Hindsight is 2020, Right?

Happy New Year, y’all. Yes, I’m still here. But I’ve been elsewhere and otherwise occupied for a longer while than I intended. I’ve been on a kind of sabbatical, I guess. We’ll call it “a sabbatical” because that sounds official, although I don’t know that I garnered much rest, and the only new skill I might have acquired for purposes of writing was fostering a deeper, more seething method of creative fermentation. Well, one hopes it will prove to be creative. Too much seething can make for a bitter brew. Time will tell. Check back in a couple of weeks and we’ll see if I am creating or sitting on the couch ruining the touchscreen TV remote with Dorito dust-stained fingers. But I digress. Naturally. Those of you who know me personally know how I like to remark that my life is just one long interruption of itself. But before I go too far astray …

I come here today to ponder “hindsight.” Hindsight is defined as recognizing the realities, potential issues, and details etc. of an event that has already passed or a decision that has already been made. The saying goes that hindsight is 20/20 because presumably we already know everything. But do we? Is your hindsight 20/20? If we are to learn from our mistakes and missteps, it must be. Yet, how many of us really examine the past event or decision from all angles required and in the depth required to have 20/20 vision truly? I will sometimes consider a decision made or an action not taken, assume the outcome would have been different (better) had I done something differently and then I move on. I. Move. On. I often fail to move through. I don’t always sit with my actions or decisions, place them back in the context of circumstances with which I was dealing, and really ferret out whether there might have been a different outcome or whether that difference might have mattered. If our hindsight really was 20/20, would we continue to be haunted by the same mistakes, failures, annoyances, bad habits, flawed decision-making? Maybe. Then what good is having 20/20 vision if we aren’t going to do anything with it?

We’ve talked about this before as it relates to writing poetry. The poet has a willingness to move through painful things in order to examine and reflect on them instead of moving on from them as quickly as possible. Poets are odd that way and are more willing to take on the emotional burden of negative experiences (perhaps, not more “willing,” just less able to avoid it); but they also are able to experience and share the full deep well of joy, so it works out. The thing is, poet or not, everyone must move through things in order to learn, to heal, to breathe again. Yes, yes — some things are not worth all that time and effort; move ON from some things. Learning to tell the difference is also a skill.

It is the year 2020. It’s just too on the nose to ignore. I think in order for my vision of what is ahead to be better, my hindsight really does need to be better. 2020 will be a year of change for me and, perhaps for the first time, the notion of change doesn’t scare me. The idea of moving on from things that have proven unhelpful exhilarates me. Some of my “sabbatical” was spent stewing in the cauldron of a recipe that just hasn’t been working for me. I started changing the recipe by adding new ingredients without really thinking about it much, until I did think about it. Intentionality is another good attribute, yes? Forget the recipe metaphor. Remember this: the decisions you make matter. But you aren’t in charge of everything. You are buffeted by circumstances and other people’s decisions and actions and weather and the entire universe of things you cannot control. And yet you have so much power. You are a free agent. Claim your agency.

All the while I have been contemplating 2020, the concept of “change” has been a siren call. So I guess we’ll be doing some things differently around here. I’ll be making good use of hindsight because that’s where I’ll find my baseline. It won’t always be pretty, but past mistakes are only millstones for people who want to avoid change, who will accept the lie that “it’s too late” or “there’s no hope” in order to justify their refusal to claim their own agency. I refuse to do that anymore. I invite you to consider “change,” to get comfortable with the notion of it, and to remember that small changes can make big differences, like the difference between a hug and a handshake, or the difference between choosing to create or ruining the touchscreen TV remote with Dorito dust-stained fingers. FWIW, eating Doritos and watching TV during the day would also be a change for me, but not the kind I’m looking forward to experiencing. In conclusion, now seems like the appropriate time to offer this bit of well-worn advice just for laughs: Make lasting changes! I love oxymorons. Meet you back here soon. SBL

Wherein I almost (almost) quit writing poetry forever. Or, alternatively, “Thank you, Arthur Chu.”

Toodles, Poetry! And Humankind?

Some weeks ago, it occurred to me that I have no place in the world of poetry anymore.

