On using my words

On November 8th, enough people in the United States voted for Donald Trump to make him our new president. Since the election I have been very vocal about my displeasure regarding the outcome of the election. Despite giving sound, reasonable arguments for said displeasure, I have been accused of whining because my candidate lost, being blind to the world around me,  and my personal favorite, of just not being the Christian they thought I was because of my political alliances.

I will never support Donald Trump.  He is a man who is only out for himself. He refuses to fully take the job of President by keeping his business connections.  He mocks the office by throwing fits on Twitter and by appointing family members to high positions in his Administration. He has no respect for people and he has shown that by mocking real American heroes like John McCain for becoming a POW, parents who lost a son fighting for our country, and most recently John Lewis, a renowned Civil Rights advocate who sacrificed his own comfort and safety to fight for what he believed in. Donald Trump is not a good person and he was most certainly not “anointed by God for such a time as this.”  He did not win because he was chosen by God. He won because he was able to convince desperate people that he would help them to become less desperate. He won because he was able to convince neo-nazis and other racist and hateful people that he would give them a voice. He won because he was able to convince religious conservatives that he would appoint cabinet members and Supreme Court Justices that thought like them.  Notice that I did not lump all Trump supporters together. He was able to convince all of these separate groups that he was just the man they needed. That is why he won. He sold himself as a savior and people believed him. I did not and that makes me an outsider in my circles.

Being vocal about all of this has led to the loss of some decades long friendships, alienation by family members, and a general anxiety about social ramifications to come. I have every reason in the world to stop being vocal about the atrocities that are happening in our government.  Maybe if I stopped sharing articles on Facebook that support my views or just stopped having an opinion altogether, I could regain some of what I have lost.  It would benefit me to do those things, but I won’t – I can’t. I can’t because the stakes are too high and if my words have the potential to convince others to see what is at stake and to contact their representatives and congressmen, then all of my personal losses would be worth it.

While there are many problems with the soon to be POTUS, the real problem lies with  the Republican controlled House and Senate.  After the election, I voiced my concerns about the fact that our newly elected congress had one goal – to repeal the Affordable Care Act. People tried to convince me that I was blowing it out of proportion and my fears were completely unfounded – that everything would be okay.  Well, on January 9th the US Senate proved me right. They started the process of pulling the rug out from under millions of Americans who depend on the ACA to live. They rejected any agreement to save the life saving provisions that I and many others like me depend on.  They made the first step toward my physical destruction and on the 13th, the House of Representatives backed them up.

As many of you know, I am sick.  I am not sick because of poor life choices or risky behavior.  I have Lupus.  My immune system confuses healthy cells for sick ones and will one day cause my kidneys, liver, and heart to fail.  I am 32 years old and I know with some certainty how I am going to die. My access to health care will determine when.  Every cold, seasonal allergy attack, virus, and infection can cause my immune system to go into hyperdrive and damage my organs.  I go to the doctor at the first sniffle or as soon as my temperature hits 99 degrees because I need medication to shut down my immune system so that damage doesn’t occur.  In 2016, my insurance paid out $750,000 in claims. In one year, my medical cost exceeded what all but the wealthiest people could afford for a lifetime of medical care. This is not hyperbole or a tactic to garner pity and attention. It is simply the truth.  I am just one person out of millions who are facing the situation. We are terrified at what is happening in Washington. We are scared for our lives.

Please have some empathy and stop calling me and others like me snowflakes, libtards, or communists.  We just want the same right to live as everyone else and we can’t do that without the provisions of the Affordable Care Act. If voters don’t appeal to their congress people, sick people like me will die.  It won’t happen tomorrow, but it will happen eventually and our blood will be on the hands of those who refused to see that healthcare is not a privilege only reserved for the wealthy or the healthy; it is a basic human right.  I will not stop speaking out, no matter the social ramifications.  I don’t care who stops talking to me or who thinks less of me.  I am not going to stand by and let my life be taken without a fight because it’s not just about me; it’s about the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for all Americans – healthy or sick, rich or poor.

