Clouds of Late Fifties Funk

I have been in a funk and giving myself a pity party for the last several weeks.  First I realized my magical year was ending as my 58th birthday rolled around a couple weeks ago.  Born in 1957 my 57th year was to be magical or golden according to contemporary mythology I chose to embrace.  This past year has been eventful, but magical is stretching it a bit.  Then I realized I celebrated the wrong year. Damn.

One of my favorite peace buttons.  Pro solcier pro peaceI should have known this as my 49th birthday forever stands out in my memory as the day I was escorted from a U.S. Armed Services Senate Committee hearing because I called Donald Rumsfeld a liar and Ted Stevens who was chairing the session said “Get that woman out of here.”  After being escorted out the door to the sidewalk I spoke with a Vietnamese delegation of business men who were on a tour of Capitol Hill.

A culmination of pro-peace activism that began 38 years earlier when my brother was horrifically wounded in Vietnam juxtaposed with finding a trade group of the same country against whom my brother fought was a coupling that made me realize that individual soldiers really are just fodder for corporate interests.  Awareness of all sorts descended upon me during that 50th year when I fully came into my own.

That day in D.C. began my 50th year that would find me caring for my mother in the last month of her life in her home 2000 miles away from my home and family a year later on my 59th birthday.  Somehow my family did not send a card not even a call.  It was not the best of times, but it was a learning time, and there was much healing between my mother and me.  The experience of that year taught me something that should have been obvious before it became real to me.  The first year ends with the celebration of the 1st birthday or 1st wedding anniversary.  The 50th year ends with the 50th birthday, the 57th year ends with the 57th birthday.

So I missed my magical year, thinking the 58th year was the 57th year.  My magical year was not this past year, but the year before.  Now I have to go through my blogs and journals and photos and find out how my 57th year,  May 2013 to May 2014, really was.

This was a real downer of a realization after a less than eventful Mother’s Day opened the week leading up to my birthday.  And I had all these event descriptions and photos picked out for a summary post about the year.

Something began to dawn on me when my daughter called to wish me a Happy Mother’s Day, bless her, and she asked if her dad had announced his usual insensitive Mother’s Day comment, repeated every year, “You are not my mother, so I didn’t get you anything.”  Twenty-five years of being told this gets very old. I told her he did indeed say this again.  We both just groaned and shook our heads.

My husband does not do presents well.  Unless someone applies constant reminders or pressure, he “forgets.” I know after talking to many, many spouses of scientists and academic  researchers that this tendency to forget about the importance of real world events is a character trait of many ridiculously bright people.  I am not sure it is so much that this type of person cannot remember such things, but they have been taught by our culture that they do not need to bother with such mundane world occurrences.

So weekend one, Mothers Day, less than stellar.  Weekend two, birthday, less than marvelous.  Then Memorial Day, weekend three and  this is the first Memorial Day for me since my brother passed away last November.  He was a casualty of the Vietnam War although it took 45 years for him to succumb to the physical  injuries and psychic wounds he suffered in Hue and Khe Sanh.  My parents are gone.  Three of my four brothers are deceased.

Let me tell you that all this really sucks.  I have spent most of my adult life dealing with depression.  I have it under control, so I no longer bottom out and become mired in black pits of despair.  But lethargy and lack of focus can and will descend when I do not actively countermand the early stage of a downward spiral.   I have gotten much better at reframing when something triggers recursive negative thinking.

I have even accepted that sometimes I need to incorporate the negative realizations into my worldview so that next time I experience them I do not spend so much energy fighting them and pushing them back down into the subconscious.  Acknowledge and go on.

These past three weeks of realization have not been fun, but they were probably part of an experience that needed to be lived through.  I have come to trust myself when it comes to almost unconsciously doing what I need to do.  I wish I could count on someone to do things for me when they need to be done, but all I have is me.  And I do have me.  I am strong, resilient, intelligent, and caring.

I suspect we all need to learn to support ourselves more than we do, to be our own best friends, because we do walk through this life as an individual.  In my case I am an individual who is 58, in her 59th year, headed toward my 59th birthday next May.

 

 

 

 

 

I’ve Missed You

I miss this blog!  I miss my readers.  I miss my topics.

In case you don’t know, I am working on a new site called the Women’s Legacy Project.  It is more focused on a certain topic and a certain demographic than this free-for-all that is my life and my quest for a fair trade cuppa.

New endeavors always present a liminally-enriched and -challenged experience (and yes liminally is a slightly invented word.)  Liminal is transitional – neither one or the other and sort of an eerie feeling and state of being between.  The Wikipedia entry (at least in the version I called up today) is a pretty good coverage of the concept.

I am going to have to double up on the writing to be able to do that project, which is needed and a very good thing, and still have my sanity keeping writing and commentary here.

I have to run.  Off to visit my Aunt Maralee who is age 89, and the last person genetically standing in the generation above me, and my cousin Linda who lives with her and takes care of her.

