Grace to Let it Be

Grace, I learned many years ago, means – unmerited favor, among other things.  The strange cultural paradox we live with, however is that we desperately try to earn God’s grace.  This presents a psychological and social conundrum.

I know in my head that grace is a gift and nothing I do will increase or decrease its presence in my life.  But, in my merit-based, learned culture (American, baby-boom, middle class, Christian), the subtle teaching is that you only get what you earn, what you work for.

In fact, I giggle at most statements that begin with “I deserve…”  My cultural-thinking goes right to, “did you work harder than the next guy, that you deserve it and he or she doesn’t?”

The rule my generation and prior, have lived by is that you reap what you sow.  If you don’t work you don’t reap a reward via a paycheck on payday.  Then there’s payback.  Reaping and sowing laws, unmediated by the whole story, portray God as big on payback, and He does it one of two ways.  The hopeful way is, “give and you shall receive.”  The negative way is, “the wages of sin are death.”

The cultural imperative I grew up with was, if you work hard, you can become anything you want to be.  A burgeoning woman in the time of the feminist movement, it was incumbent on me to do more, be somebody, climb higher than women climbed before.

So, a combination of feminist thinking, the rebellion of the 1960s, and the growth of the gifted/charismatic, Christian church, mingled to engender a mind-set of trying; and unknowingly ushered in a make-it-happen, stressed generation.  I grew up with the children’s book first published in 1930, The Little Engine That Could: “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can;” and Norman Vincent Peale’s The Power of Positive Thinking (1952).

These positives are not bad in and of themselves, they even provide hope as well as incentive to work.  However, taken too far – and I don’t know where that line is – these positives created a mind-set that we can make anything we want happen, if we try hard enough, believe for it, stay constantly positive, and turn the magic key in the invisible lock

The problem is, it’s never enough.  When your invisible goal persistently looms in front of you, the only thing to be done, is try harder, do more, and work at it.

I think we defined the term, go-getter.  We are the get-er-done or pass out- trying generation. Use it or lose it is our cultural motto.

Some of us have had enough.  Frankly, part of it is, we’re just tired from all the years of work, earning our grace.  I’m done, as in fried, baked, and roasted, trying to get what I want.

Those of you who want to, keep trying, trying, and trying again.  Godspeed, but do it without me.

My “counter”-anthems to all that trying are bits of song lyrics that confirm the stirrings in my spirit, some of which are:  “Stop, Look Around…” (Buffalo Springfield, For What It’s Worth, 1966); “Let It Be” (The Beatles, Lennon & McCartney, 1970); and “Breathe, Just Breathe…” (Anna Nalick, Breathe 2 AM, 2005).

I prefer going back to grace, the un-merited, gift part of the gospel message, the part where Christ did the work and by His graceful gift, I receive the benefits (Ps.103:2).  After all, gospel means good news.  I’ve already done the “work out your own salvation with trepidation” (Phil. 2:12) and the “join in Christ’s suffering” (1 Pet. 4:13) part of Christian stewardship.  I’ve sown, watered, tilled, and fertilized.

Now, like Buffalo Springfield, I’m just looking around, taking it all in: “What’s that sound, everybody look what’s going down. . ..”.  I’m breathing consciously with Anna Nalick, including the exhale; and feeling the sun on my face with The Beatles, positioning myself to reap.

Grace, grace, I cry grace to the mountain, which shall become a molehill (Zech. 4:7).  I’m in a place where I’m observing a whole lot more molehills and fewer mountains. …  Sometimes I let the “I gotta-get-it-done checklist” in the back of my mind, begin to fade into perspective.

Mother Teresa of Calcutta reminds us that trees, flowers and grass grow in silence.  I would add that we humans grow, in rest.

With this column, I’m reaping years of research done and experiences had in my academic, social and spiritual/psychological past.  This outlet through which I share with you every week happened out of the blue, just when I’d let go of what I thought I wanted.

Back in 1979 I experienced the protestant version of deciding to become a nun.  Concluding that marriage wasn’t for me, I started planning my future in youth ministry.  As these things go, the dawn after that decision, I met the guy.  Plans changed.

