It’s Not Easy Being Green

23 Feb

 

 

It’s Not Easy Being Green

L. Stewart Marsden

Control v. the lack of control is a conflict I’ve lived with for most of my life. It’s at the heart of AA’s mantra — and gaining the wisdom to know the difference is, in my experience, a life-long pursuit. In retrospect, I’ve been far more foolish than wise.

I’m hesitant to write these thoughts, as inevitably someone will point out there are no excuses for some/many of what I struggle with. The good news — at least to me — is that I do struggle with them. In a world that seems to have become black and white on so many issues, I’m in that fifty shades of gray area, and I’m not talking about the book and its focus. 

What I absolutely cannot and did not control:

  1. When and where I was born;
  2. Who comprised my family;
  3. What level of social status I was born into;
  4. What level of income my family had;
  5. What my level of innate intelligence was;
  6. What my skill tendencies and talents were/are;
  7. When and how I will die;
  8. What levels of pain those I love will go through, and whether or not they will endure them;
  9. Who I am attracted to;
  10. What tragedies will impact my life.

No doubt there are more, but the short list should suffice.

It has taken me these many years (I’m approaching seven decades on this earth) to realize and accept the responsibility that all of the above are not excuses, and that I have either controlled or abdicated control over the effects of those things over which I had no control. In other words, allowed the uncontrollable to control me. It’s the laissez-faire tendency that has been a challenge to overcome. The “well, that’s just who I am” attitude of helpless resolution.

I’m currently watching (binging, really) the Netflix series, “Grace & Frankie.” To mark just how far and to what extent American culture has changed, the show would never have been produced back in the early days of television. That’s not what goes through my head as I watch it, though. What goes through my head are the various elements of the series that I struggle with. I’m supposed to simply be and let be, right? And if I am uncomfortable about various scenarios of the show, that’s an indication there’s something wrong with me, right?

I won’t spoil the series for you with detail, other than the basic plot is two male partners in a law firm announce to their respective wives they are gay, and are divorcing their wives so that the men can marry each other. Archie Bunker would have dropped dead. I’ve never been an Archie Bunker type, but found myself not understanding it, either. 

What does that make me, then? Homophobic? I probably am. And I could probably point to the era into which I was born as an excuse, or the implied revulsion of the Bible over people who act out their same-gender sexual orientations. Or the myriad of conclusions the rigidly straight world makes as an explanation to one recurring question, “Why did God make me this way?” I won’t belabor the responses, which are just as fantastic as dogmatic believers explaining how the world was created in six days. That particular “sin” has found its way to the top of the charts, and has remained so in the religious minds of many.

Still, I admit to being bothered by it. So I’m left with what can I control about this issue? My mouth, for one. Not out of fear of being labeled myself, but making sure whatever I say and however I react is carefully measured for its impact. 

My children are more tolerant of far more than I. I’m not sure that means they are better people than I am — whatever that means — but they are certainly more understanding. They have lived with a variety of change that really wasn’t change for them. 

I grew up when the south was segregated. Separate, but equal, ran the dogma. Bathrooms. Movie theaters. Schools. Water fountains. And my parents hired black women to do various necessary things about the house — even though my mother didn’t work outside the house. Not every white family had maids or people to do yard work. But we did. How do I reconcile that past with what is now the norm? It clearly falls under the controllable part of my life. I wasn’t born a racist. As Rogers and Hammerstein clarified in South Pacific, “You’ve got to be carefully taught.” But I have worked sincerely on that aspect of my life in a variety of ways, yet, I suppose the term racist does apply to me at some levels. 

I grew up when “gay” didn’t refer to someone who preferred to sexually and emotionally connect with members of their own gender. Or when the other parts of LGBT where code words, and not political referendums.

I grew up when sex was not explicit — either in attire or behavior — on the scale it is today. When one-night-stands were not necessarily planned, and when females were more coy than aggressive in relationships. When married TV couples slept in single beds separated by a lamp table.

Grace & Frankie takes shots at many of these, including guns (another sacred cow). That’s probably the only controversial issue I have settled for myself: I don’t and probably won’t ever own one. It’s your right, however. What I cannot understand is how we’ve gotten to the place nearly all school children from kindergarten up have to be drilled in safety procedures to protect them from someone with a gun.

It’s a difficult transition from the world I grew up in to the world in which we now live. My pathway has been along lines that are less absolute. I wouldn’t have either thought of or predicted that when I was sixteen. But when I was eighteen? As I’ve written before, the convergence of civil rights, women’s rights, and Vietnam was the point 9 earthquake that seemed to shake things up forever. Of course, these are not excuses either.

I’ve often looked back to wistfully remember “the good old days.” I realize they weren’t good for everyone; that the agonizingly slow change for the better for them has not been as easy for me and others like me as well. We had to either change as well — or dig in. Many chose to dig in. Others of us have elected to change within. Either choice has its results and/or consequences. Neither is easy.

It’s not easy being green, said someone very wise.

2 Responses to “It’s Not Easy Being Green”

  1. Damyanti Biswas March 2, 2019 at 5:46 am #

    I realize they weren’t good for everyone; that the agonizingly slow change for the better for them has not been as easy for me and others like me as well. We had to either change as well — or dig in. Many chose to dig in. Others of us have elected to change within. Either choice has its results and/or consequences. Neither is easy.

    That’s honest, and such a good summation of what reality is. And you’re so right–neither is easy.

    • skipmars March 2, 2019 at 9:25 am #

      Simply, everything changes — to some degree or other: practices, attitudes, norms. I’m not sure change cares whether or not it’s good, even if it’s part of a larger design. For me it hints at an intentionality — like that of a parent holding the hands of her pre-toddler while encouraging the child to take a step, however wobbly. For those who adamantly resist change, the result is not to walk, or to continue to swim upstream against the current. I have an understanding of how change effects those my age. My children have grown up amid that change, and never experienced what preceded much of it. I’m not looking to excuse what was, but to say change can be confusing and scary. Climb a ten-meter diving platform while blindfolded. Edge your way to the end and listen to a voice say, “Jump!” “Is there water in the pool below?” you ask. “Jump!” comes the reply.

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