samedi, septembre 07, 2013

Peace: it's not a fashion statement

Today Twitter and Facebook feeds filled up with statements about peace, and peacemaking, prayers for peace, statements from religions figures about peace, and general nods of approval.

Peace: it's a great idea.

"Peacemaking: even a better idea"!

I began to get grumpier and grumpier, until I felt like the Grinch sneaking around in Cindy Lou Who's house, destroying her Christmas tree.

I mean, isn't everybody having a great old time agreeing with each other?

Perhaps it's because mind meld on ANYTHING makes me so annoyed that it must be unhealthy.

Perhaps it's because I wrote a column on Syria, and pretty much every religious figure was saying the same thing: we probably shouldn't go in.

Let me be clear about what I'm not saying.

This isn't about whether we intervene militarily or don't go in.  I can understand and respect the arguments on both sides.

I'm very cool with Pope Francis calling for prayer and fasting -- heck, he wasn't even the Pope when Assad began his reign of terror. And a day of prayer and fasting can never hurt.

I have the most profound respect for people who have been activists for peaceful solutions to conflicts. I do believe that it's where Jesus wants us to begin -- he's pretty clear about this, is he not?

But why now? Why, all of a sudden, are we talking about peaceful solutions?

Isn't it a bit late to talk about that, when Syria is falling apart?

I'm not a pacifist. It's tough to be one when some of your own relatives (though not close ones) were gassed by Hitler or murdered in pogroms.

And because I'm not, I've been stewing about what our government could do in Syria for a few years to halt the genocide. The reading I've done and the people I've heard on NPR have confused me more, and made me more angry and distraught.

Now, I fear, it may be too late to do anything but harm.

Perhaps the best we can do is swop prayers on Facebook.  Perhaps it's a form of water-cooler reassurance.

But I  believe still peace is about action, not words.

It's damned hard to be a peacemaker. Look at Martin Luther King, or the young people who crept into Iraq before the war. Peacemaking, by definition brings you face to face with the enemy, doesn't it?

 It's much easier to talk about it than to do anything.

That, of course, is human nature.  We are a communal people.

Jesus got that -- his death was the ultimate act of peace with us and with God.

The Gospel is more demanding than we dare dream, most nights.  Changing our behavior and our hearts is a lifelong process.

And so I pray that God will have mercy on those of us, including me, who haven't always been peacemakers when it's so clear that this is what He calls us to do.

Blessed are those who hear -- and act.

On Syria, the church speaks with (almost) one voice

Kudos to my editor for allowing me  40 column inches -- and I still feel like I couldn't give "just war" theory an adequate analysis.

The interviews were predictably calm and scholarly until I reached the last interview of that day, one with the Rev. Allan Wolfe in Lancaster. Delightfully outspoken, he was un-hesitant to criticize the President for "an inadequate foreign policy" and general disdain for church pronouncements on religious issues.

The Catholic Church in the U.S. has a history of tangling with our current President on issues of religious freedom. But here, they make common cause with Protestant progressives and libertarians, including secular libertarians.

Fr. Wolfe doesn't think the President, or even many Catholic politicians, are listening to the voice of the Church. He might be correct. 

But I think that, if Obama's initiative goes down to defeat (fueled in part by payback time mentality in some conservative political quarters, most likely), some will, at least, use their denomination's stance for cover.

mardi, septembre 03, 2013

Late summer daze

To say that this has been a tough afternoon would be an understatement.

It actually started last night.  We all went out to dinner as a family -- the four of us, the ex, me, and the kids. We do that on special occasions. This was a delayed birthday party for Mr. C., and he chose a nice French restaurant.

The two children were doing well - competing with each other, talking a mile a minute, ordering expensive desserts.

But it became very clear to me, has been becoming clearer, that when it comes to her life, I'm on the outside looking in. Most of the decisions are made by her and her dad, and sometimes I'm invited in - not to the choice, but to the bread and circus around it. .

I'm not going to pass blame. Blame is such a loser's game, because, ultimately, we all share part of it. Actually, it's one of those things that are better shared, because then the solution can be a collaboration, too.

Reflecting on how distant she and I have become over the years made for a difficult morning.  This problem is so obdurate, and has so many layers, that sometimes it feels like I am imprisoned by one of those horror movie trees, come to life in a torrential downpour. I push, and push, and can't escape the tendrils of the past.

But I wasn't done with gloomy reflection.  The afternoon featured an email, in response to an inquiring one from me, from a gentlemen who cast me as a monster mom, vengeful and self-righteous.

I was stunned  by his anger -- directed at someone who was a relative stranger. Oh, he was very sure he knew me - and that I was dangerous.

I wonder if my friends, coworkers and even acquaintances would recognize the caricature he drew.

In what turned out to be an unwise bout of confession, I had mentioned some of the measures I'd taken when my daughter was in high school  and as she moved on to college (she had already been, let's say, flirting with danger).  On those he judged me, found me wanting, put me in the dock, and sentenced me.

