Credo II (Morningside After Dark edit)

Three times a year — once in January, once in February, and once in April– a sympathetic and broad-minded crowd gathers in the basement of Morningside Church in Edina for a night of stories and songs on a particular theme. The event is free (donations to the church are always appreciated but not required) and always both life-and-spirit-affirming. 

Last night, I did my third MADark reading. I’m always honored to be included, but last night felt particularly special somehow. Anyway, here is the essay I read, a version of “Credo” I edited for last night’s theme: Growing Pains.

 

Lizzie on Henry's shoulder

 

First and most of all, I’m for love –the kind you need and want from the people who give it best.

 

I stand for Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, Hufflepuff, and Slytherin. I am against mocking people for believing in God and I am against mocking people for not believing in God.

 

I believe in deep quiet, loons, and swimming with horses, which I tried once at Camp Lake Hubert the summer I was 15– it felt like flying. I believe in an Afterlife … not harps and fluffy white clouds so much as a clarity, an understanding, a lifting of all the veils that make us think our stubborn, self-destructive thoughts. I am for a Heaven that reconciles my vision and God’s, a big explanation, God saying “this is why and this is why and this is why.”

 

I’m for Grandma Betty, who kept rosaries in her desk and fed me soft, pillowy doughnuts rolled in sugar on Sunday mornings after Mass. I’m for the tiny, Technicolor strawberries she grew in her garden, which I picked and brought to my dad and grandpa in a metal pail, one by one.

 

I am for Grandpa Skluzacek, whose pickup truck smelled of wood shavings, tobacco, and the fish he caught alone in secret lakes and I am for Grandpa Thacher, who took me to get stitches on my chin when I was 4 and told everyone how brave I was when I wasn’t.

 

Camp Lake Hubert

 

I am pro-cabin, pro-camp, pro-canoe. I’m pro-Constance, who meets me at the back fence now and then to exchange lemons, eggs, sour cherries, solidarity. I’m for the teary girl I saw at the elementary school last October, willing herself down the hall. I was her once. I am pro-aloneness, anti-loneliness.

 

I am in favor of the simple, peaceful Lonsdale cemetery where my dad and other members of my family are buried, but against all the reasons it’s full. I am in favor of tough old ladies and soft old men and I am all in for Minnesota. I believe in flannel sheets, down comforters with the windows cracked, the romance of a December wedding. I would relive mine a thousand times if I could … I probably have.

 

Yes to my dad and stepmom, who honored me by dying when I was right there in the room and yes to my mom and stepdad, who spared me that sorrow. No to a crystal ball, though I badly want one. No because I would use it irresponsibly.

 

I swear by birthday cake for breakfast and I swear by my mom, who taught herself the Club Med line dance with a tape she bought at the gift shop and practiced in our living room until it was perfect. I am passionately pro-nerd.

 

43rd birthday cake for Brian 2015

 

No to mealy apples, no to fake vanilla, and no to both phone and in-person solicitation. Yes to bread, GramBea’s rice pudding, lake swimming, being up late at night. Yes to wilderness and protecting it.

 

I believe in the peonies my dad grew and brought to my house in vases each spring; the Eames chair where I sat in his lap when I was five, watching Little House on the Prairie on Monday nights; I believe in the bronze stars and purple heart he brought back from Viet Nam. I believe in anyone brave enough and wise enough to choose tenderness.

 

I’m for the brilliant nurse who helped me bathe my toddler at Children’s Hospital when she had wires glued to her scalp and I’m for the brilliant neurosurgeon who performed her brain surgery at Mayo when she was three years old. I’m against staying in the hospital with your child alone – don’t do it.

 

Sweet Brian and Carolinbe post EEG

 

I am for raising yourself as you raise your kids, I am for Dad, who worked at my high school and would make a convincing camel face for anyone who asked and I am for Mom, who called me Lamby and Lovebug right up until she died when I was 41.

