Tuesday, October 09, 2018


 Son #2, BMX


When my sons were adolescents, and devoted to skateboards and BMX bikes, we visited a skateboard shop called "Failure". I can only guess that the young adults owners' parents told them it would be a failure, or they would, so they embraced the name. I got a bumper sticker, and it lived on my Toyota Camry for about 400,000 miles. That was about 25 years ago, and I'm still learning to embrace the idea. It's one of the most valuable disciplines I can practice.

Seen in D.C.


Last week, as the Senate moved toward confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh in spite of numerous accusations of sexual assault and his own partisan display, not to mention his erratic and unseemly behavior, my family and I were in Washington, DC. Seth knew some things about the story, having heard the news, asked questions, and listened to our conversations. Had we not left on Thursday morning. I might have taken him to see the protests as the Supreme Court, which were starting to accelerate. I can't think of a better way for him to have understood democracy--what's left of it.


I didn't believe from the beginning that the Democrats would succeed in keeping Kavanaugh off the bench. Even if, by some miracle, they had, Trump would have come up with another pick, just as far right, equally political, and the GOP would have been so angry and incensed that they may have fared worse in the midterm elections.

Furthermore, in spite of being a victim of sexual assault at a young age, I didn't share the outrage that I heard and saw from my (mostly white) women (mostly colleagues. In fact, it began to trouble me somewhat. Here's why:

* To dwell too heavily upon this insult to our sensibilities in which, yes, once again, women have been been devalued, disbelieved, and discounted, to the point where it brings out more rage than many other things which have happened of late raises the question: Is this white privilege?

* It's tone deaf. Knowing that these very assaults and insults have been the life story of women of color for generations, the alarm and horror, the outrage,  of white women, must look almost comical to women across the globe. Imagine a woman who has endured systematic rape and abuse with no recourse watching a smart, well-off, successful white woman testify that someone almost raped her in high school. Yes, I know myself that this can cause lifetime trauma. I don't question her testimony or her distress. I question our response, as white women.

The People of Failure and Hope

Back to failure. My Buddhist practice and study has taught me that impermanence is the only sure thing. All human endeavor will fail. None of us will conquer death, illness, or loss. Acknowledging the inevitability of failure is a spiritual process and practice that is not easy, but can bring equanimity.

On our trip to D.C., we visited the new African American Museum of Culture and History. It is a celebration of triumph and a mourning of loss and horror. The history of Black people in the U.S. is one of suffering, and also one of triumph.

cafe at National Museum of African American History and Culture.

The next day, Seth asked to go to the Holocaust museum. He said he knew about the Holocaust, and the museum exhibits were presented in a way that was less alarming than I might have expected. But he had not known that disabled people were the first to be destroyed. Many exhibits emphasized this, so it was impossible to downplay. He knew this would have included him. We skipped quite a bit of the latter part, but at the end, we had a chance to talk with a Holocaust survivor. I explained to her that Seth had Autism, and she talked with him at length, telling him that people could be mean, be bullies, but there were kind and good people too, and we must always be kind. He listened intently, and after, he cried and hugged me.

The Jews understood, and African Americans understand, after unfathomable loss, and total failure, something remains. Love, humanity, and goodness. Therein lies our faith. Some call it God.


I had so many dreams last week. I didn't recall all of the details, but I know they moved me forward. The failures and losses in my life have been so many of late that It has felt overwhelming. I've reached a point with all my siblings that to both be honest with them and continue a relationship seems impossible. I've had problems communicating with my grown children. I wrote years ago on this blog about how ministry is failure. The home our family has owned for 70 years is being sold in a manner that is duplicitous and hurtful. My chronic migraines have worsened in a way that has prevented me moving forward with writing and other projects. And, on this trip, we realized once again how limiting life with an Autistic child is. Seth really can't endure much in the way of travel, or sight-seeing, his interests are very narrow, and his anxiety is overpowering. All normal, but our expectations were far too high. Each of these things separately can be managed, but each is really beyond my control, and with the help of my dreams, the contemplation I had some time for, and some intervention from God, I came at last to a place I can be a peace with. I made decisions. I accepted finitude, loss, impermanence, and failure again.

Failure. Some call it surrender. Or, life.