Category Archives: compassion
I’ve been thinking a lot about support. I’ve looked at some of the ways I give support, the ways I ask (or don’t ask) for support, and about the kind of support I need. I’d like to think I’m aware of how much support I am given in my daily life. I am grateful for that support.
I see more and more posting on social media in judgement of support. Things like, “If you don’t march you can’t say you support the cause.” or “Marching doesn’t do anything, if you really want to support change….” My feed is full of articles about what it means to be an ally, and what it doesn’t. I am watching a heated and emotional battle that demands choosing sides. Once you’ve chosen a side ANY sympathy, compassion, or points given to the other side is a betrayal. There is no room for exploring nuance in that kind of “debate.”
I have often been offered support that really wasn’t very supportive. There are a lot of reasons that happens. Sometimes I’m just not ready to accept support. Sometimes I’m not willing to be vulnerable enough to need support from that particular person. Sometimes it’s help for something I’m quite capable of doing myself (as long as I don’t need to do that other thing I really can’t do alone.) I have been offered support that makes demands of me. I have been offered support that is well intentioned but not in my best interest.
Most of the time I still find a way to be grateful for the intention. However, I have also been known to explode and shut my “supporters” down. Over the years I’ve come to recognize that most people offer support based on their experience. They offer the kind of comfort they would like. They offer the kind of hands on labor they are comfortable with, or skilled at. They present things they have been told worked for other people they know in “the same” shape.
Sometimes people offer support to feed their own egos. Sometimes people are sure they know best, and they won’t listen. But most people are willing and able to have a conversation about support, and what that might look like in any particular situation. The problem is, often when support is necessary the conversation itself becomes too much for the person in need to handle.
Sometimes one of the best ways to be supportive is to be willing to intervene and educate the well intentioned but misguided supporters. I’ve done that. This week I’ve seen that done for me. It doesn’t always help, but it is very much appreciated.
We all need an occasional “time out” to renew our spirits. Often times this is our hope when we take a vacation. It’s clearly a goal when we go on a retreat. But what may serve to renew us can vary from person to person and even across an individual’s lifetime.
I have known for a long time that I’ve needed a “get-away”. I’ve had plenty of opportunities to travel and take a break from the daily grind. Unfortunately for my renewal meter they haven’t really helped. Most of the traveling I’ve done in the past 5 years has been to promote my writing. They’ve been working vacations. I may not have had Orion along, I may have gotten inspired, but I haven’t had that sense of renewal.
I’ve been looking at a “real” vacation for awhile now. I had plans to go to Italy last fall, but they went by the wayside as I’ve been struggling to find a way to do home repairs. I haven’t given up. I’m still studying the language. But I also know that if I’m going to spend that kind of money I want to take time. If I take enough time then I also need to take Orion. That’s great for travel, but it’s not renewal.
As a birthday present to myself I gave myself a long weekend. Orion went to his Weekend Ventures retreat with Reach for Resources and to his Dad. I just had to figure out what I needed to do to find that renewal.
I tossed around driving or flying. How far could I go on my limited budget? Did I really want to spend the little time I had in transit? I looked at AirBnB I looked at package deals, I looked at the weather.
Historically my renewal/retreat weekends have involved a small (cheap) cabin in the woods, a fireplace, breakfast included and a kitchen for the rest of my meals. I’ve sat on porches and sipped coffee. I’ve curled up in the sunshine and read books. I’ve taken short walks in the woods. I’ve been alone long enough to get past the list of “shoulds” and into the bottled up emotions of my life.
Those options just aren’t available anymore. All the places I used to go have gone out of business. Any places I could still go seemed a little more structured, or a little more primitive, than I wanted. Even visiting my parents house (which used to be a cheap get-away) has become focused on helping them out. I can’t just sit and read undisturbed, or take a long soak in the tub.