On the infinity of choices

Via: Daily Prompt – Infinite

I think about event strings quite often and how they affect our lives.  I see life as one big “choose your adventure” book; in other words, the significant decisions I face have their own unique outcomes.  I don’t believe that we have one set thing that we are predestined to do; instead, there are countless possibilities that depend on previous decisions and many elements of our lives, such as careers, relationships, etc., exist because of these past decisions.

Think about it for a second.  If you have a significant other, where did you meet? What decisions did you make that led to that meeting? What else has grown out of that meeting? I think that we like to believe that eventually, we’d end up where we are now, but in reality, so many little things, both within  and outside of your control, had to line up to make today what it is.

When I think of this, I think of the scene in the Jurassic Park movie when Ellie and Ian are sitting in the car and he is trying to explain Chaos Theory.  He takes a drop of water and shows how it rolls down her hand in different ways each time a new drop is added.  We expect certain actions to have specific results, but since everything is connected, there is no way to fully predict what will come next.  The water drop changed its path because of everything that was influencing it, from the movement of the car to the path left by previous water drops.

Life is a lot like the drop of water; between birth and death, we are influenced by so many factors that there is no way to tell what is going to happen in between.  It’s only after that we can see what led to each milestone on the journey.  I find it really interesting to trace my life and see what led to what.

One of the book series I read over the holidays was based on fairytales.  There was a large crisis and the protagonists went to the council of mirrors (based on the magic mirror in Snow White) to find ways to solve the crisis.  The mirrors told the characters the catalyst that would lead to their desired outcome.  Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we had a council of mirrors in the closet to help us get to the outcome we want?  How great would it be to know the starting point? What would that prevent?

Sometimes though, even if we can see the potential disasters, we still do the wrong thing. Years ago, I made a bad decision. I knew it was a bad decision and yet I did it anyway. I didn’t break any laws or wind up in jail and it had very little effect on anyone else; in fact, only a few people know anything about it, but I am still seeing the effects.  I once said that, if given the ability to go back and change the past, I wouldn’t change anything about my life because then everything from then on would be different. In this case, it might be worth the risk; however, I still haven’t mastered time travel, so I have to learn to live within the rules of nature and accept that what will be will be.

While the effects of what happened were and continue to be mostly bad, I did at least learn a few important lessons. The most important is that I learned to listen to my gut. I will probably not make the same mistake again, or at least I hope I won’t because  I know what the outcome will be. See, we all do have our own little “council of mirrors”.  It’s not in a closet though, it’s in our head. While this council can’t tell us the end result, it can help us see how things are connected and what might happen. The knowledge of this council isn’t  infinite; it is fed by circumstances in our life. It’s the things that we do and see that should guide our decisions. If we take advantage of the things we learn, life would be easier to navigate. Let us all use the wisdom from both our successes and failures to give us our best chances at a happy future.

On Finding Magic

I’ve never had much of an imagination. Even as a kid pretending was hard. I wasn’t a kid who pretended to be an animal or a princess; it wasn’t fun and I didn’t get the draw. My toys reflected this. I played with blocks and I loved to color. I had baby dolls and I was their mommy, but all they did was sleep because in my unimaginative mind, that was all they could do.  The truth is though that kids need to be imaginative and though it didn’t come naturally, I eventually found my way to worlds beyond reality.  I found it through books.

As I’ve mentioned here, the first book I remember reading was Jurassic Park.  I’m sure there were others that led up to that one, but it was the catalyst. Over the years, I’ve probably read thousands of books.  I would read at any opportunity. Seriously, I would take a book into the grocery store so I could read while I was waiting in line. One year I kept an excel spreadsheet and I finished book number 380 on December 30th.  I read every genre and truly loved them all, but it wasn’t until I read a little series by C.S. Lewis that I truly learned to read.

