Thursday, June 16, 2011

We Came For Camelot

Washington, D.C. and Me
June 16, 1961

I am grateful today to be making some headway, finding ways to balance the day-to-day physical, emotional and spiritual challenges of my eye problems. Yet staying the course with my greater goals; teaching, guiding, mentoring, creating meaningful community conversations and telling stories, in order to contribute what I can to a world that might, hopefully, somehow be better when I leave it than when I came.

Today my mind, along with my gratitude, is drawn, particularly, to beginning to take stock of things I’ve learned, moving from the innocent I was fifty years ago to the wise woman I am today. Anniversary dates have a way of calling such considerations to mind.

I was a bride of one day when, fifty years ago today, I first set foot on the soil of the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area. This was to be the locale, give or take some miles, that would be both my home and the fire pit of my initiation into adulthood; the cauldron that sourced my transition from innocent to masterful dark side transformer, a role I would never have wished for myself. Nor do I particularly even like it now.

Until that day I had dreamt a child’s fantasy; swimming the English Channel was the only goal I had in mind. What was my Plan B???. I hadn’t thought quite that far that day I came into Washington.

Emotionally I was a mere child who could barely think through a single thing in those days. Stories for a later time perhaps.

How does one come to recognize, truly know darkness in oneself and others? And, then develop artistry in transforming it?

Certainly the answers are wrapped in tales of adventure; lessons learned through trials by fire, often getting burned in the process.

Though I don’t remember the details of the day, it is unlikely that the vast array of D.C. tourist attractions; the Washington, Lincoln and Jefferson monuments, the White House and Arlington Cemetery, had any priority that first day.

We needed to start with setting down our travel bags in our newlywed apartment. Then quickly make our way to the nearest buy-cheap furniture store. But perhaps that was day two. I can see that warehouse-like store today in my mind’s eye though its name is obscured.

We had quite simply come here for Camelot. Jointly selecting a starting accountant’s position for my new, recently graduated from Ohio State, husband at the GAO in Washington, D.C., called the General Accounting Office in those days, we had passed over an alternative opportunity for New York City. However, familiarizing ourselves with that which had enticed us here would still be days off until we could even take our first steps into the scene.

The “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country,” bug had infected us. Like countless other young idealists who would join us as the sixties era progressed, the lure of being near our esteemed president and his hoped-for visions for the future of our country, seemed just right for us and our new life together. Jackie’s pillbox hat had somehow, also, gotten into the mix, at least, for me.

I lost my virginity as we made our way to Maryland and the nation’s capitol. And, in the coming years ahead, my life in this locale would take all that remained of my innocence.

We would stand on the sidelines watching the funeral procession of our fallen hero, JFK, the riots that ravaged Washington after Martin Luther King Jr.s’s assassination, the shock, not long after, of Bobby Kennedy’s assassination and Watergate. There wasn’t much left of innocence by then.

By the time Nixon left behind his prestigious seat in the Oval Office, however, I had started to develop an eye for understanding the dark side of human nature. And, begin to develop adeptness on how and what to do to transform it, if anyone cared to take on that challenge.

Mastery in the art of successfully maneuvering this gamesmanship would come with experience and time.

Of course, Washington’s power games and the infrastructure that, not only breeds and supports these games, but makes them legendary, can almost destroy the young idealist, if one is not careful. It certainly almost did me in for awhile.

But then, if you are to survive, you get to know the strategic moves to make and the ones to avoid. Still the game always remains a tricky one, the tricksters, the best in the world.

Marty Groder, my psychiatrist mentor, provoked my ire back in the early 1980s before the Iron Curtain came down when he said –

“Washington is next only to Moscow as the world’s center of darkness.”

I defended this home territory of mine saying –

“You are wrong. Washington is the center of light.”

But that was the ‘80s. In many ways I was still a novice at dancing with the dark side.

Today, I believe we were both right; the nation’s capitol is a teeming cauldron where an ongoing battle is fought between the dark and the light, both publicly and behind the scenes, night and day. I know it well.

However, those of us, who like many others came to Washington for Camelot, now make our homes a comfortable distance away from Washington, D.C., hoping we might still use our hard-won wisdom to affect the darkness without letting it suck us in as once it did.

For myself, the clear, clean air of the mountains, about an hour’s drive from D.C. for me, is what suits me best.

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