Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Shopping for a Candidate

I should begin by saying that in the last election, I voted for Dennis Kucinich. Not only did I vote for him, I relinquished my status as an Independent and registered as a Democrat for the first time in my life so that I could vote for him in the primary. I discovered later that in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts one can vote in a party’s primary even if one is not registered in that party, so the gesture wasn’t necessary, but the point is, I was committed enough to do it.

This time around, despite my fondness for Congressman Kucinich, which was intensified after meeting him last time, but then somewhat dampened by his decision to marry someone other than me, I was feeling like maybe I ought to get in with the cool kids. I mean, this time around, it’s not a choice between dull and duller, or lame and lamer, there are actually some exciting candidates in the running.

After much internal struggle—do you support the guy whose faith and politics you really love, but who has a snowball’s chance in hell of getting elected, the woman, or the black guy?--I decided to go for the woman.

So, I went online to buy some Hillary gear.

I haven’t paid awfully close attention to the Presidential campaigns yet, although I’m horrified that Mitt Romney is running (having endured him as governor here) and I did watch one of the debates, the one co-branded with YouTube and hosted by Anderson Cooper. (He sure has come a long way since hosting The Mole, hasn’t he?)

I thought that Obama gave the best, most Presidential performance, with Hillary a close second. Sadly, my favorite candidate was the butt of a (really funny) joke that he didn’t quite get. But, that’s okay. We still love you, Dennis.

I started my Presidential schwag shopping with Hillary because, after some unsettling conversations with some of my favorite female (and feminist, I think) friends, I realized that, despite her fantastic fundraising abilities and her performance in the polls, there seems to be a real lack of support among the people I think should be automatically supporting her: white, progressive, liberal and/or Democrat women. I mean, she’s a woman. Don’t you understand what this means? How important it is for your daughters? For us? For the world? 43 consecutive white, male Presidents and you want to quibble over her haircut or her ability to alienate the right wing? Come ON.

So, I decided it was time to put my money—and possibly my fashion—where my mouth is and gear up. Unfortunately, I didn’t find anything I really wanted to buy at Hillary’s site, with the possible exception of an “Asian American [sic] & Pacific Islanders for Hillary” button, which I thought would be funny on me.

Other groups singled out were African Americans [sic], Jews, gays, nurses, veterans, women, children, and educators. The only one I fit into is "women," but, honestly, while I am supporting Hillary primarily because she is a woman, I don’t think I want to wear a Women for Hillary button. I was looking for something really stylish or really clever. Something that made a great statement. I still display on the wall of my office the "Vote for Hillary's Husband," buttons I got when I volunteered for the Clinton/Gore campaign in '92. I guess I was hoping there might be a "Vote for Bill's Wife," button to complete the set, or something...but there wasn't anything like that.

I was on the brink of buying her somewhat stylish and kind of clever slim-fitting signature tee shirt (for $20.08 plus shipping and handling), but then my best friend reminded me that I never wear tee shirts. Oh, Hillary. Why don’t you sell tank tops? Why?

I wasn’t getting quite what I wanted from this candidate, who, on the face of it seems to be my ideal match. So, I decided to just, you know, take a peek at Barak Obama’s site. Now, this guy, he knows how to give the people what they want. If you want to back Obama, you can do it with a cozy fleece blanket, a wide selection of gorgeous buttons, or—yes, that’s right—ladies tank tops. Unfortunately, most of the attractive, affordable, made-in-the-USA tank tops sport the “Women for Obama” slogan, which I find alienating. However, Barak did not stop there. There are a plethora of shirts and tanks for women, including several color schemes with cap sleeves and cute little hot pink baby doll number with Obama’s face between the boobs—for only ten bucks! I was nearly sold…but then I thought…perhaps I should just look at Kucinich’s merchandise, just to see what’s out there. I mean, before I write him off completely, why don't I see what he can do for me?

And that’s when he got me. As soon as I landed at his web site, my heart (and my wallet) was won.

My favorite candidate; the guy who tells the truth and soldiers on and genuinely cares about America; the guy with the hot wife and the UFO sighting: he was offering a signed, pocket-sized Constitution, just like the one he carries around. He carries around a Constitution! How could you NOT love this guy.

