Divergent

I’m not trying to compare myself with the protagonist of the novel, ‘Divergent,’ who jumps from the platform of a speeding train to land on the roof of a tall building. I’d be dead before the book got started. But I believe the title accurately describes the strange routes and mysterious highways inside my brain. 

A few weeks ago I was trying to figure out why my outdoor Christmas decoration wouldn’t light up. So I did what I always do when I can’t solve a problem. I googled it. (Well, I often pray when there’s a problem, but YouTube seemed the right fit at the moment.) Sure enough, a guy in a video told me it might be the fuses under the trap door of the plug.

Trap door?? Using a thin knife, I pushed a teensy cover back from the plug. Seeing the two tiny fuses nestled inside left me feeling like all the grown-ups had it wrong. There really was a North Pole where Santa lived with his reindeer and a bunch of elves. The discovery charmed my brain. And for some reason, it reminded me of those childhood days when I was forced to do something boring. Like be in church. ( I love church now. Go figure.) Back then, I would cup my hands and watch as the folds in my skin turned into ancient caves inhabited by tiny people. I was happily occupied for the next hour. 

When a teacher  (yes, this happened at school, too) asked, “Now, did everyone understand the directions I just gave you? Speak out now if you didn’t!”…did I put up my hand? Not a chance. I was too busy watching the cave dwellers being attacked by an ogre. Dear readers, if your report cards ever said that you needed to stop daydreaming, you are my people. 

Definition of divergent: tending to be different or develop in different directions

Until recently, I’d assumed that everyone had sensory issues. Loud music or sudden noises, itchy tags on shirts that cause discomfort verging on pain. Being forced to sit in a chair for long stretches without being allowed to move. Turns out, I was wrong about everyone feeling the same. It’s just some of us who experience the neural divide. 

I became an excellent reader in the second grade, but even today, road maps and sheet music can challenge my navigational skills. In my copies of our choir’s Christmas music, I felt the need to draw arrows pointing every which way,  highlight all musical notes, and scatter stern instructions all over the pages. (Pay attention! Look up! etc.) The sheets looked like a mad scientist’s plans for blowing up the world. 

I need to repeat trips a number of times before I feel comfortable with most routes. When I travel at night, even through a familiar city, it always feels like someone has moved all the buildings around just to mess with me. I took a personality test a year ago, and one of the suggestions was, ‘steer clear of board memberships. They’re not for the likes of you.’ But I sit on two boards, (the sitting part hurts!) and give myself permission to walk around if I’m feeling antsy. My desire to feel useful, to be a part of things, trumps my discomfort with meetings.

Having said all that, I’m glad I’m me. I like the way my brain works, especially my imagination. I could do without some of the discomforts that come with divergence, but I wouldn’t want to be anyone else. To badly paraphrase Walt Whitman’s poem, The Road Not Taken, 

                              Two brains diverged in a neural pathway.

                              Mine took the one less traveled by,

                              And that has made all the difference.  

I am mostly kind, empathetic, and occasionally blunt, (the words coming out of my mouth often take me by surprise.) And I sometimes view the world differently from other people. When something interests me, I am totally focused. My brain likes to be entertained…it wants to be charmed and distracted from the boring, everyday things in life. It’s why I like meeting new people, often accosting them in lineups at the grocery store with some friendly chatter. And yet I like daily routines and familiar food, and most of all, a life that involves lots of movement. In spite of past insecurities, I feel at home with myself. I also find daily life to be filled with the absurd…so many things that make me laugh. In light of that, please enjoy the following message from Stuart of SNL fame, who like the rest of us, is dealing with his own issues.

These Vexing Moments

As I said before, there’s strange ASMR stuff on the web. Videos of people tapping  rubber ducks, caressing microphones or making strange sounds like they’re about to throw up. Who finds that relaxing? I like the videos with hair brushing and neck massages. Nothing kinky, just calming. Except in certain situations.

