Reason to Knope: how character conversion might transform America

How American whimsy and binders full of inspiring women might lead us to the Beloved Country…

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There are a lot of coping mechanisms we fellow Americans have employed to get us through this political season. Facebook rants. FiveThirtyEight. SNL episodes. New York Times Op-eds. Hashtags. Drinking games.

I have partaken in a few (read all) of these strategies with varying success. I have decided it’s time for a change. A cleanse. To let go of my coping mechanisms and claim instead my KNOPE-ing MECHANISMS!

So I’m going for KNOPE.

Leslie Knope.

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If you have not yet encountered the television wonder of Parks and Recreation or its protagonist Leslie Knope, frankly, I don’t know whether to be mad or jealous. Mad because where have you been? More importantly, how have you survived this political season without Parks and Rec re-runs or Leslie Knope (and cast) memes and gifs to get you through?

Jealous, because if you give yourself over to the six seasons of Parks and Rec that await you on Netflix, you will be revived, renewed, and ready to once again believe in the American Dream. Your patriotic soul will be exfoliated.

This year for Halloween, for the election, for America, I am becoming Leslie F-ing. Knope.

(I wrote the actual “F-bomb” then deleted it because I think she would go with “F-ing” given her long term goals for public office.)

Last year I came to two (initially) grudging (eventually) proud realizations about myself.

These moments of epiphany came around the same time. The first one was inspired by my colleague Andy asking me during a field trip… “Do you identify strongly with Leslie Knope?”

I gasped and grabbed his arm…

“Do YOU identify me with Leslie Knope?” I asked with eager (read, overwhelming) anticipation.

“Umm…well that all depends…I guess some might see her as a little naïve.”

If by naïve you mean hopefully exuberant as she fearlessly charges into the world with blinders on to the peril to herself or others but equipped with a bastion of binders to protect her…I guess I can see that.

It was also around this time ANOTHER colleague accused me of believing in unicorns in the midst of a professional development. (And no. She didn’t mean it in a nice way.)

Rather than take offense at either mythical association, I realized there is power in owning our magic. After all, Leslie AND unicorns (perhaps not coincidentally) have experienced a revival of believers amidst these darkened days of American Mordor. The world can use all the benevolent mythical characters we can imagine, particularly now.

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So I’ve been plotting my binders. Planning my Pawnee city council stump speech. Purchasing my waffle laden iPhone cover.

Confession. Knope’s not cheap.

Part of this process has been Amazon intensive. Between “I voted” stickers, a blonde wig, a Ron Swanson t-shirt, I had to PROMISE my husband I was done accessorizing for America. The final straw came when he looked over at me annotating during an episode of Luke Cage and asked what I was doing. I said “homework” and held up a copy of Pawnee: the Greatest Town in America.

pawnee-for-me

He closed his eyes, shook his head, and said, “I thought you were doing real work.”

When I claimed to be channeling the spirit of Knope for the greater good, he said simply.

“No.”

(He meant, “KNOPE.”)

It’s time for him, and ALL of us to say “yep” to Knope.

This is not just about a costume. This is about a conversion. Conceived amidst the RNC convention, this has become a symbol of defiant hope in America’s Super Ego rather than her Id. It is a way to channel all of my well-informed optimism and share it with my family, friends, students, and neighbors who are frightened of the future.

Leslie Knope would not let me go gentle into that future. She was like,

“Nah, girl. Not gonna happen. Not if you and I have anything to do with it.”

And I was like,

“Please stroke my hair, make me a throw-pillow with my face on it, and call me a poetic, noble land mermaid.”

And she was like,

“Only if we don’t tell Anne Perkins.”

Deal! Saddle up your unicorn, Leslie!

Then, something ELSE occurred to me. I realized that the power of this journey could be collective. Open to all. Super Socialist. Like Obama-care except less mired in political partisanship. After all, Leslie rarely goes anywhere or does anything without the efforts of her Pawnee people.

Parks and Recreation is an infinite resource! There’s enough Knope to go around! Our entire COUNTRY could be Knopeful!

