“Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.” ~ George Bernard Shaw.
Childhood memories are often unreliable. They say that the only true memory is the first time we remember something. After that, each time we recall, we are remembering the memory – like making a copy of a copy of a copy. And since many of us are storytellers, prone to embellishing and improving, it is soon hard to know where truth ends and fiction begins. Before my family moved to Jamaica, I remember walking to and from school with my older brother. If I was lagging behind, he would play ‘Simon Says’ to get me to take bigger steps, or run, or anything to make sure we were not late for school. I don’t remember how I got to school after he graduated to grammar school (I was seven at the time). We had moved house by then, and the only recollection I have about getting to and from school was the one day a week I had to take the bus from school to meet my mother at church. What a responsibility! I was so proud of my independence!
Yesterday I caught the end of an interview on NPR. The author has written about the amazing ability of many of earth’s creatures to navigate long distances. One such is a moth in Australia which travels over 600 miles, and uses the earth’s magnetic field along with the Milky Way in the night sky to find its way home! He also recounted that in the 19th century, people had no idea where birds emigrated to in the winter months. Perhaps they went to the moon, was one idea! It wasn’t until a stork was found in Germany, pierced by an arrow who apparently lived to fly home! They removed the arrow and identified it as coming from Africa.
The conversation came around to humans, and the fact that we are descended from people who had their own ability to use the earth’s magnetic field to navigate. Of course as innovators and inventors, we soon devised tools to assist us – using sextants to track stars in the night sky to keep ships on track. But how much of our innate skills have we lost over time? Just as cellphones with saved numbers have removed our need to memorize strings of phone numbers, so now the GPS has made us less aware of our surroundings, and more reliant on a programed voice and yellow arrows.
It sometimes feels as if this country has lost its way. Children are being held in inhumane conditions, separated from their families, because of politics. Every day there is some new fresh assault on what is decent and just, and we have become numb. Across the country (mostly white) men are making decisions that affect the most personal decision a woman can make, and they are taking away rights which are guaranteed by law.
The topic of abortion is a touchy one. And it is a very personal one. There have been many reasons over the years why a woman (or indeed a girl) wishes to end a pregnancy. It is a truly female issue, for it is possible for men to impregnate a woman and never know. It is impossible for a woman to be pregnant and not know (even in those cases where it is the baby’s arrival which is the first confirmation!).
The fact that those who are most vocal in their opposition to abortion do not support affordable healthcare, daycare, maternity leave or any of the other policies that would permit lower income mothers to carry their babies to term, is what makes these latest abortion restrictions so cruel. As usual the burden is placed on those with the least resources to find a way around them. And we can be sure that those same powerful (mostly) men know their fair share of women who have had to have abortions. And I dare say they have not had to travel far distances, be forced to endure unnecessary pelvic examinations, ultrasounds, or three-day waiting periods, as the new state laws would impose. The hypocrisy, the cruelty, the injustice, words fail me. And since they estimate that one in four women in the US will have an abortion before the age of 45. So like the meme says, everyone loves someone who has had an abortion. Banning abortions, making them more restrictive will not eliminate abortions. It will just result in women obtaining illegal and potentially deadly abortions.
The Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl wrote of the most important freedom one can have, the freedom to choose your attitude. I often try to use the trick of ‘reframing’ to try to help students see obstacles as challenges, struggle as necessary for growth. When we flip things over, we can see what we have, rather than what we have lost. When we choose gratitude over self-pity, we put everything into perspective. But for some people it is just not that simple.
It is easy to keep your eyes in front of you, and make sure that you and yours are ok. But you would be surprised to know how many people are hanging on by a thread. For those who are one step away from being homeless, for whom one unexpected bill can push them over the edge, it is hard to find a way to ‘reframe’ their problems in a new light. And I am not even talking about the tragedies that exist beyond our borders.
On this Friday morning I would encourage everyone to pay attention to the actions of powerful (mostly) men in high places. We need to make sure we do our part to be vocal, to contact our representatives, to speak out, even if matters do not directly affect us. We are our sisters’ keepers, and if we keep silent, who will talk for them? Let us hope that soon we will rediscover our inner navigator, that still small voice of conscience that enables us to find the right path, to do the right thing. Let us hope we can see the stars, feel the pull of the earth’s magnetic field, and find our way back home.
Have a wonderful weekend, Family!