Recently, I’ve discovered that several of my friends have connected in unexpected ways. It really makes me happy. In some cases, I have been the catalyst in these connections, and in others, the situation has been completely random. It makes me feel like we are all a part of a beautiful, colorful, complex tapestry.
I met one friend through my grief support group. Eventually, we became Facebook friends. That’s how we discovered that we have a mutual Facebook friend, who also happens to be the cousin of one of my closest friends in Florida. These two Facebook friends work together. I know very few people in this city, so the odds of my knowing two coworkers, who I met in random, distinct ways, is pretty amazing.
I also met my husband through that same grief support group. It’s a group that I wouldn’t have known about if it weren’t for the fact that two other friends, separately, during the same time period, recommended that I attend. So they both take credit for my marriage.
I met Bob through my Drawbridge Lovers Facebook group. I met Linda through my View from a Drawbridge Facebook group. One day Linda asked me how I knew Bob. Awesome coincidence: they’re on the brink of getting married. I’m thrilled to be a vicarious witness to that love story, which is happening in another state, to two people I’ve never met face to face, but respect very highly.
I introduced another dear friend who is in Canada to someone who is in Kentucky, and they’ve been in a supportive, happy, internet relationship for about a decade now. More power to them.
I met two other people in the exact same week about 12 years ago, and they’ve also been together ever since. (Not that I had anything to do with that, but it is a delightful synchronicity.)
I met one friend through a story telling group that I used to attend. She became the editor of my first book. I met another friend through that same group, but on a different day. She was actually just passing through town, and lives on the other side of the continent. She wrote the introduction to my first book. And it turns out that now the two of them work for the same organization, which the first friend wouldn’t have known about if it hadn’t been for my introducing her to the second friend. What a mazel!
I also have a friend in Argentina who introduced me to a friend in Georgia, who I had the opportunity to hear in concert in Florida. So even borders cannot prevent connections. Borders, in fact, are artificial constructs.
I guess my point is that we’re all threads in the great tapestry of the universe. Whether we are the warp or the weft, the long or the short, the coarse or the smooth, we all play our part. We may not even know we are connected, but somehow, rest assured, we are.
There’s an interesting project that’s been floating around in the blogosphere, thanks to my friends Anju and Norm, who write the blogs This Labyrinth I Roam and Classical Gasbag, respectively. It’s called N-N-1, where the first N stands for the number of participants, the second for the number of photos (they should be the same), and the 1 stands for one time. They thought it would be interesting to see what people all over the world were doing/seeing/experiencing at the same point in time.
Basically, you take a picture within a designated timeframe, and then write 50-200 words about it. You turn it in to the designated host (which this time happens to be Natalie, from the blog Wild Rivers Run South). You don’t have to be a blogger to participate, but if you are, when you turn this in to Natalie, give her a link to your blog and/or website as well, and she’ll include it.
Sound interesting? I know the deadline is rather short for this one. Entirely my bad for not posting this sooner. Here’s Natalie’s information in her own words:
Miss Anju and Mr. Norm asked me to host the next N-N-1. With some fear in my heart, I accepted. But because of the person I am, I want to make this one slightly different.
We have done themes before, and I like them, so this time let us do the theme “Season Changes.” The theme is voluntary, so you are not required to stick with it. Secondly, rather than be forced to take your picture on a specific date and time, or even just a specific date, you have a three day window to take the picture.
Now for the details:
Take your picture sometime between Thursday, May 2nd and midnight on Saturday, May 4th. Send your picture, a bit of writing (no more than 200 words of prose or poetry) to me at firstname.lastname@example.org no later than midnight on Monday, May 6th. Oh! All times are local to where you are. I’ll put all of the submissions together and post them in my blog, wildriversrunsouth.wordpress.com, and send you a link so that you can reblog the post if you want to. You do not need a blog in order to participate. If you know somebody who would like to participate, please let them know.
I hope you’ll participate. It’s been a very fun and eye-opening experience in the past. I’ve shared two of them on my blog, here and here. Check ’em out, and contact Natalie!
The first flags were battle standards used during conflict. In times like those, especially when battles were bloody and fought face to face and you were usually slaughtering your neighbors who looked just like you, it was rather important to indicate whose side you were on.
Think about that for a minute. We have to be able to tell each other apart in order to kill the right people. Because if we were all running around naked and flagless, we would all essentially be the same. In which case, what the hell are we fighting for?
Good freakin’ question. What are we fighting for? I think the last war that was waged even tangentially for moral purposes (rather than purely for greed or racism or religious zealotry or the quest for the control of oil) was World War II. So, yeah, we need those flags, man, or we can’t separate ourselves. Us vs. Them.
Flags are the ultimate symbol of polarization. Either you’re on our team or you’re not. And if you aren’t willing to play by the flag flyers’ rules, then get the hell out. Love it or leave it.
It’s very comforting to be a member of a group. You’re accepted. You’re part of the norm. You’re just like us.
But in order to form a group, you have to be willing to believe that all of your members feel the same way about things. And, hey, you’re a good person, right? So if everyone in your group is just like you, then you must be the good guys.
What does that say about those who are excluded from that group? They must be bad. That only makes sense.
And we (“we”) wonder why we can’t all just get along.
On the anniversary of 9/11, I saw a Facebook post that waxed nostalgic for 9/12. It talked about stores running out of flags to sell because they were being flown everywhere. It talked about us all being Americans before anything else. It talked about us being united.
I remember it quite differently. I remember fear and paranoia and confusion and anger. Yes, I remember flags everywhere. Flags defiantly flown. I remember people getting beat up if they looked the slightest bit Muslim. I remember my employer trying to force me to wear a flag pin, and feeling as though my livelihood would be threatened if I didn’t jump on the bandwagon. I remember not knowing what this angry, enormous mass of “we” was going to do.
