- Janet Pelz
New Years rolled in like a mild surf on the bay, the days as small waves lapping on the shore. Back in the times when New Years seemed like something that didn’t come around very often, January would crash with a resounding wash of foam upon a waiting beach.
I’ve been aware of a numbing around the edge of days. I imagine this like a type of encroaching blindness where the periphery loses to black while only the center image remains. Is this a simple reaction to aging, I wonder, or is it a response to our moment in history? Is it internal to me or shared by everyone else – everyone outside that periphery?
Four years ago I thundered with anticipation of each new day. We were moving toward a moment in time when something remarkable would take place. The election either of the first woman or first African American President, a dramatic reaction to the prior eight years of chest beating and dumbing down. The news was thrilling – I drank it thirstily, absorbing each nuance that suggested that the country was coming to its senses and that our side might actually prevail. My children watched me weep along with hundreds of others when my brother announced that our state had voted for Obama and the march of other states seemed to be doing the same. And then there were the images from Chicago – the beautiful family, Jesse Jackson crying quietly on the sidelines.
And the morning of the inauguration, watching throngs crowd the Mall despite the bitter cold to witness history. I welcomed in the elderly women in my neighborhood who I knew would otherwise be watching all alone in their homes. “Hurry!” I said, choking down tears, “Aretha Franklin is singing My Country Tis of Thee!”. The pundits were calling Republicans irrelevant. The country was a blank slate for us to fill, with wisdom and generosity and justice. I felt electric with possibility.
And then came the frightening power of no – the Republicans believing their best strategy was to prevent any forward movement. It was as if we had been walking through a dark cave for years towards an elusive light – experiencing first the almost imperceptible shade of gray, the expansion of air, a thin strip of yellow that leaked in through a fissure, and then, finally, the full brightness of day stinging our eyes at the mouth of the cave. And just as we were ready to step out of the dark confine, the doorway collapsed, leaving a heap of jagged rock in our path. The light was still perceptible, but nearly impossible to reach.
The escape has been difficult, and it feels like we’ve had to shed so many parts of what we aspired to and what inspired us to be able to surmount the immense pile of rubble in front of us. And where normally I would have the ambition to help lead us out, instead I feel as if I’m climbing each boulder one at a time, with lots of deep breathing in between. I’m grateful for the protestors in Madison and the 99%-ers who are doing their best to drag us along – it seems right this time to be led rather than doing the leading.
Hopefully in this year upcoming the path will be cleared. When presented with the alternatives, common sense will prevail. Our country will find again a sense of community and embrace the least among us with the same fervor as we did those who exploited credit default swaps (and who understand what those are). I’m working on reigniting my optimism.
photo credit: Nathan Griffith, featurePics
You may have noticed I haven’t posted in a while. Since my last post, I came by some writing gigs that actually produced a paycheck and they filled the hours between managing the family’s comings and goings. With those behind me, I’m looking forward to writing about other (extra)ordinary women. Those I’ve met in the course of this project have lifted my spirit and inspired me onward, and, if you just read everything that preceded this, you can see that both are needed.
Let me know if you have ideas of women I should meet. I’m in the process of setting up some new interviews, but I’m always eager for more ideas.
And in the meantime, if you have a glimmer of optimism for the year ahead, please share it by clicking the red “comment” link below and submitting your thoughts. I’m guessing we can all use it.
Thanks for sticking with this through the quiet times.