Stranded in C’ville? Checking My Privilege

I arrived in Charlottesville, VA last Monday. One week ago today, in fact. I got almost all the way here under my own steam. In other words, as usual, I drove. But the last 22 miles into town were under the steam of my old friend Annie. She had to fetch me from the automotive garage where I landed ignominiously when my car shuddered to a stop on Highway 29 and whispered, “I’m done.”

Here’s what happened and what I’ve learned.

  • I probably drove a few too many miles after I could feel how unhappy my car was about accelerating from a full stop. Has putting my finger in my ears and singing “LA LA LA LA” ever, EVER been a good strategy?
  • The reason I came down here is pretty basic: I love this place. Did my happiness at being here change because I didn’t have a car to drive around? Especially since I DID have a car to drive around, because Sarah, another awesome friend of mine, literally gave me unfettered access to her Subaru while she recovered from foot surgery and worked from home.But to be honest, I did feel unsettled all week. I mean, I had fun, saw friends, took a walk in a Virginia snowstorm, enjoyed the Festival of the Book, was warm, fed, blessed, and engaged in more great conversations per day than I can count. But I had a hard time sleeping and felt anxious.So what was it? Uncertainty? What was wrong with my car? How much would this cost? When will I have my own wheels back? And a little bit of “Waaah, no fair?” Ew.How on earth could I feel so sorry for myself when I am in one of my favorite places (maybe my favorite place ever), with some of my favorite people, doing some of my favorite things (from nerding out at panels and lectures about books to drinking Virginia wines to basking in C’ville beauty). I’m a spoiled, privileged person who needed to be slapped upside the head. 
  • In case I was not slapped hard enough, this happened: I got my car back Saturday. It took a while for the part to arrive because of the snow. (Note to self, don’t take weather personally as it is definitely not about you.) YAY! I had my car! I was so very VERY excited!

    Hugging my car when I got it back from garage… the first time

    Exclamation point-worthy happiness! I was so psyched that I even had Annie take a picture of me hugging my car before we headed back to town to join the March for Our Lives on the downtown mall. I got away with a car bill less than $500 and I was going to get to head home almost on time.Then my car died again. The poor thing could not make it even 30 miles without suffering terribly and saying, “No, no, I’m sorry but I can’t.”

    Getting towed… round 2.

    Tow truck (money). Wait till Monday (time). Wait till 2 in the afternoon on Monday. (Are you kidding me? I can’t wait anymore! I’m so spoiled and impatient I can barely believe I exist! Put me out of my toe tapping misery!) Then Cranston the mechanic said, “In my professional opinion, I’m afraid you need a … new transmission.” (More money! More time! More lessons! More slaps upside my head!)

Meanwhile, in a land called reality, as I scolded myself every day to be grateful, and was (mostly) successful, the March for Our Lives happened (check out the pix in that link). Record numbers of people at demonstrations all over the country and world. Young people taking to the streets in numbers even greater than during the Vietnam War (social media is the game changer there). I didn’t make it to DC as I’d thought I might, but I marched in C’ville with Annie and Sarah (who was on crutches no less)

March for Our Lives C’ville

and we joined our voices in song and, much more importantly, lent our ears to the students who spoke so eloquently about not wanting to die at school.

And… Writers and scholars, in town for the Festival of the Book, lifted their voices to elevate the conversation around many topics, from the racial history of the country to how to hold onto hope. Poets read their poems of anger and faith. Thoughtful, measured discourse happened. Beautiful words and beautiful ideas.

Perhaps the most moving event I attended was a conversation with Khizr Khan, famous for his speech at the Democratic National Convention and for being insulted by our president.

Khizr Khan in conversation with Douglas Blackmon

His faith in the Constitution of the United States is impassioned and informed. He truly believes that voters will do their job to make radical change in the coming elections, snatching our nation from the brink and from the clutches of racist egoists with no agenda beyond their own self-interest.

In light of his sacrifice, wisdom, and undaunted optimism, I think I can deal with the inconvenience and expense of car trouble while a few hundred miles from home. I’m neither refugee nor victim. Neither disenfranchised nor unemployed. I’m privileged beyond imagining in a world gone mad. I’m grateful that I am here. Grateful I have a car that will be soon fixed. Grateful that I love people and am loved back. Grateful that I can read and write. That I feel joy. Often. That I have a pot of tea even now, sitting by my elbow, and that it comforts and soothes me.

I want to do better.

My week of “hardship” is nothing more than a non-sensical blip on the radar screen of my privilege and, though I’m not done learning, I am glad it slapped me upside the head.

My dear friends Annie and Sarah





9 thoughts on “Stranded in C’ville? Checking My Privilege

  1. I offer an alternative view on the anxiety caused by car issues. Car trouble is, if not earth-shattering, at least window-rattling. In our society, a vehicle equals freedom: freedom to leave, freedom to choose, and even a temporary lack of is not just inconvenience…it’s synonymous with uncertainty and lack of choice, and those two emotions are the bane of comfort and safety. Even when it doesn’t mean the end of mobility or freedom because you’ve got a great support system, it still feels that way because it removes the choice of “flight” from the immediate fight or flight response…puts you on high alert because if the shit hits the fan, you’re gonna have to fight before your flight gets there…and just the fact that you’ll have to rely on someone else to “save” you is stomach-churning. We learn far too early and far too well that the only person we can trust is ourselves. Yes, of course, you can point to the wealth of a first world country and claim it’s privilege, but it’s tied into primal response, especially for women. Our society makes damn sure we’ve encountered the need to fight or fly too many times to remember. For us, freedom of choice is EVERYTHING. I say you get a pass on any negative emotion you felt, because it wasn’t all privilege, not by a long walk.

