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Category: Personal

#MeToo: Mixed Feelings More From Life Than #

The #metoo is something which I have strong and mixed feelings toward. I don’t know that it’s bad. But one of my friends, Katherine Coble, pointed out the tragedy of this situation, referring to this as a “place where we have to continually expose our pain, make ourselves vulnerable in order to make clear a basic point.”

That sums up precisely how I feel. And let me make clear, I and many others posting this hashtag are not saying that we are only victims (this is not some prize that we won either). We are survivors.

But we are survivors who have to prove not that we have survived but that we were injured in the first place. And subsequently we must demonstrate that it was an actual injury and not some mere scrape or inconvenience or misunderstanding.

Even posting about #metoo makes me feel vulnerable, broken, weak, as if I have somehow failed (though what exactly, I can’t tell you). I do not like feeling this way. I don’t like to remember what happened on these occasions (because yes, there was more than one). But here are some of my thoughts on it.

Evidence Needed

It feels like in part I have to put myself on display to validate many issues. Tear off the veils and expose the scars, break down the walls and show off the wounds. And, to a certain degree, that is necessary. Evidence is needed in many cases. But sometimes that supposed balance tilts so far over the other direction, it feels like there is not enough. That there will never be enough unless it’s the ideal case with objectively demonstrable facts. And that creates a heavy burden that crushes the will to speak or to act when you know that, despite the letter of the law in some cases being on your side, the practice and the individuals involved are not.

I accepted in one instance that there was not enough evidence to support my claim and let it go. Even then, I understood that the worst part about many of these situations is that they can be hard to prove. In that case, the eczema lesions were bloody and covered a broad enough span of my body complete with bruising, particularly where I was grabbed, that there was no independent evidence. And I simply wanted it to be over and forget it ever happened. I also felt intense shame that I could not reason my way out of, and in another case, I was instructed to let it go because he was “mentally damaged and this will go badly for him.”

To be clear, this is not something I want to have a dialogue about aside from in general terms. I only want to use what I need to to make the point that it has happened, and it was violent. (Some might say and have said to me that those who wounded me can no longer hurt me so I should speak up and be loud, but I would counter, no. You cannot force me, and you do not have the right to compel me. I do not ask for pity, and I do not ask for chastisement either.)

Some of the questions and analysis must come about when these matters are investigated. I do understand this. We live under a system of law which in theory follows Blackstone’s formulation that “it is far better that ten guilty men go free than one innocent man be wrongfully convicted.”

But it so often seems that in the case of sexual violation and misconduct, the guilty go free and the innocent suffer (which includes the wrongly accused). (This is in part because our system is one that does not focus simply on the facts but in which legal play and connections and deals make a difference. Justice could be blind, but she is not the only one surveying the case.)

In the times when it happened to me, I did what I thought was best. It was not always what was wisest. (Which is part of the reason that we need to be clear and empathetic about how to handle these situations. Young ones are often the target, and if they get separated from good counsel and their families, even when they have good ones like mine, matters often become worse.)

We need to move to a point (or create a better one as such a place didn’t ever completely exist) where we go back to the focus on justice and protecting the innocent without also sacrificing the wounded on the altar of entertainment, gossip, and convenience.

What About the Liars or the People Who Want Attention?

And inevitably from this will come the “what about people who make it up?”

One of the most traumatizing events for me in college came from a bond I made with another young woman. Somehow in a conversation after midnight, we began talking about life and tragedy, and I let what happened to me slip. She shared that she had been brutally raped. I was horrified. He had gone completely unpunished. She showed me his picture, told me horrifying details. And I decided to support her the way I had needed someone to support me but couldn’t articulate.

I did research standards for the county we were in. Got phone numbers. Contacted the necessary people. She expressed little interest in pursuing anything related to it.

What terrified me was that he started showing up. He lurked near our dorm. He appeared in various places. One night he arrived as we were leaving. He was within arm’s reach and called out to her. I hit him across the knees with a parasol and told him to get back, I was going to call the police. He was confused. She didn’t want me to do anything about it.

Maybe a week or so later, I saw on Facebook, they were dating. I wasn’t sure what to think, but when I talked to her, she admitted he hadn’t raped her. She had said that he had because they had sex and then he broke up with her but now wanted to get back together. (For my readers who aren’t from a conservative religious background, sex before marriage is still a very bad thing because sex is to be saved until marriage.)

I felt gutpunched, betrayed. My soul was crushed. How deeply I despised that man, putting on him the sins of others, still haunts me to a degree. But recognizing this does not mean that we should ignore the claims of others. That doesn’t mean it was easy though. I was completely shaken after my friend’s confession.

Yes, even having experienced assault and more, I found myself struggling in the aftermath of that to believe when others shared what they had experienced in a similar manner while at the same time wanting to understand and wanting to help. I felt like I was being shredded like chicken that’s been in the pot too long because it filled me with doubt. (I also tend to be oversensitive to anyone who might be lying and would note that many who have been assaulted are the same because those who do choose to lie make it all the harder for those who have come forward or will come forward.)

I would also add that in all my years thus far, I only know of a handful of false report cases, and I know of far more situations where the abuse was not reported.

My point in sharing this is that I am well-aware of the fact that not all abuse allegations are true. I have no idea of the actual numbers, but recognizing the reality of some lies, I would still insist that we have to do better in assisting those who are not lying.

Compelled Speech

There will also be some glib responses of how we must not be victims and must speak out to prevent this from happening. And this bothers me too.

The damage done in a violation is done whether the survivor steps forward and speaks up or not. The burden of the wrongdoing is on the perpetrator first and foremost. Or it should be.

But so often it slides to the survivor. Even when it’s not intended.

