Body is getting ready to work at the store, second day back after a month’s leave. Mind hasn’t quite caught up; it floats like a balloon a little behind, working through the thousand half-teachings ingested while on break. To soothe mind, I suggest we lean into appreciation instead, let understanding tend to itself.
Which jostles loose the preoccupation.
I arrive to work on time, overriding compulsively early tendencies. No car meditation; instead I listen to Lady Gaga’s Born this Way to get into some mood. It’s one of a handful of songs that take the edge off, let me ease into a more public persona, along with Shania’s Up!, or ABBA’s I Still Have Faith in You. Tier B is a slightly different vibe, with Barbra singing On a Clear Day You Can See Forever or Judy’s The Trolley Song. Once in a while, NCT’s Baby Don’t Stop hits the right spot. Or, despite my efforts to resist, BTS.
You get the idea.
People think I’m joking when I set goals not to arrive to places early, assuming this to be a humble-brag, but shifting gears has always been a challenge for me, no matter how fond I am of bardo teachings. In fact, this is probably why I’m so fond of them. The buffers I install around modes and roles become modes and roles themselves, which isn’t really a problem until a small meeting requires large buffers, squeezing out other worthy things. I would be well on the way with my knitting project if instead of arriving too early to a tiny check-in-and-fix with my teacher, I simply risked being a few minutes late.
Although several diagnoses might be suggested by such tendencies, my therapist never goes there. Instead she often praises the toolbox I’ve built for myself. The car can be a great place for meditation, after all. Having worked with, and having friends on the non-neurotypical spectrum, has also imparted perspective.
I am walking from ‘the house’ toward the front gate on familiar chipped square tiles. I encounter three ferociously barking rottweilers. They are to the right of the path, in the part of the yard where one of the avocado trees rains down the largest leaves. I feel afraid. I wake. —–
I am walking from the house toward the front gate. The light feels different, brighter. I look to the right, and the dogs aren’t there. Maybe they are somewhere else. I’m surprised. I wake. —–
I am walking toward the gate, and the dogs aren’t there. I keep walking. I am noticing more details, more color as I reach the gate. It is not right on its hinges so I lift up the gate itself as I open and lift the handle, and walk through.So tangible.I keep going, out into the street, surprised not to be stopped, where there are three huskies laying around in the road. I look at each of them and see that two are sleeping, but one is wide awake. I look into his eyes – startling blue; they are my son’s. —–
The first part of the dream above stagnantly recurred for years before I sought out therapy. And then during that process, began moving into its other progressions.
It stopped when I knew what it was saying… what was trying to make its way through to my psyche: the three huskies were my children, my life now. The hell-hounds were behind me.
I was free to go, but didn’t know.
I experienced a lot of peace after that, and a level of stability that supported a great deal of forgiveness, as though a huge deposit had been made into my emotional account. I’d honored my own story and voice, therefore didn’t need to be understood as much. By making place for it somewhere it wouldn’t hurt anyone else, exposing it to the light, the fear had found correct proportion.
I’m not sure people can forgive by acts of will, but forgiveness is definitely possible.
I’ve been sharing some ways I productively deal with restless feelings lately. It has been amazing how much energy there seems to channel! What I haven’t talked about directly though, is the relentless nighttime anxiety I’ve been experiencing since early last year. I wasn’t sure how to grip the subject, mainly because I hadn’t thought of it like a recurring dream, nor compared it to the example above–until this week.
I also remembered sleep paralysis as a teen. Any kind of dream would lead to being/feeling choked while trying to scream… not able to use my voice. Or, I would half-wake feeling as though I were outside my body and couldn’t get back in. Others who have had these experiences describe hallucinations, actual figures that seem to be in the room on that sleep/wake boundary.
There wasn’t too much information then (there is A LOT now, and a researcher friend helped to fill fascinating gaps in my knowledge), but while feverishly reading self-help books in the library, trying to get a hold on what was happening, I did become enamored with Carl Jung, relating to the hidden layers of meaning and symbology he described.
SO, what is happening now is similar to sleep paralysis: I wake at some point almost every night, in tears or argument. First thing in the morning this greets me too, until I shake off things, memories mostly, that I thought I came to terms with before.
