pugilist’s moon

The Native Americans might have called it the Snow Moon, or the Hunger Moon, but last night I decided that a more accurate moniker would be the Pugilist’s Moon. Last night’s full moon and lunar eclipse, possibly exacerbated by the “close” passing of Green Comet 45P, wreaked a fair share of havoc on us.

Yes, I do believe somewhat that the lunar cycles have an impact on our human behavior. We really are just big sacks of liquidy stuff charged with some mysterious electrical current and I’ve been friends with enough teachers, social workers, and emergency medical folks throughout my adulthood to know that many of them dread full moons. Especially full moon Fridays. My teacher friends on FB started expressing concern several days ago.

So this week:

I got into a huge fight with Jax. This isn’t actually unusual because Jax & I are both very opinionated, strong-willed people and even when we agree on a basic issue, we can still argue over semantics or the details of it. Normally I don’t mind this much because I always know where I stand with him and vice versa. There’s never any hidden undercurrents of dissatisfaction – it’s all out there, even the minor stuff. But this week’s was a little vehement and nonsensical even for us. Neither of us were really sure what it started with. We made up but post-fight I was laid low with a stress migraine the day after.

My credit card got hacked (AGAIN) for the third or fourth time. I always know what it’s about when the company calls me – “did you authorize such-and-such an outlandish charge in Florida [[Texas]]?” It’s always either Florida or Texas. And it’s almost always either a gas station or Wal-Mart. Sigh. “No, I did not try to charge $564 at Wal-Mart in Fort Worth.” “Can we Fed Ex you a new card to your home on Monday? Will you be home?” “No, I work full time.” “Okay, we will put it in the US mail. Good luck paying cash for everything over the next 7-10 business days!”

It’s a damn chip card too. But I guess I should just be happy that they catch it so quickly that I’ve never had to open a bill and find a charge for Skoal, Budweiser, and a flat screen television from a Wal-Mart in Bumfuck Arkansas.

The last and worst was Miss L’s elementary school dance last night. The PTA worked so hard to decorate the school and it looked lovely. They had cake and photo booths, a DJ and dancing, all the kiddos dressed up in their Sunday best. The joint was jumping and I was trying to knit in the darkness, humming along to Gangnam Style, when I became aware of a change in the atmosphere. I could sense it like a drop in air pressure. When not knitting, I was trying to keep an eye on L amidst all the crowds of kids and parents, and being told off roundly every time she caught me “following” her. Anyway, I packed my sock and needles up into my Moomin bag and set off into the hallway to scout things out. I quickly realized there was a very unfortunate argument between three sets of parents and two crying children, and it was devolving with lightning speed.

My fear, ever-present these days, is that the environment is so highly charged, and so toxic with resentment. So many people now feel emboldened to say whatever despicable xenophobic Go Back to Whatever Country You Legally Migrated From For No Good Reason thing, typically beset with racial epithets, this so-called president has inspired them to, and so many on the other side of the issues have quivering antennae set to pick up on any hint of that even when it’s not there and immediately leap into I’m Going to Punch a Nazi Resistance mode,  disagreements can turn very ugly very quickly. In all fairness, I doubt this had anything to do with any of that. But add a crowded hallway full of children and the only thing I want to do is grab my girl and head for the nearest exit. The principal did an excellent job of containing the dispute in her office, but the content was serious enough that the police were called. This was, as you can imagine, the Most Exciting Thing to ever happen to a school full of sugar-hyped elementary kids, who goggled out windows and raced up and down crowded hallways spinning ever more ludicrous tales and only contributed to the surreal atmosphere, the disbelieving feeling that pervaded me of “this can’t happen here”.

It was an extremely unfortunate way to end the dance, which people worked very hard on and was only meant to inspire joy and happiness and a sense of community for our little ones, and I’m appalled at the behavior exhibited by adults. It is completely uncharacteristic for the beautiful, diverse, multicultural environment that our elementary school exhibits.

I can now only hope that that ol’ Pugilist’s Moon will let us recover from this upheaval. I will be hiding in my bedroom with Emmett madly cleansing my chakras until it’s over.