Not everyone who goes through abuse is able to speak about it. There are some who know that their cases cannot be proven or they live in a place where they are not able to. And the condemnation, scorn, and anger about a survivor who does not respond properly or take all the right steps can feel even larger because that survivor is also dealing with the wounds from the attacker.

One of the most important places to speak up is after it happens to bring those individuals to accountability if that is possible. (But even then I firmly believe that this is the survivor’s choice. There are so many complicated facets to this conversation, and there are few hard and fast rules.)

Another essential place to speak up if you can is when others can be harmed by your silence. Maybe you can’t do it publicly, but do it privately if you can.

After that, demanding that they do more moves into this “show us your wounds!” mentality. Not that it is stated that way. More often, it’s implied in assertions that abuse, harassment, and such do not exist or that they are exaggerated or misinterpreted. Or in the skeptical assertions and knowing glances.

There are individuals who step out and speak up. What they are doing is admirable and deeply appreciated when they do share the truth. This does not mean that all survivors must speak up publicly or that they are somehow deficient for not doing so. Nor does it mean that these survivors must make speaking about sexual abuse, harassment, and assault their priority.

Why Are You Living in Fear?

I know that one of the other responses likely to come from this is “why do you live in fear? Do you think someone is waiting behind every lamppost to rape you?” Usually followed up with a “no one would want to rape you, you’re too ugly” or a “I wouldn’t rape you cause X.” (Joys of the Internet, my friends. Yes, I’ve had this and lots more said to me.)

But I would ask that two things be understood. First, rape or assault has little to do with attraction to the individual but is more often about power and the attacker’s needs. My looks, such as they are, are irrelevant. Second, it is not necessary for a threat to exist behind every post and shadow for one to take precautions. I’d point out that many who  condemn survivors living in fear still lock their car doors and houses at some point.

I do not live in fear. I battle fear. I beat it down and break it apart. But it does lie in wait and creeps at the corners of my mind, a skulking, slithering being that will grow if I do not work to decrease its power. I am not alone in this. (And even those who do live in a state of what more would consider fear and possibly timidity, I’d point out that the vast majority of them fight valiantly as well to even function. It is simply that their circle is far smaller and sometimes their monsters far stronger.)

Some days are better than others. I know how to carry myself. I learned how to defend myself. I learned who not to listen to. I am bold, but I am not a fool. My choosing not to do certain things is not proof that my attackers won but rather that I have adapted.

For Those Learning to Survive and Those Moving Ever Forward

Ultimately what I would add in addition to #metoo is that if you are going through this, you may feel alone but you are not alone. Knowing this does not mean the sensations or the pain goes away. Sometimes it is far more of a feeling than a reality, but that does not make it easy to deal with.

Healing is a process. Some part of you may never feel the same, and, in truth, my friend, you are not nor will you ever be the same. Every experience we have changes us in one way or another. Ones such as this are no exception, and indeed they can prove the rule in a particularly harsh way.

But be kind to yourself. Listen to what you need even if that is simply to be left in solitude and silence.

Understand that some of your feelings, while accurate in that you are feeling them, are not accurate to the facts. For instance, simply because you feel ashamed or weak does not mean you actually did anything wrong or that you are weak. It took a long time for me to wrap my head around that. Bad things sometimes happen to those who do not ask for them or deserve them.

Know that while some questions are normal, it is all right for you to shut the doors when some people become too intrusive (though as you know in the legal system, this gets…iffier). If you don’t want to talk about it, you don’t have to except in a few circumstances. If you don’t want to participate in #metoo or anything like that, you don’t have to, and it does not make you less of a survivor or mean you do not matter.

Research what to expect in your recovery and how to handle this. It may seem strange, but physical maladies (not just STDs) can manifest after these events, not to mention psychological and mental challenges as well. This does not mean you are weak. It is simply an indication that sexual abuse and harassment are more than just physical and have deep roots that will affect you in more than the obvious ways.

Reclaim what you can. If there is something that you can do better, then do it. (But know that just because you erred in one or two ways does not mean you deserve what happened to you.) Then take the rest of yourself back. You don’t have to punish yourself (though if you are like most, you likely will). Focus on healing. I have had to spend a lot of time in prayer and thought, sifting through all that happened.

Forgive. There’s often a lot of people to forgive in this, and I don’t mean it glibly. Forgiveness frees you from the burden, but it’s not just about forgiving your attacker (oh and this doesn’t mean you won’t still be angry at that person).  This does not absolve your attacker from what was done either. You will most likely have to forgive others for how they responded and yourself. If you are like many, you will blame yourself because there will be so many choices that could have gone differently. I know I did. I could have just chosen another route. I could have asked for another shift. There’s a lot of “could have justs.” But what is done is done, and you need to forgive and let go as soon as you can.

Reach out to those you can trust. Get help. And if you don’t know anyone you can talk to, bear in mind that there are organizations like RAINN which have a 24-hour hotline (800-656-4673) as well as The National Center for Victims of Crime and No More. There are many other such organizations, some of which are local. Others can be found through Facebook. Provided your church leadership is not part of the abuse, they also have many resources.

Recognize it may be a long process. As I’ve mentioned, I still don’t like to talk about this. I prefer focusing on trying to get the laws and procedures changed and work with advocacy groups that assist survivors or assisting individual survivors. And, frankly, sometimes things will set you back. It’s hard to keep your head up and not give in to what the fear tells you when someone curb crawls you with dark tinted windows and mud covered plates or someone sends you a threatening letter or email.

But even if your head slips down and you have to cry or all of it comes pouring in and overwhelms you, that doesn’t mean you’ve been beaten. You just pick yourself back up and lift your head again. And remember that even if they demand to see your scars and your wounds, you don’t always have to show them. It is your choice what you do even if once or more someone tried to take that away from you.