 

Yes to GramBea playing piano out on her four-season porch as I was coming in from school, yes to the beautiful connection between my children, which is what I have always hoped for. Yes to the way my dad and his sister would laugh together in a kind of harmony and yes to letting your kids see you cry. No to anyone who makes you feel like you’re crazy for feeling too much.

 

Yes to reminding people they are not alone – including myself. Yes to growing up together, to people who are afraid but keep trying anyway.

 

Yes to you, my friends from long ago and far away and yes to you, my friends from always. Yes to everyone who is here now and yes to those who couldn’t stick around for one reason or another.

 

I stand for you.
I stand for me.
I am for you and me.

 

Bridesmaids 121199

Winter

Pamela Park Christmas Day 2013

 

Thoughts, rest your wings.
Here is a hollow of silence,
a nest of stillness,
in which to hatch your dreams.

~Joan Walsh Anglund

 

Are you a winter person? I don’t know if I would say that about myself, though winter is an important time for me. I repair my wells in January and February: mercy, resolve, insight, reverence.

 

I like to hide out this time of year, to deeply rest. Once the kids are in school, I curl up on the wood floor in front of my fireplace and read poems or close my eyes. Sometimes I stare out at the park. There is something reassuring about seeing the world in black and white when I’m grieving or lonely, like Nature feels it with me.

 

I imagine that deep inside the frozen trees are their summer selves, recovering from storms, sorting out everything they’ve witnessed. Anyway, that’s what I do this time of year. That’s what winter is for.

 

 

Spring Pamela

Fear

Deep Autumn 2013
© 2016 Marta C Drew

 

I’m 5 and 1/2, so I can walk to Betsy’s by myself. Two blocks on 55th, Wooddale to Oaklawn, then take a left. I know right away if he’s there –a big black dog whose people don’t keep him on a leash. The only other dogs I’ve met up until now are Betsy’s Scotties, so I don’t know breeds. If I had to guess? Werewolf. Maybe bear.

 

My uncaring mother is drinking Tab and doing a crossword back at the house. She’s off the hook: it’s 1978. Driving your almost-6-year-old three blocks so she doesn’t have to experience any discomfort or anxiety won’t be in fashion for another 20 years.

 

Sometimes the dog is outside, sometimes he isn’t. Not knowing is the worst part. Am I safe today? Will he watch me from the driveway, too stuffed with another neighborhood child to bother with me? Will he chase me all the way to 54th Street, which I’m not allowed to cross until Mrs. Burritt is supervising? I never know. Every trip is a hero’s journey.

 

But within a few years, the dog is the least of my problems. Mean-spirited kids love to see me cry. I flip out of my innertube one summer into the Apple River, get caught under the rapids, and glimpse Death skulking along the banks. Sometimes my dad doesn’t answer the phone and I ride my bike to his house from my mom’s to make sure he is not lying twisted at the foot of the stairs. For a long time, I have a permanent stomachache.

 

Fear is so familiar, such a lifelong companion of mine, I wonder if I would recognize myself without it.  It’s a flame I carry from place to place, from year to year. I protect that flame, I nurture it. I don’t want to be caught unprepared.

 

There are no rules in this life …nothing I can perceive to govern us. We the People cannot govern us; God and Jesus, as good as They are, cannot govern us. We are ungovernable as long as we are this afraid. We can’t count on safety and we’re obsessed with it. Take your little peanut out of his NASA-grade carseat, wrap him in layers to maintain the proper body temperature, set him so gently in the grocery cart at Whole Foods with a cover over the handle so he doesn’t catch something from the other organic babies. Feed him quinoa, veggies from your CSA, no gluten or sugar. He can still get cancer, we all know it.

 

As long as I keep loving people –and I insist– there will always be more loss.

 

I have spent nights with my child at hospitals, I have sent her into brain surgery. How did I do that, being who I am?  I remember the drive down to Mayo in the early-morning darkness. The ancient trees, who have seen everything, stood sentinel along the highway. The IV insertion was the usual hell with a toddler –tiny veins, deep breaths. When the anesthesiologist carried our little daughter out of the nurses’ station, my husband and I sat on vinyl chairs behind a thin curtain and cried like children.

