Parts Is Parts


I have heard on the radio repeatedly over the last few news cycles how wonderful Angelina Jolie is because she has just had an elective total hysterectomy because she is at a heightened risk for certain women’s cancers.

I don’t know this because I star-gaze, or because I follow the lives of movie actresses, but because during every hour’s news reports the broadcast includes a breathy gushy report about how brave and heroic Jolie is for getting most of her lady parts removed as biohazardous to her own body.

I must right now state a disclaimer: I am only aware that Jolie has a relative (her mother?) who I think I remember as having breast cancer. I don’t know if there is a link between breast cancer and other types of women’s cancers, but I also think I remember a few years back that Jolie- equally heroically in the eyes of the media- had her breasts removed so she wouldn’t get that type of cancer either… I also must say here and now that once you eliminate that risk, I have no idea if you are clear or not. But since that isn’t the topic of this post, I will plunge ahead…

What I find notable is that in the year 2015 the best treatment for a risk of woman’s cancers is to carve up one’s body and throw away your parts. I don’t imagine Lance Armstrong’s sons one day removing their testicles and everyone shouting, “Wow guys- great job! That was so awesome of you because now you won’t get testicular cancer!What a super smart thing to do!” And if they wanted to be extra careful and took out their prostates and maybe their colons and rectums- because, hey- it’s all in that general area, and you can never be too careful when you’re talking about cancer, for goodness sake… Can you even fathom that conversation taking place- much less among journalists? I hardly think so.

I am not a person who sees misogyny or paternalism lurking behind every comment. But I find it interesting that society seems very willing to accept that for women’s cancers it is perfectly reasonable to carve up your body and rip out your insides- but for men’s cancers such a thing is completely preposterous. I could talk about how medications are routinely developed for men, or how women with the same exact medical complaints as men are frequently diagnosed as having a psychological issue whereas the men are treated medically. However, this post is not meant to be an inclusive list of every way the medical establishment is skewed against women.

This is only about how Angelina Jolie has been held up as a false hero for doing something that may be based on a false understanding of her own risk factors or may be evidence of a medical model that is so archaic that people a hundred years from now will look at us and wonder how we could have been so barbaric. How can a society that is so advanced in some ways still treats women with a family history of cancer with what is the modern-day equivalent of blood-letting? And why do we think it is praise-worthy that Jolie chose to undergo this assault on her person?

Does this piggyback onto my last post? Is this a case of ‘Look how much she was willing to sacrifice herself? She must be a great woman!’

I really can’t tell. All I do know is that in 2015 this seems very Alice Falls Through The Looking Glass to me…

The 8th Deadly Sin: Women Judging Other Women


On Friday night a family of 7 children burned up in a fire in their house in Brooklyn.

The father of the children was out of town at the time.

The mother and one of the older children survived the fire and are in critical condition in local hospitals.

When I first heard this story on the radio (having much less detail about it than I now know after reading the story I linked to above), I knew only that 7 children had died and the mother was alive because she jumped out of an upstairs window. This was my first thought:

“What kind of a mother saves her own life and lets her children die?”

Yes, that is a sick thought.

Yes, I am ashamed that I had that thought.

It’s not like I sat down and concentrated and came up with a coherent analysis of the situation and this was my conclusion. This was the first uncensored thought that came unbidden into my head. I was angry at the mother for letting her children burn up while she made it to safety, and I was equally angry at myself later on for jumping to any decisions when I knew nothing about anything.

This was my first assessment of the scene in my mind:

The house is on fire. Children are screaming from every corner, “Mommy help us! It’s so dark! There is fire everywhere! Mommy help!” And Mommy is furiously trying to make it to her own window, which she yanks up and jumps out of, into the fresh air below…

Then I woke up a bit, and re-assessed. This was my more charitable assessment:

The house is on fire. The children are asleep. They are breathing in smoke and some of them go unconscious without even waking up. The mother wakes up choking and her first instinct is to crawl to a window to open it. She doesn’t have time to think through what is going on, as she opens the window to let air in. As the flames leap around her, her survival instincts take over and hurl her outside, before she even rationally considers that her babies are still in the house. By then it is too late to go back inside, and she is overwrought…

Why I am posting about this, and why I am talking about a topic which is so awful?

