We Need to Feel Things, Good and Bad, For Our Health and Others

In my September 3rd post I began my discussion of caring, and why it’s so critical. Clarify, not the caring too much about what other people think, or changing yourself as a result to please others. But acknowledging how others feel, drawing on one’s own strong feelings of sympathy and dare I say empathy, as a source of power and positive motivation. A paper written for the Harvard Annual Review of Psychology states “research reveals that emotions constitute powerful, pervasive, and predictable drivers of decision making.” ** Pretending not to care, or actually not caring, robs us of the much needed drive we need to be engaged members of our own lives and the communities we inhabit, to connect with others.

When people pretend not to care, act as if that is a healthy sense of detachment and aren’t they so self assured, they are almost always the people who are the most insecure and care the most about what other’s feel. IT TOOK ME FOREVER to not just know that but believe it. As a parent I worked for years, and still have to remind my adult children about this weird cultural norm. In a world that has suffered the mass trauma of a pandemic, resulting isolation, high rates of depression and other health and mental health disorders that have apathy as a sign or symptom, why are people still pushing this not caring crap?

I don’t care too much, the next person who insinuates that is going to get an earful. I never have. If my caring makes someone uncomfortable I wonder why? I suspect it has something to do with them not caring enough, or lacking the ability to empathize. Don’t worry, you can develop that further once you catch on. Meanwhile I’m going to keep caring, about myself and others, and taking the pain and joy that comes with that because healthy emotions are only useful as a set. The fine china bowl and linen napkin mean very little if I don’t have my spoon to enjoy the soup that is life. (You decide which emotion is which utensil, good and bad)

**https://scholar.harvard.edu/files/jenniferlerner/files/annual_review_manuscript_june_16_final.final_.pdf

Banned Book Week 2022

In between my musings on parenthood and other related topics I want to take a moment to recognize that we are in the middle of this years celebration of banned book-week. Books unite people, they open minds, they reach across time and teller to weave a fabric of shared human existence, both the triumphs and the failures. Books are living things, words have meaning both in the context they are written and the form they take on the page. Banning books doesn’t ban ideas, it doesn’t ban the reality or things that make us feel uncomfortable or that we don’t agree with. Banning the book Gender Queer doesn’t change the gender identity of youth, it simply denies them the opportunity to identify or understand and not only feel less pain but perhaps cause less pain. Banning a book that talks about rape or incest won’t change the fact that 1 in 10 rape victims are male or that 1 in 6 women experience some form of sexual assault during their lifetime. Banning a book that touches on these subjects maintains shame around them, and the individuals and families that deal with it are denied an opportunity to know they aren’t alone. Books unite us, triumphs and tragedy, pain and joy, and trying to ban them is a harmful waste of energy we all need to address real problems.

I don’t care too much . . maybe you care too little.

I have been told my whole life “You care too much, it’s no big deal, don’t get so worked up, just relax and take things in stride”. Well I call BS! That’s right, my ability to care doesn’t make me weak, it doesn’t bring me down. On the contrary, it’s my freaking super power. I can internalize and personalize other people’s experience, with BOUNDARIES. Their struggle or their success isn’t mine to own, but with a healthy sense of caring I can identify with them. The me vs. you or the us vs. them, that false dichotomy that so often polarizes people or pushes them apart, doesn’t imprison me in a sense of self where the welfare and the lives of others are not relevant or important to me.

True, this means I can hurt more deeply sometimes. Likewise, I truly feel deep joy and happiness when I see others experience those emotions, and that can only come with the ability to empathize. Since when did empathy become an unhealthy habit? Maybe it’s just nostalgia but I recall that caring for ones neighbor, looking out for other people on your street, that was a sign of a healthy and safe community. Doing something for someone else simply because you could, and it would make them feel good, was encouraged and even taught. Not just lip service or talking points.

When did children start telling other children it’s not cool to care too much. In grade school people tried to make ME feel awkward because I didn’t hide my emotions. When I was a young woman I was told to lighten up, boys weren’t attracted to girls who were too “intense”. As a mother I was told, don’t worry so much about your kids or be too involved in their lives, you’re a helicopter parent. Screw that! My kids, my stitches and my feelings are all good. (maybe the stitches not as good as the others). I’ve got a lot more to say about this so stay tuned, and for sure leave a comment if you are inclined.

WE WON’T GO BACK !

Read the Collar
I DISSENT !

Initially I was sickened, sad, hopeless reading the recent Supreme Court decision to strike down Roe v. Wade. Then I realized that is what they want. Now I am angry, but more than angry I am energized, connected and active. It’s not just a slogan, and if women who were marginalized, demoralized and damn near powerless politically and otherwise could band together to make reproductive choice, which is a basic human right, into law then so can we. Now we are Vice Presidents, Senators, Congress Members, Lawyers, CEO’s, Scientists. We represent and are represented in greater numbers than ever before, it’s not enough yet but we have so much more than those who came before us. As the Notorious RBG said, “When I’m sometimes asked when will there be enough [women on the Supreme Court] and I say, ‘When there are nine,’ people are shocked. But there’d been nine men, and nobody’s ever raised a question about that.” ― Ruth Bader Ginsburg

New voters are women, and my daughter is one !

