Fear’s Tipping Point

Bruised sky, heavy clouds… As I peer out the window I muse that this day feels like the mood of our nation right now.

Fear…we’ve all experienced it. Fear of creepy, crawly things, fear of heights, fear of the darkness, fear of not being liked. Commonplace fear, although uncomfortable and that which can stop us in our tracks, is not what I am referring to. The type of fear that seems to have gripped our nation right now is irrational, rage-filled, a hatred so red-hot it feels one could be scorched just being in its presence. Has it always been here? I imagine it has. It seems someone or something has cracked open the door and given it oxygen to grow.

“Fear is the most debilitating emotion in the world, and it can keep you from ever truly knowing yourself and others – its adverse effects can no longer be overlooked or underestimated. Fear breeds hatred, and hatred has the power to destroy everything in its path.”  ~  Kevyn Aucoin

It is inconceivable to me that the leader of this country, a country whose ideals embody the strength of a democratic society, is that someone who has breathed life into this fear-based monster. It appears we have become an intellectually lazy society, choosing to believe whatever we see on social media, no matter how outrageous, so it shouldn’t surprise me that we are at this tipping point. Sadly, a constant barrage of lies, vitriolic rhetoric, conspiracy theories, and lack of moral character seem to be the framework by which the man who was elected to lead our country lives his life, and many of us seem to ignore what is happening around us.

Next Tuesday we in America have a choice, really more a civic duty, a duty to vote our conscience. It is time to take a hard look in the mirror and ask ourselves what kind of country we want to live in, and perhaps more important, what kind of country we want our children and grandchildren to live in. This is so much greater than what the stock market is doing, this must go beyond our own personal needs.

“The most fundamental aggression to ourselves, the most fundamental harm we can do to ourselves, is to remain ignorant by not having the courage and the respect to look at ourselves honestly and gently.”  ~  Pema Chödrön

Fear…yes, I feel it. I’d like to think mine is rational, the fear of the hatred that could continue to escalate in this country if we don’t choose wisely next Tuesday. It is time to find the courage to speak out, to speak with our vote the kind of country we wish to live in, the kind of example we want to be for our children and grandchildren. How many more lives have to be lost at the hands of those who fear individuals of different color or religious values? How many more bombs must be sent to those with differing views before we remove our heads from the sand?

“Our enemy is fear. Blinding, reason-killing fear. Fear consumes the truth and poisons all the evidence, leading us to false assumptions and irrational conclusions.”  ~  Rick Yancey

Please vote your conscience next Tuesday. Please vote as if our democracy depended upon it, because it does.

Header photo courtesy of exploringyourmind.com.

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Hot Summer Daze

The long summer is drawing to a close and for me, hot summer daze seems to best describe this season spent in Southern California. I realize that as I grow older I tolerate hot weather less and less and find myself dreaming of crisp fall days, days when I step outside and become intoxicated on autumn air. Knowing I was grounded for the summer due to a minor medical issue, I vowed to explore the beauty right outside my door, but as temps creeped into the triple digits I fell short of that goal many days as spending time outdoors could result in an irascible, sweaty meltdown. So when this outdoor kinda gal found herself trapped inside, gym fitness and reading became my go-to activities. Nothing wrong with that, I might add, especially when I have a wise, beautiful friend who recommended a special book to me, knowing I might find myself in an introspective mood from time to time. She couldn’t have suggested a book more conducive to the kind of year it has been and is one we would all do well to read, “The Five Invitations”. I can’t thank you enough Erin.

This year has created an interesting array of emotions for me, bringing to life a trip I have longed to take for decades, that being our Patagonian adventure. Coming home with what I thought was a minor finger dislocation became that plus a ruptured volar plate, detached collateral ligament and fractured knuckle. This week I graduated from hand therapy with parting gifts of various torture devices…yay!

Even with 12 weeks of therapy my injury does not even make the list of the tragic turn of events so many of my friends and acquaintances have experienced this year. The list of those we know who have passed this year has now grown to double-digits, not to mention all the public figures whose journey in this life has ended – Aretha Franklin, John McCain, Barbara Bush, Winnie Mandela, Stephen Hawking, just to name a few. Beyond this, we have friends who have had significant medical events and are still struggling with major illnesses, some where hospice has stepped in to provide comforting care. My thoughts are with all of them as they traverse the next phase of their life journey.

The author of “The Five Invitations”, Frank Ostaseski, a contemporary scholar of ancient Buddhist teachings, had me reflecting upon what death can teach us about living, how embracing our impending death, whenever that may be, can allow us to be more fully present, more alive, living each day to its fullest.

