Monthly Archives: May 2010

Have a Coke and a :)

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girl with phone textingJust do it. Because I’m worth it.  I don’t want to grow up; (I’m a Toys R Us Kid). There are some things money can’t buy..for everything else there’s MasterCard. Obey your thirst. Hungry? Why wait? Membership has it’s privileges; don’t leave home without it.  Live your best life…

These are all easily recognizable commercial slogans…and sadly, so ingrained in our culture that they have become mantras to justify our every whim.  We live in an isolated culture of iPods, cellphones, TVs in every room of our homes,  DVRs, and Prozac–all just to protect the individual against the overwhelming fear of….a conversation with a stranger, our tormented teen, our emotionally distant spouse.  It has become uncool to be unplugged.  Are we so terrified to get to know our coworkers, our neighbors, even our children, beyond superficial pleasantries for fear of learning something that may make us uncomfortable, or that might challenge our way of thinking? More likely than not, many are afraid that they might be challenged to even think at all.  Or does it go deeper?  Do we live in a society that masks self loathing with the protective assumption that if anyone cuts through our guarded facade, they’ll find nothing to love and hate us as much as we hate ourselves?

I’ll go further and state that we merely survive now…we go to work, white knuckle our way through the day, come home, plop into our chair, turn on the TV…work, home, chair, TV…repeat. We break up the monotony by shopping for things we don’t want with money we don’t have to make people we don’t like jealous.  Long term joy has been replaced with fleeting happiness. Don’t worry, when your shopping high wears off,  take a Prozac that has been prescribed by a pill pushing physician; after all, no one has time for an emotional breakdown in our breakneck, faster than the speed of life world.  Unfortunately,  the ugliness of divorce, the depression of job loss, even the pain of losing a close loved one CANNOT be masked by a happy pill.  Pain and sadness must be felt and in the battle of pill versus pain, the pain will always win until it’s recognized, owned, embraced, and seen through.   It is dangerous to walk around in a prescription induced fog pretending everything is fine; sometimes it isn’t and you are not alone. Nor are you less of a person because you hurt.

If you don’t know your neighbor or your kid’s teacher, go introduce yourself. Take a pie, just to make yourself even more uncool.  Log off the computer when your kid is trying to tell you about her day.  Look at your dog when you pet her.  Decide you’re too smart to let what ANYONE says on TV impress you. Read a book.  If you had dinner or know with any kind of certainty that you will eat dinner in the near future, if you have a bed to sleep in, hot water to bathe in, if you have at least one person in this world who cares whether you live or die, then step out of your drama infested life filled with problems of your own making and appreciate what you have.

We are blessed in this country to be able to take a stand for anything or against anything, and yet many of us don’t. We have a chance to vote for leaders, yet too many of us don’t bother. We walk around in a texting oblivion, having meaningless cell phone conversations in line at the supermarket, shouting over the din of loudspeakers and electronic scanners. On the way home we drive past billboards telling us to drink more coke or that having a cell phone is the path to happiness and enlightenment.  We live in a country that pays lip service to free speech, yet we silence ourselves with our own political correctness  to the point that we are afraid to voice even the most benign opinion for fear that we will offend someone. We parrot PC jargon like a bunch of soulless robots in order to fit in.  I firmly believe that we really don’t want to be disconnected from others; it’s just that maybe, on many levels, we have forgotten how to connect at all.

Thomas Merton, a brilliant Catholic monk and author, said it best, “Where men live huddled together without true communication, there seems to be greater sharing, and a more genuine communion.  But this is not communion, only immersion in the general meaninglessness of countless slogans and cliches repeated over and over again so that in the end one listens without hearing and responds without thinking.  The constant din of empty words and machine noises, the endless booming of loudspeakers end by making true communication and true communion almost impossible.  Each individual in the mass is insulated by thick layers of insensibility.  He doesn’t care, he doesn’t hear, he doesn’t think.  He does not act, he is pushed.  He does not talk, he produces conventional sounds when stimulated by the appropriate noises.  He does not think, he secretes clichés.”

©Mary Flanagan Taylor May 30, 2010

The Story of Us…

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Picture of Me and Brian

I was lucky enough to marry the man of my dreams...