Not long ago I was driving to the Chinook Centre in Calgary. I set my GPS, choosing the woman from the Maps app who barks at me when I’m drifting into the wrong lane. I was feeling a bit tense with the heavy traffic and having no idea where I was going. Suddenly and unbeknownst to me, my Youtube ASMR video from the night before cut in. As the  formerly soothing voice murmured in hushed tones, I thought  for a few frantic seconds that someone  was in the car with me. Someone possibly holding a gun to my head and whispering threatening messages. When I realized what it was, I couldnt turn it off because I wanted to hear the bossy GPS voice. My journey continued like this. 

“Stay in the left lane! Far left!’

“Feel your eyes closing as I gently run this long toothed comb along the top of your head.”

“After four hundred metres, turn right.”

“Feel the gentle spray of lavender oil beside your face.”

“Rerouting…rerouting. In 700 metres, take the next right turn.”

“Missed turn…rerouting.”

“Sip this soothing cup of tea while I brush your hair. Are you feeling relaxed?”

No. I was not relaxed. When I arrived at the mall, I made sure to exit the YouTube video for the sake of the return journey home. 

The second vexing thing happened a couple days ago. I’d installed a baby gate at the top of the stairs in my entranceway to keep my daughter’s dog from wandering during a recent visit. To take it down, I needed to tie two parts together, but lacked the necessary tools. I headed to Canadian Tire and walked around the store, unable to remember the name for what I needed. I asked a store clerk. 

“Do you have those things…you know, they’re plastic? The long ones? You can use them to tie people up?”

The young woman stared at me solemnly, one hand reaching for her walkie talkie.

“I mean, like on TV. You know, ‘put your hands behind your back,’ and whammo, they’re incapicated? I need those things.”

A long pause. “You mean, zip ties?” 

I exhaled in relief. “Yes! I keep forgetting the name.” I noticed her strained expression and laughed. “Ha ha! I’ll be asking for rope and a shovel next. Ha ha!” She didn’t smile back at me. 

Just kidding,” I said weakly. “But I really need the ties for my baby gate.”

“Uh huh.” She found them for me. I’m almost certain she didn’t call the police.  

The third thing happened today. I was wearing a new coat…one of those three quarter length extra-light-down numbers suited to the fall and early winter. It was only my third time wearing it, but when I took it off, I noticed something strange. The left armpit of the coat smelled strongly of body odor. I had worn it the previous night over a clean shirt. I went and got the shirt. It smelled fine. I sniffed myself. I smelled fine. I wanted to wear it again on a walk, but not knowing what else to do, I grabbed a can of hairspray and sprayed the smelly spot. Then I dried it with a hair dryer. It worked. I hung the coat in the closet, but when I pulled it out later, the smell was back. Just one armpit. I was wearing a fresh shirt and plenty of deodorant, which left only one explanation. My coat was haunted by a one armed, smelly ghost. Even stranger, the next day, both armpits smelled. I hadn’t worn it again!

I still have the bill, but who would believe me?  Feeling paranoid, I went through all the jackets I’ve been wearing and none of them have this problem.  If anyone has a suggestion, I’m up for it. Now, I realize that this is what we call a first world problem. I’m lucky to have more than one coat. 

So for now, I’ll wash it, try to remember the words, ‘zip ties’ and always exit out of my ASMR videos before driving anywhere. And in case you didn’t believe me about the rubber duck, here it is. 

(120) ASMR ON A RUBBER DUCK 🍓Gentle Tapping & Scratching 🍓Fireplace Sounds 🍓NO TALKING – YouTube

I know, right?

Great Expectations

 My journey re-reading the classic literature of my youth (so far.)

1. Dracula by Bram Stoker

2. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy

3. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

 I finished the last one recently and gave it a hearty two thumbs up. I know…it’s already a classic and doesn’t need my approval. But that doesn’t stop me from thinking Leo Tolstoys ‘War and Peace’ was a snooze fest. Sixty hours of listening! Dracula was quite satisfying in comparison. 

But the title of Dicken’s masterpiece left me wondering about my own expectations. I live in a comfortable world. I don’t spend 14 hours a day working a blacksmith’s forge and praying my luck will turn. I like to recognize that fact with ongoing thankfulness, some spoken aloud and some just repeated inside my head. ‘Thanks for my bed, my warm house. The food in my fridge and cupboard. Thanks for friends and family. Thank you God…(not sure how to be thankful without naming names) for my life. An attitude of gratitude sustains me during those times when all I want to do is roll up in a ball and feel sorry for myself. I don’t think it’s possible to be human and not have those moments of deep self pity. But  joy never appears when I’m wallowing. 

