Circles

Rosieda

There was something different about Rosieda from the beginning.  Perhaps it was the lilting voice, a bit of an accent, a contagious laugh, the humor.  To be honest it wasn’t until we heard her stories that we learned her history and little by little embarked upon a journey of friendship and camaraderie.  We knew that she was from South Africa and ever so slowly, we learned that her husband was the South African Ambassador to the U.S., that she was Muslim, segregated as a coloured in Apartheid South Africa, and that she was a force to be reckoned with.

Rosieda is a born storyteller; often self-deprecating, witty, almost always funny. She can be hard on herself but often harder on institutions and individuals who don’t measure up to her high standards. Perhaps without knowing it she is also a teacher. For the me, and I believe many in the $6 Therapy Group, she taught us what it is like to be a Muslim and a woman. I remember an early story describing how other passengers on the train to New York City were reluctant to sit next to a woman wearing a headscarf. Shocking to me, but it was a part of her everyday life. We also learned of the battle she waged along with other Muslim woman to break free of the “golden cage”. Somewhere along the journey, we also found out that she had been the Commissioner for Gender Equality in South Africa, that she was the Director of A World for All Foundation, and a women’s leadership coach and consultant.

Rosieda gave us a personal account of Apartheid, the fight for freedom and its aftermath. Her Watermelon story was a tale of a family outing to the beach and a child’s punishment for not tending the melon. But, it was also, perhaps primarily, the story of a family’s forced relocation and the disenfranchisement of a people. Her stories of the struggle, of the men and women who fought the battles were a firsthand recounting of pain, suffering and ultimately freedom.   Long fascinated by Nelson Mandela and the fight against Apartheid, Rosieda’s stories were the final motivation for me to take a trip of a lifetime trip to South Africa. I am forever grateful.

Whether set in South Africa or the U.S., Rosieda’s writing is memorable and emotive, full of detail and context.  One can’t go to Starbucks and give your name without thinking of our very own Beyonce. Her character studies of fellow Starbuck patrons based on eavesdropped conversations were in–depth and insightful.  Her renditions of her battles with weight, decisions to exercise (or not), proper photo posing, and shopping are universal…we laughed and we cried with her because what she wrote was ours…she put into words what we experienced.

We laughed until we cried to hear her descriptions of what she fears (among them amusement park rides and beer and alcohol trucks). She can keep an audience totally engaged as she describes her fascination with divorce, its causes and its impact, the love between soul mates and the “mother bear” love and protection of her children (not to mention the many frustrations that go with both marriage and parenting).

Finally, Rosieda not only loves to write but she encourages and emboldens all of us to write. It’s not that she doesn’t have her own doubts, she does, but she keeps at it.  “Butt in seat” will stay with me and inspire me to do the “right thing”…to just write.  She gives me hope that what I write is worth reading. She is a kind, but thoughtful and perceptive editor and commentator.  Our group will miss her, her perspective and her energy.  It will not be the same, but I will hold on to what I’ve learned and hope that this is just another temporary separation for us. Thank goodness for Facebook!

With much love, appreciation and friendship,

December 11, 2016—Farewell

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Morning Routine

Movement, the bed shifts as he rolls over, sits, then stands. The sound of his glasses sliding across the bed table, he’s gathering clothes, soft footsteps, the creak by the closet and then the door closing.  The bed smells like us. In the distance, I hear a plane, the winds must be right for northbound takeoffs from National. A truck rumbles by, another plane. Momentarily, I think of the plane full of passengers not only awake but in the air, flying to adventures, work, home.  I take the pillow that covers my eyes off and roll into it.  Eyes crack open, just a slit.  I brush my feet under the bedclothes along the mattress, claiming the bed as my own. The street light shines through the high angled windows, casting shadows and reflections…triangles on the steep ceiling.  Cars pass.  Dawn arrives. I hear the furnace’s slow rumble, water moving in the radiators. The first bird sings…a solo warm up exercise; soon joined by a chorus…a performance just for me.   The smell of coffee perking travels up the stairs. Sunlight begins to oust the harsh street light…modulated, it highlights and softens the khaki walls; shining through the high windows, peeking through the white blinds, just barely. No shadows now, washed in bright light.

My thoughts rouse and drift to last night. Why was I so snarky about where to go after volleyball for the end of season dinner?  I didn’t really care; just don’t like one person always getting his way.  What’s that about? Control? Feelings of inadequacy? Fear of exclusion? I want to be respected. Why am I so threatened? Why do I let these emotions out despite my better judgment?

Wish Casey and Jeff would get married.  She says she can’t think about it until she finishes her dissertation.    I hope Hadley gets that job. She needs a win. Haven’t heard from Kyla, good news? Wish they were closer. My only role is to worry (silently).

I roll over, away from these thoughts.  The day encroaches. What’s on the agenda, how will the day be filled, that is, what will I make of the day?  So different from a previous life, when children and work defined the day.  It seemed that there were few choices to make. The “To Dos” were “Have To Dos”.   I no longer fill my time responding to the needs, desires and demands of others.  I must craft the content of my day…act with purpose.  What purpose? A lifetime of reacting to others, solving problems, making things work leaves me with little experience in the realm of deciding what I want, what makes me happy, content, purposeful.