“Death is not waiting for us at the end of a long road. Death is always with us, in the marrow of every passing moment. She is the secret teacher hiding in plain sight, helping us to discover what matters most.”  ~  Frank Ostaseski

Although my thirst for wandering wasn’t quenched this summer, I am grateful for the insights gained as I practiced being more present each day. We head out for some autumn adventures soon and I hope to carry my lessons learned with me. I’m looking forward to reconnecting with the blogosphere once again.

Rediscovering the Virtue of Patience

We have settled back into our part-time home at Jojoba Hills, where memories of our Patagonia trip may have faded a bit but revisiting photos can put that smile right back on my face. One of my more vivid memories of Patagonia was our hike to the Three Towers in Torres del Paine National Park, as this is where I experienced firsthand the “knock-you-down” winds for which Patagonia is noted. This is where I learned to fly during a rainstorm, albeit it briefly, as I made the steep ascent to the towers. This is where a rogue gust threw me off a boulder and, although I didn’t get the iconic shot of the towers that day, I remain grateful that I didn’t suffer a serious injury.

The iconic shot I was hoping for, courtesy of cascada.travel.

An x-ray, a consult with an Argentine doctor, and a splint in place and the next day I was on my way to our next adventure. Although I was told to keep the splint on for three weeks and I should be good as new, I suspected, once ‘sans splint’, that something was amiss. My knuckle looked weird and the more I exercised my finger, the stiffer and more painful it became.

By the time we arrived in the Atacama, weeks later, my finger was red, warm, and not at all happy with me. I worried about an infection, but there was no one to consult in the small village of San Pedro, so I buddy-taped it again and tried not to think about it the last few days of our trip. Out of sight, out of mind, right? We couldn’t return home anyway as our airline went on strike; our flight was canceled; and we couldn’t get out any earlier. The best I could do was schedule an appointment with my doctor back home, so I tried not to let it interfere with the last few days of our trip.

Navigating the healthcare system back home was frustrating as I waited several weeks to see a hand surgeon and get an MRI after my initial x-ray, which revealed a fractured knuckle. The first hand surgeon I visited confirmed the avulsion fracture and a ruptured volar plate (the thick ligament that secures the knuckle and holds the two bones in place in the finger)and when asked what treatment he would recommend, he replied that it was bad and he couldn’t help me. No physical therapy, no surgery…what the heck? Needless to say, he is not my current hand surgeon.

Should you ever have the joy of dislocating a finger, here is some of what I have learned:

  • Splinting should be done for no more than one week and gentle manipulation should begin immediately after the splint is removed, even with an avulsion fracture. This probably won’t be much fun as the finger will still be swollen and painful to the touch. My accident was three months old when I saw my current hand surgeon and was splinted far too long so my situation was a bit more challenging.
  • Aggressive range-of-motion therapy can be an option, and was for me. I see my therapist twice weekly for 12 weeks. She is an angel, even though she often hurts me. 😢
  • If hand therapy doesn’t work, surgery would be a next option. I have found a great hand therapy specialist and she doesn’t see surgery in my future. Yay!! Finding a good therapist who will customize a program for you is a must.
  • Be prepared for slow progress. I wake each morning feeling like I am starting all over again, which I am told will probably be the case for the next six months. Patience definitely is a virtue at times like this.
  • Finger dislocations take a minimum of 8 months to heal. It is no wonder my finger is still swollen and stiff, along with other fingers as well.

I’m sad to say that our summer plans for Yellowstone National Park have been disrupted as I focus on getting my hand back in shape. I will be living vicariously through all of you and spending more time discovering the beauty right outside my door. Sometimes we just need to slow down a bit to find that beauty.

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Time to Wake Up!

This is my first stream of consciousness post. Normally I take lots of time, ruminate on my words, maybe even fret a bit on how those words will be perceived. But after the most recent school shooting in this country, which occurred on a day normally reserved for symbols of love (Valentines’ Day), my concern is not for which words I choose but rather sharing my raw thoughts.

Today, after reading some of the outrageous tweets by our “so-called” leader and listening to the CPAC Convention speech by Wayne LaPierre, NRA (National Rifle Association) Chief, I have to vocalize the question my hubby asked me today. “Is our country going bat-shit crazy”?  LaPierre feels that we need to arm every American, that “it takes a good guy with a gun to take down a bad guy with a gun”. Yes, let’s arm our teachers so they can get thrown into the shootouts (imagine an emoticon for outrage here). As I watched this NRA Chief blame the media and the FBI and take no responsibility for the gun laws we currently have in this country, and not even mention the loss of these most recent innocent 17 at the hands of a gunman, I feel the fabric that has for so long held this country together, slowly unraveling.

