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2:58 p.m. - 2013-11-03
Goodness vs Guilt

*Disclaimer: For the purpose of clarity and brevity from now on any mention of a discussion not held with my immediate family was likely in the form of an electronic communication. Phone, text, FB, comments, email, blog posts, whatever. I rarely leave my house other than on Tuesdays and Fridays when I run errands and do the marketing. Since all of my friends live inside my computer it makes sense that our 'discussions' take place there. Backtracking and explaining exactly how these communications happened is cumbersome and since I've yet to adapt to any kind of technology-based vocabulary ("Skype ya l8r!", "MJ just tweeted the funniest thing!", blargh, blargh, blech) I think of any and all types of information exchange with my electronic pals as 'talking'. We discussed something. Venue and method are irrelevant to the central idea that we had stuff to say to each other and it was said. So. Are we all good here? Yes? Fine.

*Also the line is blurry exactly where the place between our offline and our online lives overlap. Privacy might be a dying dinosaur of a concept but I prefer to refer to my folk by their established online handles or my own designated nom-de-blog. Offline names, their place of employment, and where they live might be common knowledge within our gang but since this is still an open forum which is 97% lurked by people I don't know and who've not ever bothered to comment it just feels more polite and safer to keep the linkage to my friends' websites and such to a minimum. If you've a business or a book or a profession to promote and would like some electronic word-of-mouth let me know. Always happy to oblige.

Okey-doke. On with today's blabber.

November's holiday is Thanksgiving (at least in the States) and as such it's a time for gratitude. I have a couple friends who are doing the Gratitude Project- namely during the month of November they are making a daily post about something or someone they are grateful for. A fine idea. I am always in favor of counting blessings and recognizing the good stuff in life. I, however, will not make a formal commitment to this for a couple reasons- the foremost being I am a lazy sod and find the idea of having to come up with something every single day for an entire month too weighty. Also I'm amused and dismayed by the idea of making gratitude a chore. One more thing on the old To-Do list. What would Nov 30th's post be? "I'm grateful I set onerous goals for myself thus am always able to find a reason to feel guilty."???

Guilty. There's another one. I am a Liberal. By any and all definitions. Politically, spiritually, morally, sexually, I even go heavy on the spices when I cook. I am liberal in my use of minced garlic. This being said I have to admit I have a couple of terrific people in my life, best beloveds and total dear hearts, who are so goddamn liberal they make me crazy. They are so busy micro-lending, boycotting, scolding, marching, signing petitions, occupying, foraging locavore foodstuffs to bring to the vegan soup kitchen, blatting about every –ism available, with causes out the wazoo, today it's sex trafficking, tomorrow it's GMOs, the next day it's gender inequality in Little Golden Books, after that it's clean water, fracking, PFLAG, whole grain bread, medical waste dumping in the Ganges, child militias, the NSA, puppy mills...they care about and are angry/brokenhearted/passionate about EVERYTHING. And it's impossible to keep up.

I love them, truly, but I can't take their shit anymore. The guilt! Endless banging on about how unfair life is, how dangerous to our children, the oceans are dying, the government is lying, on and on and on. I care, of course I do, I'm just tired of being guilt-whipped for having lunch at KFC and watching 'The New Girl' on Netflix once in a while. I cannot nor do I want to wear fair-trade sackcloth and daub myself with sustainable-growth bamboo ashes. I'm sorry, my guilt-drippy bleeding heart friends- nobody gets everything right. And you should know this is okay. Having a cupcake is allowed. Smiling is good. Being warm when others are cold is not a crime. We do need passionate people who work for equality, justice and saving the planet from our filth, that work is important, all I'm saying is martyrdom is counter-productive. Saints are boring and no one wants to invite them anywhere. If your friends see you've put something on FB and they automatically flinch, roll their eyes, and go, "Oh God, what now?" maybe you should think about toning it down a notch or three. The kids in the Malaysian sweatshops won't mind if you take a couple minutes to enjoy a kitten video. The fate of the entire planet will not be at risk if you tell a knock-knock joke and laugh a little.

If grimness, guilt and a refusal to enjoy anything truly worked we'd still be Puritans with buckles on our hats living on cold gruel. And our only leisure activities would be attending church and burning witches.

Life is messy and complicated and no amount of sacrifice and ideological purity will fix everything. If there is sadness and cruelty, pollution, injustice, greed and violence there is also joy. There is pleasure. There is love.

I know from my own experience that living under a cloud of guilt and spending every ounce of energy on trying to make it okay for me to be here at all and that I owed and owed and owed and my weary debt would only be paid when every single other person on the planet was doing okay because I made it happen by giving up everything I was, oy, it's a lousy life and it didn't make anything better for anybody.

For certain I still do my bit, I have my special causes that get my energy, money and time. But, and this is a big but, I also have learned to let go and fucking LIVE. To delight in little kid Halloween costume parades, a well-seasoned cast iron frying pan, a hot shower, young men wearing concert t-shirts and kilts, the best of Elton John on CD, fuzzy bathrobes, Election Day and being an American despite the flaws in our system, peregrine falcons nesting on the Kingston-Rhinecliff bridge, the Sims, hard cider, the Jersey Shore, sneakers and jeans worn with a sharply tailored blazer, NPR, incense, and having my absurdly tall son kiss me on the forehead.

You dig what I'm saying here? There needs to be balance. If everyone was a Dalai Lama who would make our robes? Where would we get our eyeglasses? And wouldn't our species be dead in a generation because no one had sex and made babies?

Yesterday I mentioned Burning Man. Their goal of leaving the playa unscathed is admirable and forethoughtful enough to ensure BRC exists for many, many years to come. But I think with a little effort we can do it one better. We can strive to leave the world a little better for our being here. Not wholly better, not entirely fixed, that's simply impossible. But a smitch? A smidgen better? Yeah, we can do that. It's absurd and self-defeating to try and do everything, but we can all do something. So pick a thing. Rescue greyhounds. Run for Congress. Foster a kid. Teach a class. Paint a picture. Send a Christmas card to a veteran. Grow heirloom tomatoes. Be nice to your mother-in-law. Do something that does your heart good and contributes however tangentially to the betterment of the whole.

As for the rest of it? Relax already and have a cupcake.

Love you always, ~LA

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