So, Hillary can keep her “Let’s Make History” shirts and Obama can keep his sexy tank. I gave my $50 to the Kucinich campaign, in exchange for my very own signed pocket-sized copy of the Constitution. I put my money where my heart is.

Tonight, I watched a YouTube video of Dennis speaking before an ani difranco concert, and with tears in my eyes, I went back to the site. His campaign is trying to raise $1 million by tomorrow. They have, to date, $277,000 toward this goal. Money given before the end of tomorrow (November 29) is eligible for matching funds. So, tonight, I gave another $40, in exchange for a collection of buttons, stickers, and signs. I’m going to give some to my mother, who introduced me to the candidate in the first place, and use the rest to spread the word.

You may think that Dennis Kucinich is unelectable, but this is only true if you don’t vote for him. One of the great things about America is that if enough people believe, anyone is electable. And the more money he has, the longer he can stay in the race, and the longer he stays in the race, the more he can influence the debate. This is a different sort of victory than winning the White House, but a victory nonetheless.

I’m hoping you’ll give to the Kucinich campaign, and that you’ll give him your vote in your state’s primary or caucus. And if his message of peace and prosperity doesn’t sway you, if honesty, courage, and compassion aren’t enough to get you to open your wallet or your mouth, then you might at least swing by the Kucinich campaign store. They have a coffee mug that’s very tempting, and a kerchief for your dog that’s practically irresistible.

Naomi Graychase first registered to vote in 1990. The first election in which she was old enough to vote was 1992. At that time, she was living in Washington, DC doing an internship at the Smithsonian. She spent her free time touring the museums and monuments of her nation's capitol, and volunteering for the Clinton/Gore campaign. She shook Governor Clinton's hand once, as he was arriving at the Washington Hilton (which she recognized as the site of the Reagan assassination attempt, an event which she watched on TV at the age of nine while sitting in a bar with her father. )

Naomi took the results of the last two elections very hard, but she has tried to do her part to combat the darkness at work in American society and politics by forming Sister Spit Northampton, registering voters, and encouraging others through her writing, performances, and speaking engagements to do what is necessary in times of darkness: make more light.

After voting in four Presidential elections, she's batting .500, which would be good if she were a slugger, but which feels pretty crummy, given how many people have died as a result of President Bush remaining in office.

Despite having nearly lost her faith in the Supreme Court, the democratic process, and the American electorate, she is still moved to tears every time she enters a polling place. She loves to vote. I mean, she LOVES to vote.

If you have abandoned your town's voting booth, if you've given up on the democratic process or the American electorate, she hopes that you will see that this is what the bad guys are counting on. She hopes that you will re-emerge, stronger, determined, more optimistic, and that you will re-discover the beautiful privilege of voting for yourself. People died so that you could do this. Don't let them down.


Friday, November 23, 2007

Staying In: Thanksgiving (or Alohomora?)

I hate Thanksgiving. Don’t make me explain why.

Other people are with people today. I am alone. It shouldn’t bother me, not any more than any other Thursday, especially since I’ve had so much practice, but it does.

My big plan was to watch every episode of Californication in my Showtime On Demand, but the On Demand isn’t working. I called my cable company to get it fixed, but it didn't work.

I said, “I’m sorry you have to work on Thanksgiving,” to the tech support woman.

In the silence that followed, I could hear the keys of her keyboard clicking through the phone.

I could have gone somewhere. I got invited to my neighbor Kelly’s family’s Thanksgiving in Connecticut. But…you know how it is. I can’t…go out. I can’t go in a car to a strange place and be with people I don’t know. Not on Thanksgiving. It’s too much. I might unravel. I might start to cry, to sob. I just can’t go.

It makes me sad that I can’t go.

My biggest fear right now is that something will happen to Peter before he gets here. I’m afraid that after all this work and time, when I finally have a good life within reach, someone who loves me and wants to stay with me; just when I could have things like Thanksgiving—or any other Thursday—with someone who knows my name (and loves me), I’m convinced on some level that he will be killed before he can get here. In a car crash. I’ll get a phone call and…it’ll be terrible. And I’ll barely, just barely live through it. More pain. More alone. More agony. How much more life can I live like this, day-by-day, hour-by-hour, minute-by-minute? How much more can be asked of me? (This is a dangerous question to ask.)

