Sunday, December 9, 2012

A Moral Obligation

the mr and i are in the hardest patch of our marriage that we've ever had, and we've had many hard patches. all of them relating to bipolar 11. our hard patch is not relenting. over a year now. i had a blog reader i've never talked to, never seen comment, find me on facebook and she offered to pay for three months of therapy for mr. curry and i. and i said yes, yes, thank you so much. some people could never do that, never say yes. they'd be humiliated. i'm not. i don't think it is an embarrassment;  when i help other people, i can feel all the people who have ever reached out and helped me, and it makes me bigger, stronger, a better person in this world with more to give. it is part of the cycle of an authentic life, lived as best a person can. so imperfectly, but with immense heart and truth. i know my children are finding this world to be a place where People Help Each Other and that thrills me to my heart core. i have always, always wanted them to feel at home in the world, something i never felt until my late twenties. and i've always, always wanted them to feel the responsibilities of being a human being- the moral obligations. i know that is a very unpopular, dogmatic sounding phrase in our time, but i believe in it deeply. i believe that many of the best and brightest human beings were raised, poor or rich or in between, to believe they have moral obligations to those around them, to themselves. simply because we were given the gift of life, because we have a seat here on this planet, because we have hearts and souls and minds to divine, we have moral obligations. not only do i believe we have these obligations, but i also believe that in denying this, or in forgetting it, we push aside one of the most thrilling aspects of humanity- our ability to be heroic, devoted, strong, resilient, passionate, giving, unselfish. selfishly, i have found that pushing myself to rise to my own moral code- and i have failed, repeatedly- has created some of the most profound and inspiring moments of my life, moments which i remember deeply, in my cells, and help carry me through during times like this, when i feel despair clawing at me, plucking at my heart and mind. even the most mundane life can be elevated by being or working to be a person who is helpful, kind and good to those around them. keeping ego in check- warding off smugness, ego tripping and judgemental loftiness of the 'morally correct'- is a long held tradition for good people and important to keep in mind, but not a reason to abstain from generosity and living by a moral code. some days i have felt as if i could not get out of bed. remembering how it feels to create a life for my children that comforts, inspires and teaches them gets me out of bed 99% of the time. this is the saving grace of deeper meaning.

at some point it became embarrassing, cliched, cringe worthy, mocked and highly critiqued to be or attempt to be ' a good person. ' our motivations became highly scrutinized, the selfish aspect of giving ( which is there ) were so disgraceful that people became afraid to open themselves to decency in fear of being mocked for sentimentality. any failure of a human being can bring on a group attack: you sham! we cry. bill clinton springs to mind. when a person has great faults, personal demons, we are so happy to wipe our hands and smile and say i knew they were a fraud. is a person a fraud if they fail? if they have moral failures? do we really believe this? how can anyone ever live up to this expectation? i hope in raising my children i have allowed them to believe they are capable of great love and acts alongside their failures and faults.  in addition to this, times of great hardship, like our economic downhill turn, can make people hoarders. hoarding love, money, energy, because it feels like there isn't enough, might never be enough, and we must keep it for ourselves and those we love most. and of course to some degree, this is true. but taken too far, it has become a prescription for spiritual despair in our society. cut off from one another in real life, feeling brushed aside and trodden on by the grumps and grinches: it all takes on a sinister, end of days feeling because we are disconnected from one another, and from the essential goodness in ourselves. when Lola had her failed hot chocolate stand, i could have felt depressed. i could have felt like everyone is a shit. i did feel sad, i felt dispirited- but i had and have the connections of good people in my mind and heart and this keeps me hopeful and comforted. 

 i have told all our children- well, the older three who can understand it- that this amazing person is helping us, because i want all of them to see the benefits this person brings to our family, to feel grateful, so that this feeling can permeate their hearts and flow over on to the people around them. it works this way. when Dakota was growing up, something we did regularly, weekly, was to help the immigrants that work all around here in the suburbs. they often lived in canyons ( less so now ) and had only the clothes on their backs, the belongings in a backpack and nothing else. they worked long, hard hours of manual labor for little pay, and send most of it back to their families in Tijuana, who were struggling to survive. when Dakota and I passed these men on the way into the grocery store, or Starbucks, we always stopped and offered food, or gave them some money.  we still do, although there are less of these men around than used to be. we've fed large groups of men on our lawn, ( i didn't feel safe inviting strange men inside ) and developed a relationship with one man, who i based a character off of in my novel. he came to our home and worked once a month, and we also always gave him dinner and a bag of groceries. i include these immigrants, and the stark contrast of their lives and the lives of those who live in suburbia, in my novel, because it is a fascinating and sad reality. to reach out and help them was so emotionally difficult that it interested me. why was it so hard? what was i afraid of? i realized i was mostly afraid of offending them. what if i offered help and they didn't need it? what if i thought they were an immigrant but they lived down the street? identifiable by their very short stature, uniform of jeans with belt, tucked in shirt, work shoes and baseball hat, backpacks and native spanish speaking, there was always the possibility of a mistake. i decided it was worse to watch people be hungry and do nothing than it was to offend, to make a wrong move. and one time, i did. dakota and i bought a Thanksgiving style meal one Thanksgiving years ago, and offered it to a small group of immigrants smoking cigarettes outside the store. for reasons i still don't know, they refused the food. i felt humiliated and horrified. what had i done wrong? i'll never know, and it's not my business to figure that out. i teach this to my children: it is not our business to understand how our helping works, what people think or feel about it, how the world interprets it: it is simply our moral obligation to help. one fundamental thing i hope my children are learning is that is absolutely our moral obligation to feed someone who is hungry and cannot get food themselves. when we pass those asking for money on the side of the intersection, i don't worry about if it's a scam, i worry about what *i* need to do, what my children need to see, which is to give. so if i have money in my purse, i give some, every time. no matter how poor we are, i have always done this. i do believe in some kind of Universal energy, and i will continue to contribute to it in a positive way, and also benefit from it coming back.

now Dakota is the first of our pack to grow up, and at eighteen i can see the decency, goodness, generosity and honesty in action as he moves in the world. returning a wallet with money in it to an elderly neighbor. leaving our house at one am to drive a half hour away for an upset friend the other night. stopping to hold doors for people. asking a woman in a wheelchair if she needs help in the store. his reactions to the suffering of people around him, his compassion and caring make my heart swell with pride and joy. he is a human being, he struggles, he has faults, problems and challenges, but his heart? it is strong, and good, and full of love.

this holiday season, my family is being helped by my mother, who has helped us survive this year after i lost/left ( you know the story ) my job and have been unable to find enough work to make up the difference, my friend Stephanie who sent us a baby gate after hearing my upset that i couldn't afford one, and who sent a grocery card gift months ago, out of the blue, our 'secret' donor who is paying for a few months of therapy, and most likely from the gifts of my aunt and uncle, who usually send us a check at Christmas. without this help, we'd be good and truly fucked. our family, our children, continue to help those around us, and this feels like the best kind of cycle. we donated all of ever's birthday toys ( except for the ones asked not to, like bike from my mom) to the Polinsky Center. we will use part of our 'Christmas budget' to pay for toys for children who don't have any. we will feed those in our community who need food. we will offer love, hugs, a shoulder to cry on to our family and friends. we will make secret Cheer Baskets for those who need a smile. this  cycle is the best of humanity and i am proud to be a part of it.

previous next