A lot of it is physical. The science-y part of me breaks it down this way:
There is a history of panic attacks in my family.
There is a history of barely traceable hypoglycemia as well, which leads to drops in blood sugar during the night, affecting sleep and dreams.
I am in a key age range for hormonal changes, similar to puberty.
Even before some recently upsetting events, I was having work anxiety I couldn’t shake, catastrophizing and exaggerating faults; the anxiety has just switched what it is clinging to.
* Therefore, one part of my hypothesis is that I need to have some blood work done, see what is off kilter, and fix it.
But as anyone who has experienced these things knows, what the nightmarish phenomenon roots into can also reveal a lot about what one is not facing. Not continuing to ignore … taking the content coming to the surface as a sign it is ready to work with, may yield rewards.
I’ve reached out and have made an appointment with a therapist.
Good for me.
And good for you, doing so too, if you recognize yourself in anything I’ve written here, which may spark deeper inquiry.
As you see, bolder formatting is temporarily gone from this site. I’ve stripped it down while making changes, but also to symbolize my current state.
In meditation this morning, the theme of faith arose. Unkind thoughts were present – an argument I’ve been having with someone for as long as I can remember… feelings of injustice, betrayal, silencing. But, rather than get deeper into the argument, I could see how it had affected my trust levels in relationships, and how much of ‘me’ it had defined.
I would say, “I’d let it define”, but that wouldn’t be accurate. It is more like, my quest to resolve or escape it has, both knowingly and unknowingly, defined key interpretations.
As can happen in meditation, I could experience the argument as an object of attention, one of various, a wheel spinning off in the corner somewhere, bigger or smaller, taking up more or less space. And I could ask, “Help me let this go.”
Who was I asking? Who was the I, asking? Worthwhile questions, but distractions in this context, because more important is the asking itself and the imagining… the feeling of the possibility of that wheel no longer spinning so fast, defining so much.
I think this imagining, at the point at which ‘I’ runs out, or intersects, is faith, and where across religious/spiritual disciplines and schools of thought, there may mustard seed sized agreement. It is a bit like a blank slate itself.
Okay! So, after several deeper posts about coming to terms with loss and the complexities of relationships, I thought to share some REALLY SHALLOW STUFF, truly skin-deep! Sound fun? I hope so, since that is what is about to happen. 😉
The other day I shared that my biggest antidote for over-thinking and malaise these days, is taking on a rather physical job. It has been the kind of decision that ends up being a surprise box of interesting effects health-wise, and in my case, turning my quite inward orientation —> outward.
All day I ask, “What can I do for YOU?” And, I love that.
However, being outward every day *does* continually expose a lot of the ways I have been, not just behind-the-times in terms of physical presentation, but honestly neglectful with things like make-up and jewelry specifically. I used to spend a lot of time as an ultra stylish avatar named Eliza, channeling most my whimsy into her, but even she would often settle into her typist’s default mood!
Many of us become stuck, style-wise, inside the era in which we come of age, but for me, I think I became stuck in my mid-90s reaction to the BIG 80s LOOK AT MY HAIR AND BRIGHT COLORS AND SUPERSIZED EARRINGS AND TINY WAIST AND HIGH HEELS… a gentle hangover that has lasted now a very long time. To that end, I settled into a mostly clean face (minimal make-up) and straight hair look, usually with variations of black and white clothing and flat or simple shoes.
Actually (and this will tell you how easily-influenced I can be!), I think I entrained upon Vera Wang after seeing an early interview with the designer in which she was wearing a simple pair of black pants and black top. She credited her simplicity of focus on herself, at least in part, for her great creative inspiration with wedding gowns. She seemed quite Audrey or Jacqueline, to me, IOW: timeless, as though style was a decision one could make once for themselves and be done with it. 🙂
[Aside: A moment ago, I searched “Vera Wang simplicity” to see if I could find a photo of her look now, only to find Simplicity is the name of her dinnerware. I also read an article in which she praises comfort as her guiding style principle, but it is the sort of comfort that includes car-priced jackets. ;-)]
What I’ve realized now, is that updating my look, at least in small ways, can no longer be an idea that passes through a few times a year. Also, playing with ideas in this way, test-driving them out on the road, is becoming pretty fun. I’ve gone from scoffing at the very idea of Instagram “influencers”, thinking of them as just swimsuit models hired for events like Fyre Festival, to watching endless “7 Tips” type videos from YouTube stars like Shea Whitney.
