JC’s Confessions #15

In the first few seasons of The Late Show, Stephen Colbert did a recurring skit, now a best-selling book, called Midnight Confessions, in which he “confesses” to his audience with the disclaimer that he isn’t sure these things are really sins but that he does “feel bad about them.” While Stephen and his writers are famously funny, I am not, so my JC’s Confessions will be somewhat more serious reflections, but they will be things that I feel bad about. Stephen’s audience always forgives him at the end of the segment; I’m not expecting that – and these aren’t really sins – but comments are always welcome.

JC

I’m not a vegan.

I’m also not likely to become one.

I know that eating a vegan diet is gentlest on the planet and its resources and I have made a lot of lifestyle changes to address climate change and other environmental threats, but I can’t manage going vegan.

I try to be mindful of what we eat and where it comes from. We eat a number of vegetarian meals during each week and utilize local, in-season produce when available. You can read my paean to the 2020 strawberry season here. I often have access to organic produce and meats, which are less stressful on the ecosystem than large-scale conventional farming. I have tried to experiment with some of the plant-based substitutes for ground meat, but the smell, taste, and digestibility caused a number of issues within our family.

I enjoy lots of vegetables, fruits, grains, and nuts.

The problem is that I have a couple of medical issues that limit or eliminate quite a few vegan sources of important nutrients and there are times when symptoms are acting up that it is already difficult to figure out what I can safely eat without throwing in the additional strictures of veganism.

So, I will keep on, in my less-than-perfect way, eating not as bad-for-the-planet as I could be, but not as good-for-the-planet as I could be, either…

JC’s Confessions #14

In the first few seasons of The Late Show, Stephen Colbert did a recurring skit, now a best-selling book, called Midnight Confessions, in which he “confesses” to his audience with the disclaimer that he isn’t sure these things are really sins but that he does “feel bad about them.” While Stephen and his writers are famously funny, I am not, so my JC’s Confessions will be somewhat more serious reflections, but they will be things that I feel bad about. Stephen’s audience always forgives him at the end of the segment; I’m not expecting that – and these aren’t really sins – but comments are always welcome.

JC

After all the safer-at-home pandemic protocols, I’m afraid that it will be difficult for me to resume going back out to church, meetings, events, etc.

The truth is that I am both introverted and shy. It takes a lot of energy for me to be in a group setting and even more for me to actively participate. I much prefer one-on-one interaction, the exception being among family.

I wrote yesterday about the explosion of Zoom and other virtual meetings. I’m finding that these are also very draining and even more difficult to navigate than in-person meetings, because it is harder to gauge how/when to break into the conversation when we are each in our own little box.

I wonder if some of the group activities I used to do will even exist after a vaccine makes social interaction relatively safe again. While I had been mourning my lack of a chorus with whom to sing, now no one has a chorus available and may not for a long time, given that singing in a group is an especially dangerous virus-spreader. The spirituality group that I have facilitated for years at church is almost entirely people in high-risk groups and we don’t have the option to go virtual due to technical limitations.

Some organizations, like the Binghamton Poetry Project, will eventually have to decide if they go back to in-person meetings or stay in Zoom, which allows people who don’t have transportation or who live outside the area to participate.

It’s possible that there won’t be many groups expecting my physical presence when we get to the post-pandemic world, but there will no doubt be some. Will I be able to muster the energy to venture back out on a regular basis or will I just stay home?

I don’t know.

JC’s Confession #13

In the first few seasons of The Late Show, Stephen Colbert did a recurring skit, now a best-selling book, called Midnight Confessions, in which he “confesses” to his audience with the disclaimer that he isn’t sure these things are really sins but that he does “feel bad about them.” While Stephen and his writers are famously funny, I am not, so my JC’s Confessions will be somewhat more serious reflections, but they will be things that I feel bad about. Stephen’s audience always forgives him at the end of the segment; I’m not expecting that – and these aren’t really sins – but comments are always welcome.

JC

I haven’t gone to a march or demonstration against racism since the murder of George Floyd.

This is something I absolutely would have done pre-pandemic. I know many at-risk people have chosen to participate because of the importance of the cause and the present moment’s possibilities for progress on human rights, trying to fulfill the call for justice that has been so long denied.

