Hopeful in the heartland

My Midwestern roots are showing.

In the United States, we call a central portion of our country—the piece untouched by any ocean coastline–the heartland.  I’ve lived in the heartland all of my life. The heartland = the Midwest.

For those of you prone to consult Wikipedia, you’ve already made some judgments. I must be traditional, conservative, a pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps kind of gal.

Not so much. And yes, a little.

I guess if I’m anything, I’m a true independent–a social liberal/fiscal conservative who believes in programs that help when help is needed. I’m not sure there’s a box to check on any form for that. Not really a fan of boxes anyway.

I believe in making an honest living, but I also believe sometimes people need a hand when they falter economically. And not everyone is lucky enough to have a set of generous hands within their immediate circle.

I believe in marrying or mating for life because of love, not money. And yes, despite my own struggles in the true love area, I believe true love is out there. It’s messy and hard. And easy and beautiful. All in one big, confusing package. But you know it when you see it. It usually makes us smile, whether we’re watching a couple on the dance floor or sharing a Sunday morning breakfast. I don’t care what sex that couple is. True love is true love.

I’ve had bosses that have called me “hopelessly Midwestern” because of my belief in what’s right and honest. They said it fondly but shook their heads in bewilderment. I have a close male friend who calls me “adorable” every time I pass on an attractive fling and hold out for the real thing. He seems to marvel every time that I live my values. He’s still as cynical as ever but I can feel the chink created in his armor every time he sees me live true to my ideals. He seems to think ideals are a dying, quaint pastime. And that I’m more like the Don Quixote of the Midwest than anything. Perhaps admirable, perhaps foolish. Perhaps mad.

Are you seeing any of yourself in me? Do I have some fellow idealists out there who are also realists? People tell us you can’t be both but that’s hogwash (oh, there’s a heartland phrase). You can live in the real world but refuse to stoop to its lowest level. You can live your principles and while that may bring scorn or derision, there will always be a few people who are raised up and inspired by your truth and conviction.

Turns out quiet, loving conviction is contagious.

In my country, goodness and light just narrowly won an election. Far too narrowly, if you ask me. Despite my heartland status, I’ve always lived in or near big cities. My liberal leanings are in stark contrast to the voting habits of many people that I’ve always known to be good people. This election tested those relationships as no other did. If you’re a regular reader, you know how I felt about the past four years in the United States. From outdated, vulgar attitudes toward women to separating families and putting them in cages, I was chilled to the bone by what I saw. But even more so, stymied by the reactions of some in my circle who said while they didn’t like our commander in chief, they would vote for him again. And the unspoken part of that sentiment: If I’m ok, then all is ok. I’m not my brother’s keeper. To which I counter: If not his keeper, are you not his equal? Is he not entitled to equal treatment for equal effort? Your privilege is showing.

It’s not very Midwestern of them. That’s not how I was raised. Values trump party. Humanity wins over herd mentality. If you’re going to sit in a church pew, you can’t turn your back on children in cages. Hell, even if you’re not going to sit in a church pew, you can’t do it. Good is good, regardless of whether it’s institutionalized.

In trying to do right by their daughters, perhaps my parents did us a disservice. They spoke to us of truth and light. We had to be honest to a fault. We never got to place blame, only to accept the portion of it we had earned. And then we were expected to fix what was wrong. To speak unpopular truths. And to be unfailingly polite throughout it all. My mother’s mantra to me again and again was, “Be kind.” It frustrated me as a teen and it still does. She wasn’t always kind. And people I interact with aren’t either—which makes “be kind” seem a foolish, weak response.

Recently, something in the zeitgeist has made me see my mother perhaps wasn’t as out of touch as I thought. Have you watched Ted Lasso yet? It’s an Apple TV show. If you haven’t, get to it. Not only will you laugh, you will see the wisdom in my mother’s advice. There’s a powerful strength in kindness.

Bottom line: I am hopeful, despite being more than chagrined over close margins in the presidential election.

More than ever, I need to find my fellow odd ducks—the idealist/realist mix that can be so elusive. We all need to continue to be in the world, but not of it. Don Quixote went mad because he ultimately couldn’t separate reality from fiction. I need to continue to live my ideals while keeping myself grounded in a reality that’s less than pleasant at the moment. It’s challenging. But it’s also sanity. Too far in either direction and I become less than what I could be. We all do.

While I’m hopeful in the heartland, there’s much work to do. On myself, my community, our world. As Don Quixote said: “If thou are not versed in the business of adventures . . . get thee aside and pray . . . whilst I engage these giants in combat.”