And every now and then, I get to rejoice over an unexpected gift. Like earlier this summer,when I picked up the Sharper Image Wave Oven  for a mere $10 in a local thrift store. I didn’t know what it was, but I thought, “It’s ten bucks. Can’t lose.” Turns out, it works like a barbeque, deep fryer and regular oven. Curious about the price, I looked for it on Amazon, and there it was. Two months ago it was over $700 but the price has gone down to $400. You can get other brands much cheaper.

It is fantastic. In fact, every friend and relative reading this will say, “Dear God, no. She’s talking about her wave oven again.” I couldn’t shut up about it. When I was leaving my hair dresser’s a couple weeks ago, I ran into three little girls who’d purchased items at a second hand children’s store. “I got an easy bake oven!’  the youngest one said to me. “Oh yeah?” I replied. And then I told them my whole story. They were very impressed. Ironically, my wave oven works with a lightbulb. It’s an easy bake for grownups.

The title, ‘Great Expectations’ should be applied judiciously to one’s circumstances. Do I expect to win the lottery? No. But then, I never buy lottery tickets. Do I still expect good things to happen to me? Yes. I never want to low ball my own life. It’s important to recognize how the small things add up into something big. Things worth being grateful for. Play a great golf game? Feel free to bust a move on the putting green. Get your garden in on time without losing your tomatoes to frost? Brag about it on Facebook. We’ll all be happy for you. 

When something unexpected comes into your life (it doesn’t have to be the Wave Oven, but man, that felt good) then shout your thanks to the universe. We can solve a lot of problems of the heart, mind and soul when we feel thankful. As Charles Dicken’s Pip discovered, being able to recognize all the love we’ve given and received  might be the best gift of all. The target I’m working toward is the report card I’ll receive at the end of my life when I’m standing before the pearly gates. I know I’ve got many faults. I haven’t always shown love the way I should and I’m often impatient. But in spite of that, I really hope my Maker checks off Exceeds Expectations. That would be great indeed.

Strange Things are Happening

I once sat for two hours in the living room of a friend without noticing that she’d changed all her furniture. For a writer, I’m remarkably unobservant. I would be a terrible witness should a crime happen in front of me, mixing up what I saw with the plot of my last novel. I tend to live in my head most of the time.

However, I was preparing to dab paint on a few worn spots on my house exterior when I happened to look up. The twenty foot long, seven foot wide overhang was covered in cobwebs and other unidentifiable things. Possibly small bits of human remains, judging by the size of the spiders. With some trepidation I realized I had landed in Stranger Things territory. I thought about borrowing my brother-in-law’s power washer to clean the area, but given the fragility of my previous paint job, decided to just use the hose. As I sprayed fiercely, the webs and bits of human flesh (okay, probably not) clung to the roof and walls before falling on me. Even the ones ten feet away managed to reach me, as if I’m some kind of threat. These were old webs. The bugs were long dead. 

And by the way, dear spiders, I’m your friend. When you come into my house, I use my spider catcher to gently carry you out onto the deck and set you free. I do this for all bugs except mosquitoes. I’m not a Buddhist, so I don’t feel compelled to keep them alive. On occasion, I might catch a bug’s leg in the trap door, but overall, most insects traveling through my house go unharmed. I’m sending this message over the world wide web (it’s crawling with informants) as a message regarding my compassion for all creatures. (Except mosquitoes, the vampires of the world. Vampire hunters, unite!)

This is not the only bit of weirdness going on in my area. I’ve never heard geese sound the way they have over the last few days when flying past my house–strange choking noises like they’re being strangled. Is this a cry for help? If so, you ought to know that I can’t fly. And I don’t want you landing on my lawn with all your squawking and messy poop. I’ll chase you, then run. There were repercussions from teasing the geese on my uncle’s farm. and I’m still carrying the emotional scars. 

