My Life In Three Bob Dylan Quotes

Bob Dylan said, “He not busy being born is busy dying.” I like it. I like thinking of “being born” as a continual process rather than a one-off.  In the last 8 years I was busy being born at a break-neck pace. I lived at 4 addresses, worked for 3 different employers, acquired one dog, one husband, two kids, drove 4 different vehicles, and gained and lost about 40 lbs… twice. Whew! But it’s been over two years since I last did any of these things and the seismic shifts and fissures that typified my life for so long have stalled out, finally.

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1963 Bob Dylan.

Taking a moment to stop and look around, I’m startled to realize how much I’ve been changed by not only these personal events, but the confluence of political, global, and cultural events as well. To quote another Dylan lyric, “The order is rapidly fading.” You don’t need me to tell you that the world has kept up  with my aggressive pace of change.

I am also not the only one startled by the transformation. People feel alone in a world that they do not recognize or understand as clearly as they think they once did. Donald Trump captures their sense of loss with his slogan, “Make America Great Again,” and provides the political cover to voice frustration, anger and fear. Maybe it’s the longing for job security, a large and comfortable middle class, cultural homogeneity and predictable societal norms… America is whatever they want it to be, or think it once was, and ought to be again. For his supporters, this is intoxicating; for the rest of us, it’s toxic.
I understand what it is to ruminate on the past. It’s a classic trait of the depressive. The more you do it, the more distorted your view of the issue becomes, and the more worthless you feel. Eventually all you’re left with is a dull, throbbing ache of ineffable loss. In truth, you’re probably mourning something that never existed to begin with. My idyllic childhood in a white, upper middle class suburb? Acts of prejudice and intolerance made gays and minorities uncomfortable there. My parents’ happy marriage? It was classically gendered and back-lit by male chauvinism. Those enchanted high school years at that preppy boarding school in the woods? It was also a breeding ground for entitlement and class-ism.
It took me awhile, but certainly not a lifetime, to admit that I was nostalgic for a past that was not the whole picture, or even an accurate reflection of the experience. Still. It’s my past, and I am a product of it. I was both a privileged upper middle class white girl from New England and also someone saddled with social and familial expectations to be attractive, well-liked, and popular. I was both programmed with biases and prejudices so fundamental to my upbringing, they might as well have been coded in my DNA, But also given an education and a safe place to think critically and ultimately examine these prejudices. I am really thankful for that.
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2015 Bob Dylan

“I was so much older then; I’m younger than that now.” Oh Bob, you gone done it again. I feel lighter now. Unburdened.

None of this shit’s easy. Life throws stuff at you, and all you’ve got are the resources on hand, and your God-given wits to figure it out.  I don’t want to go back, not ever. Being young was confusing. Things bothered me that I had no name for. I can name them now. We all can. Here’s a sampling: Institutional Racism. White privilege. Mansplaining. Photoshop. Body shaming. LGBTQ.

 

Sure, we lost some things along the way: Affordable higher education. Catholic Priests. Secretaries. The Cosby Show. Taking phone messages.

Progress takes no prisoners!

But if I know one thing, it’s that it was never as good as we think it was. The future, on the other hand, is ours for the taking. And the last thing I want to say here is that I really believe something good has come out of this no-good, very bad, horrible excuse for a presidential election and the equally abysmal national discourse. A spotlight on hate, intolerance, ignorance, pervasive inequities… it’s the bitterest of medicines. It’s chemo, rather than opiate for the masses. But no one wants to get busy dying. Let’s stay the course, get born instead.

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