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I Had a Handle on Life But it Broke

The handle isn’t just broken. The whole house might well be gone.

Julia E Hubbel
Sep 29, 2020 · 9 min read

Denver-based professional speaker Mary LoVerde, among other things, wrote a book whose title was just so damned good for our times that I had to steal it. The good news is that you cannot trademark book titles. You can if they are part of a whole series of seminars and other work. This is just a title, but it is a badass and very funny title. Her book, written back in 2002, focused on women with too much to do.

In all fairness, I’m not convinced that she included POC but not too many folks do, unless they are POC. But that’s another article.

Eighteen years later, I might posit that the words have a whole other meaning, most particularly under Covid. Not only do women suffer far greater job losses, we have additionally suffered great economic distress, and our progress overall has slid backwards in terrible, great tsunami waves.

And with the new Supreme Court nominee, well. Might as well go out and buy very long skirts, aprons and shackles. What happy day for evangelicals and White Supremacists.

Which are, sadly, often much the same thing.

But I refuse to dwell on what I can’t control. That may well be because at nearly 70, to steal from Ann Litts, I am more carefully managing my f*cks, so that I can make a difference where my particular skills are valuable.

Some things are badly broken, the way I see them, which for others are being fixed properly, the way they see it. At any given time, and this is a critical part of understanding why we are in such terrible chaos as a country and a world, the world as it is right here and now is perfect for some and not for others. And those for whom it is perfect will fight to the death to protect The Way It Is (White Male Patriarchy, anyone) because anything else is a threat to their power.

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Photo by Harry Thaker on Unsplash

As far better and more eloquent writers than I have pointed out, to be female, a POC, and the greatest insult, old, in America today, is to live a broken life. By definition. And then to be blamed for it, and punished for speaking up about it. Again, that’s another article, but you can find plenty of supremely eloquent pieces on that by my sisters over on Zora.

And kindly, that was before Covid.

This year, lotta stuff in my life broke. My relationships with a few folks. My relationship and connection to Colorado, after fifty years. My health took a baseball bat to the belly with infected kidneys. Shortly after I broke my car.

Wait. I smashed my car.

Broke my finger. Busted up my coconut again. Then I got to Eugene where fires damned near took my brand new house. Then I broke a pinky toe.

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Photo by Aimee Vogelsang on Unsplash

Every day, something breaks. Usually a piece of china that I was hoping might have safely made the cross-country journey only to find its way to my kitchen floor because my broken pinky toe decided to shriek at an inopportune time.

This past week I started breaking my body back in at the gym. After months out and a drastic, unplanned, thirty-pound weight loss, I am now reminding my muscles of what I expect of them. They hurt, as they should, but I keep asking, as I should. I will break down that resistance, and win the argument.

Already, the horribly sagging skin on my biceps, which is what can happen to you when you lose way too much weight way too fast, has filled out again.

I always mend. Even as I age, this gets easier, and I get better at it.

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Photo by Matthew T Rader on Unsplash

Things break. Cars and bones and love affairs and life. Career trajectories and hopes and plans. Bodies and health and houses and glasses and chairs and bikes.

Some years back my beloved, gorgeous Australian Cattle dog broke his back, and along with it, my heart, my soul and my spirit. I still cannot speak of it. I recovered, but that part of me bleeds still. There are parts of all of us which do this. But those are the very parts which teach us to love so deeply when we have something/someone to love. Such is understanding breaking things, so that we may treasure other things.

Right about the time you and I think we have a handle on our shit, it breaks.

That’s as it should be.

For life, as with all things, isn’t about stasis. It isn’t about perpetual easy livin’ and sailin’ calm seas. You and I might thoroughly enjoy spates of time when this is the case.

However, the broken bits are, just as the disagreements we have with loved ones, those places where you and I grow the most. Whether we like it or not, and there’s a good bit to be frustrated with right now, we might be damned tired of trying to figure out Okay what’s the lesson I’m supposed to be learning here?


It’s perfectly understandable that so many of us are dead tired with wearing masks. All right already, you say. I miss people. Touch. In-person laughter. Movies and concerts and bars and parties and church and pajama sleepovers.

No. Fucking. Shit.

Those who had to weather hurricanes, as in my birth state of Florida (and a lot more states these days), and in my neighborhood, completely out of the norm (but the coming norm) fires which killed, devastated and reduced the beloved forests and animals to ash and still are killing in California, they have had to weather loss and labor under Covid.

I might argue their handle on life isn’t just broken. Right now it probably feels like it’s in pieces on the foyer floor.

Well fuck.

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Photy NASA on Unsplash

It’s a dangerous thing to ask the Goddess “what’s next.” She’s been asking us that for a long, long time.

Now she’s answering.