First I want to ask a different question. Why do we think it is normal to expect women to martyr themselves for their children, and more globally, for those around them? This is an extreme case where I took it very far mentally when I wondered and judged, “What kind of mother would let her kids die…”, but we see permutations of this all the time that we don’t see in corresponding sectors. I don’t hear people ask what kind of doctor would let his patient die of heart disease, or what kind of sergeant would let his soldiers die or even what kind of a man would let his kids die. But here I was thinking it made perfect sense to expect a woman to immolate herself- how noble she would have been had she burned to death saving her children!- becasue a mother has to be self-sacrificing until the end. And maybe even past that.

But it’s not only in motherhood that we expect women to sacrifice. We wonder why women who choose not to have kids are so selfish. I don’t know of men who choose to remain childless being asked versions of, “How could you do that? Don’t you feel so unfulfilled? Aren’t you afraid you will regret it later?” Translation: ‘How could you be so selfish as to keep your life only for yourself?’ These women could be surgeons, professors, inventors, or other major contributors to society, but unless they are in some way involved in sacrificing themselves for the good of others, i.e. being a nun, being Mother Theresa (in fact, a nun), doing excessive non-profit work (because if you are highly paid it is not self-sacrificing enough so it doesn’t count), or being other sorts of caregivers/caretakers, they will be somewhat scorned. And to scorn, we must first judge.

It’s noteworthy that in the Brooklyn story I gave only passing thought to where the father even was. In my own family I know for sure that *h would absolutely be actively saving kids should an emergency ever arise. But I also know that I would hold myself most responsible for whatever the outcome would be. I guess that’s the double-edged sword of womanhood…

I watched a TED-talk a while back (you would think they give me kick-backs for promoting them, but they don’t) where a woman started out by saying she was watching her one year-old niece look in a mirror. She was smiling at herself and kissing the mirror and this woman wondered as she watched- at what point do we stop thinking it’s okay to love ourselves? She spoke about body image, and how it’s such a problem for today’s women and girls, and the showed a youtube video of an adolescent girl who put up a short clip to ask people if they thought she was pretty. Apparently this is common nowadays (when I told this to my kids, all except the youngest had heard of it, and the oldest few had even seen such clips), and angsty teens can post videos asking for “impartial” people in cyberspace to validate them. Some of you can guess where this is going, I’m sure- but some people posted kind things. The rest, though, posted horrid HORRID things, like U R ugly. Kill yourself. You should die U R so hideous. And this is where today’s kids are trying to get feedback on how they look and what kind of people they are.

But the fact that we are raising a generation of people who are so shaky that they would do something like that- post videos online, when cyber-bullying is at an all-time high and kids have even committed suicide because of what has been said to them and about them online- that is profoundly sad. The solution isn’t more fluffy feel-good everybody-gets-a-medal nonsense, either. The fake self-esteem shoveled around in schools today clearly isn’t working, as evidenced by the fact that more kids are depressed and medicated (or self-medicating) than ever before in history.

I think one of the first steps is in noticing our own beliefs and holding them up to the light of day. When we are afraid to look honestly at what we think and why, then we don’t change our minds, we just keep more secrets. Sometimes that can take us to very uncomfortable places, like when I realized that I really did expect a mother to die for her children. I had to ask myself if I could justify the premise that once a woman becomes a mother, her life is worth less than that of her children. And if, even if I might make that choice for myself, if that is the correct standard to apply to other people (because sometimes our personal standards can and should be applied to others, but sometimes not at all…).

Many times I will have a visceral reaction to something I see or hear, and often that initial reaction IS the correct one. But I think I can be a better version of myself if I keep myself in check by always holding up what I think to principles of honesty and integrity.

For now I will simply wish comfort to the Sassoon family, their extended family, their neighbors, and their community. May they only know sweetness in all their days ahead.