It was my first year in college and I was working in the children’s library. I was shelving books and came across this:

narnia-chronicleshard

It seemed magical and wonderful and I wanted to be a part of whatever it was. So I dove in. For the first time, I wasn’t just reading a book, I was transported into a new world. I saw the creation of Narnia, went through the wardrobe and had tea with Tumnus, rode through the desert on a talking horse, defended Aslan’s How, sailed to the Lone Islands, went through the marshes with a marshwiggle, and went “further up and further in” with all of the friends of Narnia. I couldn’t get enough. I finally understood what it was like to daydream and imagine; to be outside of the possible – outside of reality.

Still today, my favorite books to read are middle-grade (ages 8-12) children’s fantasy.  No other genre has the ability to pull me out of reality into a place where my imagination can run wild. Now, you may scoff at my literary choices, but it’s not my fault that “adult” fiction authors don’t seem to capture the magic the way that children’s authors do.  It seems that the older we get, the less we think we need magic, but that’s not true; it’s when we’re older that we need magic so much more.  We need magic more because as adults because we see all the ugliness in the world that we can’t do anything about.  We need the worlds full of heros and heroins. Worlds where a 12 year-old girl, her 7 year-old sister, and a 4,000 year-old teenaged fairy named Puck can slay a giant and free the big bad wolf from his curse. We need places where lions talk and mistreated orphans find their power. We will always need a place where magic exists and that place is within the pages of books written for small people who haven’t yet forgotten that stars are for wishing and that dreams do come true.

If you want some magic back in your life, here is what I’ve been reading over Christmas break:

The Sister’s Grimm by Michael Buckley
The Keeper’s Trilogy by Lian Tanner
Keeper of the Lost Cities by Shannon Messenger

Enjoy!!

 

On Conundrums

via – Daily Prompt: Conundrum

To speak or not to speak – that is the question; whether ’tis nobler to suffer in silence the wrongs that happen around me or take arms against a world of injustice, and by speaking, end it.  To be silent, to hide – no more- and by hide to say it doesn’t exist.  The pain, and the legacy it leaves for those to come. A thing to be despised for sure.  To speak, to expose – to expose — perhaps to end; that’s the thing.  For in the ending of injustice what dreams may come when we have broken the wall that separates us should give us hope.  That’s the thing we need to make a world worth inhabiting. For who should bear the sticks and stones of mouths that shout.  Those who speak such hate, fear what they do not understand – fear that the oppressor will one day be oppressed.  Must there always be an oppressor? Must there always be people who are seen as less than worthy? The poor, the marginalized, they suffer for perceived sins; the people of color, they die for perceived guilt. Reality does not matter, for it’s more important to remain superior; to speak of “those” people like their suffering and death is deserved. For if not them, then who?  To speak or not to speak – that is the question; that is the conundrum. To kneel with those who kneel; to march with those who march.  To speak, to expose – that is the answer; for though I am one, we are many, and in the many there is power enough to oppose injustice, to stop hate, and to show that the world is good.

On finding my place

Discover Challenge: Finding your place

I have a confession: I have never felt like I “belong”.  As a kid, I never understood other kids. I didn’t like to play the same things, and I didn’t like the same entertainment.

The first book I remember reading was Jurassic Park — I was 7.  After that, I read all of Michael Crichton’s books and learned all I could about the science proposed in the books.  Other kids my age were reading about the adventures of Ramona and Nancy Drew while I was reading everything I could about genetics and wondering if we could really make dinosaurs from mosquitoes and if aliens were making us sick.  When I was 10, my favorite shows were ER and Days of our Lives, not Rugrats or Doug like the other kids my age (funny enough, I had an affinity for Barney though).  At school, I had no clue about what my peers were discussing, but I knew all about Ross and Carol’s breakups and makeups and who was killed this week on Days.