Sometimes combat is just living your truth, friends. And remaining hopeful—and kind–while fighting the good fight. Here’s to it.

I’m sharing this post in a blogger friend’s virtual tea party. Please join us, fellow bloggers. Post a photo of what you’re bringing (mine is below–nothing beats a mini bundt cake, no?) and link to Su’s site. You’re sure to find oodles of treats and some good conversation.

47 Comments Add yours

  1. willedare says:

    Thank you for a great blog post which inspired a heartful stream of comments. We shall see how the next few weeks/months/years unfold. Much work to be done in Georgia right now! I am hopeful that the empathy and tragically-hard-won-wisdom of Joe Biden will gradually soften at least a few hearts which seem currently to be frozen in some sort of desperate fear… manifesting as rage and hatred. Deep breath in. Deep breath out.

    1. candidkay says:

      Heartful is right! Welcome, Will🙂. I don’t want to jinx it but this tends to be a really civil group of commenters who happen to also be great, interesting, kind people. As for the deep breathing? Oh yeah. Still doing that. It took me a really long time to exhale. I’ve just looked you up and I love that you are so dedicated to music. I will have to check out your videos and site. I was out your way – Boston/Cambridge—a couple of years ago and had forgotten how much I love that area. Perhaps more so in June when I was there than now as you head into winter😉. I hope you’ll become a regular here. Come on in, the water is fine.

  2. Amy says:

    Maybe I need to think about embroidering us a pair of Idealist/Realist patches to pin to our lapels! I don’t have to tell you that I more than recognize myself in this marvelous and much-needed post. Thank you for it! I relish swimming against the current madness with you, my friend, and I’m joining your raft of fellow odd ducks. I’ll close with words a friend posted today: Head down, attitude up! xo

    1. candidkay says:

      If ever I were to have anyone embroider me anything at all, it would be you! Talk about gorgeous creativity and quality:). Love your friend’s attitude. There’s work to be done but I think we’re up to the task.

  3. Waving my hand – kindred spirit right here! What’s funny is I’ve only ever lived within an hour of the ocean (or on it) for all my life except for 4 years in college, when I looked out over Lake Champlain daily. Something in me needs to be near saltwater. That said, my values include putting effort in things I do because they represent me, consideration before action, and being as authentic as I can.

    I pretty much picked up what my parents, and in particular my father, modeled. His word and a handshake was his bond. And he was a kind man. He also believed in the power of the mind, especially after doing an experiment that involved his work. He was a dermatologist, and at some point in his young career, he made a box with lights and sound that he told his patients would get rid of their wart. They put their hand (or whatever) with the wart into the box, turn on the light, make some sound, and had them concentrate. He had an 85% cure rate and wrote up a short paper about it.

    I’m off for a mug of tea – enjoy your party!

    1. candidkay says:

      Oh wow. To wake up every day seeing Lake Champlain sounds absolutely delightful. I used to wake up every morning with a gorgeous view of Lake Michigan and Lincoln Park. I do so miss being near the water. Water in mountains to call to me. But I think no matter where I land, the values I grew up with stick. That’s probably a really good thing. Your father’s experiment sounds pretty amazing. The power of the mind is a mysteriously thing.

  4. What you say, as always, seems very wise. I’m hopeful that although there is a lot of work to do, this administration might at least begin to do some healing.

    1. candidkay says:

      They certainly seem to be taking a tone of unification, Andrea. Which is music to my ears after four years of hateful discord.

  5. Roy McCarthy says:

    Eloquent and compelling Kristine, who could disagree? For simplicity I prefer Dr George Sheehan’s quote, “Be a good animal” i.e. always do what your inner self tells you is correct, often easier said than done.

    Mid-Western I visualise as sitting in a rocking chair on the porch contemplating the rolling wheat fields and the hawk making lazy circles and drinking whiskey. Maybe that’s wrong.

    1. candidkay says:

      I think your bucolic view of Midwestern is shared by many, Roy:). And yet, some of us have always lived near a major city. I did go to college in the middle of the cornfields. Plenty of hawks. Plenty of whiskey:).

  6. mydangblog says:

    I really hope that anyone who initially said they would vote for him again is rethinking that based on his incredibly childish and increasingly lunatic behaviour. Great post as always!

    1. candidkay says:

      Thanks:). I am amazed at how many continue to ignore the lunacy . . .