Doin’ Life


Every so often I check the database of inmates in Michigan prisons to confirm that some of my friends are still where I last left them. Is that an odd thing to read?

From my early teens into my 20s many of the people I knew were either in and out of jail or prison, or were sent away for lengthy sentences. It was kind of just a fact of life, and although for some of these people it upset me a lot to not have them around, for some of them I knew that the rest of society was a lot better off with them behind bars. It is a strange quirk of my schema of the world that I am simultaneously a law-and-order right winger and also someone who since the age of 7 wanted to be a criminal defense lawyer and still agrees in theory with certain principles of the ACLU. I stand behind the police and the military, but believe that many criminals get a raw deal in the justice system. It’s a narrow bridge I walk, but like with most issues, I make my decisions on a case-by-case basis.

In any case, over the years I have felt a certain sense of peace that although I lost touch with these particular people, at least I knew where they are. I guess it’s like putting your grandma’s wedding dress in a box in the attic, or keeping your great-aunt’s crystal goblets in storage somewhere. You have no intention of using those items, but you are happy that they exist in the world and you could theoretically access them if you wanted to. That’s a kind of cruddy way to boil it down when I’m talking about human beings, but it’s the ugly truth of how I felt, so I’m saying it like it is.

But as of 2014 five of my nearest and dearest have been discharged from the system. Two of them had been sentenced in the 80’s for murder and were serving life sentences. It’s not like these are people you can look up on Facebook (which I don’t have in any case). Even if guys in that sort of crowd did things like go on Facebook (uh, let’s call that one doubtful…), these people went into prison when there was no such thing as widespread internet. Cell phones were giant bricks that you only saw on TV shows of rich people (I imagine this was the case; I didn’t watch such TV shows, but I think I remember it from an Eddie Murphy movie…). I knew literally two people in the 80’s who owned their own computers (one of whom was my father, a computer science nerd with degrees in both math and physics. He worked for IBM. Get my drift on that one???). In school we had a “computing” class where we learned typing, but on a computer keyboard instead of a typewriter, and practiced for weeks and weeks to write the following program:

10 print “Julie”
20 goto 10

To be fair, we also figured out how to add color to the above program, and to add spaces so when it printed our names across the computer screen it would make columns or angles. We wrote our names with our friends’ names, our names with the names of boys we liked, bad words, etc etc etc. And this was endlessly entertaining to us, because computers were so new and exciting. So the odds of a guy who went into prison in the 80’s jumping into technology as a first order of business are pretty slim. More likely he is running the streets somewhere trying to figure out how to trade in his Fila gym shoes and his sweet Adidas track suit for whatever styling folks are sporting in 2015 and trying to be simultaneously enough of an OG (original gangster) to get street cred while not looking like such an OG that he seems like an old fogie.

Also, these guys don’t keep addresses. They stay in their grannies’ basements and on the couches of friends and in the beds of random baby mammas. So once they are not in The System, they tend to vaporize. They don’t get found unless they want to be found or they want to find you. Clearly these are not men who will be hopping on planes to visit me in Washington, nor will they be taking buses cross-country to show up and say hey for no special reason.

What I never would have anticipated, though, was that it actually upset me that they are out and about. I am happy for them in the way that one gets happy for a friend when something nice happens. Those who are too institutional-minded to live outside of the prison walls will go back in, but maybe a few of them will have a second (or fifth or seventh or twentieth…) chance. But I feel kind of unglued. It’s like a part of my own past has been erased and a part of my own story has ceased to exist. I know this is irrational (a quality I abhor)and yet I feel how I feel.

I suppose it’s also hypocritical of me to think it’s perfectly fine for my life to go on as per normal but expect their lives to remain frozen in time. I certainly don’t have this expectation of my friends who haven’t been locked up; they have husbands or wives and children and/or pets, and I’ve never had a problem taking that all in stride. But somewhere along the line my prison pals have ceased to be real to me and started to be cardboard cutouts of themselves.

