Art, Country, Personhood, Politics

Words Matter

For a time I was the coordinator of the Kansas Authors Club Writers in the Schools program, a State Board of Education pilot project.

One of my presentations to students was on the power of words.  I told them words were magic because I had the power to put pictures in their heads.  If I said “cardinal,” a red bird popped into their heads.  If I said “rattlesnake,” not only did I put a picture in their head but also some fear or anxiety.

I have thought about the power of words a great deal over the past five years.  Words are being used to manipulate people in unhealthy ways. 

To create an us-vs-them world, we call protesters “a mob” to reframe an event.  With one word we both defame people with a constitutional right to protest and deter people away from the injustice under protest.

Ethnocentrism (inherent superiority) is alive and well as code words are used to separate people in this nation.  For instance, “the suburbs” is code for white.  “Invasion” is used to refer to immigrants or people of color moving into the United States or into “the suburbs.”

I have grave concerns about who we are as discerning individuals.  Why choose to believe a lie rather than the truth?  I suppose winning could be more important than truth to many.  For those of faith, I find it interesting that “the truth and the way” is negated to allow prejudicial behaviors and language.

Why do we perpetuate untruth with our posts?  Personally, I think some have come to believe that we live in a reality TV world, that winning is everything and truth is inconvenient.

We all have opinions about everything from constitutional government to abortion rights to civil rights, but opinions are questions of our world view and less about absolutes.  Opinions come from faith, cultural preferences and as a reaction to fear. 

Truth is many things – science, factual evidence, what I see and hear myself.  Do we try to reinvent truth to justify our fears?  Fear of change?  Fear of other?  Fear of lost control?  Fear of shared power?

We are back to choice.  I choose to speak truth.  I do not try to manipulate and I will not be manipulated.

How I value others in my life depends largely on their value of truth.  The truth is we are all Americans.  The opinions of Democrats or Republicans is of less value than the overwhelming truth that we are all members of families, this country and of the world community.  The truth is that some people try to divide us along party lines, racial lines and religious lines. 

Words matter.  Truth matters.  Choose wisely!

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Peace, Personal Growth, Personhood, Politics

POLITICS 2020

I have given a great deal of thought to linear thinking lately.  Vile posts and conversations have invaded my space.  I listened to the rant of an unfeeling Sons of the Confederacy member who believes the virus is a hoax.  I have seen posts by well-educated people who are unwilling to recognize history as a fluid experience with learning opportunities rather than as a place we inhabit mentally in perpetuity.

Both parties have people who, although not at the fringes, are incapable of expanding their world view.  Single-mindedness or linear thinking is another way of renaming lack of empathy and bigotry.  I do not believe many of these people behaving in bigoted ways are aware of their harm to others.  I also believe most would claim to be without prejudice.  Linear thinking is not given to self-examination, but is generous with the judgment of others.

I believe there is room for compromise for the sake of peace and, most importantly, for the sake of justice. 

Compromise 1:  Wear masks.  The people who want to open everything up get their way.  Those of us who want to be protected from the virus get our way.  Win.  Win. 

Compromise 2:  Relocate the monuments.  Living in Texas magnifies all symbols of personal independence.  The questions are: When the symbols of independence and freedom were erected, were they meant to only allow freedom to whites?  Were they meant to intimidate people of color?  Are these symbols of oppression more important than the living people whose souls shrink in their shadows?  Are the monuments representative of who we are today?  Do the monuments keep us stuck in the painful past?  My compromise:  Put the monuments in Confederate cemeteries or in museums.  Raise a statue of a man reading to his child in front of the local library.  Put a quote in front of the courthouse, “Justice cannot be for one side alone, but for both.  Eleanor Roosevelt.”  In front of the schools erect monuments that inspire achievement – scientists, artists, John McCain (one of my more recent political heroes).  

If we do not learn to compromise, we will lose our country.  The question for us all is whether being right is worth sacrificing our democracy.  Let’s get real and do the hard work of learning to get along.  Regardless how we may want to win all the marbles, our children may lose everything if we plant our feet in the past and refuse to move forward.

Stating the obvious: the past is behind us and the future is our gift to the next generation.  What are we creating in the now?

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Peace, Personal Growth, Personhood, Politics, Stress, Uncategorized

To My FB Friends

I heard an interesting interview of a mental health professional.  (I never remember names.)  She said there was a stress study of cadets.  The expectation was the cadets’ stress would be highest in the beginning of their studies or even when nearing finals and graduation.  The highest stress was after they passed their classes and their careers were promising.  The research discovered that the stress was higher because they no longer were in a struggle together, no longer in unity with their classmates.