Shea’s all about luxury, has a closet the size of my entire 3-bedroom rented apartment, and seems to spend more in handbags per month than I have for clothing in the course of oh, five+ years(!), BUT, she’s entertaining to watch and gives lots of genuinely good advice for people in just my predicament.
My next thing will probably be SPRAY TAN. 😀 Hear me out …
Back in those 80s I mentioned before, we would do horrible things to our skin, like sitting out in the blazing Florida sun for hours wearing baby oil, or sitting under sun laps with Sun-In all over our hair. Going back to school after the summer, or even a long weekend, without peeling skin on nose and shoulders, was even (at least for my silly peer-group), somewhat embarrassing!
Then came the 90s, and news that doing what we were doing was sure to not just age us before our time, but actually KILL us, which pushed many out of tanning beds and off the beaches unless we were donning hats and 30 SPF. Companies started working harder to perfect spray tans so that we didn’t have to be orange to be sun-kissed (some <ahem> public figures haven’t gotten this message yet), and it was then that I began to spray tan my legs lightly as a really good substitute for the nylons we were also beginning to go without.
Somewhere along the way though, spray tanning technology became really high-quality, which felt like a crossroad: either I was going to have to begin to spend money to have it done right, or just forego. I forewent. Which was FINE, especially since back then I didn’t have the thinning skin beneath my eyes that can give me a sort of happy skeleton look under the kind of lighting they use at work, and the family cellulite hadn’t yet struck with force.
Spray tan is such a shallow topic isn’t it? But, doesn’t it feel fun to be so frivolous, at least some of the time? If so, there’s probably more to come, on things like dry shampoo and 5 day hair wash fasting, peppermint puckered lips, and tucks and buttons. I’m planning on doing a lot of happy experimenting, including with my writing here. 🙂
I’ve been rather (overly?) ‘thought’ful in my writing here of late. So much has been on my mind that I’m not sure whether or how to talk about, and until I am sure, I’ve decided to try to work it out in other ways.
Retail work has been the most surprising of those ways… getting on a train I don’t step off of for hours, setting aside worries and all other options/choices. Goodbye, scrolling Twitter until I think, “What time is it?”, Goodbye, “looking for something to watch on TV.” After having a flexible schedule for many years, this structure feels incredibly freeing to me, comforting in the way I imagine weighted blankets are comforting to people who liked to be tucked in at night as children (not me – I always needed a leg or at least foot outside of my blanket).
Choiceless, in a good way.
I’m fairly suited to the kind of work I’m doing, thankfully, at least in most ways, on most days. I can get the sort of ‘hit’ of feelings of youth that I imagine some people get from watching a sport they played in high school.
With this one decision (and the company’s decision to hire me), I solved at least three big puzzles that were fast becoming problems prior: weight gain (I’ve lost 8 lbs. so far and hit my 10,000 steps mark almost every day); eye-to-eye starvation (Most of my daily conversations had become typed or mitigated by social media, which is way too comfortable a zone for me, not being especially verbal); and, putting my ethics into practice.
That last one is hugely important, so let me elaborate…
In the Taoist ox-herding tale, there is seeking and striving up the mountain, and a time of retreat that can look like one has finally arrived. My spiritual life–alongside, but sometimes consuming, the rest–has been a mix of those modes: lots of (almost constant) study, retreat, giving up whatever seemed in the way of devotion–‘working’ to trust the flow and truth of insight and intuition. To that end, unimaginally wonderful friends and teachers have appeared all over the mountain as I’ve wandered … people deeper and happier than any I’d before encountered, sharing similar longings and a language of play-beyond-words… celebrating the enoughness of ‘what is’.
Finding these places, these people, has often felt like validation of my deepest needs and calling, and of course, one would want to stay… would want to do whatever it took to stay, including bring others along. On the mountain I learned of a million bright and open eyes, countless ways of seeing and being seen, and how to find thin places where distance, manipulations and lies, have no meaning at all, present no barrier (“How can a mantis block the road?”).
