Tuesday, January 3, 2012

new year's grim

2011 + 1 = 2012
That's about as much insight as I can muster on this first genuinely cold, windy mornin in coastal Carolina. The wind is dying now, but just before dawn it was blowing a gale there for awhile . That brisk wind doesn't go wasted; there are about a million chimes hanging in the vicinity, and when the breeze gets going you'd swear you were high in the Himalayas in some Lhasan temple - very relaxing in a quietly orchestral kind of way.

It's freezing out by Carolina standards - 32.5 degrees. But the sky is blue and it promises to "warm" into the low 40s later on. That’s spring weather in Maine, and the camellias here are in bloom. Still, cold enough to wear the barn coat. I'd like to say I'm happy with what's on offer so far from the gods of 2012, but no. It's the headlines; they never seem to change. Day after day I avoid reading the news because every other headline screams some utter foolishness, demanding attention to whatever the Republican coterie of fools is up to next. It's enough to make you slam the laptop shut before you even get past your homepage. And today, the first day of Iowa's self-important carnival, the headlines tout Newt's (really? a Pres called Newt? How was this man not born obsessed with the size of his pecker? or was he? poor thing) quick rise and fall on the heels of third party PAC ads. It occurs to me these wild vacillations in the preferences of Republican voters say more about the childishly irresponsible schizo volatility of those voters than either the candidates or their campaigns. Am I wrong?
To carry on with the Disappointing Start to the New Year theme: On a personal note, having a bunch of nincompoop sexist mechanics (you'd think I'd have the sharpest radar on the planet after having married one, mais non) ruin your transmission and cost you several grand, having to tow the car to a competent mechanic AFTER you've paid the nincompoops a small fortune, an issue which you must now hire a lawyer to contest; having one of my kids' car window smashed in by city thugs, another kid lose her job at the hands of a pompous, psychotic boss, and yet another family member who's working two jobs treated like a slave at one job (non-union min wage of course) and running a risk of serious illness if she carries on at the other; having no work myself (December was clearly just a flash in the pan workwise) and not the faintest clue what to do next in this willfully crap economy – well, I'm a little drained before the year even gets going. At Christmas we all agreed this was going to be the year whose theme would be "Everything's Gonna Be Fine!" if we all just did what needing doing, tried to find joy in that, and put our shoulders to the wheel, however corrupt the slave masters. Well, so far ... not.

Reading some of my old posts from the states, I discovered the joie de vivre started leaking out of my joy balloon sometime early last year; they seemed to lack a certain something. I lack a certain joie that infused me across the pond, something missing that once fed my soul. The holidays were lovely, spent with my wonderful kids and friends, all of us very grateful to have each other, to be together, we had some welcome roaring fires on chilly nights – proof I'm good for something, if nothing else than a reliable fire (true to Carlotta's adage that A good fire is the best friend you'll ever have, implying every woman should be able to build one). Yet I can't help but think maybe it's being here, in the US of A. So depressing these days, an undercurrent of fear everywhere, the hint of incipient madness. Moments of pleasure and gratitude, yes, but WTF?

Where's the joie? The optimism that accompanies a new year ? Is the idea of a fresh start just another lie we tell ourselves? Millions of broken annual weight loss vows certainly attest to that likelihood.

Reading my old blog posts it's obvious that I'm happiest when traveling and writing, but one needs a wee home to return to, ones cherished things about, treasured possessions left after the last purge/house sale (now stacked miserably abandoned in cold storage) and a purpose to ones day beyond selfish interest. (Are all interests selfish?) And in these uneasy, even frightening, times, not being able to provide a safe haven, a place for struggling family members to regroup is pure angst for a mother. Torture.
Yet I watch in stunned amazement a handful of folks I've called 'friend' for a goodly portion of my life, folks who've availed themselves of the easy respite of returning home periodically (or for lazy summers) to momma's house all their lives, not to mention continuous financial support when needed, exhibit willful blindness toward what it is to be without such security – spoiled feckers, aren't they? As aging adults they parade a carefully apportioned noblesse oblige when socially convenient, but their actions reveal them to be died in the wool Me-Firsters when the chips are down and serious help or compassion is required by those less fortunate. The widening emotional disconnect between people I thought of as like-minded friends and the Have Nots is shocking. They seem utterly impervious to real suffering, to the fear for basic survival of those less fortunate because, despite their whining about their riches not being enough, they've never really known what it was to have to survive on their own, never. Mum and dad were always there to catch their falls, dust them off, and hand them a check. With my own eyes I've seen them wield their privilege, power and security as a bludgeon to verbally shame vulnerable Have- Nots to their faces, to emotionally beat them down for not being a Have. What's the old expression? "Chastising those on time for those who are tardy."