That scared the hell out of me. It still does.
I don’t even like rooting for sports teams. I don’t like turning anyone into a them. The only “thems” in my life at the moment are Trump supporters. I don’t understand them. The level of hate they demonstrate terrifies me, because I know that to them, I’m the them.
I don’t know about you, but I’m tired. I’m tired of thinking. I’m tired of trying to figure out what’s true and what’s not. I’m tired of worrying about what I can do to help fix this increasingly broken world of ours.
But the only other option is to let others do the thinking for me. Boy, is that tempting. It would be so easy to maintain a mental radio silence and just let other people handle everything. But I’m fairly certain that that trend is what got us into this mess in the first place.
Too many people have checked out. Or they’ve taken up full time residence in Facebook, the land that facts forgot. They certainly didn’t bother to vote. What could possibly go wrong? This. That’s what.
That, my friends, is called “hive mind”. Turn yourself into a drone. Just do your little job. Maintain your routine. Don’t look at the big picture. Don’t ask questions. Trust that the honey will be there when you need it.
Once you’re attuned to it, you see hive mind everywhere. It’s in paramilitary organizations, such as the police and ICE. We, as individuals, don’t have to have a moral compass when we’re just part of the hive. I’m a law abiding citizen, but it always rattles me to talk to cops. You can look into their eyes and see that they’re in the hive. Because of that, there’s no possible way for them to relate to me as an individual. And that’s scary.
The individuals who make up ICE were told not to let people off a domestic flight until they produced identification. They each knew it was wrong. But they were doing their job. And cops? Take ‘em out of the uniform, and they wouldn’t normally rough someone up, but this is a bad guy, and it’s for the greater good, right?
Lord knows hive mind is the essence of bureaucracies. When’s the last time you got a rational response out of AT&T? Employees in those places are discouraged from going off script, even when the script makes no sense whatsoever.
I hate to say it, but it’s also seen at sporting events. We good. You bad. Me Tarzan. And then we’re shocked when violence erupts. This is why I never got into sports.
Cults, of course, have hive mind down to a science. You are stripped of your individuality, deprived of information, isolated from family, and told what to think. It must feel quite liberating at first, like slipping into a nice warm bath. And then the water gets cold.
I used to lament having been born in the 60’s. It meant I was too young to participate in all the “really good” protests. My generation got to eat the fruit of all that labor without really having to work for it. Well, be careful what you wish for. Now, in my 50’s, I get to participate in activities that make my aching body wish I were 20 again.
I have to admit, though, that it feels like we are all starting to wake up. We may not like it, but you can only hit the snooze button so many times. Maybe Trump is the rock bottom we had to hit before we could rise up again.
Even toxic clouds have silver linings, it seems.
I’m proud to announce that my book is now available in paperback, kindle, and deluxe color edition! http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5
I had the distinct honor of participating in a reception for The Healing Center the other day. It’s a grief support community here in Seattle that is a welcoming and safe place to express your feelings of loss. They have been wonderfully helpful and understanding to me.
The reception, which is held annually, is called Healing Hearts. It is an opportunity for people to show the creative ways they have of expressing their grief. I have to say, this is quite a talented crowd. There were poets and writers there, and singer/songwriters and musicians and photographers as well. I was really pleased to be included in their number.
My main takeaway from this event was that there are so many ways to express one’s emotions. In fact, that’s what art is, really: a way to reveal what is inside you. That’s why the arts are so vital to any healthy culture.
I truly believe that it’s very important to open yourself up. Your inner self needs to see the light of day in order to thrive. Things should not be bottled up, lest they fester. And that’s what communities like The Healing Center are all about.
If you are experiencing grief, you do not have to go through it alone. Seek out the equivalent of The Healing Center in your community.
As a child, one of the hardest things for me was the experience of outgrowing things that I loved. Favorite sweaters. Child-sized furniture. Extremely sugary foods. Certain rides at the state fair. The kid’s menu at Howard Johnson’s.
No one likes change. And if I loved something, I couldn’t understand why I couldn’t love it forever. It fit me before. Why doesn’t it fit me now?
I actually still have one sweatshirt from elementary school. It’s hard for me to believe I was ever that small. I kept it sort of as a frame of reference. But if I had kept all my clothing and toys from childhood, my life would be full of wasted space. That would be tragic indeed.
Time marches on. And it seems that outgrowing things doesn’t stop even when you are fully grown. It’s just that the things you outgrow become more complex. Friendships. Philosophies. Political systems. Jobs. Vices. Groups.
There’s a certain rise and decay that formulates the circle of life. Just ask the Greeks and the Romans. Things and people and beliefs are solid for a time, but eventually they crumble to dust and are replaced by something else.
Recently I was kicked out of a group and for a hot second, there, it felt like the end of the world to me. A friend of mine suggested I keep attending anyway. They meet in a public place, after all. But I don’t want to do that. There are still many people I love there, and I don’t want to create tension and awkwardness for them. The wonderful feeling I got from being a part of that group is gone. There’s no resuscitating that. There’s a cancer at the core of the experience for which there is no cure.
And lo and behold, I am already discovering that the absence of that group is providing me with other intriguing opportunities. I’m already filling that time with other experiences, and meeting other people. Decay makes way for growth. The shit of life fertilizes the fruit.
I feel as though the country as a whole is experiencing this. Our government and our attitudes toward it are in a state of flux. It’s rather unsettling, trying to maintain one’s balance on these shifting sands. We resist the change and we mourn, but we will also be motivated to work toward bigger and better change, and from that, new and exciting things will surely flow.
The next time you sense that you are outgrowing something, remind yourself that you are just a tiny part of a much larger plane of existence. As Max Ehrmann once said, “No doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.”