 

A Quiet Sunday

This has been a good but quiet day. I spent a fair bit of it editing a friend’s story and helping her get it ready. It’s a brilliant story, and I hope it makes it into the anthology. I prepped and formatted a manuscript and sent it off for proofing. And then I will be working on Cursed for the rest of the evening.

Lots more I could say, but today I shall keep it brief. Tomorrow I will have new words.

Seasons End

All seasons have their end. Farewells, good byes, and ends of times do not come easily though they may come fast and without warning. And perhaps not all conclusions are marred with grief. But, whether because the pain makes them seem stronger or there are more that are this way, the ones with pain so often scream louder.

It’s easier to close the book on the happy note than it is when the very words weep. It is not that hope has died or that the mourner believes this moment is the worst. Sometimes it is simply recognizing, appreciating, feeling the end and crying for what will no longer be. Crying for what might have been. Crying for all those possibilities.

Sometimes the sadness is there simply because what has ended was loved. A season has concluded. And when the new one opens, it may bring wonders anew and laughter that consoles the pain.

Doors close every day just as new ones open. But sometimes you’re in a hall, and you know the door is ahead, but you have no idea what it will open upon or even when. And sometimes it may not open for quite awhile though you hear the clicks and bangs of doors in other halls swinging wide. What matters is that one day the doors will open again, and this limbo of untetheredness may yet pass along with heartbreak and pain.

Is it wrong to weep or sob or grind your teeth in anger? When that which is good must pass away and the dreams you hold slip through your fingers, it would be stranger if you shed no tears even with your faith to hold you strong.

For just as seasons have their end, so too do they have their beginnings. And though the pain may swell and the agony endures, you know deep within that it will not always be this way. It cannot. It will not. It shall not. It won’t.

Mourning does not deny the joy that may yet come. When you mourn, your heart cries over the pain that has come and sometimes for the future ripped from hopeful hands.

It may not be as you envisioned. And if you cannot see now what the future holds as all you see is through a glass darkly, then that is where you believe and hope despite not knowing. The future and all of life cannot be taken in a single stride. Sometimes you can barely hold the heartbeat of a moment.

At times like these, your beliefs may seem stale and flavorless, cheap bread set out on a windowsill, unwanted even by the starlings and the grackles. You hold them close or sometimes loosely in the wellspring of your heart, not knowing, not understanding because sometimes the monotony of the pain and of the sorrow feels like it’s too much.

But in your heart you know…know what is true. This season ends, the doors are closed, but it will all begin anew. And this new season is not cursed, these new doors are not bolted. Different perhaps and possibly not precisely as you hope. Perhaps more, perhaps better. There is always that. But more importantly that which roots you, grounds you, anchors you will keep you from despair.

For now though, loose your tears and weep. You don’t have to be forever strong. And in the quiet of the hall, where all is locked and shut away, you are free to grieve so that when the doors swing open and light pours through, you can walk into that new day.

Even tragedies, grief, and pain come in seasons that must one day end. And if you need to sit and cry, then do. But know it shall not always be this way.

The Start of a New Month

A new month begins. Actually it began yesterday, but I have found that being quiet online during April Fool’s Day is probably best. (Incidentally, whether it is a good day or not depends largely on who you are around.)

March was a full month with good surprises and bad. I spent a fair portion of it ill unfortunately. Influenza slipped around, and I managed to catch it. Or rather it caught me. But given I only had two migraines in addition to that, the month was fairly good.
Indeed March wound up being a month rich in reflection. The older I get, the more messy I realize life is. It’s not about getting things perfect. It’s about muddling through, correcting course, and moving on. The importance of grace, love, and mercy increases by the day.

With April comes the full revelation of spring. Chives and daffodils already poke their thick green stems up from the soil I have hopes and dreams for this month and more. I am grateful. I am moving forward.

Writing with a Migraine: A Few Tips on Coping

Over the past two months, I’ve had many visits from a friend I really wish would leave: the good old migraine.

Now, as I have discovered from my fellow migraine sufferers, each migraine is just a little bit different. Whether vision gets stripy or nausea roils the stomach or simple shafts of yellow-white light induce agonizing beats, the pain is the one constant. And boy…is it constant.

Since about the middle of December, I’ve averaged about one migraine a week. They have been lasting about three days, but the last one stretched on for almost an entire week. So, in between migraines, I did research into what I could do to minimize the pain.

Here are some of the tricks I’ve learned that help me cope when the migraines strike.

As Much Water As You Can

glass with cola and ice  in water splash
glass with cola and ice in water splash

A couple friends told me that for every painful spasm, I should take three good-sized gulps of water. That helped somewhat for obvious reasons. It was temping at the worst movements to just lie motionless and not drink because I knew if I drank, I would have to go to the bathroom.

But you must drink the water. You absolutely must. On the one time when I skipped it out of sheer exhaustion, I paid so dearly. It absolutely wasn’t worth it.

Add Lemon and a Little Salt to Your Water

I discovered this one by accident. Most mornings, I try to start my day with a large glass of ice water with a generous tablespoon of fresh lemon juice and a pinch of sea salt. To my surprise, I got some more intensive relief from my migraine with this. Before I had just chosen pure water.

Much to my surprise, I also discovered that this is supposed to be a cure-all though some offer cautions. Now, in my case, this didn’t cure the migraine, but it sanded the edges off. It also seems key that you use Himalayan or sea salt rather than table salt.

Avoid Bright Screens or Blue-Light Screens

The majority of tech devices utilize blue-light. In addition to causing problems with sleep cycle, I have found that looking at any screen with a blue-light intensifies my pain even more than the soft yellow bathroom light. The one exception was if I had the screen turned down to the absolute lowest, I could be on my phone for about 5, 10 minutes at most. Then it would cut through.

