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What Color is Pride?

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What color is pride? For many baby boomers like me, I’ll bet the first thing that comes to mind is red, white, and blue. With stripes. Growing up in the post World War II era, the whole country was awash in the hues of Old Glory.

My father, being a Texan, had his own proud blend of red, white, and blue. As kids, we had a fine selection of confederate flags, which we draped over plastic replicas of General Lee’s horse Traveler, raised on toothpicks over little statues of the Alamo, and wore as magical capes as we pranced around the house fighting bad guys.

I was told that being half-Texan meant I could do just about anything I put my mind to. Bigger and better than anyone else.

My mother, on the other hand, was brought up under the red, white, and blue of England’s flag and passed on the idea that while we were better than everyone else, we were never to say so. “Don’t brag, it’s unbecoming,” was followed by, “No, dear, you mustn’t play with them — they are not our kind of people.”

What’s worse? My Dad’s resounding pride or my Mom’s false humility?

Oh well. My childhood understanding of pride may have been confused, but at least it all fell under red, white, and blue, so there was no question about the color of pride.

American Flag

The British are coming, the British are coming!

The British are coming, the British are coming!

256px-Confederate_Rebel_Flag.svg

Until Vietnam. That’s when those colors began to divide America and my family. I sided with my older hippy brother over my Commie-fearing father, and my understanding of the color of pride morphed into a bright tie-die unity with the anti-war crowd. Proud to be a pacifist, proud to be against the machine, against the system. Proud to “let my freak flag fly,” as Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young put it in their song, “Almost Cut My Hair.”

Going Green

When the environmental movement took off, my sense of pride took on shades of green. In college, I began marching under the green and white eco-flag.

In surveys I did while working at the Sierra Club, we often found that people associated the word “environmentalist” with “arrogance,” and I can understand that. There’s an odd, almost combative pride that develops when people are devoted to a cause they feel means life or death. That’s particularly true when for policy reasons, they must define “the solution” and push for it, which comes across as “we know best.”

Still, the way I see it, when you are up against an opposing force that simply denies the reality of biology, climatology, or any other kind of science for that matter, it does no good to search for a “middle ground” — you have to push if you love humankind and the rest of creation. So I’m still green and proud of it.

Marching under the Green Flag

Marching under the Green Flag

A Child of the Universe

Speaking of loving humankind — in my thirties, I chose a path that truly confused my notions of pride. I became a committed Christian, which meant that I got serious about being open to personal transformation and healing. I had to lay down the prideful ego that, unbeknownst to me, had been driving my life up until that point.

When God was gracious enough to show me how much my ego and my need for recognition and esteem drove my actions, I was disgusted and dismayed and quite willing to change. I wanted to tear out the thick black threads of pride that ran through my being, binding me up and making me dance like a marionette to the tune of other people’s opinions.

At the same time, if you dare to believe that you are a beloved child of the Creator of the Universe and that you — yes, you — are unique and uniquely gifted in all of history, part of a cosmic plan to make the world a better place, well . . . well, just wow.

That’s a different color pride.

As I’ve gotten to know myself in the light of Love, I have become gentler with myself. Like any child, I have built-in needs for affection and approval. That’s OK; that’s sweet. I believe those needs are driven by our natural inclination to be close to God and to other people. (And, yes, also by our evolutionary need for survival in community, which I don’t think is contradictory to the God-part. We are wired that way by the Master Electrician.)

These natural emotional needs simply get warped by the world. Now that I’m aware of this, I keep watch, and on a good day these traits don’t run my life. I can smile fondly at them and go about my business.  I think that somewhere in the dynamic tension between our beloved uniqueness and our egoic drive lies a perfect balance of pride that is pure white like a dove in the sunshine, or perhaps transparent, clear as a pristine stream.

I’m nowhere near that color pride, nor do I expect to be in this lifetime.

creek

Abundant Yellow

Right now, I am experiencing pride as yellow — bright sunshine yellow. It is warm. It is glowing. It is good.

Last week, I graduated from Johns Hopkins with my Masters in Creative Nonfiction and gave a public reading from my thesis for close to two hundred people. I did well. People smiled and nodded and laughed in the right places. Am I proud of myself? Damn straight! I busted butt for four years to get to that podium, and I think I did a really good job. (Sorry, Mom, I know I’m not supposed to say that.)

At the Podium

At the Podium

Thing is, everyone else in my graduating class of sixteen also did a really good job. I’m super proud of them, too. We’re all standing in this sunny pride. There’s plenty of it to go around, enough of the good pride for everyone — it’s not something to clutch. It bathes the whole world in its warmth. We all glow from it. I think it comes from God, and I think it’s related to love. Which raises the question, what color is love? Another post.

Speaking of love, as I was writing this, my blog stats reached three thousand followers, adding to my golden glow. Thanks so much to all of you for accompanying me on my writing journey! I love you guys!!

And now, after that commercial break for a moment of pride, I will return to my false humility.

