Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Outrage


Did you know that there is a mass shooting (4 or more injured or killed) almost every day in the US? I did not. I was feeling overwhelmed from the news reports over the last couple of weeks and started digging. Now I’m really overwhelmed.

Clearly, the US has a problem. (Gosh, really, just one?) The NRA and gun lobby are stronger than most of our congress people apparently. What does it take to get “the people” riled up?

I had hope after the Sandy Hook shootings (27 killed, 2 injured) in 2012.

I had hope after the Santa Monica College shooting (June 2013, 5 killed, 3 injured)

I had hope after the Inland Regional Center shooting (December 2015, 14 killed, 21 injured).

I knew the Pulse nightclub shooting (49 killed, 53 injured) in June 2016 in Orlando FL wouldn’t get enough people riled up – after all, it was only gay people. That’s a whole ‘nuther rant, don’t get me started.

I had hope after the Las Vegas shootings (October 2017, 58 killed, 422 injured). [1]

I got to a point, that here in 2018, I couldn’t listen to the news, for fear of another mass shooting report. Now I know why – there’s one almost daily. Just this month in the US, 33 people have been killed and 84 injured in mass  shootings in the US in 22 incidents in 14 states. In 2018, so far ABC15 reports 294 incidents[2]. So October 2018 seems to be a little less than average.

So, to you reasonable people who are reading this particular rant – what can we do to reduce gun deaths in the US? Will it take a Hollywood actor being killed in a mass shooting before we get visibility? Similar to how women’s wages and the “Me Too” movements only became “visible” when Hollywood got involved? Or when AIDS research picked up when Magic Johnson announced his status? No one seems to have an answer to this very reasonable (to me) question.

Let us be unreasonable then – make it personal. Write a heartfelt letter to your Congress person(s). Tell them of the people you know who have been killed in mass shootings – or in less-then-mass shootings. (I know two personally; you must know or be closely connected to someone too.) Here's where you can find out who your representative(s) is/are: https://www.govtrack.us/congress/members. Remember, they LOVE mail. 

Express your outrage. Even if it is only to say no more automatic weapons or semi-automatic weapons readily available at your local market. This is a start. Once we start, who knows what we can accomplish?

I don’t want you to be the third person I know killed by gun violence.




Thursday, July 5, 2018

Ahhh, the first peach of summer.

I grew up with a Babcock peach tree in the back yard. Once I got old enough to climb it, or hit peaches down with a stick, I was sticky the rest of the day. Juicy, pink-tinged white flesh once you bit past the dense peach-fuzz, your reward was the sweetest flavor you can imagine.

This is one of the few wonderful memories of a somewhat fraught childhood. I have been searching for that flavor throughout my adulthood. And not just the flavor, the complete and unconscious happiness those peaches represent. My focus on getting a peach and eating it drowning out the abuse, the poverty and the loneliness of abandonment.


More than half a century later, I still search for that flavor, knowing that I will never have it again. But still I search. And though Babcock’s aren’t readily available in the grocery store or even local markets, a nice, tree-ripened peach can transport me to one of my happy places again.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Wedding, not the first time around


I am engaged to be married to a wonderful person. I am divorced from someone who was wonderful, but not to or for me for much too long. I didn’t think I would ever get married again. For many reasons, I am and I am happy with that decision.

However, in 1986, I swore I would never again plan another party for a huge number of people. I do not find it fun to peruse websites looking for good deals. I do not enjoy negotiating prices, knowing that money spent on this event means less money with which to buy a new home. Asking friends for their help is uncomfortable, even when they are happy to do so. But, here I am, planning another big event.

Ah, but this time, I have help. Willing, cooperative and decisive help. What a difference several decades and a different partner make! So while some of the decisions have been mine (color and style of my dress), most of the other decisions have been discussed, laughed at, and made with my lover. WE are planning this event, not me. My first wedding was about 15 months in the planning (about 250 guests). This wedding will be something less than 6 months in the planning. Eeek! But wait, I have help this time. Deep breath, sigh, smile.

Having a much shorter time to plan allows us to focus on the important elements – a meal, venue (must be meaningful to at least one of us, have wheel chair access and adequate parking). All else is gravy on top. Flowers will probably happen; guest gifts may or may not happen. Minister, yes; invites, yes; photographer, yes. Family and friends, yes!


I still don’t like this big event planning stuff, but I love that we are doing one more thing together that means so much to both of us. It feels like we are saying “Yes,” together already. 

L’chaim!

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Change is hard.

Change is hard. Especially change that feels as though it is limiting prior freedoms, whether self-imposed or imposed by others. We often respond to change with anger, but unless we know what causes the anger, we can’t figure out how to respond to the change.