To that:

From the article:

The oil and petrochemical industry there has long exploited working class people of color, building toxic facilities in marginalized neighborhoods. The day after Laura made landfall, with a storm surge high enough to wash entire coastal communities off the map, a massive chlorine gas leak prompted a shelter-in-place order for tens of thousands of families. Many didn’t have the means to evacuate the storm in the middle of a pandemic and one of the worst economic downturns in the nation’s history. This week, Beta flooded the Lake Charles region again, inundating coastal communities still reeling from one of the worst disasters that corner of the state had ever seen.

About my part of the world:

All of this is to say nothing of the fiery apocalypse engulfing the western states, where decades of warming has killed millions of trees — entire forests — due to insect infestation and drought. Now those forests are all being burned at once, and the smoke has been thick enough to literally blot out the sun. Or of the systematic rollback of environmental protections from the Trump Administration. Or of the continued neglect of folks on the front lines of these changes, marginalized by centuries of colonialist extraction of their lives and lands for profit. (author bolded)

Broken. Not permanently, but I would strongly argue that a return to normalcy is a return to the insanity that got us a busted world to begin with But that’s just me.

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Photo by Markus Winkler on Unsplash

In any kind of predictable world that you and I as White Westerners might live in, we’d typically do one of three things with a busted door handle:

  1. Fix it ourselves.
  2. Hire a handyman (after we screw it up)
  3. Replace the door handle entirely, and repeat steps 1 or 2 or both.

As Eric Holthaus, who is a meteorologist, points out, in the case of our world, it’s not just that the handle broke.

The whole house is coming down around us. And, on top of a great many folks who never had a house to begin with.

We can indeed listen to the denial-morons, the Republic-idiots, and all the other climate deniers whose homes and animals in the bright red rural areas of America have been devastated.

We can listen to the Covidiots whose personal denial of the virus have cost their states lives and economic devastation. Or their own.

These people, and they are all over the world, are effectively standing in the ashes of their homes, communities and houses, too often paid off by corporate money, holding a piece of a door handle that used to be their world.

And they’re still telling us the house is standing. Come on in and drill, Sparky. Who cares now? The forests are all gone anyway.

Yeah well, Sparky, who’s gonna buy gas if nobody can afford a car? But I digress.

As forever, the world’s biggest losers are the folks who can’t fight back, whose lands and countries have been drilled and razed and flooded and ripped off.

You and I, look. In the relative comfort of what we call some semblance of normalcy, we may fix the handle on a house that’s still standing.

For others whose house was a cardboard shack to begin with, and that increasingly includes millions of what used to be middle-class Americans, the idea of a house becomes more distant every day. Just as in the first Great Depression, the car, then a new-fangled contraption, became home.

Still is, for growing numbers of folks who could once fix their own door handles. Now they can’t handle paying for gas.

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Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

I’ve spent a lot of time exploring what we call developing nations. I’ve walked the villages, seen the poverty. Held the babies, witnessed their living conditions. They are almost always communities of color. In America, we are going to see more of those kinds of camps, like the ones I see all over Eugene city proper, of white folks without options, set up.

Denver had a whole city of folks just like that, living on the lawn of the Capital, downtown Denver. It got cleared out. Wanna bet nobody got a house? I would.

Eric writes:

Apocalypse, another Greek word, literally means “revelation” — making visible what was once hidden. Climate scientists have done that work for our civilization, revealing a possible future filled with misery if we continue on our current course. It is up to us to heed the consequences of that knowledge that is now painfully in plain sight. This is our Ianos moment, as stewards of the future and observers of an already-catastrophic past: If we choose, we can begin the transformative work of building a world where climate disaster is not inevitable. (author bolded)

I might add that this year has done us all an immense favor. The Goddess-Nature, Kali, doesn’t matter- does not care that what is happening is an inconvenience. What does matter is what we will do with what we see, what we know.

Or you and I can keep right on trying to repair a broken door handle on a house that is swiftly burning down around us.

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Photo by Esri Esri on Unsplash

For you, for your kids, for the future of our industries (and mine is adventure travel, so we have a lot to lose), I hope we are wise enough to put what’s broken down, put our collective, widely diverse and often very wise heads together, and build a better house.

That to me is what getting a real handle on life is all about.

Crow’s Feet

“The longer I live, the more beautiful life becomes.”

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Julia E Hubbel

Written by

Horizon Huntress, prize-winning author, adventure traveler, boundary-pusher, wilder, veteran, aging vibrantly. I own my sh*t. Let’s play!

Crow’s Feet

“The longer I live, the more beautiful life becomes.” (Frank Lloyd Wright) Non-fiction pieces, personal essays, occasional poems and short fiction that explore how we feel about how we age and offer tips for getting the most out of life.

Julia E Hubbel

Written by

Horizon Huntress, prize-winning author, adventure traveler, boundary-pusher, wilder, veteran, aging vibrantly. I own my sh*t. Let’s play!

Crow’s Feet

“The longer I live, the more beautiful life becomes.” (Frank Lloyd Wright) Non-fiction pieces, personal essays, occasional poems and short fiction that explore how we feel about how we age and offer tips for getting the most out of life.

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