I have spent much of the last year devoted to finishing a first draft of a lengthy historical novel. I have continued to interact with my beloved poetry group, but I cannot say I truly was interacting with my own poetry. When the question “Should you still be writing poetry?” arose from the depths of my subconscious, my first instinct was to tamp it down, and hard, but it just wouldn’t go away.

I’ve taken extended vacations away from “poetry world” before and I’ve also been frustrated at times with all aspects of what we call “poetry,” from writing to revising to submitting to publishing, etc., but this time felt different.  So I decided to look that persistent little query in the eye and, behold, I watched as it morphed into, “WHY should you (or ANYONE) continue to write poetry?” Wait. What? Me or ANYONE? Oh, no, I thought. So it’s not, “I have no place in the world of poetry,” it’s “poetry has no place in the world.” Hang it up, Natasha Tretheway. As brilliant and brutally beautiful as your work is, it’s no use. Have I really started to buy into the “Poetry is dead” tripe? Ugh, I thought. Am I nihilist? Has Game of Thrones done this to me? Of course poetry is dead! EVERYone’s dead except the assholes! Damn you, George R.R. Martin!

Continue reading

If You Are My Friend, And You Are a Man, You’ll Read This

The confluence of the death of Maya Angelou, a strong woman with a strong voice, just the kind of woman we need now, and the Elliot Rodger rampage brought on by his hatred of women (yes, as well as his mental illness), has prompted me to take an afternoon and write this out to you, my male friends.  Because this tragedy could give us opportunities to talk about so many important things, like reasonable gun control, the state of mental health care in this country, and/or the disgusting epidemic of celebrating infamy in our culture (the Kardashianization of America, if you will), I encourage you to think about those things, and discuss them amongst yourselves.  However, let me be clear:  I’m going to use this space to talk about the way women are treated in this culture.  Before you go all “Not ALL men” on me, or make fun of the social media phenomenon of #YESAllWomen, just go read some of these “manosphere ideas” *  and tell me whether you’d feel comfortable being thought of and discussed this way.  I’m thought of this way, as is my daughter, and my mother, and all the women I know, by men just like those quoted in that last linked article, and those sites that Rodger frequented.  Now tell me you don’t know any men who think of women that way.  If you say you don’t, you’re either very lucky or very lying.  I’ve known some men who think like Elliot Rodger thought.  Plenty, in fact.  Now let me tell you a story.

The first time I visited New York City, I was 22 years old.  I went with some friends from law school.  We were at a bar early one evening before dinner.  One of my friends and I went to the restroom, and walking back through the crowded bar to rejoin our friends, someone behind me grabbed my hair, and jerked me back hard, at the same time, demanding loudly, “Where the f**k have you been?”  Clearly, this was a case of mistaken identity and I feel terrible for the girl for whom he mistook me and the kind of life she must have been living, but I got up on my tiptoes and yelled right into his face, “Who the f**k are you?”  I continued to harangue him until my friend, in fear for my safety, pulled me away.  And do you know what he did?  He pretended not to hear me, or see me.  No apology.  No acknowledgement of the battery he had just committed.  Couldn’t be bothered.  If that had happened to you, would you be okay with it?

That’s just one story about how some men feel that the public sphere is theirs alone, and that women are just objects in that sphere; objects that also belong to them.  And it’s not even my earliest such story, by a long shot.  Nor is it my most recent such story.  Nor is it the worst.  And here’s the thing.  I never know when the next story is going to happen.  Of course, none of us know what fresh hell the future holds, but I’m talking about a very real, specific unease with which I’ve had some experience, just like all women.   I may have one of these experiences the next time I go to the grocery store.  After all, it’s happened there before.  My real experiences being treated like I am  chattel span the gamut from merely annoying to truly frightening.  Have you ever been leered at unapologetically, stared at from head to toe in public by someone you’d never seen before?  Someone physically larger than you?  Someone accompanied by someone else, also physically larger than you, also staring?  Have you ever watched while someone stared at your 17-year-old daughter that way?

Have you ever been called a “whore” or a “bitch” by a complete stranger?  How about by someone you know?  Have you ever been called a “feminazi” because you spoke up for something you believed in?  Have you ever been told you couldn’t participate in some activity because “you’re a girl?”  Have you ever been made to feel that your sex life/attractiveness/physical appearance was fair game for public discussion, dissection, and, ultimately, judgement?