 

Ten hours later, the surgeon crossed the waiting room with miraculous news: our baby’s tumor had peeled neatly away from the healthy part of her brain like an orange. I could show you exactly where I was standing, back by the vending machines, when I called my mom, weeping with relief, to give her the news. So much relief … and still so much fear, because I knew: this pain would not immunize me.

 

And it didn’t, or at least not for long. My mother, the one I called first after my daughter’s surgery, my invincible parent, developed a brain tumor too and hers killed her.  Three years later, my dad succumbed to pancreatic cancer. As long as I keep loving people –and I insist — there will always be more loss.

 

It’s fair to be afraid, there’s plenty of good reason. I’m not afraid of dogs anymore, but other fears have replaced them: scoundrels in Washington, the tenuousness of human relationships, the fragility and the power contained in a single cell. I am afraid of political fault lines through families and old friendships, my penchant for dark thinking, attack on all fronts. I am afraid of losing my sight or having a heart attack or getting cancer when I have a lot of parenting left to do. I am afraid my voice isn’t as strong and clear as I would like it to be, that I give in where I should fight and fight where I should give in. This is not an exhaustive list.

 

It’s so tempting, isn’t it, to dissolve into this anxiety, to turn back and run home. It’s tempting to crouch on your side of the wall, arranging and engineering the trivial while ignoring the essential: there has never been and never will be an assurance of safety. I want us all to radically accept that so we can take reasonable measures and let the rest go. So we can be there for each other, all of us humans. Our connection has always been our best protection.

 

At some point, there is so much to be afraid of that there is nothing to be afraid of and then you can go anywhere you want, ready or not. The flame I have carried from year to year, place to place, which I believed was fear, isn’t fear. Fear is the not knowing, the threat, the separation. Fear is the protections I have always counted on now ebbing away. The flame …is something else. Resilience? Defiance? I don’t know, but I’m still here.

 

Candle in the Window
© 2016 Marta C Drew

Not out of Sorrow, but in Wonder

Processed with VSCO with c1 preset

Hello, My Friend …

I have always thought of myself as someone who can handle change. My house never looks exactly the same from season to season, I (mostly) took the end of “Downton Abbey” in stride, and I have learned to let people go when they want to go. I ordered myself a 4-pack of reading glasses when I turned 45 and wear them without complaint. It’s all part of life, I know.

 

My son is as tall as I am … okay. My grandma and grandpa’s lovely old house was torn down and replaced … I can accept that. Grandma Betty is gone and I may never be able to accurately recreate her beautiful kolachkes … sigh … but I’ll allow it.

 

Change is familiar enough, and usually manageable; the problem lately is its volume and speed. Have you ever played Tetris? It’s a video game I used to be obsessed with. Different-shaped blocks fall from the top of your screen and you have to fit them together to form solid rows. When you make a row, it disappears. If you let the pieces pile up to the top, you lose and the longer you play, the faster the pieces fall. The faster they fall, the harder it gets to fit them together.

 

Do you ever feel like that? Like the older you get, the harder it is to fit all the pieces of your life together quickly enough that they don’t pile up on you? I feel like that. Also, the falling pieces are odd shapes these days: my dad’s old Christmas tree with the bubble lights and the wooden Christopher Robin ornament; the upright piano my mom used to play while she sang to me; my grandpa’s red Ford F150, which he would drive three blocks to church just to show off; the dining table where my mom hosted decades of Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners. None of those pieces fit together and I don’t want them to disappear, but they have, and fast.

 

I sound maudlin …I don’t mean to. Read this:

 

ENCOUNTER
Czeslaw Milosz

We were riding through frozen fields in a wagon at dawn.
A red wing rose in the darkness.

And suddenly a hare ran across the road.
One of us pointed to it with his hand.

