in deed be measured
in case they ever ask
I’m in a bad relationship. There’s this creepy guy that keeps looming around me. He’s one of those types that looks reasonable enough on the outside. I think that makes him all the more dangerous. If he at least had chipped fangs instead of teeth and green antennae growing out of his cheeks, he wouldn’t look so harmless. Maybe people would be more cautious. But as it is, his schoolboy looks give him a pass when he says cruel things or speaks to whole groups of people as if they are beneath contempt.
See, I’m not the type to stick around for such abuse. I am happy to shut the door and move on, but he keeps knocking. And now, when I peek out the window I see that he has a whole group of pals with him, each as unimpressive as the next. They’re all incredibly nosey. They all keep telling me to come outside so we can talk. They want to share their ideas and suggestions with me. They have “recommendations”. No force they say, just friendly, educated guidelines that will make my life better.
But, my life is better. I’ve known people like this before. Their way is the right way. Their directions will bring me to the land of satisfaction. They never seem to question if where they want to go is where I want to go. They are all so full of themselves. So sure are they that all of their answers are right. But, I don’t even see that they’re asking the right questions. If the whole frame is askew, how can you build a house?
I’m not sure what to do about this gaggle at my door. I’ve explained to them that I’m really just not all that into them. I’ve ignored them outright, often just quickly brushing past them as I head out to do an early morning workout or farm chores. They don’t follow me to those places.
“Be careful” they holler, “there’s danger there!”
“I told you, I don’t care!” I proclaim.
They stand around “tsk tsk’ing” my carelessness.
It’s like that, this relationship. From long ago, decades ago in fact, this guy and his compadres, well their predecessors which weren’t all that different from this rendition, had plans for me. Their schools told me how to behave, how to be acceptable, how to be accepted. They held up the virtuous and shaped the stories they wanted to tell. They focused my eyes on the world they wanted me to see. “Here” they said. “This” they whispered.
Recipe for a good life lived by a good person: Listen to the authorities. Listen to the experts. Go to school then go to school some more. Follow the law. Get a job. Get another job. Work to earn the dollars to buy a good life. Consume. Consume. Polish your wares for all to see. Pay your taxes! Feed your offspring into the system. Retire to live your last few years in opulent boredom.
Everyone around me in a trance. Even when I think back, I don’t remember being a little girl and seeing all that many happy looking adults.
After farm chores, I head out into the forest. It’s frigidly cold outside, but the sun shines brighter than on any summer day. A playful raven has been following me, her wingbeats so close above my head that I’m sure the snow melting on my cheeks fell from the in-between space of her feathers. I pull off a piece of cedar leaf as I walk, crush it between my fingers and inhale it into the deepest crevices of my lungs. Again and again, I breathe in cedar and exhale machine. When I get to the great granite outcropping, I lie down on the snow and… and that’s it. I lie down. What comes, comes. I do nothing but stay where I am. No worries or scenarios or things to chew on. If it’s tears that come, I thank them. If it’s joy, I feel it. If it’s messages, I listen.
When I get back from my walk, I see the posse again. They’re improperly dressed in their synthetic suits and dress shoes. They’re shuffling about, trying to stay warm.
Just leave, I tell them.
We’ll leave, we’ll leave. We just want to explain our position.
I know your position. Do you want to hear mine?
Well see, that’s not the way this works. We have people far more qualified to let you know what to think, how to act. We need to respect the experts. We need to listen to the authorities.
Why? Because they will keep us safe. Because they will ensure the systems continue. You want to live, right? You want to be safe and comfortable and have nice things? You want to have free health care and do right by your fellow human, don’t you?
When I was a young girl, I was kicked out of school. I needed help but I got rejection for not fitting into your mould. I spent my next few years working shitty jobs and then joining the army. The army was the disciplinarian I never had - the fierce leader that broke me down and left me there to see if I would pick myself back up. I learned to pick myself back up. And with every dust off of my combat pants, I grew a little bit. I earned confidence, bit by bit. I surprised myself. They thought they were training me to blindly follow orders, but inside I was learning what I was capable of.