Southern church hat ladies lark about -

An example:
What kind of person fires a loyal, good hearted employee without warning or discussion the week before Christmas ( having conspired to do this for months), then tries to gyp them out of severance pay before jetting off to Switzerland with his family for a nice Christmas leaving the fired employee to borrow money to drive an old crap car a thousand miles, flat broke, to find her way to her own family? How cold hearted is that? Another wolf in sheep’s clothing who yet sees himself as a bonafide member of the "nice guy club". The Haves sense things are "inconvenient" for workers, but still believe it's a 'bootstraps up' issue for the Have- Nots. Seriously, this burns my tush when I see it in folks once claiming to be my friends.

Lament winding down now... as I reflect that...
I was quite happy this Advent: purposeful, busy, optimistic, working hard, making a little scratch. Grateful that, in years past, like Chrissy Hynde, I have enjoyed the Sense of Purpose you find fervently loving someone, hopeful that would renew itself. But that turned out to be some fantasy I carried on believing could be refreshed way past the sell- by date. AND this has happened to me more than once! Is it a character fault or to my credit that my faith is so staunch and renewable? (I would have made a helluva sea captain: always willing to go down with a sinking ship.)
Probably best to view this as a 'readjustment ' period, wherein, like those bottom weighted inflatable punching bag figures I once got the kids for Christmas, I allow myself time to boiiiing slowly back to an upright position as I recover from yet another punch to the kisser at the hands of brutal truth. They say what doesn't kill you makes you strong. Maybe. But it can also make you bitter – or wiser, depending on your level of commitment to self-awareness. (Some of the most chipper people I meet turn out to be the most bitter underneath it all.) It's that part I'm trying to find; a beacon in the fog that will show me what's next.

(Oh ironic treasure – gratitude for the ones you'd die for)

As I slide into 2012, I could feel broke and disheartened by the price one pays for silencing one's own instincts. But am grateful for friends like the one who reminded me recently, there are people all over the world who love me and whom I love. And that is truly something.

Carrying on with the bright side, I was given Bill Clinton's book on Giving for Christmas. It's next on my list of things to read. But my favorite Christmas read was Kate Atkinson's Started Early, Took My Dog, from a fellow Martha Grimes fan. Wow, what a great read. That gal can write! Wit, no nonsense humor, and a damn good mystery to boot. Move over Martha! I'm scouring the used bookstores for more of Kate's books. And I found several for a mere $3.95 no shipping cost at www.thriftbooks.com.
Another sweet gift of the season: a local radio DJ decided to have a Tracy Nelson evening for her birthday. Tracy from Mother Earth!? I loved her! (from the album Mother Earth on iTunes) It sounded great! We used to do that tune with my old band in AZ. Hadn't heard it in years (how do we lose these wonderful things?), and it rocked my soul in a way nothin but the blues can do. Sent me off on a two day mental blues jag (including plenty of Paul Butterfield) that lifted me up and there were three gals cruising around Wilmington cranking Tracy on the iPod and singin at the top of our lungs on Christmas. (You do what you gotta do to carry on.) And with a message that never gets old, here's what Tracy had to say to the Haves.
"Well, you can high-hat me all the time
and you may never come my way
Mother Earth is waitin for you
There's a debt you got to pay.
I don't care how rich you are
I don't care what you're worth
When it all comes down
you got to go back to Mother Earth"
[The girl can saang! hey! Turn it up. Butterfield next: Everything’s Gonna Be Alright , live version. God, I feel better already...]
May all your troubles be little ones this year, and love fill all your empty places.


  1. Whooh. Dear, you don't need to READ the news, you ARE the news right now--and sometimes a righteous cry is the most appropriate response to Everything--the perfect answer to the righteous brilliant bastards that surround us at every turn.
    My friend and neighbor, who immigrated from Germany, tells me not to envy people who never have to drive flat broke a thousand miles, or who never have to decide whether to die early or live with a lifetime of healthcare debt for going in the hospital--she says she left Germany because they're all narrow-minded scaredy cats terrified of moving a hair out of their pre-ordained and carefully groomed stability.
    Apparently countries with good union wages and a strong social safety net may not provide that all-enveloping succor of Peace and joie-de-vivre we all crave--but which definitely seems elusive when we are under the collective and individual stresses of this cratering economy and, not-to-mention, accelerating environmental destruction.
    Blues music and girlfriends may be all you have to pull you through this--god, I too, wander to the recesses of my mind and wonder if that would be enough to help me through a shake up I know has to happen ONE day, when my parents die, I have to leave this rental, my daughter turns a teenager, and...? what else--that's what I feel when reading about your situation--it's a rough place that words just can't do justice to--
    but your ability to write even a tiny bit of it for us, your blog audience and friends around the world, is a gift for all of us--and hopefully it is a gift for you too...

    1. yer a doll to say so, that's for sure. keep on keeping on, writing and standing in the middle of this amazing life.