He didn't know the context. He wasn't informed about the years of effort, strategy, support and encouragement.  I should not have shared so much without more of  a friendship -- my bad.

Online dialogue encourages a level of disclosure that not only encourages people to take liberties, but to assume that they know someone after a few discussions. And I'm sure that some of what I shared seemed totally outrageous to him.

Thankfully, I had just wrapped up a talk with a former professor who told me that, in my daughter's case, the actions I took might have saved her from much worse later on.  Thankfully also, I'm done with my email friend -- we're both better for it.

I can't deny his cutting, derogatory comments hurt.  They hurt badly. But think how much worse they would have been if we were in a relationship?  We were both spared.

But the afternoon wasn't over, yet.  Next came an angry, accusatory email from my daughter, telling me I'd spoiled her vacation plans with her boyfriend. The only problem? I hadn't had anything to do with her plans.

We figured it out -- it was her brother who was the villain, not her mom. Not this time. Apologies all around from West Chester.

It was one very tough day. In its undertow, I'm exhausted, discouraged and sad.

But hopefully, tomorrow will be a time of refreshment, enabling me to remember all of the blessings in my life -- and find a thicker skin to ward off that which isn't a blessing.

A little each day

"We don't crack up and fall apart.  Instead, our hearts break a little bit each day."

I can't recall if my mom or my dad used to say this.

Each of them would have had their own particular reasons.

I know what they meant, however.

I don't rage.  I don't throw things.  I've never been addicted to drugs, or alcohol, or even men who were bad for me.

Yet there are painful and important moments.

This has been a week of small heartbreaks.

A friend's careless and clear indifference as he takes off like a racehorse in pursuit of a new love.

Threads dropped without explanation as another pursues career dreams.

And other nascent seedlings, ripped up and cast aside.

I'm not an easy person to get to know, or to abide with.  In myself I harbor many contradictions -- a rigorous if random mind and a profound emotional sensitivity, passion for world affairs and deep introversion, faith and curiosity, doubt and its polar opposite.

Mostly, I require of my friends an honesty and straightforwardness that challenges all conventional norms.  Many (and I don't blame the many) can't abide that kind of deep sea diving in quest of insight.

Truth is, the murk at the bottom of our mind is as rife, if not more so, than the treasure.

In a few days, perhaps I will have forgotten the sundered relationships that impel me to grief.

They will be little more than pinpricks, reminders, cautions.

If I have learned anything, it is not to hold on too tight when someone else has let go.

But today, today is for mourning.

lundi, septembre 02, 2013

Nicely. Done.

I am, I recognize wryly, your archetypal  "nice" woman (except when the occasional impulsively blurted comment slips out).  Mostly, I am told, I sound like I think through everything before I say it.

Goodness, I wouldn't want to offend anyone by saying something that might hurt their feelings. And when and if I do,  I query my conscience a hundred times (well, maybe ten, but still, that's space that could be taken up by something more interesting).

I worry about that line where "nice" may veer to close to "doormat."

So I'm trying to take a few steps back. Nice alone won't cut it. Nice but firm? O.K.  Nice and differentiated? Sure.

 Nice and hot (hey, sign me up!).

But nice alone -- it's a recipe for problems.

Like with friends who take you for granted when it comes to making or breaking dates, because it's more convenient for them, or they merely got distracted. That's SO high school.

Last night a married guy contacted me.

On dating sites that allow for them, they often call themselves "available."

To my mind, that equates with "available" for furtive embraces, seeing you at inconvenient times, and a dash of lying and cheating on the side.  Just enough availability to make you feel sleazy and cheap.

He found me, and my way with words "enticing", he said in an email message.

While not judging his situation, I wrote back, I can't imagine causing that kind of pain in another woman's life. No dice, bud.

Why on earth, I wonder, would someone buy these pitches if they have an ounce of self-esteem? Are there women who really fall for these dudes (hit me up, baby, I just need a little company)?

Truth be told, there was a time in my life, when, as my marriage thudded to a close,  I ran into someone I liked "more than as a friend."  Fortunately, it never went anywhere -- and even more fortunately, for my own sense of integrity, I said something to my husband.

Affairs never solve the issue they are meant to solve.

Instead, they show up as a signal of an inability to communicate effectively. The fantasy that you can work out with someone else without doing a bit of work to make it happen or figure out how you screwed up (sorry) is a potent one.

I told this guy that I wished him and his spouse the best of luck.

The elderly gentleman who contacted me today wasn't happy that I politely told him that I didn't think we had many common interests, and that I wasn't a smoker.  In fact, he called me stupid.



There was a time when I would have taken this rant personally. Now I move on.

It's all static. Life is way too short to stew over a stranger's rant.

Life is too short to reach out to friends who are careless with your feelings (more than normally careless. It doesn't pay to be TOO sensitive).

I'm trying on "nice and tough" on for size today.

Wanna bet how long I can keep this up?

If you give me credit for baby steps, I am really, truly, doing nicely.

More than nicely.

Right now it feels as if I'm putting on a Halloween mask to scare children.

But give me time, my pretties. Just give me some time.