Humans, as a whole, have a difficult time seeing clearly beyond their own noses. I’m guilty of it, too. Some have a gift of empathy where they not only see clearly what is happening to others beyond their own experience, they feel it, too. These poor creatures are definitely the exceptions.
Look at what’s going on now. Here in southeastern North Carolina, we’re dealing with the restrictions that COVID-19 has placed on our entire nation, we’re watching the news and seeing the numbers tick steadily up—but the people around us don’t appear to be sick. Maybe some of them are, but their cases must be extremely mild. We know that there are more cases out there and we could be next. We know it, but we don’t, for the most part, actually feel it.
And so we go on about our lives. We’ve taken up new hobbies, returned to old ones. The kids go to “online” school every day. Some of us are chafing a little at the restrictions. My kids can’t see their friends. My oldest is missing the second half of his sophomore year at college. But over it all, right now (and it may be short-lived), I have a feeling of profound peace. I’m not rushing anymore. I’m not feeling guilty for devoting so much time to the theater work I love instead of making dinner for my family. I have time to fold laundry and wash dishes. I’m enjoying this unanticipated vacation.
And I know it shows a lack of empathy that I can feel peaceful right now. Maybe this is the end of everything, maybe it’s the ruination of our country, maybe it’s the apocalypse. Anyway…
Peace and Rubble (is this how we go?)
By Michelle Garren Flye
If this is the way we go, I think it’s the way I choose:
Family all around, safe in our home, with love as real
As the things I care about—the only things I have to lose;
Maybe that’s wrong to say but it’s the way I feel.
It’s an odd war we’re fighting, of that there is no doubt.
The enemy is hidden, you can’t even see the rubble.
There’s nothing to show on the nightly news, no bout
Of bombing or flattened buildings—maybe that’s the trouble.
Instead of fighting, we’re asked to sit still and quiet
Don’t go out, stay home with your loved ones, they say.
There’s a special joy in that if you’ll only find it,
A life you’ve not given yourself time to live—until today.
I took this picture this morning. Dogwoods are blooming in North Carolina. I’ve been photographing them ever since they started peeking out a week or so ago. But this particular bloom intrigued me. Why?
Because it’s blooming on a broken branch.
The branch was half severed during a storm in the late summer/early fall. It never died, though. The leaves stayed green until they reddened to brown in the fall. I’ve been watching this branch since then, waiting for spring and wondering if it would bloom like the rest of the tree.
It is. Blooming. A little stunted, a little slower, but blooming nonetheless. Partially severed from the rest of the tree, this little blossom is still struggling for survival. It has a message of beauty and purpose to spread to us. No doubt this flower would prefer to still be on a limb that is fully attached to the tree it comes from, but it’s taking what’s been given and going with it.
It occurred to me that this flower is much like us right now. Do we wish we weren’t stuck in isolation? Would we prefer to be able to go to dinner and movies and parties like normal? (Okay, the parties thing is not me, but I understand I’m less social than the normal human being.) It would definitely be nice to go out shopping without wondering if this is the time we pick up the COVID-19 virus and bring it home to our families.
Yeah, we’re all blooming on our own broken branches right now. But we’re blooming, nonetheless. We’re helping each other and spending time with family members that maybe had been a little neglected, tending to gardens and cleaning our homes. Our children are still learning from teachers who are overcoming what would once have been insurmountable obstacles to teaching.
Life is going on. To quote Jeff Goldblum (and either Michael Crichton or Steven Spielberg?), “Life finds a way.” We are alive. We are finding a way to live.
Yeah, I said it. Before you go making fun of Generation X’s “High Hopes” dance, take a few notes from your elders. (And maybe read the lyrics of that song, too. It is the Generation X anthem.)
I have not yet decided which Democrat I will vote for in the primary election. I like different aspects of several of them. I wish I could combine all these different aspects into one Super Candidate. Lacking that, I wish that all of the other candidates would get behind one candidate in a kind of Super Coalition and promise to help that person defeat the Great Evil, Donald Trump.
I have High Hopes.
You gotta have High Hopes.
Truth is, I started out my adult life with High Hopes. My generation, who hadn’t yet been disregarded as Generation X—not Boomers or Millenials or even The Silent Generation, but evidently not even worthy of a name—at any rate, my generation was the first to realize we needed to recycle. I remember how proud I was to cart my little blue bin from the apartment I shared with my husband while he was in medical school to the larger blue bins labeled by colors of glass, newspaper or aluminum cans. I was making a difference.
I had High Hopes.
Not many dimes, though. I worked for a tiny newspaper an hour away, covering local news in a town I didn’t live in but grew to care about. I covered politics, police reports, wrote features about interesting folks, even tried my hand at writing about sports (baseball was my favorite, basketball a close second, football killed me).
