I just saw this tweet:
I responded with this:
And now I can’t stop thinking about how for years and years I maintained an Iraq death toll sign in my front yard. Every day I looked up the death tolls for Iraqi civilians and U.S. troops, and changed the numbers on the sign. The sign Zippy and I kept chained to our locust tree after other versions were stolen. The sign that resulted in vandalism and harrassment from people in our neighborhood. The sign that was my voice after my elected “representatives” refused to listen to me and the millions of people around the globe who took to the streets to demand the United States NOT invade Iraq in 2003.
Death toll numbers as of August 8, 2014
That photo is from a post on August 8, 2014, when Obama started bombing Iraq some more. I never put it out again despite the ongoing, never-ending death and destruction following the U.S. led invasion and occupation of Iraq.
Which brings me back to Adam H. Johnson’s tweet and my shame.
The corporate elites and imperialists count on us to be apathetic due to overwhelm, but it’s on me that I’ve let the people of Iraq slip off my emotional radar. Just as it’s on me that I’ve pretty much become numb and desensitized to every single instance of death and destruction. I don’t want to feel numb and desensitized, I really don’t. I’d rather be angry and in the streets with a pitchfork.
But everything feels like too fucking much.
I’ve come to the startling realization that when life gets particularly difficult, I sometimes cope by washing windows. (Full disclosure: I also cope via cookies, beer, and Netflix.) I just spent the last few hours washing interior and exterior windows plus screens, and I actually enjoyed it. Just me, a clean rag, a bowl of vinegar-water, and a stack of newspaper.
Big deal, right?
It is kind of a big deal. See, when I was growing up it seemed I was always washing windows (and lemon-oiling the paneling and vacuuming the basement stairs and . . .) The combination of a slightly obsessive-compulsive mother and a house full of windows made for many, many hours scrubbing at fingerprints and smudges and whatever else my brothers stuck on the glass, and I resented the chore. The Wisconsin humidity made it impossible for the windows to dry correctly and I was forever battling streaks so that window washing was more often a rage-inducer than a coping strategy.
Now I’m an adult living in oh-so-dry Colorado, and washing windows is almost a zen activity. The windows dry quickly and mostly streak-free! It’s me deciding when to wash windows, not my mother! Plus, clean windows make bird and squirrel watching so much more enjoyable!
Also? These days I don’t have to worry about anyone mistaking a clean sliding glass door for an open sliding glass door. When my sons were little, Wildebeest chased Zebu through the house right after I’d washed windows and poor Zebu hit that glass door so hard he bounced back several feet as blood poured from his nose. I heard the impact all the way down in the basement. (Full disclosure: at that point in my life I probably used the incident as an excuse for letting the windows stay dirty for a good long while.)
But I’ve since adopted a new attitude. And for the time being (at least until the cats and dogs smudge them), I have clean windows and a calmer spirit.
Gloria Swanson by Edward Steichen
” My mother and I could always look out the same window without ever seeing the same thing.” ~ Gloria Swanson
I believe I’ve mentioned my aversion to wind. If not, suffice to say I do not like the blowy.
The blowy sets me on edge. I don’t enjoy listening to wind when I’m tucked into bed, I don’t like wind pushing me around when I’m running outside, and I don’t appreciate wind sucking (blowing) the life out of everything.
Today is a very windy day.
Enter Pema Chodron from When Things Fall Apart:
The way to dissolve our resistance to life is to meet it face to face. When we feel resentment because the room is too hot, we could meet the heat and feel its fieriness and its heaviness. When we feel resentment because the room is too cold, we could meet the cold and feel its iciness and its bite. When we want to complain about the rain, we could feel its wetness instead. When we worry because the wind is shaking our windows, we could meet the wind and hear its sound. Cutting our expectations for a cure is a gift we can give ourselves. There is no cure for hot and cold. They will go on forever.
Okay, Pema. I have met the wind and I hear its sound.
I haven’t been around these parts in quite some time.
Part of me feels badly about that, but another part knows it was necessary.
I needed that time to hunker down and conserve strength.
And the good news is that I am feeling stronger and more resilient these days.
Stuff has fallen apart.
But I’ve come to understand on a whole new level that stuff falls apart for everyone.
Life as we know it is an ongoing series of sunshine and shit-storms,
and I’m learning not to fight that truth.
As Pema Chodron writes in WHEN THINGS FALL APART:
Things falling apart is a kind of testing and also a kind of healing. We think that the point is to pass the test or to overcome the problem, but the truth is that things don’t really get solved. They come together and they fall apart. Then they come together again and fall apart again. It’s just like that. The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen: room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy.
I’m grateful for that tiny Buddhist nun and the wisdom she shares, and I’m grateful for friends who reached out during my hunkering-down. I apologize for the silence and will be in touch.
Tracy in search of Owls