Feb 012013
 

Friends . . . I’m in a Lymie Fog this week,  so I have placed myself in receiving mode. I love receiving mode. When I’m in receiving mode it means I have let myself off the hook. I’m not creating anything new –  I’m just reading and breathing and listening and taking it all in. Deep Inhales.

Last night I watched the news. Sigh. All of the not-working-together and trying- to-be-right-instead-of-helpful was tiring. It made me want to put something different out into the polarized world today. Remember this? Progress is possible. It’s harder than arguing, but it’s possible. Miss you, Tim.

 

*******

 

On Thursday morning, Chase and I returned from a mommy/ son overnight date. It was really a let’s get the hell away from the girls who will never ever, ever stop fighting dateIt was awesome. We  played and talked and talked and talked. We splurged on donuts for breakfast and snuggled in bed at night and woke up early for walks on the beach and dolphin sightings. I got to say yes, yes, yes instead of no, no, no all day. We dreamed up a book we’re going to write together. It was perfect. It kind of made me wish I could raise my kids one at a time.

 

 

Exhausted and happy, we boarded the plane for the flight home. Since I just had Chase- no girls- I was envisioning a relaxing, blissful flight.  I would not be breaking up fights or crawling around on the cabin floor trying to find tiny plastic toys the size of my fingernail that someone who really, really hates parents created. It was just Chase and me, happy and relaxed after our trip, ready to curl up with our brand new books.

But the Universe decided that I had had quite enough relaxing, thank you very much.

I wedged myself in the seat next to an older, furious, panicked man who was having trouble sending an email. He was huffing, puffing, moaning, and cursing. He was making all the noises that beg the person next to you to say, “what’s wrong?” But I didn’t say “what’s wrong?” No way, Jose. All I could do was think about how this man’s state of being was a lesson to me. Nothing that can be done over a computer is worth that much angst and stress. Unless one is trying to reach a dying friend, one should not allow a two hour loss of technology to work him up that way. Not healthy. This man’s level of stress was so high that I could FEEL it radiating off of him. Killing my vacay buzz.  I wanted none of it. I kept leaning closer and closer to Chase’s side until half of my body was in his seat. What are youdoing? Chase said. I just love you, I responded. He gave me his “I’m practicing to be a teenager” eye roll.

The man finally shut his laptop. Then he started taking huge, deep breaths. Loud, angry, breaths. But his deep breaths were interrupted by deep, repetitive coughs. Smoker coughs. Loud, jarring coughs that wracked his whole body. I tried to discreetly cover my face with my Monkee sweat shirt.  By now I was basically sitting IN Chase’s lap.

We take off. I start reading.

And he starts.

He starts talking to me, in monologue form, and it is clear right away that he plans to get a few things off of his croupy chest. To me. He is grizzly. He is angry. He is, how shall we say…not my type. Something tells me to close my book and listen anyway.  I resent that Something. But I do. I close my book and look at my new teacher and listen.

This man talked for a full hour before I spoke at all. During this hour I learned that he was a small company owner on his way to DC to tell his employees that he was moving his headquarters out of the country because, according to him, the Obama administration’s new rules had made it impossible for him to stay in the US.

Then, during the next hour, He talked about the poor in sweeping generalizations. He discussed any sort of service program workers or supporters as foolish enablers. He repeated the word fools twenty times. He proclaimed all non-profits to be corrupt money grubbers who hire hookers and buy drugs with donations. He said that liberals would be the ruin of our country. He talked more about his own company, and how liberals hated him and were always trying to put him a box and make him the bad guy. He explained that he’d fight his way out of that box any way he had to. He was a fighter, he said. He spoke loudly and peppered his sentences with curse words.

As God is my witness, I am not making any of this up. Every single thing he said was something that makes my fists clench and heart want to jump out of my throat and onto my lap. Even my beloved Mitchum stopped working. But something told me to stay open. Ride this out. I kept listening.

 

Once Chase leaned over and said, “Why are you arguing?”

Our new friend said, “Son, we’re not arguing, we’re just stating very different opinions in a tense way.” (I still hadn’t said a word.)

“Isn’t that the definition of arguing?” Chase said.

I shot him my best, “I’ve got this and respect your elders even when they think differently than anyone you’ve ever met” look.

