Re Voting Plans, Tilt-a-Whirls, and Trust

I have voted in every election since 1962.

“VOTING PLAN”   The words fell oddly on my ears when I first heard them sometime in late summer. By September I took them seriously, and based on what I knew believed understood mis-understood at the time, I ordered an online ballot, which would require me to hand-deliver my completed, printed-out version to election headquarters. A uniquely-coded electronic ballot arrived with unexpected efficiency, along with a lengthy set of instructions for accessing it.

Several weeks later, the Sunday Post reported that each such ballot in Maryland would burden the vote count by adding five minutes to the processing time: before being counted, that ballot would have to be hand-glued to card stock in order to be fed into a vote-reading machine. Few pieces of news have thrown me into such emotional turmoil, a toxic mix of disbelief, rage, and helplessness.

Fortunately, I was able to change my plan: I ordered a mail-in ballot.

The ballot arrived in timely fashion, with a set of instructions that seriously challenged my reading and comprehension level. And a whole separate page for a local charter issue correcting errors in language on the printed ballot. I searched a few drawers before finding a pen with black ink that would render my ballot countable, as long as it didn’t stray outside the lines of the small oval. The ovals definitely looked smaller than I recall them on standardized tests. But, as I said, I’ve been voting since 1962, so: aging eyes?

My online record with the State Board of Elections does not yet register that they have received it.

If I live long enough to read a trustworthy history of this election, I hope it will shed light on the facts, fictions, and deceptions around the capacity of the U.S. Post Office to handle mail-in ballots.

Election jitters with a dash of pandemic entering its third season

The sensation is familiar. Taut. Stretched to the limit. Vibrating in response to atmospheric influences. Braced against too-muchness. This is election season 2020 overlaid on the fall seasonal changes of shortening daylight hours, overlaid on a seventh month of pandemic upheaval. The sensations of moving through a tilted landscape remain strange. I reach for words to describe how gravity and levity have both morphed. Some mornings I wake mildly nauseous, as if I have been riding for hours the Tilt-A-Whirl, my favorite amusement park ride when I was a kid.

These body sensations make even more sense as I read the manufacturer’s description of the ride as “a large segmented undulating spinning platform with 7 vehicles spread over the surface. Each vehicle spins on its own axis and depending on the weight location of each guest every thrilling ride is unique” which“can be themed…can even have custom themed characters for the vehicles.”

How much rooting, in what soil? How much dancing?

There are times when chaos sets my feet itching, rootlets emerging from my soles to burrow down into even the rockiest soil. Acorn aspiring to oak. And there are times, like now, when I am sustained by the mysterious movements of some internal gyroscope that helps me to keep righting myself as the earth heaves repeatedly and irregularly. Ever a dancer. 

What catches you when you fall?

What do you reach for when chaos turns your world-view, or your material circumstances inside out?

What do you know?

When you fall, have you practiced free fall? calling for help? getting up and moving on, scraped knees and all?

I grew up with a full-bodied conviction that whatever came across my path was mine to do, solely mine to do, and that was okay since I knew believed understood mis-understood at the time, that I could do it better than fill-in-the-blank. I might have been small, but my powers were Mighty.

Once again I have to effort to put my misunderstanding aside, and trust.

Trust that the emerging flood of shadow humanity – collective and personal – that inundates our world, is an invitation to heal. That the pervasive disruption and collapse of social institutions, structures, and norms – culturally and in the human personality – open possibilities for a new operating system. One that is rooted like an oak tree and resourced like a dancer, the natural and inevitable child of that Ongoing, Unbroken Continuity – the God that I cry out to in desperation and in thanks, or the Unshakeable call and response of cause and effect, or the Life-giving River of Compassion that flows through the human heart.

We may indeed appear to be a gathering of themed vehicles spread over the surface of creation, each undulating and spinning on our own axis.

Nevertheless this week, we can each:

Be kind.

Vote.

Act and replenish and veg out as needed.

Vote.

Call and respond.

Vote.

Listen for who your own deepest wisdom is instructing you to be, with all your warts. 

And did I say, Vote?


 

The patience to be who I am

PATIENCE is not among my weekly calendar notations:

The 26-hour Yom Kippur fast is over.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg has been buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

The opening Presidential Debate of the season is history.

Colleagues and students entered and left my Zoom rooms this week softened and strengthened by practice and by sharing struggles and wisdom.

A passion-project that has been on hold for some weeks moved a little.

Tomatoes that have been hanging green on the vine have suddenly reddened in the cooling, shortening daylight hours.

This list almost but not quite attains what my teacher Jason Shulman calls “the pure subjective,” a quality of is-ness that such statements display when they are just themselves. As you read through that list, you can pick up whiffs of preference and comparison and judgment that leave them short of “is-ness.”

I consider again the card I pulled for my High Holy Day focus this year: “patience.”

I am born an Aries, “the head” sign: I am a great sprinter. Marathons, not so much.

Can you tell from this post that this is a night when I am down to fumes?

Patience right now feels very close to: I am out of gas.

The Hebrew word for patience is transliterated as “savlanut.” It comes from a three-letter root  meaning burden, load, suffering, pain: the same root of the words used to describe the hard labor of the enslaved Israelites making bricks from straw for Pharoah. Its linguistic cousins include: porter, stevedore, passivity, endurance, tolerance. You can see how these belong to the same word-family.

I’ve devoted myself more to cultivating resilience – the capacity to recover – than I have to bearing burdens. Maybe, I wonder to myself, if I practiced bearing burdens with more patience and tolerance and less suffering, I wouldn’t have to tend so much to recovering?

Meanwhile needs Urgent and Real compete for my attention and energies to:

– stay safe, keep others safe during the Pandemic, with my home serving as  my workplace, since am both privileged and non-essential, a useful contemplation in itself when I have more brain cells to rub together.

– do/be/ join forces for equity: safety and protection under the law and access and well-being for people who have black and brown and olive skins

– figure out how to vote and maximize the chances that my vote will be counted. I already know my vote counts. This year I also have to do what I can to make sure it is counted. This is a new experience for me as a White person.

– plant seeds for collective civic grieving, repair of wrongs, and reconciliation. To lift my spirits, I’m putting a pin in this topic  for a future post.

What you have just read is a narration of my practice of letting myself be the size I am. Which is what I counsel you to do .....during these times and ever after:

Do what you can from where you are, with what you have to work with.

If you’re tired, rest.

If you’re hungry, eat.

If you feel defeated, do a small kindness for someone.

If you’re full of pep, or you have “discretionary” dollars,  choose who and what gets the benefit.

And this, from the Talmud, immediately and perpetually useful:

It is not incumbent upon you to complete the work,

neither are you free to desist from it.

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