Good morning, and Happy Memorial Day. Thank you to all the men and women in uniform who have given your lives in service to your country, and to your families, who sacrifice again and again in going on without you. I’ll jump the line here and ask my first question: when someone is referred to as “a true patriot, ” what does that mean? I most often hear that phrase uttered by conservatives, about other conservatives who see the world, and the US, as they do. But, as a liberal, I love this country. I, too, honor those who serve, and believe that our veterans deserve much better from this government than they get. When I die, will anyone refer to me as a true patriot?
This has been an eventful week, indeed, and I’ve got some questions, possibly in homage to my old blog, questionevrthing.blogspot.com. First question, we all hear people say to whiners (well, about whiners-not usually TO them,) “Awwwwww, grow a pair!” The question roaring from me is, Grow a pair of WHAT? If one sees the hand signals of the people who say that, the person generally cups his or her genital area as if to indicate that what the whiner needs is to grow some testicles. Some actually say, “Grow a pair of balls.” But I look at my life, and the people around me, both male and female, and in my experience, women are much less likely to be whiners when life gets hard. Perhaps my opinion is shaded by men in my life who are not problem solvers, and expect their wives to be the “fixers,” but from now on when I hear, “Grow a pair,” I’m going to assume they are speaking of breasts. Or ovaries.
I want to get a 4X4 magnetic yellow sticker for my car that says, “Hit me. No kids here.” On Saturday I was running some errands (more to come on that one) and on the way home I saw two different vehicles with those “Baby On Board” stickers. One of them was a giant SUV that would survive any accident, while any vehicle she hit would be obliterated. The other one was driving like a maniac. I couldn’t believe that person would drive like that with a “Baby on Board!” Sooooooo, you don”t want me to hit your car with your baby in it, but you can flip the car by weaving in and out of traffic at above-the-limit speeds without hurting your precious cargo? I’m sorry, but, A. Not practicing what one preaches is among my pettest of peeves, and assuming that your baby’s life is more valuable than the other lives you are putting at risk with your careless, dangerous driving is also WAYYYYYYYY up there.
I alluded earlier to this week having been quite eventful, and two of the big ones were my uncle dying, and my wallet being lost/stolen. I’ll start with my uncle’s death because it came earlier, and led to some of the reflections that came after my wallet disappeared. He was eighty-three, and had been very ill for the last few years. He was a sweet man, my mother’s brother, and we all looked forward to seeing him the once a year visits had come down to, at our family reunion, the nearest weekend to June 13, my maternal grandmother’s birthday. He was regular army, and when the movie “Saving Private Ryan” came out, we were visiting my grandmother’s hospital at the same time. I’ll never forget his reaction to the movie-it was as if this veteran of the Korean war was thrown back to his days in country, he was so disturbed by the realistic scenes in the movie. But he was often referred to as a “true patriot,” and that was the biggest part of his identity, apart from his great love of family. He will be missed. It was Thursday when he died, and my mom took it pretty hard, so after work on Friday I went to hang out with Mom and Dad for a bit to let Mom talk, and comfort her as best I could. I’ve mentioned that Mom and I are from different universes in our outlooks, and since I don’t bother expressing my views to her, I usually just let her do most of the talking, and the “conversation” usually goes in all kinds of directions, Friday was no exception. One of the topics that arose was walking our dogs. Now, right after 911 I adopted a border collie mix who was orphaned in that attack. I was living in a house with no fenced in yard, so I had to walk him A LOT to keep that border collie energy from becoming destructive. We were living in a small town in Illinois at the time, and I would get up at 3:30 every morning and walk him about three miles before the world even new it was morning. I never worried about it, and only once did I ever feel at risk, and that dog’s protectiveness of me (which eventually took his life) kept me safe even then. Even from 2009 to 2013 when we lived on a very busy thoroughfare in Fort Worth, and now, in a quiet sub-division in a Fort Worth bedroom community, I get up and walk the dogs when it is still dark, though not as far. Mom is an old lady who watches Fox news, and is afraid that rapists and terrorists lurk in every dark corner, and she said to me, “I still don’t see how on earth you walk every day when it is dark.” She said that she is even nervous walking her dogs around her own neighborhood, a very white enclave in which she has lived pretty crime free since 1989 (there were some incidents of kids knocking down their mailbox