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Spent the night with John at the Clarendon

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A breakfast scramble thingy at the Clarendon. Yum! Spinach, mushroom, eggs, cheese. Ask for the spicy tomatillo salsa – it is great on this dish.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I just wanted to pop in and say, “Hi!” before I check out of the Clarendon Hotel and Spa (that I will write about here or on my Hill Research Site) where I stayed for the Press Publish Conference I attended yesterday.

 

Sometimes I Detest Facebook

This NYT piece was recently posted by a friend who uses meta-communication in a nuanced way, even though the article is, gasp, from 2014.  How unhip and anti-immediate, to the point of being totally non-viral.

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Patrick Leger

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/06/fashion/social-media-some-susceptible-to-internet-outrage.html

Social media, especially something like Facebook, for those who do not mask themselves or engage in life behind pseudonyms, can be a sad and tumultuous business.  So why do we do continue to tweet, post, and generally live in the land of memes? At one level it is because it is easy, and at another level it is horrendously difficult.  

I first used Facebook to connect and engage with fellow peace activists and other bleeding edge street theater producers and actors.  The rah-rah, me-too nature of social media was one of the things I liked about staying connected with the beautiful, most often sisterly, souls I came to know during short, often intense moments in the trenches of social justice movements.  Facing off against masked (shielded visor) and armored storm troopers engenders the same sort of camaraderie soldiers know.  We came from and returned to communities scattered across the US where we were unlikely to ever meet in real life. Sharing stories and information with these women does validate and reinforce some of my core beliefs; it lets me know I am not alone.  

Then friends I grew up with, many who still live in the small, Bible-belt, conservative farming and non-unionized factory town in which I grew up joined Facebook.  These are people I met when I first went to school: grade-school and high-school friends.  Some never left the area and live within 5 miles from where they lived as kids.  Some left and returned.  Some left.  Some died.  Far too many killed themselves.  

Then there is the husband thing, and the extended family thing.  There is no way to lump these dear people into one group.  

My husband is a freaking neuro-chemist type academic type person.  He is brilliant, yes, and he mediates a 5000 member person Facebook group from HIS hometown.  He walks a time-space-warped fence-top between the “Hooligan Heights” neighborhood in which he grew up and the ETH in Zurich where he did his post-doctoral training.

My step-daughter’s in-laws are able to travel to the far corners of the world for vacations and have an ease of life financially that I cannot fathom.  I come from a large family that included NASA scientists, physicians, felons and pole-dancers when I look to the circle of relation that includes mother’s brothers, cousins and the children of siblings.  

To say I have a diverse perspective is probably an understatement.  

Most sane people would not try to have an open feed on their Facebook page, which I do, more or less. 

I am a writer – not the most successful or widely read writer, true, but a writer none-the-less. I am able, for some reason unbeknownst to me, to convey a personal viewpoint with some nuance and skill.  There really are things which if I do not say them, will not be said. Perhaps this is just a delusion of grandeur, but I do not think so. So I say them.  My life is rich and I am blessed with a facile mind.  So I share my experience as best I can.

I am honest, even about my inconsistencies.  I am an anthropologist who has some specialization in how meaning is constructed.  I think I confuse people.  I have not achieved a Quaker-level practice of peace, calmness and integration.  

I still try to explain.  I am trying to learn how to not over-explain.  I still believe that if people are open they can learn.  I have not given up on humanity.  I value my friends, and the connections that created the friendships.  

I tend to only engage to the point where I piss people off,  if I care about them.  The opposite of love is not hate, it is apathy.   Do I piss you off on Facebook?  It is because I love you.  I will try to say nothing to hurt you.  If you say things that are hurtful, I will not ignore them.  Achieving some level of sanity and self-value requires that I not allow you to hurt me, or others, or yourself.  

It’s complicated.  

This was fueled by one of those Facebook posts.

Women, Legacy, and the Future of Earth

Legacy is not just what you leave behind after you are gone.  In fact allowing others to be in charge of your legacy after you are gone will pretty much guarantee that nothing you intended to leave behind will be left as you hoped.

memories, images, family

I do not like to be moribund or pessimistic; I like to think that I am an optimistic pragmatist. That thought is actually supported by my recent lack of posts. For over a month!  You can read about my intentional slow down in this recent post.  During that slow down I listened to audio books, did a lot of thinking, mind-mapping, and perused many of my writings from over the past few years and allowed myself to contemplate my last post, before the January – February hiatus, on digital legacy.

I think I have found the connecting thread within and between my interests, writings, academic & educational areas of dalliance: women, information and legacy.  At first glance my interests may appear to be all over the place, but that is not quite the case.

Culture and demography delight me.  I grew up memorizing genealogies and visiting cemeteries as though they were historical parks.  The rather strange relationship I had with my mother fostered my early and ongoing interest in both the enabling and limiting constraints of women’s information systems, including the lack of historical depth in maternally linked information.  The feminine divine inspires me and the continuously added nuances to the exclusion of women as players in the “major” religions of today disturbs me no matter what the type of fundamentalist group doing it.

