Good News Needed

I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s exhausted with this election cycle. It seems to have brought all of the baseness of human nature to the surface, and I, for one, am sinking into a mire of depression. We have just witnessed the Brexit vote and all of the political fallout and as we watch the UK fall apart, we might be wondering what will become of us as we deal with our own two less than stellar choices of leader.

I’m in need of cute puppy videos. Laughing babies. Anything to steer me away from this feeling that we are at the tipping point with awful things to come.

But laughing babies and puppies, cute as they are, are just a momentary escape. The world will still be spiraling downward out there. What is within my power to change before we reach that tipping point?

In the wake of the Orlando shooting, I wondered what the world would be like if instead of fighting over gun rights yet again, instead of hurling insults and stockpiling weapons, we committed ourselves to acts of kindness in remembrance. Would that get any press?

I’ve also heard a lot on the news about Christian intolerance and Tea Party politics, but I have a high school friend who, with her husband, is heavily involved in Christian ministry to urban youth in Southside Chicago. In a world where black lives matter, they are two very white people who take the whole love your God/love your neighbor mandate seriously and are reaching out to a community in need.

We still need a colorblind society. A just society. A society where nobody gets a slap on the wrist after raping a woman. A society where words are measured before they are thrown out like punches to the gut. A civil society. A society that seeks understanding and inclusion over divisiveness and hate.

We hear over and over about what’s going wrong in our world, and there’s so much going wrong, but I, for one, am in desperate need of hearing about what’s going right. Where has change happened and been successful?

I think that was a lot of the appeal of Bernie. In a world that seems to be going into the sewer, he made us see the other end of the spectrum of what we could be. I joked with my 19-year-old Bernie supporter about the marijuana/free college appeal of the old senator. He steered me toward a post about equality, and I knew in that moment I had raised him right. Maybe the youth are not looking for entitlements. Maybe they are looking for equity and fairness. Maybe, just maybe, they will be the ones to make this a better world – if we just let them.

Feel the Burn

Note the spelling in the title. While I’d encourage anyone to “Feel the Bern,” I am referring to the 90s, to Jane Fonda, and to dancing around the living room in my 900 square foot starter home to video taped step aerobics instruction.

(Insert Michael Jackson voice here)
Can you feel it?
Can you feel it?
Can you feel it?

If you don’t know what I’m talking about, check out the video tape table at your next garage sale. (And if you don’t know what a video tape is, this probably isn’t the post for you.)

Back in the 90s as a new mom and wife of an always-working spouse, I was limited in what fitness routines I could juggle. The jogging stroller hadn’t really become a thing yet. I did frequently pull out the collapsible umbrella stroller, walking a four mile loop with my son around my town, treks that were good for both me and baby. Fitness was the goal, but getting out of the house reaped other benefits, such as interacting with other people. I later had a child seat on the back of my bike, which worked wonders until baby number two came along. I now either had to walk at a preschooler’s pace or think up a different workout routine.

Enter Jane Fonda step aerobics.

You may know Jane for her roles in various movies that have spanned the years, such as Monster-in-Law, 9 to 5, or On Golden Pond, to name a few. Political types may know her for her vocal opposition to the Vietnam War. (Many still call her a traitor.) To me she was just an on-screen aerobics facilitator who looked remarkably like my own mom. She was my fitness guru. Along with her upbeat instructors Jeannie, Laurel and Mark, she made me feel the burn.

Onscreen step aerobics should have been a warning of things to come, of distance and increasing isolation. Working out in your own home is convenient, but when the smiling faces you see every day are the same all the time and aren’t followed by a long, cool drink of water and commiseration about those aching abs and glutes, it can leave you feeling a little lonely. A friend of mine recently told me that she had taken a Zumba class and was thinking of getting a video to do it at home. We are both in the same stage of life, watching our fledglings fly the nest as we search for ways to reinvest in ourselves. I couldn’t understand why she would choose a video over a class at this point. I mean, we’re free, right? The camaraderie of shared experience outweighed the potential for embarrassment. Back in the 90s, my new mom loneliness was assuaged to some extent by the smiling face of my then one-year-old. My newfound loneliness is a little harder to manage. The then one-year-old is living in another state, and now so is his sister. There is no turning around to see their smiling faces.

We live in a new world that is governed by text messages and Twitter posts, where we buy into the self-marketing of Facebook, but rarely pick up the phone to call one another. We have Skype, which is the next best thing to having loved ones near, but still comes in as a distant second. The isolation I felt as a young, somewhat housebound mom was nothing compared to the isolation I feel now that most of my friends have scattered and my children are developing their own lives. In those days, the burn was in my muscles at the tail end of a workout that left me feeling invigorated and ready to face the challenges of the day. Now it’s a scorching ember in my heart that doesn’t seem to want to die.

Maybe it’s time to sign up for my own Zumba class.

For you retro folks who may be feeling nostalgic to feel the burn:

(Check out those leotards! Haha.)