    I marched in Jacksonville. So very grateful for social media this time around. Except it’s where most of my free time is going these days. *sigh* Twitter has become the pulse of politics…or maybe the measure of the pulse of politics. While Instagram is all about feeling good, and the beauty of the world as we wish it, Twitter is the trenches, the immediacy of the world as it is, with all of the ugliness and glory of the battle for morality. It is direct interaction with the Other Side, and each foray includes the possibility of skirmish and bloodshed. Lately, I find myself watching over the MSD voices, and reporting every hate-filled response. I cheer each time Twitter notifies me that they’ve deactivated another account because it violates their rules against hateful conduct. Feels like I imagine the front line in the zombie apocalypse would feel, fighting things that only look like people but are instead the un-dead, the Russian bots waging war against real people, and we’re trying to fend them off long enough for the heroes to transmit the message that frees us all. LOL I make light of it, but it doesn’t feel light. It feels like the boss round; like we’re so close to winning that the other side is desperate now, and willing to stop at nothing to eliminate the threat of us. I’m so invested in the fight that all the joy and the disgust, blinding hope and righteous indignation are right under the surface, and I’m never as calm as I look, and every battle won can trigger a flood of tears.

    I made about twenty signs last week (paint and tape and markers until one a.m each night and back up at work each morning) and then I accidentally gave them all away at the march, so I marched without a sign. I’ve made extras now, for stapling to telephone poles and hanging on fences, because the march was a beginning, even though it wasn’t THE beginning. Because someone has to keep it in our faces. We still need signs everywhere, even if just for moral support in the onslaught. We’re not done yet.

    On a slightly-but-not-so-different note, it turns out I’m an INFJ, known as “The Advocate”. I find it quite overwhelming emotionally to “read” myself in a personality evaluation. When I was a teenager, I loved astrology, and learned to do a “reading” for other people. But it didn’t take long to realize I could see myself in every sign (and even as a teen, I knew that made it less likely to be “true”). At the same time, I find my own psyche so rare that I’ve never met another “me” (or I hadn’t, anyway…you, however, are remarkably familiar). So while I firmly believe that “we are all the same”, it is also impossible for me to believe that a specific birth date and place would have made another “me”. And that was the end of my astrology phase. I can’t tell you the last time I bothered to read a horoscope. But this Jungian personality-type thing is something else. I took the test for fun, and wound up crying (yes, again!) to recognize myself so clearly…even the bad stuff. Maybe it’s just more astrology-bs written in a more believable format. What it’s ultimately meant, though, is diving deep into what feels like society’s stream-of-consciousness in the hope that Jung (and Myers and Briggs) is right, and that the way I think, my voice and my efforts really can make a difference. And if that’s the only thing it ever does for me, it’s enough. xo

    • Your explanation of the dis-ease I felt being carless away from home is superb and spot-on. And so well written… just BTW. You are right that a car is a woman’s freedom. My anxiety over unexpected car trouble is greater than the sum of its parts, so to speak.

      I can’t remember if I mentioned in a blog at some point that I am INFJ? DId you know? I took the test first in highschool when it was still new and it was administered to me at school…. I have been an entrenched INFJ ever since. My daughter is, too… not surprising as we are so alike. Myers Briggs always startles people by its lovely way of “giving them permission” to be who they are. As quirky and detailed as the profiles are, they are stunningly accurate. That feeling that there are not may people like you out there? Well, turns out that’s real if you’re an INFJ. Sigh. But luckily, as the Ibt most likey too pass as an Ext, we can find community.

      The fact that you made a million signs and gave them all away seems like a class if INFJ thing to do somehow….

      Well, I’m home again and can settle into my life once more. XOXO

      • I didn’t know! And I shouldn’t be surprised, because I find your voice completely compelling and it was an instantaneous thing which is more than unusual for me…but I’m definitely surprised. Silly to think “it all makes sense now!” But it does! (And I bet you’ll understand “more than unusual for me”: connection is always instant for me; it’s unusual because I don’t connect with many people, in spite of this deep empathy. I’d also bet you’ve always been told you have an old soul, and damned if that’s not how it feels.) XO

      • P.P.P.S. I’m dying at the idea of a Festival of Books. You’d think a bookworm growing up in the tri-state area of OH, WV and KY would’ve heard of such a wonder in VA. Totally not jealous. 😉

        P.P.P.P.S. Khizr Kahn. I would’ve been weeping from the moment I found out I was going to hear him speak until … well, I might never have stopped. How lucky and how heartwrenching.

        Whew. Add that to the emotional maelstrom of: going home to a place and people you miss, not necessarily where you live, the real excitement of a tradition you choose- and a festival at that, the anxiety of doubled car troubles and the bone-deep relief at their first resolution and only half relief at their second because now you remember fate kicks you when you take things for granted, and let’s just add in the humbling gratitude to your rescuers because humbling tends to be a gut-wrenching thing… The whole trip must have felt a bit like being plugged into a live socket. I don’t think I’d have slept well at all. Lol

  2. P.S. (As if you needed more to read)


    The Moirai were never so magnificent. A kiss for the three Fates, and for their mother, the darkling Nyx who is Night Personified, Mystery and Beauty and Power. Little wonder that even the gods are subject to their whims.

    Blessed be!

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