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what’s saving my life right now

A couple of the blogs I read (Modern Mrs. Darcy and Carrie Willard) do the “what’s saving my life right now” post right around this time of year – earlier this week we celebrated Imbolc for the pagans, St. Brigid’s day, Candlemas, and for the rest of us, the halfway point from the winter solstice to the Equinox. The darkness hasn’t bothered me so much this year, but it’s undeniably nice to know that every day we are turning back to the light, and on days like yesterday, when the sun is out and bright, I just want to sit in a sunbeam and soak up some vitamin D.

So what’s saving MY life right now?

  • Reading – I am bouncing back and forth between an “airport novel” – which is what I call the bestsellers that always seem to be on the racks at airport bookstores – fast paced, adventurous, usually with a spy or a team or agents of some kind. They’re an indulgence – this one is a James Rollins “Sigma Force” book called “The Seventh Plague” and somehow I am already halfway though it. Anyway, I’m bouncing between that and “The Happiness Equation” because one of my goals this year is to read more nonfiction and although self-help isn’t really what I had in mind, absorbing more suggestions on how to be even 5 or 10% happier is just fine.
  • Being off Facebook right now. Yup. I took my own advice and took a sabbatical from Facebook and Twitter – I stayed on Instagram because it is a much more beautiful and soothing brand of social media for me. My feed is full of beautiful pictures of Norway, of Japan, Europe, cats and birds, my alma mater, handmade things and my happy places and beautiful rooms. I need these things to stay alive and right now I don’t need to steep myself in the live feed of the unrelenting negativity of Donald Trump’s administration and the divisiveness that is causing in our country.
  • Podcasts. In particular I just love My Favorite Murder (stay sexy, don’t get murdered) and Thinking Sideways. I’m also immersed in the archives of You Must Remember This and just worked my way through her series on Charles Manson’s Hollywood.
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“My Favorite Murder” has some pretty funny merch, too – I think I need one of these mugs for our staff meetings.

 

  • Finding a brief moment of hilarity at work. One of our coworkers recently returned from a long illness and he was greeted by this actually very creepy Elmo balloon, which has arms and legs and is probably four feet tall. (Why do people buy Mylar balloons still? This balloon will be clogging up some whale’s intestines long after I am ashes and dust. This stuff doesn’t biodegrade.) Over the course of a few days, Elmo began to drift aimlessly down the aisles, bouyed by rogue air currents, and I would frequently turn around to find it staring in my office window. When the GC was out one day, we decided he could be her temporary replacement.

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  • The snug life with this little guy – with a hot water bottle under the blanket and a movie from the Lucky Day section of the library on TV – and below that, a throwback to my favorite little human’s early years, provided at random one day by my brother, who found this snap on his phone and shared it with me. ❤

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  • A gift that I gave myself, for my evening tea, a reminder of a childhood best friend.

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  • And lastly – the bonds of trust, respect, and affection that I share with other people in my community. This was demonstrated eloquently during the Multicultural Night that was hosted by Miss L’s elementary school. On a purely voluntary basis, families and organizations came together for a night to celebrate the beautiful diversity in our community. Children from all grades (including Miss L and several of her besties) volunteered to perform, to sing songs and show what they’ve learned on different musical instruments – maracas and recorders and Indian and African drums. Some children dressed in costumes representing their ethnic backgrounds and families brought all sorts of food to share. The halls, gym, library, cafeteria, and art room were packed – the turnout was amazing. Miss L and her friends ran all over the school making memories together, doing crafts like Chinese lanterns and Roman mosaics, having their wrists henna painted by the mothers and grandmothers of some of our Indian students, and watching Irish dancing from a local dance school. There wasn’t a single political comment made, but the entire evening, which is an annual tradition at the school, spoke volumes and made me so incredibly proud of our community and our public school. We are truly blessed.

Happy weekend, all. xoxo

principled dissent

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It might be a little late to post about the Women’s March on January 21, but I’ll do it anyway. Like millions of others – literally – I have been dismayed and disappointed about the results of the 2016 election and have made no secret about that. I’m sure I’ve lost friends (who probably weren’t real “friends” anyway, if they didn’t know where I would stand on these issues) and pissed off many of the more conservative members of my own family, but I can’t bring myself to say (or feel) sorry about that. Instead, I have struggled to understand how people can support this administration and although I try to practice kindness, love, and empathy, it’s not always possible for me to see how we can bridge our differences.