 

I took inward deep breaths and shot a twitter prayer up to the G-O-D.

Not subtle with this one, huh? What am I supposed to do with this? Politics? Politics? There are two things I avoid like the plague- politics and real ticks.

Then in the back of my head, I hear. “It has been said to love your friends. But don’t even jerks do that? I say – Love your enemies and those who think differently than you.”

Daaaaaamnnnniiiiiiiittttttt.

In the middle of describing various tax codes he looked at me and said, “Are you following me, here?”

I said, Well, I’m a writer, so I’m not familiar with a lot of this, but I think I’m with you. I’m learning as you talk.

He said, “Oh, a writer. I tried that road once. I tried to do nothing, because my doctor and wife told me I was going to die if I didn’t slow down. So I stopped working and sat on the couch all day. But how much Jerry Springer can you watch, right?”

Right. Well, maybe your doctor didn’t mean for you to go from 100 to 0. Maybe she just wanted you to cruise at 50. Also, as a writer, I don’t do nothing. But you’re right, I have found a way to live without so much stress.

Right, right, that’s not what I meant,” he said.

I know, I said. Stay open, the Something said. Stay open. Ride this out.

At one point the man took a breath, looked sideways at me and said, “You’re a liberal, aren’t you.”

I said, I try not to label myself, because I don’t want to shut down conversations. Right now I’m just a person trying to understand you.

“Oh you’re definitely a liberal,” he said.

When he started back in on non-profits and how they were all money grubbing thieves, I said,You know, I run a group like a non-profit, and we give back 100 percent of what we raise. No overhead. We all work for free.

He raised his eyebrow and didn’t respond for a minute.

He looked out the airplane window. He was remembering something. His tirade stopped. His voice changed a little.

Then he turned back and said, “I haven’t given a penny away for fifteen years. I used to. Every Christmas I used to buy ten turkeys and deliver them to the homeless shelter myself.  But I don’t do that anymore. I don’t give anything away anymore.”

What changed? I said.

He looked out the window again and I thought- HERE we go. HERE we go- here comes the real stuff. Here politics die and the person behind them introduces himself.

Scruffy angry man said, “When my daughter was little, we left a candle burning in our house and the whole house burned down. With all of our things. We had nothing. We lived in our car for seven months with our daughter and no one reached out to help us. Not our neighbors, not our families, friends. Not even our church. No one.”

God. That must have been awful.

“It was. But I eventually found work and I pulled us out of there on my own.”

That’s amazing. Still. Don’t you wish someone had reached out to you?

“Well, they didn’t.”

I know, but doesn’t a part of you really wish they had?

“No. We’re fine. I pulled us out of there and I turned out perfectly fine.”

Here is where I couldn’t help but stop the conversation and give scruffy angry man my face. I can’t describe it so here it is. I used to be able to appear much more skeptical but you know, all the Botox.

 

 

“What??” He said defensively. Then he laughed.  ”What?”

You’re perfectly fine? Not a teeny bit hard hearted, friend?

Scruffy man laughed again. Hard this time. Hard enough that his whole body shook again.Thank you. baby Jesus, I thought.

“Maybe a little,” he said,  “Maybe a little.”

I walked through this heavenly door of laughter and I told him that I was glad he’d told me his story. I told him that I usually did lean to the left and so I didn’t often have a chance to hear the stories of folks on the other side. I told him I understood a lot of where he was coming from, and I do. Being a small business owner, from my friend Tim’s point of view, is a very tough gig these days, and maybe always.

“I’m not a bad guy.They are always making me out to be a bad guy. I’m not.”

I know, I said. I’m one of the “theys,” most days, and I don’t think you’re a bad guy.

Then I asked if he’d do me a favor. I told him that I’d keep his story in my head and heart if he’d consider changing one teeny part of the way he spoke. The alls. The mosts. I told him the generalizations were killing me. All the poor, Most of the non-profits, all the democrats, every single liberal.  It discredits you a little, I said. Weakens your arguments.

Then I told him about the poor people who were the parents of the kids at the school where I taught. How many of them worked 24 hours straight and then came into my classroom, blurry-eyed, to hear about the children for whom they’d sacrificed everything.

Illegals? He said.

