Sacrifice or Genocide?

The world is turned upside down, we are trying to figure out how to live in our current reality of complete groundlessness. Everyone is trying to make sense of it all. I am hearing this message that some people are going to have to die to save the economy. I’ve heard whispers about the earth cleansing itself and ridding itself of those too dependent. That a virus that kills old people will solve our social security issues and those old people should voluntarily die to save our economy.

As I do, I have pondered these ideas for the past couple of days. This sounds like our response to the AIDS epidemic, which I came of age during. Our country dismissed it and labeled it a disease to cleanse the planet of gay people and drug addicts. Our president at the time wouldn’t even say the word AIDS for almost 5 years after the first case in the US and almost 4,000 deaths. Despite Anthony Fauci’s warning that “one million Americans have already been infected with the virus and that this number will jump to at least 2 million or 3 million within 5 to 10 years…” the underlying belief that it wasn’t coming for us persisted.

Perhaps it’s logical that a society that historically sends its children to their deaths on the battlefield for the “greater good” is considering sacrificing our doctors, nurses, parents, and neighbors to maintain our current quality of life. But can we assume that the virus will remain contained within specific populations we are willing to off and that our leaders, our children, and our families will remain somehow immune? If we stay with the AIDS example we can see that wasn’t true then and it’s not true now.

What really stands out to me is the dismissing of science. Science, including medical workers (who are the ones we’re really saying are dispensable), seems to be the enemy. As I ponder this I’m reminded that science has always been the enemy of religion so it should be no surprise that it is now the enemy of our new religion – money and a “healthy” economy.

The Good Days

This is officially week two of pseudo-quarantine. My keyboard is already covered in some teenage boy stickiness as I’ve been having to relinquish extra technology to them.

I’ve definitely had good days and bad days so far. Here’s what I’ve been doing on the good days to stay sane. On my bad days, the biggest thing has been not beating myself up and remembering that I can always have a fresh start.

Good Days:

Wake up early – I’ve moved my normal wakeup from 4:30 to 6:00, but I am still getting up early.

5-minute gratitude journal – 5 minutes of what I’m grateful for. Really feeling the gratitude of each item. Today I was grateful for the new moon and the idea of a fresh start.

20 minutes of meditation.

Morning Pages – 3 pages of brain dump journaling.

Workouts – This morning I went for a run while listening to Tim Ferriss podcast. It was nice to see neighbors out walking and running, taking turns moving into the street to maintain the safe 6 feet of distance.

I have a list of exercises on my desk, in between work calls and breaks in project work I do one set of them. Squats, pull-ups, lunges, push-ups, planks, etc.

Every evening around 5/5:30 my sister and I FaceTime and make dinner together. This has definitely quickly become the highlight of my day.

Dinner with my family. During “normal” life we are frequently busy in the evenings – board meetings, school plays, etc. We have been enjoying this time together.

Fasting – the first week there was a lot of eating, more than my normal amount. That did not make me feel good. I’ve limited eating and drinking (alcohol) to 5-8 pm to avoid the nonstop grazing that was taking effect.

Kids – I’m home with three teens (15, 17, 19) I did not create a Pinterest style whiteboard of schedule and activity for them. We agreed on 45 minutes of exercise (their choice – weights, walk, bike ride, yoga, videos, etc), reading, writing &/or art, a chore if I remember to give them one.

Checking in on others – FaceTime, phone calls, texts. Thinking about people in tough situations, those losing their jobs, those living alone, those trying to work with a houseful of small children, parents, people who are sick. Reaching out to them regularly to see how they are has been helpful.

That’s Good, That’s Bad

As a kid I loved the book That’s Good, That’s Bad by Joan M. Lexau. It’s a simple story about a boy in a jungle running from a tiger and encountering misadventures with a rhino and a crocodile. The writing and the pictures are very straightforward and are punctuated with judgments as to whether the action on the current page is good or bad.

My friend was recently going through a breakup. Her boyfriend, generally a nice guy, just wasn’t being that nice to her. He would cancel plans with her, showing up late or not at all. He was kind of irresponsible with money. Seemed emotionally incapable of having a discussion without an explosion. His general lack of interest in showing her that he valued her and the relationship left her feeling, well unvalued.

AND anyone who knew him would describe him as a genuinely nice guy. When they did hang out, he was fun and kind and helpful and they laughed and generally had a great time. She spent many a night pleading with the relationship gods to just make him be worse so she could see him for the bad that he was and end things.

