Tuesday, May 2, 2017

what's really precious anymore?

Random thoughts today:

1. Just learned that a good friend has been forced out of her synagogue position after 14 years. On paper, it's a money thing; but I know that there are also personality issues at play. She's in her late 50's and thankfully has landed an interim position on the east coast; but it's still worrisome and sad and not ideal for so many reasons.

2. I am watching my country fall apart in so many ways:
-- Trump supporters are prepping for whatever vision of "Doomsday" they've been fantasizing about for the last decade;
-- Trump is, depending on which reports you read, six months or six weeks away from impeachment, which would set off dozens or hundreds of homegrown militia actions around the country;
-- Liberal lefties are lost and flailing and lack a clear, visionary leader as Democrat leaders cling to the little power they have left in order to save their jobs (and retirement packages, and whatever else) in the short run. Because they have no long-term vision they believe in, much less agree on;
-- Portland's latest attempt at peaceful protest turn into a real live riot within an hour of getting underway. Moms and strollers were moved aside in favor of masked punks destroying shop windows, tossing flares into storefronts and (stupid-stupid-stupid) vandalizing police cars. It made for happy TV reporters and a miserable political Left.

3. On the home front, I am struggling to figure out how to survive in both the short-term and the long-term:
-- My Crohn's is getting worse -- bad enough to make working full-time impossible, though not yet bad enough to qualify me for disability.
-- Sweetie is working like a fiend and has almost more paying work than she can handle, at least for now. But her work depends on the public's ability to buy tickets to classical music concerts, which has always felt like a dicey proposition to me.
-- We are barely paying our bills. I am priming the pump by scavenging and flipping items for sale on the black free market, and in today's America where so many of us are forced to improvise to survive, that's about all I'm willing to admit in public.
-- This reality is juxtaposed against the reality of my ongoing work in Jewish education and music, in a landscape where I can assure you that almost NO ONE I know there is living the way I do. They have nice houses, and vacation homes, and retirement funds and all sorts of things my life realities never enabled me to set up. So when I travel to these places and share my gifts, there's always a sense of feeling like I wear a costume that I only take off when I get back home.

The truth is that, while all hell is breaking loose behind closed doors, most of us have no idea what will, or could, happen in the event of some kind of eco-political breakdown. By all public accounts, that sort of thing seems to be just fine with our current President National Puppet, who thinks a major shaking up would do the country good.

So what do we do? We try to stay small and quiet and numb for as long as we can.

Sure, sure, some of my friends -- a very few -- have done their own prepping. They grow their own food, shop as little as possible, deal in cash for as much as possible and do everything they can to stay off the radar -- no magazine subscriptions, no cable; they piggyback on a neighbor's Wifi to avoid having to pay and they scavenge for everything (and live lives that don't require them to dress nice, ever). And perhaps one or two of them own guns and ammo (because when the shit hits the fan, they WILL have to protect themselves and their saved-up materials and food from those who would rather steal than work).

But among the liberal left they are a small minority.

Most of us, even those who own instead of rent, are not nearly that far along in our preparation or our thinking. Either because we don't want to be, or because, in my case at least, I know that all my prepping will amount to nothing. If things really go belly-up, I won't have access to the medicines that keep me functional and alive.
And when the supply line dries up -- either through economic collapse or a total overturn of the Affordable Care Act -- I will die.

Yup. I'm a goner in a Great Shakeup.
I'm fungible. Expendable. Not worth a plug nickel in the end.

Which means that I had better get cozy with the reality of my mortality.
So that probably explains all the nighttime dreams and daytime thinking I've been doing around dying and death -- what it means, how it happens, what it will be like to die -- because I don't see any other possibility for myself.

And that also explains why I no longer dream really big dreams for my future.
Because I'm in my mid-fifties and if I make it to seventy I'll be as pleasantly surprised as anyone.

These days, it's the small things that feel most precious to me:
Sweetie's smile when we wake up in the morning.
The first sip of coffee.
The purr of the cat.
The whirr of the freewheel as I coast down the hill on my bicycle.
The swirling clouds, the fast-moving rainy fronts and the riot of floral colors during an Oregon spring.
The relative silence of sitting on my stoop at 5:30 in the morning, before most of the street has awakened and only the birds are out.
The first sunny day of spring when the mountain is out and glimmering white with snow.
The feel of a wrench in my still-useful hands, as I fix up a bike so someone can use it to find or keep a job, or go to school, or meets friends at a park.
The sound of my voice joining with others in song.
The first chewy, eggy bite of challah on Shabbat.
The songs of crickets and the deep blue of the sky at dusk.
And the sound of my Sweetie's voice, murmuring as she snuggles closer to me so we can both get warm at bedtime.

In a world where I have no control over the big things, the small things become bigger and more important than ever. And I'll cherish them for as long as I am able to.
Because the big things mean nothing, while the small things are pieces of a life full of awe and love.
May today bring you small things to be awed by, or in love with.


Robyn said...

thank you for making me think. thank you for being such a clear, discerning writer. thank you for being so 'matter-of-fact' about mortality. i'm 58, in good health. i think. but ... i prepare myself every day for not being here. and i have reached the point of 'i don't give a shit' 'they can figure it out when i'm gone' 'if i'm not here, i'm not here to care'.
shabbat shalom.
and next time you're in florida, hit me up. really. i'm in kissimme.

bikelovejones said...

Thank you Robyn!
If I am ever able to book a synagogue gig in your part of the world I will definitely drop a line. (Know anyone I could talk to? -- wink)
Thanks --beth

Unknown said...

Love your writing and your spirit. Thanks for putting it down and putting yourself out there.