The squirrels and chipmunks have been weirdly aggressive lately. I don’t have a bird feeder so they’re not fighting me for territory, but they’re very bold. They rush up to my swing (where I draw up my legs to avoid being bitten) and bark at me in their strange little voices. The squirrels, especially, never shut up. My yard, along with my neighbors, has become a kind of asylum for them. They sit brazenly on my deck furniture and run through my garden while jeering at me. How can I tell, you might be wondering? There’s something in the way they cock their heads, their beady eyes bright with malice. I’m almost certain they’re using the F word on me but I’m not leaving. This is my house. 

And yet, is it mine because the land titles office says so? Perhaps because the animal kingdom has no MLA or MP representing them, they have to stand their ground. For instance, a few minutes ago I was watering plants in the back yard when I noticed a plastic bag snagged on the canoe I store under my deck. I whipped the bag away and leapt backward, banging my head on a post. Two chipmunks, possibly teenagers, lay sprawled in a very compromising position. “It’s not spring!” I hollered as they ran away. Perhaps they were inspired by the song I was playing on my phone at the time; Meghan Trainor’s ‘Let’s Marvin Gaye and Get it On.’ Since I’m not a chipmunk I won’t bet on it. 

The world has certainly changed over the last number of years. Crazy winds, wild fires and animals behaving in uncharacteristic ways.  Then there’s the Republicans. (I’m not American  but they seem to be everyone’s problem. ) Perhaps this foreshadowing is the animal kingdom’s way of telling us they know who to blame. So the sword hanging over my head might not be the world passing away in a nuclear blast, but in a series of small  bites delivered over many years. Robert Frost wrote,

Some say the world will end in fire,

Some say in ice.

From what I’ve tasted of desire

I hold with those who favor fire.

But if it had to perish twice,

I think I know enough of hate

To say that for destruction ice

Is also great

And would suffice.

And I say, as long as it’s not death by mice.

60 Hours

 While preparing for my children’s annual summer visit, I decided to revisit a novel I last read at the age of nineteen. War and Peace is not a page turner, and the war parts were especially boring to a young woman trying to figure out her own world. I picked the audio book this time, figuring I’d get some work done while listening. Undismayed by the sixty hour length of the novel, I was barely through the first week when the Libby app gleefully asked if I wanted to renew. Apparently there’s not a long lineup of people waiting for it. 

As I worked in the garden, placed fresh sheets on the beds, made meals and tidied up the place, the British narrator droned on and on. I managed a few home repairs while listening; hanging by one arm from a sturdy spindle, replacing the missing  ones on my deck, drill in hand, toes reaching for the top of the ladder. I did not want to die while listening to War and Peace, but I felt the book slowly sapping my will to live.

Tolstoy deserves his reputation as an amazing writer. His character descriptions are detailed and his control of the unwieldy novel is impressive. But he could have learned a thing or two from Jane Austen and the Bronte sisters, all of whom were dead by the time he was published. Jane’s novels are magnificently descriptive. She satirizes her characters in such a way that you find yourself thinking, I know that person! Tolstoy does the same thing, but at a much…more…languorous…pace. 

The gothic air of the Bronte sister’s work came from their circumstances. The average life expectancy in the village of Haworth, polluted by industry, was just 22, so a bit of gloom was called for and certainly delivered in both Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights. As much as I love them, I always pause in my reading of Jane Austen’s novels to admire her rich, witty takes on society. Whereas I just want Leo to get on with it. 

It was difficult finding time to listen with my family visiting. Ten people packed the house for 11 days. Amidst the eating, drinking and traveling to and from the lakes to visit with other family members, there wasn’t a lot of time for war or peace. Trying to keep track of the many characters with similar names meant I had to rack my brain while pulling dandelions and fertilizing the lawn. And my brain just doesn’t need that. Also, I’m not good at multi-tasking. 

War and Peace was serialized before being published as a novel. It must have been as exciting back then as A Game of Thrones or Lord of the Rings. I would have enjoyed this book back in 1867, but I can’t say I’m loving it now. It’s become a duty read, like one of those book club selections that elicit excitement but end up letting you down. We’ve had a few of those over the years in our Number One Ladies Book Club. (Please see our shelf in the local library. We’re very proud of it.)

