Last night, I went to bed around 11 p.m. Munich time which was actually about 1 p.m. West Coast time. About four hours before the East Coast polls started closing. This morning I woke up at 6 a.m. and dug out the notebook to find out who had won the US Presidential election, something I often knew even before I have made it to the polls, or at least started cooking dinner. Life on the West Coast often includes “spoilers,” knowing something about a TV show or award ceremony because the East Coast, three hours ahead of the West Coast, dominates the news feed (and now the twitter feed too). Oddly, being 9 hours ahead of my home coast means I’m nine hours behind knowing who won when I compare that to my old life.
Yesterday I went to a department store intending to buy a solid winter coat. I’m among the full figure women so I’m used to my size being segregated off to the side where we don’t contaminate the skinny girl self-image. But I don’t have the language to ask where the plump sizes are kept. I just walk all over the store, checking sizes till I find the rack. Also, all the clothing seemed to be grouped by manufacture, not by “clothing or life style” like say at Nordstrom, so that means walking around and checking out racks of coats all over the store. I’m out of synch with how people organize their department stores here.
We think we’ve found the apartment we want to live in. But what kind of internet, cable, or TV that is available seems to depend on what the landlord has consented to have installed. Not what the internet provider has set up in the neighborhood but instead depends on what the landlord has chosen to set up. I’m not saying that this is better or worse then what I’m used to, I’m saying that I’m out of synch.
Out of synch with West Coast home and out of synch with Munich home. This is not my first changing-cities rodeo. I know that moving brings dislocation, that moving puts us out of synch and not just for a few hours or days. I know that I will keep discovering that many of how-the-world-works models I use to glide through my days back home will fail here. I also know I’ll develop new models that will be studier, more flexible, and healthier.
The results of the election highlight how much the United States has changed in the last fifty years. There are many in the US who are also out of synch with their how-the-world-works models. Economic shifts, neighborhood destroying storms, aging, loss of our parents and more all contribute to our fears and our experience of loss. Not just Obama’s reconfirmation as President but other races helped to make clear that the United States is changing and starting to embrace that change.
In Gospel times, the religious leadership was very anxious. Who wouldn’t be when the Romans occupied the land and the economy strictly to export the harvest back to Rome? If everyone was well behaved and went along with the program, then they survived. If not, and there were many in Israel who resisted, then punishment was swift and severe. Some among the leadership thought that God had withdrawn from Israel’s protection because the people weren’t keeping the rules strictly enough. They had a how-the-world-works model that wasn’t working because it was based on rules and fear. Jesus among the people was the new how-the-world-works model. God among us, with us, in the middle of it all experiencing it all with us but also changing it and healing it into something new. Something that will be studier, more flexible, and healthier.
I don’t know if we’re going to keep the apartment we thought we had found. (now we’re negotiating the issues that fall out from our being out of synch with elderly landlords) but I think this will work out. I don’t yet have a full on winter coat but I am still looking. I am lucky enough to have options in both cases so I don’t have to be anxious. Or at least I can speak to my inner anxious person and remind her that while we’re out of synch, we’re coming into a new pattern.
But it’s easier for me, I have chosen to move to a place where I’m out of synch. I worry that when we fall out of synch through no choice of our own, its so much harder to be patient for the resynchronization to take shape. I think there are real losses along the way. I think of people living without heat or water or homes in the wake of Katrina or Sandy or the Japanese Tsunami or even this city in the decade following the end of WWII. I think no wonder people become rigid trying to hold on to what we’ve known. It sucks to move, to not know any route to the grocery store or to the doctor let alone the most efficient, traffic bottleneck avoiding route. It is terrifying to feel vulnerable. It is painful to be cold day after day, hungry night after night. We need to be with each other better.
In my anxiety, I try to remember to pray daily, even three times a day, using the Daily Lectionary. Each and every time I am surprised to discover that I’ve returned to my centered self for an hour or two. I guess I’m reminded that I may be out of synch with my surroundings but I’m never out of synch with Emmanuel, the God-who-is-with-us.
I am out of synch but I am not out of place. We Americans may be out of synch with each other and the world, but we’re not out of place either. Let us be patient with ourselves and each other till we learn our new how-the-world-works models that will be studier, more flexible, and healthier.
I have never been more hopeful about America. And I ask you to sustain that hope. I’m not talking about blind optimism, the kind of hope that just ignores the enormity of the tasks ahead or the roadblocks that stand in our path. I’m not talking about the wishful idealism that allows us to just sit on the sidelines or shirk from a fight.
I have always believed that hope is that stubborn thing inside us that insists, despite all the evidence to the contrary, that something better awaits us so long as we have the courage to keep reaching, to keep working, to keep fighting.
President Barak Obama, Acceptance Speech, Nov. 7, 2012