Dear Children, One of the posts I saw on Facebook this morning was from a friend who shared a “good read for those who are afraid, upset and disquieted by what will take place this coming Friday…” Both she and I are in a Speaker’s Academy, and this Friday is when we have our final “showcase” speech and graduation. She actually was going to withdraw a week ago, feeling unprepared for the event, but she has reconsidered. Imagine my amusement when I opened the article and discovered it was about Donald Trump’s inauguration set for this Friday also! It was 10 Acts of Resistance on Inauguration Day, and one of them struck a chord with me.
I am writing this letter in response to idea #7, Reassure Your Children, by nurturing their hope. I urge you to remember that as dramatic as things seem right now, as impossible as the future seems, as opposite the ideals are of the incoming Administration from what you think you would like to see, please know that it will be okay. You have to trust me on this. I don’t mean things are going to be easy, or feel good, or that all the streets will turn to gold and love and peace will overflow. But I have walked through some parts of hell already in my life, and I do know there is always something else ahead.
You may not think of it this way, but here are a few things that have happened in my time…things I remember for myself.
- JFK was assassinated. I was in kindergarten, and I remember the announcement, the crying, being sent home. I didn’t know what it was about, but I knew it was BIG. I also remember MLK being shot when I 9 years old, and Grandpa’s reaction (one I’m not proud of, but then, it was him, not me), and RFK too.
- Viet Nam. Grandpa’s cousin, Bernie, served, so it always seemed personal, although I didn’t really understand it. I was still young.
- Nixon and Watergate. I was 16, and we were all in the car driving to Utah for vacation when Nixon resigned. I heard it on the radio, and Grandpa was so angry about it. I remember a fleeting thought of how bad it was going to get if no one was in charge, and wondering if it could be worse than having a crook in charge.
- Reagan’s victory. I remember standing in a line at the school polling place when it was announced he had won, and we hadn’t even voted yet. It wasn’t long after that I paid 10% interest on a car we bought, and 16% mortgage interest on our home in Cuyamunge. I was making $1850/month working for the state. We survived that, and look at us now.
- Clarence Thomas hearings, and the Bill Clinton/Monica Lewinsky scandal. I know where I was, I remember watching the broadcasts. Same with Oliver North. President Bush and the Gulf War, which my cousin Rick served in, and the next President Bush…’nuff said.
- 9-11 I was at work, and got a call from Auntie Di asking me if Renae was okay. Renae was, in fact, visiting in my home in Brookings (divine intervention?). I rushed home so we could watch CNN together. What was a last-minute weekend trip became a week, and nothing has really been the same since then.
- Yada-yada-yada. Suffice it to say, it’s always something. And yet, here we are.
In the midst of the political angst over the past 40 or 50 years, I also had some personal shit in my life that helped make the politics less important.
- I buried both my parents and a husband. I also witnessed several good relatives and some friends being laid to rest.
- I divorced, and moved 6 times after that, trying to provide for my family while completing my college degree, raising teenagers and helping them into college.
- Tino broke his knee, Renae had endometriosis, Gabe broke his wrist, Brandy rolled a car, Ethan shot out a window in Gabe’s truck, Heather had a baby, Renae got divorced.
- I loved people who suffered through cancer, had an abortion, were foreclosed on their home, lost a job, went to jail, had surgeries, got divorced, fought with children, were abused, committed suicide, were hospitalized, lost their reputation, buried their children or spouses, and otherwise started over again.
On the other hand, while all this (and more) was going on in my world and other people’s lives, good things happened, and are still happening.
- I brought up amazing children, who themselves have amazing children. As my hero Kahlil Gibran reminds us, life goes forward, not backward. (Donald Trump is already 70; you and your children are the future.) I was able to give each of you an education, a respect for nature, and a strong familial relationship. You are good, kind, hard-working, responsible, nurturing, and loving people. That’s what the world needs. Pass that on to your children, and to your friends and their children. Life is an evolution, not an event. Keep trying to make it better.
- All my children found and give mature love as adults, and they have made meaningful lives with wonderful partners. They also show love to their families, their friends, their neighbors. I am so proud of each of you.
- Despite whoever was in the Oval Office, I was able to mend a broken heart, more than once. I know what’s really important to me, and I don’t get so caught in the drama of the news cycle. It’s good to know that this is possible. Life goes on, and it is worth the effort to see what’s next, to know new people, to try new things, to go new places. There is life after life as you knew it, and there will be life after Donald Trump goes home again.
- Despite whatever was going on in city hall, or the state capitol, or the Capitol Beltway, I always believed that what I did mattered. Not because I had a select or elite position, but because I know that the everyday little things add up. All politics are local, and I focused on what I could manage in my own way. Starting at home, always.
- I still have access to new ideas, books, movies, music, and art. I can avoid the “real” world and all its drama by the diet I feed my mind. I choose to read positive stories with happy endings, I listen to uplifting music, I surround myself with the stuff that makes me feel good. I know people who have lost all that and had to flee their homes in a communist country, and they still survive; they live better now. Be a role model to your children, give them hope.
- I still had time to experience life, absent the stream of bad news trying to assault me. The Little League games, the indoor soccer matches, the hockey games I still don’t understand, the basketball trips, the Disneyland days, that bus trip to Duluth, the chanting of a choir, the sun in Jamaica, the wine in Italy, country music line-dancing, the cross-country road trips, camping, geo-caching for treasures, hugs and smiles from granddarlings, the singing birds in my own backyard, the antics of puppies and old dogs, good coffee. The mental breaks are vital to my health. I want to see happiness in pictures and videos, share in the moments you think are important, stay in touch with my friends. There is little room for political drama, except West Wing on Netflix!
I don’t think I am abdicating any personal responsibility by not publicly voicing my displeasure at the state of the world and contributing to that negative noise. I have chosen another way, and I do take full responsibility for my personal condition. Every week at Toastmasters I join like-minded people who are interested in making the world a better place by improving their communication and leadership skills. As I see it, the world is desperately in need of these attributes. Last fall I had the incredible opportunity to see 144 counties sharing a weekend in the pursuit of a better world, at a Toastmasters International conference. Proof that we can live in a different world. That’s how I serve, what I choose to be a part of. As John Lennon said, you may say I’m dreamer, but I’m not the only one.
Right now there is uncertainty because everything is changing. Remember, not all change is bad, and in the final analysis, at least we are in the USA, not some third world country or communist regime. It’s never been a perfect world, and it likely won’t be while we live on this earth. That’s what heaven is for. And there is always hope for a better, different tomorrow, because you are here and I am here. We can make a difference, we can make choices, we can prove the naysayers wrong about how bad it is. And with my rose-colored glasses on, just think what it might be like if Donald actually does some good!
I challenge you to continue to be grateful for what you have, and to not dwell on what you don’t have. I am grateful that you all are in my life. You and your partners, your children, your friends. Keep on loving your children, encouraging them, playing with them, nurturing their positive spirits. Someday probably we will look back on this week and all we feared, but for now I will remember that January 20, 2017, is my son’s birthday, and the day I graduate from the National Speaker’s Association Speaker Academy. I don’t have any inclination to cast a shadow on this day by worrying about other things.
With everlasting love, Mom