Soon after my husband’s and my fortuitous meeting, I had occasion to relate to a young friend of a friend who desperately wanted a boyfriend, the wisdom of a precept which I will call: the thing you want will happen only when you stop trying to get it Seriously, this is one of the truest things I know, but the hardest thing to experience.

The best things in life just happen” (LeVan 2016).  To workaholics and control-freaks, this concept is counter-intuitive.  If we didn’t work for it, control it, or make it happen through our own effort, we’re at a loss as to how it can be.  Similar counter-intuitive precepts are: surrender to win; less is more; die to live; decay is fertilizer; give it up, or set it free, to get what you want.

Like a child growing into my new clothes, I’m growing in graceGrace doesn’t just mean unmerited favor, the definition extends to agility, balance, elegance, beauty, cultivation, and the effortless fluidity of life from one step to the next. This extended definition is what I’m going for in 2020 and beyond.

I shall leave you with some excerpts from Lennon & McCartney’s 1969 song, Let it Be: When I find myself in times of trouble… And in my hour of darkness… Whisper words of wisdom, let it be… And when the broken-hearted people… Living in the world agree… There will be an answer, let it be… For though they may be parted… There is still a chance that they will see… There will be an answer, let it be…And when the night is cloudy… There is still a light that shines on me… Shine on until tomorrow, let it be… Whisper words of wisdom, let it be.”


Peace vs Piece

The word, piece is from Welsh for, thingPeace, is from Latin, for pact, agreement, or covenant.  The nouns, peace and piece are parts of speech known as homophones.  They sound alike but have different meanings.

I don’t know what happened in the night I started contemplating the possible connections between these two words, but it wasn’t sleep.  I began a compare and contrast exercise in the wee hours that night.  I wondered:

How do you keep the peace when someone goes to pieces?

Which is best: holding one’s peace or speaking one’s piece?

If you must give someone a piece of your mind, can you have peace in your mind?

If you really want peace on earth, can you hate a piece of the earth?

Would you give up your piece of the pie in exchange for peace in your heart?

If everything falls to pieces, can peace make it whole again?

If I help you pick up the pieces of your brokenness, would peace on earth have begun with me?

If we reconcile all the pieces of the universe that have been separated by hatred, might peace be on the cusp?

If piece by piece we unify all of our separate parts into a whole, have we made peace with ourselves?

Can I make peace with life by becoming a piece of the action?

The piece of work that I am, is it possible to make peace with the disparate pieces of my life? 

Can I gather together all of my pieces to produce the sweet sound of harmony for an outcome of tranquility, congeniality, sympathy, serenity, stillness, and unity?

The song, Let There be Peace on Earth, by Jill Jackson-Miller and Sy Miller, was written the year of my birth, 1955.  What better anthem to have running through my head on a loop at such a time as this.

This song is one of my favorites, played this time of year, as we build up to the celebration of Christmas, the basis of which we honor the birth of Christ, the Prince of Peace.  Let me encourage you to find a version of Let There be Peace on Earth, that you like, on YouTube, or download it onto your phone, and let it run through your mind on a loop.

The 2020 contentious election and contentious virus, have tried to team up like a battering ram to steal our peace.  Maybe listening to Let There be Peace on Earth, could begin to shatter some of the broken pieces of cognitive shards planted in our minds this extraordinary year of 2020.  

Join me in hoping for peace, and praying for peace.  “Let this be the moment now,” when we choose peace, and give peace a chance.

Accepting Loss

It will be, that by the time of this column’s publication, someone will have lost an election.  That loss will be devastating to a lot of people who’s hopes will have been dashed and expectations thwarted.  Loss is not easy to get over and it’s complicated with a capital C.

To date, I’ve never failed the visual field test from my semi-annual eye exam.  I sometimes fret a little bit about attention deficit during the test – thinking I might get bored for a second while waiting at the ready for any flash of light, however vague, to appear to the right, the left, above or beneath the center yellow dot, the sharp focal point of the test.

If attention deficit is your thing, and you’d prefer cliff-notes, then this is the paragraph for you. The whole point of acceptance of loss is to acknowledge it, even focus on the loss (the yellow dot in the visual field test), while not losing sight of the periphery of life (your entire scope of vision – all of the lights appearing to the left, right, above and beneath the yellow dot), everything else outside of the loss.

