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December 2021
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My femininity

I was looking at the blurbs on the dust jacket of a book I got for Christmas, and one of them mentioned that empathy is stereotypically a feminine trait. I mentioned that to my psychotherapist wife, who said it is typically, but that since “you are evolved, you have feminine traits, including that one.”

The presence of my feminine traits has been a subject of hers for the entire length of our marriage. During our wedding ceremony, her readings included this from Tao te Ching – The Nature of Polarity by Alan Watts: “But the male individual must not neglect his female component, nor the female her male…. Knowing the male but keeping the female, one becomes a universal stream…”

I struggled with my feminine side during my youth; I was relentlessly mocked for feminine traits through grade school and high school. I would note here that my previous lovers now say they never saw this aspect of me, meaning it must have been controlled/hidden by adulthood.

Until this very week, I assumed I was ridiculed because I overdressed for school, was “too bookish” for a guy, preferred the company of girls to boys and neither played sports nor followed them closely.

Now it occurs to me that my lifelong habit of empathy may have been a more important factor in my maltreatment. I wasn’t one of the gang because I never participated when students who were “other” for any reason were mercilessly mocked; sometimes I even defended them. This has been true my whole life. Since the opening of my heart chakra last year, my empathy has been amplified several-fold, but it really marked a behavioral change of degree, not kind. Increased empathy hasn’t been as hard to get used to as some of the other changes, mostly because it wasn’t new for me. I highly recommend it, particularly in these difficult times.

My acceptance and acknowledgment of my ability to understand and respond to the feelings of others has finally laid to rest my lifelong concern that I might be an narcissist. An egotist, perhaps. But not a sociopath.


Hurrah for the USPS and USDS

If they have a fair bone in their bodies (a dubious proposition) the government haters will, this week, concede that the federal government CAN do something right. The free covid test kit web site did NOT melt down!

In part, that’s because of a government agency I’d never heard of, the U.S. Digital Service. A creation of Barrack Obama that Trump did not destroy, its goal, along with the U.S. Digital Corps is to bring computer-savvy people into government to improve its websites (among other things). Sort of a Peace Corps, connecting idealistic young people with government agencies instead of the world’s poor.

The Covid Test request site is, in my opinion, freaking brilliant. It is a joint effort between the US Postal Service and the USDS. It was crazy-smart to find the largest direct-to-consumer federal sales site―the post office―and tack a super-simple front end on it for requesting test kits. Color me impressed.


Heart Chakra Opening Day

My heart chakra opened on Saturday January 18, 2020. This is what I wrote in my journal that day: “Wow! I woke up this morning to another amazing moment. Treatment and prayer work! There was love in my heart, for those who I once felt "wronged" me. We are all children of god, and share one soul; I forget at my peril that we’re not going to Heaven because we never left it, and that this physical life is an illusion."


CMP: No Longer Angry and Bitter

I woke up this morning and realized that I am no longer angry and bitter about being tossed out of my 20-year dream job at CMP Media on Oct. 2, 2001. For years, I was angry and bitter that managers who knew me didn’t lift a finger to save my job (you know who you are). Whether it is the result of the opening of my heart chakra, or age, or the passage of time, I am not sure. But I know that harboring anger and bitterness are bad for your mental health. Which is why I no longer run an annual item on the anniversary of my sacking.

Besides, I have also come to realize that my termination, while extremely painful in the moment was, like the end of my last pre-marriage relationship, a blessing in disguise. Ellen Goodman understood this dynamic quite well when she wrote about the need for a Graceful Exit. She didn’t use these terms, but she was really writing about the acceptance of impermanence, and how helpful it is to see the shutting of one door as the opening of another.

Had CMP not kicked me to the curb, I never would have spent 10 years teaching U.S. history to 1,000 8th graders. I am morally certain I had a positive impact on some of those young people, and I am proud of it. In the unlikely event I ever see any of those CMP managers again, instead of having an unpleasant exchange, I will shake their hands and thank them for letting me go.

My fond wish for you, dear reader, is that you move past any such feelings you are harboring, and that you don’t waste time on any new resentments in the future.


The Nature of Impermanence

This is a folk tale that highlights the fact that you just never know.

Goodnews
Tamara Levitt on this site tells a version of this story:

A farmer and his son had a beloved horse who helped the family earn a living. One day, the horse ran away and their neighbors exclaimed, “Your horse ran away, what terrible luck!” The farmer replied, “Maybe so, maybe not.”

A few days later, the horse returned home, leading a few wild horses back to the farm as well. The neighbors shouted out, “Your horse has returned, and brought several horses home with him. What great luck!” The farmer replied, “Maybe so, maybe not.”

Later that week, the farmer’s son was trying to break one of the horses and she threw him to the ground, breaking his leg. The neighbors cried, “Your son broke his leg, what terrible luck!” The farmer replied, “Maybe so, maybe not.”

A few weeks later, soldiers from the national army marched through town, recruiting all boys for the army. They did not take the farmer’s son, because he had a broken leg. The neighbors shouted, “Your boy is spared, what tremendous luck!” To which the farmer replied, “Maybe so, maybe not. We’ll see.”

It is really impossible to tell whether anything that happens is good or bad.


This and That

Election Integrity
On May 1, 2016, Dilbert made a wry comment on voting machine software interity.

Muse Returns

Imagine my surprise; I was humming “Take good care of yourself, you belong to me,” when my long-absent muse descended. It won’t be submitted to the Pulitzer committee, but sometime in the next year, look for the poem You Don’t Belong To Me (with a  nod to The Ballad Of Erica Levine).