Does Disagreement Equal Diss?

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In the previous post I asserted that words should mean what they originally meant. Over on the Facebook page associated with this blog (which I don’t run or control, and which ironically I don’t have the ability to comment on, since I don’t have a Facebook profile…) people are getting pretty upset with me for  what they perceived to be my bad attitude toward people of certain genders or identities.

That’s interesting to me, since not once in my post did I say anything negative whatsoever about anyone. I said that I didn’t advocate any type of mistreatment of anyone, and when someone on the Facebook page was kind enough to post a link of information regarding definitions of different genders and fluidity of genders and whatnot, the first thing I did was click on it and read it straightaway. I am certainly willing to learn and be educated, but none of what I read changes the fact that I am not a bigot, am not a hateful person, and did not accuse anyone of being a “freak” nor in any way a bad person. I was not attacking anyone on a personal level. I talked about language, which works better if we can agree on common definitions.

I was not trying to offend people- HUMAN people- by critiquing language- WORDS that are not alive. The fact that this has gone so horribly wrong makes me not want to check “my privilege”, as much as I now want to check my sanity.

For what it’s worth, I will say this unequivocally: I apologize if anyone felt personally attacked by what I said . That was not ever my intent.

 

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Cis-Blogger in a Non-Cis-World

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A few weeks ago I watched a lecture where the speaker used the term “cis-male”. I had never heard that before, so I googled it to check what it meant. Much to my surprise, it means a person who was born as a male and identifies as a male. Oh. So, uh, a male?

It was a pretty powerful statement to me on the current standards of society that we need a new special term for something that just is what it is. As if we now need to specifically clarify that what you see really is what you get, rather than being able to rely on the assumption that the default in a given situation will be that what lies before us is indeed what lies beneath. My pen is indeed a pen and not a reindeer; therefore it is a cis-pen. That body of water in my backyard is not a vacuum cleaner, so I guess we can now call it our cis-pool…

This whole idea bothers me because words matter. When I order a winter coat online I don’t want to have to read a 47 page disclaimer to understand whether it is actually a tablecloth. I expect it to have two sleeves, a zipper, and be warm enough to get me through a chilly season. If we as a society can’t agree on certain basic definitions as a starting point for discussions, then things devolve into chaos.

And obviously that leads us into touchier, less politically correct, areas.

I want marriage to mean what it has traditionally meant, not because I want to stand in the way of people who love each other being together or having certain rights, but because the word “marriage” refers to a very specific thing and that’s what it means.  A man is a man, not because I am full of a hate, or a bigot or homophobe or anyone a phobe,  or whatever the term du jour is- and I and I most certainly don’t ever ever advocate or condone any violence or mistreatment of anyone , but because, again, a man is a very particular sequence of DNA and you either are that or you aren’t.

There are already plenty of laws on the books for how humans should treat humans. If you want more, advocate for more. But those laws need to deal with actions and behaviours. Because when it comes to playing fast and loose with language, to the point where I have to ask for a mission statement about every word you say, and issue a decoder ring with every sentence I utter, it is the tower of babel all over again.

And that didn’t end so well the first time.

 

 

Time Of Our Freedom- From Dirt, From Dust, From Free Time

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This is the time of year when practicing Jews the world over are preparing for the upcoming holiday of Passover. Among Jews who are strict in their observance, one of the major things we do to get ready is to rid our house of all leavened products. Lest you think this is as straightforward as merely going through the food in the house and getting rid of those containing yeast or other rising agents, let me assure you that it is quite, uh, not that.

In order to be super extra careful that we don’t own so much as a stray Cheerio, we go from room to room searching in drawers and under beds, in pockets and at the backs of closets, in cabinets and behind books on shelves. We vacuum and spray and wipe, and if this sounds funny to you I will assure you that there are few things less funny than finding what you think is a several weeks old peanut butter and jelly sandwich in your husband’s unused briefcase, only to discover upon closer inspection that it is in fact a several months old grilled cheese sandwich. Ya, that really happened.

When my kids were of the putting-toys-in-mouths age, I used to clean each bigger toy individually, but put lego and smaller toys in mesh lingerie bags and throw them in the washing machine (#Jewishlifehacks. You’re welcome.)