I remember very little of my wedding day..it was typical; I was in white and probably not fooling anyone in attendance and Brian, looking much younger than his 25 years, appeared terrified in his black tuxedo. As a child, a teenager, and a young woman I never, ever once dreamed, awake or asleep, of my wedding day. I never planned to get married; I never felt undeserving, just that it wasn’t a life for me. I envisioned a life alone and I although I wasn’t altogether fine with that lot in life, I was resigned to it. It wasn’t open for discussion or examination; it just was.
When I was 19 years old Brian Taylor walked into my freshman English class, long hair flying and a careless gait that I never gave a second thought. I sat in the back of class, he in the front, and we never spoke to one another.
Four years later, I saw Brian in front of Cherry Hall, smoking a cigarette and as I extracted one of my own from a depleted pack in my purse, I called him by name and asked him for a light. After he assessed that I wasn’t a stalker, he acquiesced the requested light and I had one of the best conversations with a stranger I’ve ever had. I have no idea what we talked about, I just remember how I just wanted to hear more of what he had to say.(We have since then, kicked the filthy smoking habit!) Our conversation lasted only fifteen minutes and as he walked down one side of the hill, I descended the other. I spent the better part of four years speaking very little to anyone, as was my nature, but felt I had said in fifteen minutes what I had wanted to say to someone for four years. So I guess it wasn’t what we said, but the fact that we each had found someone who wanted to hear what we had to say.
I left for Fairfax County, Va. In May of 1995 and easily found my way into a relationship with a man who’s sole purpose, I believe, was to destroy me from the inside out. Corny as it seems, in my darkest hour, I thought of Brian and wondered what happened to him and if I went back, could I find him. It wasn’t his looks–he was gangly, longhaired and skinny. It wasn’t talent; as far as I knew he didn’t have any. I didn’t recall that he was especially funny.
With the help of family and friends I left Virginia, my sanity and emotional well being but ghosts left forgotten in a cruel man’s dusty house.

I began work as a “copy consultant” at Kinko’s and on my first day I see Brian Taylor. I nearly fainted. After a few days and with all the courage I could conjure, I approached him and, again, called him by name. I received the same look I had gotten two years earlier; I was either a stalker or a drunken mistake he didn’t remember!
Once again, after he reassured himself I wasn’t insane, a friendship ensued. When he asked me out a few weeks later, I wouldn’t give him an answer for a week. I wasn’t fully convinced I was even being asked on a date and felt presumptuous saying yes, as I wasn’t sure what I was saying yes to…a real date? Or something more casual? My fragile ego wasn’t ready for either. Finally, he asked again…and we began dating. Within a month, I knew I was going to marry him. Sure enough six months after we began dating he proposed, I accepted, and six months from that day, we were married.
Our life has been one of poverty and comfort, fear and courage, exuberance and sadness, painful separations and joyful reunions, immaturity and growing up, but with love as the constant. Both being the youngest in our families, we learned quickly the hardship of having to care for an infant many miles away from a wise grandmother. Neither of us had much more than held a baby, much less kept one alive for any length of time. But we managed, sometimes with moments of shining brilliance; other times I’m sure leaving her in a tree in the woods for the fairies to rescue may have crossed our minds….but of course, only fleetingly.
Our newlywed years are behind us now, but when I look at him, I still see a boy of barely 25. Today he is unshaven, his short is hair messy, and as he adjusts his glasses when he reads, I find his unpretentious, absent minded professor personae endearing. Without even trying, he makes me laugh til I cry; without even telling him I’m tired, he lifts whatever burdens I may be carrying that day. He’s good that way…
As we embark on the next phase of our marriage- those twenty or so years before retirement—we no longer rely on the superficialities, pleasantries, and strange politeness of years ago when our marriage was based solely on our fidelity. A mortgage, bills, debt and a daughter have taken a front seat to late night talks, dinners alone, and lazy weekends, “sleeping” in til mid day. But we still get glimpses of what brought us together- he listens when I drone on and on about what I want to be when I grow up. I encourage him to discuss his provoking thoughts on God and government. I “tune” out his practicing the violin in the middle of the living room; I eat with gusto each new recipe he tries. With time we have kept the kindness, left the awkward politeness behind, and when things get difficult, we find a reason to fall in love again; each passing year producing different reasons.
We now have a ten year old embarking on teenage angst in a few short years. My husband can take a computer apart and put it back together, can effortlessly change a tire in the pouring rain, and can drive on a solid sheet of ice in a blizzard for hours. But neither of us has ever raised a teenage girl…much less kept one alive for any length of time…
As I’ve said before, I remember very little of my wedding day, but each year of our 12 year journey has burned into my memory the sound of Kate’s laughter when Brian does the “dad dance”, the sight of my husband when he gets off a plane after being gone a year, and the wonderful smell of a house that he cleaned because I was just too tired to do it.
Happy wedding anniversary to us and here’s to many anniversaries to come, my brilliant, funny, talented, adoring and adorable husband!

