It’s hard to write. Chaos plays in my mind, energized by the insanity of politics’ endless news cycle. I must give it a break.
I regressed. I got distracted by a coup attempt on the U.S. Capitol on the afternoon of January 6th and was riveted to the TV until after 3 a.m. when the Electoral College votes were verified by the Vice President, and Biden & Harris were officially acknowledged to be the next President and Vice President. I then crawled into bed with my phone, tapped on my WordPress app to tap out a line or two and promptly fell asleep. The bright spot of the day was a brief break in the domestic terrorist coverage when it was announced that Ossoff was projected to be the winner over Perdue for a Georgia senate seat, giving Dems control of the Senate. Maybe we’ll see some real, permanent changes this time around.
Every election season is truly horrible and it lasts so long that by Election Day the entire nation is cranky. (I read somewhere that there’s a country that allows only six weeks of campaigning before the vote — why can’t we do that here?) And then we have the time between election and inauguration which usually passes without drawing attention to itself. But nothing is normal this time around and we have half a nation genuinely afraid of us not making it to January 20th without our mentally ill Oval Office Occupier leading the U.S. into a catastrophic event that would take years for us to recover from. I mean, other than the pandemic.
More than 4,000 people died of COVID today.
I left the house today for the first time in over a week. It was a warm sunny day – I even turned on the ac in the car on my way to my eye appointment. Cold and snow tomorrow, I think.
I have hemorrhages in my eyes with no know cause (so far). I’m not diabetic, cholesterol and blood pressure are normal, and I even had an ultrasound on my carotid arteries. My doctor, who I really like, said I am an anomaly, said come back in 6 months, and handed me my prescription for new glasses. I don’t want to spend the money but I CANT SEE.
After a couple of months of encouraging Rick to watch Madam Secretary, he finally relented a few days ago and loves the show. We have very different tastes in TV so I’m glad to have one we can watch together. We watched two episodes this evening then I put my headphones on and glued myself to the Georgia election returns. I’m okay with balance of power and all, but I really really want to see Mitch McConnell dethroned. I won’t elaborate. As I write this at almost 2 a.m. The win has been projected for Warnock, and Ossof is ahead by over 12,000 with 98% reporting. I need to go to sleep.
It’s been almost a week since I’ve had alcohol or diet soda. The cravings are slowly diminishing. One day at a time.
The summer before the pandemic hit I felt the pull of the Camino de Santiago —The Way of Saint James — a 500-mile journey – a pilgrimage – across northern Spain that ends at the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela.
Deeply missing our life of travels in the military, deeply depressed, fat, and in need of motivation, I felt a stirring of hope inside whenever I considered taking this very long walk. I could picture myself praying and lighting candles in dozens of churches, large and small along the way. And the people I would meet! I talked to my husband about it and made plans to go in April 2021. My desire was to walk solo,but I loved the idea of going with one of my cousins or a close friend.
The adventure I craved was second to the deep desire I had to have uninterrupted hours, days, and weeks to keep my heart open to God, open to change; to finally feel like I belonged in the Church that adopted me in 2016 after I left Protestantism. After a few years of study and prayer, I joyfully joined the Catholic Church. I was in no way treated like an interloper but sure felt like one. I had a Catholic heart, Protestant thoughts, and no peace. My heart has stayed restless and dark with occasional glimpses of God’s grace that I don’t deserve. Sometimes it feels like depression steals your soul.
Plan in place, I bought new walking shoes, downloaded Duolingo to my phone to learn Spanish, and bought a copy of Moon’s Camino de Santiago. Pacing myself, to start, I walked a couple miles a few times a week on our nearby nature trails and was quickly sidelined by my chronic plantar fasciitis. I did all the things one should do in this condition, but the pain didn’t go away and hasn’t gone away. I mostly walk on the ball of my foot now and it’s always painful to touch. I know I will need surgery – I do have a bone spur as well – but will not go in for evaluation until I lose enough weight so that the first thing the doctor says to me isn’t lose weight.