Staying at home became more appealing, but I know myself well enough to recognize I’ve had plenty of weekends home without Orion that were not about renewal. It’s very easy to be distracted at home. It’s very easy to do the things that NEED to be done rather than the things that WANT to be done. It’s also very easy to bury my head to avoid the whole issue.
So I made an attitude adjustment plan. I know if I keep a fire going it shifts my focus. I know if I stay off the computer (read internet) I’m less likely to waste my time off. I know if I prepare ahead I can eliminate any URGENT household tasks.
So I cleaned the bathroom, changed the sheets on the bed, went to the grocery store and had a lovely renewal weekend at home. I did get on the internet, but it was to write book reviews because I felt like writing. I did light a fire one evening, but only because I really wanted to have that grounding task. I took several long leisurely baths – book in hand. I even took a walk. I didn’t take phone calls, didn’t check email, didn’t read Facebook.
It was different than a retreat, but in some ways it was better. Now I know I can have a renewal in my own home. I can make choices that are about taking care of myself rather than just indulging the whim of the moment. I can make myself get out the door just because it’s a nice day.
Those insights alone make taking a break well worth while!
There is a lot of research being done about the “information bubble” or more specifically “filter bubbles”. The idea is that our view of the world is being filtered so that the only information we receive (from social media) is information that will not challenge our existing world view. It certainly does happen, and it can be an issue especially for those people who tend towards highly biased, badly vetted, and heavily self- referential information sources.
Many of us are aware these sources exist. Many of us are not aware of how many of them we follow. Because we agree with them they seem reasonable. There bad sources coming from ALL points of view. Liberal, conservative, religious, fiscal, civil rights, you name a point of view and there is someone on the internet writing (loudly) with no basis in actual facts.
On the other hand there is the world we walk in. This is the world where we are not umbilically attached to our electronic media. It is a place where people talk to strangers. The “real world” is where we have to get along with our co-workers. We can’t be anonymous in this place when we shut up, stand up and sometimes get blindsided in our interactions with actual human beings.
I talk to strangers. I chat in line at the grocery store. I comment on reading material in the waiting room. I drive for those ap based services and sometimes the passengers are up for conversation. I also listen to stories from those strangers and from my friends about their experiences. Sometimes they’re not friendly.
So what do we do when we are trapped in a conversation (on an airplane, in a doctors office) and suddenly it takes a turn. The pleasant person we are talking to starts: quoting “fake news”, promoting a religious viewpoint we can’t support, making racist or sexist assumptions, belittling “my people”? What do we do when the person who was a work friend is suddenly assuming we agree with them about a political viewpoint we find abhorrent? What do we do when the customer we are serving starts spouting hate speech?
Those situations shake us up. They make us question both our positions and our responses. They can be threatening when they are clearly directed at us. They can be threatening AND unnerving when we find ourselves “passing” instead of being representative of our group. These kinds of occurrences seem to be happening more frequently, and more aggressively. I think part of that is the “filter bubble”. Strong language against another group can be “acceptable” within the filter, and so it is unquestioned in the world.
But when that world comes at us with active hatred we need to find some time with “our people”. We need that sanctuary to regroup and reassure ourselves that we are not alone in the world. Unfortunately I’m finding even in the most broad thinking sanctuaries there is little or no compassion for differing viewpoints, and so the aggressiveness becomes justified and reinforced.
Yes, bad behavior should be called out. Yes, we have a right (and often a responsibility) to defend a point of view. We need to remember that someone questioning a position is not the same as someone invalidating our existence.
Bad behavior does not always imply a bad intention. Ignorance (even willful ignorance – which is where my tolerance explodes) is not improved by being demeaning. Someone asking me for my sources is not a “threat”. It’s certainly not a threat equivalent to saying “my people” should be: locked up, thrown out, burned at the stake, not allowed to participate, or somehow “put away”. Defensiveness is not the same as defending a point.
We have the opportunity to practice these skills with “our people”. Let’s do that, instead of just closing those doors and creating another version of “us” and “them”.
