One More Time, With Feeling

I just published a draft post that had been sitting untended on my dashboard since November, and am now gearing up to get back into this game, encouraged by my kind blogger friend over at The Cozy Burrow. (Alice, I think you’d enjoy this blog.)

I seem to have lost some confidence, either in my writing skills or my ability to have original thoughts, somewhere along the line. The onslaught of terrible news, coupled with the degradation of our common language (and mine right along with it), has contributed to my discouraged silence.

To regain my footing, I’ve been doing more pen and paper writing over this recent period of time, and it has helped. There’s no doubt that writing takes practice, as does thinking. And I had been digging myself some pretty deep ruts, especially on the thinking front over these recent months.

My thinking, over time, had pretty much devolved to “Fuck you!” There was some satisfaction in tweeting that to Trump back in 2017. But more recently I find that I need to step away from that rut and find a different path and a different frame for hopefulness.

So now, as the days lengthen and there’s room to stretch and expand a bit, I want to give this another try. I’ll aim to start small and proceed from there.

And I know I’ve lied to you before. Not sure what I can say about that, except sorry!

Oh, and by the way I did finish Blowout and Jayber Crow — both excellent books that I recommend highly.

Posted in Random Thoughts | 4 Comments

Blowout

I’ve been listening, off and on, since driving to NY in early October, to Rachel Maddow’s book Blowout. The full and much more informative title is Blowout: Corrupted Democracy, Rogue State Russia, and the Richest, Most Destructive Industry on Earth.

It’s a disturbing and highly engaging experience. Maddow weaves together seemingly disparate threads in a narrative that you just know is going to get tied together at the end. Like her opening monologues, the elements can be a bit confounding at first. There’s Rex Tillerson, Vladimir Putin, the Sochi Olympics, fracking, oligarchs in Ukraine, and yes, even the pudgy orange miasma.

And it’s remarkable to me how theories about the hidden hand of corporate control — theories that seemed slightly paranoid and fantastical in college — actually were pretty realistic. I always suspected as much.

In 2010, the words “earthquake swarm” entered the lexicon in Oklahoma. That same year, a trove of Michael Jackson memorabilia – including his iconic crystal-encrusted white glove – was sold at auction for over $1 million to a guy who was, officially, just the lowly forestry minister of the tiny nation of Equatorial Guinea. And in 2014, Ukrainian revolutionaries raided the palace of their ousted president and found a zoo of peacocks, gilded toilets, and a floating restaurant modeled after a Spanish galleon. Unlikely as it might seem, there is a thread connecting these events, and Rachel Maddow follows it to its crooked source: the unimaginably lucrative and equally corrupting oil and gas industry.

From a review of the book…

Don’t those gilded toilets sound familiar?

They might not be the Illuminati, but there certainly seems to be a web of hungry corporations and crime-boss oligarchs vying with governments for power. And, it appears they’re quite good at exploiting fears of the ‘other’ to enlist the loyalty of folks whose necks are actually under these dudes’ tassel-loafered feet.

As an antidote to the all-too-true horrors of Blowout, I have also been reading Wendell Berry’s Jayber Crow and am excited that there are so many books to explore that are centered in Port William. In this world of angst and acrimony, there’s something so grounding and calming about the simple ways of everyday life. This isn’t to deny the realities of the world, but we each have to find sustenance somewhere.

Posted in Random Thoughts | 2 Comments

Transparency, Thy Name is Trump

It seems an odd way to describe the swamp creature who inhabits the White House. But he actually is very transparent. Not in the sense of being authentic or honest, but rather transparent because he is so primitive and he blurts out his projections like prophecies.

And they are. Prophetic projections.

Indeed, anyone who debates Trump (if he is around to run in the next election and has the wherewithal to actually debate) should just say, over and over:

“I’m rubber you’re glue, whatever you say bounces off of me and sticks to you!”

Childhood taunt appropriate for usage with Drumpf at all times.

You can thank me, whenever — no rush.

His comments on the recent death of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi are a case in point:

“He died after running into a dead-end tunnel, whimpering and crying and screaming all the way.”

Sounds like how Donnie might be feeling about the impeachment inquiry…

“The thug who tried so hard to intimidate others spent his last moments in utter fear, in total panic and dread, terrified of the American forces bearing down on him.”

Adam and Nancy are coming and you’re in a dead-end tunnel, Donnie.