For example, I live with several chronic physical and mental conditions. A diagnosis of Type 2 Diabetes has made me change my eating habits and test my blood sugar levels and indeed, how and what I cook for my family – a mixture of other- and self-imposed. Should I be angry at my doctor for prescribing a glucose monitor for me? No. Should I be angry at the doctor who left me on prednisone for a year to manage my RA, which caused a problem in my pancreas that led to the Diabetes diagnosis? Probably not, because I didn’t ask about possible outcomes of long-term steroid use, and given the amount of pain I was in, probably would have made the decision to take them anyway.

Rheumatoid Arthritis limits my physical abilities, making it difficult to move sometimes and sometimes making me choose between participating in activities or going home to rest. Self-imposed restrictions and certainly a difficult change for others to understand when I “don’t look sick.” Actually, I don’t get angry at the RA, I’m so glad to have a diagnosis finally because that led to a treatment plan that actually has alleviated most of the pain, thus slowing the degenerative aspect of the disease. And if others don’t understand why I don’t sign up for certain events, too bad. My close friends and family honor my decisions that honor my health. Perhaps those that don’t support my healthy decisions shouldn't be my friends anyway?

PTS (recently recognized and diagnosed) makes other-imposed changes feel like attacks, sometimes making my response seem “over the top” to what others may perceive as nominal changes. Ah, here is my main cause for needing “anger management.” For years I had no idea why I would go along my happy way, and then, reaching the tipping point, explode into rage. Masters level studies, and much research and years of counseling allowed me to recognize myself in the stories of child-hood abuse survivors. I had learned to subjugate my emotions to everyone else in order to keep peace. Because when other people have strong emotions, bad things happen! I’m no longer a defenseless child, but my body learned these coping mechanisms so early and so well, all I can do as an adult is recognize, honor and then deal with them.

And then there’s the combination factor: RA and Diabetes are both affected by emotions and physical stress. So when I’m upset, my blood sugar and blood pressure elevate, increasing swelling in my joints which makes me hurt more, increasing the physical and emotional stress. Yep, a very vicious cycle.

So how do I cope with change, especially unwanted or unexpected change? (Because even happy or good changes can cause stress too.)

1.      First, I’m trying to notice my emotions. As a survivor of early childhood trauma, I internalized most of my emotions and it has been a long, hard road to revealing them. I don’t know where this quote came from, but it spoke very powerfully to me. I shared these words with my counselor after she and my psychiatrist both told me I would probably never “get over” PTS. And that in fact, my emotions are here to tell me when something is going right or wrong.:

“Anger means you have been hurt, or that someone has crossed a line; love is a sign that someone is important to you; fear wants to protect you from danger; happiness is telling you that all is going well and your wishes have been granted.

Emotions are intensely personal messages that tell you who you are and what is important to you. And they always have your best interests in mind.”

2.      After noticing my emotional responses to something, I then need to honor them. Look those feelings in the eye and say “I see you emotion.” Only by recognizing our emotions can we un-internalize them. A common phrase in self-help groups is “Depression is anger turned inwards.” We can turn those self-destructive inward-pushed emotions outward and minimize their effects on our bodies and mind just by recognizing that they are real and valid. As a pre-teen I had a poster on my wall that said: “Just because you are paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t out to get you.”

3.      After noticing and recognizing and honoring my emotion, I can reflect upon it and decide if PTS or RA or blood sugar levels are influencing the strength of that emotion. See, now I have control of my emotions, not the other way around. So even if the strength of my emotion is swayed by one of my diseases, it does not invalidate the emotion. One doctor told me “Just because you have PMS doesn’t make your rage unreasonable.”

4.      Make sure you have a strong support group. Whether friends, family of origin, family of choice, or professionals, these people can help you reflect and recognize if indeed you are “over the top” or reacting reasonably in a particular situation. When I was going to be sharing a holiday dinner with one of my former abusers present, I took a friend with me. She was coached to give me a particular signal if I started reacting inappropriately because of the PTS. I found that working with my counselor to develop the plan and having a caring friend supporting me in the application of the plan allowed me to enjoy the dinner and I never even had to use my plan.


Yes, change is hard. But we don’t go through life alone. And we can’t get through life without change (can you imagine having to wear diapers throughout your life, instead of just the beginning and end?). Emotions come to us in the interest of health. Use them to make yourself a happier, healthier person. Recognize how you feel in different situations, and make informed decisions that better your life. And like the Snickers ads, don’t make big decisions when you are hungry. 

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

A Candle in the dark


I always look forward to the winter solstice. Living with chronic depression is harder when I don’t see the sun because it’s dark when I drive to work and dark when I drive home from work. But once again, we have made it through the longest night of the year, which doesn’t necessarily have any connection with the dark night of the soul. Solstice slipped by me with barely a nod to my pagan sisters.

In my home, we celebrated Christmas with gifts, be they thoughtful, silly, useful or desired; and food answering the emotional longings of different people around the table. Roasted turkey for one, pearl onions for another, stuffing (in and out of the bird). (Mea culpa, I forgot the mashed potatoes! But at least I didn’t have to blow the rolls out this year!) We spoke of those not able to be with us in person, lifting up their health and hearts with a promise to bring some Christmas to them when they are ready to receive it. We honored those who will never be with us in person again, with tears and laughter and happy memories.