Been gone for awhile. I’ve had some car trouble, internet trouble, life trouble. But I also haven’t been detained in an airport – so perspective. All of this has had me thinking about refuge.
It’s a simple word, a simple concept. It’s about being safe and protected. That doesn’t seem like a lot to ask.
Last weekend I went up to my parents and had some car trouble. Needed to stay an extra day and wait for a part to come in. I didn’t get the repairs paid for. I didn’t have internet access. But I did have refuge. I had a place to stay, safe, while I waited for my car to be fixed. I didn’t even have to think about it, it was there for me.
Most of us think of our homes as a refuge. I’ve had plenty of times in my life when my home was not. But there is a big difference between being so sick that it’s scary to be left alone to fend for yourself and wondering when the men with the guns will break down the door. There’s a big difference between walking on eggshells to keep the screaming and yelling from erupting and walking on eggshells to stay out of the emergency room.
Because I can’t convince the bank to finance my kitchen remodel my home has not been a refuge. I’m not comfortable with boxes piled all over and my kitchen in pieces. Although the cupboards are empty, they are barely hanging on the wall and still may just decide one day to fall down. I’m struggling to make a “home”. I’m struggling to keep things orderly and organized. I’m struggling to find the space to be creative, to write, to come out of my sense of being overwhelmed.
At the same time, it’s nice to curl up under the covers at night. I sleep soundly. I don’t need to keep an ear open for unforeseen threats. I have heat, running water, and most of the time the internet allows me access to all of you. There is “escape” in music, and tv, and internet chats and games. I’m not starving for anything.
When I truly have nothing, when my life is at risk, when I am shaken to my core I find it easy to be grateful for any small refuge. A kind word, a warm blanket, keeping down a bite of food can all seem like the most amazing grace. Refuge doesn’t have to solve a problem. It just allows a little break. Why is that so hard?
Yesterday was one of those days when I needed to give myself points just for getting dressed. I meant to post a blog. I had started one about a weekend worth of celebrations. I had started one about the immigration ban. I had started one about Imbolc and the winter thaw. I just couldn’t manage to bring any of those topics into a coherent, cohesive whole.
I needed an ostrich day. A day to curl up and put my head in the sand. A day to pretend the world didn’t matter. I didn’t talk to friends. I didn’t get to my “to do” list. I stuck my head in a book, turned on Netflix, and played games on the computer.
We all need an occasional day like that. Right now there are many people who are practicing civil disobedience. There are many people who are truly threatened by the political climate. There are many who are suffering cognitive dissonance working to convince themselves that what they see, what they say, means something else. My Facebook feed is full of posts saying “maybe I should take a break from Facebook”
Sometimes we need to just take the time and space to actually feel our feelings. There can be so much going on in our lives that our emotions become a jumble and we don’t know where we stand or what we think. Allowing ourselves a moment to come back to our own center, without being battered about by our circumstances, can recharge us. Taking time can allows us to be more effective in the world.
Unfortunately, sometimes those ostrich days make me feel worse rather than better. It’s too easy to get into the cycle of self blame and guilt. It’s easy to start thinking of all “better” ways to have used the time. We live in a culture that has no patience for this kind of “time out”, and we carry that culture with us into our “time out” space.
It’s my Daily Practice that gets me through. I get dressed. Then, since I’m dressed I might throw in a load of laundry or run out to the mailbox. I make my bed. Then, since I really appreciate having the bed made I might tidy up someplace else in the house. I do my language lesson. Then, since I really do want a vacation, I might balance the checkbook or pack a bag or make a fun meal or even just tend to my seasonal spaces.
Doing the small Daily Practices I know I’m not lost in a hole. I am not entirely overwhelmed. I’m just taking some time out. Doing the Daily Practices I have a springboard to reconnect, to move forward. Doing the Daily Practices I am reminded to have compassion for myself. I am reminded to appreciate what I do, and accept that I can not accomplish everything.
