Monday, August 31, 2020

Why Am I So Angry?

Has anybody else noticed it? The anger?

I thought I had my emotions in check until some guy cut me off in traffic. That did it. Within minutes, along the same road, a grown adult bicyclist swerved into my lane. I swung wide to avoid hitting him. Has everybody on wheels lost their driving skills? What is happening!

There’s an edge of irritation creeping into our voices.

There’s a thinner layer between civility and rage.

But why now – after all these months of adapting, merging, learning, accepting and forging ahead?

                              Unsplash photo by Katie Moum

Maybe that’s just it: we’ve been twisting ourselves into the uncomfortable seasons of Covid and it feels like a long road into an uncertain future.


Profound Uncertainty

There’s a new term floating around these days: Profound Uncertainty.

          We are trying to plan our days, yet we are measuring what we don’t know.

It’s annoying.

We try to be nice.

Being kind, doing good, is usually not that hard – but it’s really difficult in a hostile world.

I had a meltdown in the Aldi’s parking lot, when I realized my container of fresh mozzarella cheese was sliced open. Water was dripping everywhere, onto my flip-flopped feet, into my car.

I became angry at everything. The normal way of exchanging a product was now complicated further by putting on the mask, going back in and waiting in a line dotted by 6-foot gaps.

But really, the anger didn’t come from a broken package of cheese – it sprung up and erupted from the sleeping volcano inside – the hot lava had reached the out-spout and out-it-spouted.

Thing is…





before Covid.

Still, what we’re now experiencing is deeper and more ambiguous, with no visible end.

Photo by Mark Timberlake

Is there a way to manage our irritation?

“Think of the positive things,” my mom is always saying. This helps, but only until we spill the cheese-water.

Maybe, just maybe -- we need to stop pushing down the negative emotions. Start running toward our feelings, not away from them. Quit pretending we have it all together. Start accepting that we feel messed up.

It’s time to be REAL. In those scary, uncovered moments, we can sit in a huddle and say, “me too!” and float each other lots of grace.

“You get a free pass!” the mechanic said to me, after my inspection sticker had long-since expired. It was as though he’d handed me a gift: a free pass for procrastination, for forgetfulness, for being stuck in a weird time-loop; he floated me some grace.

Let’s be authentic and let the hot lava gush out.

Once released, there’s more room for joy; for adapting; for doing the next uncomfortable thing.

“It’s good to do uncomfortable thingsIt’s weight training for life.” >>Anne Lamott

This blog supports, timely gifts for all seasons. Please visit the link to see my seasonal books, the "Breath of Joy! series. Breath of Joy! Ah, Autumn celebrates the robust season of fall.


Thursday, August 27, 2020

Death By Despair


It’s the thing we don’t like to talk about: Despair

America, by most accounts, is a loneliness-producing machine. We seem to have a deeply rooted sense of individualism.

When help is offered, we often detach. We detach, even when everything inside us is screaming for rescue.

“I’m fine,” we quickly say, when asked how we’re doing.

“I’m fine” is a reflex; a fa├žade over our brokenness; a get-out-of-jail-free card for those of us who don’t want to be trapped inside a bubble of compassion.

Because it’s scary to reveal our broken bits – we might be judged or categorized. Examined. 




It’s just too risky to go there.

Detachment, then, is our Go-To mechanism. Mix in Covid-19, and you have Detachment-plus-Isolation.

Add Depression to that equation, and you have the perfect storm.

Why am I bringing this up? Why today?

Because 12 years ago today, a loved one died.

The coroner said it was his heart. I think it was Despair that took him.

Silently, he endured hardships and disappointments.

Bravely, he soldiered forward under the burden of family betrayal, misplaced anger, being marginalized by the people he loved.

He did not take his life, but Despair claimed him.

He was my husband.

His name is Roger and his memory is a daily gift to my heart.

Roger’s life is an affirmation of my own life, and his easy laughter lingers when I’m really listening, leaning into a zephyr breeze.

His voice is waiting inside little emotional pockets of surprise and discovery.

His mannerisms will often materialize in a family member or even a stranger – the way he would stand out back and survey the farm property, jamming his thumbs into his belt loops.

If I see a package of red Twizzlers, I think of him.

When I hear a guy whistling … I remember Roger’s full-bodied, vigorous whistling.

When I see a hay wagon staggering under the weight of stacked bales, I think of him; when a newly-mown hayfield lifts its potent aroma to my nostrils, I want to cry.

And tractors. Especially tractors. His favorite mode of transportation, his getaway car, his chariot. When I see a tractor, a red one, I time-travel to our wooded acreage on top of a hill in the middle of Nowhere.

He loved Twizzlers and salted cashews. He ate mounds of mashed potatoes and he could make the best burritos on the planet; to this day, the girls and I cannot duplicate them.

Memories are the two-sided coin of warmth and chill, of comfort and alarm, of strength and instability.

Memories both tether and detach, all in one salty heave.

A loose thread has been hanging from my memories during his aching, gaping absence, and this year – the 12th anniversary of his Abrupt Departure – is the year I have finally untangled that thread.

And the answer is Despair. It’s been quietly revealing itself to me over the past decade in soft, elusive waves.

This year, the veil has lifted, and I am peering into the Truth, the raw certainty of it.

Roger was of German descent, and the stoicism was strongly rooted in him; he kept quiet about the things that bothered him. He had the appearance of a giant who could carry any burden with ease.

But then.

A growing Pile of Disappointments crushed his heart.

A thundering Echo of Indifference bounced back from his own siblings, and it just wore him out, trying to fathom the shrugs.

Some political maneuvering resulted in misunderstandings, costing him a job he loved.

That day, the day he resigned, I watched the air go out of him; his resolve collapsing.

I watched it all unfolding. I saw, as he whistled less, laughed rarely.

The thing is, you can’t just rush to the scene and rescue someone in the grip of Despair. It creeps into a person with artful, crooked maneuvers. It whispers inside a person’s head so faintly, we hardly notice.

Despair claims a life in small bits, and these bits gather momentum while we go about our daily business.

But I noticed the shades, the hints, the shadows of letting go. After 23 years inside the sanctity of marriage, a spouse knows.

We had recently talked, long and deep, about our family, our dreams.

Both Roger and I had just gotten new jobs, and there was a flutter of optimism there.

Inside of a summer twilight, the two of us had heaved hay bales onto a wagon, rushing under the fading daylight. We lingered in the orange-pink glow of a hilltop sunset.

I now see all these singular moments as treasures: little gems sparkling in the midst of our everyday living and paying the bills and picking up the girls from school.

These moments are my beach glass, my time-worn, wave-tossed fragments.

I couldn’t save him.

He didn’t want to leave us.

Despair finally ran out of storage space in his great big heart, and it just stopped beating.

The death certificate says “acute aortic occlusion” – the clinical term for “massive heart attack”.

I was the one who found him, awkwardly slumped over on the sofa, the TV remote still in his hand; he’d been watching Gunsmoke.

It seems fitting that Roger, a career Peace Officer, should be watching Matt Dillon, U.S. Marshall, preserving law and order in the western frontier.

Sergeant Hoffner and Marshall Dillon were cut from the same cloth: decent men, larger-than-life, lovers of justice, loyal to the very end.