The bigger issue, though, is this: because many of us have large-ish families and don’t get a ton of time to do deep cleaning like this, Passover is a wonderful time to really deep clean. As long as there is a religious mandate to pretty much touch every single object you own, it seems like a great time to simultaneously spring clean. So while you are moving the items in your closet to vacuum it out, why not sort things for Goodwill? As long as you are opening the blinds on every window to wipe down the sills, why not scrub those pesky windows too? And once the cleaning products are out it is certainly a fantastic time to clean each crystal on your chandelier, right?

Well, wrong.

Believe it or not, the time when you are already busy with your normal packed day full of responsibilities, and then you are adding the more-than-full-time job of more-than-OCD-level cleaning in preparation for the upcoming holiday is NOT the best time to add extra tasks to your to-do list like sort, label, and catalog every piece of spare electronic equipment that has been hanging around your house since the early 90’s. Sure it sounds like fun to watch those random DVDs and then take any that are scratched to the cute little store you passed once on your way home from somewhere only 28 miles away that repairs scratched DVDs. But maybe you could do that, say… during summer vacation?

A famous Rabbi once said, “Dirt is not chometz (leavening) and your family is not the korban Pesach (the Passover sacrifice).” That’s a great thing to remember. Your walls might be filthy, but unless that dirt is made out of flour and water, you are good to go as far as Passover. Your toilet bowl might be dirty, but if you have limited energy (and unlike me you don’t consider cleaning to be a leisure activity) then your time for Passover cleaning is better spent scrubbing a kitchen cabinet than taking a toothbrush to the hardware that attaches the underside of the toilet seat to the rim (okay, yes, I’m guilty of this, but not for Passover, and not a toothbrush that we use for mouths, obviously!).

The to-do list for Passover cleaning is already so exhaustive that when I tried to make up things to be tongue-in-cheek I actually couldn’t think of things that were outlandish enough without running up against things that people actually do. Short of saying things like re-roofing your house (and truthfully it wouldn’t surprise me too much if someone posted a comment on here and said, nope, my in-laws do this!), one can find people who go to almost any lengths to be Pesach-Perfect.

You’ve gotta give them credit for trying. They have the right spirit. They want to do the right thing. The commandment is to get rid of leavened products, and by golly by gosh, they are darn well going to do just that. The things is, at a certain point, we have to ask ourselves how much of what we do is about fulfilling the commandment and how much about fulfilling other people’s expectations or our own egos. If my neighbors see my walls are dirty (Well, not MY walls, said with 8 trillion degrees of haughty arrogance, please, and a whole lot of laughter!), will they think that means I slacked off on cleaning properly? Will they think I’m lazy about other important religious tasks? In a religious-based community that can have far-reaching negative consequences, so that is not to be taken lightly. And then there is straight ego. If my neighbor, who teaches school full time and has 34 kids, can still find time to clean 9 hours a day and have a shining sparkling home, then why should I do the bare minimum? Just because I don’t have to wash the windows in my shed, does that really mean I shouldn’t? And we drive ourselves into the ground by shoulding on ourselves (ya, read those last few words out loud, okay?). I should do more. I should be better organized. I should stay up later. I should work harder. I should be everything I think everyone around me is, which is funny because they think the same about me. So everyone loses equally.

Well here’s a news flash: my toilet is still cleaner.

So now you can all rest easy.

You have no hope of ever competing, so just go to bed early.

You can thank me another time.

🙂

Allied- The Movie, The Metaphor

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The other night *h and I watched the movie Allied. Non spoiler alert- I won’t give away the plot, because it mostly had no plot. I will say, in defense of the movie, that we didn’t watch the last half hour of it, so it very well could be one of those flicks that has such an epic ending that it makes the entire rest of the movie worth watching. However…

It was the type of movie where you kept waiting for it to start. Every few minutes, for maybe the first hour or so, *h and I glanced at each other as if to say, “Is it just me? Am I missing something here? Is this the set up for the movie, or the actual movie?” I felt worse for *h than myself, since he prefers to see something explode within the first 11 seconds of a movie, or at the very least a screaming car chase, whereas this felt more like embarking on War and Peace- perhaps in Swahili.

But here’s where I feel like it’s a very good illustration of what we do in real life. We spend a lot of time watching it go by, waiting for it to get started. We observe the events from a distance, while time is passing, perplexed as to why we aren’t having more fun. We “throw good money after bad” because once we are invested in something we want to just see it through.