“The only ones remaining were Baghdadi in the tunnel, and he had dragged three of his young children with him. They were led to certain death.”

Eric, Ivanka and Junior, you might want to take some precautions.

I could go on and on. The fakery of Trump is also so incredibly apparent. His photo in the Situation Room looks absolutely staged. Here he is, essentially a little boy bully trying to look all adult and thoughtful and serious, surrounded by others who often seem to be trying to do the same. (I imagine his jaw must hurt from all the clenching. Meanwhile, look how Pence is straining to stay focused and repress his attraction to national security adviser Robert O’Brien, in the reddish tie.)

Very serious grown-ups.

Contrast this with a photo of Obama in the Situation Room that’s been making the rounds since the Trump play-acting. It shows human beings who are actually concerned — not about how they look but about what is happening on the other side of the globe to other human beings. Pretty stark.

Actual grown-ups.

So after his big announcement (and I don’t mean to make light of what happened, only of the clownish and transparent egocentricity of the messenger), Trump had to go to Game 5 of the World Series.

There, where unlike at his rallies, he had absolutely no control over the ‘audience’ he was loudly and decisively booed. You can hear the fans first applauding some veterans who were being honored. Then the camera shifts to Trump. It was a decisive change in tone that went a long way toward restoring my faith in us!

There were also chants of “Lock him up” — echoing another prescient prognostication or portentous prophecy made by this pusillanimous @POTUS.

Here endeth the lesson…

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PTSD

PTSD
I have it, do you?

I’m proposing a new addition to the DSM V or VI or VII or whatever number we are up to at this point.

Below I’ve enumerated the classic PTSD symptom criteria in the DSM-5.

Then, in a nice bold, bright red, italic font that matches the color of his ugly long ties, I’ve added the symptoms of President Trump Stress Disorder.

It’s an affliction that is of mounting concern to folks in the mental health community — and I believe it should be of concern to you as well.

Please read the symptoms below and consider whether you might be a sufferer.

And I’d be interested in hearing about your experience. The professionals at the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), before they were all fired, had been collecting data on this looming public health crisis. I would like to be able to help them, in my own, small way.

PTSD Symptoms

Criterion A
You were exposed to one or more event(s) that involved death or threatened death, actual or threatened serious injury, or threatened sexual violation. In addition, these events were experienced in one or more of the following ways:

  • You experienced the event (Yup, I was following the returns that night.)
  • You witnessed the event as it occurred to someone else (Others were there, too, and it was horrifying.)
  • You learned about an event where a close relative or friend experienced an actual or threatened violent or accidental death (This has happened to me on Twitter numerous times and I have seen it happen to others, too.)
  • You experienced repeated exposure to distressing details of an event, such as a police officer repeatedly hearing details about child sexual abuse. (The daily news is a constant reminder. The repetition is harrowing and, while each day it seems we have hit rock bottom, the next day there’s a new low. The horror is unending and unrelenting.)

Criterion B
You experience at least one of the following intrusive symptoms associated with the traumatic event:

  • Unexpected or expected reoccurring, involuntary, and intrusive upsetting memories of the traumatic event. (I think back on that night and other events of this horrible presidency and images come unbidden, often.)
  • Repeated upsetting dreams where the content of the dreams is related to the traumatic event. (Yes, and I have even had dreams with Eric in them, which seems quite unfair.)
  • The experience of some type of dissociation (for example, flashbacks) where you feel as though the traumatic event is happening again (Election night 2016 still feels unreal, and yet there he is…)
  • Strong and persistent distress upon exposure to cues that are either inside or outside of your body that is connected to your traumatic event (Hearing his voice creates strong and persistent distress and, while I believe the sound is coming from outside of my body I am sometimes not sure…)
  • Strong bodily reactions (for example, increased heart rate) upon exposure to a reminder of the traumatic event. (My resting heart rate has gone up since Trump was elected, and contrary to his opinion, it is NOT because I am attracted to him.)

Criterion C
Frequent avoidance of reminders associated with the traumatic event, as demonstrated by one of the following:

  • Avoidance of thoughts, feelings, or physical sensations that bring up memories of the traumatic event. (I generally avoid things, so it’s hard to tell whether they are connected to the election.)
  • Avoidance of people, places, conversations, activities, objects, or situations that bring up memories of the traumatic event. (Pick-up trucks with American flags scare me and I avoid them when I see them.)