I told this fear to Peter last night. He is sure that he is not going to die in a car crash before he gets here.

It snowed in Colorado yesterday. Peter thought he had his JEEP in four-wheel-drive, but he didn’t. He hit a slippery patch and slid into oncoming traffic. He didn’t die, though. He righted himself and got out of the way before disaster struck.

I need to right myself and get out of the way before disaster strikes.

I am struggling with a terrible depression. It came, and it will not release me. In my journal on Tuesday I wrote:

I’m so sad.
Like I am permeable
and this thing, it’s like
it comes and occupies
my space, my body, my head

In my grief on Monday, I lay down in my bed, and I cracked open. I cried. When it comes like that, I strain against it. It’s like cramping, seizing, only it’s my spiritual heart, my emotional heart, not my muscles. Although, they ache, too.

And then, from inside the darkness, a flash of light, and I remembered that I can ask for help. I sat up. And said, fiercely, aloud, “Help me.” It was an order, not a request. Not begging. It was a command. “Help me.”

I thought of Dumbledore saying that there will always be help at Hogwarts for those who ask. I thought of Pru and the work we’ve done. And I thought about God. And I said, “Help me. Help me, God, and the universe. Help me love and light. Help me every part of myself that knows how to help me: help me. Now.”

And before I knew it, I was rising. And the pain had passed for a bit. And I finished my work day.

I am worried that my worrying will destroy my thing with Peter. It’s magical thinking, I know, but I’m worried that my conviction that he will die rather than reach me will bring it about, influence him, change the course of events. I am reminded of my healer friend Craig. He says I get in my own way.

I need to get out of my own way.

I told Peter about my concerns last night, and about my depression. It was a confession of sorts. He had some idea already of course, but I wanted to make sure he wasn’t being tricked into coming here, tricked into thinking I’m always alright, when I’m not.

“It gets pretty bad sometimes,” I said.

“Well,” he said. “What you have to remember is that now, there are two of us.”

Don’t you just love him? For someone whose greatest agony is that she is always alone, could there be any better balm than hearing these words, now, there are two of us.

He likes that I’m interesting. He says that my sadness and depression are part of what makes me special. He doesn’t want me to be depressed; he admits that it’s a nuisance. But it’s not a deal breaker. Not even close. He says my intense ability to give, to feel, to open, to share—these things mean I also feel sadness profoundly. He understands and appreciates this. He said it’s like being in a village where everyone eats the same amount of food, and you can eat ten times that amount, but no one else understands. Then you meet someone with the same appetite.

He also says he will never stop trying to cheer me up. And that I’m a trooper who is strong. I love that he sees this.

As for my worry about his premature death meaning the end of our relationship before it has really even begun, he has faith that he will live a long and healthy life. When he decided to quit smoking, it was, he said, because if it means the difference between getting to be with me until he’s 82 instead of 80, it’s worth it.

I told Peter I feel like I’ve been asked to run a thousand thousand marathons in this lifetime, and even though I’m so close to the final finish line, my legs and lungs are giving out. Sometimes after a journey that long, you just can’t take one more step, even if you’re within sight of the finish line. You can’t believe you got so close, but no matter how much willpower you have, if your legs have turned to jelly you simply cannot make them move.

Peter says he is coming. He says he is trying to get here before anything happens. He says, very kindly, that if I doubt that, then he hasn’t been clear. So, he will continue to tell me, and to act accordingly, until I have more faith in that than I do in my own predilection for doom.

I was very upset last weekend about the prospect of losing Norman, who I found out on Saturday is beginning the final stages of his life. I talked to Peter about it, and he said it was interesting that he and Norman entered my life at the same time (1989). Peter went on his own journey and Norman stayed with me. Now, as Norman is about to pass on, Peter returns. This cheered me up. In my journal, I wrote:

I love that Peter saw through the mess and the dismay to the heart of the problem. Yes, I love Calvin and Norman so much, and the idea of losing them is so profoundly grief-inducing.