I find that is true of me (and maybe you) during this pandemic.  We are not pulling together as Americans.  One political party is not the enemy of the other, unless individuals create chaos by reposting feeding-frenzy nonsense.  I personally am not going to be used by manipulators manufacturing articles to divide us.  I believe science, not fantasies.  I believe most people on both sides of the aisle are basically good and share my American values.

I am stressed each time a friend posts another deep state conspiracy.   Government workers are our hard working neighbors who have children and grandchildren who play with our children/grandchildren.  They keep us safe in law enforcement, process paper by the tons, work for the VA, investigate nursing homes complaints, and keep our tap water clean, etc… etc…..

I am stressed by people who post their rights to infect others (me!) by not wearing a mask or curtailing their activities.  As much as I grieve for those who lost loved ones – almost 80,000 families, we could have had twice that number if we had not been responsible.  The time out was not a waste of my time.  I had no burning desire to kill someone (the elderly, medical personnel, my neighbors).  I am a grown-up and can be still for a brief time.

I am stressed by people, most churched and professing love, who have chosen to be hateful rather than be my friend on FB.  It is a choice.  I will miss them, but not the hate.

My stress goes down when I behave in a loving manner, am kind and rational.  My choice.  What I control.  I hope more of my friends regain their loving centers before we are lost to one another.  No one can have too many friends, especially during a pandemic.

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Children, Personhood, Uncategorized, Women

Composing Life

Below is my WHAT I HAVE LEARNED list.

Number One: You were meant to be happy!
Make the decision to be happy. Think happy thoughts. Be with people who are positive. Be good to yourself. Watch more comedies and learn more jokes. Laugh at life’s absurdities. Take walks and long baths. Participate in good conversations. Travel. Eliminate people who are unkind from your life. Learn the value of being an existentialist. There is nothing you can do to change your history. Worrying about tomorrow is a waste. Focus on the people, places and experiences in the NOW. Energy will increase and new friends will be made. Happy, sporadic moments become living well.

Number Two: Recognize that life is fluid.
The end of a marriage, broken friendships, betrayal, job loss, death of loved ones, illness, financial issues, and the craziness in life passes and becomes memory. Take a deep breath, put one foot in front of the other, walk out on the other side, and finally let it go!!! Take the life lessons and do not carry the baggage of resentment and hurt forward.

Number Three: Always be kind to children.
Talk to children in grocery store lines. Buy Halloween and Easter treats. Give hugs to your children, nieces, nephews, friends and grandchildren. Find something positive to say about every child you meet. Make an effort to make children feel more valued after meeting you than before you entered their presence. All children belong to all of us. We are obliged to care about their educational development, emotional well-being and physical safety.

Number Four: Support other women.
Encourage and celebrate the successes of others. Leave good tips—start at 20%. Women, share your stories and laughter with one another. Be sure your girls know they are part of the sisterhood. Remember how short our history is in the role of political participation, women’s rights, and laws to protect women in the work place and in our own homes. Never relinquish what your foremothers won for you.

Number Five: Respect good men.
Good men do not objectify women.  Good men acknowledge a woman’s intellect and live with integrity. Whether in the workplace, worship center or at home, women have worth, as does he. Equals. Eyeball to eyeball. Media has belittled us all with stereotypes and caricatures depicting men and women in mind-numbing, foolish roles. We can do better.

Number Six: Have courage.
Some people live their lives in fear and cower behind bolted doors, locked minds and steel hearts. To be open and love requires great courage. Caring is risky and sometimes causes us pain. Better to absorb the pain than to never know love, fulfill a dream or travel into the unknown. Be an emotional risk-taker.

Number Seven: Be grateful.
Be grateful for the smallest gifts, wildflowers, the smiles of strangers, lessons pain taught you, your own mistakes and the insights that followed, elevator music, peanut butter sandwiches, sunlight and rain, inhaling and exhaling, memory, words, a thousand other things that you see or hear each day.

Number Eight: Not all acts or attitudes are to be forgiven.
This will be the most controversial item on my list. We put too much pressure on ourselves to forgive everyone for everything. People tell us it is for our own good to forgive rapists, back stabbers, abusers, and drivers who risk our lives by cutting in front of us at high speeds in heavy traffic. Let God, the universe or the courts forgive. Victims do not have to forgive. You must accept, grieve (if necessary), and move beyond the pain. Relieve yourself of the burden of forgiveness. If forgiveness works for you, go for it! If not, find another way to walk away from the hurt. My personal way of handling heavy hurts is to take life lessons from the events. The negatives become positives. I do not dwell on the person who caused the pain, so they become inconsequential. I focus on ways to use the lessons to make myself or the world a little better.

