Oddly enough, and most surprising to myself more than anything, I have become a creature of routines.
I say oddly enough because the thought of being a person of routines gives me an ache in my soul unlike no other. There are just too many wild oats in my free spirit to enjoy the impression that I could be someone who wakes up at 6:30am, drinks one and a half cups of coffee by 7:15am, turns the T.V. on at 5:00pm to watch the news every night, and finally brushing my teeth at 7:45pm in order to go to bed at precisely 8pm.
Every day. For the rest of my life. Until I die.
Why don’t I just give up on life altogether, if I am going to go that route, I figure. The idea of living a completely predictable, routine, boring ass life absolutely kills me.
I can wholeheartedly say that there is nothing in my fabric of being which urges me to live a boring life.
One of the lowest moments of my life was many years ago. There was one day I remember quite clearly, when I realized I had been doing the same thing, every Sunday, consistently, for a year. I remember walking through a door one particular Sunday morning, it was Mother’s Day actually, and realizing that I had gone through this exact same door at the exact same time to do the exact same thing with the exact same people and have the same conversations that morning as we had 365 days before. I couldn’t believe I had come to this stagnation point…on my own accord. It was not forced upon me.
I stood in this place where I was not growing or learning or feeling because I thought it was a safe place at the time. I was just showing up because that was the routine on Sunday.
There is nothing like kicking your own ass for being a fool.
“If you follow the classical pattern, you are understanding the routine, the tradition, the shadow — you are not understanding yourself.”
― Bruce Lee, Tao of Jeet Kune Do
And yet, I have become a creature of routines in this season of my life.
The difference between routine and routines is the delightful flexibility of routines. It is not the same routine, it is an efficient amalgamation of possible ideas available through which I can continue to grow, learn and ultimately understand myself.
Change is essential for growth. If we do not change what we do or how we perceive things, we are going to exhaust our opportunities to become a better people and a better nation.
As Rick Warren has said, ““We are products of our past, but we don’t have to be prisoners of it.”
Furthermore, Rabbi Noah Weinberg says,”People often avoid making decisions out of fear of making a mistake. Actually, the failure to make decisions if one of life’s biggest mistakes.”
What I know about myself, more than anything else, is my deep, undying love for new ideas.
The truth of a veritable person is not in the brilliance of their successes, nor is it amassed in their refusal to decide one way or the other, but it is in the the core of their fabric of change.
Jared Diamond painted a stark picture of cultures which could not sustain themselves in his book, “Collapse: How Societies Choose To Fail or Succeed,” (link). Diamond wrote in grave detail how the various Viking settlements throughout Greenland and Canada lived and died, depending on the settlers’ ability to adapt to their new environments:
“[T]he values to which people cling most stubbornly under inappropriate conditions are those values that were previously the source of their greatest triumphs.”
It is no coincidence that the societies which refused to change and instead clung stubbornly to values and routines which were successful in their former land, died quickly and thoroughly when seeking to live in a new land with new resources and a new environment.
The origins of America began with the course of course correcting. From religious freedom, to abolishing slavery, to women’s suffrage, to the founding of individual freedoms to the pursuit of happiness. America is not a nation untarnished. But it is a nation of continued change and a break from values which may no longer be useful given new environments with new resources.
This all being said:
It has taken a long time to process the election.
It was beyond my wildest imagination to see Donald Trump as our nation’s leader. Never in my most peculiar dreams would I have seen Trump as the resident of our White House. The house on the hill had always been the home for diplomats, politicians and lawyers: not reality stars.
And yet, the majority of America believed that he and his family should reside there and lead us and our future into new directions; with the hope of prosperity and, ultimately, the pursuit of greater happiness.
I may live in a forest on an island now, but I grew up in Lawndale. It is in the middle of the concretes of LosAngeles, a couple blocks away from Compton. It was a good life, honestly, and I enjoyed the range of concrete to the beaches to the backsides of the hills in Malibu to the sweeping open skies which gazed upon us.
But my childhood was a long time ago, and I am now raising my children somewhere completely different. Instead of wide swaths of concrete, we have long dirt roads leading into cedar forests. My children will not seek out salamanders in the tiny Malibu streams, as they are now on the lookout for coyotes and barred owls. Our beaches are lined with well worn rocks, rather than the golden sands of California, and we spend our time watching the dynamic PNW weather patterns, instead of living in the perpetual sunny 78F of LA.
I did not vote for Trump, yet I have many friends who did.
Some of these friends have also moved their families to different places in order to try to find somewhere in America where they can find employment, or safe neighborhoods, or good schools, or a better future.
Many of them have not found this. They instead have found more unemployment and have had to move again to find a home even more affordable. These families I know are eager to find the American Dream, and it is nowhere to be found.
I cannot condemn anyone for their vote, and I empathize with the Americans who voted for Trump, because it is clear there was a reason they did. Some think they voted because they simply did not like Hillary; others believe it is because America is full of deplorables.
I am absolutely certain of one thing. America is not overflowing with misogynistic racist bastards.
Oh sure, there are a few.
There are Americans who are marching with flags on top of buildings, or hanging nooses from trees above Trump signs, or threatening students with deportation. There are Americans who believe fear and intimidation will drive their mission of power and control, and they might believe this is the fabric of our nation.
It is no surprise that people have used fear and intimidation as resources in the past, and I have no doubt it will be used in the future. Fear keeps the marginalized reluctant to speak up, and intimidated by violence. We have seen some Americans use these resources of fear and intimidation during this election, and in some places it has become an honest concern, particularly among women and minorities.
But at the same time, I have seen even more Americans step up.
This is an unusual time in our nation, and under new leadership there will be change. The norm of politics is going to change, and we aren’t entirely sure how this is going to play out. Will we be safer? Will we be in peril? Will the patterns of violence emerge as they have in the past, or will we adapt to a new environment and succeed, as we have done before?
For the next 4 years, I will still live next to my neighbors who voted differently than I did. I am still going to run into them at Costco and Safeway. Our kids are still going to play together at the park, and we are all going to complain about the long, dark days in the middle of PNW winter that begin at 3:30pm and end somewhere around 8am, if we’re lucky.
For the next 4 years I will do exactly what I was taught in my blue-collar home down in Lawndale, CA. I will love every single saint and bastard in this wonderful country.
I am going to honor this country by respecting our next President and his cabinet, even if I still cannot believe he is going to be our President.
Because that’s what America means.
It means that we the people are responsible for taking care of each other when times are hard, when times are confusing and when we don’t get along.
When Ruby Bridges walked boldly into her new school, she was surrounded by crowds who refused to change…and by people who wanted change. In the end, it took her first steps to get us there and we have been a better nation ever since.
I don’t know how this next year is going to turn out.
But if I know anything about the fabric of America, I know we have always adapted to new ideas in spite of fear, intimidation, confusing times and uneasy times. I know that this holiday season will bring families together and soldiers will come home. I know there will be groups and organizations who will continue to bring donations of jackets to the homeless this winter, and Turkeys to families this Thanksgiving. I am sure when our children are at school, they are going to continue to learn about the solar system and create dioramas in shoeboxes for class presentations. I am positive we are still going to shop at Target when we need something, and we are still going to complain about the never ending traffic on the way home. We are still going to love the people around us, regardless of who they are married to, and we are going to stand against bigotry, hatred, misogyny and violence together.
I love America, even when things get confusing or weird. I love America because I know that even though there are a few bastards mixed into the bunch, it is a nation of people who believe we will adapt to new changes and new people, together.
America has always been a nation of progress, and it is filled with people who absolutely believe in the hope of a better future.
All the wild horses of Montana couldn’t tear me away from that.