No, friend. Or maybe so. But do you understand what I’m saying? We can’t say all or most. We just can’t.

He nodded. “I hear you. I’ll stop saying all. But I might stick with most.”

Okay, I said. A compromise. I love compromises.

Then he said, “Give me the name of your non-profit. I’ll look it up.”

I squealed and clapped like a seal. He rolled his eyes and stuck his finger down his throat like he was gagging. But it was definitely an affectionate gag.

As I wrote our website on his work folder,  I told him about our Love Flash Mobs. About how we send money to hurting people to let them know we care.

He said, “Why the hell do you send them money? Why money?”

It’s not about the money. It’s about what the money represents-  love, care for a stranger, sacrifice.

More gagging. “How much you send them?”

Last time we raised 80 thousand dollars in six hours. All kinds of people gave. Conservatives, liberals. People like you. Actually, I don’t know if there are any other people like you.

Laughter and huge eyes. “80k? And you gave it all away??

 Yep. I know.

“Well, if it’s not about the money, you should just send them a card. Have all your “people” sign it and send a goddamn card. I’ll even give you $2.50 for the card. I wouldnta done that before this conversation, I’ll tell you that. I don’t get you, but the world needs people like you and your monks or whatever the hell you call them.”

I looked at him and said - I wish we were around when you were stuck in your car.

“Well you weren’t, and we were fine.”

 I know, I still wish though.

“Yeah.”

Then I went in for the love kill.

Look at us, friend. We did it. We made it through two hours. I learned a little about you, you learned a little about me. The rightiest and the leftiest. Maybe in the whole WORLD. We didn’t yell, You taught me a lot.

“You taught me a little.”

I’ll take it. Tim, can I get a picture?

“No. hell no. You’re just gonna put it on that Mama’s Tree of yours.”

True. That’s what I was going to do. Well let me at least shoot this, so I can prove this really happened. That the rightest right man and the leftiest left girl sat together on a plane and said all of our things and learned from each other. And made friends.

 

 

Tim said – “I’ve never made friends with a goddamn liberal before.”

I am proud to be your first goddamn liberal friend, Tim. And I want you to know that I can see how upset you are about your company, and this upcoming meeting, and the country, and I’m rooting for you.  Just treat them like people, not issues, Tim. And you must start sleeping more. And you gotta quit smoking, Tim. We’ve gotta take you down 6 million notches.

“I know. You’re right,” he said.”Good luck with your book and all of  your giving people’s hard earned money away.”

Thank you Tim, I appreciate it.

“Write down your book’s name too. I’m going to order it as soon as it comes out.”

Thank you, Tim. I hope you like it.

And then we HUGGED. We HUGGED.

 

On the cab ride home I thought: our world views usually come from the world we’ve experienced, not from the goodness of our hearts. If you’ve experienced the world as loving and generous – that is how you will live, in abundance. But if you’ve experienced the world as uncaring and cold, then it only makes sense that you will continue to live with that world view.

It’s really why we need to take care of each other. Listen to each other. Undig our heels. Surprise each other. We really do.

 

Tim- thank you for teaching me so much. You are in my prayers. For real. Not just saying that.

Love and Peace,

Glennon- the goddamn liberal from Mama’s Tree

 

Post Script: Tim reached out to me and we’ve exchanged emails. He wasn’t sure whether he liked this article or not, but his wife loved it and laughed her way through it. She said  she couldn’t believe he told me about their house fire, because he’d never told anyone before. Tim asked for my address so he could send Monkee See -Monkee Do some cash. It was his first donation since the fire. I still send Twitter prayers for Tim daily. 

Feb 042013
 

Receiving Mode Still. I like this one.

I recently heard a vicious radio debate between women who believe that mothers should stay home and others who believe that mothers should work outside the home. All the debaters were mothers themselves.

As I listened wearily while ducking and dodging the ladies’ sucker punches like a cornered boxer, I thought… this is really getting old.

