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Category: Thoughts

A Quiet Little October Thursday

All of my creative endeavors and hopes for this weekend look as if they might be coming into question. Unfortunately this little $100 laptop that I picked up as an emergency backup almost a year ago has decided that it is better to be difficult than reliable. In fairness, the poor thing has been under extensive writing strain being my laptop. I use it regularly, and it has served well up to this point. So I will forgive it.

Meanwhile, thankfully I brought two notebooks though not my binder filled with lined paper. Instead I grabbed a binder with grid paper. The grid paper isn’t quite so bad for writing as I expected, but I do prefer a soft green tint on my steno pads and lined paper if at all possible.

Well regardless, it’s all right. I just have to be cautious what I put up on my laptop. No multi-tasking.

To be fair that will be an interesting exercise for me. And it probably won’t be true focus in that I do have my phone, and I could just listen to something while handwriting. But quite so many irons can be in the fire at once.

This slower progress has caused me to focus more on other items. I’ve got an ever growing list of articles to write and a clearer picture of what I want to create. Hopefully the certification progress goes well. We shall see.

#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.

 

Why I Am Tired of This Excuse for Star Trek Doing Prequels

The most common reason I have heard for why Star Trek must go back to time periods that have essentially been done (pre-Kirk or around Kirk time) is because we cannot imagine any technology beyond what has been created. We have reached the max of what can be imagined.

Now I am not a skilled science fiction writer, and I declare that to be a sorry suggestion for modern writers.

Are we really so lacking in creativity that we cannot use our imaginations to envision what may yet be?

Qo’!

So here’s my endeavor.

Note: I am a fan of Star Trek and have seen all of the series and movies except Discovery. However, I am not as familiar with a couple series, particularly Enterprise, which I just don’t remember much of beyond that the third season improves and someone got pregnant through their hands.

Drawing Music and Art Straight from the Mind into a 3D Formation or on the Page

Let’s imagine for a minute that you could envision something and then pull it out of your mind and into reality. Obviously this would likely come with something of a cost, but how amazing would that be even if it left you drained for a few days or even weeks? Or maybe that story can be pulled from the mind and directed straight onto the page. I suspect some form of cleanup would be necessary. (If I ripped everything out of my head right as it is, it’d probably be a huge mess, but hey! There’s got to be some work involved as well as a challenge.)

Some Invention (Please!) That Would Speed and Improve Pregnancy

When I first watched The Child, I was shocked to realize that in the future, the only way women’s pregnancies speed up is through supernatural alien interference, and they still had Counselor Troi’s feet in stirrups while she was in pain. At least in Disaster when Worf had to deliver Keiko’s baby, they were in an emergency situation. Then when we get over to Major Kira and her delivery in The Begotten, it’s the natural Bajoran hormone release that results in a pleasant delivery (and the bickering men who make it less than).

So…come on. We’re already talking about in-home baby incubators as a reality in our living rooms (still a fair ways out from being usable). Can’t you give us hope for the future? That in a few centuries it won’t be so incredibly painful? (I could add a myriad of health issues here that would be great to have resolved, but I’ll leave it at pregnancy as that is what we are most likely to see.)

Learn to Use the Distortion Wave as an Energy Source and Control It

So in New Ground, the Enterprise tries riding distortion waves with disastrous results that almost wipe out a bunch of innocents (oops). The idea behind it was interesting, so why not expand on that? What if there was a way to make that work? Or perhaps something similar. Given that warp drive is eroding sections of space, wouldn’t alternative fuel sources be a great thing? And surfing as a method of transportation, why yes!

Mini World Creation

Come on now. We’ve had pet rocks and pet targs and pet cats. We’ve had nanos/nanites accidentally escaping and the Enterprise creating its own form of intelligent life. What if we get to a point of creation where kids or perhaps, if that’s too much, adults can make entire little worlds.

Terraforming is something that more than one series addressed. And in a sense, we did get to see all-powerful aliens creating miniature worlds in such as The Squire of Gothos or illusion-based like Catspaw in just the Original Series among many others. Each series has at some point or another tackled some larger entity taking hold of our courageous protagonists and thrusting them into a smaller altered reality. Sometimes even the occasional hologram character decides to do this as in Ship in a Bottle.

But we haven’t really seen viable worlds being created by humans that are sustainable outside a program. Think Ant Farms but at a much larger level with perhaps a layer of Sim City or Rim World except it’s real. Oooooh. Think of the ethical issues! The possible conundrums. I can hear one of the captains prepping a monologue for us now. Brew the tea, coffee, and raktajinos!

