have experienced would be great to have done with them. With many of my wonderful new experiences, I wish this or that person were there to share it with me.  The thing I’m talking about here, though,  is what we embrace and love with only ourselves for company.

The best answers to this point-blank question about our lives  go far deeper than lists of things that are fun to do.  The saddest answer is none at all.  To come up with nothing that makes you feel alive is, well, kind of close to being dead.  A deeply thoughtful answer to that question will serve as the pathway to the best possible life.  Maybe some people don’t really want their best life all that badly and would find such questions irrelevant to how they choose to spend their time, but I’m not one of them.\

I have learned, or relearned a few things recently.  The first is I love to write.  I lost track of that because I came to dislike the publishing and marketing process so much.  I wrote a play earlier this year, and I really loved doing it.  Maybe it will get a reading, a workshop, or even a production, and maybe not, but I felt alive doing it and I am deeply satisfied with what I produced.  I am circling around a second play, looking for the way in, and I recognize the signs I am almost there.  I feel the tingle of exhilaration when characters start to talk in my head, when they reveal who they are, and I know that something that exists only in my head now will come to exist on the page.

I have rediscovered how much the outdoors makes me feel present and alive.  I lost track of that living in San Diego full time after selling my mountain home in Lake Arrowhead. It’s not that there aren’t lots of places to go in Southern California, but I never felt much of an urge to make the drive out of town,  and the parks, crowded beaches, and harbor fronts don’t grab me like the forest or a rocky shore.

Overall, the thing that makes me feel most alive is change. I am happiest when I’m moving, whether it’s a life of cruising, or since then, a multi day car trip, a new neighborhood for a month or two, a sense that today is a great day to go do something I haven’t done before.  That’s how I picture this chapter, full of spontaneity, listening to the spirit in me that is so much wiser than many of my conscious thoughts.

I spent most of my life thinking  that to make the most of life I had to have a plan. I should set goals. When I look back on my life I see so many of the most pivotal decisions I made were not because I had a plan, but because I needed to stop feeling wasted where I was.  Changing jobs (even careers), homes, relationships, happened  because on some inchoate level I knew I was dying, shriveling to less than what my authentic self wanted me to be. Now I’m 70. I’m healthy of mind and body, so I probably still have ample time for a lot of things, but no more time to waste. Now my heart’s demands are loud and insistent, and with joy and gratitude for all that life offers someone as fortunate as I am, I rise up to meet them.