70 % of new voters in Kansas are are women, other states are reporting similar numbers, 60% of new voters in Pennsylvania are women and my daughter is one of them, YES! And can I say just wow, wow. The month of August has been a roller coaster ride. I took my youngest, my daughter, to college and she is soaring, separating. Each day I feel a little less lost, learning to be a new kind of parent to grown children. Navigating a new job after doing one for 20 years, talk about retraining. But she’s really making her mark and I know that she and other young voters, young men and women will come on strong, will vote out politicians that would abolish the rights of citizens based on their reproductive capacity, and vote in politicians that will protect all citizens equally. #noforcedbirth #voteprochoice

Be Together, Don’t Grow Together

The London Eye, 2016

I can’t believe I haven’t posted in over a year. But I’m back and hopefully I will get in the habit of regular posts. I think it helps clear out my brain and what not. Hopefully some of it is relevant, meaningful or useful for others as well. So I focus mostly on family in my blog, hence the title. Reflections on parenting primarily. This series of posts is about the relationship between my partner and I, since I have after all been doing that even longer than I have been parenting. Although I should say I don’t like the word partner, too much like a business contract. And I am not completely comfortable with any word really, they all either over define me in relationship to someone else or lack the clarity of definition that encompasses the vastness and wonder of what we have created after 30 years. So I guess I would start by saying he’s my Andy, something and someone unique to me and with me. Our relationship is equally amazing, painful, joyous, painful, charming, frustrating, and sooooo much more. It moves and changes, we have moved and changed, and maybe that’s the one element that doesn’t change. It’s all a very messy and in the aggregate incredibly marvelous work in progress. When my mother in law performed the ceremony in a friend’s garden years ago she said “Be together, don’t grow together” I think we have accomplished that and some more, allowing of course for upkeep and improvements.

Video Games, Problem Solving and Parenting

My son has played video games for most of his life. Before he graduated High School, he took college courses in computer programming. My husband and I were somewhat concerned however when he told us he wanted to go to school for Narrative Design. First, we didn’t know what that was, second when we did, we said “You want to go to college to make video games?” His response, “I knew you would say that.” He was disappointed in us, and he had good reason to be. 

            To be fair, when I went to college more than 30 years ago (ouch) the field of Narrative Design didn’t exist. The first video game I played was pong, look it up. My son is about to graduate, and I feel like I am the one who has had the biggest education. He works his butt off, taking writing courses, designing games, working with top professors in his field and learning much more. I have also learned to trust him and myself better as we navigate into an adult child and parent relationship. My son has a well rounded liberal arts education, and he’s an artist/writer/innovator. More importantly he has honed and perfected his ability to work as part of a team, to identify and solve problems.

We have BIG problems; Climate Change, the COVID Pandemic and a sickening wave of hatred and violence towards others are just some of them. We are in desperate need of people who can problem solve, and who can do it in teams. These problems will not be solved any other way. My son has a new way to approach the problems of our world with Narrative and Game Design, and he’s working in teams with others, to put work out there and inspire others to do the same. I believe in him and them, they give me hope for tackling some of these big problems. 

Here are some studies and evidence that support the above, including from the American Psychological Association.

https://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2013/11/video-games

Perspective in art is drawing in different dimensions and seeing different views. The 1918 Flu Pandemic killed between 50-100 million people worldwide. And it has arguably never completely gone away, becoming the seasonal flu we expect, with mutations that have occurred to create potentially deadly strains in 1957, 1968 and 2009. Some estimates indicate in developing nations nearly 300,000 people a year still die from Influenza and related symptoms. Perspective also means seeing something in relation to other things. During 1918 there was a World War raging, and so many deaths due the Flu were overshadowed by the deaths attributed to war. As dark as all this seems, to step out of where I am and use perspective helps, it really helps. The 1918 Flu Pandemic was devastating for the elderly, not unlike our current Pandemic. However, the high mortality rates in children under the age of 5 and in healthy adults age 20-40 were even more crushing. The death rate for people age 15-34 in the US was 20 times higher than in previous years. If perspective is to see more, view things from different angles and create a deeper or whole picture, it gives the point where you have been narrowly focused the contextual meaning it deserves. Hope is good, necessary, what perspective gives is tangible. Hope is an integral point in the image, with perspective, knowledge, history, evidence, and other pieces a multidimensional image emerges to see deeper, understand more, and create with meaning moving forward.

The other day I went to the grocery store, I consciously chose not to wear my mask and carefully followed updated state and CDC guidelines, given that I have been fully vaccinated for almost a month. I was still anxious the whole time, it felt wrong even though I was doing what I had been instructed to do by every health care authority and official. When I described the situation to someone else I know they said it’s hard to get away from the neuroticism we’ve learned since the pandemic started, everyone in the room agreed that was the exact description of how things feel now. As a mental health care professional the term collective trauma comes to mind. As a nation, and worldwide, we have a shared set of traumatic experiences regarding this pandemic and we are all still very much wading through that fear, anxiety, and hyper-awareness. I still had my mask, carrying it with me like a talisman for what reason I’m sure I don’t know. It never protected me, only the people around me. And so it became a symbol in so many other ways such as a political statement, which it never should have been. I took heart when a woman slightly older than me spoke quietly as we passed in the aisle, “I’m glad someone else is not wearing it.” What does it mean if you are wearing a mask now? Does that mean you are still feeling cautious, or that you are part of the group who refuses to be vaccinated. And so there’s a light, things begin to return to some kind of normalcy, but trauma and it’s after effects do not recede easily, with new and challenging questions continuing to rise.

At a loss, in a daze, what’s next ?

I’m not really sure what to write, where I am or how my family will move forward in this current world. We are all vaccinated against Covid 19, so I feel very blessed. Restrictions are beginning to lift, but from the Federal Government to State authorities they still fail to give guidance. Leaving individual people, communities, shop keepers and such to set their standards and make decisions regarding things like masking and distancing. The world is still so upside down and confusing. We move forward, look forward, perhaps that’s all we have ever been able to do and the rest of the time we are surely fooling ourselves that we have any more control over things than that. Living each day, trying to remain grateful and humble.