But what really, really hurts is the feeling that I will then be totally alone. I’ll have no reason to live.

I’m not able to say this or even know this in a way I can communicate in my conversation with Peter. But I’m feeling it intensely.

And he knows it.

He knows.

He is steady. And there is a softness to his speech. It’s like when you fall asleep on the couch, and you get cold, but you’re too tired to get up, and then someone puts a blanket over you, and you warm up and relax and fall back to sleep. Peter gave me a blanket last night. An uncomplicated gesture that made all the difference. For him, the answer to the problem was as obvious as the answer to the problem of a cold person on a couch. He could see what I needed. And he gave it.

Peter didn’t die in a car crash yesterday. I should be rejoicing in that good news, instead of worrying about what bad thing will happen next. It just seems inevitable that my dreams will collapse…again.

“But, I thought you were ‘entering a time of transition, a new phase, a new chapter, a new era,’” said Peter, quoting me back to me, reminding me what I used to feel was true, before I sank beneath the surface and forgot that I can float, that I can swim, that I even own a boat. I remembered this, fondly, vaguely, from afar.

“Oh, yeah…” I said.

When I told Jon Reed that I thought I should be happy because Peter didn’t die in a car crash and Norman survived the pit bull attack (what a fucking day!), Jon Reed laughed and said, “Well, if we’re going to count the absence of terrible things as ‘good,’ then that’s true. You should be happy. But we’re--”

“—we’re not those kind of people!”

We both said it together. And we laughed. We laughed hard.

I talked to my friend Tom yesterday. He called from the road. He was on the way to a ribbon-cutting ceremony in Nevada. He’s formed a nonprofit group that is giving away millions of dollars in electricity via solar power to schools and hospitals in Nevada. He lives in California. He just had a baby. And he has a job. But he does this, because he can. Because it’s right and powerful and feels good. I love this about him.

I told Tom about Peter.

“I can tell this guy is right for you,” he said, “because I know you would rather suffer than settle.”

And he’s right. I hate suffering. But I hate settling more.

A friend of mine from my hometown, who is also friends with my sister-in-law, Cindy, said in an e-mail this week, “I really hope things work out for you. I know Cindy gets a bit worried about you. Says you put your whole heart into things and afraid you will get hurt. I say go for it!!!”

And I wrote back, “Thank you. I'm with you on that. Cindy doesn't need to worry. Peter is so good to me, and very committed. It's beautiful. She's right that I put my whole heart into things, and yes, I get hurt a lot, but I think it's the only way to get anything truly wonderful. So, hard as it's been, everything I've gone through was worth it to get me to Peter. And, even if we don't work out, we won't have been wrong to have given it everything we had when we tried.”

Peter and I agree on this wholeheartedly. That even if it doesn’t work out, we won’t have been wrong to have tried. We do not believe that at the end of our lives we will only wish we had been more cautious in life or given less to the things we believed in.

I feel I have run a thousand, thousand marathons, when I only signed up to run one. Maybe two. Three at the most. I am jelly-legged and wheezing, cramped and straining, leaking salt from my pores and seeing double. I feel the ground rising up and slamming into my cheekbone. And then I’m confused to be lying on the ground, pondering a vertical horizon.

I am alone on Thanksgiving. But I am not homeless or broke or hungry or even technically single. And I still have Norman. And comfortable shoes. But the absence of terrible things does not equal “good,” (even though I still suspect that it should).

I asked God for help this week. I asked light and love and the universe for help. I asked myself for help. And what came was Peter, on the other end of the phone, not having died in a car wreck. And Norman, fighting off a pitbull like he was a teenager, instead of an aged old man entering his final days.

I asked God to help me and this morning, I woke up after a night filled with dreams I can no longer remember, and one phrase kept repeating--you know the tune--over and over. It’s been there all day:

Let my love open the door
Let my love open the door
Let my love open the door to your heart
Let my love open the door, ooh
Let my love open the door,
Let my love open the door, ooh
Let my love open the door
to your heart.

I hate Thanksgiving. And, I am alone today. But I do have someplace I could go, if I were able, and wanted to.

Instead, I woke up to a mild day and the sunlight in my room felt gentle. I said good morning to Norman and I washed my face. Let my love open the door, oooh, let my love open the door.