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I felt a wave of darkness and tension descend on Inauguration Day. Even during the darkest days of the Bush administrations, I never felt that sense of utter trepidation at what the future could hold. This Inauguration Day was different. My cousin, who has attended several inaugurations, summed it up in a post on social media that remarked how angry and bitter and rude the crowd was “even though their guy won”. She said she was shocked at some of the hateful and intolerant comments she overheard and I think that atmosphere pervaded all of the ceremonies. That sense hasn’t dimmed for me. (Particularly when I see the shots and video of Trump’s demeanor towards his wife -and the look on her face- at various points in the ceremony. Can I just say how proud I was to be a Democrat that day? I thought Hillary and the Obamas and Joe Biden conducted themselves with dignity and grace and basic class.)

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This guy was the bright spot of the ceremony. God Bless ya, W, never change.

I got up on Saturday unsure of what was in store for me and my best friend Kit. We’d decided to go to the Lansing, MI march (and I knitted us matching hats – yes, Michael D. Cohen, our hats WERE made in the US,  with love and care and respect, unlike those ubiquitous money-making red trucker hats that are made in China, Bangladesh, and Vietnam). I didn’t know if the tone would be angry, if we’d be opposed, if I’d come home feeling worse than when I went – but so many of the issues are so important to me that I felt I needed to be there, no matter what.

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I’m so glad I went. The atmosphere was convivial and friendly, very chill. The signs were funny and clever and outraged but there wasn’t a single incident that made me feel anything other than proud to be there, and relieved that so many others feel the same as I do. The speakers were excellent and focused on issues – Gretchen Whitmer, who has declared herself an early candidate for Michigan governor in 2020, and Barb Byrum, Ingham County Clerk were standouts. Our speakers didn’t drop f-bombs or do strange raps (I really wish Madonna and Ashley Judd had stuck to issues) – they discussed the importance of Planned Parenthood, their concerns over healthcare and the impact to communities when the ACA is disassembled. They discussed the rights of women to govern their own bodies and not have their reproductive rights politicized and legislated. They expressed deep concerns over the enormous conflicts of interest, nepotism, and ethics complaints with the new administration, and its stance on climate change (Chinese hoax?!). They spoke at length about the troubling lack of qualifications (and far worse) displayed by nominees like Jeff Sessions and Betsy DeVos (Michiganders have an especial interest in DeVos as her particular brand of stupidity has negatively impacted education in many of our communities). Our diverse speakers shared what it is like to be a member of a group targeted by the new administration – an immigrant, a Muslim, someone of the LGBTQ community. There was a lot of intersectional feminism.  And they talked about what we could do to share our concerns and make sure our voices are heard in appropriate and constructive ways.

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Sadly, our efforts have been received by the administration’s supporters in some typical yet disappointing ways. I see people commenting on FB  that they want us to shut up, that people’s minds aren’t changed no matter how “righteous” the message. There are memes about how great it is that Trump got a bunch of “fat women” to walk more. A Republican senator from Mississippi, who I won’t link to because he shouldn’t get any more attention than he already has, commented that if we have money for all those tattoos and piercings, why do we want someone to pay for our birth control? Pretty standard, unoriginal stuff – not exactly incisive wit here, people. It doesn’t surprise me a bit that our detractors can’t address our actual issues, they have to fall back on completely irrelevant and superficial issues like how we look. Echoes of the Trump’s emphasis on “Perfect 10’s”, maybe. However, there are those whose tone turns quite ugly, such as the Indiana GOP rep who posted a picture of women being pepper sprayed with a comment that we should all get this treatment as our “participation trophy”. Apparently not a lot of experts on the amendments to the US Constitution in that bunch, either. I’m sorry about your politicians, Indiana and Mississippi. Really.

