Saturday, June 26, 2010

FADIN' ...........

Despite all claims to the contrary, some degree of assimilation is unavoidable. Here are 10 sure ways in which I am fading:

1. I wear Birkenstocks, a "sandal" that is nearly unrecognizable to my relatives and friends, and particularly those who live below the Mason-Dixon Line.

2. I wear Birkenstocks and socks--worse than just wearing Birkenstocks.

3. My dogs sleep on my bed.

4. I no longer shop for "dress clothes." No point.

5. I do not attend church.

6. I no longer pray before meals.

7. I order from "Eddie Bauer," "Land's End," and "L.L. Bean."

8. I no longer use a "washrag." (This one has special meaning for Susan and me).

9. I am completely unaware of the latest styles in fashion.

10. The only shopping that I do is via the U.S. Mail

The End

Monday, June 21, 2010


Shadows......the death of someone dear; a close friend who faces serious surgery and hadn't a clue that she was ill; silences; a life and spirit in transition. I've been thinking about my relationship to money, and at least twice last week, a friend asked directly: "What do you get from giving?" I chuckled, but I decided to consider the question seriously. Family and others have often questioned why I give so much--literally. Particularly when I have often come up short when I need or desire. I sat and attempted to calculate a rough estimate of the dollars that I had donated or given away just in a 5 year period--thousands, literally thousands of dollars--mostly dollars that I didn't have and still don't. So I've decided to ponder the why of it, particularly as I'm moving to a stage where I'm taking account of what life (if I indeed live) during retirement will be. In other words, I'm taking money seriously for the first time ever. Well, sorta. Once you hire a financial planner, then you've pretty much got to deal with finances--like it or not.

This is what I know: I don't give because I expect something in return. I don't give to make people like me. I don't give so that others will think I'm a "good person." Most of my giving happens discretely. These reasons explain why I don't, but they don't answer why I do. Or, more important, why giving is often expected of me. I suspect most folks who are unfamiliar with academe think professors make "a lot of money." NOT! Perhaps others just assume that certain types of people just have it. Those who are childless, for example. Ain't necessarily so. There are all kinds of obligations and responsibilities that require as much or more than children.

Although I'm in the initial stages of really sorting this out, it seems to me that at least part of the giving relates directly to my Christian upbringing, though I'm not sure I would define myself as such now. I do believe that whatever we have must be shared with those who have less than we. I'm a sucker for a hard luck story because I've had so many of my own. I've been the recipient of so much generosity. I feel compelled to do for others what has been done for me. Few things give me great joy or pleasure than to help another person in some small way. But what about those who don't need? What about the stuff that I do for those who are far more financially solvent than I? This is the giving that I don't get.

Perhaps I don't believe in the value of money, or maybe I think about it in the wrong way. For example, the only time money has mattered is when I didn't have any. In the old days when I couldn't pay all my bills or lived from paycheck to paycheck, I was obsessed with money--and even then, I gave money away. As I write it becomes clear to me that the basic question is why I'm willing to deprive myself in order to give to someone else. Now that's complicated. Haven't pondered long enough to come to any conclusion, but it seems to lie at the heart of my lifelong battle with giving too much and having too little or depriving myself to make someone else happy.

What I'm beginning to realize is that people don't mind taking from one who is willing to give. So let me put this in another way: I'm beginning to feel that I've allowed myself to be used and taken advantage of. For example, there are those who have reaped the consistent benefits of my generosity (or foolishness) and never once attempted to do anything for me. And I don't mean giving me money. Anything-- a meal, a phone call, a trinket of some sort. Or a word: "You've done something nice for me." Perhaps a thank you note?

In retrospect, I am learning that for every shameless giver, there is a shameless taker, and takers will continue to take for as long as givers give. As I've thought about a giving life, I'm annoyed, maybe angry at those who have taken because they could rather than because they were in need. The guy who borrows $500. and goes on a lavish vacation two weeks later.

I've declared that I'm going to cultivate some healthy selfishness, and while I'm learning, I'm gonna keep on thinking about my motivations. While I don't imagine that I'll change completely, I think I'll be much more discriminating in the years to come. People who love you will not let you give until you hurt. That's the first lesson that I've learned in two short days. I'm sure there's more to come.....

All in all, I marvel at my life. I have every, single thing that I need. Everything. I stand in awe of that reality. There is no material thing that I want. Not one thing. Sometimes I wish I wanted something just because... I guess that's why I don't understand the rich. What does Bill Gates DO with that money? Or Oprah? And please don't tell me about their philanthropic ventures; they still have enough left to buy the universe. Why do they need all that money? Why do they keep making money? What is left to buy? Why not just give it all away after you've bought all there is to buy and spent all there is to spend and left huge sums to children and family? I just don't get it 'cause my friend still died and the other is having surgery tomorrow, and all the money in the world won't change the aspects of life that really matter.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010


How much does happiness cost? How much is too much to pay for peace of mind? Does it always pay to be "practical"? When is a decision the "right decision"? How much does one sacrifice short term for a better life long term? Transitions are tough. Change, even positive change, is difficult and stressful. The combination of change and uncertainty often seems unbearable.