So, if you’ve been feeling a little glum due to a combination of the demise of the American ideal and because you don’t have a Halloween costume yet, get your hands on a red hat (but not THAT red hat), just a plain one you can plaster with random buttons (but preferably “New Kids on the Block” memorabilia) pull out a pantsuit (or a pair of overalls if you want to get “folksy”) and you’re ready to hit the pavement and do some canvasing (err… trick or treating).

knope-in-a-hat

Don’t feel comfortable in a blond wig? I feel you. Consider becoming another amazing human on Parks and Recreation. There’s literally millions of quizzes to determine “Which Parks and Rec Character are you?” (Full disclosure. I have taken all of them sometimes more than once until they confirm what I already know. I’m born to be Knope).

Love bacon and woodworking but hate the government? Opt for Ron Swanson.  Want to make sardonic remarks all night long? April Ludgate’s for you.  Over-weight but endearing and married to a hotty? Jerry/Gary Gergich awaits. Have guitar and gift for ridiculous ad-libbed songs? Andy Dwyer is YOUR spirit animal.  “Treat-yo-self” to fine threads and friends with Donna Meagle or Tom Haverford as you live-Tweet the night away. Just want to be friends? We’ve always go room for one more Anne Perkins. Distracted by my earlier inappropriate use of “literally”? Chris Traeger it is!

The point is, America, there is room for ALL of us in this country and in this effort to make Halloween GREAT again. We all have a role to play. There is reason to Knope and reason to Hope and it begins with a combination of righteous whimsy and an Amazon account.

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Saddle up those unicorns! Summon your land mermaids! We are Leslie Knope! The beloved country is waiting, America, and we’re going to need some binders!

binders-full-of-knope

P.S. In honor of Leslie, #womancrushwedesday , binders, the final #debate, and my BIRTHDAY, October 19th I will be live tweeting the unfolding of this “Binder of Inspiring Women” during the #debate – Embrace the Binder! Nominate women for inclusion who have given you reason to hope! @whimsagogy on Twitter and Instagram

Just another Mean Girl Monday

Oh, Regina.

Since I’ve established a certain level of comfort with making broad-sweeping generalizations about days of the week, today was EITHER:

  1. Mean-Girl-Monday or,
  2. “Mind yo’ business” Monday.

Either way, the day ended with the purchase of a box of wine.

MeanBox
Box-o-Whine

Let’s play 10 truths and a lie, shall we? Which of these is NOT true. Yep. Only one is not true.

I yelled (like screaming yelled) at my children in the car.

I told my children my boss yells at me when they make me late. This is blatantly false.

I took their toys and made them cry.

I took my husband’s toys and made him cry.

I bad mouthed a guidance counselor.

I passive aggressively BCCed a librarian.

I put in an email “I am…frustrated.” When what I MEANT was, “I am…muttering obscenities under my breath and have torn up your memo into tiny little pieces because we’re too underfunded for me to have a shredder.”

I said, “It doesn’t matter if they’re mad if they do what we want.”

I mimed stabbing myself in the eye with a dry-erase marker.

A student said (while I was miming stabbing myself in the eye with a dry erase marker) “I think she’s going psycho.”

You think, kid?

And if you’re WONDERING whether that became a F@#!ing “teachable moment” where I discussed with the class why it’s a bad idea to alienate an angry authority figure (particularly one who is trying to HELP them and who is at least self aware enough to have WARNED them beforehand)…then yes. We had a little teachable “Mind-yo-business” moment.

And all of that happened before noon. Except for the thing about Zach’s toys…but only because his toys are stupid and I don’t want to play with them anyway.

MeanHardHattedWoman
Hard-hatted-Woman

I have written previously about my “inner mean girl.” My friend Matt told me recently that my inner mean girl is not always so “inner.” And Matt’s a lawyer. Probably makes people cry daily, so…burn.

My MOM put it more simply. “You’re scary when you’re angry.”

Mom!! I KNOW THIS!!! (And why would you SAY that to someone who is scary when they’re angry?! Have you no sense of self-preservation?)

I wish I was only a mean girl on Mondays. But I am very aware of my capacity to make others suffer when I’m grumpy, tired, disappointed, overwhelmed, stressed, hungry, etc. Insert negative emoji face here ______ .

