From Standard Deviation by Katherine Heiny


It was really amazing the way life kept grinding forward, demanding things of him. He had to get up and go to work and earn a living and cook dinner and be a parent, all on days when he didn’t know if he could manage to brush his teeth. P 164

Yesterday I bagged up the cookies I had baked for some friends. As these things go it was hard to resist eating a small slightly, deformed one. These shortbread cookies are yummy, but they have a secret ingredient—espresso.

So this morning around 2:30 AM I found myself wide awake, feeling as if I had been asleep longer than three hours. I don’t exactly know what was to blame, the cookie or the recent events in our country. Anyone else out there having trouble sleeping lately? I feel like we could have a whole other set of protests running in the middle of the night, or maybe we should harness all that energy and hold our activist gatherings when we’re all awake anyway.

As much as I’d like to blame my wee hour anxiety on the state of the world, it’s more likely the caffeine. But either way, I couldn’t fall back asleep. Eventually I loaded up a podcast, choosing to finally listen to the last episode in season two of Big Magic. Liz was talking with Glennon Doyle Melton and asking questions about her creative life. Glennon responded with a synopsis of her life story, putting extra emphasis on the phrase ‘An eviction from your life is an also invitation.’

And that was my life preserver. I held on tightly for fear these words would slip away from me in the cover of the night. Because every day I get up go to work and wonder what exactly has happened to the world as we knew it. What happened to kindness, compassion and empathy? Without these things I am confused and I’m not sure where to focus. Each day something new comes down the pike and we throw it onto the compost heap in our minds. But the great thing about compost is that all that waste eventually turns into something useful. And that’s what I love about Glennon’s phrase. It’s so much more visceral and interactive then closed door/open window. This is an action of being thrown out of the place you call home; feeling unsure, uncomfortable, angry and scared. Yet at the same time the unknown is actually beckoning you forward. Because honestly, what else can we do know but work and fight for what we know to be right and true?

I feel as if I’ve been asleep, truly asleep, and finally woken up. I crawled into the chrysalis a caring member of society and emerged as an activist. Maybe not a capital letter A, activist, but someone who’s ready to do her part.

Several of the articles I’ve read recently focus on our reaction to the election, the inauguration and all the upheaval that has followed. We are reminded that it’s a marathon, not a sprint. That we need to practice self-care, even just the basics: sleep, eating properly. Taking time away from the frenetic energy of social media. We should practice small acts of kindness, and do whatever we can do. Call senators, attend protests, vigils and meetings. Stand up when we see an injustice, no matter how small.

My inner introvert cringes at the thought of some of these interactions, so I’m finding other ways to contribute. Reaching out to people I care about and reminding them how wonderful they are—sending them a card for no reason other than I want to feel the pen on the paper and know my thoughts are traveling the distance to them. I’m donating cards and postcards to organizations who need them. I’m offering to bake cookies for groups who are meeting. I’m trying to strike up conversations with people and see where it leads. Today a woman asked what I was knitting and she mentioned she knit two pink hats for her daughter and granddaughter who marched in DC. She said she that this weekend she would be traveling to visit another daughter whose husband needed to be out of the country to visit his ailing father. She worried about what would happen if he was denied entry back into the country. At the end of the conversation she thanked me for listening.

On the list of things I can do, listening is right up there. We introverts excel at listening. And helping. At the library and bookstore where I spend my days, my first statement to someone is always “How can I help you?” I’m just putting it right out there. There are women I admire who are always putting themselves out there. Liz Lamoreux is one of my online connections. She writes a blog, holds classes and is on Instagram. She’s always offering to catch stories, to listen when you need an ear. She’s honest and heartfelt in her posts. In times of trouble and stress she often quotes Mr. Rogers, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping’ Each time I hear it, I feel a call to action. In the face of all this chaos and craziness I can only have one response. Here I am. I’m ready. How can I help you?

Can I bake you some cookies?

2 thoughts on “From Standard Deviation by Katherine Heiny

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