This is what I know: The time for change has come. It's past time. I am certain of this, and that's absolutely all I know at the moment. One day last week I asked for my praying friends to pray and my positive thinking friends to do that as well. Since that time, and I'm really not kidding, some amazing things have happened. Good things have come in unexpected packages, but each gift comes with a particular set of challenges and "what ifs." It's all out of my hands now. What I've got to do is just wait, listen, wait, listen. I cannot order the universe or orchestrate the unknown. I am unsure, anxious, doubting, excited, terrified of the unknown.

I need patience. I need calm. I need to let things unfold as they will. I need the assurance that if and when the time for decisions comes, the decision that we make will be for the good.

Safety costs. The price of safety is often high. How does one choose between safety and happiness? One of my friends told me that tenure and a good salary are the "golden handcuffs." I get that. But golden or not, handcuffs are still handcuffs. They restrict my freedom. And this, more than any of my questions, answers all of my questions. I cannot put a price on freedom. I have compromised my freedom for safety. I have compromised my peace of mind for money and safety. Yes, I may be too old to move toward the light; too old to take certain kinds of risks; too old to begin again, but I believe that life offers all kinds of possibilities that we pass by because we want to be safe and certain. I wait and hope..........Faith: "the substance of things hoped for; the evidence of things unseen."

Thursday, June 10, 2010


My father, the Reverend Daniel Webster Bass, is largely responsible for me being me. When Danny and I were children in Jacksonville, Florida, Daddy would demand that we not follow the "rules" of our culture. For example, we were not permitted to pledge allegiance to the flag because Daddy said the pledge was a lie. "There is no liberty and justice for all in this country. Do Negroes have liberty? We will not lie." He told us to drink out of "white" water foundations, and he took us to the "white" library for story hour. When the librarian asked suggested that we go to the Wilder Park Branch Library (the "colored" library), my dad refused: "I have brought my children to THIS library, and we will attend the story hour." He demanded that we break one of the sacred rules of the South. Children always said yes, ma'am and yes sir to adults, but not us. Nope. Daddy said: "You will call no person ma'am or sir." And this: "No one can tell you that you may not go to the bathroom. If you ask your teacher, and she says no; if you really HAVE to go, you must simply leave the room." When we reminded our father that we were getting beaten (literally) and punished for our breaking of the rules, he held us tightly and told us that we could not live a lie; we could not follow an unjust rule just because it was a rule. And so, we suffered, and we were called names by teachers and students. Our childhood was harder because of our father's positions, but we saw him suffer as well. He did what he asked us to do. Daddy was our example. He also did other things. Our home was open to all manner of strangers--folks who had no homes or food. Daddy would give his last to help someone. He was one of the best humans I've ever known, and though I later learned that he was not my biological father, I never, ever doubted his love for me. Though I lost him very early in life, my father remains one of my all time heroes and examples.

I've received lots and lots of private support for the sentiments I've expressed regarding the "involuntary separations." I appreciate that support, but I wonder why it's private and not public? I'm obviously referring here to faculty support; others are vulnerable. What's at stake? If you support the positions privately, why not publicly? I ask because you must know that I've received harsh criticisms from administrators and their minions. Can you imagine how it would help (and I'm not only referring to me here) if all the voices joined together? Is it popularity? Losses? Fear? All? I'm less inclined to feel good about the "private" support because it really doesn't help the cause. I just don't get it. Or maybe I do. We want people to like us. We want to be one of the gang. We don't want to be the nut or the complainer or the person who stands apart. No one wants to be alone and lonely. I don't want to either, but I simply don't know how to be anyone but me. In other words, this is my life. I want all the things that other humans want, but there are certain compromises that I refuse to make for the sake of popularity or friendship. And ultimately, real friendship doesn't depend on one's passions or commitments.

I'm living in a world of increasing silence--the silences of those who just want me to shut up and disappear; the silences of "friends" who are angry or wounded or upset, and retreat into angry and passive silence rather than engaging and speaking. In other words, my world in the north country continues to shrink. I ponder the losses. At another time, I would have wept, pursued those who expressed their anger by not speaking or simply pretending that we never had a relationship. Now, however, my spirit won't let me pursue them any longer. I know what it means to love and to forgive and to apologize, but I can't ask forgiveness unless I know what I've done. If you choose to let me go without word or warning or explanation, then I will accept that. Ultimately, if the relationship meant anything, it would be worth saving, so, despite my questions, I will bid a silent farewell to those "friends." The numbers continue to rise.