My family have returned to their own homes, now, so I’m listening whenever I can. Part of me is excited to revisit this novel. The rest of me wonders if I should be dedicating such a large portion of my life to it. I find myself falling into melancholia, whether from missing my children or from the cynicism/desperation/ennui of the characters. If you’ve read it, please let me know what you think. Don’t worry about the fabulous reputation of the novel, just be honest. After all, I still have 40 listening hours left. Feel free to talk me out of it.

All is (Not) Lost

 I had a revelation on a recent trip out of town. I’d lost my way and had turned into the parking lot of a convenience store to calm myself down. First, I asked myself why I want to cry when this happens? Why does it feel so devastating? I’m not in danger, I always have water in the car, and a lunch for long highway drives. What’s the big deal?

Sitting there in the car, I finally figured it out. When I was a child, I hated getting into trouble. In school, struggling with math that involved more than one set of brackets made me panic. I still remember how anxious I felt, which only created more difficulty. When I’m traveling, even to places I’ve been to once or twice before, I often feel like I’m living in a different world. As if the buildings and roads rearrange themselves every night. But on my trip to Calgary, I finally solved the puzzle. 

In the movie, Elf, Will Farrell tells children how he got from the North Pole. 

When I’m going somewhere, I can’t always trust my GPS, so I speak to myself in an ‘Elf’ voice. For example, driving from Route 90 to Osborne Village, I say things like, “Past the big Co-op gas station and the large temple with the golden domes, and then the defunct biscuit factory! I’m addressing the child in me, because that’s who gets upset whenever I’m lost. 

But I’m not sure how to navigate all the changes in the world. I don’t think using a gentle voice will help me get over the recent reversal of Roe vs. Wade in the USA. As a Canadian, why is it my problem? Because I’m a woman. This is every woman’s problem. The saying, ‘women hold up half the sky’ is only partially true. In many places in the world, women hold up far more than half. And yet, rights for women are shrinking. The irony of it is that my people–Christians–are the ones most responsible. I attend a mainline church but consider myself a born-again Christian. And I can’t figure out how people (especially women) think this gives them the right to dictate what half the planet should and shouldn’t do with their bodies. 

I’m particularly irked by organizations like Focus on the Family, because here’s the thing. They want you to have that baby, but they’re not going to help you raise it. When my children were young, they had advice such as this: ‘When your child reaches 18 months of age, cut a switch from a tree and whip their legs with it when they misbehave.’ Seriously. But these people have worked to make abortion almost impossible to get in many US states. Yet the US is the only developed country in the world where infant mortality is rising. And it’s not from abortion. An interesting fact is that countries that provide free birth control have the lowest abortion rates, and others like the US and Pakistan, have the highest. 

Other troubling things going on with our neighbor, besides the war on women, is the war on children. Gun restrictions are loosening even more, in spite of the large number of gun related deaths. Since 1982 only 3 of the 184 mass shootings have been carried out by women. Doesn’t this say something about the nature of women? Yet we’ve been penalized regarding our rights since Adam first pointed to Eve and said, ‘She made me do it.’ 

Supreme Court Judge Clarence Thomas wants to pass a bill preventing gay marriages. The state of Tennessee had a bill proposal in April suggesting common law marriage be considered between a man and woman only, and wanting to erase age restrictions for the couple. Want to marry off your nine year old daughter? Move to Tennessee. 

When I got married, our phone bill had to be in my husband’s name. Same with our bank accounts. Clarence never entered a bank except to sign mortgage papers, and never paid a bill in his life, because he hated doing that. I did it. In 2012 I was booking our flights to Mexico and he had to give his permission over the phone, because he was the primary card holder. I wasn’t allowed access to the points without his permission. We fixed that, but it was unsettling at the time.

People wonder how on earth Justin Trudeau is still in power in Canada. He’s often misguided, certainly annoying and barely takes his left foot from his mouth before sticking in the right one. But here’s my best guess. His environmental protections are laughable, but they’re better than Conservative candidate Pierre Poilievre’s, who threatens to remove all environmental protections, if he wins.  That means that if Jason Kenney were to return to power in Alberta, he could blow the tops off the rocky mountains to mine coal like he wanted to do a year ago. Justin Trudeau is still in power because he supports the rights of women. It’s not fair to compare the Conservatives to the Republicans, but there is a powerful arm of the party that wants to do away with abortion in Canada. They’re also the ones who want to ban books like the Handmaid’s Tale.