Yes, like visiting Heaven, or, more comfortable imagery for me: a land of Buddha fields.
As I traveled though, I always suspected there might come a time when my go-to’s would no longer work… when I wouldn’t be able to retreat and study myself into a blissful mind palace state of grace over and over again. Truth be told, as much as I have loved and desired that, I have also wanted to be drawn from… to serve… to pour myself out completely so that I could really rest, “one day.”
And lately, I simply show up to meet the moment. I don’t control where I am or who I encounter, for hours of most days, and often can’t fully classify a good day from a bad. I am ‘snapped out’ of my story-telling and ruminating, over and over again until that movement works its way into my body, giving my mind to whatever the apparent situation may draw out. It isn’t exactly that I’ve come down from the mountain nor left the quest behind, but that all those books and sutras and sessions and endless audios have become a kind of inward architecture… more perhaps, Rumi’s Guest House.
“Be grateful for whoever comes, because each has been sent as a guide from beyond.”
(Coleman Barks translation)
There may be a shift here, from reading to being read, which I like to think may be a true culmination of practice, moving into living lucidly, spontaneously as true default… inhabiting a certain quality of mind. I’m still a little concerned I’ve managed to find just a new way of avoidance, but it seems to be where/how the aliveness has moved, sweeping me into a new phase of exploration.
I even feel some of that here, coming back to my fingers. Dare I hope?
And dare I hope that just situating myself where Life seems to want me, might also matter to ‘the world’ – a ‘coming back’ gesture of belief in Basic Goodness… a better collaboration?
I’ve been working a lot since my grandfather died, keeping occupied, a la “Don’t look down.”
It isn’t exactly his death which has been scary to me at some deep level, but what his stepping out of the way reveals about what remains… what a life might amount to and mean to others. Or not. His absence is limitation in my life–so many things that now go away. But it is also permission–to stop hiding the wine and buddhas in the apartment, to ask myself what should be written, now that it won’t hurt him to do so.
Walking a tightrope is hard without fanfare. “Keeping busy” means answering “Just fine” a lot, because who has time to hear the whole of it anyway…
Yet, it must matter in the Big Scheme of Things, especially when what seems my very personal, almost entirely unexpressed, pain, comes back, reflected through the lives of those whose stories did eventually find expression, those who were eventually seen. My incredibly edited life bursts the bounds of its interiority this way, becoming 99% subtext, and Art not my own.
To lesser or greater degrees, this is true for all of us, as it was for Judy Garland, the newish film about whom I watched today, weirdly, just after I’d come across a clip of Elizabeth Taylor during an interview. In the interview, Elizabeth said people loved her because the highs and lows of her life, the near deaths and public sorrows, deemed her a survivor. Was Judy a survivor? I’m not sure.
Still, I need to reduce that subtext proportion. Maybe that’s why I keep trying to write about him, but not exactly him. I keep searching within the details of moments, for where to dwell, what to deem the truth of things–looking for the beauty I know is there, without applying unneeded gloss nor extra scuffing.
What I’ve found so far, is that his life is not just his life; his story is not just his story, but also mine, just as much.
The 16 year old car I’ve been sharing with my son has had it… its very latest expression of resistance being the driver’s side door, which only closes after a 5-part dance of pray, jiggle, shake, pull, and slam. This, on top of the finicky gas reader, the loud whistle just slightly different from the one we’re used to, and the crackled melting seats. The time to let go is now–yesterday actually–but I’ve been hesitating.
For most of my childhood, my grandfather owned an auto body shop. Occasionally, we’d drive up to see him work and help clean up… a frustrating visit for a child outside of going to a restaurant at some point because there weren’t many safe places to play.
There were, however, interesting things about: typewriters, rolling stools, and calculators which made receipts. In later years he lived right there behind his shop in the air-stream trailer he and I traveled in to see my Great-grandfather for what would be the last time. That trailer was in much better condition than most of the the cars and boats he endlessly traded and tinkered with.
Once, he tried to talk me into turning an air boat–the kind that glide through the Everglades–into a houseboat!