Still, I can’t bring myself to attend a public gathering, knowing that I will be seeing my 95-year-old dad and possibly some of his senior-community neighbors in the coming days. I always wear a mask, but I’m not comfortable having any more exposure to people than I absolutely must in order to function as a household.

On the day of George Floyd’s funeral, there was a brief ecumenical gathering to kneel for 8 minutes, 46 seconds in his memory. While I stayed at home, T attended, so our household was represented. The gathering was outdoors, it was sunny and windy, T wore her mask, and people spread out as best they could, so it’s unlikely she was exposed.

Still, it feels odd to not have a physical presence myself at this crucial time. I will try to be content with my efforts to educate myself and keep updated online and through the media, as well as to pursue lobbying and advocacy opportunities with the social justice organizations with whom I have relationships.

I also have my platform, however small, here at Top of JC’s Mind. Every voice, every action, adds something to what must, finally, this time, be permanent changes in the US and the world.

JC’s Confessions #12

In the first few seasons of The Late Show, Stephen Colbert did a recurring skit, now a best-selling book, called Midnight Confessions, in which he “confesses” to his audience with the disclaimer that he isn’t sure these things are really sins but that he does “feel bad about them.” While Stephen and his writers are famously funny, I am not, so my JC’s Confessions will be somewhat more serious reflections, but they will be things that I feel bad about. Stephen’s audience always forgives him at the end of the segment; I’m not expecting that – and these aren’t really sins – but comments are always welcome.

JC

I don’t miss going to church.

I’m writing this after being unable to attend in-person mass for two and a half months due to the COVID-19 pandemic. I have been watching a pre-recorded mass on television and often reading a homily from the Catholic Women Preach website. These are good resources, but I feel more like an observer than a participant. Obviously, there is no opportunity to receive communion, which is a very important part of Catholic practice.

I should interject that there has never been a time in my life when I haven’t gone to church every weekend. For many years, I was involved in music ministry and liturgy planning. I am also a long-time advocate for church reform, including the ordination of women, the recognition of equality among the laity and clergy, and the model of servant-leadership. In 2005, my parish home was shattered due to abuses of power. Those wounds have never healed, but I still continued participating in mass, even though I would sometimes cry – and sometimes feel that I could write a more thoughtful homily than the one I heard in church.

Perhaps, being an isolated home observer feels safer than being in the midst of a congregation when I get emotional. It’s also unlikely that televised mass will plunge into fraught topics, so there is a certain level of safety that doesn’t exist when you are in the pews.

Some church congregations or groups have taken to meeting via Zoom or other kinds of video conferencing during the pandemic. The congregations that I know that have done this are much smaller, though, so there is opportunity for interactions, such as offering prayer petitions. There are well over 1,000 families in my parish here, which makes meaningful videoconferencing impractical. Some of the church reform groups with whom I affiliate are offering prayer services, which is appealing in concept, but I worry that participating would make it even more difficult to remain within the institutional church. Leaving has been a decades-long temptation for me. [There is not enough room in this post to explain that struggle. Maybe, someday…]

I received a letter from my parish, explaining that this weekend they will begin celebrating mass under a new protocol. The priest will livestream weekend masses so that people can see and hear it on their phones or other wifi devices from the church parking lot. At communion, several Eucharistic ministers will zigzag through the parking lot, stopping at each car so that its occupants can come out and receive communion and then get back in their cars so that they won’t be near to anyone else.

This scenario does not appeal to me. I worry about the risk to the Eucharistic ministers, who will be in close contact with dozens of people, albeit outdoors. Other than being able to receive the Eucharist, the participation quotient is about the same as watching a televised or live-streamed mass, other than being in your car in whatever weather that day offers instead of in your home.

The root meaning of the word liturgy is “the work of the people.” To me, the current methods of celebrating liturgy at a distance feel more like watching a performance. I don’t know if I will adjust to this over time or not. I also don’t know if, many months from now when larger gatherings with singing are reasonably safe to attend, it will be difficult for me to muster the energy to leave my home and be in the midst of people and all the uncertainties that involves.