In my defense (because you know I got’em, Mr. Fancy prosecuting attorney) I’m way better than I used to be. I remember pulling out a full-on crying fest because my boyfriend forgot to get eggs for the home-made vanilla icecream we were going to make. This is not what we call a critical issue. I very truly no longer resort to emotional extortion as a matter of course.

And even though I was grouchy, there were definitely moments when I was able to get myself together and:

  1. Have a productive meeting with my principal about a mentorship program.
  2. Encourage a student NOT to fight another student in the office.
  3. Hug Kip and Ivy and say “I love you even when I’m mad.”
MeanMother
Darth Mother

The truth is, though…I’m not willing to give her up. Regina. I…kinda like her.

This is not a Lenten apology.

I need my inner mean girl. The world can be MEAN and it’s most often mean to folks that can’t fight back.

Come to think of it…I feel some more justification coming on. Today, much of my anger stemmed from someone trying to either take advantage of or not fulfill their obligations to another human being. And yep, that makes me MAD and it’s not going to STOP making me mad and just because I’m a woman and an enlightened human being who wants to become the best version of herself EVENTUALLY, that DOESN’T MEAN I HAVE TO DO IT RIGHT THIS SECOND, THIS LENT, OR THIS MONDAY.

(Breathe, Regina, Breathe.)

If you’re still there and you made it past the CAPS LOCK YELLING…I know I need my anger. My mean-ness even. I plan to lead a life where I’m plunging into spaces where people are swinging, hoarding, or just plain looking the other way from folks who are struggling. I don’t think anger and “mean-ness” is always the answer to get people to pay attention…but it’s not NEVER the answer.

MeanMommies
Leana started it…

I’m not claiming that’s what happened every moment today. Today I was mad at a box of wine because it was too big to fit in my refrigerator. Ain’t no moral justification for that.

So maybe…alternating Monday themes.

Today? “Mean girl Monday.”

Next week? Making amends Monday.

Let’s try to make THAT happen Gretchen. #Fetch #SayCrackAgain

No need to remind me which day we’re on, though. It’ll just piss me off.

 

Be still, my monkey…

My son moves at a pace faster than the speed of sound. That is the ONLY explanation for why he only hears me the third time I say something.

 

Kip.

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Kip!

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KIP!!

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(sigh)

Kip happens.

My son moves at a pace faster than the speed of sound. That is the ONLY explanation for why he only hears me the third time I say something.

Zippy Kippy.

Skippy Kippy.

Kip-to-my-lou.

Oh, my darlin’.

It is hard to be angry with such an exuberant, gregarious, hilarious primate. Somehow we still manage it.

Just.

Be.

Still!

Stillness is not easy for the five year old.

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Stillness is not easy for his mother, either. Neither in body nor in mind.

Last Lent, I wrote about my monkey mind

It jumps from one idea to the next. Knocks things over. This is true if I’m reading. Writing. Teaching. Walking. Eating… You get the picture…the fragmented, sparkly, frenetic picture.

Yoga, I wrote, was one of the only things that could calm my rushing psyche. The faster the flow of my body, the slower my mind becomes. When I began my practice, I gravitated to the hardest teachers. Barely keeping pace with my breath, dripping in sweat, my feet squeaking and slipping, this was the soggy path to my Zen moments. I would catch glimpses of silence and stillness in my mind before they slipped away around a corner of my frontal cortex.

Lately, though, I find I don’t have to chase down stillness. It has begun to come to me.

This week my friend Libbie invited me down to Annapolis to meet and practice with her favorite Yoga instructor. Tina.

Her class was without heat. Without sweat. Without mirrors. Without haste.

We began with seated meditation. We ended with seated meditation.

There was movement between, but all I remember, all I craved was the stillness.

Afterwards, I sat with her for a moment and marveled aloud how much I had reveled in the methodic, meditative slowness of the class. How did this happen? When did I change? How did I slip into someone at ease with silence and stillness?

“You’ve trained your mind,” she said.

When did that happen?!

 

Be still my heart.

Be still and know.

Peace. Be still.

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In stillness we hear.

In stillness we’re here.

Sleep tight, little monkey.