It was just the sort of project to lodge in his mind as a next big thing, alongside hydroponics gardening and online stock trading– things which for months or years he would beat the drum about, hoping someone in the family would seize and run with the idea.
He was right about computers though, encouraging what he saw me go toward naturally when given one, although he could be impatient about my bearing (real) fruit (money) in some way.
He always thought I should start a blog, but not like this one. See the fruit factor, above. 😉
He liked to work as though getting away with something. Whether intricate work like watchmaking and sewing, or larger-scale mechanics and real estate, very little seemed all the way right. Yet, in that not-quite-right-ness was a choice he was consciously making … a rebellious streak.
I‘m a little like that too. 🙂
Unlike me however, my grandfather believed in formulas, and in sayings, such as “There are only two reasons people do things: fear of loss, or expectancy of gain.” I couldn’t glom on to this, nor most of his formulas actually, no matter how oft repeated. I would think, “That’s a problem, if true.” After he’d driven away though, I would ask myself whether some of his formulas, especially about motivations, were true of me, and determine that they not be. In an upside-down sort of way, they often became great advice
We worried about him a lot in the last years. We worried when he insisted on driving the bartered cars up and down the coast, often breaking down at least once between one point and the next. We worried that he thought rest stops were good places for naps; he felt that by looking as though he had nothing, he was safe. It was because of his own serious need of towing service that he always kept an AAA membership, adding my name to make sure I would never be stranded.
I feel a little stranded, now.
Which is what tipped the scales today… got me thinking too deeply. Because of the state my car is in, I signed myself up for AAA this morning, then spent the rest of the day trying to shake deep and unreasonable anger… some at him, for worrying us with his maddening ways of thinking and infuriating priorities. And then, for going on before everything could make sense for the family, so that we might mourn his passing together without the second-arrow-suffering so common as to be cliche’.
Suffice it to say we haven’t escaped that.
The membership was a little thing, but represented so much. When I received email confirmation for the account, my first thought, bizarrely, was, “His mercy endures forever.” I’d renewed this for myself, but in his name, in a way…
After all, it was my grandfather who taught me to drive, in a tiny Chevrolet he stored for a man who lived in another state. I practiced for hours, circling cones he picked up somewhere and placed around the bowling alley parking lot across from the shop. He also taught me to play tennis, to fish, to drive a boat. The very first time I saw a cruise ship was from his boat… one which seemed so large to me just a moment before.
I’m thankful I got the chance to express my appreciation to him directly many times, but I’m thankful for other, difficult things, too. He could mostly handle having honest conversations about things we clashed about, because if a discussion became too heated, we’d both stop rather than risk deeply hurting (or god-forbid losing) the other.
Not everyone can do that. My mother and I could not.
As to why I have avoided changing cars like the plague, aside from it being better for the environment not to constantly upgrade…It is a feeling that just has so much baggage for me: fear of being fed bad advice, vulnerability at the mercy of others to follow through at their end in a trustworthy way.
Although through meditation practices and commitment to examined living/examined mind, it is possible to live with a great degree of open-awareness, nothing quite shows up ‘who you are’ like loss does. Thus I’ve found losing my grandfather to be a place of deep vulnerability, more like an inverted mountaintop than one offering some great perspective – a stripping away rather than any gaining of insight.
Even having ample time for preparation and reflection, I was just so unprepared for how alone I would feel each time I remember he’s gone.
Some heartbreak is due to the way my small family has handled things, in essence closing me (and my children) out of the process, not necessarily out of maliciousness, but their own pain and exhaustion. Most of it is simply the childish wish that things (“everything from all time”) could have gone differently had I just been more this that or the other. There was so much he wouldn’t let anyone do for him, so many ways in which his independence and stubbornness set the stage for confused reading of intentions, for fragmentation.
Yet I always knew that he loved me, and that he would be there for me if I were really in need. I suppose growing up often means losing ‘that person’. So many great books have this theme of transformation post hollowing out.
