Warren Was Ours to Lose So We Did

Once again, we would not take a chance. Too much at stake to change is what I heard and read–time and again–as if America cannot walk and chew gum at the same time. Admittedly, I have my doubts about that, too.

But what better time to take a chance! Our republic is in shreds as we fight foreign interference, corporate corruption, and party manipulation. Warren had plans, lots of them to rescue our republic, and we were all included, especially the middle class, which she believes can be the backbone of America, again. Isn’t that what we asked?

Maybe when it comes to restoring country, we are not so keen. We cry out for change without accepting what it takes to weave it into the fabric of our lives. Warren was trying to add a political lane–she thought there was room–she found two ways and neither one was for her.

Change means leaving some part of life behind for something untried. It’s risky. Warren made no pretense of a panacea but for a bright, shining moment we were strong, and then, we were silent as Elizabeth grew invisible.

She believed in what is best in us but not enough of us believed in what is best in her. Everywhere she turned on Super Tuesday, she was soundly slapped. We stood for hours to get a selfie with her but when we stood in line to vote, it was for others.

I have gone back-and-forth about voting for Elizabeth Warren–I feel neither the Bern nor the Biden–I live in Florida so I still hold my ballot close to my heart (cheesy, I know). I am old enough to remember that democracy means messy and a contested convention is exciting when the nominee is not a foregone conclusion. That’s democracy in action, a party seeking the best for the country. That seems a novel idea now.

It’s a good thing to stand strong for your candidate, to fight with all your might with your moral compass as your guide, the righteous fight, as Elizabeth called it, the one that may leave you bloodied but the better for it.

Admittedly, this old white woman is tired of voting for old white men for president but before any panties get twisted, I am voting blue no matter who (m). Now, I am working on down-ballot races, and not only in my state, for we need to take the Senate and maintain the House. There is no time to sit on the sidelines.

Speaking of, it is time to let go of this post. If this were back in the day, I would have filled a small notebook by now for my anger runs deep. I am a writer so I write, making my way to the core of the energy of my emotion. From my gut I learn.

I can’t begin to imagine how Elizabeth Warren feels. She and I are (almost) the same age, advanced degrees, teachers once, administrators, and feminists, both having to learn about color and what our white skin has meant and continues to mean. That’s where the similarities end. I am no Elizabeth Warren but in different moments, we have known similar worlds.

People get lost in the fear of change, what it will mean to their lives. Many times, it seems better the devil that is known. Not too long ago, I read more than one post by women reluctant to identify as feminist because there is no longer a need for feminism. Good luck with that.

One of the many perks of being old is knowing that learning and letting go are one and the same breath, in and out. And if one breath doesn’t do it, there is always the next. Persist.


Life at Sixty

I had been dreading the evening when I would no longer have May Sarton’s The Education of Harriet Hatfield to read. Yet, as is often true with the really fine writers, Sarton pushed me along, knowing it was time for another book, another story.

I want to tell you about Harriet Hatfield.

The novel opens at the death of Harriet’s partner. It is the late 1980s in an exclusive, upper-class neighborhood in Boston—Chestnut Hill–where Harriet and her partner had lived for thirty years. It is not a novel in which a great deal happens but, of course, a great deal does happen to a sixty-year-old lesbian who has an opportunity to begin life completely anew. With the money she inherits from her partner’s estate, Harriet moves from Chestnut Hill to a working-class neighborhood where she opens a feminist bookstore that also serves as  her residence.

Harriet soon learns that hatred and prejudice run roughshod over any sense of security she may have once had. The anonymous but ominous threats Harriet receives do not weaken her resolve but strengthen her determination to stay in a neighborhood that does not want a “lady” lesbian or her feminist–and therefore must be pornographic–bookstore, Hatfield House.

Harriet Hatfield’s feminism is a belief in equality for all in all things–jobs, housing, existence–and is a constant source of tension throughout the novel. Hatfield House, with its overstuffed chairs and afternoon teas, is “‘the equivalent these days of men’s clubs…places where women can talk to each other, find sustenance, and come to some idea of who they really are.'” Yet, Hatfield House is much more. It is, perhaps, a “bridge” to and for all in Harriet’s neighborhood–including hate and prejudice–but as Harriet says of metaphor, “‘if you run it into the ground… it suddenly doesn’t quite work.'”

I was introduced to The Education of Harriet Hatfield on Cynthia Newberry Martin’s blog . While I am familiar with most of Sarton’s work, I was not aware of this novel but I was aware of a bit of a coincidence, being a sixty-year-old lesbian myself. Like Harriet, I, too, believe that at sixty I have been given a rare opportunity to live a life I have never lived. Unlike Harriet, I am anything but financially secure–her complete opposite financially–but I am rich in ways that continue to surprise me every day, which is so very like Harriet. One of the greatest perks of growing old is finally appreciating all that one is and how little, how very little is necessary to live a life fulfilled.

“‘I have just three things to teach: simplicity, patience, compassion.
These are your greatest treasures.
Patient with both friends and enemies, you accord with the way things are.'”
–Lao-Tzu (Translation provided in The Book of Awakening, Mark Nepo)

Above all, Harriet Hatfield has patience. She does not believe that all of her neighbors will accept her or her bookstore even eventually–she knows she will not outlive prejudice–the temporary truce in the neighborhood is indirectly provided by her dog, Patapouf: “‘there is a residue of compassion… that suddenly comes into view where an animal is concerned, as though the only pure thing left in this corrupt, hate filled world is the love of animals.'” The neighborhood belief that animals are beyond prejudice provides a brief respite as well as some consideration for what another human being may or may not be, even a lesbian.

This is a novel in which not a lot happens and in which everything happens. It is not a novel about understanding one side or the other much less taking sides. It is a novel about living one’s life fully and completely every day–whatever is presented–even if it is a new life at sixty.

“…Given enough time, most of our enemies cease to be enemies, because waiting allows us to see ourselves in them. Patience devastates us with the truth that, in essence, when we fear another, we fear ourselves; when we distrust another, we distrust ourselves; when we kill another, we kill ourselves”
(The Book of Awakening).

(All quotations from May Sarton’s The Education of Harriet Hatfield are from the 1989 Norton edition.)