Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Missed opportunities.

Today is one of those days. I guess you could call it post-election let down. Like a hangover that you didn't drink enough to deserve and now you can't chase it away with a fountain Coke.

Total injustice.

Women have less rights, Republicans have more control, Millenials didn't get the memo that it was election day and people on my side of the aisle are having a really bad day.

The whole thing feels like a bad example of too little, too late. Now that we've lost our rights and control of our bodies we are up in arms, flooding the Internet with our vitriol and committed defiance. WE WILL OVERCOME. But where we were yesterday? And before that? Besides the "I voted" sticker selfies, I didn't see a whole lot of activism.

I am, of course, speaking for myself. I voted yesterday and received about a billion emails from various DNC committees which I complained about (and occasionally contributed $10 to) but that's about it. I did as little as I could to be involved while not stepping one inch out of my comfort zone.

And now? I want to complain and rant and rave about the lunacy and injustice but how can I when I did so little with the opportunity I'd been given?

the opportunity that women before me fought so hard for...

I am feeling particularly sensitive to this at the moment because last night a friend passed away and death has a way of making everything feel like so much more. And the two situations are feeling all wrapped up in each other.

We met Alan in 2004, right after we moved to Nashville. I remember being so surprised that he had recently had a heart transplant. He was so warm and full of life - not at all sickly or fragile like I would have imagined. He exuded positivity and had a way of making you feel like he saw you for you and he liked what he saw. The kind of guy who seemed to make everyone in a room feel a little bit brighter.

He threw a party for his one year anniversary with his new heart. Partly to celebrate his new lease on life; party to thank all the nurses that made his recovery possible.

Over the years we didn't lose touch so much as we just carried on. We would occasionally run into each other at a party or comment on one another's posts on Facebook but that pretty much became the extent of our relationship.

Which is how most casual friendships go. You meet, you hit it off, you maybe hang out a few times, you realize your lives are pretty different and full and making room for a real friendship is probably not going to happen, you stay friendly but disconnected and simply move on with your life.

So this morning when Bill texted me - so sad about Alan - it was easy to guess what had happened. Facebook kept us connected enough that I knew he was having complications. I knew his heart was not as strong as it had once been. I knew hew was struggling - with his health as well as just in general. And yet, I knew this text had nothing to do with any of that. I knew it meant he had passed away.

The outpouring of love and loss and sadness on Facebook confirmed my hunch. I wanted to join in - to say how great he had been and how much he'd be missed - but I felt like a total sham. Like too little, too late in the worst possible way. Reaching out now felt easy. But when he was alive and hurting and could have really used a friend? I guess that was too much to ask.

My sister called right when all of this hit me. I sat down to write with a vague notion that there were some things here worth digging into but, to be honest, I wasn't really feeling it. I wasn't feeling sad or disappointed or angry or anything except maybe a little guilty. But as soon as I started to write, all I could think was, "We're all such assholes."

"Hey Moose," I said, trying to pretend like I hadn't been crying.

"What's up?"

I told her about Amendment 1 passing and how it means that a woman's right to choose has been taken away and given to the state. How everyone is so upset NOW but didn't really seem to care much before it passed. How it feels like all elections are being bought and yet I don't even care enough to get upset about it. How the amendments are worded in a way that most people couldn't begin to understand them and we're just like, "Well, I guess that's how it is..."

How is our anger justified if we don't take action when we have the chance?

And then I told her why I was really sad.

We knew Alan was going to die. It sounds harsh but it's true (if not from this, from something, right?). And yet I just sat back, waiting, wondering, doing NOTHING. I hadn't reached out or brought him dinner or dropped him a comment to let him know we were thinking about him. I honestly hadn't done one single thing. I know we were not close. But I also knew he was hurting and did nothing.

How many of the people flooding his Facebook page this morning had done the same? I have no way of knowing, of course, but I'm willing to bet I was not the only one. We do this. Let opportunities pass us by then regret that we didn't do more. We pay our respects. We commiserate in the aftermath. We choose regret over action. Why?

My sister reminded me that none of us can do it all. "You can't go making casseroles for EVERYONE. You take really good care of the people you DO take care of. Maybe that's enough?" Then she said she hoped she didn't make me feel too much better because writing about this kind of stuff is something I can do. "We all have different strengths," she said. "Maybe yours is to make people think about things in a different light."


But I also don't want to let myself off the hook that easy.

In the movie Alive Inside, one of the things that blew my mind was that no matter how easy or effective or available or inexpensive bringing music to people in nursing homes with Alzheimer's and Dementia was, it wasn't until a video of a 90 year old man coming alive once he heard his music went viral that anyone cared. Nursing homes were saying no to the program left and right. Not for any other reason than it was just more work than they wanted to do. Sure it changes lives But once millions of people commented on how amazing this video was on YouTube, suddenly everyone wanted in. All the nays turned to yays. And it only took ALL OF US to make it happen.

I think it's the same with politics. With everything. Public opinion matters. Tides can be changed. But it takes a lot more than a vote or a $10 donation to make things happen (although, that's better than nothing). I have no idea where to start or what to do. I just know that I'd rather take action NOW than wish I had later.

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