At the age of 65, I now finally know my mission in life. I’m a real-live crash test dummy.
Crash test dummies (CTD’s from here on) test out the risk factors of dangerous potential scenarios so you can learn from them and avoid damage yourself. Strap the dummy in, let ‘er rip, see how it goes and set your own course accordingly. I’ve been a vicarious CTD for many friends and acquaintances nearly all my life, though I only realized it fairly recently.
My dear mother, rest her soul, used to say, “Susie, it’s never as bad as it seems.” (This in conjunction with “Susie, everyone’s just doing the best that they can.”) News flash, mom, gone these 47 years: Sometimes it is as bad as it seems and everyone’s not doing the best that they can.
Full moon rising over the Brazos River in Waco, Texas, July 4, 2020
Like most everyone else in this country, I had no fireworks on my Fourth of July this year. But the combination of it always having been my favorite holiday and the fact that my dad passed away 20 years ago on July 4 made me determined to celebrate it in the best style I could during a global pandemic, sheltered in Waco, Texas.
What a Decade in Mexico Has Taught Me about Weathering a Global Pandemic
I was walking along Waco’s Brazos River this morning when my throat caught – the woman about to pass me on the walking trail was wearing a red Mexican blouse that was clearly from San Antonino: the elaborate, heavily embroidered style I’d recognize anywhere after living for a decade in Oaxaca City only 50 miles away.
It’s funny (insert another word here, but what?) how the pandemic has upended so many previously held norms and values. What we thought was “normal” once doesn’t exist any more. “New normal” is a catch-all phrase for everything that we deal with now that was never on the radar. Face masks, social distancing, massive protests, joblessness, political gridlock. Covid itself sounds like a word that the non-grammatician-in-chief might have accidentally twittered. Continue reading
My parents and baby me, circa 1956. Ray and Vi Bean always Showed Up.
I learned two brutal lessons at 18, when my mother died six weeks into my freshman year of college. One: life is short, really damn short if you can get cancer at 47 and die within eight months, leaving a teenager just pulling out of surly adolescence, who you’ll never see grow to adulthood. Two: People say they’ll show up, but then they don’t and will tell you later how they meant to. And I thought then as I do now: that blows. Just do it or shut up.
Agility and adaptability may save us all
More than 30 years ago, not just Before Corona Times but Before Mexico, when I was (really!) a suburban housewife in Dallas with a side writing gig, I wrote a piece (for a printed magazine!) for Dallas Community Colleges on crafting different types of resumés to get that first job. A traditional vitae – at least then – was linear in time, listing education and (if you were lucky to have had a summer internship thanks to a dad who had connections) whatever paltry work experience might set you apart from the rest of the herd. But what if you organized your self-promotion as skill sets? What volunteer jobs or life experience, showcasing what of your stellar 21-year-old qualities, might be worth giving you a foot in the door? What if it was your potential and not your actual experience that was under consideration?
Every small gesture matters, especially now
One day, an old man was walking along a beach that was littered with thousands of starfish that had been washed ashore by the high tide. As he walked, he came upon a young boy who was eagerly throwing the starfish back into the ocean, one by one.
Puzzled, the man looked at the boy and asked what he was doing. Without looking up from his task, the boy simply replied, “I’m saving these starfish, sir”. The old man chuckled aloud, “Son, there are thousands of starfish and only one of you. What difference can you make?”
The boy picked up a starfish, gently tossed it into the water and turning to the man, said, “I made a difference to that one!” Starfish: The Parable
What a failed 1914 Antarctic expedition can teach us about survival, sheltering and leadership
The Endurance, trapped in the frozen Weddell Sea of Antarctica, 1915
It was the ultimate shelter-in-place: a failed 1914 expedition to Antarctica by explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton that saw the ship Endurance mired and then crushed in pack ice, the 28-man crew stranded in the unforgiving frozen Weddell Sea, living off of ships’ supplies, penguins and finally their sled dogs. After living on a diminishing ice floe for a year, Shackleton and a crew of five crossed 800 miles of open water in a lifeboat, and slid down an icy mountain into a whaling station that would close for the season in just days. When on the fourth try they reached the remaining men stranded back on Elephant Island, not a single crew member had been lost in the nearly three-year ordeal.
Pack ice crushed Endurance after six months trapped in the frozen Weddell Sea
In the late spring of 1940 in WWII, German forces closed in on Allied troops backed up against the beaches of Dunquerque, France. British Prime Minister Winston Churchill expected that a calculated evacuation could rescue maybe 45,000 of the nearly 400,000 troops. Large Royal Navy vessels positioned themselves in the English Channel, but couldn’t get close enough to the shallow beaches to reach the stranded soldiers.
The Allies put out a call for smaller boats to carry the troops from shore to the ships, summoning a ragtag but unstoppable force of pleasure vessels, ferries, fishing boats and cruisers who made trip after trip from the beach to the ships. In all, some 860 vessels rescued 338,226 soldiers from May 26 to June 4, 1940. It shouldn’t have been able to have been done. But it was.