I used to eat like this. I would take a bite of something, and even if it wasn’t delicious, I would keep eating it because that’s what was in front of me. Like, say I was excited about having a jelly donut. I would think for however long about how good that donut would taste. I would imagine the texture of it. But if I bit into it and it was eh, I would still keep eating it because I finally got the donut. And I would eat Every Single Bite. Now I taste stuff and if it doesn’t wow me, I put it down. Why bother with food that isn’t great? Unless you are truly starving, or in a position where you don’t have another opportunity to eat for a while (like on an airplane), calories need to be splurged on stuff that’s delicious. But I digress…

To bring it back on topic:

Your time should be splurged like this too. There are plenty of have-to things in life. If you have to take your kids to the pediatrician, you really have no choice over how long you sit in the waiting room. You aren’t asked for your input over how many minutes you would like the doctor to keep you hanging around once you are in the exam room or how many germs you want to be exposed to while you are there. There are plenty of opportunities to “suck it up” in multiple areas of life. So when you do have choices, it seems a shame not to put some thought into them, and to just live your life on autopilot.

As people we tend to get very attached to something we have invested time in. If you start a recipe, even if the ingredients cost 28 cents, you gosh darn want people to taste that recipe even if it’s a flop and it takes you hours to fix it. If you get into a book you want to see how it turns out because now it’s YOUR book, regardless of what else you could be doing beside plodding through the next however many pages. And if you start a movie, even if it’s a d-u-d, you want to see it through til the end, even if it’s 9 hours long, like Allied was (ok, maybe a slight exaggeration), has no discernible plot, and is making you regret having eyeballs.

Certainly there are important things in life that one should see through. It’s not okay to drop out of school because it doesn’t thrill you every second. It would be unconscionable to stop parenting because it isn’t always gratifying. But sometimes with things that are unimportant and optional, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to stop and ask if what you are doing is something that is bringing you joy and satisfaction, or if it wouldn’t be better to cut your losses.

Because not every jelly donut is delicious. And some Allies are not your friends.

Prone To Overcorrection

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One of the most un-lovely fallouts from being chronically ill is that my life has become very small in many many ways. To my mind, I am currently in a state of extreme stasis. Equilibrium. I am finally mostly off the roller coaster of constant crashes and ER visits and horrible pain spikes and major health crises. But this has come at a price, and lately I am wondering if the price is too high.

Because I see that my family has become collateral damage to me treating myself like a fragile molecule.

Let me break that down a bit so you can understand what goes on.

I feel mostly rotten about 98% of the time. I am physically uncomfortable in varying degrees, dealing with pain that is either hurty or pretty darn severe 100% of the time.  I feel great never. So I have gotten used to avoiding anything that will exacerbate my pain or discomfort.

The problem is that this gets to be a slippery slope. Things like sitting at the table playing a board game with my kids makes me hurt. My back hurts, my neck hurts, and at some point my head will hurt worse. My nausea will escalate and I will spend the night chasing it down with meds, hoping I don’t throw up. Will I die? No. Will I need medical attention? No. Will it injure me? No. So should I suck it up sometimes and just do it? Probably. And it’s like this with a lot of activities that come up in our daily lives. From taking walks, to going out, to running various errands. If it’s at all a stretch for me I will invariably decline to do it.

I have gotten so sick and tired of feeling awful that I have gotten myself into a space where I will avoid feeling worse at almost any price. My default position is to say no to everything because almost everything makes me feel worse all the time. My life being a narrow spectrum is pretty darn fine with me as long as I just don’t feel any worse than my baseline of mediocre-ly bad. If my base pain level is a 6-7 and I am managing it and hanging on and keeping the house running, I feel like I can’t spare those extra few points on the pain scale to be a more fun mom or a more spontaneous wife.

Except I’m not the only person in the equation.

And that’s something I’ve been forgetting.

That when I say no, no, no, I’m not just limiting myself. I’m cutting off the options for everyone around me. I’m limiting fun for my husband and my kids. I’m making my husband’s world smaller and my kids’ disappointment bigger. My illness takes center stage and my failure becomes larger than life. It’s pay now or pay forever.

So my pain is more managed, but ironically my life is more out of control.

Right now I’m kind of struggling with how to fix that.

If I was a hypochondriac, or merely exaggerating, I could give myself a big fat pep talk and, heck, just smile and cheer on up my way out of this mess!! 🙂

But my pain and sick is for real, and I don’t know how to make that fade enough to not scream in my face every time I try to quiet the noise.