Criterion D
At least two of the following negative changes in thoughts and mood that occurred or worsened following the experience of the traumatic event:

  • The inability to remember an important aspect of the traumatic event. (I can’t remember what I drank that night…)
  • Persistent and elevated negative evaluations about yourself, others, or the world (for example, “I am unlovable,” or “The world is an evil place”) (The GOP…)
  • Elevated self-blame or blame of others about the cause or consequence of a traumatic event. (The GOP…)
  • A negative emotional state (for example, shame, anger, or fear) that is pervasive. (Yup!)
  • Loss of interest in activities that you used to enjoy. (Following the news.)
  • Feeling detached from others. (The GOP…)
  • The inability to experience positive emotions (for example, happiness, love, joy). (He took my joy, I want it back…with a nod to Lucinda Williams.)

Criterion E
At least two of the following changes in arousal that started or worsened following the experience of a traumatic event:

  • Irritability or aggressive behavior. (Can you say Twitter?)
  • Impulsive or self-destructive behavior. (Does drinking while watching Maddow count?)
  • Feeling constantly “on guard” or like danger is lurking around every corner (or hypervigilance). (Because it is…)
  • Heightened startle response. (Actually, the craziness is more numbing…)
  • Difficulty concentrating. (Oh yes…I am constantly checking to see if he is still alive. So far, he has been.)
  • Problems sleeping. (Indeed.)

Criterion F
The above symptoms last for more than one month. (How many days has it been? Get the current count HERE.)

Criterion G
The symptoms bring about considerable distress and/or interfere greatly with a number of different areas of your life. (YES — Have you not been paying attention?)

Criterion H
The symptoms are not due to a medical condition or some form of substance use. (Unfortunately, that is no longer clear.)

WHAT TO DO

Stop it, stop it, stop it!

The main thing is, DON’T let this continue.

Your health and well-being are at stake.

So, pay attention, but not to excess.

Remember to exercise, eat plenty of vegetables, and try to sleep without utilizing sleep aids. (See the movie Judy if you have any questions or doubts about this.)

And Vote.

Vote, vote, vote, vote, vote!

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It’s So Easy…

…to pen a blog post every once in awhile. Why do I step away for so long? And why do I subject you to this roller coaster of iron-clad commitment and then inevitable failure-to-follow-through? Is this some kind of sick, co-dependent relationship we’re in here?

On Track, Off Track, WTF?

I was thinking about this today — how I vow to stay on track and then fall off track over and over. It started me wondering if there’s something wrong with this whole idea of being on track or off. I mean, wherever I am, relative to this ‘track’ that I’ve fabricated, I still exist and am relatively okay. So why do I make myself feel not-quite-okay by creating a track and falling off of it over and over again? Why not have a more inclusive track to begin with? Or maybe one that’s gently banked or has some guardrails so that it’s harder to fall off?

Don’t blame it on goals…

I mean, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with setting goals. But I seem to set unrealistic goals for myself and then perpetually fall short. In part that’s because I get a little jolt of pleasure from the goals themselves. They may be grandiose, but I believe they are possible…until they aren’t. And that’s the main reason I do it (set goals, I mean). It’s not for the goals so much as for that initial feeling. In that moment, I am in total denial about what follows.

Getting better, though…

Yes, I really am. Maybe it comes with age. As my expectations become more realistic I’m on less of a roller coaster. And I am widening my track, too. When I make less grandiose promises, both to myself and to others, I’m better able to fulfill them. That, in turn, allows me to trust myself more. Trusting that I’ll follow-through I have less need to pump myself up with those BIG promises that lead straight downhill after the first flush of pleasure. So no big promises as I pop in to say hello. I’m NOT setting any sugary, gooey, grandiose goals. But, realistically, I do know I’ll be back. And that kinda feels like being on track!

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Toning It Down

So, some months ago I stopped looking for trouble on Twitter. (Just as an aside, wouldn’t Looking for Trouble on Twitter make a kinda cool book title?)

That shift has actually been a huge relief. I hardly ever think of Ann Coulter or James Woods anymore (except for just now, dammit).

And today, after having received some feedback (offline) about my last post, I’m thinking that I need to pull it back a little further.

Criticizing the man who is the current POTUS and criticizing his fellow travelers is all well and good. But it’s the tiny hands stuff that I’m thinking I need to pull back on.