It could even be done on a smaller scale with a biome that has been compressed and that allows the caretaker to oversee what is happening and provide for it. And perhaps…life finds a way (I’m afraid I can’t keep it to one franchise.)

Thought Extractor

So technically this sort of exists if we take it the route of “remove this memory.” But I’d like to see this developed into a device (I’m envisioning sort of a pistol with multi-colored, energy radiating lines) that you put up against the patient’s head and then literally pull the thought out so that you can see it. Perhaps even put it in the hologram (we all know how much Star Trek loves using the holograms, sometimes to the detriment of actual exploration as in Voyager; I feel like I know Fair Haven better than the Delta Quadrant).

Now perhaps this doesn’t work on everyone. That could add some conflict and intrigue. But I would love to see a thought extractor. So many possible uses and misuses! And then of course you must have the counter measure! A way to block the thought extractor. (Maybe the Ferengi will fix this one up. Or the Romulans or the Cardassians. Who knows! Maybe we’ll have lots of different thought extractors now available on the market, but please, let’s push ourselves and not fall back on the trope of “it destroys the mind and personality.”)

Instascan Healing

So it appears that in the future, certain illnesses have been eradicated (though heaven help you if a mutant or modified T cell gets loose). But people still have to go in for surgeries. Throughout the series, we see many problems. But what if we actually got technology that recognizes what should biologically be in particular humanoid’s bodies and repairs that to match (perhaps even using those scans that they mention and use conveniently when they need to deage someone like Dr. Polaski). You have your own profile. You need an organ? No need for interstellar travels to the nearest qualified physician (and no that’s not because the most qualified physician was on your ship all along). Just pop in and get microwaved and everything is restored. Same goes for reconstructive surgeries.

And if you think that this means no medical conflict, how wrong you are! You may note that in Star Trek power surges/loss and situations where they are without their tech occur frequently. There’s too many to mention but Armageddon Game plays with this nicely.

There’s also the possibility of new types of diseases, viruses, creatures, and oh so much more!

Implants to Allow Walking in Space or Underwater or in Hostile Environments Without Suits

Space suits are a cool part of going into outerspace, I admit that. But they can also be rather cumbersome, and they are difficult to walk in. So what if instead, implants were created that would essentially create a miniature forcefield around you so that you can do everything you normally would (and look glamourous doing it)? Or perhaps the implants allow you to be immune to whatever the effects are.

I will also add that when I was about five or six, I was convinced that I had solved this problem on my own. It was obvious how people could breathe underwater. See, all you had to do was get a fish head and cut it off just behind the gills – and that’s where everyone started laughing so hard, I never got to explain why it would work. My poor mother collapsed against the side of the fridge with bread dough on her hands, laughing until she cried. Ah, life was so clear back then.

Ships that Literally Move Their Pieces Around

So we all know that the Borg have a cube for a ship that grows and responds. But what about a multi-cube ship with a fantastic network around it. When you shoot photons or divert something through the deflector at it, it senses this and rearranges itself. Which means that the only way to destroy it is to make sure that you send off so many explosives that it cannot possibly respond to all of them.

And I don’t want this to be a one-off single episode or even a two parter. No. I want to see this developed. I’m sure there are loads of flaws with it, but it’d be such a pest to fight. Might also have some problems with aerodynamics, but I’m sure we can compensate

Sun Colonies

Now I know that in Relics, the Enterprise encounters a Dyson sphere. But that encompasses a star and uses that energy for its own energy needs. I’d like to see an actual sun colony. Maybe they’re there harvesting energy or tending to the star’s needs. I don’t know precisely what that would look like, but you can’t convince me there isn’t some advanced tech and amazing possibilities for characters. (Plus what if something lives inside the sun!)

Person to Person Energy Transfers

Most Starfleet characters seem to enjoy caffeinated beverages. But you know what I’d love to see? Person to person energy transfers. Now of course this needs to be done willingly, but it allows you, if you have some extra energy to send over, to transfer it to someone else. (I know parents of five-year-olds are getting hopeful.)

It would also be an interesting reason for having so many people on board the starship or an even better excuse for a station.

And of course this could be used nefariously! The reason behind chronic fatigue syndrome and adrenal failure is the Cardassians, I tell you! Or the Romulans. It’s hard to say for sure.

Video Messages With All Sensation Included

Holograms can only go so far, but hey surely we can top this. Apparently holograms can go pretty far actually if Voyager is our standard, even to the point of people falling in love with them and apparently the only real reason that they have to be pulled out is because it isn’t “real.”

For whatever reason, this doesn’t seem to be transferrable to video messages from family in one’s own quarters. Perhaps because you need a hologram to make them work? But let’s have an invention that allows you to interact with that video message of a loved one, and it stimulates the necessary parts of the brain to create the right sensations.

(Also how amazing would this be for a revenge plot? Your husband cheats on you, and so you send him a good-bye letter, but you program it to inflict deep searing pain!)

Recreational Calorie-Free Food and Drink and Insta Fitness

Apparently the future involves a lot of rather attractive folks. So let’s explain that by having recreational food and drink and insta fitness programs that explain how everyone can look so great except the one fat person intended to represent greed and hedonism.

Now you’d still have workout classes and the like since you need that to build up your will and knowledge of how to react. But you cannot convince me that in in a semi-utopia like Star Trek, there aren’t people who wouldn’t want to look like models and eat to their heart’s content.

(Though really anything over the play-do squares of the Original Series is probably going to be an improvement in that regard, but let’s reach a little higher here, shall we?)

Acid Swimmers

I have always wondered, what lives at the bottom of an acid lake? Or pool? Or planet? What if something could live in there. And wouldn’t it just be handy to not have to worry about being dissolved into a puddle? Space suits could then be adapted to explore these regions or others with corrosive atmospheres. Yes! Let’s go where no man has really gone before and survived!

So these are just thirteen ideas for possible inventions and developments that don’t yet exist in Star Trek. Some are better than others, but this is just off the top of my head. I refuse to accept that our imaginations allow us to go no farther than the tech showcased in Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, and Voyager. And this doesn’t even touch the possible storylines and explorations that could exist that do not require scientific inventions.

What about you? What are some inventions you wish existed within Star Trek’s future?

May the Force be with you.

And also with you.

The Third Day Is The Hardest: Excuses, Loneliness, and Censorship

Today I’m going to share what’s happening in my labyrinth of a mind (there may or may not be a sane way out). Some of the chaos and bizarre trains that run rampant and carve out new paths at their leisure (which isn’t particularly leisurely).

I have heard several times that for some, change requires radical action. And there has been one thing that has come to me over and over again. One of my greatest weaknesses is that I cut myself off. I don’t put myself out there. And time and again, I have wondered what would happen if I did put myself out there more frequently? What would happen if I posted every day on my website or somewhere similar for a set period of time?

So I am doing it.

The first day was hard. I almost didn’t post because I wasn’t happy with it, and I wasn’t sure if what I was writing about was even helpful or needed.

The second day was easier because I knew what I wanted to write.

Today, the third day, is harder than the first. I’ve hit that line where I feel like an intrusion. That what I share, whether fact or fiction, is an inconvenience and unnecessary intrusion into the world.

At the same time, it feels pointless. Speaking out into a void, surrounded on all sides by a darkness thick and deep.

I am also highly aware of all the things I do not yet know how to do. All the places and points in which I err.

It’s a series of cacophonous overlays that intensify with each new thought and fear.

Oddly it also brings up sensations of rejection and a hundred tiny spider voices that insist on so many things. That I am nothing. That what I have to offer is nothing. That I cannot do it well enough and so should not do it at all. That no one cares. That nothing I do makes a difference.

And in eternity’s light and even just in the scope of a single life’s perspective this is crushed breadcrumbs in the grass small.

This does not feel the way I want it to, but that feeling or unease or sense of intrusion is not particularly relevant to what actually is in this case. And I’m actually quite sure that I am not alone in these sorts of feelings. I know for a fact that while I may feel alone in this struggle, I am not in any way alone.

Loneliness is sometimes far more a perception than a reality. That does not make it any less real or damaging, but it changes what must be done.

The ultimate root is my own perspective of myself and my God-given value. I am the one who is questioning it, and that is what makes the insecurity so loud. I am not in silence but in a chamber where my own voice is so loud it is deafening and I can hear nothing else. A chamber where I am blinded from my own perspective with a standard so high it is as if I made it specifically so I could not reach it.

And it is a mess.

I won’t deny that.

The inside of my head is usually a tangle of prayers, meditations, stories, thoughts, concerns, images, sensations, and lines from poems, stories, movies, and TV shows with the occasional joke that resurfaces and suddenly makes sense.

I know that I am strange, and I accept that. I look at my stories and the topics I choose to write on, the characters who bleed out of my fingers and pen. They are not easy. I write too much. My posts and stories are too long. They’re too weird, and so am I.

But I think that I have accepted this. And the darkness and the chaos is there. I find myself wondering what if this is not a flaw, what if this is how God created me to be? Someone who is feels perpetually torn by contradictory paths? Somehow who has to think of more than one thing? Someone who really doesn’t know how to keep small talk small and can accidentally kill a conversation with something that suddenly goes too deep? Someone who wants to ask questions and fight with the answers even if there is no solid answer to be found? Someone who often feels as if there’s some secret book that was passed around that teaches most everyone else how to respond?

Sometimes I do restrain myself. This is not a bad thing. Far more can be learned through listening and watching. But when it comes to my writing, I see no benefit in cutting out the essence of who I am because I don’t think it can be removed. My attempt to write a vampire romance turned into a fantasy epic with realms behind the phases of the moons and magic systems based on interactions with humans and the children of the sun.

I suppose that what I hope is this. That as I strive to be the best person I can be, to live in a way that honors God and encourages and builds up my family, friends, and loved ones, that I will find my people who love my stories and perhaps even need them. People who won’t be so busy that they can’t make time for a long epic or an odd tale because it fits what they need. I think I need to be cautious of censoring myself because too often I have found the people I needed were those who did not censor themselves. The censorship results in many cases in a loss of that which is needed.

So why is posting each day hard?

I suppose it isn’t.

It just feels like it is.

And feelings aren’t enough for me to go on.

There’s only way through. Through the fear and through the dark. And I do want to know what’s on the other side.

 

Thirteen Reasons Why Your Appearance Shouldn’t Keep You from Sharing/Posting

It amazes me the number of people, myself included, who believe that they should not talk, post, or share their ideas or creations in part because of their physical appearance. Being too fat or too thin or plain or scarred or anything else is not a reason to silence oneself. But sometimes we all need a little encouragement.

These are general concepts and mostly drawn from personal experience and musings. There are probably some deeper nuances that we could get into, but I’m hoping I state these clearly enough. All of these are going to be under the assumption that you are a kind person who does take others into consideration and does not seek to make other people’s lives miserable. While some of the points remain true even then, others such as people looking forward to getting to know you might not be.

Your appearance does not change the value of what you have to say.

Weight seems to be one of the most common factors people use to claim they don’t want to share publicly. I hear many state that they are too fat or sick-looking to be able to share anything of value. Your physical body is a shell of meat and bone that encompasses a soul. Whether your skin sags or stretches, whether your stomach swells or flattens, whether your complexion inspires or repulses, it does not change that what you have to say has value.

Physical beauty is a wonder to behold, but that is not the admission price for sharing your heart and thoughts with the world. People may treat you differently because of the way you look, for better or for worse. Sometimes that will hurt, sometimes it may inspire.

But no matter what, the thoughts you maintain their value.

Your perspective and voice matter.

They do. And if you are the sort of person who generally keeps quiet or who is highly selective about what you say because you are constantly overthinking what you should or should not say, I’d suggest you are probably the sort of person who does need to speak more when you are able.

Bear in mind that there is only one you. Even if you believe that a multiverse exists, the you in these other dimensions would not be the you who is here now. You are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalms 139:14).  When you share your works and perspective, you contribute to the richness of stories and works already out there and give people the opportunity to understand, empathize, and connect.

Your speaking up does not keep someone else from speaking as well.

This, of course, presumes you’re not taking steps to silence someone. But speaking up alone unless you are literally talking over someone else. (I’ve also found that while this excuse does not really relate to one’s appearance, it’s often one that is used to excuse oneself from sharing rather than admitting that it is about one’s appearance.)

But the Internet does give us a great gift in that there is room for all of us to talk, share, and connect. Perhaps not on every platform in existence. But somewhere and most likely on most of the major platforms that are available to us. (There are some troubling indications of increasing censorship, but that’s another conversation for another time.)

Additionally, your decision to refrain does not guarantee that someone more conventionally attractive or better suited will step up to speak or share what was on your heart to begin with.

If someone attacks you because of your appearance, you probably already know how to handle that because it has happened to you before.

Most people have had to deal with various forms of bullying and shaming in their physical lives as well as online. And while certain situations may be emotionally problematic and even cause PTSD, I’ve found that those situations were generally harder to handle in person.

If you are not sure how to handle an online attack, you can reach out for support. Generally, though I’ve found ignoring is one of the best methods as well as refusal to engage while emotionally charged. I also realized that having to handle it in person made the online attacks distinct in that I did not feel quite as threatened.

Now do exercise proper care for yourself. If you are struggling with troll bombs or it just hits you really hard or you find it too much to deal with, you are not a failure for withdrawing. Prioritize your health. Take care of yourself.

Ultimately, the takeaway I want from this point is that you are stronger and better equipped than you realize. It does not mean that it will be easy necessarily. This does not mean you have to submit yourself to trolling attacks or cyber harassment.

Being silent when you have things you want to say can be damaging to your health.

When there’s something you want to say and don’t, you bottle it up inside you. Unless you have another outlet, this remains inside you, often festering and increasing your stress and frustration.  For me, continued silence can sometimes lead to eruptions that have about the care and effect of a spewing volcano.

If people dismiss what you have to say because of what you look like, they were never going to listen to you to begin with.

This is pretty simple, but if someone responds to your art, your blog, or your post by saying, “put down the cheesecake and maybe we’ll talk” or “eat a sandwich and then I’ll listen,” they were never going to listen to you. Focusing on superficial attributes is generally an excuse to avoid engaging, and your physical appearance is not truly to blame.

Other people need to hear what you have to say.

Whether what you have to say challenges the status quo or comforts those in need or simply shares your perspective, other people need to hear what you have to say.

Also if you don’t share or post or put yourself out there, it’s going to be incredibly hard for you to find your tribe and for them to find you.

Even if it has already been said, even by you, some things need to be said more than once.

If you saw how many times I’ve had to repeat things to myself and go back and learn things I thought I had already learned, you might be ashamed of me. Or you might relate.

Anyway we do need to hear things more than once for it to sink in. Some lucky folks are able to learn on the first go while others of us require more time and more repetition.

If you are wrong, you can make amends, learn, and improve.

It’s a given that none of us are going to do this perfectly. I had a hard time accepting that I was going to mess up, particularly in an environment that seems especially harsh and unforgiving. But in the end, if we are humble in both what we do and how we respond, we can hopefully learn and improve.

Completing something and expressing yourself is good for the soul.

Over the years, I’ve struggled with depression. Particularly when dealing with a bad bout of illness. There is something remarkably healing and encouraging about completing something. Unfinished projects tend to add stress and feelings of failure. Expressing yourself helps you to put it out on the page.

Even if you don’t publish or share it, it is healing to finish. For me, a project rarely feels truly finished until it is published or released as that means I can no longer tinker with it.

You may meet some horrible people, but you will meet and connect to incredible people as well.

The Internet is a portal to some truly terrible people. Not simply individuals with whom you have a difference of opinions or core beliefs. But people who actually want to make others miserable and who take trolling to pro levels.

But they aren’t the only ones, mercifully. And there are increasing resources to avoid interacting with such individuals.

More importantly, there are other incredible people who want to meet you and connect with you and share with you. Some of my dearest friendships came through online communities and sharing my work.

It does take effort and time to locate these people, but if you are up for it, they will truly make your life better as you will make theirs better.

The process of putting together your thoughts and allowing them to be seen publicly can help you finetune and hone your skillset.

It’s easiest for me to write within the privacy of myself, knowing the story or piece is intended only for completion, not necessarily publication. However, when I force myself to go through the steps of polishing and preparing it for publication, I work harder at accuracy, proofing, and finetuning. More importantly, I have a definitive end.

You are the only one who can tell your story.

This has been said in part, but it’s worth saying again because it is vital. The combination of your experiences and responses is unique. You are the only one who has seen what you have from your specific perspective, and you are the only one who can tell it.

 

Note: The irony in all this is that I feel as if this post is garbage, but I am working to be more accountable at completing and posting things. So hopefully this was helpful. Much love! Talk to you soon.

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.

Of Those Who Abstain from Voting

survey-1594962Those who lost in the presidential election are eager to find shoulders on which to place the blame. While some have considered whether it was partially the DNC for choosing to back Hillary Clinton (even though now in hindsight they admit she was a weak candidate choice), others tend to lean toward two camps of scapegoats: those who abstained from voting and those who voted third-party.

I’ll cover third-party voters in another post. This one is going to focus on those who abstained from voting.

In the 2016 election, a little over 46% of American citizens did not vote.(Incidentally, it should also be noted that overall voter turnout, despite there being many new registered voters, was down this year as from previous general elections.)

The general assumption and condemnation thrown toward abstainers is that they don’t care about the country or are too lazy to participate or are morally degenerate. And sure, there may be some who don’t vote because they are apathetic, but I’ve actually found far more who have other reasons for not voting. And the majority of these individuals are not morally degenerate. They’re upstanding citizens who have their own perspective on our government and the voting process.

Voting is a right in this nation, not a duty. Some people claim that it is a moral duty and the responsibility of all those who live within this democratic republic, but there are legitimate reasons why some might choose to abstain and why it shouldn’t be condemned. In fact, it is actually just as much your right to not vote as it is your right to vote so long as you are the one who is making the decision.  

The importance of the ability to abstain has been confirmed to me in this election. Most people would agree, leading up to November 8, that there were two horrible choices (some people were rooting for a gigantic meteor to strike). And these are some of the reasons people might have chosen to abstain in this election and others.

Religious Tradition

Many religious traditions that prohibit voting do not just prohibit voting. They prohibit participation in most government forums and have done so for centuries. The reasons are many: 1) focuses should be on matters other than the physical world, 2) human governments are corrupt, 3) human governments sow division and discord, 4) governments cannot or will not promote complete pacifism, and so on.bible-428947

Many Christian traditions, from the Anabaptists to Seventh Day Adventists to the Doukhobors, likewise abstain from political involvement from voting to running for political office though each one has varying degrees. When I was researching this, I stumbled across this quote from John D. Roth, “Voting, after all, is not just a ‘right.’ It is also a ‘rite’ — a ritual of identity and loyalty binding the individual to the nation. Abstaining from presidential elections could signal to our children and to the global church that our first loyalty is to the worldwide fellowship of Christian believers, not to the nation-state.” This is a common refrain in various forms across the religious traditions. The need for internal consistency, conscientious integrity, and so on override government participation (even when that sometimes leads to their formal or informal persecution). While there are many sections in Scripture that these individuals rely on for their position, many return to John 18:36 with Jesus’s statement that His kingdom is not of this world” as well as his lack of overall political involvement. This has softened somewhat in recent years becoming more of a personal choice of conviction with some while with others such as the Amish it remains true.

Buddhism can also be interpreted to be against political involvement, at least for monks.  The Buddha said that monks should not speak about such things, suggesting that there are other more beneficial topics to consider.  But many do engage in politics so long as they can make informed decisions and their consciences are at ease (which is often not an easy matter to resolve). However, it is still a source of frequent conversation and a matter that is often brought up for reflection given the fact that the government does not reflect most Buddhist teachings.

Even Islam has discussions on this topic. While some Muslims insist that voting and participating in political processes is essential, others maintain that it is essentially a form of idolatry because it places human laws above the law of Allah. A number of these individuals point to Surah Tawbah 9:31 where those who revere rabbis and monks are actually committing a form of idolatry with their reverence.

In my brief research binge on religious traditions that abstain from voting, I found a number of others including early Rastafarianism, Shaykhism, Baha’i Faith, Taoists, and some segments of Usuli. I’m sure that there are others. These all appear to be rooted in the same motivations and butterfly-1717300_1920concerns: compassion, harmony, and conviction.

Also, it’s important to note that there are many agnostics and atheists who abstain from voting for similar reasons without requiring a religious or spiritual mandate. They are often pacifists who focus on what is similar rather than dissimilar, promoting harmony and civil discourse.

 

Note: I am not sure what percentage of those who abstained from voting falls  into these categories. I did ask a couple of my friends who do follow the “no voting” policy and “no government involvement” whether they register to vote and if so why but I did not get a response yet. If I do get a response and their permission to share it here, I’ll add that later.

For some this may be as simple as conversion after already being registered to vote.

Inability to Agree with Candidates

In some cases, even those who vote may find certain issues that are essentially dealbreakers. In this last election, there were many people who could not bring themselves to vote for either of the two major candidates and who were unwilling to vote for the third-parties either due to their beliefs about their ineffectiveness or lack of agreement on third-party stances as well.

These individuals see their votes as being an outright endorsement of the candidate’s beliefs and practices. Others do not, claiming things such as “lesser of two evils”and “pragmatism.” (In fact, one of the things that we are seeing in this election is a loud set of voices insisting this very thing, that all Trump voters believe what the media says Trump believes and all the things that Trump has said. It may be being said about Clinton voters, but I haven’t seen that one.) Total harmonious agreement is often not the case when it comes to conscience and politics. While some can parse out what they agree with, focus on those issues, and rearrange their priorities, others cannot.

Making Another Statement

Some people choose to refrain from voting to make a point. That point might be because they cannot support any of the candidates, because of the parties’ treatment of their constituencies, or because of general dissatisfaction with the state of the country. Now, you might be arguing that in all of these regards, voting would be the more productive method for enacting change but not from these people’s perspectives.

Such individuals tend to be quite pragmatic (at least the ones I know), and that extends to the apple-455436time that they invest in various causes or endeavors. If you believe that the government is irrevocably corrupt, you may not see any benefit in putting your time into the system. You may then put your time and efforts elsewhere. Often these individuals do make public the fact that they did not vote and why, which can be helpful for cultivating change.

Seeing their votes as not being counted may be another reason. This sometimes stems from a misunderstanding of what the electoral college does or an outright disagreement with it. But again, another conversation for another day.

Inability to Make an Informed Decision

Now by this, I don’t mean that these people are stupid. Far from it. But the voting process, whether on legislation or representatives, can be a difficult path to navigate if you want to be informed. Many are inclined to assume that they know everything about a situation and can cast an informed vote, but, if random interviews on the street are any indication of current political intelligence, that is not the case.

Becoming informed on key issues is quite the minefield that does take time. Bias exists everywhere along with misinformation and propaganda. Take this last election for example. If you have the time, go pull up media reports and stories from the opposing perspectives (definitely do not rely on the mainstream media for this). Look at the vastly different information being presented.

This disparity of perspective to reality is exceptionally jarring. Even as an involved voter who reads as much as she can get her hands on, I have to confess…sometimes I don’t know if I am making an informed decision, I’m just shooting in the dark and hoping I make the right call.

Not surprisingly, some people decide that they do not have time to make an informed decision…often because they do not have the time, and so, rather than risk making a situation worse, they abstain.

Anecdotally, one of the first that comes to my mind is a friend whose mother has Alzheimer’s. She cares for her mother while also teaching. I’ve offered to help how I can, but in our conversations, she’s admitted that she is just, at the moment, too emotionally exhausted to get involved. And that is all right. She is doing everything she can at the moment. Political involvement is not a requirement to be a good citizen/person/steward.no-1532842_1920

One Small Caveat

If you are someone who chooses to abstain from voting but publicly criticizes the government, it may be beneficial to explain why you abstain and what can still be done to impact the government or what you believe the steps should be. Otherwise, and perhaps even so, you may be accused of hypocrisy.

Concluding Thoughts

There are many reasons that almost half of American citizens did not vote, and it isn’t indefensible. The United States of America is a country that supposedly embraces many beliefs. And while it can be argued that the US cannot accept beliefs that are antithetical to its core, the decision to abstain from voting is  certainly not one of those.

The reality is that we cannot say for certain how those voters would have cast their votes if they had been compelled to vote against their consciences, priorities, and beliefs. But we cannot simply assume that those who did not vote simply did not care. They do not deserve to be blamed for following their convictions, nor should it be assumed that they are not valuable members of our society. If someone states that they didn’t vote just because they don’t care, by all means, politely engage and discuss the reasons. But abstention from voting is not proof that someone is bad, immoral, lazy, or apathetic.

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.

Bold Kindness and Gentle Words

It all started with my mother. It is her habit to speak kindly and gently to everyone, even though she is excruciatingly shy. Talking to strangers used to send her into panics though now she manages it better. But that terror, despite it being a powerful force, has never stopped her from being compassionate.

girl writing a letter with ink penThe other thing it has not stopped her from doing is sharing encouragement with people. Sometimes it is with handwritten notes. Other times, it is just the spoken word. And always the truth. She has the ability to see beauty in practically everything and to find even the smallest germs of goodness and praise them. Most don’t realize what strength it takes for her to do this. Some call her naive or a Pollyanna. But she is always sincere. There is life in her words, and it seeps into the soul.

But that doesn’t mean that everyone receives her kindly. While this has happened on more than one occasion, I remember one incident quite vividly.

There was a church event of some sort around Easter. Perhaps the Mother Daughter Banquet. After the event, I saw my daisies-1373075mother step up to the speaker. She thanked the woman for sharing and told her what a beautiful job she had done and precisely how it had affected her and what a gift it was. The woman’s eyes welled up with tears, and she thanked my mother.

As I stood there watching, it seemed to me that all my mother had done was notice little things that the speaker had woven into her speech and shared how it had affected her. It wasn’t much, yet it made such a difference. And then my mother gave the speaker’s hands a quick squeeze.

Other women stood nearby. As soon as my mother and the speaker were out of earshot, they just shook their heads. Some of them laughed into their hands. And then they started making fun of my mother. Because of what she had said. Because of how she said it. Because obviously she had only said it to get attention. Because she was such a silly foolish woman. On and on they went.

What they didn’t know was that I had heard every word they said as I stood around the corner of the painted concrete wall. And just as my mother’s words strengthened the speaker’s spirit, these women’s words poisoned mine. To see how they mocked my mother who had done nothing but speak tenderly to another human being and encourage her on her path was devastating.

I didn’t tell her what they said. That would have only furthered their cruelty. But some small part of me hated those women.

vintage-1029413Yet it turned out that these women had not responded atypically. Again and again, I have heard people speak words of kindness and then others stab them for it, almost always suggesting that there is another agenda or that the person is false or foolishly naïve or silly in some way. As if the mere fact that one is kind is proof of weakness.

These people dragged her down in their discussion, nitpicking her words and the way that she said them along with her accent and her mannerisms. It was beyond despicable.

I even lost a friend over it when I was in college. This friend was an artist who came from a very tragic home. She poured her emotions into her art in vivid watercolors and oil paintings as well as charcoal sketches.

When my mother visited, she looked at this friend’s artwork and said, “you are such a preciously gifted woman. Don’t ever forget that.” She continued on, pointing out the things that my friend had done well. When my friend mentioned something from her past and some of the horrible things people had said to her, my mother said, “Don’t believe them. You are a lovely woman, and I mean that sincerely. Please don’t ever doubt your value.”

blue-925209When my mother left, my friend then looked at me, rolled her eyes, and said, “Your mom is so fake. Can you believe she’d say something like that? What a c***” She then proceeded to mimic my mother in an even more offensive manner.

(It should not be surprising that this friend and I parted ways permanently within minutes of that conversation.)

As before, I did not mention this to my mother, not wanting to burden her with these odd displays of cruelty and mockery. Of course, as it turned out, she was aware of far more than I knew. Apparently the bullying was something she had endured all her life with many believing her to be false, stupid, naïve, or just too much of a Pollyanna. She knew that speaking kindly and offering generosity often led to people assuming the worst in some form or another. Yet she never let that stop her because she knew that what she did made a difference to those who received it, and she could not control how it was perceived. It was hard, she admitted when I asked her about it. But she wasn’t going to let cruel or misguided people change her. So she carried on in her own shy and gentle way, serving the Lord and ministering to all He put in her path.

Apparently there is a certain measure of kindness which the rabbit-913550world expects from people (and for the record, it’s precious small). Display that and nothing more, and you will pass by without much scrutiny. Indeed, you may even be rewarded with assertions that you are, in fact, a good person. But show too much, and the world may grow suspicious. Do it consistently, and you make yourself a target with some.

It may not even be the majority. As I think back on it, those who did respond harshly or cruelly were far fewer than those who were genuinely touched. It just felt so much larger at the time. And there will always be those who just live to put others down for their own enjoyment and self-validation.

But it has taken me so long to extract that poison splinter. And there have been far too many times when I am ashamed to say that I have stowed away my words and locked them up for fear of being thought insincere or naïve or some other silly thing.

It wasn’t until recently that I realized something very

What we say is a reflection of ourselves.

important and actually knew it in my heart. When those people spoke, they were not reflecting what my mother had done nor any true reality of what was within her soul. Instead, they shone light on what was inside themselves and reflected it out for all to see.

Not one of them could point to anything my mother had done to make them believe she was false or that she didn’t mean what she had said. Their words were merely said in a moment, perhaps because her kindness made them feel guilty. Perhaps because tearing down someone made them feel good. Perhaps because they just wanted to laugh at someone’s expense.

So often the charge to act without care to what others think is used in reference to bold or frightening tasks or even things that just seem rather impractical or out of the ordinary like wearing dragon wings out at the park while you sketch your imaginings. In church, it often includes sharing the Gospel or letting it be known that you believe in Jesus in a public setting. In high school, it generally involves not taking drugs and standing against those who offer them. This charge takes many shapes and forms, but it is often something portrayed as being quite large and rather frightening.
water-830374But this charge does extend to encouraging people, including strangers and acquaintances. It takes courage to be kind and believe the best. To reach out and brush the hand of another and say, “It’s all right. You’ve got this. Now keep going. You did that so well.”

Over the years, I have become bolder with my words and more confident in the sharing even when I have received my own share of mocking responses in return. My mother’s example is a fine one, and her consistency and tenderness is something I admire. She epitomizes that lifestyle of grace and compassion that I so often struggle to live out.

This world is cruel. Whether one is a tall poppy or a low lying moss, it seems that something or someone always wants to cut you down and grind you up. If you can speak kindness and life into another, then you should because I can guarantee that many others, sometimes even their own minds, will be telling Depositphotos_48612307_originalthem the opposite.

So speak, share, and love. Encourage and build people up. Don’t let the fear of mockery or derision keep you from sharing words of kindness and encouragement.

Indeed this world could use a lot more bold kindness and many more sincere but gentle words.

 

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