I can do more on “good” days, but the reason I even have “good” days is because I treat myself so gently so much of the time.  For someone who was raised with “push through it” and “no pain , no gain” and “pain is weakness leaving the body”, all of this coddling is downright abhorrent. I literally used to hate and despise myself for not being tough enough to just be un-sick through sheer force of will. But I’m here to tell you, whether it’s a failure or not, all these years later, I simply cannot do it. I haven’t been able to overcome it, and it is what it is. I still can’t stand it, but I don’t seem to have a choice.

And my family’s along for the ride.

The question is, how do I make this ride as comfortable as possible for all of the passengers, now that I am reminded that I driving a bus and not a unicycle?

 

 

 

 

The Control Myth

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I just watched yet another documentary on anorexia where they posited that a main motivator for girls and young women becoming anorexic is seeking control. Under this theory, which I literally have been reading and hearing for decades, these women are seeking to control something, something, in their lives. So they control their food. They control their diets. they control their calories, they control their exercise. They control their food habits, and their food quirks, and their food rituals, and often through those food idiosyncracies they control everyone around them. In some cases they binge and they feel out of control so they purge to get back into control.

But what if that paradigm is completely wrong?

And what if that’s why anorexics so seldom get better and stay better?

Sure, lots of girls (and women) who go into treatment (end even those who don’t, but have eating disorders nonetheless) have type-A personalities. They like control. They like to excel and they want to succeed. Maybe they are perfectionists.

But I have never- and I mean never- I mean bar none, no exceptions, not a one, not a single bingle itty bitty one- met/known/or heard of any girl or woman who began an eating disorder because her life needed more control.

Every one- with no exception- started because of a weight issue. Whether real or perceived, whether objectively true or medically completely unnecessary, each and every one felt she needed to do something about the size or shape of her body. And at some point that became (through whatever process was unique to that individual) an eating disorder.

If we could rewind that life back to age 10, 11, 12, 14, 15, and wave the magic wand that would make her feel okay enough, good enough, acceptable enough, beautiful enough, curvy enough (but heaven forbid, not too much), there would never be an eating disorder. If we could create perfect bodies (hear me carefully- I’m not saying “If we could create a society that accepted all body types as equally lovely and wonderful…” That isn’t this post, although there is certainly a place for that, okay?)- but if we could creat perfect bodies, and in each school and each city and each clique that definition would be slightly different- eating disorders would vanish.

Certainly at some point a control aspect does come into play with eating disorders. But to focus on control as the vortex of the storm is like saying control is the central issue in alcoholism because an alcoholic controls what they drink, when they drink, how much they drink, how much they put away for later, who they prefer to drink with, how much ice they prefer, what cup they prefer to drink out of, if they prefer to smoke afer or with a drink, what brand(s) they like, if they have rules about drinking and driving, if they have a favorite bar, etc etc etc.

A thing I have always found ironic about eating disorder treatment is how- especially given the idea that the disease is supposedly about control- that the treatment is about wresting every drop of control away from the patient. From therapists who believe that these women are sick because they need a sense of control, in-patient treatment(granted, lives can be at stake…) on every level every minute of the day seems designed to reinforce the idea that the woman no longer is capable of controlling any aspect of her life at all. She must eat what they say, under a time limit they impose, on a schedule they set, according to a daily routine they decide on, etc etc etc. And gain the amount of weight they determine to be healthy.

Sometimes you can see at the end of a documentary, a “success” story. A woman who is clearly medicated, who seems super blissed out, who is past a normal weight and is now pleasantly plump. You know that she is in heavy therapy, probably working hard to be okay with that, but if her therapist wasn’t on speed dial or she wasn’t heavily medicated it’s likely she is or would be suicidal. Because a woman doesn’t go from so anxious about her body that she gets an eating disorder to overweight without some serious angst. Then there are the woman who appear to be a healthy weight (the majority) but who are interviewed and you hear over and over are still fighting their ED. And always one or two die.

I wonder why it is so hard for the therapeutic community to let go of the idea that eating disorders are about control. What would it mean for them to admit that what they have been doing for so many years just isn’t working (the statistics are there already, so it’s not like it’s a secret), and try something new? I can’t think of any other illness where the medical community takes one glaring symptom and makes that the central focus. Can you imagine a cancer patient only being treated for pain? Or a heart patient only being treated for fluid retention? Or a gambling addict having the main focus of his therapy being getting counseled on how not to overdraft his checking account?

It hasn’t bothered me in the past, but for some reason tonight it just sent me into overload. Maybe it’s because I have yet another child in this age group, or maybe it’s because I am just bothered by continued misunderstanding. Maybe I have just seen one too many girls falling into the abyss, and I truly hope that finally someone will wake up and get this all correct.

