This isn’t rocket science

I was listening to a podcast in the car on the way to work today, and I heard something that got me thinking.

“This isn’t rocket science…”

How many times have we heard people say that (have we said it ourselves) and then launch into some comparison with something they think should be simple. I heard it today and it struck me that we have things a little backwards. We say, “This isn’t rocket science” implying rocket science is the most difficult, complex, challenging thing that exists in our world.

Don’t misunderstand, I’m not here to say rocket science is easy. No way. I’m not even going to pretend I know anything about it. But I would like to point out that we have actually figured it out. We’ve launched rockets, lots of rockets, many of them successfully. We’ve put men on the moon, sent people to explore space, put satellites in orbit, sent rovers to Mars. At this rate, I’d say we actually have a pretty great grasp on rocket science.

“This isn’t rocket science…” I’d like to take this moment to officially challenge that statement.

Hang with me for a minute folks.

I think there’s something much more difficult we’re all grappling with here, something we’re failing miserably at, something even the best and brightest minds shy away from because they just can’t even get close to solving the damn problem.

You know what we don’t have a great grasp on? Dealing with each other.

Let that thought just sink in for a second.

We have literally launched humans into space, mapped damn near every inch of this planet we’re living on, built machines and handheld devices that are all linked and talking to each other on this invisible network called the internet and somehow we can’t figure out how to have a civil conversation with someone we disagree with without resorting to yelling and name calling and spouting ridiculous vitriol toward another human simply because their opinions, ideas, or experiences don’t match up with our own.

We’ve all gone fucking mad.

Indulge me for a moment while I quote Gilmore Girls. (I know, it seems like my train of thought is taking a hard left turn right off the tracks here, but I promise there’s a point. Hang with me.) In Season 1, Lorelei says:

“I’m afraid once the heart is involved, it all comes out in moron.”

In the context of the show, Lorelei is giving some witty motherly advice to her daughter Rory who has just had one of those awkward early teenager moments where she totally embarrassed herself in front of the guy she’s crushing on. But I’ve always loved this quote because I think it carries much more weight than that. I love this quote because I thunk it speaks to the way we humans are ruled by our emotions, whether we really want to admit that or not.

We’re hearing so much lately about this colossal divide in our country, how we’ve managed to politic ourselves into what, to an alien observer, might resemble a good old-fashioned elementary school playground brawl. You know, the kind that tend to erupt after several long days of misunderstandings and snide comments and furtively whispered gossip set tempers boiling. Then, all at once, the rage and frustration and posturing spills over and spreads like wildfire.

See, we humans have this very natural sense of self-preservation. We instinctually want to protect ourselves, our families, the things that are important to us. And some of the things that are important to us are our beliefs, our passions, our individual experiences and ideas. If you think about it–those things are our whole world, our very existence. All of those things are what make you “you“.

So when someone or something comes along that disrupts our experience or questions our ideas or challenges our beliefs, it’s the most natural thing in the world to hear the alarm bells sound.

That’s what happens when there’s a glitch in our Matrix. Our flight or flight kicks in and we feel this gut-wrenching need to preserve ourselves and our reality. It’s all of us. It’s all we know.

And sometimes that fear of losing ourselves takes over. And that’s when we start blaming and labeling and fearing and hating those who are different. That’s when we lose what’s most important–our humanity–because we no longer see our fellow humans as humans. We see only the “other.”

So no, this isn’t rocket science. It’s a whole lot fucking harder than that, because we’ve got to admit that all of us are part of the problem, and all of us are also part of the solution. It takes work to change our patterns of thinking, to recognize those automatic fear responses. It takes courage to turn that scrutinizing lens on ourselves. And it takes a helluva lot of strength to admit we have been wrong.

But guess what? We’ve all been wrong. And we will continue to make mistakes and misjudgments until the day we die–that’s part of life. And I think the real reason any of us is here at all is to learn as much as we can, grow as much as we can, and spread around as much love and light as we can before it’s our time to go.

Walk into every situation and interaction with these two goals, and I think you’ve got a good chance of living a damn good life:

  1. Learn something new every day.
  2. Leave every situation (and any person involved) better than you found them.

Last month, in honor of MLK Day, I had the honor of attending a brunch at work and listening to a speech by Ruby Bridges who, at just 6-years-old, was the first black child to integrate an elementary school in her hometown of New Orleans, Louisiana. It was an incredible speech, and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it since. Compulsive note-taker that I am, I had more than four pages by the time Ruby finished, but my favorite was this:

“Evil doesn’t care what you look like, what you have, where you live. It just wants a chance to work through you. Evil just needs a place to be. The good news is–so does Good. The Good need to stand up and do something, say something. Let the Good work through you. Doesn’t matter what you look like; if you’re good, I want you on my team.”