It’s not like when other people do this. I know how that tape rolls. Insert criminal script, press play: Inmate shuffling along in jumpsuit, exercising in yard, seated in court, usually sporting tattoos (preferably gang-affiliated, if you have a very good imagination). But these were multi-faceted human beings to me. I laughed with them at movies and cried with them when relatives died and ate with them and walked the streets with them when we were mutually too broke to do anything else. We had long talks about police injustice before it was en vogue and debated what the best things were to study and why certain people were the way they were and who were the most likely people in our crowd to get killed first (we turned out to be wrong on all of our guesses). We were puzzled and frustrated and angsty and angry, just like the good suburban teenagers were- it’s just that the content of our angst was a bit different from theirs. And when I woke up and went to school they woke up and went to steal cars and rob people. Yet I loved those guys.

By the time I was in 10th grade I had seen more ugliness than I wanted to, which made me feel very sophisticated and very sick about the state of the world. I realized I could do more to help my friends by getting good grades than by running the streets with them, and by my senior year I knew how to do legal research. By college I was writing appellate briefs for a criminal defense attorney, and was still hopeful that with the right people in their corner most criminals could be reformed. Also by then, several of my friends were doing life sentences for murder, several of my friends had been murdered, and my first real boyfriend had been in jail more times than I had been on the honor roll (that was a lot).

By the time I moved to Israel I lost track of who had broken my heart more- my friends or the justice system that kept them locked up instead of helping them. As an adult, I am still conflicted about the best ways to keep society safe from criminals while still being civilized about the treatment of those same people. I not only don’t claim to have all the answers, I don’t even claim to know the right questions to ask. All I know for sure is that I plan to continue to stay curious.

I think that will be my life sentence…

Give Me Liberty Or Give Me TED


March is Brain Injury Awareness Month, and in the truest spirit of people-pleasing goodie two-shoes-ness, my brain is in full semi-shut down mode. I have been trying overly hard lately to embark on a quiet campaign of self-improvement, consisting largely of watching gobs and gobs of lectures, history channel shows on Netflix, and TED talks in every spare minute. I have stacks of library books on my couch, on my bed, on my filing cabinet, and on any flat surface I can temporary co-opt for the purpose, and I can report to you part of the way through this experiment a success rate of approximately 0%.

In one of the books I was reading (please don’t ask me which one it was) there was some research on people with damage to the basal ganglia and how this impacted abilities to form new memories and I thought, “AHA! This is me! This is why I have the brain capacity of a rotting grapefruit!” But then as I read more about the implications of this type of brain damage I realized this wasn’t me at all and I wasn’t so neat and tidy. I regularly come across things that inspire me and consciously commit myself to learning what I am learning, only to be just as dumb afterward as I was before.

This isn’t just the scattering of age, and it isn’t the inevitable decline that happens to all of us. This comes and goes based on my head pain and neck pain and other neurological symptoms. Sometimes I can be “on” and have coherent discussions, and sometimes I am the rat in the maze who can’t figure out who moved the cheese. Or even if the cheese ever existed.

But this new wave of brain dysfunction is even more harsh because I am so deliberately trying to rebuild my sleeping cells. I am trying to wake up and pay attention to things that at other times are easy for me. When I hear the ads on the radio promoting brain injury awareness I hear the voices of people with static injuries and I am reminded of all of us whose damage is more invisible and more fickle. I become very aware of all the times I seem okay and even more aware of all the times I don’t.

It’s so important to me to be smart and to have that as part of me identity but a brain injury shows me just how little control over I have over this brain which is me. We think of mind control and of working to shape out thoughts and beliefs and behaviours, but at the end of the day we are a collection of cells and of chemical soup and we are at the mercy of it all..

The terrain of my mind is like constantly shifting sand on a beach, but without the predictability of even the tides to guide me in making decisions about when might be good times to count on being more or less functional. I will have months of low tides broken by hours of high tides interspersed with days of stagnant waters, which don’t run deep. Not only is it exhausting, it is demoralizing as well.