Even If I Never Do Anything Else…

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Last night I watched an old episode of Oprah on YouTube. It was a follow-up on a story she had done some time ago about a 6-year-old boy who had been horribly abused (I never saw the original story, but there was enough material from the original that it was absolutely clear). Among other things, the boy had been locked in a bathroom closet, chained and starved, ignored and treated horribly. At some point his 14-year-old step-sister ran away from home and when she was picked up by police she told them about the little boy being abused at home. Police sent a social worker to the home- who found no evidence of abuse (I won’t even touch on this right now)- but the original officer who had picked up the runaway found her story too honest and too compelling to simply ignore. He figured out a way to assess the boy for himself, and saw glaring evidence of abuse. He interviewed the boy and heard such a catalog of horrors that the parents (a biological father and a step-mother) were promptly arrested and tried for their crimes.

The story was publicized, and the officer received many letters commending him as a hero. When asked about his actions that day, he said something along the lines of ‘I may never accomplish another thing in my life. But at the end of my days I will know I accomplished this.’

That pretty much gave me chills.

Not only because he quite literally saved that boy’s life. But because when his pivotal moment came, he stood up and did the right thing.

I don’t know how many people when faced with an ambiguous situation choose to sit down and stay silent. Let someone else take care of it. Cower in the face of making the first move. In this case a trained social worker evaluated the situation and wrote an official report: nothing to worry about. But this officer’s gut told him different. He was worried and a child’s life hung on his decision. Be uncomfortable and possibly embarrassed, or go with the flow and don’t make waves? How many people would choose complacency over action? This man didn’t choose silence. He chose to do the right thing, and that’s what made him a hero. And for the rest of his life, he will know that when his moment came, he showed his true character. HERO.

A few days ago we were involved in a situation involving someone who had committed crimes against children. I won’t disclose details of the particular situation because they aren’t important, but what happened afterward was both perplexing and enlightening. A group of parents “decided” (and I put this word in quotes very deliberately- I will explain why in a second) that it was okay for their children to be around this man as long as another adult was present. First off, you can be darn sure that if I KNEW someone had offended against children he wouldn’t be within the vicinity of any of my kids, or any kids I had the power to protect- not with another adult present, not with me present. All it takes is the blink of an eye for one oops moment (especially in a group setting) and someone has come to irrevocable harm. And to what end? So you can show what an enlightened person you are that you don’t hold someone’s past against them? Uh, no thanks. I will take a pass on that particular lack of judgement. That person has given up the right to not be judged in that specific way. Too bad, so sad. Not on the backs of my kids, though. Shouldn’t be on the backs of any kids…

So why do I say the parents “decided”, in quotes? Because I don’t truly believe that most of those parents made a decision. I believe that in groups, people are often shamed into capitulating to things against their better judgement. If someone in leadership says here’s what we’re gonna do… Or this thing is okay… Many many people are too hesitant to say Oh, No. That most decidedly is Not Okay. So in the above scenario some person (I will hold back from extemporaizing on what I think of such a person’s character…) says publically that the offender is going to get a chance, and everyone can show how welcoming and embracing or whatever whatever they are by “accepting” this person. If someone has reservations, they feel like a big jerk to say anything, so they are shamed in to silence. And then it is presented as a group decision that someone who has harmed children is now to be included, and let’s all hold hands and group hug.

Equally often, people don’t think at all. they see what is, and simply take it for granted that Someone (ah, the great all-knowing, all-wise Someone, who we can trust so we don’t have to bother…) has thought about this and considered all angles and made the decision for us. After all, this thing is happening, so it must be right, yes? So we are content to accept the status quo, and because it seems to make sense, or usually because it just plain easier to go along or to not have to think for ourselves, we let things roll. So they roll.

In the above scenario, I got in touch with the person in charge. I said both (I’m paraphrasing) “What are you thinking?” and “Are you crazy?” The answers I got were unsatisfying, and someone asked me why I bothered. Why was I getting upset over something I couldn’t change? And why was I poking my nose where it didn’t belong?

And my answer was a variation of what that officer said, even though I hadn’t heard it at the time. Because I try to make it my habit to react in every moment in ways where if I have to look back I will know- that even if I never accomplish another thing in my life, at least I can look back on each pivotal moment and know that in that moment, I acted in a way that was right and correct. At the end of the day, you never know what action you take will make you a hero to someone, so be prepared.

And don’t be afraid to stand up.

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