Happy Holidays

I have to keep reminding myself that it’s the Christmas season. It could be the insanity of the past few weeks of planning, preparing, and packing, the 1,250 mile road trip, a graduation, a wedding, and/or anxiety over what I view as a disastrous election result that have stripped me of my usual Christmas cheer. Whatever the reason, I am caught off guard when someone wishes me best wishes of the season.

I’m oblivious to the lights lining the street, winding up trees and framing unfamiliar shop windows. I don’t see the happy shoppers bustling through stores on their mission to find the perfect gifts. I look back at the pictures of my son’s wedding and suddenly realize there’s a Christmas tree there.

Christmas. The season of cheer. Of generosity.

On my Facebook feed amid the sweet personal stories of grandchildren and funny memes reminding us of the bigger things in life, there was a comment related to Governor Kate Brown calling for a French revolution and bringing back the guillotine. This was yesterday. Happy Holidays. Twitter is full of vicious reminders that their guy won, that I should just get over it. Merry Christmas. Exit polls tell us that 80% of Evangelicals voted for a man thrice married, a man who has demeaned women, who has defrauded people of their hard-earned money, who lies constantly, a man who is stirring the pot of world instability before he even takes office. Have a blessed holiday season.

Don’t get me wrong. I am happy. Thrilled. Proud. My eldest graduated with honors… in science! He now holds a degree in physics and astronomy. I also have a new lovely and intelligent daughter-in-law who loves that son. At this moment my close little family surrounds me, and I am grateful for their warmth.

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But outside my little bubble the world has ominous clouds building on the horizon.

And I have to keep reminding myself that it is Christmas.

 

 

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National Stress Awareness Day

I woke up this morning and checked my Twitter feed. A trending hashtag was for National Stress Awareness Day. I laughed. Oh, to have just one day dedicated to stress awareness.

I know I’m not alone in being aware of the day after day pressures in my life.

On the top of my list is parenting stress. Will my kids learn the basic human skills of communication, compassion and resilience? Will they do their best in school? What will I do when they falter? I do my best, but truth be told, there are plenty of subversive influences out there, from dramatic reality TV that feeds on the worst of human interactions to easy access to who-knows-what on the internet. My kids are of the age where I don’t sit over their shoulder any more trying to make sure they are making good choices. I trust, but I worry.

The two youngest, lovingly referred to as Goose and Maverick, are both adults now. They are watching their first presidential election unfold. Firsts should be better than this. Back in 2008, I took them to a small, local Obama rally. I was inspired by the message of hope, and I wanted them to be a part of that. They were 10 and 11. In this election, my young millennial, Goose, dove into an eager support of Bernie Sanders, even attending one of his rallies. He was inspired by Bernie’s integrity and commitment to social justice. He is now one of the disillusioned millennials. He has filled out his mail-in ballot, but refuses to vote for president. Maverick refuses to vote altogether, and no amount of motherly coaxing him to perform his civic duty will change his cynical young mind.

I have to wonder how this election will impact the already-there economic stress. I worry. I question. How can I stretch my paycheck? How will our older kids ever pay back their college loans? (How I wish we could help with that.) What will happen to my meager investments if Trump is elected president? Why is everything so expensive? Apples have always been my indicator, maybe because they are a local item. They used to be 39 cents a pound. Now you’re lucky to get them for $1.99 a pound. They have risen 410% over the past 20 years, a time frame when minimum wage only went up by 77%. And on that note, why aren’t groceries figured into the price of inflation?

Most of us worry about the financial impacts of political decisions on our lives and our children’s lives. Goose and Maverick (both employed but still living at home) haven’t committed themselves to college yet, despite being out of high school. They feel the burden of college debt and don’t want to have to deal with it. I tell them it’s worth the investment, that they will see a good return in the way of increased earnings, but I feel less and less sure about that myself. My recently-graduated daughter is saddled with a huge debt burden and has spent months searching in a job market that expects years of experience that she doesn’t yet have. My own financial worries are nothing compared to those my children will face if something is not done to equalize the economic imbalance in this country.

Then there’s societal stress. How is my country changing around me? How is the influx of people from other parts of the world contributing to that? What should my reaction be? My own husband is an immigrant. I have known many immigrants, not just from Mexico, but from Nepal and Chile. I am drawn to the stories and experiences, to seeing my country through the lens of others. I wonder at the ugliness this election has stirred up, the intolerance and willingness to make someone out as the “other.” The family from Chile escaped the dictatorship of Pinochet. One time the father recounted a story of fearing for his life as he was heading home from college in the midst of the coup and encountering armed men in the streets. I wonder if he ever thought it couldn’t happen there. The immigrants I know are good people, but I see how their arrival causes an imbalance in our society, and every imbalance seeks equilibrium. Though I lean left, I think this is a flexible issue and a necessary one to address. Maybe we need to time let the most recent additions settle, and settle in with them ourselves. We all get burned when the melting pot overflows.

If those things weren’t enough to worry about, there’s health care. I don’t know about you, but we are always one medical emergency away from having the rug pulled out from under us. In what is supposedly the model of democracy in the world, I find that unacceptable. We’ve personally been through medical issues that set us back significantly, and that was before the ballooning of health care costs. It took years to recover. Many of our elected officials are working hard to rectify the situation, but it’s a slow, hard-fought battle. Our own deductible has risen to $12,000 for our employer provided health care option. You may blame the ACA. I think it’s corporate greed. Wherever the fault lies, it doesn’t change the current reality. My husband recently tried to make an appointment with a doctor for an issue that included chest pain and was sent directly to the ER, only to be told after a battery of tests that it was probably esophageal spasms. I’m glad the services are there and I’m thankful it was not heart related, but I’m sure this visit might exceed our deductible. You tell me how I’m not supposed to stress.

And nobody is even discussing climate change.

Every day I turn on the T.V. or radio only to be bludgeoned by political ads of people who claim to have the answers telling me how they are going to finally fix these things. I know there are people who are trying. There are also the few who throw money at changing the whole system to suit their needs. (Oligarchy, here we come!)

I just want a little stress relief.

I made a snarky post with the hashtag National Stress Awareness Day then got up to have my coffee and face another day. What I really wanted to do was throw my smartphone against the wall, pull the covers over my head, and wake up on November 9th, hoping all of this was just a very bad dream.


If you made it through this whole thing, thanks so much for reading.

This was somehow, and I’ve forgotten how, inspired by The Daily Post’s prompt: Bludgeon