Ah, so you see, when we all work together…
I’m still talking! After the military, I had my first daughter who was born a robust and vibrant nine pound baby. I was committed to breastfeeding. I don’t know why. Nobody around me had breastfed and I had no one that encouraged it. I developed horrendous, painful issues including mastitis. The paediatrician said “some people are not meant to breastfeed” and sent me home with cans of formula. I was 22 and alone while my husband was overseas. I went to a bookstore and asked for books on breastfeeding which led me to La Leche League which led me to a kindly woman who said to me “Oh my dear, did nobody tell you” while she did tell me and show me. I wept with relief the first time I nursed my baby without having to grit my teeth in pain. The tin cans of formula went into the garbage.
What does this have to do with anything?
Everything, really. You want me to be like you, to value the things you do, to hold the beliefs you do, but I don’t. My life has shaped me. Your objectives and world outlook, and those of your cronies, is shaped by your paths, all incredibly similar to one another. You were fed into the machine and out you popped, fully formed with your set of instructions. So sure of yourselves that you thought you should show us all the way. That’s why you have the job you do - a “leader” by title, in a job no right minded person wants. You started with a comfortable life and went to your private schools and were implanted with ideas that centre around progress and growth as the mission. That’s not my mission. It’s not how I see things. Every little thing in my life brought me to a different set of conclusions than you have.
Your conclusion that you know better than your leaders and our experts?
No, the humility to know that none of us know much at all. So maybe looking backwards at what has, or has not, worked isn’t such a bad idea. The understanding that leadership and respect are earned. Your experts told us our first born daughter was going to be blind and mentally retarded because of a genetic condition - a year later they said they made a mistake. Your experts told us another daughter had an eating disorder that needed to be managed with muffins and margarine - she had a systemic strep infection. Your experts told me my pain was an autoimmune condition, my only hope in a pill that would dull the messages from my body - it was not. I have no faith in your system. I cannot suspend reason and negate the experiences of a lifetime to meet its demands.
Well, that’s merely a result of your lack of education. We can do something about that, we can show you.
Why can’t I show you the follies of your logic? You are human like me. Do your ideas have more merit because your fellow clan members reinforce them? They’re just products of the machine, too. What do other people say? What do the people with mud under their fingernails think? Why do people closest to the earth reject the proposition of Progress as God? Have you asked?
No need. We are right.
You are merchants of division and the false gods of our day. Everything you stand for, the endless growth of the economy as if that is what will ensure the value of a life, is repugnant to me. You pull people further away from what is noble, true and good. You teach that nature is something outside of us, something to dabble in on the weekend, but the truth is that nature is our home. You teach us that tradition and the wholesome are archaic and a toxic relic best left in the past. You tell us that spirit is subservient to the physical. You determine our gods and expel the God we know. You tell us that rights are bestowed by you, not by a creator that breathed life into our very beings. You chastise the inherent traits of men to weaken them and encourage women to be more like those you breakdown. There is no rightness in your paradigm. It is destruction with half baked ideas. Where are we going on your road trip? Do you even know?
Somewhere better. Everyone agrees. Every expert agrees. We haven’t been there before, but it’s better. We have the models to prove it. We have consensus. And we can’t leave anyone behind. Let’s go. The bus is here and everyone is on it. If you don’t get on the bus, the wheels will wobble and it will endanger all of the passengers. WE all have to be on the bus. Get on the bus, Tara.
I don’t think so. I got off that bus long ago. I’d rather walk.
What do you think? Should I end it with me sliding a sawed off shotgun out of my pant leg? Maybe my husband repels off the roof and squashes them like bugs? Maybe the earth opens up and swallows them? Does my border collie herd them the fuck off my land?
Or do I just turn my back to them, get on with the work of my life, saturated in the real and the beautiful and the painful and the raw? Focus on what I can do. Every day, something. Reject their narrative, yes, but in DEED, not just word. Yes, I think so. Yes, that.
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The audio version of this essay has been made available to all paid subscribers (special thanks to my hubs who played the part of the creepy guy - a far stretch for a decidedly un-creepy guy). Thank you for your support and encouragement ❤️