And of course all of the Tweeting and “alternative facts”. SAD

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I think if anything, this toxic political season and my deep disgust for what this president stands for have taught me that there is still a lot of intolerance, ignorance, and hate in our country, and even in a lot of us. I know that I frequently feel a rise of venom in my heart when confronted with these attitudes. There’s a lot of people I’d love to punch. But instead I’ve already spent more time writing my senators than ever and I guess if there’s a silver lining in this it’s that Trump has made an activist out of me – and, it seems, a lot of others.

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frank turner’s library show

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I first heard of Frank Turner a few years ago via FM 107.1, a small Ann Arbor radio station. They were playing a couple of his singles from his album Tape Deck Heart and for the time in my life I was going through, the songs perfectly matched my moods.

I loved ‘The Way I Tend to Be‘ with it’s cutting lyric “love is about all the changes you make, and not just three small words“.

And I loved ‘Recovery‘ : “broken people can get better if they really want to…or at least that’s what I have to tell myself if I am hoping to survive“.

So recently I was browsing my community library website to reserve a book and funnily enough, I saw a blurb about Frank Turner and his new book and an event notice – he was coming to the main branch of our library to do a small acoustic show and a book signing. For free! Now, I love music but don’t tend to go to live shows because one, they’re expensive, and two, I don’t love crowds, and three, the crowd thing and the large venues tend to ruin my absorption and enjoyment of the music. It just doesn’t feel personal. Yes, it can be awesome to share the energy and joy with an enormous group of people, but just not enough for me to brave the other aspects to go to a show. But a small, acoustic, free event at a library? That appealed instantly to my geeky heart and made Frank Turner all the more appealing to me. He was in town to do a show at Freedom Hill and made time a few hours before the show to come to a library? Okay, love this guy.

In person, he is quite lanky and yet without the sharp Mephistopheles angle of his promo pic. Wearing a shirt that said ‘Sad Songs Make Me Feel Better’, he ambled onstage with his guitar and a big grin and proceeded to charm the room for over an hour with breezy, self-effacing commentary and song after song. He didn’t play my two faves, but I didn’t really expect him to. He seemed the sort of musician who wants to play things that he really likes and some new songs, too, and not just retread the glossy singles that are the only ones that a casual fan (okay, me) might know. It was a great afternoon and I was introduced to some new songs to love, and a new lyric that seems more appropriate for the time of my life now: “the journey’s brought joys that outweigh the pain“.

Let’s hear it for more musician / library combos!!

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traditions and history

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It was a hell of a week for me on just about every front. I had three significant presentations, a huge project due, a new lawyer starting in my department, my clothes dryer is on the fritz, and I had social obligations on top of it. Midweek, my hands and feet began itching and I noticed the beginnings of a rash climbing up my torso and so I stopped taking my antibiotic – just in time. Apparently the urgent care doctor was INCORRECT when he told me that he’d CHECKED my chart and ma’am you are MISTAKEN – you are not allergic to amoxicillin, you are allergic to azithromycin. This didn’t sound right but who am I to argue – besides, I was helplessly drooling on my Pumas to avoid having to swallow. I wouldn’t have cared if I puffed up like the Michelin man if it had cured my strep throat. Sorry Doc, you must have checked the wrong chart, because I narrowly avoided a full-on reaction.

Jax & I took our kids to the Spring Game at the Big House. I was really tired from my week and not particularly in the mood to battle Ann Arbor parking and traffic, but it was Miss L’s first time at a Michigan game (even though it was just the spring scrimmage).  I wasn’t a huge sports fan while I attended Michigan, but the years have made me fonder of the grand Michigan traditions, and football is one of them. Coming up the road and seeing the block M and the flags fluttering in the blue sky made my chest hurt with mingled pride and excitement.

The weather was chilly and blustery but the clouds parted for the game. It was somewhat under-attended compared to a real fall game – maybe only 30-40,000 in a stadium that can seat close to 115,000. With the comparatively reduced crowds, Miss L and I were able to do a lot of staring at this fella.

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There was even a guest rapper who warmed up the crowd with a stirring remix of a song he originally penned when Harbaugh was in San Fran. Who’s got it better than us? Miss L & I took great joy in bellowing the response “NO-BOD-EEEEE!!!” in every refrain. I think she’s a Wolverine for life now and I am satisfied.

