excuse me, but your moral compass seems to be broken

I’ve been thinking about the concept of a moral compass lately. Every time I click onto a news site (which is often) the term “broken moral compass” keeps coming to me. I am with her, for sure, but gosh, this isn’t easy. Like many Americans, I have a few issues…but like many more (I hope), I can understand that I don’t understand everything, and she’s a good…and at moments, great…choice. But…what was she thinking?

The subject isn’t important. They’re piling up, and it is frustrating to watch this happen. I know I will vote for Hillary, but there are a few other people who need to be convinced, and these stories aren’t helping our cause.

And then there’s him. You know who I mean. I don’t think he even has a moral compass…while hers may be broken, his appears to be non-existent. Truthfully, I would have preferred an opponent who was conservative, yet principled. At least you know where he/she stands, and that there is a moral compass (even if it points in a different direction than my own) for reference.

This is what I don’t get…if you aspire to be President, as Hillary has for much of her professional life, and as Donald has for many years, don’t you already know what’s right and what’s wrong? Even if something isn’t clearly right or wrong (as is the case with many things), don’t you assess the appearance of right and wrong? Don’t you consider the implications of something going haywire and mitigate?  It seems that one of the easiest measurements of right and wrong  is “if I have to keep this secret, it’s probably not considered wise.” And if you can’t figure it out, don’t you have someone in your life to say “you know, that’s not a good idea, and while you’re running for President, you should stay away?”

I know right-ish and wrong-ish have lots room for interpretation. Gosh, Steve and I don’t always agree on what’s right or wrong, and neither do my brothers and I. Sometimes I don’t even agree with myself about what’s right or wrong. But I have a good idea of  what integrity, honesty and loyalty mean. I do mess up, but generally it only impacts a few people. I am not operating with gazillions of dollars, influencing the world, or making life and death decisions. I will never be President of the United States, not even in my dreams.

And you know, maybe this isn’t about our candidates. Maybe it’s about us, as a country and a culture. Maybe we all have messed up moral compasses. Yikes. I’m just looking for answers here…

When Kate was a teenager she told me her decision-making metric was “what’s the best that can happen, and what’s the worst that can happen” and I’ve used that for years. I had a friend who had 6 teenagers at once, due to a blended marriage. He used to tell his kids, “If you’re around trouble, you’re in trouble” and I have repeated that ever since.

Is it too much to expect our Presidential candidates to be as smart as a teenager?

Seventy-five days until election day. That’s plenty of time to find and fix a moral compass.

 

always short and almost true stories :: meeting in the middle of the road

I’ve been writing 35-word stories for a while now… they force me to edit to the essentials, not too much, just enough. They start in real life, and sometimes end there, or sometimes they resolve in my imagination.  This is my latest set. More stories here.

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We met at the train crossing. His shopping cart was overflowing, and he nodded hello. I smiled back. The train flew past us, and we crossed the tracks. Back to work, in opposite directions.

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For weeks I practiced for my first karaoke night. But when the trio of bikers, in studded leather vests and American flag headwear, began their Little Mermaid medley, I forgot everything I thought I knew.

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There are many miracles required to raise a child (or two) to healthy young adulthood. The one that boggles my mind is that we were capable of making school lunches, every day, for 19 years.

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The moment she stopped pretzeling herself to fit their schemes, she stood up, breathed deep, and straightened her shoulders. As she walked out the door, she grabbed the hot and spicy mustard as a souvenir.

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The ball flew, hanging in midair, waiting until the last moment to drop. The crowd tensed, collectively willing the ball into her glove. The team lost, she won, everyone cheered. Game over, life begins.

 

adulting from a compromised position

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I’ve had my eye on a new t shirt that says “Wow, Look at me adulting all over the place.”

Heh.

I am 58, and I am still impressed with myself when I am competently adulting. I’ve been described as the least mature person in our family. Which is kind of funny, except for the moments when it’s true.

Kate was born an adult and at 28, she’s pretty much on her way. She has a lifetime partner, she’s on her third city, and has navigated career challenges, disappointments and reroutes. She’s in grad school, and a year from now she will be married, an architect and a year younger than I was when I became her mom.

Alex is 22 and graduating from college in a few weeks. This last weekend she came home for a breather visit (you know, taking a few moments to breath, before your last sprint to the end). We sat at the dining room table and charted her next steps for Plan A and Plan B-ish, hopefully getting her to plan A with only a few extra turns.