That was long ago. Today neither of them is alive,
Not the hare, nor the man who made the gesture.

O my love, where are they, where are they going
The flash of a hand, streak of movement, rustle of pebbles.
I ask not out of sorrow, but in wonder.

 

“Not out of sorrow, but in wonder.”
Yes, that’s it.

 

I am going to take a couple of weeks off for Christmas and the New Year, but I’ll be thinking of you as always. Be well, my friend. I wish for the moving pieces in your life to slow down a bit in the coming days. I wish you meaningful celebrations with the people who fill you up the most.

 

It doesn’t matter to me what you celebrate … whatever it is, I hope it’s delicious.

In love and solidarity,
Marta

Hello, Old Friend

Cinnamon hearts

 

Hello, Old Friend. I’ve missed you.

 

I am returning (I believe, I hope) from a long absence. I buried my dad in late June, three years after my mom died, and ever since I have felt like my moorings are slipping. There are still plenty of people who love me and whom I love in equal measure, there are still places I want to see or return to, still recipes I want to try and books I want to read. I don’t feel lost or permanently broken – just lonelier and a little bit beaten up. I miss belonging and connection, so here I am, writing to You.

 

I spent about a year and a half writing an essay about my time working at a greenhouse outside of Cleveland. I think I have rewritten it 20 or 30 times, submitted it to 15 literary magazines, and been rejected by 50. That’s not true of course, because the math doesn’t work out, but it feels true. Rejection always feels bigger than my efforts, why is that? It shouldn’t.

 

Anyway, if you’re a writer (or even if you’re not), you’re rolling your eyes and telling me I haven’t even begun to try. You’re telling me I have to keep going and send my essay out again. You’re talking to your screen about how many times very famous writers sent out their manuscripts before someone finally accepted them, published them, made them famous, and produced movies or built amusement parks in honor of their books.

 

And yeah, I know, I’ve heard those stories too, but nobody is going to ride an orchid-themed roller coaster.

 

So with love,

I say this:

Shut up.

 

I am retiring (for now) from my failed career in literary-magazine-writing. In fact, I may bake myself a retirement cake, since I really like cake and happen to be a fairly excellent baker. See? I have plenty of confidence. Self-doubt is not the problem; rattling a locked door is the problem. I do that a lot, especially with people, but we can talk more about that later. Or not. Let’s not.

 

These might be letters, not essays. They might be essays, not letters. I don’t know, we’ll see. My therapist has retired early – a decision for which I am trying hard not to take personal responsibility—so I am all yours. I am trying to stop trying so hard to be “writerly” so I can enjoy writing again. I am trying to let go of writing for redemption and start writing for connection. That is all more difficult for me than it should be, but I intend to try.

 

I want to feel better, braver, more hopeful than I currently do. I’m guessing I’m not the only one, which is why I am sending this out into the shrieking chaos of the Internet. Write back if you feel like it. If you don’t or can’t right now, I’ll keep writing to You anyway. I heal by healing –we all do.

 

Love and solidarity,
Marta

Attachment, a Meditation

Canoe Bay Flower and Veggie Garden Summer 2015
© 2016 Marta C Drew

 

Each Fall, I kneel in my fading garden, I wrap geraniums, sweet potato vine, and petunias around my wrists, and I pull. A few plants come willingly, bursting from their pots in a dusty shower, but most cling stubbornly to the soil they know. I spend the season’s last sunny afternoons combing through the earth with my fingers, tugging at the roots. I am patient and methodical, but the job is never clean. Each plant leaves some part of its complicated circuitry in  the earth and each wiry root carries part of its home with it when it is pulled. This is as it should be. They have meant so much to each other.