Daily Practice becomes a kindness to myself. Doing Daily Practice is a magical act of transformation. It’s not always apparent that Daily Practice is doing anything. (That’s one of the reason “Daily Practice Sucks”) But ultimately we practice so that when we need something to be easy, when we don’t have the time or energy, when we are looking for a lifeline we have the Daily Practice to lean on.
It’s been a very busy week in the country. Goodbye to our first black first family. Hello to a new president followed by the largest protest ever launched in America. In fact, protesting our new president and his anti-women, anti-civil rights agenda was a world wide event.
At times like these it can seem easier to just put your head in the sand. To turn off, tune out and escape the madness that surrounds us. Unfortunately, that kind of escapism historically leads to even worse problems, even more oppression. There’s a reason the poem is popular:
First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.
Still, even the most dedicated activists need a little break. So we turn on the TV, we read a book, we go to the movies, or the theater Time out can be mindless, but it can also be mind expanding. Star Trek aired the first interracial kiss, Will and Grace increased awareness and acceptance of the gay community. Hamilton not only educates us on our history but examplifies colorblind casting and the actual immigrant experience that has made America what it is today. Many people had never heard of Turing until The Imitation Game. Even fewer were aware of the women – human computers – who helped put our men in space.
I got to see Hidden Figures this weekend. What a remarkable piece of American history – good and bad. This movie demonstrates some of the underlying complaints I hear about everything that happened this weekend. This “separate and not anywhere near equal” is the America our president things was great. This white feminism has no room for black women becomes blatantly apparent in historical context. That “keep your head down and don’t cause trouble” doesn’t create change that needs to happen is obvious in hindsight.
Uppity women, demanding a place at the table, demanding to be heard plays better with a good screen writer. But those women are still out there in our workplaces. Angry black women may not have to find a colored bathroom, but that doesn’t mean they are welcomed when they come in, they’re almost as scary as transgendered women! The education disparity continues to be enormous, resources available to white children are just “not in the budget” for children of color. Is it any wonder resourceful kids will do anything to get ahead of the game?
This year I’m seeing a lot of reading challenges. Lists to encourage people to use their escape time to expand their point of view. So I’m also taking on a challenge. I’m back reviewing books on lisaspiralreads. There are already 50 book reviews there, and I’m challenging myself to review another 50 this year. I’m trying to tag and categorize to fit the reading challenge requirements I’ve been seeing. Check it out!
Hope you use your escape wisely!
My car was due for an oil change. Overdue technically, but not by much. I have always been diligent about the oil change maintenance.
Thing is, technology is changed. When I first bought the car, the first time I took it in for an oil change I was told the rules are different. With new systems and synthetic oils instead of 3 months/3,000 miles it is annually or 10,000 miles. I can’t keep track of that!
But now I’m driving for Uber and Lyft and racking up the miles on my car. It seems like I’m back at about 3 months. Maybe that’s just my perception. Maybe I’m reaching for the familiar. In any case I took the car in for routine maintenance.
Which of course got me thinking about maintenance. In my home there are places that I’m pretty good about doing routine things: laundry, dishes, paying the bills. There are things that are beyond me (My kitchen cupboards are empty, but still almost a year later falling off the walls. Don’t talk to me about banks!) There are a lot of things that fall in between (like cleaning the oven and scrubbing the floors).
I thought about the blog I wrote last week, and reconnecting with friends. Relationships require a certain amount of maintenance as well. I’m not great about keeping in touch. I’m less likely to make a call just to say hi. On the other hand I’m likely to show up in an emergency or send a hand written note in a get well card. Different skills sets I suppose.
Then I thought about general health maintenance. The annual physicals got crammed in between Thanksgiving and New Years. The letters keep coming from the insurance companies about which of my prescriptions they’ve decided not to cover. I’m still doing allergy shots. I do have some long term maintenance things here. Mammograms and colonoscopies are not even annual events any more. The rules change.