But may I say, I’m tired of transforming…
And when I look around, I don’t see others called upon to ‘transform’ quite so much…
So what can I do. I’ll turn my heart toward conscious appreciation… for the way I got to witness and be part of his having a kind of second wind at the end, going out with and leaning on friends, smiling more than I’d seem him do in a very long time. He learned to easily say “I love you” after withholding that phrase for most of his life, and to listen to the whole sentence when someone said “I love you”, to him.
I think that he was able to survey the whole of his journey at some point too, that the end result was a life in which he had provided foundation and rescue for 3 generations of our too often struggling family… a life where he had, however unsteadily at times, ‘been there’ in ways only he could have been.
I keep waiting for him to show that he’s still there in some way. The day of his passing I felt the strange ‘off page’ sensation of a conversation, of permission asked, of the need to say a blessing. I wrote what amounted to a prayer, that he would experience forever the freedom and joy of knowing… complete ease. Other things. It was less than an hour between my pouring my heart out, of gesturing that I could let him go, and the text my mother sent of his passing. (Yes: text.)
Since then I’ve kept myself so busy, and my body so full, that I’ve been able to mostly squash down the sadness, except on those nights when I wake up with tears streaming down my face… except when I encounter someone else who has just experienced a loss and our losses bump into one another… except when, like today, I determine to let the feelings flow wherever they will.
Actually, I’m able to write a little today thanks to a quiet moment I found while scrolling Instagram and sipping coffee during a beautiful sunrise. George the dachshund settled in on my legs and fell asleep so heavily that I couldn’t bring myself to shove him off, so I scrolled, and mused, sometimes gazing at the white gauzy curtains that resemble those from my childhood.
I remembered vividly, once as a teen, having a hard time trying to change myself/my life. My grandfather pointed to the oak tree outside the living room window of our house in South Miami and told me how he’d seen it grow from a small shallowly-rooted tree that could hardly withstand a summer storm, into a deeply rooted tree that withstood strong hurricanes.
My mother ridiculed me for telling the story that way, tried to tell a different story about the tree to supplant what he’d said. Until he died I never knew how much she resented his care of me, though I realized she didn’t share that. Back in that moment, his story gave me comfort beyond anything else he might have said, because the example was so tangible. So it didn’t really matter to me whether it was true or not.
It still doesn’t.
Sometimes, lately, I feel like I’m back there again. The tree isn’t in quite the shape he promised it would be… needs some tending to become a better shelter.
So, I’ve been doing shadow work–contemplative work which includes intentionally going into the emotional places I’d rather (and usually do) avoid, and searching around in there to see, “What still hurts?”
Basically, it’s a check up.
In the same way, I have a shoulder issue which bothers me occasionally, but only when and if I’m doing certain things. I can go a long time without thinking about it, but when I see my doctor, we move the shoulder this way and that to find out whether improvement has taken place.
It simply isn’t useful to check it all the time, because part of healing includes not aggravating the injury. Obsessing would in fact be a sign that it is in need of something further in the way of intervention.
Same with the emotional body. If you neglect these appointments, you can have flare ups of what some have deemed “the pain body”, who will emerge from a blind spot and wreak havoc in your life!
The feedback I’ve received during the tests and prodding included in this emotional check-up has been mixed. On the one hand, general inflammation is nowhere near as debilitating as it has been at various points in life, and specific discomfort areas have proven manageable enough to ‘get on with the show’ so to speak.
Yet, there is still deep pain in some areas, things that need addressing, people who present as enemies or obstacles to happiness in one way or another. There are memories that still hold the patterns and frequencies of fear.
I’m fortunate to be able to schedule this work… to have learned how to mostly do that, and now, I need to map out and schedule the follow-up treatments, which include spending direct time with those people and memories. Most can be addressed out of my home first-aid kit, with technologies like EFT Tapping, what I’m calling prayer, lots of walking, and nature bathing… tangibly moving through.
At a deeper level, all can be addressed by tapping into a sense of timelessness. Meditation is the only way I know of there, or some ‘flash moments’ of writing and/or painting.
But the timelessness I mean is different than one might suppose – timelessness that would allow one to relinquish their need for validation or justice or understanding, or even improvement at all. Rather, the timelessness I’m turning to is active, fulfilling, not invalidating any need, including for justice, as less important than ‘cosmic viewpoint’ or some such.