I don’t know and it makes me sad.

JC’s Confessions #11

In the first few seasons of The Late Show, Stephen Colbert did a recurring skit, now a best-selling book, called Midnight Confessions, in which he “confesses” to his audience with the disclaimer that he isn’t sure these things are really sins but that he does “feel bad about them.” While Stephen and his writers are famously funny, I am not, so my JC’s Confessions will be somewhat more serious reflections, but they will be things that I feel bad about. Stephen’s audience always forgives him at the end of the segment; I’m not expecting that – and these aren’t really sins – but comments are always welcome.
~ JC

I find it easier to deal with suffering that isn’t right in front of me.

There is still concern and worry, but it is much less likely to reach a paralyzing level.

With the pandemic, I know there are many people suffering in many places around the world. There is a certain level of continuing worry and heartache.

Still, it is not as painful for me as being with someone who is suffering.

Some of the most difficult things I have had to deal with in my adult life have been medical issues with my family. Some of these have been difficult to diagnosis conditions with my children which have resulted in being home with them continually and not having effective treatment available. It was so stressful to see someone need to hold onto things to be able to navigate, to know that there was only enough strength to make one trip a day up and down the stairs to the bedroom, to not be able to relieve constant pain.

And it is always there in front of you and, despite different doctors and their opinions and hours on the phone with the insurance company and trying everything the doctors recommend, you are helpless.

Somehow, though, when suffering is at a distance, I can imagine that, perhaps, things are not as dire, that things are bearable or treatable or maybe even okay. Sometimes, I can even banish worry for a little while.

I don’t know if other people find it more painful to witness suffering of a loved one firsthand or to be seperated from them. It’s not something that people tend to discuss.

I only know that it is much more painful for me to watch a loved one suffer, especially when everything I can do seems so small in the face of the problem.

JC’s Confessions #10

On The Late Show, Stephen Colbert does a recurring skit, now a best-selling book, called Midnight Confessions, in which he “confesses” to his audience with the disclaimer that he isn’t sure these things are really sins but that he does “feel bad about them.” While Stephen and his writers are famously funny, I am not, so my JC’s Confessions will be somewhat more serious reflections, but they will be things that I feel bad about. Stephen’s audience always forgives him at the end of the segment; I’m not expecting that – and these aren’t really sins – but comments are always welcome.
~ JC

I don’t feel like a musician anymore.

I started playing piano at seven. I began studying organ as a preteen and was the organist of my rural Catholic church at fourteen. I majored in music at Smith College, where organ was my main instrument, I played often at chapel, I sang in choirs, learned that I could compose, and was named the Presser Scholar in my senior year.

After I graduated, married B, and moved to the Binghamton NY area, I continued with church music until I took a few years away when my children were young.  Realizing that it wouldn’t work for our family for B and I to never have a common day off, I volunteered with the music ministry at my church, accompanying the youth and junior choirs and subbing when our music director needed to be away. When tendon problems in my elbow eventually made it impossible for me to play for very long at a time, our music director would play and I would conduct.

When our parish disintegrated in 2005 and my church music volunteering evaporated, except for occasional special celebrations, I still had my long-time affiliation with University Chorus to keep me musically active. After the retirement of our long-time director, though, University Chorus, which used to sing a major concert every semester, has cut back to only singing at one concert a year, at most. This academic year, we have not met at all and I am not sure we will ever re-convene. Due to uncertainty and personal scheduling complications, I haven’t been able to join another group.

With my last steady musical commitment gone, I don’t feel that I am still a musician, which leaves an empty space in my identity. In a period of my life when there has been so much loss, losing that piece of myself is especially difficult because music has long served as a vehicle to express emotion and to find community and comfort.

I don’t know if I will ever recover the musician part of my identity. Theoretically, I could be singing on my own every day and working on sight reading so that I would be ready to audition if there is an opportunity, but it feels too futile, not helped by the fact that I am a very anxious and not particularly good auditioner.

It is likely that I will sing again with the Smith Alumnae Chorus, either on campus or on tour, but those choral experiences would only be a few days a year. Not an identity-affirming amount of time.