On the days when I avoided those screens entirely, the pain receded to a more manageable rate.

Have a Soothing Hobby to Fall Back On

Balls of wool on wooden table background
Balls of wool on wooden table background

Perhaps what stresses me most about migraine days is the horrible inactivity. I have found great comfort in curling up on the couch and knitting with the lights way down. Crocheting is a tad more challenging for me though others love it, and I’ve chatted with some friends who also enjoy sketching and coloring. I imagine that that soft shoosh shoosh of pencil on paper is quite soothing.

Embroidery, tatting, and other close eyed needlework may not be the best choice for obvious reasons.

Reading surprisingly works best for me is when I do it on my Kindle. The screen is sufficiently darkened and the contrast low enough that it doesn’t hurt. As for audiobooks, I’ve found that it is the voice of the narrator that makes all the difference there. Shrill or high voices can be unbearable. And I suspect my preference for deeper voices may be just as much because they don’t hurt my head.

Sadly, I did not find cooking to be as useful of a soothing hobby at the worst of migraines though at other times it is one of my passions. The smells of the cooking foods can sometimes turn me to vomiting. Same with baking. But it might be different for you. (Same goes for sniffing peppermint which is soothing for some people with migraines.)

Write on Yellow or Green Paper

Perhaps it’s the glare of the light on the paper, but writing on white paper made it even more difficult for me to focus because the pain worsened. However, I found that when I wrote in my steno pads (sunglasses placed firmly over my eyes), it wasn’t nearly so bad. In fact, I was able to write long enough to get most of the required tasks done and even some of my stories, and whenever I can sink into my stories, I disappear into another world entirely and leave all but the faintest traces behind.

Sunglasses, All the Time

This is an old one, but it’s worth mentioning here: sunglasses help protect against light sensitivity. But do watch out how tightly they fit your face. I’ve had some that hit those pressure points just above my ears so perfectly that they managed to intensify the migraine with awful accuracy. But you don’t have to invest in an expensive pair of sunglasses to get the benefits. I just use a pair of cheap wraparounds that I got at a gas station in an emergency (of course I got a migraine after I lost mine and we were on the road and headed into snow).

I even wear them indoors and just around the house. And yes, sometimes people will comment and try to make jokes about it or oddly try to get me to remove them, but if I explain, “it’s for a migraine,” they usually accept that.

As an aside, I have found that if I must be on the computer or my phone for longer than a few minutes, then a pair of sunglasses can make a tremendous difference. I still can’t work as I normally do, but I can do some of it.

The sunglasses are often enough to let me get through most of the cleaning and tidying.

Meditation and Prayer with Measured Breaths

Focusing one’s thoughts elsewhere can be greatly soothing, but getting there when in the middle of a lot of pain is so hard. One would think that having dealt with chronic pain for years that it would be easier, and I suppose, in a sense, it is. But sometimes, in the grips of a horrid migraine, all I can do is grip my head and think about what shapes the pain looks like stabbing my brain.

I’ve found that it does help me to pray and meditate though it is admittedly difficult to get started. I don’t have a particular favorite verse. Each day I find a new one or a particular thought to focus on. And sometimes my prayers are just “Oh God, please let it stop hurting. Please let it stop hurting.”

Digitally generated Take a deep breath vector

I have also found that focusing on my breathing helps too. I tend to breathe shallowly as the pain intensifies. But as the pain strikes, if I focus on slowing my breaths, keeping them deep and steady, and going over verses and prayers, it can help significantly.

Cold Showers and Cold Presses

The hot/cold debate is one a lot of migraine fighters discuss, and I think it’s a matter of preference.

If I can, and sometimes that’s a big if, a cold shower can help a great deal. I can’t get into frigid water straight away. But lukewarm and gradually turning to cold with the water driving down on the back of my neck works best for me. Cold washcloths to the forehead and neck are also soothing. But sometimes this can make me chill so badly that it creates other issues.

However, hot water makes mine much, much worse, so I must avoid that. I have one friend whose migraines are relieved by super hot showers, and I must confess, I’m envious.

Another friend recommended putting an ice pack on the back of the neck and then sticking one’s hands and feet in warm water. This didn’t work for me, but it might work for you.

Yoga, Pilates, and Strength Training

The older I get, the more I love exercising. Even when I can only do it in short batches and it doesn’t lead to the weight loss I want. And I have found that even on migraine days, if I can get up and do some stretches and even more advanced moves, that that makes it easier to get through the day.

This may have something to do with redirecting blood flow. Or it might be the endorphin release. Some professionals have suggested both. I usually don’t run on migraine days or even attempt the barre workouts. If I get particularly brave, I might.

But, for me, I look at these migraine days as being similar to the days when the pain from the fibro and so on becomes incredibly intense. As much as possible, I try to keep some semblance of normalcy and take care of my body. Exercising has so many other benefits that it is worth it to fight through the pain as much as possible.

And obviously I should conclude this saying that you should go to a doctor if you have continued migraines. Sometimes migraines are a symptom of something else, and it’s important to get that looked at.

So these are some of the things that I’ve found do work for me. There are many other techniques, and if you are a chronic migraine sufferer, I’m sure you have your own. Feel free to share some of your own tips if you’d like.

And hopefully you won’t have to use any of these tips any time soon. Have a beautiful day, my friends. Talk to you again soon.

Some Thoughts on the Election and Moving Forward

The election results are in, and to say that they took most by surprise would be as big an understatement as saying that 2016 has been a bizarre year.