Honestly, it’s just a cheap thrill and I’ll do better to put my mind to more thoughtful diatribes.

Okay, okay, not diatribes at all. I hear you, I really do!

Let’s just say research and thoughtful discourse, and the occasional whiff of trenchant wit. But nothing outright attacking, demeaning, or too heavy-handed.

Just mostly high-minded stuff. No more making up my own conspiracy theories, and no more mention of turtles or tiny hands. It’s all attacking in the most juvenile of ways and undermines the slim possibility that anyone other than the choir could ever be successfully preached to here.

Posted in Politics | 2 Comments

The Pathetic Emptiness of Some Rich and Powerful Men (You Know Who I’m Talking About)

Yes, Donald Trump and Jeffrey Epstein and Robert Kraft and…

The list goes on and on and includes many current and former members of Trump’s murky, swamp-gas-perfumed cabinet.

In all the reporting of their execrable exploits, why does no one write about their pathetic ineptitude, humiliating neediness, and stunning emotional impoverishment?

I mean, these are dudes who apparently can’t get a date on their own. I’m sure that is difficult to cope with.

And, unfortunately, in a twist that’s sad (but also horrific when coupled with power and money) their need for attention and validation is a vast, dark, and insatiable maw of emptiness. It’s an emptiness that they are desperate to fill.

Trump gives us the size of his pee-pee, compliments of Imgur…

Strongmen vs. Strong Men

Studies show that, while strong men are actually strong, kind and competent, strongmen share some interesting common traits including:

  • Extremely fragile egos (83% as measured by frequency of pouting, tantrums, and retaliatory lashing out);
  • Egos that need to be constantly fed (100%, obviously),
  • A tendency to talk about themselves all the time (87% as measured by video footage of Donald Trump, along with anecdotal reports by friends and family members of other assorted strongmen),
  • Being happy to exploit others without guilt or shame (again, 100% of the time — and here we have the swamp at its finest) and
  • Remarkably tiny hands (a whopping 96% based on observation, common sense, and photographic evidence).

So, some strongmen are bullies. These are the ones like Trump who ‘grab ’em.’ Full of bluster, they are hollow snowflakes whose needs, as Adrienne Rich would say, if she were to describe them, “mock their gear.”

And then there are the ones who feel entitled to whatever they want but are more dainty and circumspect about it all. But don’t be fooled — their needs must be constantly fed, too. These are the Jeffrey Epsteins and, one has to assume, the Robert Krafts of the world. They hire others to bring them what they want. Then they just sit back and wait for delivery.

Strip away the power and money from any of these creatures, and they might actually have to deal meaningfully with their issues. But as it is, they keep finding ways to feed themselves what they want, getting emptier and emptier (and weaker and weaker) in the process.

Empty husks when they die, no one honestly laments or misses them.

And, truth be told, I imagine that, as terrified of death as they are, there is probably some corner of their twisted, shrunk, and lonely souls that is glad to have it all over with. It just can’t be fun, being one of those desperately empty and needy strongmen.

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Will They Do It?

I feel like I should be more nervous this morning. Are you?

The USWNT is the juggernaut and the Dutch are the upstart team that replaced the usual suspects (Germany, are you listening?) in the final. So will the upstart challenge the juggernaut?

I’m hoping to see more from Rose Lavelle today. Check out her nutmeg in the video below. She was Julie Foudy’s pick as the breakthrough player in this World Cup. (Sir Hits A Lot picked Mallory Pugh- but maybe he was getting a little ahead of himself?!?)

Lavelle’s nutmeg…

Whatever happens later this morning, I am going to miss having the Women’s World Cup in my life.

After today it’s back to:

  • Baseball (Phillies, c’mon) and
  • Politics (time to apply the lessons of The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning to the Democratic primary contenders, I’m thinking — so sorry, Tulsi), and
  • He whose name shall remain unmentioned.

So, let’s go, USWNT, and later today, we’ll get back to the rest of our lives…

Posted in Soccer, etc. | 2 Comments

Lady Slipper Spring

It’s been a really special spring when it comes to Lady Slipper sightings in the woods. Yes, it’s been special in other ways, too, but I’m trying to stay focused here.

Lady Slipper

As you can see from the photo, they can be a bit of a challenge to spot.