Maybe what I should say is that, for many years, I was a musician.

SoCS: JC’s Confessions #9

A retired US armed services person – I can’t remember if it was a general or admiral – has been making the point that it’s important to make your bed first thing every morning because that will set you up for making a string of good choices for your day.

I’m not so sure.

I think many of us suffer from decision fatigue. What to do first/next, what to wear, what to eat, what to say, on and on and on. It can be mind-numbing.

I’m also afraid that some seemingly uneventful choices have deeper meaning. For me, making my bed in the morning is a reminder that I will spend a large part of my day doing things that are important to other people that aren’t really important to me.

It can make all those small, uneventful choices take on a deeper meaning – one after another after another.

It’s exhausting. Maybe that is part of the cause of decision fatigue.

In case anyone needed more evidence about my being what some would call overly-serious.

Non SoC note. I had been thinking of doing a JC’s Confession post about this topic, so when I saw Linda’s prompt, this was what came to the top of my mind. I’ve decided to list this as both an SoCS post and a JC’s Confessions post. I thought I should include my standard Confessions intro, so here it is:

On The Late Show, Stephen Colbert does a recurring skit, now a best-selling book, called Midnight Confessions, in which he “confesses” to his audience with the disclaimer that he isn’t sure these things are really sins but that he does “feel bad about them.” While Stephen and his writers are famously funny, I am not, so my JC’s Confessions will be somewhat more serious reflections, but they will be things that I feel bad about. Stephen’s audience always forgives him at the end of the segment; I’m not expecting that – and these aren’t really sins – but comments are always welcome.
~ JC

*****
Linda’s prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday this week is to write about “making small, uneventful choices.” Join us! Find out how here: https://lindaghill.com/2020/01/31/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-feb-1-2020/

JC’s Confessions #8

On The Late Show, Stephen Colbert does a recurring skit, now a best-selling book, called Midnight Confessions, in which he “confesses” to his audience with the disclaimer that he isn’t sure these things are really sins but that he does “feel bad about them.” While Stephen and his writers are famously funny, I am not, so my JC’s Confessions will be somewhat more serious reflections, but they will be things that I feel bad about. Stephen’s audience always forgives him at the end of the segment; I’m not expecting that – and these aren’t really sins – but comments are always welcome.
~ JC

I have a love/hate tolerate/hate relationship with my smartphone.

It is a perfectly fine Android phone, but I can’t get used to it. I don’t find all the tapping and swiping intuitive. The first call I got on it I couldn’t figure out how to answer. I guess the Verizon Store employee assumed I would know how, although he did know that it was replacing a flip phone.

Before I go further, I should explain that I don’t use my cell phone for general communication. Only family, a few friends, and people who might need to reach me urgently have my cell number. I don’t want to hear from my dentist’s office with an appointment reminder while I am shopping or driving or visiting.

I have learned to use texts. My flip phone could text, but it was so hard hitting the numbers multiple times to get the correct letter that I seldom did it. So, I do text with my smartphone. I just don’t do it very well. I don’t have very big fingers, but the keyboard is so small that I am forever hitting the wrong letter or finding myself in the emoji section when I am trying to type a comma.

I don’t like having to have apps for – well – just about everything. I’d love to delete a bunch of them, but some of the ones that came preloaded on the phone you aren’t allowed to delete. I really, really dislike notifications from apps. I try to turn most of them off, which involves going through a bunch of confusing screens in settings.

I have a lot of trouble navigating and finding things when I need them. When we went to London in December, we sometimes had our travel documents on the phone rather than printed out on paper. It made me really nervous that I would not be able to pull up what I needed. At one point, I was trying to scan a boarding pass to get through a turnstile sort of thing and wound up on some other screen and needed to be rescued by an airport employee to get through the checkpoint. It was disconcerting.

At this point, you may be thinking, “Wow, Joanne must really be a Luddite,” but I’m not totally without technical skills. I’ve managed to keep this blog going since September, 2013. It’s not fancy, but it exists. I do much of my poetry in google docs. I’m decent at researching online and finding reliable sources, instead of fringy ones. I know how to use some keyboard shortcuts. I can even troubleshoot some problems – restarting often works wonders – although I need to call in reinforcements, sometimes. Fortunately, my spouse B has worked in tech for decades and my (now adult) daughters are digital natives, although one is quite a bit more tech-oriented than the other.