I come back to daily practice. When I’m doing daily practice maintenance seems to get done, both on the long and short term. When I let daily practice slide, everything seems to go downhill along with it. When the rules change sometimes the daily practice needs to change, but that’s different from letting it go altogether.
Life happens. Entropy happens. Maintenance is necessary and unavoidable. So I work on keeping up the calendar and consulting it daily. I work on tucking in a small home maintenance job daily. I juggle my appointments and phone calls and try to be available for my friends.
I also remember that the alternative to maintenance is crisis. I don’t need that. Maintaining to avoid it is worth a little gratitude. Maybe a daily practice worth.
There is a movement suggesting that people who are willing to be supportive of blacks, hispanics, LGBTQ, women and other communities being targeted by Trump inspired racists wear a safety pin to indicate that they hold a safe space.
There is a backlash from those communities. There is anger that privileged whites think that just wearing the safety pin IS supportive. It’s too little, too late. Wearing a safety pin indicates intention, which frankly doesn’t count. There are plenty of “well-intentioned” people who are happy to “mansplain” away the concerns of these threatened populations. There are plenty of “well-intentioned” people who are sure they have the “solution”. There are plenty of “well-intentioned” people who wonder why we can’t all just get along.
There is also a backlash from the racists (who resent being called racists because they feel that they are entitled to define what that term means – and it can’t be them because they are “good people”). There is an “If you’re not with me you are against me” mentality. There is harassment, from a meme being generated that that safety pin is a diaper pin and we’re all crying babies to actual physical confrontations.
I know people in all of these communities and I hear them. Because I hear them I recognize that I can’t just “join the bandwagon” I need to make an active choice. If I choose to wear the pin what does that mean? If I choose not to wear the pin what does that mean?
I choose to wear the pin. Here’s what it comes down to for me:
- Wearing the pin is a visible identification of some kind of support. For a community that often feels very isolated just seeing someone making that small an effort can make a difference.
- Wearing the pin does not entitle me to anything. It doesn’t entitle me to respect from these communities. It doesn’t instantly bestow understanding. It doesn’t in itself create the “safe space” it’s meant to indicate.
- Wearing the pin means I have an obligation to open my eyes and increase both my awareness and willingness to intervene. That means more than filming an arrest or calling someone out on foul language. That means being aware of the clerk keeping an eagle eye on the black woman in the store with me. That means being aware of the cashier happy to chat with me after demanding identification from the hispanic man in front of me. That means being aware of the stink eye look being given to the gay couple in the restaurant. That means being willing to share a seat on the bus with a homeless man. That means knowing when to shut my mouth and when to open it.
- Wearing the pin means I am willing to be a target. It means I am willing to be a target from the communities that I want to support. A safe space means a safe space for them to vent their anger, frustration and fear. A safe space means I may be “harassed” for being a white woman who thinks wearing a pin is enough. A safe space for the people being targeted means that I may be exposed to feelings that are unpleasant, uncomfortable and I may not feel safe. Too bad for me.
- Wearing the pin means I am willing to be a target for the racist backlash. I will be perceived as being part of the communities they threaten: the disabled, those with racial differences, those with non binary gender identities etc. I will be putting myself in the position of being willing to accept some of the harassment those groups experience every day.
- Wearing the pin means wearing the pin. It is privilege to chose to wear the pin or not. The people in these groups do not have that choice. They can’t take off their race, their self identity, their handicaps. They can’t not be targets. Ultimately that is why I must be a target as well. I must wear the pin.
I had the opportunity this weekend to participate in a rescue mission. That’s not as dramatic as it sounds. My daughter, Karina, has quite the extended family given the divorces, the friends, the steps, and all the variations on “you are family to me.”
One of these family members has been in a difficult intimate relationship for some time. There is a history of isolation, abuse, and attempts to leave the relationship. After a conversation with Karina where she heard, “I want to come home” she went into action.