Personally, I was not thrilled about either of our two primary candidates. (Part of me still wonders how it is that we reached this point, but that is another conversation for another day.) Since last night, I have received dozens of messages from people on all points of the political spectrum, many relaying fears and concerns. I’ve been thinking about these conversations and trying to break down what all this means.

I am a cynical idealist who chooses to be an optimist (though sometimes cynicism wins the day). I rely on my faith to give me hope, and, in fairness, I would probably be writing something similar if Hillary Clinton won with the exception of maybe a couple paragraphs. I don’t believe that the sky is falling nor do I believe that the world or even America is ending.

These are some thoughts on how we can move forward as a nation. (My apologies for the length. As Joan Didion said, “I write to know what I think.”)

If you don’t want to read all this, I understand, so the headings/overview is below:

  1. Abandon Fear
  2. Listen
  3. Act
  4. Grieve or Celebrate But Don’t Burn the Bridges
  5. Hold Assumptions Loosely
  6. Don’t Demonize the Independents
  7. Look for the Helpers
  8. The Burden is on Us (Regardless of Party or Voting Choice)
  9. Remain Aware and Active

Abandon Fear

We shouldn’t spread fear and terror, and we should be careful of the “what ifs.” (That includes what we tell our young children; they don’t need to bear all the burdens of the world though it is good to keep them informed.) Even if it should be revealed that we are right about that which we fear, what have we gained? Nothing. (Now this is not to say that we should do nothing or that in abandoning fear we become complacent, docile, or inactive, but more on that later.)

Fear is a natural response and an instinct to dangerous and unknown situations. In a survival situation such as a snake attack, the adrenaline surge combined with fear can, in some cases, make you fast enough to avoid getting bit. (And in some cases, that adrenaline surge triggers the freeze response, resulting in death.)

However, in social situations such as this latest election, fearful responses rarely lead to good results. And this is because fear makes us easier to control, easier to manipulate, easier to defeat. Mob mentality is borne most often out of fear or anger. Neither are good.

Fear alone does not make us smarter. Left unchecked it leaves us demoralized, weakened, and vulnerable. We react, lash out, and leave ourselves more vulnerable than when we started. It can also feed into other narratives and lead to further destruction, less communication, and more slipping.

Instead, we must be vigilant. Aware. Awake. Active.

The reality is that we should be this way no matter who is running the government and no matter where we are. Politicians are rarely the people we hope they will be even when we most deeply support them. They make back room deals. They wield influence, trade favors, deceive people, manipulate outcomes, and oh so much more.

I am of the belief that none of them should be trusted. They should be watched, regarded with caution, and held accountable, regardless of the affiliations they proclaim. The same is true for businesses large and small. I suppose that while I have hope for the best in people, I also recognize the worst.

Now for many, this fearful response is churning even now. It’s hard to control, and some are already comparing Trump to Hitler and engaging in high levels of hyperbole just as others are proclaiming the start of a new and wondrous world and some are certain it will be business as usual and possibly the majority are just not sure what to expect. (In fairness, I suspect both extremes will see these beliefs challenged, moderated, and shrunk when they are actually tested.)

And if the fearful response isn’t riling up inside, we should encourage our fellow Americans and friends from around the world.  Many are genuinely terrified and even more don’t know what to expect. This is a good time for compassion, mercy, and kindness.

So if fear cannot be stopped from cropping up, what can we do? We can take that fear we feel and channel it into motivation. Not letting it cloud our senses or creating worse situations than what already exists. We need our wits about us, and we can prepare for the worst and hope for the best.

Listen

We do have to listen, and that is one thing that we don’t do particularly well. On most points of the spectrum, many of us said what we wanted and avoided listening as much as we could. Or when we did listen, we translated what we heard into something that made sense to us based on our ideologies. This isn’t really listening, though it should be noted that listening, truly listening, does not mean necessarily agreeing.

In talking with people on all sides of this election, I can say that it isn’t so simple as racism, sexism, or any of the isms. I suspect there are some people for whom that was a deciding factor, but not all, and I would venture to say not even most. And I do see why some fear that this is the case. But if we ask what this is election is about (what is the core issue), we get vastly different answers from different groups, some of whom are unaware of the other issues or are unable to see their importance. In fact the general suspicion about the media has led to a general disbelief among many against just about anything it reports, which makes the results even more convoluted. (Again what people perceive to be the truth and what they thought was a smear campaign as well as the overall media involvement is best saved for another discussion.)

It is all too easy for people at all points to write all the others off with some simple phrase that we feel captures the entirety of their situation. But when is life really as simple as that?

There are many possible reasons for the choices that we have witnessed in this election. As time has passed, I have learned that it is often a matter of priorities and differences in interpretation. It isn’t as simple as saying “hate won” or “love won.” That sounds nice for the soundbites. But it horrifically oversimplifies it and inevitably results in at least one side feeling as if it isn’t being heard or understood.

Additionally, when we truly listen, we can find, when dealing with most, the points on which we agree and build connections from there that may lead to greater unity and understanding. Those connections may in turn lead to the construction of a stronger foundation on which to act in the future.

Act

Social media and the Internet Age makes talk cheap and easy. The reactions I’ve seen online far outweigh what I’ve seen in the physical world around me, and people in general are far more inclined to vent or rant or express themselves with hyperbole online than in person.

The subsequent release from such venting may make some of us feel as if we have been productive, but it’s not really as effective as actual action.

It is important that we are aware of what actual steps are being taken against our freedoms and against our people, and then we ourselves must act. The power of the people is enormous, and most do not realize this.

If there is something that you see or know is unjust, do what you can to fix it and bring awareness to it in the most constructive way possible.