Related posts:

https://melanielynngriffin.wordpress.com/2012/10/19/what-color-is-shame/

Photo credits: Wikimedia.com, Public Domain Photos, Publicdomainpictures.net

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Daily Prompt: “Rabbits,” She Said

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She was always there, my Mom’s best friend.

Myrtle, she hated, so Mike she was.

She came for tea; they went to concerts.

Slumber parties, college reunions, and charity balls,

My shy mother endured, all for the sake of friendship.

Mike brought me Lambykins the day I was born.

Lambykins

Lambykins

The night the doctors unplugged my father, Mike was there.

She told me to go to college orientation anyway –

He would have wanted it that way.

Her hair was always silver, always just so.

I never saw her without her blue eyeliner, even into her nineties.

She was a terrible flirt, “incorrigible” my mother would say.

Mike would wink, and they would laugh.

They always laughed.

And always, always, they said “rabbits” first thing on the first day of the month, for luck.

It’s how they knew they were soul mates when they met as freshmen in 1935 — they both said “rabbits.”

Mike always called the night before to remind my mother, for seventy-plus years.

After Mom died, Mike called me or my brother instead.

“Don’t forget to say rabbits!” she’d say.

Halloween night she called:

“What are we supposed to say tomorrow?”

“Rabbits,” I said, feeling very sad.

For the rest of my life, I will hear her voice on the first of the month.

“Rabbits,” she’ll say. And wink her blue-lidded eye.

Rest in Peace, Mike.

# # #

I wrote this in response to today’s Daily Prompt:

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2013/12/09/source-of-anxiety/. You’re supposed to write about a noise, or a silence, that won’t go away. The WordPress Gods view this as a source of anxiety, but say we can interpret it different ways. When I heard this morning that Mike had passed away, I was going to write about her silence – but I find she will never be silent. And so, Mike’s monthly “rabbits” brings me comfort, not anxiety.

Teaching the World to Love. Rest in Peace, Nelson Mandela.

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Rest in Peace

Rest in Peace

There aren’t really words to mark the passing of this spirit of light from the world. Many words will be spoken, but none will suffice. So I won’t add to the noise.

I’ll just tell you that my grandmother — may she also rest in peace — was born and raised in South Africa, and there she was taught to fear people with skin darker than hers. My mother was taught the same. She passed it on to me. I am grateful that others came later in my life, including many people of color, who helped me learn to love. “Perfect love drives out fear.” It is, truly, a more natural state for the human heart.

Blessings on your journey, President Mandela. May we continue to learn from you for many centuries to come.

A Fourteen-Sentence Glimpse into My Journal

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Why not? I’ll give you treasured readers a glimpse into my treasured pages – I’ve been keeping a journal since I was fifteen. A while. While much of it is drivel, if you make like a butterfly and just flit across the pages alighting here and there, you’ll find my life.

So here, in single sentences, is my recent two-week trip to my retreat in New Hampshire:

NH Nov2012 002b

Nov 7th: The visit started with a dent in my force shield, with the discovery that X had been here and stolen Bambi from the entryway.

Nov 8th: And it was evening and it was morning, a second day.

Nov 9th: Laugh for the morning: I’m reading about four qualities that often go with living with alcoholism — martyrdom, management, manipulation, and mothering, and I find myself thinking, “Oh my God, with this situation with X, my default has been to feel like a martyr, to try to figure out his motivations so I can manipulate him, and to manage his behavior – hmmmm, maybe I should try mothering him.”

Nov 10th: After four years of this, I’ve finally called a lawyer; so now there’s nothing else to be done except homicide, and that’s frowned upon.

Nov 11th: My tailbone is bruised from a twelve-hour-sit in a straight-backed wooden chair – I’ve got to get this thesis done!

Nov 12th: Just the sense of being thoroughly present at this kitchen table is pure joy, although out the window the field needs mowing badly – but there’s nothing I can do about that today.

Nov 13th: I dropped too much money at the Monadnock Co-op, but there’s no use crying over spilled walnuts, olives, and organic cheese curls.

Nov 14th: I’ll light a fire early today – haven’t had one in a few nights.

Nov 15th: I slept in this morning because I stayed up too late reading and drowsing by the fire; then woke to find the kitchen pipes froze last night – hope they’ll thaw without excitement!

Nov 16th: It gets dark so early now – the sun has gone behind the mountain at 4:30 and it’s cold and I’m sad.

Nov 17th: I sent my last essay to S and she says it’s FABULOUS and I’ve done great work – so there you have it, I HAVE FINISHED MY THESIS: This is happening, folks!

Nov 18th: Two days behind schedule, gotta put up the storm windows, clean out the fireplace, haul in the picnic table, vacuum, scrub mildew, visit T and ask him to shut off the water . . .

Nov 19th: No entry

Nov 20th: It’s very good to be home and done with travel for the year.

Nov 21st: Today is another day: I have tea, I have cats, life is good – my plan is to unpack, clean, and prep for the upcoming Advent spiritual retreat.

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