Monday, December 23, 2013

Happy Birthday to Me

Today I'm 44 years old, and there are American social issues at the forefront of my mind thanks to the luck of the draw, an unfortunate glance at what passes for "news," and the reactions of my friends and family.  They're a gift at this point in my life however, because they help me articulate what defines me to myself.  It's good to get one's bearings before heading off again for another of Life's adventures in the classroom, in my craft room, or off into the wild, blue yonder.  Don't worry, I'm aware of the gray zone in the big picture (surprisingly it's NOT my hair), and that is this: none of you has to agree with me.  So, after forty-four trips around the sun, here's what I believe and what I know to be true ~for myself~:

This big blue marble houses diverse forms of life in diverse climates and settings.  Humanity has the capability and right to choose the best or most appealing parts of it, adapt when necessary or desired, and to allow neighbors to do the same.  Despite our potential, we're still greedy, skittish, insecure and therefore overcompensating creatures on the whole, often assuring ourselves that the decisions we make for our families are obviously the decisions that should be made by everyone else for theirs.  If our lead isn't followed, we feel entitled to do everything in our power to convince, encourage, "guide," bribe, threaten, force, or exterminate those who don't want to drink our kool-aid, because apparently ignoring them is just too difficult a task for us despite the fact that we regularly ignore the needs of the young, the elderly, the sick, the wounded, and the poor.  We have hypocritical natures. Thankfully, many of us recognize it, and want to do better and do right by ourselves and others.

The rules that my husband and I have chosen for our American home in Oz and within our family unit may or may not match some of yours.  You don't have to take off your shoes if you visit (snow boots are another story) but you DO have to call ahead instead of just dropping by.  We're not offended if you pray for, bless, or wish us well in our endeavors, because we care deeply about you as well, reciprocating in our way.  We own and use guns, but will not have them accessible to you or put them into your hands.  I bake a LOT of cookies, but will not force you to eat them.  We encourage "please," "thank you," and other publicly recognized forms of manners.  We will correct our childrens behavior immediately, but discreetly.  We believe in social graces but avoid snobbishness.  We curse, but keep it to a minimum when sharing space with others.  We try not to marinate ourselves in cologne or perfume, because what smells good to us could be stink-on-stink to you.   We change the channel on the radio and t.v., avoid questionable-to-us web sites and links, and do not purchase or request forms of media that we find distasteful or dangerous.  Because we believe that diversity is the rule and not the exception in this life, we choose to focus on similarities instead of differences in those with whom we work and choose to share our lives.  The number and kinds of similarities determine whether you're family, friends, friends who are family, colleagues, or acquaintances.  We believe that once our children leave our house and create a new home for themselves, they have the right to establish their own rules, even if those rules don't match our own.  We forgive, but we don't forget.

If you were to ask me about social advocacy, at forty-four I'd now reply that I believe we should be kind and clear in shared spaces, and should not behave in ways that make it difficult to be so.  What a gift it would be if people would rant, rave, tell dirty jokes, curse, and argue with their mother-in-law from the confines of their own vehicle or home, with the windows and doors closed.  Same thing goes for music.  I won't blast the 1812 Overture, or Christmas music in July whilst driving down the street, so please stop inflicting your favorite artist upon my ears and migraine-prone head.  Want to be with like-minded people?  Let's find them, and experience a sense of belonging from which we can draw strength and reassurance. But as our citizens have the freedom of speech and expression, it's not unreasonable to entertain the thought that we might not want to have to listen to or be visually barraged by them constantly.  Society is ever-evolving in rarely simple ways (hell, even the Amish have their own mafia now), and we can't always close our eyes, change the channel, or relocate our lives to a new state, country or continent.    Rally at your church, cheer your team at the stadium, sell your wares or grow your hobbies at any well-marked venue, or even assemble on your compound and I promise not to gate-crash at places I'm not welcome nor interested in, but please don't walk up to my vehicle on the street, or drive onto my property because you believe you're entitled to sell me something or spread the word that you've chosen for yourself.  At forty-four years of age, I do not wish to be recruited by anyone for anything.  If I have questions or an interest, I'll do research, ask questions, and not just invite myself into your space.  In my opinion, we'd all enjoy more peace if the rest of humanity reciprocated.

I'm thankful to still be hopeful after forty-four years.  Happy birthday to me.  Keep the cake.

It's time for some tiramisu cookies.

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