As Steve and I coach both of our daughters, one thing that keeps coming up for me is the slippery slope of compromise.

As in, don’t go there just yet.

Which is confusing, since they know I value the art of compromise, and believe that compromise with grace, integrity and humor is the foundation of my marriage, my business, and any successes we have as a family. Learning how to give so everyone can experience what is important to them, without giving up what is most important to you, is tricky. Not giving up too much, too soon—balanced with genuinely wanting the best for others.

Compromise is how we get stuff done. Together. Which is important, right? And it’s a sign of adulting, which is a certainly a good thing.

So even I am conflicted when I hear myself saying, “Once you start to compromise, there’s no going back…stay on your own path right now, and there will be more than enough opportunities to compromise in the future.”

I’m talking about risks not taken, projects not pursued, dream adventures that are never realized. I know there’s plenty of adventure available for those of us in our fifties and sixties. But still…the twenties…this is when you have the least baggage, the most flexibility, and dreams are still in vibrant, flourescent, glow-in-the-dark color.

Compromise enables bills to be paid, commitments kept, scheduled maintained. Stability is achieved, stress is avoided, chaos averted and relationships can be nurtured. Steve and I recognized that between the two of us we can focus on three big things at a time. That means if we are particularly focused on work, and family issues, then we have room for one more challenge. Not two more, which would make it even, but one more, which means one of us is supporting while the other is doing (or we’re both doing, which would be the perfect case, but not usually the situation). It’s a system that works for us, but it’s taken 34 years to figure it out. Compromise means that not only are you responsible for your own baggage, sometimes you’re carrying the baggage of others, too.

I’ve encouraged Alex to keep on pushing for Plan A. It’s a big ask of the universe, but at 22 she is at the most agile point of her life. Plan B is good, but Plan C and D…well, that’s when you start to give in to the safe side. Pretty soon the not-exactly-right-job in the this-isn’t-what-I-imagined-town leads to choices that require compromise…those are usually the shiny choices that come with hefty price tags, that help one forget that there ever was a Plan A. New cars to get you to work, a closet full of capable clothes to help you survive work and expensive cocktails to help you forget about work. They’re all a sign of compromise. (I can also make a case that these are signs of success rather than compromise, but that’s another post all together.)

Compromise is why we landed in Sacramento, instead of San Francisco. Sacramento has been good for us, but I do have moments of wishing that thirty years ago I had a bigger vision for our future, that I had the confidence to make a leap, rather than a sensible step. I suspect I limited Steve’s career path, and perhaps my own, by not leaping all the way to the East Coast when our friends were also leaping. We compromised for stability. That’s not a judgement, just a fact.

If I made a list of what adulting means to me, I suspect “learning how to compromise gracefully” would be at the top. A 401k, limiting one’s weekday alcohol intake, flossing regularly (plus mammograms, colonoscopies, and daily sunscreen) would follow.

But just because I believe it, doesn’t mean I want my daughters to do it. At least not yet. Maybe tomorrow, but not quite yet. Flossing, however, is non negotiable.

 

gathering good :: 29 april 2016

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It’s been a heavy week, so here are some lighthearted links.

Coloring books…personalized. So much better than swirly flowers. This cracks me up.

Visual humor. Brock Davis sees more stuff than the rest of us.

Three survival skills that aren’t super obvious.

Perhaps brushing your teeth is the answer to happiness.

Last weekend we were in Chico and stopped in at the Sierra Nevada Brewery. When we lived in Chico, Sierra Nevada was two guys in their garage (where we picked up the kegs for our wedding). Now it’s a big, delicious deal. Also Torpedo Beer Cheese. Just saying  those three words makes me smile and the taste made me so happy it may have been illegal.

How different people spend $100 at the grocery store. I’d love to see “how different people spend $100 differently” too. I know even in our house, we have different approaches (why Hello Amazon Prime, are you sneaking up on me?).

Small summer house lust. I will take one of each, thank you very much.

Please don’t tell anyone, but before he died, I wasn’t all that familiar with Prince’s music. I’ve heard (and recognized) more of it in the past week than I have in the past decade. I knew he was a genius and his music mattered, it just wasn’t on my playlist. However, I did catch him on New Girl, and loved this story about working with him on set.

Did you get your woman card? Yup, I bought mine (and I do appreciate a clever response).

Why I don’t get stuff done, an imaginary conversation with the internet. Heh!

And speaking of stuff, isn’t it about time for a weekend? See you on the flip side.