I’ve got that conference call with ICMA this afternoon. Oh, but the Fiscal Affairs Commission meeting was cancelled. Great, I don’t have to take a shower. One of the biggest luxuries of retirement or working from home is that you don’t have be presentable…it’s not the shower, it’s the process, the hair, the choosing what to wear…an underappreciated freedom.

I wonder if I can get the policy compendium done before we leave for the west coast. I should work on the Sardinian piece for writing next week. I think I’ll do my fast day on Thursday.  I’ve got to get some kind of exercise…I should do something on days when I don’t spin…I don’t really want to walk, too cold and rainy, but I should. Lots of shoulds. It all seems so boring, not compelling. Last week I wrote: “…but I have recently realized that it’s the normalcy…the mundane, humdrum of life’s rhythms that are its essence.”  Is that true or is that what I wish were so? Can I savor the ordinary and be satisfied?

At the Philips Collection viewing Renoir’s Luncheon of the Boat Party, I wistfully imagined the rest of my life as a guest at the “Boat Party”.  A sunny Saturday afternoon with friends on an excursion, all festively dressed, laughing.  Delicious food prepared and served enough spirits to make everyone happy but not argumentative or nasty, dancing, stimulating conversation.  A fantasy of one kind of “perfect life”.   Would that be enough? It leaves out so many other things that I want for the rest of my life; health, longevity, serenity, intellectual vigor, physical fitness, loving family, a peaceful, honest society.   Is happiness possible without unhappiness? Can we appreciate the love and closeness of our families if we haven’t experienced the pain of love’s lack and children’s absence?

Enough!

I get up, feel the warm burgundy carpet on my soles, the creak in the floor matching the creak in my ankles I step onto the bathroom’s cold sienna tile…awake. I pull on my stay at home uniform, black fleece pants and jacket.  Go downstairs and turn on the electric teapot.  It roils, steams and then clicks off.  Turn on NPR…Morning Edition. I ask Rich how he slept, not a rhetorical question…the Parkinson makes four hours of uninterrupted sleep rare. While I soundly sleep, he spends part of each night downstairs reading or scouring the internet for how-to videos for his porch project. Fully dressed ready for the day, he sits at the kitchen table, reading the paper.

“How long were you up?”

“A couple of hours, oh maybe an hour and a half”

“What are you doing today?”

“ Got to go to Sheets, buy some screening and PFC …how ‘bout you?

“I’ve got my list.”

Paper read (or at least the Reliable Source and Carolyn Hax), breakfast finished, I make my list.  I cede significant power to my list; envision that the list, both its content and form, will generate a new, absorbing, rewarding experience (that is, life).  I need a system, to help me organize my sometimes-fuzzy thoughts.  Once on the list, properly articulated, action and satisfaction will follow.  I used to make my list on recycled paper.  I kept the pages secured by a large paper clip so that I would have a record of what I’d done and when, about two inches worth of accomplishments, a tangible record of achievement.  I tried a spiral notebook to record and cross off both long term and daily to do’s but I filled up the notebook quickly. So I thought I should use an electronic list maker. I googled “to do list”  and “task list”.  It turns out that “Productivity” apps abound.  After much consideration, I decided on Workflowy and started using it. I haven’t seen a marked improvement in productivity, or in life.

The day stretches before me full of possibility. I sit at the computer. Check off the completed items. Search for purpose or is it happiness?

 

Original from prompt: Describe the setting of a moment in your life—March 2014

Published as Musing in Prompted: Writings From the Six Dollar Therapy Group December 2014

 

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The Day After

The Day After…Not the Tomorrow I Planned 

Today the tears are not welling, I am sobbing. I am inconsolable and cannot see the light. My optimism, my hope, my favorite word…gone, destroyed. Destroyed by a bully, by a man full of hate for “ the others” in our world and by those who did not care about the character of this man nor about his actions, nor about his knowledge…I don’t understand why. I am aware that many are disaffected, that life is not what they want it to be, that it is not what they deserve, that it is the fault of others, that the solution is to disrupt government—to kill the system. Perhaps they intend no harm, perhaps they believe that the man didn’t mean what he said, that they only wanted what has been taken from them. I believe that some are haters of women and of people of color. Maybe they are fearful because they believe that the gains of blacks, Hispanics and women have come at their expense, a zero sum game. I want to know who they are and why they think our country is so broken, why they think that our system, our institutions are fatally flawed; and why they think this man can change that.

When I think of the future, I weep. I weep for my daughters, their spouses, their children and the world that has changed overnight. Rich says we will be OK and he’s right that we will survive financially, we are “the elite” in that sense. But, we will be affected because it impacts our friends and neighbors who are people of color, who are Muslim, who are gay, who are disabled, who are immigrants, who are dreamers or different in any way. It will affect our environment and perhaps our safety. I don’t claim to know more than others, but, this I know…this is not good for the country, not good for me, my loved ones or even for those who voted this man into power.