I cannot imagine anything more heart-wrenching than to receive the news that your child was gunned down by a student with an automatic rifle, a weapon used in wartime. You watched this beautiful child a few hours earlier head off to school with her friends, after giving you a big hug and kiss goodbye, saying she would see you later that evening for dinner. And now this child, who gives your life meaning, that beautiful, creative child, lies dead in the classroom of a building that should have been a safe haven. How do you grapple with that all-consuming grief? She was not my child, but when I watched a mother, who had just finished making funeral arrangements for her 14-year old daughter, scream at the leader of this country to do something, it took my breath away. Her grief was palpable and echoed the cries of all those many people who far too often succumb to gun violence in this country.

I have heard lots of hollow words tossed about by those in this country who have taken “blood money” from the NRA, many focusing on the fact that we need to fix the mental illness issue in this country, and yes, that is a complex issue that needs so much more attention. What seems to be an easier fix, one that can be addressed now, is to make certain that those with mental illness cannot get their hands on a weapon. But instead, recent relaxed gun laws make it easier for these same individuals to get a weapon, in record time I might add.  Right now we can expand background checks, increase the age of people allowed to purchase weapons, and extend the waiting period for getting a gun, which are all easy fixes. Then, let’s have a conversation about getting rid of “bump stocks”. No, let’s not. Instead how about we just not allow anyone in this country, except those in law enforcement and the military, to purchase automatic weapons? Today, in some states in this country, you can purchase an AR15 automatic weapon at age 18. Seriously, WTF?!

On the heels of yet another gun tragedy that has shaken this country to its core, we watch as our children become the leaders that we should have been. The changes that we adults have not been able to bring about may well rest in the hands of our children. I have watched how eloquently and passionately these children have spoken to the media and to our leaders, immediately after the deaths of their friends, some who literally had to walk by their dead friends to escape their hiding places after the carnage. Although I get goosebumps each time I re-watch these interviews, and I feel such a sense of awe and wonder at their maturity, I too am saddened that they have to be the ones to carry this torch. Why should our children have to wage this battle? Why can’t our elected officials do the easy work to enact laws to protect our citizens? If any of us wondered about what kind of leaders this next generation of children will become, we should wonder no more.

For those who have not had the chance to listen to the song “Shine” that the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Broward County, Florida wrote and sang after the Valentines’ Day gun massacre at their school, go here. It will bring you to tears.

And for those who wonder what our gun culture is compared to other countries, here is an interesting news article.

Our children are telling us it is time to wake up. Will we answer that wake-up call?

On This Memorable Day… My Fervent Wish

Today, when we honor Martin Luther King, Jr., a man who lived through so much bigotry and climbed a mountain of hate trying to win simple rights for his people, I feel the need to speak up. I fear by remaining silent I am complicit in normalizing the abhorrent behavior I see in my country, perpetrated far too often by our so-called leader. Quite honestly, I am horrified and extremely saddened to see what is happening  here, to see how divided we have become, to see how truth is being shunned, a simple value I believe we were all taught very early in life. I believe those who know me well see me as a calm person, but right about now I feel anything but. I am outraged and fear that it is either speak up or step outside my front door and scream at the top of my lungs.

I do not see this post as a political plug, although many may see it as such. Having said that, I do not want to have a discourse on who you may have voted for and why. I think we are long past trying to convince  others of our views. We have all earned the right to vote as we wish and I respect that and hope that more of us exercise this right.

Because the blogosphere brings millions of talented people from around the globe together, I am writing this post more for those outside this country who may follow my musings (and I am so grateful for your presence). I feel it is essential to remind you that the majority of us, in the country of my birth, do not embrace the views that are presently being espoused by our current administration, those of divisiveness, bigotry, closed borders, “alternate facts”. We are a country founded on immigrants; we embrace diversity; we are open-minded and compassionate; we honor the truth. Our innate instincts are to be kind, to welcome others, to embrace all humanity. Please, please do not see us through the eyes of an administration many of us pray will be short-lived. We welcome you with open arms and hope you will do so with those of us who love to travel abroad.

So today we honor Martin Luther King, Jr., an activist and civil rights icon who preached nonviolence, even after his home was bombed and he was subjected to physical abuse, and until the time his all-too-short life was snuffed out by an assassin’s bullet. During his life he received the Nobel Peace Prize, and when notified of this award, announced he would turn the prize money over to the civil rights movement, to further their cause. I cannot think of a better time to honor this man and all that he stood for. I want to hold onto that same hope for a better future for our country that he had.

We will be marching again on March 20th, the anniversary of the initial Women’s March. We will be marching for women’s rights, immigrant’s rights, reproductive rights, civil rights, economic justice and environmental rights. If you believe in these issues and have a scheduled march in your area, please consider joining in.

My sincere hope is that we take a few minutes today to reflect upon how vitally important it is for each of our voices to be heard. Silence is not the answer.

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