I’ve been both a “working” and a “stay-at-home” mom so I’ve experienced both sides of the internal and eternal debate moms endure all day, every day. When I worked outside my house, Mommy Guilt rode shotgun with me each morning, chiding me for dropping off my sick boy at day care instead of keeping him home and for rocking him the night before instead of preparing for work. When I got to work each day Mommy Guilt whispered that a good mom would still be at home with her son and when I returned home she’d insist that a better teacher would have stayed at work longer. When I’d visit girlfriends who stayed home, Mommy Guilt would say “See… this lady’s doing it right. Her kids are better off than yours are.” And Mommy Guilt certainly had a lot to say when Chase’s day care provider admitted that he had taken his first steps while I was working. Every night when I finally got Chase to sleep, finished grading papers, and collapsed into the couch, Mommy Guilt would snuggle up next to me and sweetly say “shouldn’t you spend some quality time with your husband instead of checking out?” And finally, before I fell asleep each night, Mommy Guilt would whisper in my ear, “YOU KNOW, THE ONLY WAY YOU’RE GOING TO BE A GOOD MOTHER AND WIFE IS IF YOU QUIT YOUR JOB AND STAY HOME.”

And so now I’m a stay-at-home mom. And the thing is that Mommy Guilt stays home with me. These days I experience her less as a drive-by-shooter and more as a constant commentator. Now she sounds like this:

“Did you go to all three of those college classes just so you could clean the kitchen and play Candy Land all day? And how is it that you don’t even do those things very well? Can you concentrate on nothing? Look at this mess! A good mom would clean more and play less. Also, a good mom would clean less and play more. Also a good mom would clean more and play more and quit emailing altogether. Additionally, I’ve been meaning to ask if you’re sure you feel comfortable spending so much money when you don’t even make any. Moreover, when was the last time you volunteered at Chase’s school? What kind of stay at home mom doesn’t go to PTA meetings or know how to make lasagna? Furthermore, nobody in this house appreciates you.”

My favorite, though, is that when I finally do sit down, concentrate on one of my kids, and read a few books all the way through… instead of saying “Good job!” Mommy Guilt says, “See how happy your daughter is? You’re home all day…why don’t you do this more often?”

And of course, before I go to sleep every night she whispers… “YOU KNOW, MAYBE YOU’D BE A BETTER MOTHER AND WOMAN IF YOU COULD JUST GET OUT OF THE HOUSE AND WORK.”

Mommy Guilt is like that scene from “Liar Liar” in which Jim Carrey enters a bathroom, throws himself against the walls, slams his head into the toilet, and rubs soap into his eyes. When a confused observer asks what on Earth he’s doing he says, “I WAS KICKIN’ MY ASS! DO YA MIND?”

I understand the act of kicking one’s own ass. I do it all the time.

What I don’t understand is why some ladies insist on making everything worse by kicking each other’s asses.

To the women who argue vehemently that all “good mothers” stay at home: Are you nuts? If you got your way, who would show my daughters that some women actually change out of yoga pants and into scrubs and police uniforms and power suits each day? How would my girls even know that women who don’t feel like carrying diaper bags can carry briefcases or stethoscopes instead…or also? How, pray tell, could I tell them with a straight face that they can grow up to be whatever they want to be?

And to the women who argue that all stay home mothers damage women’s liberation: Are you nuts? Aren’t you causing some damage by suggesting that we all must fit into a category, that women are a cause instead of individuals? And doesn’t choosing to spend your limited time and energy attacking “us” set “us” back? But for argument’s sake, what if you got your way and every mother was required to work outside of the home? What would that mean to ME? Who would volunteer to lead my son’s reading group at school, host his class party, plan his Sunday school lesson or wait with him in the parking lot when I forget to pick him up? Who would watch my daughter while the baby gets her shots? Who would knock on my door and tell me that my keys are still in the front door, the doors to my van are open, and my purse is in the driveway?

And if every woman made the same decision, how would my children learn that sometimes motherhood looks like going to work to put food on the table or stay sane or share your gifts or because you want to work and you’ve earned that right. And that other times motherhood looks like staying home for all of the exact same reasons.

As far as I can tell, no matter what decision a woman makes, she’s offering an invaluable gift to my daughters and me. So I’d like to thank all of you. Because I’m not necessarily trying to raise an executive or a mommy. I’m trying to raise a woman. And there are as many different right ways to be a woman as there are women.