This morning was a quick jaunt down to Detroit’s Riverfront for a Brownie troop field trip at our Department of Natural Resources Outdoor Activity Center. I really admire our troop leaders, who have selected some really fabulous trips and activities for us. Gleaner’s, the Parade Company in Detroit, Cranbrook Science Center, et cetera. I love to explore cool activities in our Motor City and surrounds, and in addition to giving Miss L great exposure to so many aspects of our community, I also learn something every time. For example, while the girls were earning their badges with the troop leaders, I wandered around reading placards and signs, and learned that the DNR Outdoor Activity Center occupies the old Detroit Dry Dock Company / Detroit Shipbuilding Company building.

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The building dates back to 1869 and was the construction site of many vessels, including railroad ferries and the steamers that are a fixture in the maritime history of the Great Lakes. My intrigue with the Great Lakes maritime history is shared among my family, especially my brother, and probably started with the old “Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” song. Learning about the old freighters, steamers, wrecks and ghost ships is an itch that is never really fully scratched for me.

Henry Ford worked in the complex as an apprentice machinist. The buildings were closed due to the Great Depression between 1922-1929, and changed hands many times over the ensuing years.

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Many of the adjacent buildings in the complex were shuttered and demolished, which is always heartbreaking, but a pervasive problem in a city as plagued as Detroit. Luckily, a grant to the DNR helped save this building, and the Outdoor Activity Center was opened in 2015. The ribbon cutting was done by Nicole Curtis, a popular HGTV renovator and an advocate of preservation of historic buildings. She’s a Michigander herself and has done rehab / salvage work on a few historic Detroit properties, most notably the Ransom Gillis mansion.

We came home in a cold driving snow (yes, snow) and although I have more projects than I can count that could be constructively occupying my time, here I sit on the couch under a blanket, feeling sleepy and wondering if I can even stay awake to read a chapter of the new James Lee Burke novel I got from the library (“House of the Rising Sun”). It’s going to be a pizza, wine, & Netflix chill kind of night and I really couldn’t be more excited about it.

 

snow day

I’m sitting in my back den with a glass of wine and the flames in the woodstove crackling merrily. The westerly sun through the pines is casting long shadows on the pristine snow of my backyard, unmarked except by bird tracks like runes. Sarge is sleeping in his Superman pose and the little red-haired girl is finishing up her pre-dinner hot chocolate (a snow day treat). The snow fell all night and most of the morning and so it was one of those no-school holidays.

I worked from home but when posts started popping up in the local elementary school Mom’s Page on FB, asking when everyone was heading to the big sledding hill, I remembered snow days as a kid. Building igloos with my brother, rampaging with the neighborhood kids…I want my little one to grow up with just as many memories of her childhood as I have of mine. Email could wait.

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There was a mad rush to find snow pants, boots and gloves; the hill was already crowded. She found some of her friends, neighborhood kids, and they were off while I stood at the top of the hill and watched. There was a haystack mogul on the far right side that caused a lot of glee and terror. The local news crews were out in force – all of the major channels with news vans, filming the kids, likely lingering longer than they needed to. Maybe everyone needs a snow day.

Finally, wet and freezing, hungry and thirsty, we came home to eat and relax and back to emails and IM’s from my restless non-snow-day enjoying friends in the office. On breaks, we organized Girl Scout cookie orders for delivery to all of my work friends tomorrow. (Yes, I am the Compliance manager, frequently lecturing people on Conflict of Interest, the Perception of Hawking / Soliciting, yet I still twisted a few arms on the down low to get the little one enough sales for that summertime trip to Mackinac Island. No one minded much. Even the COO was pounding on my door this week demanding his Thin Mints. “I KNOW YOU HAVE THEM. I NEED THEM…It’s been a bad week.”)

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here now

Yesterday, as I limped down the street wearing too-high heels, my dress coat, carrying a workout bag, my purse, and my computer in my arms, I thought to myself, this is not how I imagined coming back when I left the house.

