"Love is a harsh and dreadful thing to ask of us, but it is the only answer."--Dorothy Day



Yesterday I was listening the podcast of the This American Life episode called "20 Acts in 60 Minutes." One of the acts is a man telling the story of seeing and greeting someone, and having no idea where he knows her from. Then agonizing over this until he sees her at the drive-thru window of his coffee spot...explaining the reason he felt that he might be in love with her.

So I thought this was very funny, because I am often having this "where do I know you from" dialogue in my head about people I pass on the street, or see at restaurants, or social gatherings. I have an impeccable memory. There was time when I could recall what I was wearing on any given day of a month, and on days many months before when something only minorly significant had happened. When Nathan was filling out med school applications, he called me to figure what his extracurriculars were in 1999. For real. But I seem to be fading.

Today I was walking to get some lunch (at 4pm) and saw these two women huddled next to a building smoking. I looked over at them, noticing the scarf that one of the women was wearing and deciding that it wouldn't work for me. Then one of the women excitedly greeted me, and asked me how I was. I, while continuing to walk, returned her greeting and then went on my way. I can say with great certainty, I have no idea who this woman was. None. There were some people that ran through my head, but they were discounted as they do not smoke, and it would make no sense for someone to start smoking in their mid-thirties. On the way back to my office, I found myself hoping that they were still out there, so I could stop and talk and gain some context clues, so I could know if it was a work, or church, or school, or social connection. But no such luck. The good news is I can enter 2009 knowing that I will never again get upset because someone does not remember me. But, sadly, also with the knowledge that someone might be kind of upset that I would just walk on by when we shared so much, so long ago.


A New Decade.

And so I have begun my third decade. This is not something I had been looking forward to, but really I'm enjoying year 3-1 so far. Most of my friends in NYC are older than me and passed this mark at least a couple of years ago. They have told me that everything is better after 30...not as much pressure, a sudden feeling of being a bit more self-assured, and maybe finally crossing-over to adulthood in the current climate of delayed growing up. And while I will miss being able to say "No...I'm still in my 20s," and the feeling of accomplishment that I've always felt at being younger than most everyone in my classes or at my various jobs, it's probably okay. I'm no longer advanced. I'm just normal now.

And now some highlights from the last year of my 20s:
  • Made my first trip abroad, going to London for a friend's 30th birthday. And I managed to come back without an accent.
  • Made a trip to San Francisco for the wedding of one my dearest.
  • Got my nose pierced, as I have wanted to do since I was like 18. Don't tell my dad.
  • Got another tattoo and shared my first one with a friend. Her husband has almost gotten to the acceptance phase.
  • Made some wonderful (and certainly lifelong) friends.
  • Helped elect a president. I still get a little overwhelmed when I see the pictures from this election, and think about what this meant, and could mean, to so many people.
  • Learned a bunch of stuff...in books, and facts, and life.
  • Have come to the conclusion once again that NYC, you and I, though sometimes you bring me down, are in this for the long haul.


It's All About Love.

I received an e-mail today from one of my activism groups, the Human Rights Campaign, about the response received by an article in this week's Newsweek called The Religious Case for Gay Marriage. Read it (all of it), and come back to me.

I have been really, really disappointed in the holiday season this year. I had hoped, however naively, that the current economy would lead people to put a different meaning on Christmas. "We can't really afford that Xbox this year, so we're just gonna love each other alot." But instead it has only increased our national greed and desperation for more, and more, and more, holding on with every fiber of our being to everything we can get our hands on. This was illustrated to me profoundly by the death of the poor man who was trampled by shoppers at a Wal-Mart in New York State. We are so thirsty for bargains that we do not notice that we are stepping on a person. Stop to think about that for a moment.

I try very hard to illustrate generosity to my clients, and to encourage them to be involved and do things for people who are even less fortunate than they, but I am mostly (not all the time) met with blank stares before the mad rush for whatever morsel I have placed before them. And I do understand the psychology of this. People who have lived in a state of constant deprivation have a fundamental drive to grab and hoard whatever they can find, as it may happen again that they are left without. And especially in a capitalist society, the poor are given very little room to be charitable. But this doesn't mean that it doesn't destroy me every time it happens. Recently, the participants in my program decided that if there was any food left over at the end of the day from the breakfasts, lunches and dinners that are provided to them free of charge, they would claim it to take it home and then throw the rest away, rather than taking it downstairs to the homeless people that live on our steps. I want to know how we got to this. I alternate between this making me profoundly sad, and making me profoundly angry, which leads me to want to withhold some of the resources I have been given for my clients as a means to show them what need is like. But then I know that they know (or have known) what desperation is like, and I wonder how they have so quickly forgotten.

So in reading this article (I know it's taken me a while to get back to it), the thing that struck me the most is strength of our collective inclination to deny other people something that has brought us profound joy, and to make enemies of people we do not understand. I believe that for most people who are married, this is one of the greatest things that has ever happened to them. And there is something so, so deeply wrong about turning this into a privilege for only a few, or into a weapon used to deprive about 10 percent of the population of their fundamental rights. There is inherent complication in the fact that an institution that is supposed to be based on partnership and love has become the basis for legal rights and privileges. And by denying certain people to right to marry, or by tying so many fundamental rights and privileges up in the institution of marriage, we are creating an underclass of people based on sexual orientation, or based simply on the fact that not everyone is cut out for marriage. And in so doing, we are missing the point, made even worse by tying all of this up in our religious beliefs, and denying people these rights based on what we believe our translation of the Bible is saying. But it also says that God is love. And it says that "love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends." Never ends.