©Mary Flanagan Taylor May 24, 2010

The Muzzling of America…in Rand Paul’s defense…and God knows he needs it.

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Chinese Soviet Flag

I am amazed(well, not really) at how a group of non-free thinking sheep can take one sentence spoken by one of the most free thinking individuals in the public eye right now and pin a racist label on him. Do they seriously believe that just because MSNBC and CNN play the same sixty second Rand Paul “story” for twenty four hours straight for days at a time that it will make it more poignant and serious? What Rand Paul said was this, “…(he) doesn’t support the law as it was written. (He) believes that(private) businesses should have the right to discriminate based on race, gender, disability, or any other factor.” It is true that when asked about whether or not he supports desegregating lunch counters, Paul couldn’t answer yes or no. First of all, find me a “lunch counter.” What year is this? 1964? Are people still being denied service at the five and dime downtown? And second of all, the reason he “couldn’t answer” is because the news journalist(and I use that term loosely) wouldn’t LET him answer; she kept talking over him. Even GMA’s headline was accusatory, “Rand Paul defends discriminatory remarks”….uh, what discriminatory remarks?? Any intelligent person knows the difference between an opinion on how our government handled racial discrimination in the sixties and a KKK rally organized by David Duke. It’s the uninformed that choose to equate the two. And third, the liberal media took a benign statement, twisted it into something horrific, deemed him a racist, and then dared him to utter one sentence in his defense! No matter how one defends himself against such an accusation, he’s seen as defensive! Look, most restaurants are chains and are not privately owned, so his remark doesn’t include them; they don’t refuse service based on color, gender or disability. Should a business openly practice discrimination(in their hiring renting, selling or serving), then we, a smarter, kinder, nation wouldn’t stand for it, law or not. That said, there are still a smattering of those “privately” owned business that practice discrimination, but I can’t name any, as I doubt they are flourishing businesses. These days, our awareness and tolerance of race, gender, and disabilities stems in large part from boycotting those places that practice discrimination, word of mouth, educating ourselves, and the fact that overall, we are a more decent nation; not because a law forces us to do so. Again, there’s a smattering of racists, mysogynists, and people who don’t like people with disabilities(is there a term for that?) among us who practice no tolerance of anyone who is not a white male with all of his physical and mental abilities–law or no law. Rand Paul made the remark that the Federal government did have to step in in the sixties because racial discrimination had become so dire and local and state governments were not taking action. He agreed with the federal government’s actions and has never stated the Civil Rights Act should be repealed. (I don’t think MSNBC kept playing this part, so just repeat it to yourself about a billion times). His entire point was that if privately owned businesses chooses to discriminate, sadly, it should be their choice. He never said it was a correct choice.

That is the sad truth about living in a truly free society where a government does not legislate acceptance or tolerance or kindness. There will be stupid, moronic people who make bad decisions. Did I wake up in China? This situation also begs the questions: Is it scary to believe that we need legislation to force us to be tolerant, to be kind, to tell us how to feel about another person? Or is it scarier to believe we are decent enough to be kind, compassionate, tolerant, and accepting without laws to tell us to do so? If we are to silence Rand Paul for his remarks because we are afraid of a nation left more to its own devices with less government intervention, then do we silence Louis Farrakhan for his racial extremism? Al Gore for his climate theory extremism? Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson? Whom do we silence next? Keith Olbermann? Glenn Beck? Ann Coulter? Arianna Huffington? Do we silence those whose opinions we don’t agree with? Do we silence those we are afraid of? Who will be left talking when everyone is muzzled? Keep looking over your shoulder, America…the next person silenced might be you.
©Mary Flanagan Taylor May 23, 2010