Grieve or Celebrate But Don’t Burn the Bridges

I am saddened at the enormous rift that is apparent within this country. If reports on social media are not just hyperbole, then a lot of families are not speaking to one another. Communities are ripped apart. Declarations of rage, unforgiveness, and grief surge through the social media channels like ripped open veins. Friendships have been sundered. People demand that all those who did not act in alignment with their convictions leave them alone. It isn’t a pretty sight. Hopefully these wounds will mend sooner rather than later.

I admit I have been surprised at some of the things I’ve witnessed myself. There are some things, some statements, that I wonder if I will be able to move past.

I want to. I need to. I believe I will. But it will likely be hard.

This has been a heated election. The most turbulent and bizarre I have ever seen (which in fairness hasn’t been that many). But we are still family and neighbors. The emotional repercussions of this will continue to be felt, but we do need to move toward healing and forgiveness. (Even if the people we disagree with don’t apologize or ever see what they did.)

Some of us are going to be in disagreement because of where we wanted the nation to go and some because of what we believe this election represents. But at the end, we cannot let the government or politics tear us apart. A people divided is a people more easily controlled and more easily distracted.

While the family we get to choose is quite dear and something to be treasured, the family we are born into and the immediate community that surrounds us is not something to be taken lightly. Disagreements and conflict may be unpleasant, but understanding and positive change may come through those interactions and lives may be changed. Living with those who agree with us may be comfortable, but it rarely creates positive change in a nation so large and diverse as this one.

Hold Assumptions Loosely

What this election means is still being shaken out. Was this a response to President Obama’s policies or a rejection of Hillary Clinton for her politics or her policies? Was this an embrace of Trump’s ideology or a mandate to shrink government? Was it X or was it Y?

We can make all kinds of assumptions. We can make assumptions about why this happened and about what it says about the people who voted in one way or another. But these assumptions are not necessarily correct, and relying on these assumptions may in fact make matters worse.

Don’t Demonize the Independents

The one thing that seems to be acceptable is that independents may still be attacked, blamed, and generally have inferred upon them that all the ills of this election are their fault. While I do respect that there are other opinions, I would point out that when we tell this segment of the population that they are to blame or that their votes are wasted, we are only alienating them further.

Belief in a two-party system is not essential to the effective running of our government. It is something of a fiction created by both parties to retain control and allow them to focus on a few “key” issues, essentially wedging voters into one camp or another even if they only agree on one or two points. Other nations have multi-party systems, and they function.

More importantly, an incredible aspect of our election process is that people are able to vote based on their convictions (even if we do not agree on the types of convictions or the priorities of those convictions). For some of us, the demand that we choose between one of the two main parties (the lesser of two evils, so to speak) is unacceptable. Most would agree that the system is corrupted and broken. For some of us, that means we work within the two-party system to hopefully uncover a solution, and for some of us that means we must work to challenge the two-party system by supporting third party options.

Look for the Helpers

One of my favorite quotes from Mr. Rogers (Fred Rogers) is “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’”

There are still people who will be working, ministering, and serving in all areas of life. We should look for them, encourage them, and…be them. Who sits in the White House does not eliminate these people, and we can always find ways to be one of the helpers.

This country is not going to turn into some dystopian nightmare overnight. The Purge is not coming. I don’t know what all the future will bring (and who can actually know), but this is not the end, and we can still do great good.

The Burden Is On Us (Regardless of Party or  Voting Choice)

Regardless of which side you are on in this election, even if you chose not to vote, the burden is on you to do your part to make this country better. (And make no mistake, it has always been this way.)

Some of us believe that we need less government involvement. If we get that, this means that there will be people who have depended on services and opportunities from the government who will suddenly be without these programs. Whether that is merited is another discussion. What matters is that there will be pain and withdrawal and loss if those programs are cut. And this means that if we are saying that the government is not needed to take care of these people, then we have to step up.

(Christians, this applies especially to us as Scripture is quite clear on our duty to care for the downtrodden, the homeless, the orphan, and the widow. And if we are going to say that this is for the church to assist in as many have, we must remember that we have to take action in this regard. We cannot sit on our haunches and wait for others to step up to the plate, and we cannot save our aid, compassion, and services only for those with whom we agree.)

Some of us believe that we need more government involvement. That may also happen, but with that runs the possibilities for abuse and the possibility that it may not be the sort of involvement desired. And if we don’t get it, then we still have to be prepared to wade in and provide the support that the government is not.

Additionally, we must all be on guard for abuses of power, violations of rights, and do what we can to prevent and stop those, regardless of who they are against.

Remain Aware and Active

This may be somewhat repetitive, but I cannot emphasize it enough. We must not grow complacent. Regardless of how we feel about this election, we can’t become docile or so discouraged that we abandon everything. Now, certainly, for some of us, there will need to be a rest period, but for the rest of us, for all of us who can, we must not weary of doing good or refrain from it.

This is the world in which we live. We all have differing roles to play, and we are all responsible for what we have been given.

At the end of the day who is president will impact most of our day-to-day decisions less than it might seem on this day and the upcoming ones. But we can make a tremendous impact by how we treat our friends, family, neighbors, and people within our communities.

I won’t let any candidate or leader or person steal my hope. And no matter who is in office, my responsibility remains.

I had intended to write about Hillary Clinton, the glass ceiling, etc., but this post has gone on long enough. I’ll tackle that one later.

Anyway, much love to you, my friends. Talk to you soon.

My Blood Donation Experience and How It Went Much Better Than the Last Times

The past couple times I’ve donated blood, it has gone…well, shall we say it has been interesting. The first time I lost time. The second, I passed out and was down for a whole weekend with deep bruising and a massive headache.