I cry because today, the world is harder for my daughters. The two who are educators must explain this phenomenon to their students and to my grandchildren. They must tell the children that they are loved and will be protected. That sometimes life disappoints, that it is hard and it is painful. That not all of those who voted for Trump are bigots, that many of them are afraid, that we must continue to fight for what we know is right…that as Hilary said in her concession speech, “This loss hurts, but please never stop believing that fighting for what’s right is worth it.” They must also tell them that this is a test…we must take a path that is righteous but we must continue the dialogue. We need to talk to those who today make us cry, to those with different, sometimes hateful, opinions and thoughts. If we want them to learn, can we learn from them? Is there room for civil/civic conversation that brings us to another place? My daughters must assure the children we will be okay, the sun will rise and life will go on. At the same time they must let them know that this is the time “to take the high road, win or lose”; don’t give up your dreams, they are still possible. My daughter who is a journalist who covered this campaign from the beginning until the wee hours of last night, questions the usefulness of journalists, wonders if they were just an echo chamber for the candidates. I tell her the fourth estate must not bend to this failure but must change what they do and how they do it. It is, as always, basic to our democracy. We need to know that there is an independent source of news other than the government or politicians. The next four years will be tough, but it is even more important to be a truth teller, not to accept this man or his manipulation of facts and reality. We need to hear your voice. Accountability is in your hands; it may be adversarial but be strong. Please don’t give up, be your best person and truth-teller. That man cannot, will not, destroy your dream.

I shed tears for the girls, young women, older women who were sure that the glass ceiling would be shattered…how many Facebook posts yesterday spoke to a parent’s pride that their daughters and their sons would know that a woman could be President of the United States, proof that that daughter could be whatever she wanted to be? Instead, it was these very hopes and dreams that were shattered. My better self thinks that it is not the end, that this dream, this reality, is possible and cannot be destroyed by a man who disrespects women, who is a misogynist.

My tears flow for the Obamas for all that they have done for all of us not for one group…that some day they will be recognized for all that they accomplished. I hope that this white-lash will be shown for what it is. That the change that we have basked in for eight years will, after this scary time, return. Waves come, then spill into the sand, may this wave of hate and fear be a ripple not a tsunami.
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Note: I write this because I want to remember how I felt after the 2016 Election. Many say that it’s similar to Reagan’s election. I don’t’ remember this deep sadness and despair…but it may have been there. I also want to remember how I felt on Election Day and the fall from incredible optimism to hopelessness. Whatever, our future holds I want to commit to memory and record this day.

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Election Day 2016

Tears welled as I listened to NPR’s Renee Montagne’s remembrance of the “voice of Hawaii,” singer Israel Kamakawiwo’ole. When his signature rendition of Sometime Over the Rainbow played, tears coursed down my cheeks—so moved by the lyrics and their sentiment.  There is hope—there is a place where dreams come true—where clouds are behind you—where troubles melt like lemon drops. So hokey, but as I moved through my morning those thoughts were with me.

Casey called as I was going into vote.

“I just voted and I’m walking home—call me back okay?”

As I left the community center having checked the box for Hillary and local candidates and referenda, the teary feeling, the burning eyes and trembling chin returned. I called Casey back.

“What’s up?”

“Oh nothing”

“I thought it was something important you wanted to tell me…you sounded kind of urgent”

“No—it’s just that I feel so emotional. I actually teared up when the lady, the poll worker, asked me my name!”

“I had the same feeling. I don’t know why—relief that it’s over? Or that we might elect a woman as president? Or fear that he might actually win?

“Yeah—I thought about Mary and how important it would have been to her, that she would have been the first person at the polls to vote for a woman for president, and to all my kids at school, what this means, or could mean for them…”

“I know, I thought about my mom, grandma…it’s her birthday today you know…what would her life have been like if she lived in this new world.  I heard the other day that when the Cubs last won the World Series women didn’t have the vote!”

“Yeah, I just hope it really happens.  Gotta go—enjoy your writing!”

Checking my Facebook page before I left for writing, I was once again moved to tears. This time, the posts of my friends and more so the posts of young mothers at the polls with their kids…posting their hopes for the future…their happiness, even glee that their kids would always know that it was possible for a woman to be President of the United States…that this was not just a dream…that the dreams of many might come true…even if our troubles don’t melt like lemon drops…there is hope—perhaps my favorite word.

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Note: This was a 20-minute response to two prompts in my writing group on Election Day 2016:  What you don’t know and What is your favorite/least favorite word.

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Tomorrow

Hillary defeats Trump in a landslide

All the leaning states go for Hillary.

The Dems win the Senate by one vote.

The work is just beginning.

Trump initially refuses to concede. His speech rambles on about the rigged systems.

His handlers get to him and eventually he concedes, but does not congratulate Hillary.

His followers threaten violence—they say they will never accept “crooked Hillary”.

The rest of the Republicans secretly sigh with relief but immediately vow to oppose every Supreme Court justice nominated by Hillary.  They say out loud that they will keep the Court at eight justices.

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 Note: This was a 5-minute response to a prompt in my writing group on Election Day 2016:  Tomorrow

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