The stages of grief have been identified, quantified and are well-documented as denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.  However, the manifestations of grief are more likely individually experienced and somewhat chaotic rather than the supposedly orderly, sequential, progressive, or easily-defined stages that are stipulated in the scientific, and popular literature.

Awareness of grief and where we might stand in its possible stages might, however, assuage our getting stuck somewhere indefinitely, unresolved.  But grief is an emotion not easily dealt with.

We mourn, not just at the death of a loved one or pet, but at the death of a relationship, the loss of a job or the demise of an expectation, dream or hope for something imagined – or like a cable bundle, a combination of these losses.  Grief also arrives at the doorstep of the loss of the healthy functioning of one’s mind or body or the decline of an ability that everyone aging (i.e., everyone) must either grow aware of or live with its painful, unacknowledged effects.

“Accepting the things, I cannot change,” control, or fix, is the hard part of the Serenity Prayer.  If I can’t change or fix something that bothers me, or control the changes that inevitably come my way, don’t you know those things move from the periphery, right into the focal point of my thoughts.  Everyone who has dieted can relate to the simple fact that when you determine not to eat something you’ve deemed against your diet (e.g., chocolate, snacks, bread, pasta, red meat/deli meat, potatoes), that food is all you can think about.

The grieving process is not an easy one, but it is an important one.  My observation and educated guess about mourning is, we are better served if we invite it not to pull up a chair and stay, at length.  Yes, we should welcome grief as a guest; even immerse ourselves in its embrace with no time-frame surrounding it, and fully feel it.  Then, at some point, bid it adieu.

I’m certain that those who mourn have to just hurt for a while, swim around in its pool and be saturated by it.  No words, no scripture, no gesture will stifle the indescribable pain of loss until that mystical moment when the veil is lifted enough to actually exhale.  We must take advantage of that moment to step out from under the bulk of grief, move away from it and free our soul from its lingering effects.

Loss is universal, experienced by everyone, everywhere throughout time.  Some have had more than their share of loss of loved ones.  Others have had to suffer the loss of dignity or self-esteem, maybe many times over.  Most of us have had to grieve the loss of dreams or expectations, only to develop new ones, over time.  Not many have escaped the devastating loss of a pet.

Everybody’s got their griefs to bear.  I along with millions of other church goers, have sung the hymn, “What a Friend we have in Jesus,’ …All our sins and griefs to bear! What peace we often forfeit, O what needless pain we bear…”

This hymn lauds Jesus as the perfect friend to share our sorrows, discouragements, burdens, weaknesses and I would add – complaints, if we avail ourselves of his friendship.  If not, just knowing that we have friends on the planet who have felt the same sorrow as us, is a comfort and goes a long way in assuaging our pain of loss.  Specialized groups for various types of loss, filled with like-minded folks, have sprung up all over the country, providing support for those grieving the death of a loved one, a divorce, domestic violence, alcoholism, drug abuse, or suicide.

Plutarch, a first century Greek philosopher, as well as our friend, Jesus, mentioned above, suggest that we can diminish the size and intensity of our grief by tweaking what we pay attention to.  After entertaining it for a time – we might recognize lingering grief as the inkling to feel sorry for ourselves or have an extended pity party for one.

We might consider un-inviting the guests to our pity party.  We could switch up the party’s theme, converting the pity party to a psychologically and spiritually useful celebration of what remains intact in our lives.  We may transform what was good in what’s gone, into a present that we can live with.

In memorials, wakes, or divorce parties, we can focus our attention on:  1. recalling the pleasure, delight, or happiness the thing or person, presently lost, brought to our lives; 2. transposing and reshaping our reflectionsfocusing on what the relationship or memory brought to our lives; rather than on what its loss took away from us;  and 3. recollecting the essence of the lost person, expectation, job, or feeling, and treasuring that essence in absentia of the concrete or physical person, relationship or thing.

And, finally, acceptance of loss is an invitation to the rest of our lives, played out on a stage with past memories, present acceptance, and a future hope.  There will be another presidential election in four years.  Make the best of this four years, through acceptance of what is.

Little Things and Simple Gifts

(Author’s note:  The first two paragraphs did not appear in Bev’s Bedford Gazette column):

I dearly love my sister-in-law Janet Barton, and I hope she’s still not mad at me for surprising her with a ride on Space Mountain, the indoor, dark roller coaster at Disney World, Florida.  It was the middle 70s and Jack, Janet, and all three kids (Karen, Jim, & Kim) came for a visit to Longwood where I lived for a minute in time and of course we had to go to Disney.

Having been to Disney a half dozen times while living in Florida, my all time favorite attraction was It’s A Small World.  To me, a young adult at the time, that attraction was the epitome of magical in the Magic Kingdom, and the most magical place on earth.  The ethereal miniatures hanging from the ceiling and covering every inch of space throughout the ride were breathtaking.  I’m certain I would still be captivated today, should I visit.

Bohemian-Austrian poet & novelist, Rainer Rilke said, “…if you have this love of inconsiderable things…everything will become easier, more coherent and somehow more conciliatory for you…”  Oh my, couldn’t we all use a little more ease, understanding, and a little less antagonism, these days?

Has life sped up? So many of us have no room for the little things, the things hardly anybody sees – pedestrian things that take slowness to perceive and absorb.

When I walk near or in the woods, I notice little bits of trash and usually pick it up.  I know why I see it and the people that litter while going by in their cars and trucks pay no attention.  It’s up close from my pedestrian point of view and quite distant, abstract and out of mind from theirs – which is speeding by on their way to something else.  When you’re a pedestrian, you notice little things – they’re in scale.

For example, I once heard a thunderous knocking on wood while walking through the forest.  I stopped, looked up and spotted bits of plant debris falling from the tree tops.  Eventually, while focusing on the spot of falling plant matter, I was surprised to see the smallest black and white woodpecker making all that racket.  Little things can make a big impact.

That same day, I sat on a rock to dictate some thoughts into my phone’s notepad, when I saw a delicate daddy long-leg spider and thought I should snap a photo of it, but before I could do so, I tracked it out of sight, under a rock but then I noticed some translucent, white sprouts of some sort, that up close were elegantly ethereal and fairy-like – something I would not have wanted to miss.

Some things I would never have noticed had I not stopped, sat, and focused my attention on their normally inconsequential movement down below my usual upright and straightforward gaze ahead.  Why are we always trained forward, never below or above, but ahead?

“Jo, such a little name, for such a person” – a favorite line from a favorite book and film – Little WomenLittle names for big characters.  Little tasks for giants among us.  Little jobs produce great dividends.  Little words can make dynamic statements.  You get the pattern.

I think perhaps the big things assault our senses, demanding a response, and noisy things literally capture our attention and hold us hostage.  Because big and noisy things have taken all of our allotted daily energy, we’ve learned to sort out, sift through, and ignore the little things and the quiet stuff, deeming them unnecessary and peripheral to life.

We’ve forgotten the gift of little things, silence, and simplicity that the Shaker’s well knew when they composed the song, Simple Gifts.  Kitty Kallen sang, “little things mean a lot” in 1954 and it still applies.

The Song of Solomon 2:15 alerts us to the potential of little things (in this allegory, it was little foxes) doing big damage (spoiling or ruining tender grape vines), if left unattended.  Apparently, not only in current culture, but in ancient culture as well, people were caught unawares, not paying attention to the potential of little things impacting important aspects of life.

We ignore little things until they’ve compounded and noisily commanded our attention.  We would do ourselves a favor by attending to the otherwise, unnoticed “duh” little things, moments, thoughts, occasions, ideas, events and endowments, as the gifts they really are.

Who am I to add to anything Thomas Merton said, an American Trappist monk, writer, theologian, mystic, poet, social activist, and scholar of comparative religion?  But I’m gonna give it a try anyway, for what it’s worth.  He said, “Wisdom cries out to all who will hear.  And she cries out particularly to the little.”  In the context of this column, I would add, “Wisdom cries out to all of us about the little things, if we only had ears to hear.”

Critical Thinking and “Group-Think”

Who was it when I was a kid, who reminded us from the television, to “put on your thinking cap?”  Was it Miss Patty on Romper Room, with her magic mirror, or was it Captain Kangaroo, or Mr. Green Jeans?  These TV shows and characters were the 1950s predecessors of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood.   A quick Google search confirms it was Tom Terrific, a part of the Captain Kangaroo television series.

At any rate, the takeaway is, have you “put on your thinking cap” today?  It’s especially important that you do so when you go to the polls or send in your absentee ballot in a little over a week.

Back in the 90s when I was writing my master’s thesis, critical thinking was a thing.  Right in my professional wheelhouse erupted the question, “Am I thinking for myself, or submitting to group-think, a psychological phenomenon about a sociological issue?”

Key to belonging to a group is a thing called “group-think.”  If we don’t go along with the thinking of the group we closely associate with, we feel like we’ve betrayed our tribe.  But let me encourage you, along with Tom Terrific, to “put on your own thinking cap,” and think critically, for yourself.

We are a people, pretty quick to jump on the bandwagon of what’s popular with our closest associates, or culturally acceptable, instead of stopping in our tracks and observing for ourselves just what we believe, through personal experience. Reflection seems to be a luxury we cannot afford in this society of instant access to anything and everything.

The slow to speak and slow to anger biblical concepts encourage us to stop before reacting. We often regret our instant reactions.  Upon reflection, “I didn’t mean what I said.”  

After some reflection and unemotional thought, most situations surprisingly resolve on their own. Given some time and reflection, even awful stuff usually reduces from an overwhelming emotional boil, down to a manageable simmer.  Have you heard the expression, “simmer-down?”

All of us could benefit from asking some critical questions of what we think.  In fact, when I joined my Methodist Church when I was fourteen years old, part of the catechism was to memorize and recite the Apostle’s Creed…” I believe in God the Father…”  At the time, that was the right thing to do – for me.  But, since the critical thinking thing, I’m less willing to accept what “they” believe, as my own – until I’ve identified what “it” is and reflected on it, sometimes for years.

For example, do I believe what I believe because they believe it or because I believe it?  Am I an unquestioning follower, or am I a leader?  Do I follow the group, or follow the leader (a children’s game, by the way), blindly?  Or, do I hear another rhythm in my head or heart, and move confidently to its cadence? 

In group-think, individuality is forsaken for expected conformity to the group.  Consensus is forced, when maybe a little bit of tension is what would produce the greater good.  Disagreement, given a chance, can fuel smarter and more thoughtful outcomes.

Harmony is paramount in group-think.  In fact, dissonance is felt to be dysfunctional to the smooth operation of groups and is discouraged at all cost.

My go-to example of “group-think,” from personal experience was when many years ago I served on a local jury.  It was a banal, he-said, he-said case, with no clear evidence other than the word of two combative inmates at the jail.  When it came time for deliberation, I was floored when a man – no foreperson was chosen or appointed – announced that, “we all know he did it, so let’s just go in and get this over with so we can go home.”  Everybody “agreed,” and that was that.

The fact was, I didn’t agree or disagree and really wanted some discussion, but surprisingly for me – a person who usually asserts my voice into the conversation, I stayed silent.  Group-think took over and I didn’t have the fight in me at that point, to stand out as an individual in that particular crowd.  But I think for the sake of accuracy in our decision, and for justice to have at least been attempted, I should have insisted on a modicum of rational discussion and individual responsibility.

Although I didn’t disagree with the group, I tacitly agreed when I stayed silent.  I surrendered to the group decision, even though my own thoughts screamed from within for a more thorough reflection on the matter at hand.

Critical thinking in my graduate school academic training (a little more recent than the jury-thing) required questioning the obvious; digging deeply, below the surface of things; a very non-group behavior.  In terms of belief systems, critical thinking demands that we don’t accept the whole of creeds, dogmas, ideologies, or the recycled thinking of others, at face value. 

Instead, we ask why, and we dissect and sort out those creeds and decide for ourselves what syncs up with our personal experience and sits with our souls, peacefully – not comfortably, because comfort can be a crutch of the status quo.   When a belief is really our own it should deeply rest or settle with us from our core, to our surface.

It seems one of the best opportunities in the world to practice critical thinking and avoid “group-think,” is coming up for Americans.  On or before November 3, 2020 we shall vote for our governmental representatives, after having thought critically for ourselves and ignored the noise of the groups yelling at us electronically.

I encourage you to vote privately – that’s a novel experience in this “voice-vomit” culture.  Vote thoughtfully and critically.



“Have a nice day!”

The old me would have immediately hung up the phone and fired off an instructive, detailed complaint telling that company their customer service sucks.  However, the current me, the old me receding ever deeper into the past, repented for my total disregard for kindness toward that woman on the phone, just doing her job.  I decided to let it go.

Don’t get me wrong, I haven’t completely transformed.  I mulled over and over in my thoughts, the precise words I could write, persuading that company into changing their policy to always close every phone call with, Is there anything else we can do for you today?

It’s meant to sound helpful and welcoming, but it couldn’t be more impersonal and nonspecific.  After all I called them in the first place regarding a precise issue I had with them – specifically, their product, service, etc.

I mean, is there anything more infuriating, after you’ve given your detailed spiel, problem, and plea for help to fix a problem than for the person on the other end of the phone-line to say some version of, I’m sorry, we can’t help you with that, is there anything else we can do for you today?

“I didn’t call you for something else, I called you for this.  Why would I want you to help me with something else when you failed miserably to help me with what might have been in your power to help me with?” – This is what you want to say.

Scream – helpless, now-silent scream.

Yes, sir or ma’am, you can help me with something else.  Will you pick up some milk for me?  Oh, and the tires need rotating on the car.  The light bulb, one of those fancy ones with the smaller twisty insert just blew in the bathroom chandelier.  The recycling needs taken to the bin, and my desk drawer – the one with the keyboard, needs totally rebuilt – it gets stuck every time I try to shut it.  Since I need to take an hour and $36 to fix the problem you were unable to help me with, maybe you could do these other things on my list for today.

This reminds me a bit of a quote attributed to Mark Wahlberg that went around on FB about Hollywood celebrities – actors and musicians, who live in a bubble but feel free to counsel and instruct us ordinary humans how to think and how to live our best lives.  He went on to say that just because we buy their music or go to their movies gives them no insight into what we have to do to put food on the table or make a living.

I believe this same kind of celebrity-thinking goes into the customer service policy I described above.  The presumption is that I will continue to feel good about their company when they don’t help me solve a problem with their product or service, if they offer something in return.  They hope to appear like they’re doing everything they can to serve us.

In reality, however, what they’re doing is marketing, not a service nor a kindness.  They’re attempting to sell us more of their product and service, all the while, trying to make us feel good about buying it.

Then there’s the bastardization of the once pleasant but long-ago trite farewell, “have a nice day.”  Have you noticed how similar to: “how ya doing?” “how are you?” and “what’s up?” – the “have a nice day” greeting, often lacks sincerity?

Most people don’t really expect a response to these, once sincere, salutations or questions.  They ask, how ya doing (no longer a question requiring an answer) and keep walking and conducting their business.  They don’t want to hear a litany of ailments, a story about your stack of bills, a line by line account of your mistreatment by a customer service agent or anything other than, “fine, how are you,” as you both move on with your day.

But, with “have a nice day,” it’s gotten twisted to the point that the whole phrase is an antonym, used to insult someone after assaulting them with a social-verbal slap in the face.  For example, “Here’s your speeding citation.  You have yourself a nice day.  Hasn’t that ship already sailed?

Or, this $3,000 dental procedure isn’t covered by your insurance, have a nice day.”  Or, “I’m sorry your $5,000 appliance completely failed on day 366 from your purchase date and we cannot cover it under the warranty, but for $79.99 we can set you up with a protection plan.  Have a nice day.”

“No thank you,” you reply – holding back tears and your flailing arms – perched to punch her/him in the face; and he/she closes the encounter with – “Is there anything else we can do for you today?”  To which, you meekly whisper in defeat, “No, thank you” (thanking them for nothing, but trying with all that’s in you to be kind).  And they say, “Have a nice day.”

Now here’s a greeting one can be proud of uttering.  “Happy Birthday!”  Who doesn’t feel at least a little bit happier for the notice paid by acquaintances and friends who took a few seconds from their busy lives to wish them happiness for being born?  Or, “Happy Anniversary!”  A greeting to celebrate those who’ve stayed together through thick and thin.  Then, there’s “Congratulations!” for marking some awesome accomplishment.

I’m guessing we all handle birthdays, anniversaries and accomplishments a little differently.  Some of us look forward to a special day marking our birth, our marriage, or our accomplishments, full-out with fireworks, champagne, and gift wrap.  Others of us would rather not bear the spotlight and call it another day, preferring a snooze-fest over an extravaganza.