There’s always going to be Good and Evil. It’s just the nature of things. But I truly believe there is far more Good than Evil in this world. The problem is, we’ve just allowed the Evil to take over and become the loudest voice in the room. And we’ve allowed ourselves to lose control and start shouting along. That’s what happens when we lose sight of our humanity, when we lose sight of each other. It happens when we fear and slander and name call and hate each other, focusing on the differences, forgetting that deep down at the very core, we’re actually all the same.

To look at an other and recognize them as human is to see our own humanity. To look at an other and celebrate their differences is to celebrate ourselves.

Maybe I’m a hopeless optimist, but I believe if we look long enough and try hard enough and reach out to each other with open minds and humble hearts, what we’ll find will be beautiful. Hell, I bet if we take a moment to stop, take a deep breath, and look around, we’ll see it already is.

Dear 2020

Dear 2020,

We welcomed you quietly–one kid in bed, the other at a sleepover, watching a late night movie on the couch at home. It’s too quiet in this house without Electra. Losing her right before the crush of the holidays and the long vacation from work somehow hurts more. I found myself caught between moments of melancholy and just needing to keep busy so I could stop missing her so much, so I could stop walking into the living room or looking out in the yard and expecting to see her there.

I spent several days grief-cleaning. I vacuumed, dusted, and rearranged Henry’s room. I moved Cadence’s room to the old spare bedroom/office, and then decided to redecorate a new spare bedroom/office/writing space complete with fresh paint and new furniture (which is due to be delivered next week).

And I gathered all Electra’s leftover food, dog treats, blankets, dog bed, kennels, unused medications–anything that could be needed and used–to donate to the local Humane Society. I didn’t want all of Electra’s things to be gone, but I sort of needed them to be. It made the pain a little more manageable. And I’m thankful that Stevie has been so sweet and patient as I fumble through the grief.

The calendar page turns, and a new year always brings excitement. You double down on all the things you’ve been wanting to do, meaning to do, procrastinating. You start out hopeful, start fresh. I’ve never been one to go overboard with a fancy New Year’s Eve party or a detailed list of resolutions, yet it’s hard not to buy into the magic and promise of a fresh start. The excitement this year has been tempered by loss and the introspection it always brings. It has made me think a little harder about my priorities, about the balance lack of balance in my life lately.

I need to be better–a better wife, a better mother, a better friend. I need to be a better leader at work. I need to be a better human in general.

And I need–really need–to make time to write again.

I made the mistake of telling one of my colleagues (who is also a writer) about the 365 Project I completed a few (ahem, like 9) years ago, and he threw down the challenge that maybe it’s time to get serious about another one if it will help me shake off the dust (and we’re talking about a real one, not the bullshit I tried to limp along last year by just finding random photos and quotes and lying to myself that it somehow counted). I’m swimming in ideas and unfinished projects–it’s starting to drive me insane. And since I just spent half my holiday break setting up a brand new home office, he kinda has a point. It might be time to get serious and actually get some shit done.

I mean, if I really want to continue to call myself a “writer,” I need to be writing. Right? That’s sorta how it works.

But I gotta be realistic–there’s no way I can do a 365 Project blog again. Not now.

A blog a week? Now that I can probably do. But to be completely honest, the pressure of trying to write something I actually feel like putting out there in the universe for actual people (other than me) to read is a whole lot of pressure and anxiety I don’t need in my life. I always want what I put out there to be good (or at least a couple levels above shit) so if someone does read it, they don’t feel like they’ve completely wasted their time and burned off precious brain cells.

What I am committing to–seriously committing to–is writing every day. Just writing. A journal entry, a letter, a chapter, a scene. Hell, even a poem if the mood strikes. And who knows, maybe some of it will end up here, but a lot of it won’t. And I’m okay with that. What matters is I’m making space for it, and I’m holding that space sacred. That’s my gift to myself this year.

So here we go, 2020. I’m walking in with no expectations and no specific plans (because dammit that somehow seems to be what always works out the best for me). I’m just going to be here, doing the best I can and then getting up and trying to do even better the next day. And in this new decade, I promise I’m going to have more meaningful conversations. I’m going to connect with old friends and make a few new ones. I’m going to read more books, taste (and cook) new foods. I’m going to travel to a few new (and visit a few favorite) places. I going to live and learn and love, and I’m going to try like hell to fall into bed each night knowing that I’ve squeezed as much joy as I possibly can out of every day.

Sounds like a pretty tall order, but I’ve always sort of enjoyed a challenge. And lucky for me, I’ve got some pretty rad people along for the ride.