Margaret Atwood’s book  seemed so far fetched when I read it back in the eighties. Not anymore. First they come for your womb, and then watch the rest of your rights fall away. But here’s an idea. What if only women got to vote on issues concerning women?  What if women were the ones in charge? Setting aside those on the rabid right, there’d be less violence and more common sense. I know that women were part of the truck Convoy to Ottawa in February, but they were definitely in the minority. Boo-hooing because the rest of the country wouldn’t pretend that Covid wasn’t real isn’t the same as trying to raise a child you can’t afford and didn’t want in the first place. The thing is, I don’t know men who operate like this. My husband, our friends, none of them have this sense of entitlement. So to these other men I say, try being a woman in Saudi Arabia before 2018 when they were finally allowed to drive. Scratch that. Try being a woman in the US, trapped in an unwanted pregnancy. That’ll teach you what a lack of freedom really looks like.

All is not lost. Not while people with compassion and common sense still have a vote. So, fellas, time to man up and raise your voice son behalf of women. It takes courage, but not as much as it takes for a young teenager giving birth to her grandfather’s baby. Yep, that’s allowed under the new abortion ban, too. It’s time for women to get angry and support our sisters in the USA. The need to support American women living with this tyranny is too important to ignore. If we do, then we might be next. And there’s no self talk that will help me find my way out of that mess.

What’s That, Musk? Tell Me What’s aHappenin’!

 Can you tell this blog post is about Elon? (Does the title tell you I watched Jesus Christ Superstar over Easter?) As a northern Canadian with strong feelings about the very rich, and the even richer, I think Elon has too much money. Don’t get me wrong (don’tcha get me wrong, now) (yes, more JC) There’s nothing wrong with being mildly rich. But waking up as the wealthiest person on the planet? I can only imagine how that would feel. I hope I’d be horrifed. You don’t get there by being Mr./Ms. Nice Guy.

Aside from a much humbler financial status, Elon and I have some things in common. I’m not on the autism spectrum (although I can’t take loud noises or weird smells) but I know what it’s like to be low on the teenage status pole. And while his family was financially comfortable, and though he might have been a cute kid, I can’t imagine he was all that popular on the junior high dance floor. Some of us weren’t  cool back then. Some of us had no idea at all how to be number one in that world. (Or number 10.) And some of us were terrible at Dodge Ball. 

You are miles smarter than me, Elon. Your geek factor is a tad higher, too. But I get how it feels to be the odd person in the room. In spite of your success, you might feel you still have something to prove. But that doesn’t mean you should take over Twitter. I wouldn’t have thought much about it if you hadn’t openly supported the truckers taking over Ottawa in February. You’re not Canadian. You don’t get a say. Yes, you believe in free speech, but does that mean anyone can make up anything and we all should just nod our heads in agreement? No! Does that mean that when a few thousand people want to overthrow the government, you have the right to say, hell ya? I don’t think so. 

Instead of spending 44 Billion Dollars on a social platform where people tweet their opinions, why don’t you do some good with your money? You could start by saving the planet from the rest of us. You could support programs for the poor in the US and around the world. You want to be king? That’s the way to do it. 

I’m not a huge Twitter fan. It’s such a frenetic world that by the time I realize I agree with someone, I’m the 10,000th person to hit the heart button, or reply, ‘I agree!’ I wish you’d decided to lead the world in a great direction instead of spending your money on this. Does your mother approve? Wouldn’t she rather you take care of people instead? Maybe she doesn’t care. Or she’s not around anymore. If not, I’m sorry. 

While you’re planning to open Twitter up to every wacko opinion, you know what occupies President Biden? I picture him kneeling by his bed at night praying for Donald Trump to die first. 

“Just let him die, God. Let the Republicans go back to normal. Like the days when half of them understood science. Let Marjorie Taylor Greene decide to retire instead of screaming, ‘Let the dimwits inherit the earth!’ 