Lately I have been trying to get to the neurologist. The trick with that is, I need to feel well enough to go, yet off enough to be motivated to spend hours traveling back and forth to this doctor. He is worth it, but it takes a lot out of me and I need to be pretty convinced a visit is warranted before I will set one up. But invariably I will feel so poorly by the time I need to get there that it is almost impossible for me to make it to his office. Clearly I haven’t perfected this system yet…

After many moons of looking outward for my life to get saved and become better, I have started to look at what is within my power. That in essence means: What can I reach from my bed, and how can I react to what is around me? And a big component has been TED talks. I have felt in the groove again, even going so far as to watch an MIT course last night on copyright law (Yes! I love this stuff!). But after I have had my fill of Aha and Wow and OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh moments, when I am trying to recreate the lectures in my mind, I will realize I am having trouble accessing that same information. And that is so hard for me.

If I understood hashtags, I would write #braininjuryawareness.
Or maybe #braininjuryselfawareness.

The most insightful question I could ask myself now would be, “Is it better to have watched a TED talk and lost it from my mind, or never to have watched at all?” Unfortunately, given the current state of my cognitive functioning, I don’t think I am able to answer it.


Another Season, Another Reason, For Makin’ Wordies…


Here’s a recent TED talk that made me think, that made me smile (extremely hard to do lately), and that made me appreciate my grasp of language and my access to TED talks. I hope you will appreciate it as much as I did!

Open Carry With A Side Order Of Open Hostility

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A few days ago I was discussing the people who periodically openly carry guns in order to reassert their rights to do so. In case you are not an avid follower of gun politics, here is the crux of the issue: in order to carry a CONCEALED weapon, you need to have a special license. The hoops you have to jump through in order to get this license vary from state to state. On one end are the most lenient “shall issue” states, which start with the premise that they shall issue a concealed weapons permit to anyone who applies unless there is a valid reason why they shouldn’t (for example a domestic violence conviction or a history of mental illness). On the other end are the states who only allow law enforcement and similar folks to have the coveted licenses.

But this applies to weapons that are concealed. The reason is that, at least in the traditional view of American lawmakers, weapons that are concealed are signs that someone could be up to mischief. They are problematic because someone could ambush you and you would never see it coming. They could do harm and people wouldn’t have time to take precautions. So our laws have always been much more stringent when it comes to concealing weapons, but there is something that has been notably absent in this body of law. And that is law regarding carrying weapons openly.

Recently, some people have taken to doing what, from time immemorial people have done to remind the powers that be that a certain right has always existed. In historical England and Scotland farmers would take their animals to graze in places known to them as open land because they wanted to assert to the government that these lands were not, in fact, open to be taken over by the government. By making sure to walk their animals over this land, and to let their animals eat, they were just reminding the government of the correct order of power. Similarly now, there are people who have taken to walking the streets with firearms openly visible just to remind folks that this is a right. If it is not periodically reasserted it may fade in memory and it may be taken away or eroded. Law enforcement may become unfamiliar with this right and then overreact when they see people who are carrying weapons. There have recently been court cases over whether or not this right is still active, and it is.

But today’s world is not the world of the past. Today we have school shootings and mall shootings and random outdoor shootings. People are gun-phobic like never before, and less people are familiar with guns than perhaps any time in this nation’s history. And as with anything else, lack of knowledge can breed fear. This seems especially true with guns. Police are understandably jumpy about unknown people walking down the street carrying large guns. So people openly carrying guns can be creating a dicey situation.

At the same time, many of the people who want to make a point of openly carrying seem to have a bone to pick with police and other authority figures. It is partly because they are afraid of the overreach of power of these very people that they are openly carrying in the first place, so cooperating with them is anathema. There are a number of videos on youtube where you can see these people carrying their long guns down the street, and when they are stopped and questioned by police, usually after several calls by concerned (sometimes hysterical) citizens reporting armed men in the street, they are downright hostile. Yes, they do have a perfect right to be doing what they are doing. And yes, it’s true that they don’t have to give answers to the questions they are being asked by the police. But their ‘please confront me I dare you‘ attitude doesn’t make them the best ambassadors for gun-rights advocates.