Number Nine: Be open.
Great things happen when we are open to change – a side trip down an unfamiliar road, a moment with a stranger in the store, a compliment given to person alone at a restaurant table, new foods, new hobbies, a bright, patterned shirt, a too high bid at the bridge table, a challenge to your own prejudices, volunteer, or make new friends outside your comfort zone. No change – no growth.

Number Ten: Love yourself.
You are the only person who knows who you really are. Be the person deserving of your love. While you are becoming a higher, mature self. Be patient with the changing, growing you. No one is perfect. Even when discouraged, something beautiful lives inside you. Your capacity to love and receive love is everything.

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Aging, Personhood, Poetry, Politics, Uncategorized

bylines ᾽round my eyes

who I am and all I’ve known,

engraved experience on a fleshy pallet,

those bylines ᾽round my eyes

 

Ownership of and living happily with our aging process is existential.  Either we have done our character homework over the years or we struggle to find joy and maintain relationships.

I have given this a great deal of thought with the political campaigns.  Hillary Clinton was born 10-26-47 and Donald Trump on 6-14-46.  They are not going to evolve into anything more than who they are.  Character set.  Game on.  The best they have to offer us are their flamboyant examples of what happens to people who choose certain paths early in life and become exactly what they wanted to be.  Goals accomplished.  In the petri dish of life, we are viewing specimens who prove how set character is by this age.

I worked for a gerontologist years ago.  He said the elderly are extremes—the happiest or saddest, angriest or kindest, most generous or stingiest, most judgmental or forgiving, absolutely honest or dishonest, loudest or softest, etc.  When our beauty fades, intellect dulls a little, and the power afforded us by work or community involvement is lessened, all that is left is our personhood—the real us.

I have worried since my 20’s about who I was going to be as a grown-up at age 75 or 80.  Some of my work has been successful and some of my character flaws were baked into my DNA.  I’ve arrived at this senior status with gray hair and extra pounds—far from the 20-something in a bikini and shag haircut.  I like this older me better.

My friends are present with wisdom, creativity and an interest in leaving the best world possible for the next generation.  They understand we have two responsibilities: mentoring and expression.

The past cannot be rewritten.  The future is short compared to where we were a couple decades ago.

Be joyful.  It is good for who you are becoming.

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Aging, Alzheimer's, Caregiving, Dementia, Memoir, Personhood

ELDER LESSONS

I read at a nursing care center every two weeks.  From the hearts of people who never remember me, I receive amazing gifts.

What is to be learned from Alzheimer’s or other dementia patients?

Sharing:  Some people enter into relationships with a requirement for memory retention.  They need verbal reflections of their own value from those who have fully-functioning memory banks and verbal fluidity.   Without empathy, the face of a person with dementia is constant frustration—the “all about me” need never satisfied.  Pure charity (love) is giving without the expectation of reciprocation.

The Existential:  In reality, all we have is the moment.  We tend to forget the present as we rehash the past and plan for the future.  Moments are lost as our busy minds run wildly.  Visiting with someone with dementia quiets our minds when we allow ourselves to be still as we hold loved ones’ hands, look into cloudy eyes, and offer kind words.  Moments become a celebrations larger than the indulgences of memory or mind-preparations for dinner or other non-monumental planning.

Recognition of Personhood:  Society, as a whole, has corrupted how we celebrate personhood.  We are asked to admire the crazies on reality TV, boorish politicians who devalue segments of our population, and advertisements defining beauty and success.  Reality TV vs. reality: people get old or have disabilities and they still have value.  Political rhetoric vs. reality: there is more value in a person who has worked for many decades, raised a loving family and done their best to be honorable than any politician who ignores the many needs of the elderly.  Advertisement vs. reality: no model is more beautiful than an elderly man or woman with a smile—with or without teeth.

What inspired this post?  I always greet and hold the hands of each resident as they come to my readings.  Again, after I finish my 20-minutes of readings and humor, I tell each person goodbye and hold their hands.

Last week, one woman pulled my hand to her lips and kissed it.  Her eyes were clear.  I bent down and kissed her white hair in need of a brush.  In that existential moment, we connected as women on a journey together.

I grieve for all those young people who are not learning from their elders.  Learning may be wisdom imparted or the acceptance of an elder who only has “in the moment” to offer.

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