When no one else was around, I honored Hanukkah. Singing the phrases along with my “Bare Naked for the Holidays” album. Baruch atah, Adonai Eloheinu, Melech haolam, asher kid’shanu b’mitzvotav v’tsivanu l’hadlik ner shel Hanukkah. (.ברוך אתה יי, אלוהינו מלך העולם, אשר קידשנו במצוותיו, וציוונו להדליק נר של חנוכה). How lucky are we to be able to celebrate a light in the dark.

This year has seemed to be full of “the dark” more than I remember in past years recently. Probably because of the politics here in the good ol’ US of A and interpersonal politics at my day job. I have spent untold hours listening to people hurting from unkind words, unjust rules and justice repealed. I confessed to friends that I “scroll past” their political posts on social media, because I just can’t look at another ranting meme. The faces of my friends superimposed over the actions of this president wound me more than an insulting joke or picture can heal. (Although sometimes a band of chipmunks playing a snazzy jazz tune or a cute kitten video helps.)

And then there are the floods and fires. And no, they were not caused by g-d’s wrath towards the LBGTQ movement, thank you very much. I was reminded of a fire 24 years ago: I was 8 months pregnant and helped friends shovel debris off of the foundation of their house. Inviting them to share Christmas with us, co-mingling traditions again. And I am reminded again of why we celebrate.

We celebrate the love we share with one another. The little things like a smile passing in the hall, the big things like taking care of someone after surgery. Of unexpected gifts, and heart-full hugs. Our presence in hearing some one’s aching story of betrayal. The joy in a healthy birth or the colorblind man seeing true colors for the first time.

These are our candles in the dark, lighting the way when we might otherwise be overwhelmed by daily noise and strife. If you are with me when we turn the calendar page to 2019, we’ll play some silly games, light some more candles, sing Auld Lang Syne, and share our mitzvos. Because we all need more light and love.

So just as the physical nights are getting shorter now, may your dark nights of the soul be relieved by the love you give and receive. Blessings abound!

 

Wednesday, September 14, 2016


Checking in with my Stalker 9-14-16

Thirteen months ago I blogged about getting a restraining order against a former boyfriend. He didn’t take the hint (gosh, it was a “appear in court” in-your-face hint) and began driving by my home frequently, leaving packages in and on my vehicles (parked in a “secure” garage), sending me numerous emails daily (again), etc.

I went back to the police, and they picked him up at home on a Friday evening and kept him in jail for the weekend. The following week, I received a criminal protective order, good for three years. Again, a fairly large, in-your-face type of hint.

Six months later, he was back sitting in his vehicle watching my home. The police came (two hours later) and took a report, spoke to him at his home. Promised me (again) that he understood and would no longer bother me. Oops, then he was at my office, trying to talk security into letting him up to my suite, and to intercede with me on his behalf, since the restraining order was almost up! Can we say “clueless?” Another police department called, another report taken.

Because he has not threatened me with physical violence, the police will not go and arrest him. Apparently, emotional abuse is not considered enough, even if it causes physical illness/symptoms in the stalkee (I refuse to see myself as a victim). If he comes within 1000 feet of me (think of a football field), I am not to engage him, but call the police immediately. If he is still there if and when they arrive, then they will arrest him. How am I supposed to keep him there while not “engaging with him?”

Now he is sending Facebook messages to a friend of mine. Long ones, multiple times a day. His wife (oh yes, turns out he was very married) also called my friend accusing me of stalking him. Go figure. I’m getting afraid to go home again. I have changed my Facebook ID. I’m in hiding again. This is no way to live.

I cannot fathom what he thinks his activity will accomplish. I am reminded that to expect logic from an irrational person is not logical.

TO MY STALKER: If you are reading this, please pay close attention to what I am saying:

Go away. Stay away.

Do not call, email, message or mail anything to me or any of my friends, co-workers, acquaintances, or relatives.

Do not drive by my home or place of employment.

Do not try to get information from my doctors or the security people at my office.

Do not have your wife call, email or message me or any of my friends.

All of these activities are considered domestic violence and stalking behavior. I have a CRIMINAL restraining order out against you. I do NOT want to ever see or hear from you again. EVER. By your own admission, I am a stubborn woman. Keep this in mind.

GO AWAY NOW. STAY AWAY FOREVER. THIS MEANS YOU!

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Tomorrow’s Doors (revisited)

We talk
seldom listening
We mourn the past
worry about the future

We take baby steps
but we dare not more
Fearing change
more than death

New friends, new ideas
live in the moment
Try one new thing
Fear lost in the being

Tomorrow comes
welcomed or not
Today’s decisions
open tomorrow’s doors.


Beth Cardall Leehy
2016 Mar 1