Saturday, November 14, 2015

Porte Ouverte

Apologies dear readers, I've been absent too long. I wanted to come back with something light but that is not our world tonight.

Tonight my heart is breaking and my cheeks are stained with tears not only for the atrocities we have weathered in the last 48 hours and those we have lost and continue to lose throughout the world but for the polarizing of our breathren, each seeking to raise his or her own agenda in the wake; which tragedy is the worst, whose nation is most under siege, how quickly can we close our borders and stockpile our weapons? 

I was meant to write a comedy tonight, a comedy about healing and laughter in a world quite literally gone mad; my world. But I don’t feel like laughing tonight. No, tonight I am angry. Angry not only that violence begets violence, but at the swift nature our fear so completely clouds our judgement.
Tonight is the democratic debate and already the candidates are scrambling to address the need for tighter borders and more guns, more weapons, more, more, more, knowing that isn’t the solution but terrified that these newest attacks will result in a turn of the tide by a petrified, shell-shocked constituency fearful for their safety and the lives of their loved ones, desperately clinging to any agenda which promises to keep them far from tragedy and willing to provide them a common enemy to blame.

The blood is still wet, the wounds still fresh and already the rumblings have become a cacophany to close the borders and turn away the thousands of refugees fleeing certain genocide in their homeland. How often have we heard the beat of this same drum? “Of course it’s terrible, but it’s not our problem and we have to protect ourselves.” Tibet, Laos, Iraq, Guatemala, Croatia, Rwanda, Northern Ireland, Somalia, East Uganda, the list goes on and on and these are not even in our history books. Even after Katrina, when our nation came together under the worst national disaster in our modern time, after the dust settled, it was easier to ask that the displaced (poor) American refugees be housed somewhere else, somewhere more appropriate than our backyards, somewhere we didn’t have to feel so uncomfortable. 

I have been blessed in my lifetime to never have had to flee for my life and I cannot even fathom the terror Syrian families are facing now at the hour of need when they are looking at being turned away at the border and returned to a country in chaos and an existence of suffering and possible death. But in a very small way I can relate to the choice which we face as a nation and as members of the human community.

When I worked for a cruise line whom I shall not name here for the sake of deniability, one day at sea, we encountered a small boat in distress waving a white flag. Aboard this humble, home-made inflatable tub were five men wearing wet suits. Their motor had stalled and they were too far out to swim to shore. Pity for them, they were also Cuban. We circled them for several hours keeping watch as our managers met behind closed doors trying desperately to find a way to discretely bring them aboard as we all silently prayed they would swim for shore. They were so close but too many people had seen, guests had spotted the little boat, photos were taken, statuses posted, bloody great internet that day so close to shore, and our managers were left with no other option than to call the Coast Guard who reluctantly obliged with a rescue. We all knew what lay ahead because the rules were very clear. If they could set foot on American soil, of their own volition, they could seek political asylum. But once the Coast Guard intervened the law was clear, they had to be returned to Cuba. 

Our managers called us into a meeting that day to explain why they would not be following up, why there would be no meetings, no inquiry into their status or welfare, why we would never in fact speak of it again. We had condemned these men to certain death. Well, not certain, that window of doubt was our one vessel of hope and we clambered aboard. But that night, alone in my cabin I cried for hours. I wasn’t in management, I wasn’t making the decisions, I didn’t have the power. But I felt in collusion, even in my silence. I cried every night for several days, every night trying to convince myself there was nothing I could have done, each night feeling the gentle whisper kiss of doubt upon my cheek as I drifted off to a troubled sleep. I don’t know what I could have done, but I know that if a simple act of courage, if opening my door had been an option, I would have taken it. Closing the borders will only give us a false sense of security but at what price? Our humanity cannot be bartered for the sake of convenience. We must keep our hearts and our borders open for ourselves, our souls, our children and our humanity.

Porte ouverte, Je suis Paris. Je suis coeur ouvert.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

St. Patrick's Day

Why is it every St. Patrick's Day, all the "in-the-know" psuedo news sites feel the need to "reluctantly" tell us all the non-Irish things we do to celebrate? Yes, St. Paddy's Day is an American fabrication but it was also a way for Irish Immigrants forced from their homes to celebrate their link to their heritage. It has also become a symbol of the change in status for the poor Irish immigrants who when first they reached the American shores were far from welcome. Now, on this one day, everyone is Irish. I long for a time when we have a "St. Patrick's Day" for every immigrant, celebrating the growth and love we have for the vibrant immigrant population who not only founded this country but who continue to pursue that ever elusive American Dream. What a wonderful future if for a day we were all Irish, then Polish, Australian, German, Cuban, Rowandan, Russian, Guanaian, Chilean, Mexican, French, Japanese, Chinese, Portuguese, Costa Rican, Brazilian... Instead of fighting to keep others out, we celebrated our inclusion in their new lives.