  7. Odd duck from Canada reporting for duty, Kay! Watching what is happening south of the border has been breathtaking. To know that over 70 million voted for this administration is genuinely horrifying. Thank goodness for people like you who stand firm in their beliefs and courageously lend a voice to the fight against evil. My hope is that this era will lead to change and equality and give the earth a chance to heal. I can’t help but feel the fate of the world hangs in the balance. These election results might have just saved us all. Thanks for being you and for holding on to hope. Take care and be safe out there!

    1. candidkay says:

      I’ve seen the memes saying that Canada must feel it’s been living above a meth lab. My Canadian friends tell me yes, it’s so:). And my friends from other parts of the world say they are heaving a sigh of relief–that as the U.S goes, so goes much of the world. Thanks for visiting and chiming in, fellow odd duck. Glad to have you here!

      1. Glad to be back! And yes, meth lab pretty much sums it up! Yikes.

      2. candidkay says:

        So it IS you! So glad to see you back.

      3. Ha! Yup, it’s me. Thanks so much, feels fabulous to be back!

  8. I was born and raised in the mid-west (Detroit) and lived in the Chicago area for several years. Then I spent more years on each coast and finally settled in the South. Of all the regions I think the mid-west represents the values that we all should aspire to emulate. Yes there could be eye rolls but I think folks secretly wish everyone behaved like the mid-westerners. Enjoyed the post, Kristine

    1. candidkay says:

      As I tell my coastal friends, people in the Midwest are salt of the earth. No-nonsense, all about family & friends, not much for show. Yes, I generalize–but overall, it’s true.

      1. I think so too. 😁

  9. markbialczak says:

    This East Coast guy can relate to your leanings, personal and politics, Kay, for they must be entwined for the heart and soul of this country and how it fits into the world.

    1. candidkay says:

      You said it, Mark. It’s about heart and soul. We came dangerously close to losing that collectively as a country over the past four years. I never want to see it happen again.

  10. “I need to continue to live my ideals while keeping myself grounded in a reality that’s less than pleasant at the moment. It’s challenging.”

    These lines struck me and I kept re-reading it. I sometimes get these thoughts while sticking to my ideals and looking at the reality around me that whether I am being too judgemental? It is so rare to find people who at first follow certain ideals and next it gets even harder to find people who stick to them through thick and thin.

    Well over the time I have learnt that the world is going to work in its way and it’s better to stick to your own values that form you and let the others follow their own.

    1. candidkay says:

      “To each his own,” as my mother used to say. But I do think it’s a tough line to walk. First, there is the “do no harm” obligation that I think is inherent in just living here on the planet. And second, I do think we have to allow room for people to evolve and grow. With your lifestyle, you meet people from all over the world. I would think that at the end of the road, the takeaway is hopefully that we are all more similar at our core than different. And the ways we are different are vast and wonderful.

      1. Yes, the core is the place where we all somehow match. The different ways of living does come from the environment we have seen around us while growing up. Life is all about living, accepting diversity in everything and evolving together.

  11. I like to call myself a ‘realistic optimist’ How’s that?
    🙂
    I’ve been voting since the first year 18 yr olds were given the ‘right’ to vote in a Presidential election…1972! This past one was the most crucial vote I cast, ever. And that’s saying alot given my first was replete with Nixon, Vietnam and all of that! Guess that’s just my way of saying what you wrote so well “Sometimes combat is just living your truth, friends. And remaining hopeful—and kind–while fighting the good fight.”
    Keep on keepin’ on, girl!

    1. candidkay says:

      I like “realistic optimist!” I’ll keep on keepin’ on if you will😉.

  12. Jane Fritz says:

    I love this post, Kay. And I’m glad to hear that the values you were raised with in the heartland are precisely the same values I was raised with on Long Island in the 50s and early 60s (I ended up in Canada by going to McGill and then staying). They’re also the same values our kids were raised with in eastern Canada and their kids are being raised with in present day Ontario. It used to be that in the U.S. there were many moderate Republicans and moderate Democrats. It seems like such a mindset – which is what you’ve described – has been disenfranchised these days. What Party would Nelson Rockefeller belong to these days?! And I am reassured to hear that everyone who lives in the heartland of the U.S. can’t be lumped into one category, a category personified by the divisive and unkind policies of Trump. You’d never know that to read the media. I will live in hope. Thanks for this post!

    1. candidkay says:

      Have you watched The Social Dilemma yet, Jane? A really timely documentary that so clearly describes how we’ve gotten to where we’ve gotten to in terms of political divides. And how technology that was originally meant for good is being used in harmful ways. I love that you’ve been able to find more moderation and it sounds like there is here. Thanks for your thoughtful commentary. It’s always good to hear from you!