On one hand here’s how I think things should play out: I think before someone is planning an open carry he should walk into his local police station and let them know, “Hey guys, at 3 pm tomorrow at 4th and Main Street, I am going to walk down the block openly carrying a weapon to assert my Constitutional rights. You can check who I am so you will see I am not sketchy and not up to no good.” This does several things. It puts the police on notice so when the 911 switchboard gets flooded with calls the operator will know how to process the calls. It won’t tie up his or her time getting unnecessary details and dispatching cars to the scene of a non-event. Also, they can calm down the callers, instead of allowing public hysteria to whip itself into a frenzy. It reassures the police that you are not some wacko when you stroll down the street- in the latest example it happened in front of a school- and lets them know you are following legitimate laws. It gives the police some time to formulate a correct response to what you want to do, one that respects your rights while keeping others both safe and calm, and it lets them do this with a cushion of both time and space.

Here, however, is where my internal conflict comes into play: Part of the reason citizens need to preserve a right to carry weapons is in case the government over-reaches its power. Whether or not you believe in what some would characterize as conspiracy theories, it is absolutely true that in every country where government power has been held in check citizens have played a key role in holding their governments accountable. Our own history is one of armed citizens fighting off a king who had become overbearing and oppressive. So to have to report in with a government body and run your plans by them before you open carry kind of defeats a crucial part of the purpose behind it. To say otherwise is to miss the point. Also, the court cases that have upheld citizens’ rights to openly carry specifically said that those citizens did not need to give their information to the police. Unless you are doing something wrong, or are suspected of doing something wrong, the police cannot force you to identify yourself. Doing so violates your Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable searches.

People who openly carry are doing so with the best of intentions. They are trying to preserve rights for all of us. Even if we don’t use those rights now, it doesn’t mean we won’t want or need to use them at some time in the future. And these people are at the vanguard of the fight to maintain those rights in a legal way. I have to applaud them for not only standing up, but for doing it in a way that demands they be both educated and dedicated when it comes to those rights. That isn’t always an easy battle. Much simpler to just wait with a cache of weapons and then jump into the fray if times ever get tough than to put yourself out there to be ridiculed and scorned by those you seek to protect. So I have to applaud those who are willing to walk the walk, even if I wish they would have better people skills at times. Sometimes keeping tyranny at bay is best done by those who are willing to get their aprons dirty and their hairdos mussed… They may not be the prettiest girls at the fair, but I’d darn sure want them on my team if push came to shove…

So on one side, I completely understand that in a world of maniacs with guns who shoot up schools, police are justifiably nervous about random people carrying guns who then won’t identify who they are or what they are doing with those guns. On the other, I am quite sympathetic to the reasons that compel these same people to carry these guns and walk on those streets and avoid answering the questions that would give the police peace of mind while simultaneously chipping away at our rights to openly carry. And I’m not sure what the correct balance should be. It’s a tough question, as all good constitutional questions should be, and it makes me both sad I’m not a lawyer and grateful I’m not a Supreme Court Justice. Either way, it definitely makes for an interesting intellectual exercise.

Turning Down The Volume On My OCD


I don’t have diagnosed OCD. I don’t want to diminish those who do. But I have serious OCD tendencies, and I think my father does have undiagnosed OCD, which he was not at all reticent about making us the victims of (having fits if items on the coffee table were not perfectly perpendicular to the edges, making us re-vacuum, sometimes multiple times, if the lines on the carpet were not prominent enough after we finished cleaning a room, waking me up in the middle of the night to do dishes, etc.). In some aspects of my life, I feel like tending toward OCD serves me quite well. I am extremely organized and efficient. I can often just look at something and figure out the best way to get it done (much to the frustration of *h, who has to puzzle over things while I fume that he is taking too long and I already solved the problem… poor *h- I really do test his patience a lot…)

But the flip side to this is that the greater my anxiety, the more my need to organize and clean. So I can be stressed out about X, and I will need to organize my pantry. I can be nervous about Y and I will have to clean the kitchen. And if I am already stressed out and I see things around me in chaos, woe to the person who caused that chaos, because I can be downright ornery.