This timelessness is compassion, is the nectar of Bodhicitta, the promise of transforming experience of life in ways beyond even cosmic fathoming.
I feel I’ve been prescribed a deep-dive exploration, and surprisingly, it isn’t one that requires getting rid of so-called baggage to undertake.
Why Citipati, above? I’m not sure. Somehow I have the sense that these graveyard dwelling wrathful deities can impart some key. They seem to be the guardians of this first leg of the journey…
Met a talented woman at a party last week. She’d made the super impressive cake for the guest of honor, a friend’s son newly graduated from medical school. I marveled over the way the writing of his name on the coat of the cake was delicate and perfect.
It really was, and the filling delicious, too.
Later, three of us began a conversation away from the crowd out on the orchid-filled patio by the pool. The whole environment suddenly cooled thanks to a welcome burst of rain which, coupled with the pocket of quiet, felt like a secret to just sit and treasure together a while.
A chance to chat.
Our talk was about jobs, mostly, leading into my desire to use my paralegal skills in some way, “busy-work, something to aid lawyers working with detainment and immigration issues I hope … something I can feel good about.” Then I learned that her main gig is that of a teacher… currently working in an immigrant detention center not too far from me.
This brought a brief silence between us.
One can’t fault those working inside the facilities too much, or, can they? I don’t have a clear answer, which is the biggest problem with bureaucracy, after all: distance from responsibility. As an individual, she is, I’m absolutely sure, loving with the kids (well, teenagers) she teaches, attentive, and has their interests at heart. No one, certainly not me, would want to deprive them of that care nor make their daily lives less comfortable in any way. That is why even some politicians who protest the centers, continue to vote to fund them.
Still, speaking with this young woman was a rare opportunity to hear the perspective of someone regularly inside a system which, although she insists it’s not the case, lacks transparency. She expressed with no small measure of passion, that some kids were living in better conditions than they ever had in their lives… well fed, wearing clothes of their own, able to sleep in safety. She praised the availability of meals, classes, structure, and said that a few of the girls told her personally, that they were happy there, and hopeful about their futures.
Further, she was disgusted by the disruption brought about by those creating chaos at the gates, which causes the kids to be kept inside more than they might otherwise, “to shield them.” Some days, when from her perspective politicians want to make scenes, it takes hours for those who work at the facility to get in and out. “People would not do that if they were really concerned about those inside.”
I didn’t doubt her impressions. Her personal experience is something I place great value in and appreciate her sharing. It may be that the facility she works in is better run than the ones in Texas we are finally hearing about, for one thing. OR, it may be that it is impossible to see the whole from within one part.
And I think we must deal with the whole of the situation.
It was obvious a little further into our conversation, that she didn’t take issue with the premise of the facilities themselves, nor policies of this administration generally. Like so many where I live in South Florida, she’s been convinced of our President as a “businessman” – brash and unpolished, but not wrong in setting drastic limitations with those who “should come legally.”
Yes, he is about business… but in this case it is the interests of an ever-expanding private prison industry… a system I already abhor. It is truly beyond my capacity to fathom how well-oiled and finely targeted propaganda machines have proven to be, that people can feel hidden behind this thin facade of legitimate system.
I don’t mean to say that this woman I spoke to buys into the ‘other’ narratives I describe. Even while knowing my views are drastically different, she didn’t treat me with disdain, for one thing.
I do worry though, about deep pockets of ignorance. For instance, my kids received less than half the Holocaust education I did as a child. Almost all of that education originated at home. What does that mean for the populace on the whole?
The conversation we had, expanded my sense of doubt about having a decent grasp on the scope of it all, and gave me a clearer, more fully dimensional picture of the people making one-on-one connections and impacts within these situations. Yet, it didn’t alter my overall sense of horror about the camps, and the desired proliferation of them if this administration has its way, which it is getting far too often.
In fact, my sense of foreboding has deepened, “Ah, this how the Unthinkable actually happens, ‘how’ a world lets it happen.” Who can push back such a great and ultimately quite quiet, tide?
Especially when they feel, “Who can push back such a great and ultimately quite quiet, tide…”
What I think is an important and measured article: