Arden, in the backseat of the just-bought mini-van, as we drove from Los Angeles to Chicago, embarking a year ago today, Dec. 17, 2008.
A year ago Mulan and I, after watching a moving company depart with all of our possessions, joined Michael as we drove together from California to Illinois. There was a huge storm which prevented us from taking the route we wished to take - through Santa Fe and instead we drove south, through Arizona and then Texas. It took four days. We had a dog in the car who wanted to kill, really truly kill and eat, the cat in the car. We stopped at Motel 6s, we saw billboards in Texas that proclaimed that Obama was not born in the U.S., we watched Arden pee in ice for the first time. It was an adventure.
We arrived here just before Christmas, slept in our new house all together on sleeping bags in the master bedroom, and wandered our neighborhood thinking, "What the hell did we just do?"
And what have I done this year? Adjust, be a mom who's around a lot, do a few shows, write a pilot, and empty a bunch of boxes. The house is still not totally organized - the basement is on it's way... But I am much happier here and thrilled to be in this new family. It really does feel like a family. Mulan can barely remember life before Michael. Last night we talked about the drive. For Mulan, this was our biggest adventure of all. She often refers to the drive and wants to do it again - with the cat and the dog. (That part was not so much fun for me.)
Anyway, as I have not taken a picture the last couple of days, I thought I'd throw up that one of Arden, a year ago, on his way to his own new adventure here.
What am I thinking about? Well, I am very sad about the healthcare "overhaul." I am very sad about Obama and I am wondering if he is really who I thought he was. I read Robert Reich's and Glenn Greenwald's articles on Salon and I am just really so sad, and so disappointed, and I wish they would not vote for this deal and I like Howard Dean even more than I ever have and I hate Joe Leiberman, even though this demise is not all his doing.
(Last night I overheard Mulan telling Michael, "Mom was in the car driving and yelling, 'That Joe Leiberman!' and her fists were clenched.")
Anyway, let's change the subject. What other things am I thinking about?
I am thinking about all the letters I have gotten from people and how much they mean to me. I want to write back everyone, and I hope to send at least a thank you. I am trying to just be present and take it all in.
I am thinking about some of the questions that people have asked. Some people worry about having meaning in a world without god in it. I don't have the best answer for that yet (I am mulling on that one) but I remember once being at a convention with Daniel Dennett (such a hero of mine) and he said (Dennet is a philosopher and scientist at Tufts and has written several books, some of which really impacted me) and anyway, he was talking to someone else and he said, "People say to me, 'You're a philosopher, what is the meaning of life?' and I say, 'I don't know but I do know the secret to happiness. Find some subject that you love and spend the rest of your life studying it from every angle you can. That is the secret to happiness."
I've thought about that a lot. I would add to it. I would say, find a subject or a skill and spend your life getting better at it, or understanding it better. I think skills are really important and something that has been totally left out of the education system the way it's organized now. I actually think that before kids read books like Catcher In The Rye, or Animal Farm, they should know how to do something tangible, a skill society needs, a skill that requires skill, a skill that can be used to earn money - and then after that they should tackle the bigger stuff.
I'm just musing. I'm just thinking about it.
Also, I am afraid of religious people. I mentioned this to my husband yesterday and he looked at me like, "Duh." But really - before I did my show, the religious people I was exposed to were so benign - the twinkly eyed priest, the social activist nun, the devoted church group that does things for people in Chiapas at my aunt's church. When I thought of religious people, I thought of people like Jimmy Carter or the Dali Lhama. I thought of the kind persons likely to be out sweeping in front of the churches I would pass by with my dog while on a walk.
But now I get these letters from people, and... I dunno. I just want to GET AWAY. I really am not predisposed to enjoy conflict. I wish I were. I look at people like Rachel Maddow, for example. She is so great - she loves the debate, she relishes the argument, she enjoys the banter and she is doing really good things in my opinion. For example, the last months shows have focused a lot on this Evangelical Christian organization called "The Family" in D.C. and how they have enormous political power and how, through their influence and encouragement, the government of Uganda had a bill for a law before their government that would allow the killing of gay people. Anyway, Rachel has lately been using her show to shed light on this atrocity and she has actually seemed to have done something to get this kind of law either stopped or disavowed. Anyway, I wish I could be like that. I wish I was glad to get these letters and I wish I wanted to spend a lot of time writing to people and arguing with them about their beliefs.
I just... oh god, those people... I just want to get away from them. I want to pretend they do not exist. That is my first impulse. My next thought is, This person scares me.
When I talked this over with Michael, of course he said that even the examples of the kind-priest - he has never had any warm feelings about those people and he has no interest in being around religious people of any type. He thinks a religious person is someone who - well, it's as if they have a sign around their necks that says, "I have unreliable and faulty reasoning. I lie to myself and I'm likely to lie to you too." (This is my analogy, not his.)
Anyway, I used to be more benevolent, I guess. But now, all these letters I'm getting... I dunno. I think I am off the whole thing too. And I'm actually not getting so many hate letters. No - it's at least ten to one, affirmative to negative.
Of course, that doesn't mean I don't want to attend a nice candle-lit Christmas service this year. HA. I am serious, I really do want to.
Also, I like getting suggestions from people in the letters and even criticism. For example, I had one letter criticizing me for my quick dismissal of Buddhism in my show. I think they are right. I think it's so much more complicated than I made it. It's just that - even though I think Buddhism has some great insight into human psychology and human nature, and a good prescription for living with the inherent difficulties in life - it's not really a religion to me, I guess. I thought it was, once it wasn't, I moved on.
I would be Buddhist but I have found other strategies for living that are working really well for me. I don't need it, I guess. Or I'm incorporating the parts of it that are useful to me - mindfulness meditation, yoga - that sort of thing.
In any case, because of this letter, I purposefully took the image of Buddha off the DVD cover. I also took every image off, but still - it was prompted by that letter.
Now I have also read a comment on the Amazon DVD page about how the show is not enough about how to live as a non-believer. It's 3/4 arguing back and forth about whether there is a god or not and then barely anything about how to live with this worldview. I agree with that too! In fact, that letter is really firing me up to write a book about just that.
The point of all this is, I don't mind the critical letters. I just mind the religious crazies. And that definition to me is getting broader and broader. I wish I had more oomph for fighting them, but I just... don't.