Add to that my brain damage (March is brain injury awareness month, by the way), which gives me visual processing problems, and I can be very easily overloaded by clutter in my surroundings. In fact, I have instituted a new policy in my house that for every new thing that comes in, two things have to go out. I spent this morning going through my sons’ closets and posting their outgrown clothing on a community bulletin board so that other people can hopefully benefit from things that are driving me into brain decompensation. Very win-win.

What’s not so win-win is that my anxiety about being prepared in case of emergency also trips off my anxiety about having too much stuff. So I swing between accumulating things I think we need (extra food, solar-powered flashlights, etc.), and then feeling suffocated by possessions and trying to cull what we own so I can not feel like a hoarder. There are things we need, like extra blankets, but I am in a bit of a quandary over how many blankets are good to have. After going without heat for many months, I can certainly see the value in having a store of warm bedding, but back then we had power so we could use space heaters when things became intolerable; obviously if the power was down for some reason that wouldn’t be the case. However we are in a relatively temperate climate, so it’s not exactly sub-zero. But what if our friends or neighbors needed blankets? Sure we are not a warehouse for everyone else. And it does feel cold without heat. And on and on and on. This is the rat race of my mind, and I do this for every object that we have.

In watching hoarding shows, I see this is how classic hoarders think. Every single thing has potential use or value and therefore nothing can be parted with. So their houses are like trash dumps. Don’t get me wrong. I take out trash without fail. I take out recycling like it is my mission in life. I even routinely donate items we can no longer use, like clothing my youngest has grown out of, or miscellaneous household goods.

But when it comes to things I think would be of use in a grid-down (*h hates that I am “paranoid”) or other emergencies- catastrophic or otherwise- I have a real problem deciding exactly what and how much of what I should keep. A big part of this is my anxiety talking and not my rational self. I think it blurs the lines between my common sense and my nervousness. So I imagine that a person with a clearer head would just calculate how many people are in their family and figure out how many blankets to keep. They would decide how many cans of corn it would take to keep their family happy for a reasonable length of time and keep that many in stock. But for all of my research abilities and all of my organizational skills I can’t seem to get out of my own way enough to not have extra provisions. I do force myself to be altruistic from time to time and share things- like when Amazon accidentally sent us extra giant-size boxes of cereal and I gave some to a family in need in our community. But for the most part I would rather get rid of our couch (I am actually not joking, much to the chagrin of *h) than of my food stores.

I don’t think this would bother me so much if I felt like I was being more systematic about it. If I had a goal for preparedness and then I could meet that goal and say, “enough”, then I would have peace of mind. But as things are now the more unglued I feel the more I have an urge to stock up. The more I have queasiness in the pit of my stomach, the more I am checking into solar-powered lanterns or do-it-yourself medical supplies that I can stuff into secret locations around my house where they don’t clutter my line-of-sight but they will hopefully calm my pounding heart. Yet there is always something around the corner that makes me re-quease or re-pound and then it’s back to the think-tank of my mind about what supplies to lay in for the disaster that will hopefully never come.

And so. I am a bit stuck. I am 100% convinced that it is smarter than smart to be prepared. Food is useful because as long as we rotate it we can eat what’s there and put the newest things to store. So it’s not like I am throwing away money. The blankets are ones we have owned for ages and the things like toiletries are items that don’t spoil (i.e. toilet paper). What I am more troubled by right now is that, as someone who tries to be self-aware, I am aware that I am not being wholly rational and I hate that. I hate feeling like a slave to my anxiety, but I would hate having my family caught short because in my fervor to purge belongings I got rid of some crucial supplies. In summary, I don’t know what to do.

As per usual at times like these, I turn to all of you. I have been as honest as I can in putting forth a full and complete picture for you. What do you think about all of this? What, if anything, do you think I should change?

Is there a better way to be prepared but not stressed out?

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