Have you ever worried about whether someone was going to slip something into your daughter’s drink?  How about your son’s drink or your own?  I’m guessing not so much.  Do you ever feel uneasy when you have to pull off the highway to refuel when it’s late?

Look, I’m not paranoid.  I don’t live in fear.  But I do live in reality.  We live in a society where there are such things as “rape drugs” and rape jokes and rape threats as “jokes.”  We live in a so-called democracy where a woman can be paid a lower salary for the same work as her male counterpart, and it barely registers as unfair.  We elect male politicians (and complicit female politicians) who think a woman’s birth control and contraceptive health is more their business than hers and her doctor’s.   The whole issue is more complex than I can attempt to parse here, and there’s so much to consider when we start to talk about gender issues, but the point I hope I am making is that most, if not all, my women friends will recognize themselves in one of the above scenarios.  And that’s just not okay.

So, if you are my friend, and you are a man, I thank you for not being part of the problem.  But will you also stand with me and all the women I love and be part of the solution?

 

*You can go to the original sources, just as I did, but you’ll have to find your own way – I’m not going to drive more traffic to such sites.

Sign My Petition! (And Other Insanity)

If my friend Laura were still with us, and she could’ve spent her birthday today following someone around just to get material for her next comedic essay, she might’ve picked me.  How might she describe this mess of a thing I laughingly called a schedule today?  I wish she were here to write it, but I’m going to try and tell it like I think she might have told it.

Before I launch into all that, because I’m as likely as not to forget it if I don’t ask now even though I did put it in the title:  would y’all sign my petition?  I want to change the name of “work out” to “work in” because, if I manage to get any exercise on any given day, it’s just because I worked it in.  And usually that results in my schedule not really working out.

Onward!

As with many a splendored thing, this new schedule I’ve put together for 2014 looks great on paper.   My first priority is writing, and I have rededicated myself to one project in particular (some of y’all who know me are thinking, She means re-rededicated).  It seems like everybody and her brother has a “strategic plan” these days,  so I came up with one of those to help me accomplish my 2014 goals.  You should know I have certain personal challenges which are relevant to this discussion: I am not a morning person and even when I wake up early, I cannot be sure I am a fully functioning human until about 10:00 a.m.; I do not multi-task, and I tell myself that multi-tasking is the work of the devil so I can feel better about not doing it; I am a slave to lists, so much so that if I veer from the day’s list, I will make another list just so I can catalog and check off the things I actually did do – some people call that a diary, but, whatever.   I’m also one of those people who gets more things done the more things I have to do. 

So.  Because of that last thing I mentioned up there, I thought concocting a daily schedule with “extra” things To Do built into it would be a great help to me!  Let that simmer for a minute… . Continue reading

Light and Dark

Image 2 - Version 2  I make no secret of the fact that I love where I live, and cherish it.  It’s a great blessing to me to look out my kitchen windows and see the lake that has played such a big part in my life.  If there is such a thing as mindless meditation, then I often am provoked to it, just staring out these windows.

Today, in our cove, the lake is that greenblack color – not the bottle green tipped with a hint of gray when the clouds and sun dance together on its surface.  This green is inkier, and the way the waves are moving just now all slow and languid, it is easy to imagine it viscous and even warm.

Image 1 - Version 2

Further out, peering at the merging main channel, all is some version of gray: dark water leads to a bright silvery line of mist on the far shore, up to a charcoal stand of trees, and up further still to the mop water clouds.

When I watch the lake move like today, I wonder if it’s all simply the force of wind and rain, or whether the old river’s current has it stirring all the way to its red muddy bottom, knocking loose the skeletons of the farms and homesteads underwater now – old tractors, barn remnants, rusted milk buckets, lockets, lies, guns, betrayals …

Image - Version 2Having lived near this lake most of my life, I love it and fear it.  It’s not the annual tales of the sighting of a hopelessly lost alligator, or the stories about the “catfish as big as a man” that scare me.  It’s the things men do, and have always done, that they bury deep, that might be buried deep right out there right now.  Deep, but stirring …