This particular one is in the place where I’ve seen Lady Slippers before. The leaves always come up in the spring, but there isn’t a bloom every year.

Starting in April, as the woods gradually green up, I begin to check that spot, hoping to see the pink, bulbous flower — such an amazing surprise when it appears?

Many years I see only the leaves – and sometimes a thin stalk but no flower.

This year I got lucky! Not only did this one appear, but as May turned into June, we saw two more of these lovely flowers in our woods.

And here’s what I didn’t know about the Lady Slipper:

  • It’s actually an orchid,
  • And, at that, it’s the only orchid that’s native to North America.
  • Some articles cite it as quite rare,
  • While this piece from NHPR says, ‘not so much.’

What everyone seems to agree about is that these plants require some fairly special circumstances to bloom, and so, I feel very honored when I come upon one. (And honestly, the idea of an orchid of any sort growing wild kinda blows me away…)

And since you asked, here’s what I’ve learned about myself and life, as I’ve thought about Lady Slippers this spring:

  • I’ve frequently caught myself thinking that these 3 Lady Slipper sightings represent their entire population in the woods. This pulls me up short, as I remember that I am only seeing the ones that are adjacent to my path. There is more unknown than known, even about the most familiar places. And my path, as much as I love it, is a narrow one. It feels important to remember that, but I often don’t. Ego-centricity seems to be a natural reflex.
  • When I have walked, these recent weeks, I have also caught myself scanning the nearby terrain for Lady Slippers. Here, I note that:
    • Scanning my surroundings means that I miss things right in my path. If I’m not careful, as I look around, I run the risk of tripping on a rock or root and taking a tumble. Surely there’s a life lesson in this!
    • Looking for one thing means I may miss something else. Am I so focused on the next Lady Slipper that I miss the Scarlet Tanager in the trees?
    • And have I just become acquisitive when it comes to Lady Slippers? Am I not fully appreciating the ones I’ve seen if I keep looking for others? It feels a little ‘Ugly American’ somehow, to keep wanting more…

They’re fading now, our Lady Slippers. As I walk, I pay my respects to each one, glad to see them and knowing that they will be gone soon enough.

I’ve appreciated their companionship, these recent weeks, and will miss them when they’re gone…

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Controversy

So, what do you think? Did they score too much? Celebrate too much?

If you visit Twitter and do a quick search on USWNT or #USWNT you’ll get a sense of the range of opinions. And I feel like I’ve got the same range inside.

I felt terrible for Thailand, and at the same time, how insulting would it have been for the US to pull back and not play at full-throttle? Wonder what full-throttle looks like?

Here are the goal-scorers, and when they scored their goals…

  • Alex Morgan (12′, 53′, 74′, 81′, 87′)
  • Rose Lavelle (20′, 56′)
  • Lindsey Horan (32′)
  • Samantha Mewis (50′, 54′)
  • Megan Rapinoe (79′)
  • Mallory Pugh (85′)
  • Carli Lloyd (90′ +2)

And as someone on Twitter wrote, each goal has its own story behind it…the hours of practice, the family and friend support, the personal bests and team records being chased.

It isn’t just a simple matter of ‘running up the score.’

No team has ever scored as many goals in a World Cup — men’s or women’s. Only one other player (Michelle Akers) has scored as many goals in a World Cup (1991). I am sure these kinds of benchmarks are in players’ minds as they eye the goal.

And goal differential is important in something like the WWC. So there’s that.

But were the celebrations necessary? Should they have been more muted? Julie Foudy and Kate Markgraf thought so in a post-game interview on ESPN. And our Canadian friends called us out in no uncertain terms.

And just listen to how Kristine Lilly reflects, in 2019, on a Norwegian celebration that took place in 1995…

So, personally, while I get it that you don’t take your foot off the accelerator when you’re playing in matches you’ve dreamed about all your life, I kind of agree that the celebrations could have been more muted.

Maybe I’m especially sensitive to it in the age of Trump. It’s easy to project his boorish behavior onto all Americans, so anything smacking of ego gets a wee bit heightened these days. And I suspect that some of the ire we just heard from Canada is as much about his orangeness as about the USWNT.

Whatever you think about yesterday’s match, the US Women have gotten the attention of the world and now have a target on their backs (if they didn’t before). Are they now the villains of the WWC?

And would we be saying the same about a men’s team in similar circumstances?

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