 

Grandma Betty’s sewing machine is sitting on the floor of my garage these days. It hums and vibrates like a time machine as I pass it on the way to my car or step over it to retrieve a sweet potato from the bin. That sewing machine would carry me all the way to Grandma’s workroom if I let it, pull me right down onto her blue jacquard davenport. It has powers. It has roots. It could tuck me under the long worktable next to the box of fabric scraps from bridesmaids’ dresses, the gown for the Montgomery kolacky queen, somebody’s apron. Even now, years and miles away from where it started, that sewing machine exhales malt and yeast from the basement kitchen next to Grandma’s workroom. It practically speaks Czech. So it stays, though I haven’t used it in years.  It stays, though Grandma is long gone.

 

The gurus warn against attachment. Attachment leads to suffering, attachment is an illusion, attachment is the root of all grief.

 

Each plant leaves some part of its complicated circuitry in  the earth and each wiry root carries part of its home with it when it is pulled.

 

Hanging in the back of my closet –the way back– is my mother’s old full-length fur coat.  I will never wear it, not ever, but I can’t get rid of it, either. When she bought it in the eighties, she was a 5’10” attorney with season tickets to the Guthrie theater and Minnesota Orchestra. She wore it over power suits with shoulder pads. She wore it over Ellen Tracy coordinates to dinner at the Minneapolis Club. My mom and her fur coat were an original eighties power couple: enormous, unforgettable.

 

She wore that coat to chemotherapy once, a couple of months before she died.  Winter was unrelenting that year and she needed the warmth. She had shrunk an inch or two by then and was unsteady on her feet, a column of fur inching across the parking ramp. I carried our purses, a tote bag full of magazines and food I hoped to make her eat. As we walked I kept a hand stretched out towards her, as if I were an animal handler and she a bear stuck with a tranquilizer dart. If she lurched in one direction or another, I would be ready.  Though she only wore her coat to the clinic that one time, all four months of her illness are encapsulated for me in that stretch of parking ramp. Tense, watchful, carrying too much.

 

Once we were inside, I lifted the fur from Mom’s shoulders and lugged its extravagant bulk  with the rest of my burden down the clinic hall to the lab, then an exam room, and finally to the infusion room, where it was given its own chair. Nobody sat on it, though open down the front, its sleeves resting on the arms of the chair, it seemed willing enough to perform the office of comforter. A ghost of my powerful, protective mother’s former self. A ghost that lives in my closet. If I pulled it out and got rid of it, how much of my mother would come with it? How much would be left behind for me to keep?

 

Every person, place, and thing leaves us, yes, but they leave something behind too, threaded through the rest of our lives like strong, fine wires, reminding us how much we have all meant to each other.

 

According to Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra, The purpose of detachment is to let everything nonessential fall away –material things, our suffering, petty likes and dislikes– until only the purest, truest Self remains.

 

If I get rid of Grandma’s sewing machine and Mom’s fur coat, pull them from  the garage and closet where they are of no use to anyone, something of their contexts will come with them –maybe  a scrap of taffeta from a bridesmaid dress, a staple from the old davenport.  Maybe a shoulder pad from an Ellen Tracy blazer or an old Guthrie ticket. They can go. The sewing machine and my mom’s fur coat are nonessential, just things. Even my grief for their original owners is ephemeral, like summer flowers. Everything earthly fades, dies back, and is replaced with something new: another machine, another coat, fresh grief, fresh love.

 

The extraordinary Mary Oliver, my very favorite poet, says:

To live in this world
you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it

against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go.

 

Everything and everyone in this life is temporary, but does that mean it isn’t essential? Can anyone help being attached? Every person, place, and thing leaves us, yes, but they leave something behind too, threaded through the rest of our lives like strong, fine wires, reminding us how much we have all meant to each other. Reminding us we don’t have to be attached to be connected.

 

English Ivy
© 2016 Marta C Drew

Snow Globe

 

Snow Globe photo
© 2015 Marta C Drew

 

Though usually a softy — especially with me– my dad was strict about church. We went every Sunday –no exceptions. Of course I tried to get out of it:

 

” I feel sick.”

“Church will make you feel better. Get dressed and brush your teeth. Let’s go.”

