“There may be a brighter star. But through my eyes the light of you is all I see.” -Stevie Wonder
The world is one giant, extended family. Like every family we each have different roles, responsibilities, micro-cultures and for some unknown reason, order of rank. Love, truth, peace, freedom, justice are nice ideas but so far it’s just a hashtag. None of us would be here without a mother and father, so parents are supposed to hold the most authority leaving children the choice to be either cute, funny, attractive, helpful, productive, obedient, impressive or hot enough messes that we ensure getting at least some of our parents attention because we can’t all be Marsha. Marsha, Marsha, Marsha. Sadly the competition doesn’t at the dinner table. Outside the door of every home, if you have one, is a whole other order of rank established first according to who is cute, funny, attractive, helpful, productive, obedient, impressive or hot enough messes to get someone to pay attention to us, usually in ways that cause more hurt. On top of that are other orders of rank assigning worth according to skin color, country of origin, income, political party, sports team, gender, religious belief, hairstyle and whether or not we can walk, talk, see, read, write or speak. I guarantee I’ve unintentionally left someone out. Kevin! Incidentally, we rent a unit, which is like a home with other homes suck to either side and are beholden to a mysterious Land Lord who determines how much hot water we get. We pay our Land Lord rent through a Property Manager who manages property for all the other Lords of a land called Opportunity. Since I’m not an anthropologist I don’t have a full grasp on how this ranking system came to be or how to go about changing it to make it less…judgey? While I’ve moved up a couple spots there seems to be an invisible wall or ceiling I can’t seem to work up and over, not that I want anything more than to be able shave and wash my hair in the same shower and still have enough hot water left over to share with my husband. It’s like the difference between being born a certain way versus developing an ability through practice. Some of us gentrify ourselves to have an easier time in Social Norm’s reality while other people grew up speaking first world as a first language. To be fair and clear, love and pain are not administered according to any kind of human catalog. Natural order supersedes man made construction. Every now and then the ocean, wind or our own fallible human bodies send us powerful reminders that we aren’t in control of anything. Apologies to Vogue, the CEO of Pepsi and Frank Lloyd Wright.
At church the pastor said she struggles to have compassion for homeless people in America because she thinks poor people in certain foreign countries experience more justified suffering and are therefore more worthy of having their picture taken with her. She said God’s working on shifting understanding in her heart and we should all read Matthew 23. It shouldn’t surprise me that we still fail to see dysfunctions and the roots of those dysfunctions in our own families, but we do. Last weekend Oprah went on 60 Minutes to talk about a twenty year old public health study on Adverse Childhood Experiences, which is really just another way to classify and explain the cosmic punchline. Cain and Abel; the first dysfunctional family and so on. My only criticism of the study is that there are more than 10 ways we can get hurt but anyway, it’s a start and easier to understand than most psychology books. Those of us in the ACE’s know got excited thinking this would launch the world into an infamous, collective ah-ha moment. Not so much. Maybe it’s because Oprah said she had a rough childhood but doesn’t have PTSD and the rest of are thinking since we’re not on her level we can’t join the conversation. Or maybe it’s because we’re not ready to deal with our stuff. Either way, awareness is such a wonder. On the treadmill yesterday I watched a British show on YouTube about a couple who couldn’t figure out how they’d become overweight. According to their calculations they assumed they were eating anywhere from 1,500 to 2,000 calories a day of “mostly fruit and veg”. Hidden cameras and secret-eater agents uncovered they’d each been eating over 4,000 calories a day of barms and roast potato. I love British accents. A barm is a lovely giant bun which they stuffed with crisps and mayonnaise at these places called Chippies. They were shocked. I was not. Those sandwiches looked amazing. With the help of their newfound knowledge and a skinny dietitian who’s never eaten anything that tastes remotely as good as a french fry sandwich, they went on meal plans and began rapidly losing stones. One stone weighs about fourteen pounds which is one of many reasons why we shouldn’t throw them.
It’s both easier and more difficult to see and understand a problem that isn’t ours which is why we’re all great couch critics. We have perfect solutions for strangers but avoid calling that one person because we don’t know what to say when they bring up that uncomfortable situation. If Hallmark doesn’t have a card for it, we don’t know how to talk about it. Congratulations on Your Rehab Graduation! We’re so proud of you. Sorry we had to call the authorities to get you the help we hope you’d accept. Also don’t be offended at the next family function when Uncle Ray Ray shows up with a case of beer. He’s just not as strong as you. With Love, Auntie Dodo. Or I’m Here for You. Healing from past abuse takes us a lifetime. I know you get triggered easily in public but you never have to be ashamed if a panic attack takes over and you want to leave the mall; even if it’s one of those shopping trips where everything is in my size and on sale. I’m your friend. I love and support you no matter what. I’ll gladly drive you home, make you tea and get you settled. Just don’t be upset if I go back to the mall to buy those jeans cause you know how hard it is for me to find pants that fit. Love ya! Or Dear Homeless Friend, I’m sorry for whatever happened in your life that may have led you to become homeless. I’m sorry we don’t have adequate shelters and resources to support you, help you reach your goals and keep you safe. I’m also sorry if I’ve radically assumed it was misfortune that led to your living outside the Social Contract. Maybe you’ve chosen to live this way and those of us working and paying taxes are missing out on the freedoms of your lifestyle. Maybe one day we could have coffee and you could help me understand how you see things and share some options for what I could do that would be helpful or at the very least, not harmful. Thanks, from the lady who gives you awkward looks and sometimes Cliff Bars. Hallmark won’t be hiring me anytime soon but I do have one concrete suggestion, no more glitter. Please? Glitter and trauma have so much in common; it’s everywhere and no one knows how to get it rid of it, except preschool teachers and mothers. I’ll consent to the fact that while it’s bright, shiny and kind of obnoxious, glitter is still more fun.
A REAL BANQUET
“Lord only knows how many times I let my children go hungry rather than take secretly the bread I liked not to ask for.” -Sojourner Truth
Once at a coworker’s goodbye party the hostess offered me a slice of her cake. At the time anorexia had a choke hold on everything so I politely declined the frosted celebration. It looked really good and scary. She was a friendly person who never wanted anyone to be left out which is sometimes code for please don’t let me eat desert alone. So she offered again and again in front of our whole team. I thought my handicap was obvious enough that I shouldn’t have to explain myself and didn’t know how to say no more firmly without ruining her fun. My face apparently turned bright red as I spit out a final no. Then I started crying and got a bloody nose making at least a few people uncomfortable. The truth is I’ve learned how to eat and maintain a healthy-ish weight but I may decide to never put certain things on my plate. It can feel good to be invited into different people’s lives and experiences but there needs to be space left for free will. Scarfing down someone else’s truth when it’s not our choice is likely to leave a bad taste in our mouth. On the flip side I recently read a book about Edwardian servants who spent hours preparing feasts for the ‘better’ people upstairs knowing full well their meals would consist of leftovers. According to the stories, everyone in those big houses were hungry for different reasons.
I only like potlucks as a metaphor for world peace. xo