It's true, much of what we celebrate in America today is purely an Irish-American fabrication but how wonderful that we've kept our love, link and pride in the home country so much so that for one day, we want to welcome everyone to be a part of it. How wonderfully American!

I am a dyed in the wool, third generation proud Irish immigrant. I've been blessed to return to Ireland several times and each time I felt like I'd come home. The people of Ireland welcomed me as though we'd never left and asked about people in America, as if they lived next door. This is what I celebrate.

Happy St. Patrick's Day everyone! I'll be wearing my green, drinking my Guiness and making my soda bread with pride.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

The Mindf*ck That Was My Miscarriage-Part I

It’s been a while my loyal readers so I thought I’d come back with a bang…so to speak. As you may have gleaned from the title, I ended the year on a low note but I finally feel like I want to talk about the whole experience, because the way we deal with pregnancy and the loss of pregnancy ‘round these parts leaves a lot to be desired.

First off, let me preface this by saying, I’m fine. I’m actually doing really well. I’m in a pretty good head space all things considered. And thank you for your concern. These are all statements I’ve gotten really good at saying, because I’ve been saying them ad nauseam for two months, to soothe the worries of my aural audience because dear readers, I have been talking about this. A lot!

Let’s rewind to four months ago, mid-October, when I first started to notice that my boobs were on fire. That was a sign. Now my husband and I have been trying for a few months, having spent more than half of our first year as husband and wife in two separate countries so despite my age, I wasn’t exactly panicked that it didn’t happen right away. Your odds go up exponentially with proximity so once we were in the same state and OMG, the same bed, we made it happen. I knew two days after what should have been the start of my period but for the sake of due diligence, I headed off to the drug store to pick up confirmation in the form of a $12 urinary litmus test.

I wandered that store for well over half an hour, retracing my steps, back and forth the sexual aids aisle, the feminine products aisle, the makeup aisle, the candy aisle (I was pregnant after all), upstairs and downstairs but to no avail. At last, having exhausted my ideas, I headed to the pharmacy counter and asked where they might be hiding the pregnancy tests. A nervous young woman explained that they were kept behind the pharmacy counter, next to the hard core drugs and the meth lab known as Sudafed. Confused, I queried at the reasoning for such a decision. After all, I am in a major metropolitan, liberal city in the arts district, not some backwater district full of politicians who don’t know the difference between the digestive tract and the reproductive system. She could offer no reason nor would the manager speak with me. Now understand, I am a happily remarried, confident, able-bodied, independent woman with an incredibly supportive husband and family, with no fears or trepidations about discovering I am with child. However, even I had reservations about proudly strolling up the pharmacy counter and loudly declaring to an anonymous audience my assurance that I was most likely knocked up; a fact I wouldn’t reveal to my own family for another two months. I couldn’t imagine some poor girl, scared out of her wits already trying to muster the courage to timidly ask permission to confirm what she already feared. Trust me, the condoms, lubricants and other sexual aides were all out prominently displayed on the shelves, next to the treatments for UTIs and Yeast Infections. It is hard to not feel judged and I was pretty high up on my high horse. Needless to say, I registered my complaint, paid my money and headed home, little brown bag in hand.

I waited until the next day so I could utilize that most magical elixir, the elusive early morning stream. I found my most graceful yoga pose and let it flow, aiming my stream with the accuracy of a fighter pilot into that little well of prognostication. Use the force Luke. I put the stick aside, set the timer, wiped off the seat and washed my pee soaked hands because my fighter pilot was apparently still flying on a learners permit and by the time I returned, BAM, I was pregnant. I thought for sure it would be a minute or two to register or that it would appear slowly like Brigadoon from the mist, but it was a matter of seconds.  Holy crap, I must be super uber pregnant!

The next few weeks alternately flew by and went at a snail’s pace, depending upon whether I was fighting the urge to tell my family or throw up. Luckily, I didn’t have much in the way of morning sickness, other than the occasional bit of nausea and my nearly constant fiery hell knockers that would not be contained by any artifice known to man. Wearing a sports bra became my nightly ritual and my husband in his zeal to celebrate our upcoming bliss was learning the necessity of tenderness approaching me like a cornered baby tiger. And then there were… the “baby rages”…

To Be Continued