And while I’m on this rant, I want someone to kill that fu**er Putin. (Yes, that’s my prayer. But so far, God has refused to be my hitman.) You know what the president of Ukraine is praying for? ‘Please, let us still have a country in 2023. And ask the world to get off its ass and help us.’

Buying Twitter feels like an Austin Power move. You want to hold the world hostage for One Million Dollars! Sorry…44 billion dollars. You’ll show them, all right. You know what would be really great? Buying the Amazon Rain forest and protecting it forever. You built the Tesla…you must care about lowering carbon on planet Earth. I bet you could purchase the Congo Rain forest, too. 

Imagine being the person who saves the planet. You’d have the status of a saint. Instead, buying Twitter puts you in the company of Rupert Murdoch. Are you a Fox news guy? Will you hire Tucker Carlson to be your wingman on Twitter? 

Be a hero. Do something great with all that money. Help educate people around the world, or invest it in finding a cure for every kind of cancer. If you decide to do that, you might even get your own musical. So, don’t be like Rupert. Be like Jesus. You don’t have to lay down and die for us. You just have to change your heart. 

(For more left-wing rancor, follow me on Twitter.) 

(Ha ha.)

Deliver Us From Evil – A Bystander’s Guide to a Better World

Nobody wants to be the victim of evil deeds. (Unless you’re in a certain kind of club and you’re reeeeeaaally looking forward to it.) Most of us don’t want to be evil, but it might be possible to wander into evil territory without being aware of it. It’s like being lost in a forest and instead of paying attention to the stars, or the sun, or even the signs saying, ‘This Way Out’ we dig our heels in and go our own way. It’s good to be independent, to make your own decisions. But we don’t all have the same skill set. We can’t all be wise in the same ways, or know everything there is to know about keeping the world, or even ourselves safe. So, here is a checklist of things to consider when making decisions that affect everyone.

1. Believe an expert over yourself. Though I’m inclined at two AM to consult Dr. Google about a strange pain in my chest/foot/abdomen/head (yes, I’ve googled all of the above) I finally succumb to common sense and make a doctor appointment. I may have a better diet and exercise program than my doctor, but I don’t know if I’ve got an ulcer, a blocked artery, or if the pain in my stomach is all in my head. My doctor will test for it. She has the equipment and she knows the right people. This applies to all experts. Climate scientists, (real ones with degrees and everything) journalists (the ones with training, not the guys in their yard or their trucks who will give you their opinion on everything from Covid to the war on Ukraine.) If you see a fake backdrop and the ‘anchor’ says, ‘Over to you, Dave,’ and Dave is waiting in his pickup to give you the ‘real news,’ think again. Dave might be your guy who can build you a new garage, or fix your plumbing issues, or repair your colon (but only if he’s a surgeon.) He’s not the right person to tell you the straight up truth about the world. 

2. If you can’t find main stream media (people who’ve studied journalism) to back up your views, and you find yourself searching the ‘alternate web,’ realize this. You and a number of your acquaintances have not made discoveries that the rest of the world is blind to; you’ve not stumbled on hidden truths about conspiracies in the government, unless you’re talking about North Korea. But even then, they make no bones about where they stand. Governments are filled with blabbermouths, just like the rest of the population. They cannot keep any of the following secrets: Aliens are living among us, Bill Gates is microchipping everyone, big Pharma is the new, evil empire. Am I always a fan of the pharmaceutical world? No. But we’d all be dying in our forties and fifties, or even as children, if we didn’t have the medicine we need.

3. The good old days were not so great. Yes, baby boomers loved their childhoods for many good reasons. Lots of freedom, tons of people your age in the neighborhood, plentiful jobs, cheap schooling and affordable housing. But women were harrassed as a matter of course at work, at school, and while out walking. Many people had to hide who they were, because getting called ‘Dyke, ‘ ‘Fairy’ or worse was the result of being brave and coming out. And that ended in a beating or even death for quite a few people. Racism was accepted. Indigenous people, immigrants, anyone who looked or dressed differently was name called on a regular basis or put into re-education schools, so while the rest of us were living large, they were stuck in a dystopian world of pain and hopelessness. For many of us, the world feels harder than when we were kids. But that’s because we were living in la la land. Most of us were learning not to litter. That was the extent of our concern for the environment. How many of us noticed the missing indigenous children in our schools? Not me.