When I began this piece, I thought I was going to say that I would just give up. Remove my blog. Be quiet. Concern myself with my own life and that of my family. Forget everyone else. Stop making people angry and uncomfortable. Stop worrying about those who have written to tell me that I don't know anything or I'm an asshole or I have an axe to grind or I'm a nut. All of this may be true, but I have to live in a way that I can live with myself. Majority opinion doesn't make it the right opinion. The way it is isn't always the way it should be. So I take it back before I say it. I'm just gonna keep on keeping on even if my north country world shrinks to one, but it won't shrink to one. I've got 4-5 folks who are like family to me. No, they don't always agree. We sometimes have knock down drag out fights, but at the end of the day, we express our love and caring. So rather than listen and concentrate on those who leave, I'm going to spend my energy on those who remain in friendship and love. And I'm gonna just keep on speaking as the spirit moves me. May peace be with you.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

I have written about fat in a previously published article. Funny thing about fat. Most people only want to speak of it disparagingly, and perhaps that's appropriate. I'm not really sure. What I do know is that fat is far more than a personal matter. It's as political as any thing in my world, and furthermore, it is the one aspect of one's person on which others feel completely free to speak their minds. That speaking is almost never kind or positive. Folks hate being called racist or sexist, but no one minds being a "fatist" or a fat phobe. Why do folks tell people that they are lazy slobs, helpless overeaters, dangerously unhealthy? Why are they able to laugh and point at fat people without shame or censorship? It's a mystery to me. Really.

I have been fat for most of my life. I was a fat child. I am a fat woman. I'm not sure I would know it, however, if folks weren't talking about fat all the time. For example, when I look at myself in the mirror, I see me. It's not until I see myself on a photo that I actually realize how fat I am. I'm always amazed. I think I could live with my fat were it not for the constant discussions of fat. Contemporary women are obsessed with body weight, and particularly white women. The conversations are all day every day, and especially at mealtimes. I know dozens of women who hate themselves because they're fat. Most of them are smaller than I. I'm stunned by the present definitions of what fat is and who's fat.

I don't hate myself. I actually don't hate my body. I continue to learn that I'm supposed to hate my body. Heaven forbid that I actually believe myself to be beautiful. Imagine how women look at me when I refer to myself as gorgeous! The evidence for the relationship between obesity and poor health is convincing, and I wonder why I'm still fat. Here's what I've come up with thus far:

Former deprivation is one reason for my fat. While I haven't worked this out completely, it seems clear that there's a relationship between past longing (and sometimes hunger) and the present ability to enjoy whatever foods I want to eat. In other words, I can eat what I want when I want. The deprivation factor kicks in as soon as I even think about plans that restrict me or make particular food groups "off limits." Even if it's stuff I don't want, I simply don't want to be told that I can't have it. Deprivation and memories of deprivation run deep. It's not insignificant that when I got my first real job and paycheck, I went directly to the grocery store. I spent hours looking at all the stuff I'd never tasted. I must have eaten porterhouse, filet mignon, and t-bone steaks everyday for a year. I'd never known such delights. I don't think I've moved very far from that person now. It takes a long time to believe that the well will not dry. Now the deprivation is of a different sort. The food from my world is now taboo. BAD. Unhealthy. And even if it weren't, ain't none of it up here anyway. So I feel deprived of "home" food, or the food that reminds me of home and family.

I think resistance plays a small part in my continuing fat as well. I HATE the ways in which people treat fat people. The thin or reasonably pound person who goes on constantly about how much she needs to lose. She's the person that I'm supposed to want to be. I hate the ways in which that external world shames fat people either into retreating into food or hating themselves or spending hundreds of dollars on various diet plans. I hate the ways in which women, even feminists, have fallen into the trap that suggests that beauty is impossible for fat women. I hate the fact that no one believes that a fat woman can really think she's beautiful.

But the medical establishment has frightened me. I'm afraid of killing myself. My fat has become like smoking used to be. I don't mind it, but I hate the prejudice against it. I hate what it does to my body. I don't want to shorten my life. I love life, and I want to live as long as I can. I've got a problem cause it's far easier to give up smoking than it is to give up food. Everybody's eating all the time. Food is everywhere. That voice that tells me that I can't is the voice I'm bound to defy. I can. I can because I can because I want. Please don't tell me I can't.

A couple of days ago, I called out the "fat brigade" on Facebook--asked someone to help and advise. Not one "like" or comment. Nada. Were folks embarrassed? Am I not supposed to talk about my fat? It's not exactly a secret, right?

So I'm gonna do something, but I don't want any pats on the back or "good jobs." I don't want anyone to tell me how much better I look now.......cause what I want you to know is that I think I'm pretty damned HOT at 60 and fat. What I do (and if I do) ain't about your praise or admiration or respect. If all those good feelings are simply tied to my physical body, then no thank you. What I want to do is add years to my life, so that I, in whatever state I find myself, can continue to be the gorgeous creature that I am. So y'all deal wid it..........