I do not, however, feel compelled to be reading or playing on my phone at all times. I don’t need to look up some factoid on whatever subject. I don’t need it to tell me what time it is or when my next appointment is. I don’t feel lost without it.

I will confess, though, that I sometimes need it to tell me the date. My paper calendar is not so good at that…
*****
If you want to read other JC’s Confessions, there is a handy-dandy link at the top of the page. This confession is also part of Linda’s Just Jot It January. Join us! Find out more here: https://lindaghill.com/2020/01/19/daily-prompt-jusjojan-the-19th-2020/

JC’s Confessions #7

On The Late Show, Stephen Colbert does a recurring skit, now a best-selling book, called Midnight Confessions, in which he “confesses” to his audience with the disclaimer that he isn’t sure these things are really sins but that he does “feel bad about them.” While Stephen and his writers are famously funny, I am not, so my JC’s Confessions will be somewhat more serious reflections, but they will be things that I feel bad about. Stephen’s audience always forgives him at the end of the segment; I’m not expecting that – and these aren’t really sins – but comments are always welcome.
~ JC

Poets are supposed to submit work to journals or publishers on a consistent basis. I confess that I have not been doing this. Not even close. Other than a few stabs at Rattle’s Poets Respond series, which only takes submissions written within the last week on news items and is a very, very, very long-shot, I have only done one submission this year, which I did because a poet-friend asked me to do. (I am not counting poems published in Binghamton Poetry Project anthologies because they are not a competitive venue.)

Given how complicated these last months have been, I suppose it is understandable that I haven’t been submitting for publication. I confess that I find the process of figuring out to whom to submit which poem daunting and incredibly time-consuming. I get nervous about the formatting requirements, which never seem to be the same among different publications. I also need to be in a mindset that can take a lot of rejection, because the vast majority of submissions will be rejected.

The result of all this is that it is even more difficult than before to get motivated to work on submissions. Not publishing also erodes my already fragile sense that I am a poet – or, at least, a poet good enough to be published.

Which makes it harder to get motivated to submit and adds to my lack of confidence, and so on and so on…

Later in the fall, I may/will have more time to devote to writing and poetry. Will I be able to get my act together to do submissions?

I don’t know.

Stay tuned.

JC Confessions #6

On The Late Show, Stephen Colbert does a recurring skit, now a best-selling book, called Midnight Confessions, in which he “confesses” to his audience with the disclaimer that he isn’t sure these things are really sins but that he does “feel bad about them.” While Stephen and his writers are famously funny, I am not, so my JC’s Confessions will be somewhat more serious reflections, but they will be things that I feel bad about. Stephen’s audience always forgives him at the end of the segment; I’m not expecting that – and these aren’t really sins – but comments are always welcome.
~ JC

I am mostly oblivious to pop culture. If I read the Grammy nominations, chances are I don’t know any of the songs and haven’t heard of the majority of the artists. I haven’t ever seen Titanic or Avatar or Jurassic movies or the vast majority of superhero movies. I don’t stream and binge watch series from Hulu, Amazon Prime, etc. and I don’t have premium television packages, which means that I also haven’t seen many of the shows nominated for Emmys, although I think it is good that I haven’t seen Game of Thrones or The Handmaid’s Tale because I would probably have nightmares. I don’t watch collegiate or professional sports, except an occasional baseball game. I don’t vacation at theme parks.

I am involved with a few popular things, the most notable being the Harry Potter books and movies. For the most part, though, if you want to discuss a pop culture topic with me, you’ll likely have to explain it to me first.

Some people might say that I am elitist and they are entitled to that opinion. I would like to say in my defense that I grew up in a tiny town in New England, have never lived in a large city, and have never had a high-powered career. Even though I am now a poet, I am a community-educated one and most people find my poetry accessible rather than esoteric. But, the fact remains that I am a poet, so maybe I am guilty as charged…