Thursday, April 7, 2016

Atlas and the Lilac Bush


At the tail end of the family reunion in Portland, Oregon, alive with the rejuvenation of Spring. Tulips, cherry blossoms, lilacs, Japanese maples, wisteria and more abound in a riot of colors and smells. Outside all around is great beauty, but truth be told, it has been a difficult time of sorts. Jet lag joined forces with an inexplicable three-day attack of Montezuma’s Revenge to put me under my usual jubilant self. Visiting my son-in-law’s school, my daughter’s work, my grandchildren’s daycare and preschool have all been a great pleasure, not to mention time playing with the grandkids and barbecue chicken dinners eaten outside on warm nights.

But families are families and mine is no exception, each of us burdened with our own trials and tribulations and free to share it with each other, but also expected to help carry each other’s weight. The high-school grade problems, the waking up four times a night, the feeling excluded at preschool, the problems at work, the financial anxieties, the stresses and worries and just-below-the-surface-network of a lifetime of family dynamics, in short, the whole catastrophe of life lived on this planet comes side-by-side with the pleasure of tickling Malik and singing with Zadie at her preschool.

I keep talking about committing to caring, connection and compassion and I’m stunned seeing clips like the recent Facebook one of a guy who parks across the lines in the shopping mall parking lot and walks away oblivious to the problem he’s creating. Really? How do you go to sleep at night caring so little? I might ask the same to millions of people showing up to certain political events these days.

But on days like these, I feel the weight of caring. Like Atlas holding up the heavens on his shoulders, it’s relentless and hard work to shoulder the weight. Hard enough to deal with your own list of traumas, stresses, anxieties, worries, never mind having to help carry your family members or friends or neighbors, to say nothing of fellow citizens five states away or global citizens across the ocean. Atlas was given his task as a punishment, not something he willingly took on and his main trait was Endurance.  

Sinking a bit, with the Universe bearing down, I started thinking about the sheer number of people on the planet and the small number of resources and the large number of cars and air conditioners, not to mention nuclear reactors and gun sales and rise in terrorism and fanaticism and long histories of denial and constant invitations to stop thinking and go shopping and the rich and greedy doing the predictable Panama thing and even people I loved and admired, who made me laugh and supported jazz and held up as a role model for my children revealed in his Cosbian dark side and my knees of hope started buckling.

What to do? I’ll start by going out to smell a lilac bush. And then keep you posted.

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