Saturday, August 19, 2017

First a Purge, Then a Vacation

In just a few days, I'm taking a vacation. It will begin at 6:30 on Thursday night, when I'll put on some nice music, find a pleant book, and mix up a glass of the cold, lemony goodness that will prep me for a Friday morning colonoscopy. Won't be my first, so I know what to expect and am taking it as I try to take all things: with serious intent and good humor.

But this distastfully necessary purge seems like an excellent metaphor for why I am taking the week before Labor Day off. I am carrying too much. And it is making me so tired.

Tired of the people I love and work with dying all the time. As my sister reminds me, "That's the business you are in." And she is right, of course. The people I work most closely with find their way to me because they have been, or still are very, very sick. And some of them die. In the past year, lots of them have died. Too young. Too courageous. Too hopeful. Too many people who were too good to lose. Some go in a flash: "Hey, did you hear about...?" Some fade slowly: prisoners being tortured by their own minds and bodies. They leave a part of themselves with me. But they all take a little piece of me, too. I miss them. Everyone who works in a caring profession has toools to cope with the cost. And I have my own. But my toolbox is getting empty. And I am tired.

Tired of the news of the world. Tired of murdered cops and activists and junkies. Tired of cowards who use cars and vans as weapons, and cynics who use terrorism to raise campaign funds. Of officials who value short term gain over long term wisdom;  who would rather cling to their power, however trivial, than to act in the best interests of all their constituents. Of publishers of lies, and consumers who lack the initiative to research or even think before hitting the "Share" button. 

And dear God, I am tired of my friends. The ones who tell me I've been brainwashed by the Jews who run the media or blinded by my own privilege. The ones who tell me I haven't suffered enough to understand or really care. The ones who assume they know what I think based on my party affiliation rather than the way I live my life. Tired of being held responsible for things I can not change, and ridiculed for trying to change the things I can. Of friends who put me in an ideological box where I don't belong, and refuse to accept any truth that doesn't fit into the box they have chosen for themselves. 

Tired of myself. My struggles with growing older and weaker and fatter. My compulsion with online words that turn into debates that turn into meaningless schoolyard brawls. My impatience with the needs of others and my frustration with the seeming indifference of a God whom I love and study and pray with every day. Of my eagerness to complain rather than to act, and with the infuriating need to relearn life's most important lessons again and again. God help me, but I wear myself out more than anything else. 

So I'm taking a vacation. First I'm going to sit that uncomfortable vigil and let a man stick a camera inside me. Then I'm going to take a week to do some long delayed spring cleaning in my house. I'm going to read more books than posts, write more poems than workouts, play more music than online games, and walk in the woods and the streets instead of pacing the floor. Maybe I'll get drunk. Maybe I'll kiss a girl. Certainly, God and I will have some long talks about how we got here, and how to proceed together. But mostly I'm going to let the sun and the wind and the rain finish the job that my Thursday night tonic begins. I'm going to clean out the crap from my life, take a good look inside, and make some good choices about the next chapter of my life and ministry. 

So you're on notice, world. You have four business days, then I've got some work to do. Please schedule your emergencies accordingly.

And please, somehow... give it a rest, by whatever means necessary...

Take yourself a vacation.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

"Hope and Change, Part Deux": The Other Story of Trump

Since the election, I’ve been trying to understand. How did good people choose a man I think so little of to be President? That's the question I’ve been asking. 

Yes, I’ve gotten plenty of snark and condescension in response.  I’ve been called “Libtard” and “Snowflake.” And yes, I’ve been told to get over it, be a better loser, get a positive attitude. Those words just affirmed my story about the man and his supporters. But I have also heard other stories about a man I don’t recognize: another story very different from the one I believe. 

As far as I know, none of my friends is personally acquainted with the President, only their own beliefs about him. But ultimately, these stories, the things we tell ourselves about the world are what guide our actions.

I don't think either side has Trump exactly right. So, I asked this question on Facebook.
 If you support our new President, will you send me a private message telling me something positive about him that gives you hope? 
Here is what I learned.

“I think the man is genuine.  He's tacky and tasteless and mean-ish and all the bad stuff. But he's genuine and doesn't let awkward situations or guffaws stop him.  I think having no effs to give could be a useful characteristic.”

“He has several times put others before himself....
1. Twice had his own pilot and plane flew soldiers home when the US government wouldn't do so.
2. Gave someone cash when they pulled over to assist him on the side of the road when he needed no assistance.”

“I think he has a great sense of humor and a tremendous amount of appreciation for our military in a time when we are threatened from Radical Islam inside and out of this country.  I think he recognizes when America is strong we all prosper and truly wants to see America succeed better than it has for the last 4 years.  I believe he actually cares about America and Americans of all colors and creeds. And I am so excited to feel like finally there is a President of the People in the White House.”

“Trump supports the military, veterans and Americans of all races.”

“I didn't see him or his wife take a drink of the wine they were toasting with.”

"He believes in God.  He can't be bought. He loves America. He supports our military and our police."

“Politicians who paint with broad strokes and speak in largesse terms to appeal to those who will fund their efforts, and who SAY they want to "better society" by ENABLING, speak in generalities that sound impressive, but their plans and programs serve to DISable those they claim to promote and support. That is a soul-sucking, societal sabotage that I NEVER want to be a part of.”

“Do I like Trump as a person? No, not very much. But could I carry on a conversation with him and not feel as if he's looking THROUGH me to his own agenda? Yes.”

“Hope and change part deux”

“He does care about our country and our people. He is honest and straight forward. He listens to those who do not agree with him and has surrounded himself with very well qualified people.”

I’m not going to try to read between the lines here. I know and love each of the people who trusted me with these words. This isn't just the story they believe. These are the things that they want for our country. These are the promises that they accepted from their candidate.

As the President said in his innagural address:
The time for empty talk is over. Now arrives the hour of action.
I have never liked Donald Trump's public persona. I didn't like his book, his image, or his TV show. I loathed like the way he ran his campaign and the things he said he wants to do to hurt the most vulnerable among us. And I think many of the words he used to get elected were just slim-flam:  empty slogans that he never meant. His words will not change the world. 

His actions will.

This is his moment. This is his chance to show my friends that I am wrong about him. And with every beat of my politically-correct, bleeding Liberal heart, so help me God, I hope that is what happens.

Because if my story is correct and theirs is wrong…  God help us all.