Things didn’t get any better as I got older.  Around age 13, after a tornado scare, I became obsessed with the weather and the weather channel.  Now, this wasn’t the weather channel of today with series and specials.  It was 24/7 weather.  When I was home, I stopped whatever I was doing every 10 minutes to see what was new on “Weather on the 8s” so I could analyze the radar.  I was such a weird kid.

In addition to my weird entertainment habits, I didn’t have a very stable home life.  I didn’t live with my mother until I was almost 10, and remember hoping it was the start of “normal”.  I remember thinking that finally, I’d have chores and rules and all of the other things people had on the TV land shows I stayed up all night watching after grandma had gone to bed.  Things didn’t turn out quite like I imagined.  While I didn’t have a chore chart, I did at times become the primary caregiver for my little family; a task my little sister and I took turns with.  The other kids were worried about who they were inviting to their birthday parties and I was wondering if there would be electricity when I got home. These things made me very grown very early and so I couldn’t relate with others my age at all.

All of these things gave me a very strange and independent personality.  Even as a child, I was very reluctant to ask for help.  When I was in the 5th grade, I attended a school outside my district and had to ride the city bus to school.  Well, one day, I lost my bus money and instead of telling an adult, took my sister’s hand and started walking the 5 miles home.  My teacher stopped us and took us home and told me to NEVER do that again, to come back to the school and tell someone. Well, the next time I lost my money, I was “smart” and took side roads home so we wouldn’t get caught.  We made it home that time,  but this ” I can handle it” attitude became very ingrained, so when things were bad, I just kept it to myself.

Being an outsider made me very good at pretending.  Pretending to like the things others liked, pretending to understand the struggles of being a kid, and pretending everything was okay.  When you spend all of your time pretending, it’s hard to grown into an individual because you just have to become those who you’re around and because you don’t want anyone to know how bad things are, you don’t really connect with anyone.  You don’t really belong in any “group” because you don’t know who you really are. It’s really hard to find your place in the world.

I’m not saying that I spent all of these years alone.  Throughout my life, I have had the greatest friends a girl could wish for, but I always had the feeling I was being who people wanted me to be.

Somewhere along the way, I found me.  I can’t really pinpoint when it happened, but I became a mix of all of those people and groups that I was part of for so many years. I became this quirky person who can adapt to any situation and find the good in all things. I am never out of place no matter if I’m dining with millionaires or serving at a soup kitchen. I am just as comfortable in a formal dress at a fancy dinner as I am in my boots and ball-cap in the sheep pasture. In a crisis, I am the voice of reason.  I became a confident problem solver and the one people turn to when they need answers or rescue.  I love who I have become and I wouldn’t change one thing in my life because I have found my place in the world; it’s everywhere! I belong wherever I am with whoever is there!

 

On life’s questions

Weekly Challenge: Tough Questions

Why? If you have ever had a four-year-old, then you are very familiar with this question because you likely hear it 587 times a day.  You know the kind of questions I’m talking about: Why is the sky blue? Why can’t I catch the wind? Why doesn’t the dog have to poop in the potty?  While these type of questions will drive you crazy, you are the person they trust most in the world and, to them, you know everything. These are questions you can answer, and you do so in many ways – you have to keep it interesting.  So, sometimes you will be silly.  Have you ever told your kid that thunder is just the angels having a bowling tournament? Enjoy this because as they get older, the questions get harder and harder to answer.

Most likely, before they are ten-years-old, someone in their young life will die; it could be a grandparent, a favorite teacher, or a friend.  One night, you’ll be tucking them in to bed and as you lean down to kiss them good night, they will once again ask you why.  Why did they die?  You are still the person they trust most and the one they turn to figure out the world.  If your family is religious, you might say that God needed another angel and tell them you’ll see them again one day.  If you’re not, maybe you’ll explain the circle of life and how everything goes back into the earth to replenish what we’ve taken from it.  With both scenarios, you’ll encourage them to cherish the memories they have and to focus on life.

When they are sixteen, someone will break their heart. They will come to you and ask why? Why does it hurt so much?  You will tell them the story of your first love and your first broken heart. You will assure them that with time, the pain will ease; that one day, they will find the person that shows them what true love really feels like.