Making her last day her best day

“Somewhere in between the pace of life and work and where you’re going, something makes you stop and notice, and you’re finally in the moment.” -Come From Away

Man, nothing brings your world to a screeching halt like the moment you’re faced with saying goodbye to a pet.

No other way to say it, friends, today was a shit day.

It has been a hard year for our hound, Electra. We haven’t been able to ignore the signs of her aging—the wounds that have taken longer to heal, the arthritis flaring, the usual laziness slowly giving way to lethargy. Visits to our vet and a few new medications bought some time and some relief. But this week her breathing became labored and she suddenly lost interest in food.

We always said the day Electra stopped eating like Joey Chestnut trying to win the annual 4th of July Hot Dog Eating Contest would be the day we knew her time had run out.

I took Electra in for some tests this morning, and the doctor called me to come look at the x-rays.

“I hate to tell you but I have to be honest,” she said pointing to the shadows on the film. “Your beautiful girl has a great big heart, but this time that’s not a good thing.”

And the blood tests confirmed it—our sweet Electra’s heart is failing.

We talked about options and time, and what I kept saying over and over through my tears was that I never wanted Electra to suffer. And I knew we were standing right on the edge.

I spent the rest of the day sitting beside her, feeding her all the treats and scrambled eggs she will eat (which I hate to say is not very many compared to the legendary feasts of days past).

Mostly, I spent the day just hoping like hell that we gave her a good life, because damn this dog deserves it.

For all the fun we always poked at her for being a food whore and a rabbit killer, Electra is the finest dog that ever lived (and don’t you dare try to tell me otherwise because I will fight you right now).

She never barked obsessively at nonsense like doorbells and delivery men.

She never protested our kids grabbing onto her droopy folds of skin as they pulled themselves up and found their balance and learned to walk (in fact, we often watched her position herself strategically next to them and brace herself when she saw them reaching).

She never growled or snapped or made a menacing move toward any living creature (except a few rabbits and Foerth’s dog, Indy, but we all know Indy probably deserved it).

Electra never demanded anything but love and head scratches and food.

My Aunt Jen said something on the phone today that hit me right in the heart (of course I had to reach out and ask her for some reassurance that we’re doing the right thing; she’s the best vet I know, and I trust she’ll give it to me straight and not bullshit me). She said she’s always lived by the rule that she never wanted her pets’ last day to be their worst day, and every decision she has ever made to either try and manage the effects of aging or humanely euthanize has been made with that rule in mind.

I don’t want Electra’s last day to be her worst day. Our sweet girl deserves so much more than that. She has given us her entire life—love and laughter and memories and a million beautiful moments we will never forget.

Tonight, our hearts are hurting, knowing that tomorrow might be the last time we hold Electra and watch her sitting, regal as a queen, in the grass at the top of the hill with her hound dog nose stretched up high to catch a passing scent. But there is some small comfort knowing that we can take the time to make sure tomorrow is Electra’s best day—filled with warmth and love and as many treats as her big hound dog heart desires as we say goodbye and send her home.

Day 150 – Arranged in an abstract manner

This is exactly what’s happening in my office at work right now.

It’s what I keep telling myself anyway.

Day 148 & 149 – No cheating

You know, I thought about cheating…going ahead and posting yesterday’s post late but back-dating it so it looked like I actually posted yesterday when the truth of it is that yesterday was a really long day–up super early to be at work, then tapping out and going to bed early because I was so tired from work, and then getting up today to do it all over again.

But damn that just defeats the purpose of this whole write-and-post-something-everyday goal doesn’t it?

So instead of cheating, I’m just owning up to the fact that I skipped a day because I was too dang tired to even surf Pinterest for a fun meme or quote to use.

Such is life. And honestly I’m not going to apologize about it. Like I keep saying–my blog, my rules. And this whole blogging thing isn’t about punishing myself. It’s a way for me to stay balanced and think through things and put some of my thoughts out into the world to see what comes back.

There have been times in my life when my day job tore me away from my writing and I hated it, because I didn’t actually enjoy the job enough to feel like it was a fair tradeoff. These days, I’m lucky because that’s not the case. I love my job, and the fact that I get to make money and pay my bills doing something I genuinely enjoy is one helluva bonus.

But that doesn’t mean I can ever put the writing aside completely. It would probably be easier to give up breathing. And I’m definitely in a place right now where I’m struggling to find a balance. I’ve got projects sitting stale, waiting for me to jump back in. I’ve got new ideas simmering, but I need to find ways to carve out time to actually work on them.

It continues to be a work in progress.

But I’m getting there. And I just might be stubborn enough not to quit.

Day 148 – Your kind of crazy

So glad I’ve been able to find a few.

You know who you are. 😉

<span>%d</span> bloggers like this: