Sunday, January 22, 2017

Not a Disney Movie

I've got a secret. I'm going to let you in on it. Shh. Here it is: We are not living in a Disney movie where it's all the good guys and the bad guys. We are living in the real world where some people do some really bad things some of the time, where some people do some really good things some of the time; where most people have a lot of good in their hearts, and where there's never anyone among us who doesn't ever do anything "bad", however large or small.
Oh no, but, 'I thank thee, Lord, that I am not like one of these sinners', said the Pharisee, whom Our Lord mentioned in order to say that the Publican who called himself a sinner did the better thing. And I am not using this example to call names; I'm not calling anyone a Pharisee as if I'm better (that would make me the Pharisee, wouldn't it?). Someone dear to me and I used to laughingly refer to this parable in order to remind ourselves of who we should be. I share it in that spirit.
Sometimes we talk about all the division as if it's a bad thing, and yet then sometimes fall into saying the divisive word, "they". Who is "they"? I fear we fall into the Disney movie or the sports competition mentality sometimes, and we either make everyone 'the good and the bad' or we think of it as 'our team and the opponents'. But really, aren't we all just mostly good but fallible human beings? Unless the antecedent to our pronoun is very, very clear, we would be better off to stop using that pronoun "they" as much as possible. My opinion. But I am right, am I not? :)
Another thing. If a public figure does or says something we don't agree with or approve, and it is highly public - or mostly if it is something that could directly affect us or others we care about - then we can talk about it because it is of public knowledge and concern (although again, public figures are human beings and should all be treated as such). But if someone talks about someone in a derogatory way, someone involving a victim of people's tongues, and then, in our outrage, we pass that along, saying, "Oh my, that's so terrible....Did you hear about that?", then I'm afraid more people come to know. More people come to be talking about that person. Are we sharing it to help that child or to help our goal of pointing out how bad our "opponent" is...that "they"? I learn so many things from social media that I honestly didn't need to know. Don't you? Or maybe that's me because I don't spend a lot of time watching the news. I mostly read the news, and mostly what I feel is pertinent to my concerns.
One more thing. It's not unloving to have opinions. It's not unloving to discuss those opinions. But name calling hurts real people. Even if we would not call our family member, friend, or neighbor a name, if we call names about "people who"...(fill in the blank), we might inadvertently being calling our family member, friend, or neighbor that name.
Love isn't about saying, "We all need to agree". It isn't saying we shouldn't fight, in respectful ways, against attitudes and actions that concern us. But love says, I see you. Love says, "I see you as God's beautiful creation, loved so much by God" (that's hard to remember sometimes, isn't it?). I see you having a different opinion or a different conviction than I do on this topic or that topic, but hey, maybe where you're coming from is different than I believed it was. Or maybe we might agree on something else. Love says: I don't have to agree with you to believe there is much good in your heart.
As St. Paul said in 1 Corinthians 13:13, "So faith, hope, love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love."

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

4 Things I've Learned from 2016 (and from a lifetime of experiences)

Looking back over my life, my good and bad choices, good and bad outcomes, adventures and mis-adventures, I came up with these ideas during this past week. I haven't mastered all of these concepts yet, as those who know me best could tell you. 

I hesitated about sharing this, because it's not meant as a guidebook for everyone. I am simply sharing. Maybe someone with a different personality might be learning very different things in their life. 

Also, sometimes I might seem to be saying one thing and then seem to be saying something different. You see, I believe in nuance and balance. 

And, finally, I'm not sharing to tell anyone else how to live their life. I'm sharing that maybe someone might relate with one little thing or another. "Aha, I feel that way too," and "No, I don't agree with that," but, "Yes, I get that." You know. Just enjoy. 

"I don't have to run away nor do I have to run things"

I don't have to run away from the unpleasant or imperfect, except when there is a compelling reason. Sometimes a change is absolutely necessary or strongly advisable, but certainly not always.

Also, it isn't necessary, or even possible, to "fix" everything, whether for myself, my loved ones, or others. There will always be problems. There will always be pain. I can be compassionate and empathetic, and contribute my heart and my ears, and sometimes my voice, and sometimes my hands, but without expecting a perfect world.

I can try to make things run well in my own affairs, but I need to accept less than perfection, even in my own life. And beyond that, the concept of "you can do great things" (encouraged so much in the twentieth century) may have been overrated. Mother Teresa said to do little things with great love, and St. Therese said something similar. Most people who have done great things in the eyes of the world or of the Church often just did - day after day - what to them were small things.

"I don't have to chase adventure and excitement"

Simple everyday things can bring their own joys, a person smiling, clouds, writing, or reading a book.

Experiences don't have to be new and different in order to be fun or interesting. Routines and repeat experiences can be warm and comforting in their very familiarity; and little things can be interesting, a new library book, a new acquaintance, perhaps a new song, or someone I haven't heard singing an old song.

"I don't always have to overcome obstacles and fears."

If it's not in my gift zone, or it feels dangerous, or it seems like 'too much', I can say no to an idea.

There's a difference between stepping out of my comfort zone to do something that is new or difficult for me and stepping out of my gift zone to do something I don't have the skill or aptitude to do reasonably well.

I can sometimes make a choice that is less stressful than another choice. If someone asks me to do something that "feels wrong" for me, I have the right to say no without them understanding why. 

I am entitled to put my needs ahead of someone else's desires or even their perceived needs if they are not my responsibility. But, I want to find more ways to help at least some of those who have a genuine need, ways that fit with both my ability to help or encourage them, as well as what they feel is best for themselves.

"Simplify."

I can keep or acquire more of what I use more often or love, and keep less of what I am less interested in.

What do we need for the activities we love? For me, the activities I am most interested in at this time in my life are travel (local, as well as long distance, to see family and close friends); reading and writing; recycle sewing; and I hope to learn embroidery. I also like doing simple but wholesome cooking; and I hope to learn container gardening. 

I really enjoy observing nature, and I have found that I can do that nearly anywhere that I can be outdoors or at a window, even just by looking at the ever-changing sky. 

What do you like best? What have you learned in your life? 






Thursday, December 08, 2016

Grace by Natashia Deón - A Book Review

I will never be the same. That's what popped into my head when I finished reading this award-winning, best-selling book.

It's genius. To me, it ranks with the writings of Dickens and Rowling for characterizations and surprises, and for following the lives of multiple people.

The book, Grace, is set before, during, and after the Civil War, not on battlefields but in the lives of the people, primarily a slave girl and her family, and those who come into their lives. The characters are complex, nuanced individuals.  

For those considering what ages might be appropriate for reading the book, just know that there are mature topics throughout, such as prostitution and gambling, murder and rape.

For me, the themes of character growth, love, and heroism counterbalanced the look into the dark side of humanity, and left me feeling satisfied as I finished the story. 

Grace by Natashia Deon


Thursday, November 17, 2016

Why I might not go back to using FB, at least in the same way I was using it before

Fake News Stories Abound, Along with Untimely Stories
Have you seen articles saying that many news stories passed along on Facebook are fake news? To quote from the old TV show, Get Smart, "I knew that, 99". I'm sure you knew it too. But did you know there are lots and lots of them?  And apparently, they are aimed at "both sides" (or all sides) of any issue. Some of the authors or sites want to persuade you; some just want to get money from people clicking through.

Then there are the articles and memes that may have been relevant when they were first posted, two years ago or ten years ago, but no one mentions (or perhaps notices) that this particular story is re-circulating, that's it's not about a current event.

Gaslighting Happens
The term "gaslighting" originated with an old movie in which the husband progressively makes his wife think she's losing touch with reality. One of the ways he does this is to turn on the gaslights in the attic so that the gaslights will dim in the main part of the house. When she comments that the lights are dim, he says that it's her imagination. (He married her for her inheritance, and wanted to get her out of the picture. I haven't seen the movie, but, spoiler alert: I understand it turns out well.).

The term has since been used for the kind of victim abuse where someone tries to make you think you're confused for their own purposes, most often in romantic and other types of relationships where you spend a lot of time with someone or work with them. But it has also been used to refer to someone minimizing your experiences or feelings. That person may not be intentionally trying to "gaslight" you. But intention and affect don't always go hand in hand.

How many times on Facebook do we hear someone say (or a meme or an article that says or implies), "People who…" and occasionally, we have to gulp and realize that although they probably didn't specifically mean me (at least not intentionally), I'm actually in that "people who" group. I might be in a group that someone says is going to hell. Or I'm in that group that someone says ought to dress nicer. Maybe we're in that group that some think should never be sad or depressed.

Facebook is so open, with so many people, that we don't think about each person who is reading. And yes, if we worry about never hurting anyone's feelings, it makes it hard to even say anything, and I'm sure I've done it myself at times. I'm not trying to make anyone so sensitive that they cannot participate. I'm just saying this is one of four reasons that I need to stay dialed back for a while.

Everyone and Everything is Good or Evil, or So Some of it Seems
We often tend to divide ourselves by right and left, conservative and liberal. Good and bad.  Woe to me if I don't fit into a box. (And I don't).  

Someone writes, "Those people - on the other side - are so mean; and they criticize us when we just want to do the right thing. We don't call them names. Why do (fill in the blank with people of one conviction or another) always have to be ugly?"…or so sensitive…whatever may be the word of the day.

How many of us have heard something like this said of the people of some "group" or another that our lovely, kind family member or friend belongs to, and cringed? How many times have we thought, "But my family member or friend doesn't say ugly things"?

Tendency to Facebook Addiction
I thought I was addicted to Facebook, like food, but that I also couldn't live without it, like food. So I stayed. I thought as someone who studied journalism, I could make a difference, so I stayed. But finally I decided it was time for a break.

Well, truly, much good has come of Facebook for me. I have made absolutely fantastic friends, as well as connected better, or re-connected, with old friends. And in that way, I miss it...miss you all.

The problem is that when I go to Facebook because I feel lonely, I get depressed by the judgments. When I stay because it's easy and I'm stressed, I get more stressed.  When I'm constantly deciding whether to research this article or whether or not I should disagree with this person (can we have a reasonable discussion or will it turn into a huge Facebook "fight"?), decision fatigue sets in.

So, in order to learn about a few things in depth instead of constantly researching articles on a myriad of topics to see if they are true; in order to maintain my sanity, to keep my peace of mind, and to get more done, I might not go back to using Facebook in the same way that I used it in the past. I guess time will tell.

So far, I still check messages; check birthdays (though I accidentally miss some); and check notifications that someone has commented on my occasional post. And thank you for that!