      1. Jane Fritz says:

        No, I’d better look for that documentary. Certainly social media is being used in many creative nefarious and manipulative ways. Unfortunately it’s well suited to the U.S. election cycle, which is orders of magnitude longer and with seemingly no bounds on how much money can be spent. (Just think of what else those billions of dollars could be used for!)

  13. Dale says:

    You know you and I are of a like mind on this subject. So many people settle for fear of loneliness. I’d rather not, thank you, very much. I thought I had found the perfect mix for me but alas, I did not. So on we move forward, living life and enjoying it (no matter how much we are tethered by this bloody pandammit…

    1. candidkay says:

      Methinks this comment is in response to the “True love is true love” link. Am I right? Yes, you and I are strong coffee looking for the right mug:). But enjoying sloshing around in the meantime–and possibly forever. Hugs to you, my friend.

      1. Dale says:

        No, no… this one too. My comment kinda encompassed both as I saw myself in both 😉
        You know… I’m sure we’d have a blast talking about it over a nice glass of wine.

      2. candidkay says:

        And when this damn pandemic is over, we need to do just that!

  14. Piano girl says:

    Yes! On so many levels! Thanks for your honesty. A friend in Oklahoma! 😉

    1. candidkay says:

      Ooh, I’ll take a fellow odd duck and friend in Oklahoma:). Sure. Thanks for reading and commenting. Keep up the good fight . . .

  15. Thank you for a heartfelt and authentic post Kristine. I like your mix of ideals, values, and realism. I’m cautiously hopeful and know that as you stated, we have much work to do; for ourselves, country, and world.

    1. candidkay says:

      I’m glad to hear I’m not alone in my hope:). And the caution is that dose of realism that tempers it for good. I think. Dare I say I hope?

  16. “Goodness and light just narrowly won an election.” Hi. You’re not kidding. Can you imagine what four more years of Trump would have been like? He will never change, as his current behavior proves. He is the worst.

    1. candidkay says:

      And some would say it wasn’t goodness and light that won. That’s what scares me. That our very definition of “good” is so different.

  17. Fear is lying to ourselves let alone the rest of the country…commander in chief or citizen. And it asks us our truth, each time replying by turning our face away or donning our mask (the emotional one).
    But that truth we seek, that happiness in our life we dare to search for, whether tall, dark and handsome or a house on the Riviera, will only ever be found when we can no longer ‘react’ to all this world will throw at us. That reaction is just life’s signal that your home but the doorbell’s not working…well, that’s what we tell ourselves anyway. The day that it does work is the day that it just won’t matter any more, your world has now achieved its destination and that urge to ‘be’ with someone will stop, simply because you have now found someone more profound, more beautiful and absolutely more loving. The day you finally ‘see’ below those fears…is something incredible. Something you have been blind to so that you could reach this point and realise that this word does indeed have a purpose, a very profound purpose, to find a love you never thought you would ever find, feel or even partake. Tall dark and handsome doesn’t have a chance, for once you finally touch that inner love that has been quietly waiting till you could understand and see it, you will begin a love more beautiful than what another can give you. In fact, you will no longer ‘need’ to be with anyone, you will accept them all simply because you have finally accepted you. You only ever give out what you are…but are we ready for that?

    1. candidkay says:

      “You only ever give out what you are.” Really profound, Mark. So true, so simple, and yet I’ll be noodling on that one for some time to come. Thanks, as always, for your thoughtful commentary! We all benefit.

  18. suemclaren24 says:

    Are you sure you’re not my sister? Time after time, you strike the right note with me, not least with the idealist/realist mix. A friend asked recently how I manage to be so cheerful. I said (now in my 80th year) that when I wake up in the morning, my first reaction is “Oh! Another day!”. And so it is; everything has a flip side. I could awaken and shudder at the thought of US politics over the past four years, or the weather, or the loss of a beloved family member, or my newly discovered incredible tolerance for dust when no one comes to visit. The idealist in me says – another day to try to be kind (your Mom was right), and the realist says, yeah but….. Guess what. The idealist wins. At least most of the time. Things change: politics stir action, weather shifts, a loss is a chance to celebrate what was, and the dust? Let’s just say I am getting to know myself a bit better. Hah. Even dust has an “up” side!

    1. candidkay says:

      I have to believe that there are a lot of us out here in the ether. Idealist who also live in the real world. Brave enough to know we can be better. Realistic enough to know it will take time and not necessarily be easy. I love your attitude! Thank you for reading and commenting. It heartens me to know that you’re out there.

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