I was going to make it big at the little newspaper and catch the eye of the bigger ones. I pictured myself eventually writing something that caught the attention of Rolling Stone. It could happen. After a couple of years of it not happening (and late nights at the paper keeping me from my new husband), however, I was tired of commuting. Burning your biography and rewriting your history isn’t all that easy after all. A job at the library of the medical school attracted me, just as jobs at libraries always had. I went back to my roots.
But I still had High Hopes.
Twenty-some years later, I still have high hopes. I still write, and it’s not all romance or kid stuff. I write about my politics and my beliefs and just my thoughts, not because I hope Rolling Stone will take note, but because I know words have a way of getting out there. Sometimes in an article like this one.
Maybe my generation hasn’t changed things. Maybe we aren’t the ones who will save the world. But we have the influence and the power to effect change when we find the one (or ones) who will. We’ve got one more run in us, and it’s going to be a sight to see.
We want everything.
The sun has not yet set on Generation X. We still want it all.
If you’ve ever read Victor Hugo’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame, you know it’s full of bitter truths. That love has no reason. That mankind is cruel. That wealth and status are merciless and religion can be flat out wrong. Of course, most of us haven’t actually read the masterpiece. At best, we’ve seen a movie adaptation. At worst, however, we’ve heard the music of Disney’s adaptation at some point.
When Notre Dame burned last year, I cried. I hadn’t seen it yet and it was on my bucket list. It still is, even though I’ll never see the cathedral that was termed “The Forest” for the network of wooden beams that made up the roof. But some of the grand church was preserved. The fabulous rose windows and stone walls still stand. I can see those…someday.
And then I heard one of our local theatres was doing the musical adapted from Disney’s Hunchback of Notre Dame, which was adapted from Victor Hugo’s epic novel. Of course, I had to audition. And somehow, in spite of my audition, I made it into the choir, so I get to sing many of these songs while sitting or standing on stage the entire time. And as an added bonus, I have a couple of lines as a gargoyle.
It’s been fun. Nerve-wracking at times, but fun. I’ve listened to the music so much I may never want to hear it again, even “God Bless the Outcasts” which I’ve been known to blast in my car for no real reason at all. I’ve enjoyed getting to know the people—theatre people are great. Differences don’t matter when you’re on stage. I’ve noticed that particularly with this cast. Race, religion, sexual orientation and the big one—Politics—none of that crap matters when you’re telling the story you’ve been charged to tell.
As for the production, well it’s fun. It’s exhausting. It’s taken a lot of time away from my family, and I’m really kind of looking forward to being done with it. But being in this production has also reminded me of what’s perhaps the most cruel of Hugo’s lessons to his readers: That dreams don’t always come true but life really isn’t worth living without them.
What’s happening right now breaks my heart because it was preventable. In fact, it was being prevented. Our Kurdish allies are fighting and dying. Mothers are losing their children. Tiny babies lie in pools of blood, covered in dust. And it’s all because a few men made decisions that meant their lives meant nothing. Life is meant for more. Be outraged. Be angry. Be sad or regretful or depressed. Be anything but accepting of this tragedy. Life is meant for more than ending on our television screens.
On the Screen
By Michelle Garren Flye
From across the world we watch as death rains down.
How can we know what to feel?
Safe in our kitchens, our warm homes, our towns—
Not part of the pack anymore.
Broken bodies litter the earth but it’s so very far away.
You run, and we don’t miss a meal.
Dust and rubble clear, but your sorrow never may.
Meanwhile we watch the news at four.
We shake our heads: Nothing I can do, nothing to be done.
Our hearts go out to your appeal—
But tomorrow’s just a day for us—another day in the sun.
And we’ll check the headlines of course.
Across the world, an ocean away, with only the media to guide.
As your hearts’ blood spills
On pavement stones and runs down the mountainside—
This weekend, I helped a friend move five hours away. It was tough. Setting him up in his new place and knowing I could no longer see him every single day. Of course, the move is a good one for him. More opportunity for growth and friendships and education.
Yes, I joined the ranks of parents leaving their first-born at college. I know it’s a good thing, but I couldn’t help but think that I would miss him fiercely, this baby-turned-man in a blink of an eye. He’s always been a part of me and always will be, though, so I square my shoulders and march on.
After all, I’m not losing a son or a friend. I’m helping him be a better man and friend to others.
Turning to other things, I have a GoodReads giveaway going on now! Enter to win one of fifty copies of Becoming Magic here: Becoming Magic GoodReads Giveaway. Also, I’ll be at Lisa Haselton’s Reviews and Interviews on Monday morning promoting Becoming Magic, so be sure to join me there. Plus, there’s a giveaway!