A few years ago, I can be quoted as saying, “There is no better example of human strength and resilience than a birthday.”  I like wishing my Facebook friends a happy birthday or a happy anniversary when FB reminds me it’s their day.  I mean, how hard is it when you’re reminded that it’s someone’s anniversary or birthday, to type a few words of good will which are probably half filled out for you on auto-fill anyway?

So, to those of you who are poised to accept another birthday, anniversary, or accomplishment, and we don’t meet up on Facebook, sincerely and truly, from me to you, please “have a nice day.”

Just sayin’ 2.0

With all the talking, chatter, expounding, and expressing our opinions that goes with the open-ended cultural territory we all inhabit these days, it’s no wonder, just sayin’ is a popular linguistic add-on to many a modern conversation.  Being a personal essayist, I’m no exception.

I’m guilty of using the phrase.  It’s a profuse and ubiquitous concept and linguistic aid.  The “just-sayin’” concept, if not the phrase, is evidenced in the blunt Twitter-style communication of our nation’s President.  Supporters or not, sometimes we all shudder, “just-sayin’.”  Now I shall break it down.

“What’s on your mind?” asks Facebook.  To which, many FB members respond with a photo, a memory, a meme, a quote, a fleeting thought, a suggestion, prayer, advice, or simply an observation about one’s day, life, news, politics, the weather, and more.

Many of us Bloggers, online diarists, overshare as a career.  We self-disclose with little abandon, as a matter of course.  I guess it’s the definition of overshare, which perhaps has changed.  It was once called diarrhea of the mouth.  Anything goes in terms of sharing, as long as you tag on, just sayin’ at the end.  It’s an information glut, otherwise known as “too much information” or TMI, for short.

The first amendment to our Constitution, the “free speech” one, gives every American freedom to speak and to write, without government interference.  But, is there no restraint of another kind governing the content or the extent of our speech?  I’m not sure.  This might be a problem.

A couple of years ago, I binge-watched the first season of The Crown, on Netflix.  A striking cinematic and relational contrast was established on screen between the two sisters, Elizabeth (the Queen) and Margaret, clearly not the Queen.

In the early days as Queen, Elizabeth appears stuffy, self-important, relationally distant, and insecure.  Undoubtedly her demeanor has been the result of several things, not least of which is her anointing as head of the Church of England, and her sworn duty to the people of the United Kingdom, over which her government presides.  Her sister, on the other hand, without a role of such magnitude, has had the luxury and freedom to be fun-loving, individualistic, sarcastic, jovial, even frivolous in her doings and in her speech

Margaret is portrayed as the real and likable one, and Elizabeth, unembodied by sentiment or individuality of any sort is shown to be the stern, unimaginative, serious sister, by comparison.  In fact, the Queen was forbidden by the Prime Minister (Churchill) as well as her grandmother (Queen Mary) to ever show individuality – she was to remain always, the Crown, and none other.

As to speech, the contrast between the sisters, was evidenced by restraint and duty to country above all else in Elizabeth, versus no holds barred, just sayin’ ramblings of a privileged individual in Margaret; that privilege, granted to her by the Crown itself.  Both sisters by virtue of their royal birth had the right to expound publicly.  However, Elizabeth’s restraint, even her silence is considered her primary role as Sovereign.

We Americans, known for our independent and individualistic spirit, relate more readily to Margaret, and later to Diana (the people’s princess).  We don’t understand Elizabeth’s restraint, silence, or duty to something higher than herself – we really don’t get it; we don’t get her and wish her to just loosen up.  In stark contrast, contemporary Americans appear to be the epitome of the free-wheeling, unrestrained, just sayin’ crowd.

Another use of the just sayin’ suffix, is in the vein of the, “no offense, but…” criticism.  For example, “no offense, but your hair is so 1990, you would look cute with so-and-so’s haircut.”  It’s a form of masking or softening a critical or snipey* comment, so as not to be perceived as a bitchy human being.  After all, “I’m just sayin’!”

*A note about my made-up words, called neologisms:  spell-checker, auto-correct and other such monitors of my English grammar, syntax, and such, does not like the word snipey, which I made up.  I like it so I added it to my dictionary – just sayin’.