—From EF—

Learning to ask.

It’s getting easier, and I’m not so often thinking, “Couldn’t I do this myself?” I mean, it really feels sort of silly to say, “Oh, crap, I left my slippers in the back room, could you get them for me, please?”

I’m in my sixth day after a total hip replacement. Technically, I am fully able to use leverage to stand up properly, grab the sticks and go the hell back there, but if I used this logic all the time I’d shortly be pretty frazzled. I have a loving and attentive man here who just needs to be asked. What’s my problem?

Some of it probably goes way back, all the way to my mom’s being so proud of my instant obedience that she put me through dog training to get it. But gimme a break, that was when I was two years old and now I’m a certified geezer. Maybe I need to go nuts and bite somebody on the leg as therapy.

Some of it probably springs from my addiction to being the can-do lady, the one who invents seven different kinds of “effects” for one show, including adapting a sewing-machine motor and pedal to drive an old pin-feed printer. (It spewed reams of “news” into the audience.)

Some of it probably comes from a lifetime of doing my best to preserve artistic concentration for a writer surrounded by toddlers, as least until they grew up.

But in all honesty, a lot of it probably comes from feeling unreasonable. I won’t say unworthy or undeserving because even I know that’s bullshit, but there’s still that glitch and mini-blush before the mouth opens for the “ask.”

I need to remember to turn the tables, and call to mind how bloody good I feel doing something for someone, and the more I love them the better it feels. Who am I to hoard that glow?

I’m learning.

—From the Fool—

My Aunt Merna always talked about taking a trip, but she never did. Uncle Frank was happy just sitting there growing his belly. And she was on a church committee in charge of the potlucks, which for her was pretty much what church was all about. And then Uncle Frank got punched in the head and was in a coma for twelve years. “Those were our happiest days,” she said. Then he passed on to his reward, whatever it was, and some girl took over the Jello, so she was free.

But she’d watch the news in the morning, and think, well, better wait till it was safer to go outdoors. Even toddlers were shooting people. So she pretty much stayed at home, except for running out to the Safeway. At church she couldn’t stand the changes in the Jello.

Then she won a trip to Hawaii. She’d entered a contest and she won. She worried about it a lot, but figured Hawaii might be safe. It was out in the ocean and she didn’t think Arabs could swim. So she went and was gone for a week and came back.

“How was it?” I asked. “It was okay,” she said, “Nice hotel. You could see the ocean. They had a stage show with dancers and a band. Pretty much what you’d see on TV.” She showed me some snapshots of her hotel room. It looked pretty nice.

They say that travel changes you. All the stories, they go out to seek their fortunes: Moses, Mohammed, Red Riding Hood, the Three Little Pigs. You go and you come back different. But there’s always an exception.

—From CB—

I’ve never qualified as an activist. I’ve voted, written letters to editors, done guerrilla theatre, walked in some demonstrations, but never did anything politically where I could claim it made a damned bit of difference. My work has been story-telling, mainly in theatre but in other forms as well. It’s possible to purge the story of its warts and hairpins and contradictions to force it to a predetermined meaning, but it’s not something I can do.

And I have a chronic inability to shut down my empathy for the idiots who disagree with me. I feel there’s a need, not that I think it’s wise, in activist movements—be it the KKK or Black Lives Matter—to demonize the Other, even if it’s to chant the most pacifist version of “Kill kill kill!” That’s counter to everything I value in my art.

Finally, I find myself perpetually more critical of those whose beliefs I most agree with. Is that the best tactic? Is that neat bit of rhetoric actually true? Is the headline, however appealing, based on fact or on spin? I feel personally humiliated if “my team” said something stupid or over-the-top—as bad as if I’d used a wrong apostrophe. Bourgeois values, I suppose, but despite the fact that I grew up with a clear distinction between “bourgeois” and “proletarian,” which many activists lack, that’s just me. I don’t think I’d actually fuck up any meeting of which I was a part, but I doubt I’d be invited back.

Ideology is significant, and tactics are often dictated by necessity. A non-violent rugby team probably won’t last very long, and there are deeper crimes against humanity than illogic and misspellings. But I also know how easily righteousness tilts to fanaticism and indignation to mindlessness; how readily powerlessness becomes power-at-all costs; how movements, with a slip of the tongue, gag on their own expostulations.

Effective leaders do emerge. The rest of us do what we can.

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© Bishop & Fuller 2016

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