I got dressed in warm comfy clothes. I put my hair in a ponytail. I gave Norman his medication and his treat. Let my love open the door, oooh, let my love open the door.

I made some coffee. I tried to make my On Demand work. I called the cable company for help, but they told me to wait an hour. Let my love open the door. Let my love open the door. Oooh.

I went next door, to take care of my neighbors’ dog. I fed her. Gave her hugs and loving words. I let her out to pee. And then I sat down on the couch. Let my love open the door, Let my love open the door.

I turned on the cable, and their On Demand was working. The dog curled up under the blankets at my feet. The kitten who has never let me hold her came and climbed onto my chest. Let my love open the door, ooh. Let my love open the door.

I turned on the show I had so badly wanted and I watched it, three whole episodes, and I drank my coffee, with the dog snuggled up against my legs and the kitty on my chest. Let my love open the door. Let my love open the door.

After a while, the kitten began to suckle my hand, fiercely. She suckled and suckled, and kneaded my hand with her paws. Her razor sharp kitten claws cut puncture wounds and gashes into the back of my hand, but I didn’t pull away. Let my love open the door, oooh.

There was something so tender, so raw about her need. She survived an abusive beginning and was rescued by my neighbors. She’s several months old now, but snuggled up there with me, she returned to her infancy and suckled and suckled away. Fruitless and desperate and instinctual, her suckling was primal. And I did not turn her away. It was something I could give. I maneuvered my hand to avoid to brunt of her claws, and I held her and let her suckle my hand through two whole episodes. Let my love open the door.

I told Tom that the biggest problem in my life is my desire to have one person I can count on. I want one reliable source of strength and sustenance, of love and stability and affection. But this is not how it goes for me. I have not been able to count on anyone to always be there, to come if I call, to help. But what is also true, the hard, hard lesson for me to grasp, is that life always provides me with what I need, I just never know where from. My life has been visited by a cavalcade of angels, who arrive, unbidden—or so I think—and offer me just what I need, like a hand to suckle on Thanksgiving.

Let my love open the door, Let my love open the door, Let my love open the door.

On this day, I needed company and affection. I needed to be needed. I needed to not be alone. I woke up with a song in my head and sunlight in my room. Let my love open the door. I woke up thinking I would watch some cable at my house, but instead, I was forced to go next door. Let my love open the door. Where I sat on my neighbors’ couch, with a dog who loves me and a kitten who still needs a mom. Let my love open the door, ooh. Let my love open the door. I gave those animals a place to be taken care of, and they in turn, allowed me to channel the love I couldn’t seem to access for myself. It felt good.

When I came back home, I reached for the door, and as my hand closed around the doorknob, the volume turned up on the song that had been playing over and over in my head since I woke: Let my love open the door, Let my love open the door, Let my love open the door, to your heart!

And I remembered again what my healer friend Craig said, all those months ago, about how I need to get out of my own way.

I feel stuck, blocked, trapped beneath the surface and I can’t figure the way out. (Is it possible that I’m lying on top of myself?)

I came inside and Googled the “Let My Love Open the Door” lyrics:

When tragedy befalls you
(Let my love open the door, ooh)
Don't let it drag you down
Love can cure your problems
(Let my love open the door, ooh)
You're so lucky I'm around
Let my love open the door
Let my love open the door

Let my love open the door to your heart

Wow. Okay...but…how? Ever since I read the lyrics I’ve been trying to figure out…how do I let your love open the door? Maybe I should be meditating? Or singing? Maybe I should learn the words to the song and sing it in public? Is this meant to be grace through karaoke?

While doing dishes tonight, it occurred to me that maybe I just need to offer the right invitation. So, I stopped washing and said, out loud, “Um…I let your love open the door. To my heart.” It sounded really odd.

And I don’t think it worked because now it's Friday and I woke up with the song still playing in my head. Let my love open the door, oooh.

I’m trying…I really am. Let my love open the door, let my love open the door.

It follows me everywhere, this song. I tried listening to it through Rhapsody. And I sang the whole thing through, twice. But, it's still with me. I'm not sure what should I try next. Perhaps... "Alohomora?"

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