Some days are just like that. I once had a day in Australia where the normal highway I took to work was closed due to an accident, and I was poorly detoured through what felt like all of Melbourne, along with what felt like the rest of Melbourne. I was taken through clogged streets I’d never see again, made wrong turns, became hopelessly lost. I remember feeling so strongly that we live our lives in these little tracks, well-memorized and comfortable, and underneath us looms an entire abyss. One little crack in our world and down we go, to places that are always there, but which we rarely see. And maybe all the missing people just fell down a crack and couldn’t find their way back.

Yesterday, I was driving to work and I had the radio loud, and I was driving next to a big truck doing about 75. Oddly enough, I was thinking about the fact that I needed new tires. My dad had told me this about six months ago, but with the Disney trip, then Christmas to plan for, I just hadn’t budgeted for them. I was thinking that now I had some Christmas money and it would probably behoove me to…then I started thinking about something else, and noticed a sort of whupping helicopter noise, which I thought was the truck. I eased off on the gas and suddenly in my driver’s side mirror I saw smoke, a bit of rubber flying off, and the car began to fishtail and lose control.

Once I got the car over to the side of the highway, I smelled burnt rubber. My tire was just shredded – only a few bits of tread clinging. I sat for a moment amidst rising panic. Again, we travel our little tracks and then when you find yourself sitting on the side of the road, in a dust of snow and dead dry grass, cars whooshing by you at abominable speeds, you are lost. What do I do? Who do I call? I mentally flicked through the catalog of people I could possibly call and rejected all of them because honestly, I thought, there’s nothing they can really do to help. Sitting in my car, I Googled ‘what to do when you get a flat tire’ (really) and then clarity and calm started to come back. I knew my ex-husband had signed us up for Triple A a few years ago, but I didn’t have my card and I didn’t know if the membership was still active, or in his name, or what. I called them and they confirmed that the membership was still active. While I was talking to them, arranging for a tow, mentally wondering if my tire rim had been damaged, I saw blinking lights in my rearview and Employee 29 pulled up behind me in his MDOT van.

“You don’t just do things halfway, do ya,” he cheerfully bellowed over the highway noise. “Let’s get your spare! Cancel the tow – I’ll get you going!”

We unloaded my spare tire, my dress coat whipping in the cold wind, and I resisted the urge to hug him when he had it on the car and sent me on my way. Instead, I shook his hand fervently, smiling up into his wind-chapped face, and thanked him from the bottom of my heart.

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The benefit of shopping local is that you might just have a Firestone within walking distance of your house, and they would very likely be able to scramble to fit you in to spend that Christmas money on a set of brand new, excellent tires for the car you plan on driving until it dies because you love it so.

And you may be able to drop your car off right then, with the spare still on, and walk home, and think about philosophical things like cracks in the world.

So here is why this boring story is important, and here is why it is more to me than a minor mechanical inconvenience / expense.

Somehow, I’ve changed. It was probably when I hit bottom a couple of summers ago, lost weight and hope, and decided to go on an antidepressant. Taking that pill every night is part of what changed me, but there was more, and now I am truly changed. The old me would not have been able to handle this situation. I would only have seen the negative. I would have panicked and cried, and called someone to come help me figure out what to do. I would have seen it as some sort of reinforcement that I’d fucked up, that I didn’t have control, that forces were aligned against me and it was better, safer not to be happy because that other shoe is waiting to drop.

The new me sees it differently. The new me sees how wonderful it felt in that moment, shaking hands with Employee 29 on a windy roadside, beaming. The new me sees the reminder that in scary moments there are things and people that can help, and most of all, that I am a good, smart, capable person who is worthy of being helped, and my scary moments are not a judgment or a punishment, they are a part of being human, part of life, and, in some cases, an opportunity. I don’t need to panic. I can feel the momentary fear and bewilderment, but now I can let it pass, and see the funny side, the ironic side, the options. I can accept help and express my gratitude to the people who help me, through telling them in simple terms how grateful I am and how much their aid means to me. And at the end of the day, I can sit in Firestone reading a library book waiting for my car to be done, watching traffic lights on the dark street outside, and feel so, so, so blessed that however I came to this place, however long it took me, I am here now.

“God gave us flaws, and something I learned – He doesn’t see them as flaws. There’s nothing wrong with the way He made us. The universe forgives all.” – True Detective