4. Stop villifying politicians. We don’t agree with the men and women we didn’t vote for, but the vast majority are doing their best. Nobody is perfect, and while you may not agree with their policies or their views on how to make the world a better place, give them a tiny bit of credit. I’m not talking about the politicians living in crazy town: Donald Trump, (for obvious reasons) Marjorie Taylor Greene (guns don’t kill people…murderers kill people) Kim Jong Un, leader for life in North Korea. And Putin. (If you believe that Ukraine is attacking Russia, and Putin is innocent, please check back to number 1.)

5. Think about your heroes. What would they be doing today? How would they be helping make the world a better place? You know you’ve fallen short  (unless they’re Stalin or Hitler) if you’re one of the reasons medical staff are not encouraged to wear their uniforms out of the hospital.  To be a person willing to berate or attack someone trying to save lives is not heroic. (If this is you, re-read 1.)

6. We’re all in this together, but climate change is hardest on those who’ve done the least to cause it. People of Somalia and Sudan are in a serious drought caused by rising CO2 levels. I drive a car that needs oil and gas, so I get that we still need the stuff. But encourage your government rep to be investing in alternative energies. Solar energy is 100% cheaper than it was in the mid-seventies. If we fund creative people, they just might save us from ourselves.

7. Know that everyone is undergoing hardships you and I know nothing about. If we practice peacefulness and forgiveness, maybe the favour will be returned. If we want a better world, we need to bring kindness to our relationships with each other. Let’s be more than bystanders–let’s deliver each other from evil. (Except for the ones on the way to that club. Let them have their good time.)

Cast Away

 I was at the gym right before the pandemic hit, knowing but not understanding how my friends, family and activities would disappear from my life. I started going on cold, snowy walks every day.  I had to force myself to get dressed in the morning, but didn’t always succeed. I was still writing, but my only excitement was a weekly trip to Walmart, Pharmasave or the grocery store. That first Friday at the Co-op felt a bit dystopian. I’d never seen so many people shopping at once. The lines went to the back of the store, and while resisting the lure of the toilet paper isle, I still spent $275 on groceries for one. There was a general feeling of helplessness and fear about the future.  

While researchers scrambled to find vaccines, the rest of us searched for our friends online. Zooming replaced hot vacations. We watched television like it was a new Olympic sport and we were all going for gold. But nothing could sooth the pain of isolation or replace the joy of coffee with friends, dinners out, parties and hugs. You can’t understand the power of hugs until they’re gone. I thought I’d make the best use of time by practicing the piano and writing all day. Nope. For the first time in my life, I experienced real depression. When the second anniversary of my husband’s death came around on March 28th, I was mad at him all day for not being there. But mostly, like everyone else in the world, I was sad. When the summer of 2020 arrived, I sat on my deck and had a drink with my neighbors who sat on their side of the fence. We were giddy with the relief of seeing someone else.

Two years later, I’m a seasoned survivor. Like Tom Hanks in the movie, ‘Cast Away’ when he learns to make fire and catch fish, except he starts out pudgy and ends up lean. (I went the other way.) I didn’t have a volleyball named Wilson, just a stuffie called Mrs. Bunny, who got a lot of cuddling. I got used to long days alone when I wasn’t snowshoeing and skiing. I read a lot of books, and as time went by, I felt less like this:

And more like this:

We are all much more resilient than we give ourselves credit for. And the takeaway from the pandemic has been huge. I am more grateful than ever for for small things, like the way the clerks at the stores–the only folks I saw for weeks on end–started to feel like friends. People are friendlier in general (if you’re not online) and whatever stand you’ve taken on vaccinations, we all understand what it means to miss other people. When I traveled this past Christmas, I was taken aback by how patient people were with the chaos at the airport. We’ve all learned to be grateful for what we had in the past, and what we’ll have again when this is all over. Barring any crazy variants, life as we knew it will return. I think that might call for a party. Or at least a celebratory drink over the fence.