 

So we drove to Mass at Most Holy Trinity in my dad’s 1978 wood-paneled Mercury station wagon. In the early years, Dad let me bring books or dolls or crayons, maybe assuming I would absorb  the ritual even if I wasn’t ready to receive the message. I entertained myself back behind the pews under the not-particularly-watchful eyes of the ushers while my dad did the reading or presented the gifts or assisted with Communion.  Mass had been so thoroughly absorbed into my dad’s consciousness that it felt like another language he spoke, another mode of expression, like Czech or carpentry.

 

I didn’t understand Mass — I still don’t– but I sensed what it meant to him and why he wanted to include me in it despite my resistance. He was inviting me into a ritual he had known all his life, a collection of prayers, songs and movements he carried in his veins and muscles through everything. That ritual, compact enough to keep with him even through the hell of Viet Nam, was still powerful enough to bring him all the way home. It wasn’t the only thing that protected him, but it was the essential thing. He wanted me to be protected too.

 

Mass had been so thoroughly absorbed into my dad’s consciousness that it felt like another language he spoke, another mode of expression, like Czech or carpentry.

 

Since my parents were (very) divorced, they divided my time right down the middle, including Christmas. Mom got Christmas Day for the big, loud family dinner at Grandma and Grandpa Thacher’s house. Dad got Christmas Eve, when we took the snowy, rural drive down to Lonsdale to visit Grandma and Grandpa Skluzacek. As the reliable Merc traced the dark, frozen farm roads it knew by heart, Dad and I listened to “Blue Christmas” and “Mele Kalikimaka” on the radio. Alone but not lonely, connected but allowed our own thoughts, we made that trip every year. When I think of it, I picture us in a snow globe.

 

The rituals I shared with my dad always made me feel like that  … as if I were inhabiting a tiny, enchanted, impenetrable space while he held the world at bay for me. I imagine that’s what God does for him during Mass.

 

I struggled under a lot of fear and anxiety when I was a little girl — I still do. I was anxious about what the mean kids at school would do next, I was afraid my dad would die and there would be nobody left to understand me. I worried about tornadoes and bees and big dogs. My head buzzed from the  fear of doing something embarrassing  –something nobody would ever let me forget– like the time I accidentally left the blinds open while I was going to the bathroom at the neighbors’ house. All the kids on my block were playing street hockey in the driveway that day.

 

My adult self knows they couldn’t have seen anything, but my child self assumed they saw everything. Please please please don’t talk about that,  I prayed every time someone mentioned hockey or bathrooms or peeing or the neighborhood or windows or driveways or playing or stopping or any of the kids who lived in that house or any of the kids who lived nearby. Or their parents. Or anything. Please don’t bring it up. Sometimes my prayers worked, sometimes they didn’t.

 

“Hey, do you remember that time Mar-duh went to the bathroom with the window open? Mar-duh, do you remember? That was so funny! I can’t believe you did that. Why didn’t you close the shade? Did anyone see your butt? Gross! That’s so gross! Hahaha!”

 

I hated the way they said my name, I hated that I had made such an expensive mistake, I hated every minute of those elementary school years. I concentrated on neither laughing nor crying — just enduring, waiting. I suppose that was a kind of ritual too, learning how to hold the world at bay for myself, even if the space I was inhabiting didn’t feel enchanted or impenetrable.

 

Childhood itself is a ritual, imposed on all of us: the unruly world intrudes on our safety and comfort and the adults who love us push it away –over and over again– until we are old enough and brave enough to push the adults away, invite the world in for ourselves, run out to meet it, get lost in it, find our way back again. The world is never safe. We eventually see that’s the beauty of it.

 

The world is never safe. We eventually see that’s the beauty of it.

 

When I was fifteen, I refused to go to church anymore. I had tried to connect with Mass all year during my Confirmation classes, but I couldn’t find my way in.  My dad and I had one of our very rare fights about it.

 

“It feels dishonest!” I cried. “All I do is sit there and think about boys!”

“I daydream too, Marta,” my dad said back. “What matters is that you go to church.”

 

My mom laughed when I told her what he had said, adding it to her case against organized religion in general and Catholicism in particular. She heard my dad’s argument as evidence that his faith was only a meaningless habit.

 

My mother was a brilliant, perceptive woman, but she was wrong about that. He was telling me that absorbing the ritual matters, even if we aren’t ready to receive the message. The message is enormous — the questions are enormous — the fear is enormous. It takes a lifetime just to sit with all of that, let alone reconcile it. Every time we allow ourselves to get lost in the world, the questions, the message, even our doubt, we have to find our way back. Back to what?

 

My dad finds his way back to Mass. I still can’t get there, but I have the ritual he gave me. I step into the snow globe, into my dad’s old Mercury station wagon, and trace the old roads I know by heart –alone but not lonely, connected but allowed my own thoughts …not safe, but protected.

 

Snowy Road and Trees
© 2015 Marta C Drew

Shoulder Shrugger

English Ivy

 

My mom says she wants to come back in her next life as a shoulder shrugger. The idea has its merits. Wouldn’t it be lovely to see a note come home from school with apostrophes in the plurals, the word “you’re” spelled “your,” exclamation marks at the end of every sentence!…and shrug my shoulders?

 

Or get mowed down in the produce aisle by a plasticized suburban mommy robot –dressed to the nines, obviously up since 4:30 am working out/showering/blow-drying/waxing/lasering/spackling– teetering around the grocery store on a Wednesday morning in $400.00 shoes, cooing to her badly behaved children, chewing gum loudly and with her mouth wide open– and shrug my shoulders?

 

Or listen to the strivers who don’t like to cook tell me how they spent their children’s college fund on a state-of-the-art, custom-designed, professional chef’s dream kitchen with a steam-injected oven, temperature-controlled wine storage, and a hood that looks like architectural salvage from the Death Star…and shrug my shoulders?

 

Wouldn’t it feel better to let the thoughtless, selfish, hypocritical, know-it-all, faux-philosophical, pseudo-spiritual jerks of the world just pass through my life and shrug my shoulders?

 

Or shrug my shoulders at passive aggression, rational responses to emotional situations, Center of the Universe Syndrome, and those traitorous bitches who worship men and castigate women?

 

Yes, that would probably feel better.

 

Wouldn’t it feel better to let the thoughtless, selfish, hypocritical, know-it-all, faux-philosophical, pseudo-spiritual jerks of the world just pass through my life and shrug my shoulders? Shrug my shoulders at speeding tickets, Newt Gingrich, and canned cranberries? Shrug my shoulders at the decline of common courtesy? At imitation vanilla?

 

What if I just shrugged my shoulders every time I felt thrown away or taken for granted or misunderstood?

 

I do need to shrug my shoulders at all the maidenhair ferns I have murdered over the years; I don’t think ANYONE can keep those things alive outside of a greenhouse.

 

I saw The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (the hard-core Swedish version) without having read the book first and I will never ever ever get those rape scenes out of my mind. What if I could shrug my shoulders at images like that?

 

This life matters to me  –all of it. Everything I taste and everyone I meet and everything I see and hear and experience matters to me.

 

Life would be easier, I’m sure, but I can’t shrug my shoulders. I don’t want to– even if getting upset or irritated makes me look hypersensitive or angry or intolerant, which isn’t fair, which bothers me too.

 

This life matters to me  –all of it. Everything I taste and everyone I meet and everything I see and hear and experience matters to me. I’m an easy target for hyper-rational, dispassionate types; I’m an easy target for people who still care about being cool; I’m an easy target for those who know how to detach, because I don’t. I engage every time.

 

I actually love that quality in myself –it’s the reason my life is so full of beauty and meaning and love. It comes with a price: looking foolish, feeling exposed and vulnerable. But I’m used to that. I can shrug my shoulders at that.