I know it will probably be another few years before the coronavirus is no more of a threat than the flu, but I’ve allowed myself to start thinking about Spain again. I re-started Duolingo (I hit a 60-day streak tonight) and will soon break out the Spanish program I bought last year. (I had also been wanting to learn Spanish to better communicate with people in my volunteer work). It’s not easy learning a language at my age. My memory is absolutely useless most of the time. Just tonight I teared up in frustration as I made the same mistake over and over. I just have to keep at it — something will stick.
My friend Mel commented on my Jan 1st post that she also plans to write through 2021 but it will be difficult, as life can be a bit of a snooze-fest these days. I agree with her and I am going to try and welcome the challenge of writing thoughtfully and creatively every day despite the lack of inspiration and motivation. May that come in time, and may my fear subside.
I love New Year’s resolutions but I don’t recall a time when I have kept any I made. My lists are always too long and difficult, and outside of having myself exiled to a boot camp facility with a D.I. yelling in my face, I was doomed for failure — usually by January 5th. I’m keeping it simple (simple, not easy) this year: I need to quit drinking. I just learned this is called Dry January and I like that, chopping up forever into smaller bits — one day at a time. I am mentally addicted, not physically. I drank to numb the pain of feeling too much, living in this crazy, messed up world. And the depression, the crippling social anxiety, and worrying about time stealing my parents away. Alcohol was always there to soothe me, but it also added fuel to the dumpster fire deep inside that burns me.
I think writing will help me not drink.
Instead of overhauling my diet in one fell swoop, I’m taking small steps. This week I cut out diet soda, drinking only water, coffee, and tea (mostly water. It’s been just three days and I can feel a difference). Next week the Splenda goes, along with snacking. And so on.
I’m going to dedicate a whole post to surveying the place inside me where God lives, but in keeping with my rule of small steps, today I found some uplifting voices in media to plug into, cutting down on my news consumption.
A close friend and confidant introduced me to Sarah Bessey’s Evolving Faith podcast. I listened to the first two episodes tonight and it hurt my heart in a good way. I will continue to listen.
Also today, I found The Bible in a Year with Fr. Mike Schmitz podcast. Fr. Mike happens to be my favorite priest so I was very happy to see the advert by Ascension Press. Fr. Mike is walking listeners through the entire Bible in 365 episodes, providing commentary, reflection, and prayer along the way. It follows the reading plan inspired by The Great Adventure Bible Timeline which I happen to have. I have started year-long bible reading plans before but have never completed one. Being able to read along while Fr. Mike reads will be a nice change.
If you’re interested you can find information here.
January 2020 was quiet. I began the year reading The Secret Life of Bees, by Sue Monk Kidd, I loved it and will probably read again. I was finally able to watch the movie.
In February I picked up Heavy: an American Memoir, by Kiese Laymon on Brenna’s recommendation. Kiese shares his experiences growing up with a single mother. He covers honestly and unflinchingly many difficult subjects. It’s a shocking and emotional read, but worth it.
When she was an undergrad Lit major, Brenna fell in love with Black literature and recommended good books and authors to me occasionally, and I’ve read several. I became even more interested in Black stories when racial tensions and police violence began to gain national attention – again). On August 14, 2016, Colin Kaepernick took a knee during the National Anthem, and, well –BOOM. A good portion of Americans lost their minds. I served in the military, and spent ten years steeped in Christian Nationalism, so I felt I knew what white people were upset about, but I didn’t really understand on a personal level what Black Americans were experiencing daily in this country. I started reading and watching movies and documentaries by Black people, and I began to understand – but never will fully – the pain, anger, frustration, and outrage that results from being oppressed by racist policies and practices in most areas of government and society. And the deaths. So many deaths.
When I saw the footage on Nightly News of George Floyd being killed on May 25, 2020, I sobbed. I marched in a local protest on June 6th, and now understand why people participate: there is a sense of solidarity. It was my way of saying I see you, I hear you, I support you, I’m so mad at what you have to endure, there has to be change! It really was a life-changing experience for me. I donated to bail relief funds, supported Black businesses online, I shared my books — and I kept reading.
When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir is a book I can’t recommend highly enough — especially if you don’t understand the Black Lives Matter movement other than what you’ve seen on the news. When I would see people posting #AllLivesMatter in response to BLM, I would say You’re not listening to Black stories. If you did listen sincerely, you would understand why that hashtag is demeaning and dismissive. This is the story of how #BlackLivesMatter began – the stories of its authors and their friends, family, and community.