Whether it be the stuff of a trunk in the attic or truck bombs in the neighborhood, women are concerned about the legacy we leave to our children.  I have been an independent scholar for many years. While it surprised me to find legacy as the connecting theme in my writing, it should not have.  My father loved history and valued what community over time could fashion.  I am a cultural anthropologist by training and well-versed in the semiotic concerns of American Pragmatism.

Some of the recurrent topics in my writing over the years:

  • American Women’s History
  • Women’s Culture
  • Women’s Information
  • Feminization of the Internet
  • Life’s Work
  • Blogging as Women’s History
  • Women’s Legacies
  • Mother Earth and the State of the Planet
  • Genealogy and Personal History
  • The Creation of Meaning
  • Tools and Toys
  • Demography and Cohort Personality
  • Peace and Social Justice Movements

So I am fashioning a site and a project called the Women’s Legacy Project.

wlpCan a project last for decades?  That is my intention for this one.  It is not about my legacy, I have this site and my memoir for that.  This project is beyond blogdom.  It derives from and extends beyond:

  • the meetup group I have coordinated for three years
  • the network of women writers and travelers of a certain age I have met and grown to trust as friends over the last seven years or so
  • the wisdom I gained as I cared for my mother as she passed away in her home at age 92 and then watched as my brother, who began showing signs of dementia around the time of her death, and from which he died within a few short years, mishandled everything for her
  • my knowledge and awareness of cultural processes that I see unfolding, developing, and filling new niches around me at an ever-escalating pace
  • my desire to share information with those who might find it useful

You will be able to see something, that will undoubtedly change often for a while, within a few days at womenslegacyproject.com. I build sites live, because I will never launch if I do not do it live.  It is one way to conquer perfectionism.

My Writing Life Resumes

I am edging back into the writing life, and I am raring to go.

These last few months have presented wonderful opportunities to me. I believe I have made the best use possible of these gifts.  I found a job when looked for one.  I was able to work and tend to sad family obligations as well.  Flexibility is a treasure that few people on this Earth enjoy.  We are more and more and more fully-scheduled and consumed by just making ends meet.

Last summer I thought I was just inquiring about a position to have a bit more ease in budgeting after a celebratory month-long trip across country with my husband.  A month of travel  depleted our coffers so that there was less wiggle room in budgets and covering unexpected expenses.  I interviewed for a position just before the trip and soon after I returned, I was offered a six month position in a digitization project at a local university library.  The offer was made even though I shared that I would probably have to take time off without much notice as a brother of mine I hadjust visited during part of the month travels was in hospice.

The wages were not high, but the work was easy and allowed me to spend the days listening to audio books as I compared print and digital copies of dissertations and theses. The other workers on the project were good company and smart women.  In this case, the pink collar ghetto was not so bad other than pay and benefits.  Yes, just those basic reasons for working.

An unexpected benefit of taking this job was being able to listen to audio versions of many of the books I had not been able to find time to actually read in the last few years.

Schedule and Discipline

Other reasons I decided to work full-time, for someone other than myself, included some disorganization and uncertainty that had started to erode at my productivity and focus.direction-255294_1280 (1)

It might seem backwards, but being unable to have the time to do everything I personally wanted to do allowed me to know what I most valued, what I most missed doing.

Sometimes taking a step back from a situation creates an opening that can be filled by inspiration and uncluttered thought.  I am a big fan of allowing cream to rise.

I knew that establishing a firm schedule for a few months would help me keep a schedule after the job ended.

Focus

As a person with depression I benefitted from the focus work created.  As a writer I draw ideas, words, everything I do or create, from inside myself and the parts of life that are closest to me.  A summer visit back to my hometown made it quite apparent that my brother was dying.  I lived 2000 miles away.  I began to write about him.  The sadness and memories of our how our dysfunctional family shaped our lives can consume me if I let it.

Acceptance

I am pleased that I could write cathartically and meaningfully about him.  I cherish the gift of being able to write well.  But there is a part of me that wants to allow deceased loved ones to transition in peace.  I know the transition occurs in my mind. I do not want to encourage the spirit of my loved one to hang around because I cannot let go.  I do not know if this is real.  But I feel it.  I had a tremendously hard time letting go of a dear high school friend who died shortly after her 21st birthday.  It took years to be able to release her from being in constantly in my thoughts and dreams.

Trusting Myself

In the last few years I have learned to trust my instincts, so I limited myself during this stressful time shortly after the funeral and for several weeks into the new year.  I did not force myself to do more than I could easily do.  Easy is not something I do well.  But I allowed myself to only do one job, to watch TV, play games on my laptop, and not try to do anything but go to work and do basic household tasks.  I have heard that some people actually live their entire lives this way.

Results

What came out of this self-enforced respite is a new direction and a surety of purpose that took me by surprise.  I will write about what I discovered and am launching.  All I can say today is that I am launching a new site and cannot wait until I can share more information about this logical next step in my writing and business life.