a few times, until they built a brick one.) I said that my opinion is that if you live in fear, you are not living. Then on Saturday I was at the grocery store, and my wallet disappeared. I retraced my steps, checked with the cashier who had just helped me, reported it to customer service and left my contact information, etc, and cried and cried and cried. My grocery money was in the wallet, along with both my important ID’s and one credit card. I left the store and hoped for a phone call, and in the meantime submitted a police report and fraud alerts to all three credit bureaus. A friend helped us out with grocery money, and still no phone call. On Sunday I called Mom after the time that I knew she would be heading to Alabama for my uncle’s funeral, and told her the story of the missing wallet. I said that in this case I guessed the person who found it chose not to do the right thing and contact me. She said that people don’t usually do the right thing. I completely disagree with that, but I wasn’t going to argue with her. But here’s the thing it would seem that she could look at; I have been walking in the dark for thirteen years, and no one has ever accosted me. Doesn’t that say something good about people? In talking to friends about the missing wallet, I’ve had numerous stories shared of lost wallets, etc, and people who found and returned them, contents intact. My wallet disappeared on Saturday afternoon of a holiday weekend, and while my address is on my driver’s license, my phone number is nowhere inside. It is entirely possible that I will receive a package in the mail with my wallet. I believe that my belief in the better nature of people has been rewarded through the years, and while my mom only believes what she sees on Fox News, that everyone she sees on the streets is dangerous, immoral and bad, her belief in the deviant nature of man has not been rewarded in any way. So, is it time to rethink how we see our fellow man? If my wallet is returned, with the money in it, will that help? Probably not in Mom’s case. But even if the wallet is not returned, or if it comes back to me with the money gone, on the whole, my experience supports that people are basically good, and can usually be trusted to do the right thing.
The weeks since my last post have been quite eventful. Quite. Eventful. But only internally. I’ve been roaring about my internal conflicts so much that I woke up with a sore throat several days. Life can be SOOOOOOOO dramatic! I’ve been told that it is a good idea to Google oneself occasionally just to see what’s out there, what managers might see if one is looking for a job, etc. So once is awhile I do that, and a few weeks ago what was the first thing that popped up? My atheism. Now, I’ve tried to never be an angry atheist; not to be disrespectful of those who believe-in particular because so many people I love are devout believers, and it seems to improve their lives considerably, by their definitions. I have never found it thus, but who am I to disdain where so many find peace? Especially when peace is so often hard to find?
So, here’s the scenario: money problems, car problems, lack of hope of anything really changing anytime soon, despite valiant efforts to make it so. In a moment of desperation, a plea to a God I don’t believe exists to “help us fix this, and I’ll believe again.” Meltdown on the phone with someone I love and trust, who has been a lifelong confidante, but who also tends to feel pressure to fix things when they are shared with her. Before I started pouring out my soul I told her I didn’t want to share what I was feeling because the things that were dragging me down were not hers to fix. I just needed someone I could talk to about them. Yes, my husband should ideally fill that role, but, despite the fact that we are doing much better now than we were when I last posted, our communication styles are very different, and I don’t always feel comfortable having my “meltdowns” with him. So I went through the list of things that were bothering me-a car that was practically a gift, and the only thing that made us able to buy the house, was no longer safe or legal, and being budgeted to the nth degree, the money to deal with these issues was not in the picture anywhere. She gave me phone hugs, and I thanked her for letting me vent. I also mentioned to her (she is one of those believers I mentioned earlier) about my offer to her God. The next day her husband called my husband and said that they had purchased a car for me. Just like that. Not a new car, but a good, safe, legal, reliable, grown up car, two years older than the death trap I was driving, but in immaculate condition. When I finally had a conversation with her husband, he brought up the “deal with God” I had told her about the day before. I said that since she knew about the deal, this didn’t count. He said (and I do believe him) that the plan of getting a car for me had been in the works for about a week. Now, that did give me pause. I also shared all this with my husband, and he suggested going to that couple’s church if I had decided to believe again…and there’s the rub. And more back story.