When they are in their early twenties, they will come to you and ask why. Why can’t I figure out what to do with my life?  You will encourage them to find their passion. You will listen as they talk about writing, history, programming, or engineering.  You will see their excitement when they explain their subject.  When they ask why they aren’t good enough because they are turned down for job after job, you will encourage them to keep trying because the right one is out there.

A few years later, they will call you in the middle of the night and ask you Why.  Why is this baby still crying?  You might giggle a little bit and once again offer the assurance that this won’t last forever. You’ll remind them that babies grow very quickly into toddlers and toddlers in to children and before they know it, they will be answering a phone call just like this one.

When they are in their forties and their spouse decides they are ready for a different life, you’ll be there.  You’ll be there for whatever they need.  Late one night, after they’ve put the kids to bed, they’ll call you and once again ask why.  Why do I still love them after everything they’ve done to me? After all, you’re still the one they need, the one they’ll always need to help them figure out the world. You’ll tell them that they are allowed to feel whatever they need to for as long as they need to. You’ll remind them of that very first heartbreak so many years ago and how, one day, the hurt was just gone. You’ll encourage them to take this time to figure out who they are now; to learn who they are without their spouse. You’ll be the hand they need when they can’t juggle it all and the shoulder they need while they try to figure it all out.

One day, they will get a call; a call to come quickly because your end is near.  When they get there, they will take your hand and ask one last question.  How.  How will I ever make it without you? You will look into their teary, questioning eyes and grip their hand with all the strength you can gather.  You will tell them that they will be okay and you wouldn’t be going if it wasn’t time.  You wouldn’t be going if you hadn’t answered all of their questions.

When they get home they will go to check on the kids one last time before bed.  When they are tucking the last one in she will look up and ask them why? Why did you die? They will climb in the bed and take her into their arms and say, “Let me tell you what a really wise person once told me…..”

On the strangeness of life

Life is weird; it’s mystical. What I mean my mystical is that we can never fully understand it.  Think about the last time something changed you.  It’s probably hard to pin down because often the things that change us the most seem insignificant when they happen; it’s only when we look back that we see what truly transpired.

For as long as I can remember, whenever someone has asked me what superpower I would have if I could pick one, my answer has been the ability to read minds. I know it makes me seem like I’m nosy and just want to be in everyone’s business, but that’s not it at all. I want to understand people. I want to understand what makes people who they are. I want to know why they work in the jobs they they do, why they give their time to certain things, and mostly why they treat people the way they do.

What I have learned, and I’m sure others have figured this out too, is that it’s often the unpleasant things in life that make us who we are.  I say unpleasant because “good” and “bad” are too hard to define; however, it’s not too hard to define when something is unpleasant to us.  I went shopping with a friend a few days ago and we were talking about my unusually high self confidence. I pretty much think I can do anything. It made me think about how I have come to be this way.

I told her that I can point to the exact time period when I went from fearful of failure and caring what people thought to my current attitude of confidence and apathy toward other people’s feelings about me. It wasn’t a huge thing really, I had to move and didn’t want to, but that was absolutely devastating to my teenage self. Years later, I’m glad it happened.

Here, I explain how the death of a friend and my treatment of her before her death, changed the way I treat people.  Although it was a big thing, it’s also a common thing as death is more common than anyone likes. While I am not glad to have lost my friend, it made me a better person and I will forever be in her debt.

Have you ever though about going back and changing things? What else would those things have changed? What good would you lose if you changed the bad?  As for me, I wouldn’t change any of the unpleasantness of my life, because it has made me who I am, and I like me. That may sound prideful, but it’s me – take it or leave it. The truth is, we are all who we are because of what we have experienced.  Everything changes something; how we look at that something is what determines whether that change will be for the better.

If you can point to a pivotal moment and wish to share please do.  What “little” things have made you who you are?