Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Not 9/11

It’s not 9/11.

On that day, my little boy asked me, “Mom, why did those people crash those airplanes and knock down those buildings?”

He was five at the time, and we were deeply in the preschool groove, so my automatic impulse was to explain that those hijackers had made some very bad choices. Which was true, but didn’t begin to cover the enormity of what we’d all just experienced.

“They’re bad guys,” I had to say. “Terrible, terrible people who did something evil.”

He let me hug him because I was the one who needed it, then went on his way, satisfied with that answer.

Fast forward fifteen years. My little boy voted, and my Facebook feed is full of people struggling to explain yesterday’s election to their young children, especially their daughters.

It’s not 9/11. Which makes your task harder than mine was.

We’ve been calling each other bad guys. Bullies. Perverts. Racists. Rapists. Communists. Fascists. Ignorant. Self-absorbed.

I didn’t vote for the new president. For the record, I’m experiencing profound anxiety.

I have little confidence in his ability or inclination to listen to competent advisors, rein in his rhetoric, or grasp and deal with the fine points of political negotiation or world diplomacy.

I also think he might be exactly what we—all of us—deserve.

I know some people who voted for him. None of them froth at the mouth. They treat women with respect. They spend real money and time helping disadvantaged people in thoughtful and useful ways. They honor others’ religion, or absence thereof. And none of them disengaged their morals and brains at the moment they decided who to support in the election.

This election indicates that a large number of people are feeling disenfranchised, unheard, and alienated. Angry. Confused. Given how close the race was, it’s safe to say that just about everyone is feeling that way at the moment. (Except the one teenager in the ice cream shop last night who I hope to heaven isn’t old enough to have voted: “Which party was Trump running for again?”)

That makes this an excellent time to sit down with each other and really listen to each other’s concerns, fears, and hopes. A better time would have been 18 months or so ago, when this train wreck of an election cycle started.

My knee-jerk reaction, even when I’m giving the advice, is “Yeah, those people really should start listening to my perfectly legitimate needs and concerns.”

Because to set aside my own biases and listen to someone else’s concerns puts me in a vulnerable spot. No one likes to be vulnerable. But it wasn’t [those people] who caused this election. It was everyone who felt comfortable demonizing, fearing, and rejecting people they disagreed with.

It was all of us—or at least, I haven’t yet met anyone that didn’t have a hand in it.

And if each one of us decides today to act like a sane, rational, compassionate grown-up, and to encourage our elected officials to follow our examples, there won’t be much the man in the White House can do to mess up the country.

Fifteen years later, I can even start to wonder if the 9/11 hijackers also started from a place of confusion and alienation that made bad choices look like the only choices.

Fortunately, it’s not 9/11.

A link everyone needs today

We all voted, and we have the sticker to show for it. If you throw it in the wash, the residue stubbornly remains. Here's the link that will save your shirt:

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Konmari & Me: A Book and Life Review

Yesterday I sent my friend a picture of the inside of my bathroom cabinet. Note the items on the second shelf, ascending joyfully from left to right. I’m eagerly awaiting a picture of my friend’s underwear drawer.

Why? A best-selling little pastel green book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. It seems like all the ladies (Sorry for the profiling, guys. I’ll edit this once I meet a guy fan.) in my neighborhood/ Facebook feed are tidying.

This book enters a crowded field of tough-love decluttering books (also this parody), devoted to saving pathetic acquisitive pack-ratters like me from the soul-deadening, life-shortening, dagnabbed frustrating heaps of our own stuff. Don’t love it/use it/have a place for it! Toss that ol’ thang! Clutter is the enemy!

KonMari (a Japanesey cutening of the author’s name, Marie Kondo) is kind of the Hello Kitty of decluttering drill sergeants. She encourages a “tidying marathon” leading to respectable Dumpster-loads of discarded stuff.

But instead of reviling clutter, we are to hold each possession in our hands, and to keep only those that “spark joy.” And after determining which things spark joy, we are to lavish them with care and attention.

Konmari comes off as just a little nuts (charming, but nuts). She passionately describes the feelings of inanimate objects, encouraging tidyers to respectfully thank each object before chucking it. And some of her feng-shui-flavored organizing mandates work best if you happen to live in a Japanese home, with its distinctive deep closets designed to hold folding futons during the day.

Unlike other declutterers, Konmari acknowledges that each possession at one time sparked an emotion that caused us to bring it into the house. And that a precious few material objects enhance our lives and bring us joy. That it feels good to live in an orderly place surrounded by our most beloved objects.

I think that focus on gratitude and acknowledgement of the pleasure-bringing qualities of our earthly possessions is what’s rocketed her to 60 some-odd weeks on the bestseller list. Questions? You can find me lavishing appreciation on my great-grandmother’s bread knife (hand-carved handle is wobbly, but the blade still cuts like a boss.) Or polishing my humble but trusty stapler.
Lee Ann Setzer's blog about books, writing, and life in general.