So, angry, debating ladies… here’s the thing. My daughter is watching me AND you to learn what it means to be a woman. And I’d like her to learn that a woman’s value is determined less by her career choices and more by how she treats other women, in particular, women who are different than she is. I’d like her to learn that her strength is defined by her honesty and her ability to exist in grey areas without succumbing to masking her insecurities with generalizations or accusations. And I’d like her to learn that the only way to be both graceful and powerful is to dance among the endless definitions of the word woman… and to refuse to organize women into categories, to view ideas in black and white, or to choose sides and come out swinging. Because being a woman is not that easy, and it’s not that hard.

And speaking of “Liar Liar” – angry debating ladies . . . when you yell about how much peace you have with your decisions, it just doesn’t ring true. The thing is, if you’re yelling, I don’t believe that you’ve got it all figured out. I don’t even believe that YOU believe you’ve got it all figured out. I think your problem might be that you’re as internally conflicted as the rest of us about your choices. But instead of kicking your own ass, you’ve decided it’d be easier to kick ours.

Which is tempting, but also wrong.

So, maybe instead of tearing each other up, we could each admit that we’re a bit torn up about our choices, or lack thereof. And we could offer each other a shoulder or a hand. And then maybe our girls would see what it really means to be a woman.

Feb 072013
 

 

Fifty-three days. In fifty-three days, I’ll leave my little condo in my sweet retirement community (wait, did I tell you I accidentally moved my entire family to a retirement village? It’s okay, I kinda love it. Ethel and Bertha say hello) and I’ll set out on a Momastery pilgrimage.

The Book Tour.

I’m scared, yes. You already know that. But did you know that I’ve never been in a roomful of Monkees before? Despite what I’m always preaching to you, I’ve been waiting. Waiting for some magical time in my life to arrive before I stepped out from behind my screen to meet you all. A time when my personal life was in perfect order, my health was swimming along, my acne had subsided, and I had attained that elusive grown-up composure, elegance, and sophistication that I’m always certain must be on its way. None, but NONE of those things have happened to me. And nevertheless, it’s time to go. So yeah, I’m a little scared.

But I also know that scared and sacred are almost the same word, and often the same experience. So I’m coming to you anyway. Bubba always told me that courage is not the absence of fear, but doing what should be done in the midst of fear. So I will pack up my bag and my forty million medications and pairs of yoga pants and accessories and tubes of makeup. You will notice, Monkees, that when I feel insecure, I over accessorize and apply layer upon layer of makeup like perhaps foundation and pressed powder have bullet proof properties. It’s okay. I’m not going to try to fix that defense mechanism just yet.  I’m okay with it. A girl’s gotta have something. I’m just saying that if you come to see me and think “wait! I must be in wrong place! That’s not G, that’s SNOOKI!”  You can stay put. It’s me. Forgive a sister. Life and public speaking are hard. Pounds of bronzer make it a little easier for me and the Snooks.

Now, I need you to help me name this book tour. Because it’s NOT a book tour. It is much, much less fancy and much, much more important to me than that.  I mean, four years, friends. Four YEARS we’ve been meeting and sharing and laughing and crying here.

You helped me introduce myself to the world. You helped me come out of hiding. You taught me that I was okay, funny occasionally, maybe even a little wise - as myself. You’ve encouraged me during this very hard time in my marriage. I’ve watched you love each other so fiercely and through that, you’ve shaped my beliefs about women and this world. And you know what? The truth is that living in a retirement community gets a little lonely. Especially when things at home are far from perfect. And so you are my lifelines. You help me LIVE. I don’t care if it sounds dramatic, because it’s true. You are my friends. I turn to you when I need love.

So coming to meet you, to hug you and to thank you for being all of that to me…it’s not a book tour.

What is it?

I guess I’m hoping it’ll just be a series of Kairos moments. And I’m pretty sure it’ll be the first time I ever let myself truly believe that this community, this Kindness Revolution, these friendships – YOU – are REAL.

And so I’ll hug your necks and I’ll hold your hands and I’ll be so embarrassed because my face will be beet red and my hands will be sweating and shaking. But you won’t mind. I know you won’t mind.

I can’t promise much.  My only plan is to show up, stand in front of you in all my glory and pain with all my success and failure and my confidence and insecurity and terror and peace and brokenness and divinity . . . .

and declare us all beautiful.

Come see me. And let me see you.

Love, G

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