She arranged for transportation (costs covered), housing, a potential job opportunity and alerted the built-in support system of family and friends. There will be a bus card, people willing to help with transportation in town, bedding and toiletries and probably anything else as it comes up. When another call came, “I need to leave NOW”, Karina went into high gear and hopped in the car.
I went along, not only because it’s a long drive but also because she wanted back-up for anything she might find when she arrived. I have family in the area where we were headed. I called ahead. Without knowing ANY of the actual players, they stepped in as well.
My family members met us at the home of the person we picked up. We were taken out for dinner. We were offered any additional support we might need along the way. I got the bonus of being able to see family I haven’t been in contact with (outside of Facebook) for years.
Karina’s family member will be fine. They are overwhelmed, not only by making such a dramatic change but also by the outpouring of support. We also talked on the way home about how much of a difference THIS family member could be in supporting other of Karina’s extended family members who are struggling. We made it clear that even when you may be needy, you can also be needed.
Very few of us expect to have real support when we are desperate. Asking for one small thing is hard. Asking for planning, organization, execution and a lifeline is humbling at best.
I think we all have moments in our lives when this is exactly the kind of help we need. I know I have. I have been fortunate, awed, and overwhelmed on the occasions when my friends and family have swept in and just taken care of business.
When I had cancer last year my women’s group stepped up and made sure that I had the post surgery support I needed. They came by to check up on me, made sure I had food in the house, ran errands, and washed dishes. One of them brought me home from the hospital. Another took me out when I was going stir crazy. I was overwhelmed with gratitude. I had no idea what I was going to do, but they clearly did.
The last time I had work done on my house, to increase accessibility for Orion, we needed to move out for 6 weeks. Cleaning and packing was beyond me. Again, I had friends come in and just do it. There was no judgement, no need for instruction or supervision, just support. I could focus on what I needed to take with me to the hotel, they took care of everything else. I knew I needed help, but never expected that level of support.
I am grateful that I have been able to count on my friends when I truly need help. I am grateful that I have learned to accept help when it is given. I’m grateful for compassion that has no judgement, simply does what needs to be done. I’m grateful for the opportunity to give back a small bit of what I have been given.
I don’t know what to say. Baton Rouge, Texas, Falcon Heights – that one is too close to home. There is outrage and it is justified.
I got really angry when after Philandro Castile’s death the police I know started circulating “another look” – a video with him and his girlfriend smoking pot and being silly. It’s racist, it’s about “justifying police brutality”, it’s a desperate attempt to “spin” the narrative. It’s not relevant.
Who hasn’t ever done stupid stuff? Gotten drunk, or stoned, or just been silly and stupid? Why people film that and then post it is beyond me, but my Facebook feed is full of this kind of nonsense.
I remember protests in the 60’s. I remember being pretty sure our phone was tapped as the FBI was looking for organizers. I remember stories of FBI infiltrators who were often the instigators of the worst of the violence. The shooting in Dallas, there was a lot of finger-pointing. The message of the protest was diminished. Both police and protesters were affected. Who actually benefited?
We learned a long time ago to follow the money. The money, the status quo, the old guard that is afraid to lose their unchecked power and privilege are the only ones coming out on top.
The world is changing. The world needs to change. What do we want it to change into?
The energy for change comes from moving against. The actually change comes from being able to envision the future. It’s not Utopic. It’s messy. Any plan is going to change in implementation. But let’s look at a plan. Let’s keep looking, and revising, and building towards something positive.
Let’s have a world where news and education aren’t judged based on entertainment value.
Let’s have a world where people helping each other out gets raves and support and bad behavior is not a spotlight for attention.
Let’s have a world where people aren’t afraid of the police, and where the police aren’t afraid of the general population they are meant to protect and serve.
Let’s have a world where we recognize that people generally are trying to do the best they can with what they’ve got. If they’re not doing well then they need help, resources, education, housing, support.
Let’s find a way to have dialog rather than duels, and have productive outcomes.
Let’s find a way.