Friday, March 27, 2009

One's Good Name

One of the things I find fascinating about the human mind is its ability to respond to thoughts, issues and circumstances with such immediacy. By “immediacy” I mean what is going on in our heads right now. Sure, we can train ourselves - or be trained - to respond in a certain manner, according to pre-conceived and cemented notions. We are the Kings and Queens of Because-We- Have-Always-Done-it-that-Way. But, we are also infinitely capable of changing our minds, perceptions, and attitudes about any random thought that skitters across our minds. And, we do it just because we feel the vibe. We switch tracks with abandon and enthusiasm, with a sense of entitlement, and without warning.

And, as our minds go, so do our mores. To be sure, there are always legions of manner mavens, style sisters, political pundits, and intellectual icons willing to trot out in defense of the kingdom against all pretenders. We have an abundance of societal defenders, both earnest and passionate, acolytes who sing our praises and sweep away our garbage. Yet, we rise only to slip down. Time and again, we reach what we think is a pinnacle on the way to another pinnacle, only to realize too late, that what we call progress is only progression.

We start something new – continental foothold, nation, neighborhood, family. We have a vision, and we claw and cajole to realize the next logical bright new thing. We feel it when it is working, when the government begins to gel, when the crops take root, when our loved ones grow smarter, when we have change in our pockets, when life just feels so damned right. We want to leverage that feeling into the bigger and better: bigger schools, better libraries, bigger cars, greener lawn, and sports teams capable of championships. Scholarships progress to legacy slots at the Ivies. The swim club becomes the country club, and the ocean is no longer so far away.

And, we have been working on being right, of being just and true, morally solid, crystal clear about what is needed, what we should do, how we should behave. There is nothing better than a nice road map, eh? But, now we have started using MapQuest, and the directions are not so clear. See, the construction marches on like everything else, and those familiar roads have changed. Then, around some strange bend we find we're going wrong. Well, we find it when we are ready to admit that we are lost.

One day, we realize we have strayed from the blue and red snakes on our road map. What was right is now left. What was up comes crashing down. That beautiful field next door now contains five new houses, because someone needs a bigger place to hold all their accomplishments. What is good is what protects all the crap we have bought since – well, yesterday.

And, look: Now there are all these other people coming up who have their own dreams, desires and sense of being. They are not impressed by our history, our experience, or our beliefs. We appear jaded and tired. Color us cynical, greedy and obtuse. Why would they follow our map? We’ve been driving around in circles, looking for the entrance ramp. Or was it the exit?

We have lost the ability to present ourselves in simple terms, without qualifiers and apologies. Our bravado no longer serves us, and we grasp at promises for a better day in the hope that they will lead us back to where we diverged. Even when we know we are lost, and it's all our fault.

What we have lost is our good name in the eyes of everyone, ourselves included. We have frittered away. We have wasted. We have taken for granted. Under the weight of all that indifferent, misdirected ambition we know the only way to re-discover it is to retrace our path: down the superhighway, onto the surface streets, back through the neighborhoods, and into that small parking space in front of Mama’s house. Maybe the kin and family heirlooms will remind us who we are.


Lori Skoog said...

Well done, and so true.

rebecca said...

I am 50. And the road here has not been an easy way one to navigate. It has been full of detours and traffic (mind) jams, sometimes filled with raging storms where I have had to stop and wait for it to pass before I continued. But I am here. And I am glad that I arrived in one piece not having succumbed to the dangers of it.

The 20s was a period of finding myself. But I was a monkey. I was what others wanted me to be - I would say what I think they wanted to hear, do what I think they wanted me to do.

My early 30s were the worst. Many storms to weather but because it was the most challenging it was also the decade that taught me the most.

My 40s was the period of my awakening. Slowly I became a better driver to my life and I began to navigate it in a way that made me comfortable no longer worried about others. It has been the best decade of my life to get back to my roots, back to who I am, no longer worried whether I am liked or not, whether people agree with me or not, whether you think me beautiful or not; none of it matters. The car may be a little worn for wear but the motor is solid and strong and can still go for many, many miles and it is still reliable and can still take very good care of you. But learn how it functions and it will give you better mileage.

It is so liberating to get to this age and have acquired wisdom (and much more to come, much more to come) and feel comfortable in your own shoes even if others may not like the shoes you're wearing. It is about connecting to the self again, remembering where we came, who we are and that I am the collective energy of a lineage of strong women who have loved and fought fiercely in life and are still doing so.

Yeah, the road here has been at times difficult; but I thank each crisis, each detour because with each, it taught me to be a better driver to this thing called "life."

Great post as always, Miss Fe.

CoyoteFe said...

Hallloo, Lori!
Thanks! Now you know why everyone loves to come to your house. You are the Goddess of Know-Who-I-Am!

Sister Rebecca-san!
Egad, woman! The least you could do is act exhausted. But Nooooo, you just keep tripping along the path, smiling in the sunshine, looking at the next thing. You are right: the best roadmaps are those that lead you up the mountain and over the boulders, as well as through the gentle vales. And, since you ALSO have managed to carve our a strong sense of self, you're twice-blessed!

Lori Skoog said...

This comment is for Fe and Rebecca! You two are the best when it comes to expression! And believe me! I appreciate and pay attention to what you have to say.

Janie said...

The biggest mistake might be to forget our perhaps unprestigious beginnings and pretend to be someone we're not. If we know where we came from and can figure out where we're going and stick to that course...well, that's not as easy as it sounds, of course. Greed for more and better, and other distractions, lead us the wrong direction. The goal is to keep re-directing and staying more or less on course.
I'm trying to follow my red and blue lines, with some limited success.

CoyoteFe said...

You say the nicest things. Thanks!


Yes indeed! We do so quickly forget who we are and where we were going. And, if we are not forgetting, we are rationalizing our choices. We were young, poor, ignorant, Democratic, artsy, innocent - the list of reasons why we have to make the "hard choices" goes on. And, if it were easy, we wouldn't even remark about doing it. Keep riding your blues nad reds!

San said...

Fe, I love the way this post winds up "in the little parking space in front of Mama's house." Yes, the open-endedness of that, coupled with the specificity, works beautifully.

And the MapQwest metaphor is apt. For what we overlook in our drive to simplify, to ignore the difficult.


CoyoteFe said...

Thank you! I think we all want to go home, if not blatantly, then somewhere inside, and while we run amok, we seem to always looking for the next great thing to solve all. Good point!