This time, I wanted it to be different. And it turned out to be good timing as I saw

Here’s what I did:

Drink Lots of Water

I always drink a great deal of water. Typically about 70 ounces a day. I’m almost always thirsty, and sometimes I have to stop myself from drinking too much (yes, folks, you can indeed drink too much and put yourself in very bad shape). But for the couple days leading up to the donation, I drank as much as I wanted and avoided everything with caffeine. That wound up being about 140+ ounces.

(Also, please don’t worry. I don’t have diabetes or pre-diabetes. I’ve been tested for that. I’m just constantly thirsty. It’s a side effect from something else.)

Eat Foods Rich with Iron

I also figured that it couldn’t hurt to boost my iron by eating iron rich foods. So I prepped and consumed great quantities of leafy greens, particularly spinach. I found that chicken breasts stuffed with cooked spinach are absolutely delicious as is spinach salad.

Let Them Know if You Have Had a Bad Experience

I went ahead and let the admissions nurse that the last two times I had passed out or lost time, and she told me that I should mention that to the nurses and technicians who would be working with me. When they put me in the chair, they then lowered my head more than usual.

Cough at Regular Intervals Throughout the Donation Process

The last time I became nauseated and passed out in what felt like a slow descent into ear ringing darkness. After the nurse coaxed me back awake, he had me cough several times to help redistribute the blood. He said that the next time I went, I should cough at regular intervals. This time I did that, and it seemed to work.

What I’ll Do Differently

The next time I do plan on making a couple minor changes.

As much as possible, I’m trying to avoid high fructose corn syrup as well as refined carbs. All of the snacks that were available at that time were along the lines of gold fish crackers, peanut butter crackers, and so on. So I’ll just bring my own snacks.

Also I had planned to just read on my phone with the Kindle app. Always before I’ve donated in the mobile units, and this was my first time in the actual clinic. Cell phones have to be turned off in there. So next time I’ll bring a physical book. They did say that an actual e-reader wouldn’t cause a problem.

As a side note to authors with good books, you might consider stopping by your nearby blood centers and seeing if they will accept book donations. There were a few people there who also had nothing to read, and some of the procedures can take awhile. They may not, but you can always check. And while you’re there, you can donate blood as well.

Anyway, it all went quite well. I was a little woozy and a little weary for most of the rest of the day and had some faint bruising. But not the pounding headache and not the exhaustion and nausea.

How about you? If you’ve donated blood, what have you found helps to ease the donation process?

Regardless I hope you had a wonderful day. Much blessings and love!

The Tendency Toward Silence (The Quagmire of Mental Questioning and Self Paralysis)

cropped-Old-Typewriter1.jpgI wonder how many people silence themselves because they think their words have no value.

Some might say not enough people consider this possibility. The world is certainly a chaotic place, particularly in certain locations. Twitter and Youtube come to mind along with almost every site that includes politics and social commentary. In some places, a bit of silence would be more than welcome. It would be a great blessing. And there is certainly much benefit to choosing words, tempering responses, and sometimes simply allowing the silence to sit.

But the need for silence in one place does not mean that silence is needed in all places at all times.

Perhaps less anger. Perhaps more listening. And perhaps silence while gathering thoughts. Perhaps silence while contemplating the next step. Perhaps silence while choosing. And certainly not every thought must be spoken or every idea followed.

But those unspoken words and unfollowed ideas can swell inside us. They come to mind, and when we swallow them down, they lodge in our chests and smolder. Sometimes they choke us. Other times they vanish.

And there can be, I think, just as much a regret for not saying certain things as there can be for saying the wrong things.

I might be projecting.

Despite my recognizing that I have a bad habit of pouring out words and then locking them away, I have made limited progress in dealing with this bad habit (recognizing there’s a problem may be the first step, but it cannot be the only step). It’s difficult because so often I find myself holding back, and within minutes, I become mired in an intensive cycle of questioning.

keyboard-909156The same series of questions runs through my mind. “What value is this bringing?” “Are you really the right person to say this?” “Why should you say something?” “Are you sure this is the best way to say that?” “Is this really important to say right now?” “What if it comes across the wrong way?” “What if it’s misinterpreted?” “What if there’re errors that you missed even though you keep going over it?” “What if I’m showing off?” “What if I could do it better?” “Is this Christian enough?” “Is this anti Christian in some way?” “Am I Jesus juking?” “What if this comes across as insincere or inauthentic?” “Is this cliché?” “Does this really have any value?” “What if someone else has covered this and done it better?” “Is this taking away from someone else?” “What right do I have to say anything?” (Humorously enough, I go through the same agonizing cycle of questions when it comes to sharing posts, pictures, memes, and the like though sharing often adds a few additional questions to make the process even more fun.)

Add to that the people who police language and parse out what is acceptable and what isn’t and how wrong it is for some people to speak at all and how self indulgent the culture as a whole is. (Sometimes I can just hear the teeth sucking and tongue clicking.) And then I wind up with a massive slop of paralysis that typically results in abandonment.

The funny thing is that these questions and even an awareness of these individuals are not bad in and of themselves. In some cases, these matters can actually make the project stronger.

This sort of introspection becomes problematic when it results in paralysis and projects cast aside, particularly when those projects are finished in all but the finishing touches or the publication.

It is a sucking silencing spiral. As soon as I finish a post or a tweet or a story or a video, these questions form in my mind in rapid succession if I don’t send or publish fast enough. Wattpad has proven to be an anomaly but perhaps it also has the answer. I, for some reason, feel fairly free to post stories there.

Part of that is also driven by my fans and the fact that I know I would let them down if I didn’t finish the stories. But I am amazed that I was able to start writing on there at all. The fact that people are waiting for updates to the stories helps silence the questions and make me realize my mind’s foolishness when I get bogged into this mental quagmire.

Still I often find myself wondering who I am to speak. Particularly in the larger world or even on social media. Constantly measuring the value of what is to be said and then often dropping it for one reason or another.

It becomes easier to see how negative this is when I look at other people. When speaking with fellow heart-792179writers, students, artists, creators, and the like, I find encouragement falls from my lips easily because what I want so deeply is for them to create and share. To pour out and expand. To hone their skills and ply their trades. I want to hear their voices even when I don’t agree with them and even when it isn’t the best. It’s quite hard to have a conversation if they don’t speak because, even when silence speaks volumes, words and creations still have value, and it’s easier to connect when there is a combination of words, actions, and pauses.

I can’t think of anyone I would tell to be quiet forever. (Maybe a few whom I might ask to calm down or at least stop screaming.) Yet so often I shunt my own work into a drawer and decide what I have to say is irrelevant.

Silence can be a choice. It can be beautiful, beneficial, and much can be revealed within it, but we are not meant to always be silent.

No one has stolen my voice except those to whom I gave the power. Far too many times, I am the one who steals my own voice with incessant questions about my own value. I am my cruelest enemy. The harshest things my enemies have said of me reflect the worst fears of myself, and because I fear that it might be true, the words sting and have their power.

In the end, I suppose it doesn’t matter much. It’s only in the moment that it seems so massive. Despite all the questions I inflict upon myself, I want to speak and to write. It’s easier when I have a justification, but sometimes the desire alone may be sufficient justification. (Perhaps desire paired with recognition that people are free to respond and further dialogue may be necessary and that no one is required to listen or participate.)

We will never be perfect, but for some of us, there is a need to release our works to the world. And, more importantly, you are the only you that exists, and while you should strive to be your best, you cannot wait until you feel ready or perfect to share that voice with the world.

The fact is that I will always be able to find a few thousand reasons why I shouldn’t do something. Whatever that might be. I had hoped that my other habits and tasks would make it easier. But it hasn’t. What can be done I suppose is to recognize when the questions become irrelevant and then refuse to be silent when silence is not actually the best or necessary course. How well that works, we shall see.

Sauntering Through the To Do List

I have concluded that at this point in my life, there is no such thing as being ahead or all caught up. Certain areas may be successfully managed and perhaps kept to a certain standard, but in general, there will always be something nibbling and whispering or shrieking and begging for attention.

As it stands, I have less than half a week now to finish off Why Yes, Bluebeard, I’d Love To, and despite having set aside time for writing, the law firm among other things has become quite demanding. It’s as if the other tasks can sense that this one must be done, and so they now all clamor for attention.

It doesn’t matter though because in the end, the story will be finished. I’m becoming quite adept at shuffling tasks around and squeezing out usable moments wherever possible. I wonder if perhaps this is part of what it means to turn 30. It’s not that one has life figured out but that one better knows how to manage what it is.

So I am not panicking. I’m just sauntering through the to do list, keeping focused and on point, taking one task at a time except in the cases when I can efficiently multitask (there are a few instances where that’s possible without decreasing effectiveness). If there’s one thing to give up when I reach my thirties, I’d like it to be stressing over what must be done rather than doing what can be done and making do with the rest.

A Quiet Weekend And Thoughts on What is Shared

For once, it looks as if this will be a quiet weekend. It has been so long since I have been able to say that. James and I are going to try to slip down to the civic theater and watch Our Town. It should be great.

Of course, there will be the usual events. Grocery shopping. Church. Small group with the youth on Sunday nights. I really miss having them over for dinner beforehand, but I am trying to be relatively obedient. We never did get around to the Hobbit movie party. Perhaps we can do that later on. The students are such dears, even though some of them would claim to be otherwise. Oh well, I am grateful God has given me the time with them that He has.

I’ll also be working on stories of course. There is not a day yet when I haven’t written almost as far back as I can remember. Ray Bradbury’s advice, I think it was him, was particularly compelling in this. Some days the words do not come out as easily. Lately I have been going through a relative dry spell. I’ve only been writing between 5000 and 7000 words. And those have been hard words to reach.

I suspect it is just because I am healing. And that seems to do a number on the inspiration. Some have suggested that I should just take a break from writing. But I don’t want to. I am at a point now where to go without writing for more than a few hours is quite stressful. I don’t want to do anything to add to that, so instead I am just making sure that I don’t stress about how far I get. It is very enjoyable to write without the pleasure of deadlines.

One other thing that has occurred to me is the need to potentially put up a disclaimer on my blog. It shouldn’t be necessary, but you know, lawyer and the need for disclaimers. But there does seem to be done sort of miscommunication and even misunderstandings.

It is not my intention to deceive, but just so that my readers are on notice, I do not write about everything happening in my life. In general, I tend to focus on the positive and the interesting. Certain aspects of my life are not discussed and others are glossed over.

This isn’t because I am ashamed, but rather because I don’t want to talk about them. It is not deceitful to not mention that one of in relatively little pain for what one is usually in. Sometimes I just want to say that I am doing well without a lot of disclaimers.

Everything that is put out there is part of the story that we tell about our lives. Very few people decide to share everything. What is shared should be up to the individual except in a few situations. For some, that is fine. But for me, that just doesn’t work. Some parts of my story are such I only share it with those who are closest to me. Not because I am trying to pretend I have a perfect life, but because I just don’t want to talk about it or know that it’s for the best if I remain silent.

That’s also why I don’t talk about the law firm except in general terms.

Anyway, given some emails I have received (sorry that commenting isn’t working; I’m still working that out), it seemed that this clarification is necessary.

Returning to the weekend, I am so grateful for this relative calm. It doesn’t look like we’ll get much of the big snowfall, if any. Which is rather sad. I do love a good snow.  But even so, there will be hot cups of tea, good books, and time with family. So all in all, there’s much to be grateful for. 

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