Conversations in Black: On Power, Politics, and Leadership, by Ed Gordon. Conversations in Black offers sage wisdom for navigating race in a radically divisive America. I was lucky enough to catch Gordon discussing his book online with Mahogany Books in March.
The novels I read by Black authors:
The Water Dancer, by Ta-Nahisi Coates. I listened on audio. It’s beautifully written and narrated — just amazing.
The Vanishing Half, by Britt Bennette. I received from Brenna for my birthday. It’s a story about twin light-skinned black sisters who separate and lead different lives — one as a white woman, one as black.
Homegoing, by Yaa Gyasi. I learned a lot of history from this book that covers character’s lives over generations of the slave trade from Africa to the Americas.
I lived for fifty years without ever having hated someone. Then DJT moved into American politics and people started writing books about their experiences with him — personal as well as professional. I read a few, and their words confirmed what the man was showing himself to be. If you had the displeasure of being one of my Trump-supporting followers on Instagram, you know how these books added fuel to my fire.
Too Much and Never Enough, by Mary Trump. This helped me understand why DJT turned out the way he did. I was mad I actually had a pang of sympathy for him for having such a horrible father. Despite how the conservative media spun this book, it was well-written and not sensationalistic.
Disloyal, by Michael Cohen. Oh boy. If you read this book by the man who knew DJT best for twelve years and did his dirty work for him, put your seatbelt on because it’s a wild ride. I believe every bit of what is written here. DJT and Barr had Cohen put back in prison to try and stop publication. I keep up with Cohen’s profanity-laced commentary on DJT’s current affairs on his podcast Mea Culpa.
These next three I haven’t finished yet. They’re big books and very compelling reading.
- The Room Where it Happened, by John Bolton
- Trump vs The United States, by Michael Schmidt
- Rage, by Bob Woodward
And in no particular order:
- Greenlights, by Matthew McConaughey 3.5/5
- I Have Something to Tell You, by Chasten Buttigieg 4/5
- The Pale-Faced Lie, by David Crow 3/5
- Karla Faye Tucker: Set Free, by Linda Strom 3.5/5
- The Lido, by Libby Page. I LOVED this charming story! 5/5
- Happy Are You Poor: The Simple Life and Spiritual Freedom, by Thomas Dubay (This was the only spiritual book I finished this year – though I read a bit in many – and it showed.) 5/5
During an end-of-year cleanup of email accounts, phone apps, subscriptions, etc, over the past week, I came across Necessary Days and realized I needed to make a decision: keep it or let it go – there’s no sense in paying for something I seldom use. I don’t want to let it go, which means I will re-acquaint myself with writing. Lord knows I need the mental exercise. Write something, anything once a day. No gems necessary.
In 2020 I participated in my first Black Lives Matter protest march, continued volunteering at the homeless shelter, had my first big shouting match with dad over something stupid, inadvertently drove nails into the coffin of a few relationships, enthusiastically embraced mask-wearing and stay-home orders to “do my part”. For the first time in three years I unmuted DJT on the TV for the coronavirus daily briefings. Doing so reinforced my perception that he was and is wholly unqualified for the office. Mom said I’m bitter. I replied, I’m not bitter, I’m angry. In 2020 I raged against All Lives Matter, Christian Nationalism, selfishness, GOP greed, toilet paper hoarders, and church leaders telling me how I should vote. I thought and said What the fuck? a lot. I went to confession. I wrestled with God, and I went to church until people stopped being careful. Our pastors got COVID. My two best friends got COVID. I drank a lot and read a lot and bought too many books. My favorite TV binges were The Queen’s Gambit (twice: once with mom, once 6-hours straight, live-texting with Brenna) and The Flight Attendant. I finally watched a few seasons of The Office. I discovered and fell in love with Rachel Maddow, Sarah Cooper, and the Podcasts My Favorite Murder and Mea Culpa. I refused to allow myself to be soothed by anything other than doggos, tales of random acts of kindness, and every precious moment with mom and dad.
I really should have been writing through 2020. I will write through 2021, Lord willing.