As children, we see things as good or bad. People are good guys or bad guys. Objects are good or they are bad. As we age we have the unfortunate task of accepting that fully formed human beings are complicated and possess not only both good and bad qualities but also lots of in between ones.

Was Jack London a racist? Did Martin Luther King Jr. cheat on his wife? Was Mark Twain obsessed with fame? Did Amazon take a stance against the travel ban? Did Nordstrom stop carrying the Ivanka line as a statement or because of lack of sales?

The world and the people in it are complex. Unfortunately, the childhood gift of keeping everything in their one box doesn’t hold up. Good people do bad things and vice versa and more often than not human beings are not good or bad, they are fully flawed, beautiful, stumbling along, developing humans.

Regrets, I’ve had a few

“Wrong turns are as important as right ones. More important, sometimes.”

When I was in my early 20’s I devoured Richard Bach’s, One and The Bridge Across Forever. The author and his wife, Leslie, fly a plane through concurrent realities meeting alternate versions of themselves. I think the books were supposed to make me fall more deeply in love and be willing to risk it all for my soul mate.

Though I missed catching the love bug I was deeply and profoundly moved. You see as these two people visited themselves in parallel planes, each situation showed what their lives would have been like had they made different choices.

What I saw was that I could be more brave. I could risk making the wrong choice because some substitute version of myself would be living out the other choice somewhere else.

I could leap into the unknown, take risks, try things out. If it didn’t work it didn’t really matter.

What would you do if you weren’t so scared of making the wrong choice?

Constant Curiosity

I don’t like sports. In my earlier years I had an angry politically polarized opposition to them in a way that is generally reserved for our self-righteous youth. My infuriation was typical: The disproportionate allocation of resources and attention on sports vs. arts and education. The destruction of the environment to keep our elitist golf courses pristine. The lack of respect for education by the “dumb jocks.” The artificial world created by lugging children around the town creating a never ending scheduling hell and distracting obsessions when there’s real work to be done in the world. I could have gone on for hours.

Do you know what gets the highest number of viewers on television? Football. People really like football.

Recently, I had the most delightful evening with a friend I met about a year ago who is on his way to becoming a very dear friend of mine. We sat and talked for hours and we both walked away better people. We allowed ourselves to be changed.

Allowing yourself to be changed does not feel comfortable, indeed you must go through some irritation. There were so many moments where my tight grasp on my beliefs wanted to shut down the conversation. Wanted to send me away feeling correct and firmly holding my view of the world in place.

In talking about rape on college campus he said, “I just want to smack these young girls for allowing these boys to behave like this.”

My feminist brain exploded, alarms going off, shouting inside about victim shaming, responsibility etc. insults dying to pour from my mouth and put this man in his place.

Thankfully the side of me that’s constantly curious kicked in. I listened. I asked questions. Why do you think that is? Tell me more. I wasn’t trying to win the debate, I wasn’t trying to wait for my moment to make my point, I was curiously trying to understand who he was and what he thought. And he was equally curious.

We learned. We grew. We talked about life. We talked about why teen girls seem to lose their self-worth and assign it solely to the attention they can attract and hold from boys. How much of who we are is inherent and how much is learned, dissecting specific examples from our lives to see what we brought into the situation and what we learned from them as the incidents shaped us. We discussed whether equality should mean lowering the bar to let more in or raising the floor and how to raise the floor for all. We talked about language, the beauty of it, the weaponization of it, the responsibility of the quick tongued.

We talked about curiosity.

I was in a hotel bar eating some lunch and the Tom Brady story was on every T.V. people were talking about the decision to allow him to play after the famous ball-deflating incident of 2015.

I exhaled my solidly held hatred for a world I don’t understand and I texted my friend who likes football. I asked him, what happened with this story? Why did they change their minds? Why does it mean so much to people? I asked the bartender, what’s this all about, what are your thoughts on it?

Empathy is about being able to put yourself in another’s shoes. Curiosity allows you to open the solid grip on your world perspective and to be effected by the world. Without allowing for constant curiosity we will achieve the very sad accomplishment of going to our graves unchanged. We will remain solidly stuck in the place we came in at, with no better understanding of ourselves or the world around us.

Without curiosity there is no empathy, without empathy there is no learning, without learning we can confidently remain on our conveyor belts with our securely adhered blinders on until the end of our lives.