Last time I posted it was a bit of a rant about marriage-my marriage in particular, but marriage in general. Soon after that the person that I was venting to that night about the car, etc. suggested that Jim and I attend the marriage enrichment weekend that helped them heal their marriage after an especially rough patch. It had been recommended to them by her husband’s business partner, who is a devout Catholic; the program is a Catholic program. In describing it to me she said, “There is religious stuff, but it isn’t the main focus, communication skills are.” I was okay with that,. but apparently our measuring sticks find different degrees of “religious stuff,” based on our levels of belief in such things. There was a mass every day, and a large push to include Jesus in the marriage, and a strong message that a marriage can’t work otherwise. The last day of the weekend, which was the last weekend for the priest who had coordinated the program in Fort Worth for many years, and previous participants were invited for that special mass. The couple I’ve been talking about came for the mass and said to me, “We came hoping you would come.” My husband, a lapsed Catholic, had already asked if I would come, and I told him that I wouldn’t, but suggested he go if he wished. He responded, “Husbands and wives should go to church together.” Sighhhhhhh. I told this other person no as well, and she said a little more firmly, “We came hoping YOU would come.” Second time around I was offended…said nothing, of course, but felt that the insistence was disrespectful of my values, which I must quash verbalizing pretty much every time I have a conversation with my mother. I must also add that this great friend, hero and much loved woman has also traveled the same journey from belief to atheism to spirituality to return to Christianity. I have followed her tracks for many years; when she left the baptist church for the episcopal church, I followed, when she left the church altogether, I followed. But in the intervening years I realized that I didn’t believe at all, and might never have, and she moved back i the other direction, I didn’t follow. She and I have had many conversations about “the creative force” in the universe, but I do not see that as a “Creator” in the Christian tradition. When I was asked by a customer at work recently “what do you believe?” I told him that I believe in the first law of thermodynamics. I have never disbelieved that there is an energy in the universe that created/creates the world we see, and don’t see. There are great mysteries, even now, to the most knowledgeable scientists. Why else would we even need a discipline called “Theoretical Physics?” Energy cannot be created or destroyed. It changes form. Energy becomes us. When we cease to exist, our energy takes on new forms that we cannot know. As humans we are determined to classify and define things. We want to know why things happen. We want to put things in boxes that we understand, whether they are good or bad things. The assignation of things that happen in our lives that we can’t explain to a God who cares what happens in our lives, or has lessons to teach us by allowing bad things to happen makes some people feel comforted. I’m not one of those people. I am a person who is comfortable admitting that there is much I don’t know. I don’t need the Christian God to be the answer to the things I don’t know because I will always seek knowledge, but I also don’t deny, and never have, that there is a creative force in the universe that has made the world we know. Evolution, the Big Bang, the first and second laws of thermodynamics, where the energy we are goes when we go…all these things are a part of the great unknown known. If we knew all the answers there would be no more need for seeking and researching. So my deal with God isn’t nullified, nor does the fact that this wonderful, loving couple knew I needed a car and hadn’t the ability to get one, and that they provided that for me without knowing I made that deal, won’t lead me to accept their version of God shouldn’t be a deal breaker. God is not dead because he never was alive in the form that believers believe him to be. He is alive because a believer believes him to be, in the form which the believer believes him or her to take. God is whatever form, definition or application he must take to answer the eternal questions of the meaning of life and existence.