Actually, No.

Here’s the thing. (Yes, there’s always a thing.) I was raised to be a good girl. My default position is to respect authority. Be cooperative. Don’t make waves. Accommodate others. And above all, always, always be polite.

Well, you know what? Fuck that. All those values are great if everyone is playing by the golden rule. But it’s been my experience that most people do not. As a result, I’ve been bullied and taken advantage of my entire life.

I’ve had it up to here. (No, not there. Much higher than that. Here.)

I’m over it. I’m done. I will not be pushed around anymore. Not by strangers, not by loved ones, and definitely not by politicians. I am establishing the sharp boundaries that I’ve always allowed to remain fuzzy at best. This far, and no further.

I’m not planning to become a bully. I’m not going to be gratuitously rude or selfish. But I won’t be passively stepped on. I am learning to stick up for myself. I’m learning that I have a right to say no. It’s frustrating that it’s taken me so long to figure this stuff out.

We need to teach our children to be respectful, yes, but also not to take any crap. Because as the world becomes more crowded, there will be plenty of crap to go around. And then some.

It is possible to be kind and strong at the same time. It’s okay, and very necessary, to stand in your power. It may take practice to reach that acceptable balance. But it can be done.

kindness

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Congressional Boot Camp

In theory, members of congress represent the will of their constituents, but in practice that hasn’t been the case for quite some time, with few exceptions. They know it. We know it. Their decisions are based entirely upon their personal ideologies, and that of their financial backers. To hell with the people. We, the people, mean absolutely nothing to them.

It always astounds me that politicians are elected and paid to pass legislation on issues that they know absolutely nothing about. How is it possible for someone to sit in judgment on topics that are completely outside of their realm of experience?

Here’s a thought. If we dismantle the fundraising mechanism for congress, if we cap the amount of money one can spend to run for office, level the playing field, as it were, prohibit contributions by corporations, and make all funds go through a general pool so that no politician can determine the source of the proceeds and therefore is beholden to no one, then the public will be running the country once again.

This would also free up a lot of time. Congressmen spend the bulk of their time in fundraising activities. If this were no longer an issue, there would be greater opportunities to do the things that they should have been doing all along: familiarizing themselves with the issues they are weighing in on.

For example, how can people vote about whether or not to go to war when the vast majority of them have never set foot in a war zone? Before they can vote on such an important issue, they should either have to live in a war zone for two months, or send their children to fight on the front line.

Don’t think waterboarding is torture? Before you can say that, you should have to experience it yourself, and also subject someone else to it.

Against abortion? I’ll take you seriously once you’ve adopted a crack baby with fetal alcohol syndrome.

Making policies that impact the homeless? Sleep on the street for a month. Preferably in winter.

Weighing in on immigration? Let’s take everything away from you, surround you with people who want you dead, and kick you out of your homeland. Then we’ll talk.

All this could be avoided if everyone in congress possessed one quality: empathy. The ability to imagine what life is like for others, particularly the less fortunate. The concept that just because something isn’t a problem for you, that doesn’t mean it’s not a problem. Until you have some moral authority, as far as I’m concerned, you have no authority at all.

End of rant.

1280px-occupy_portland_we_the_people

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Surviving Predation

When I think of the many times as a child and young adult that I was preyed upon by some sick person, it makes me wonder how anyone survives to adulthood. If I weren’t touched inappropriately, then inappropriate things were said to me, or someone tried to talk me into doing something that I didn’t want to do. Every woman I know has some story like that from childhood. It really is like being a baby animal on the African plains. Wearing a steak around your neck.

And I appreciate that parents and schools try to teach children to avoid these situations, but the whole “stranger danger” concept doesn’t help at all, because these predators are usually not strangers. They’re relatives, “friends”, or professionals/authority figures whom you are taught to respect. I was once groped by the family physician.

We have to figure out some way to teach children to listen to their inner voices. If something feels wrong, we have to teach them that that instinct is more important than respect or trust. We have to teach them that there are boundaries that no one, NO ONE can cross, and that they have rights. We have to give them permission to say, “No, I’m not doing that.” We have to make sure they understand that if someone says, “Don’t tell,” that’s the very moment in time when they have to tell.

And parents need to be taught, too, that the world is a whole lot less safe than they’d care to believe. Unfortunately, predators can come in many forms. And your child is out there alone on the plains a lot more often than you realize.

[Image credit: Youtube.com]
[Image credit: Youtube.com]

When No One Wants to Take a Stand: A Story of Neglect

I was 17 years old and a freshman in college, and I witnessed something that to this day I don’t fully understand. I’m sure there is much more to this story than I’ll be able to tell you, so I apologize in advance.

Among my fellow freshmen was a girl whom I’ll call T. To be brutally honest, she scared me. She was clearly quite severely mentally ill. I’m not just saying I could sense this, or that something was not quite right with her. I mean she was obviously and completely not there. Not even partially. Everyone knew it.

She ran everywhere she went, head down, arms kind of forward, panting, seemingly terrified. She had puppets. Quite often she’d only talk through them. I remember that one was a witch that had a creepy voice that made the hair on the back of my neck stand at attention.

She’d put on impromptu puppet shows which were incoherent cries for help. I’m fairly sure that she heard voices. But at the very least she was trying to communicate in the only way she knew how.

She should have been institutionalized, and yet there she was, with us, at a high-end private college in the Appalachian Mountains.

Even a rank amateur could tell that this girl was schizophrenic, or, uh, something, and there is no way on earth she could have possibly kept up with her studies. Any writing assignments must have been bizarre in the extreme. There couldn’t have been a question in any professor’s mind that there was a problem. T needed help.

The girl that had the misfortune of being T‘s roommate begged to be reassigned elsewhere, anywhere, but the administration refused, which is another big part of the mystery as far as I’m concerned. That girl spent the entire school year hopping from dorm room to dorm room, sleeping on our floors, essentially homeless. No one could have possibly felt safe sharing a room with T. How could you turn out the lights and sleep comfortably with someone whose only substantive relationships were her puppets? For Pete’s sake, I got the willies just passing T in the hallway.

I used to watch her running agitatedly across campus, completely disconnected from reality, and wonder why her parents had sent her there. They must have been rich. No way could she possibly have gotten scholarships. They had to have known she had a mental illness. There was no hiding it. What could they possibly hope to accomplish by foisting her off on academia? She needed help, and this wasn’t helping her.

Finally one day I couldn’t take it anymore, and I went to the Dean of Students. I told her all I knew and all I had observed about T. I could tell none of this was coming as a big surprise to her. There were only 500 students at the entire school. She knew what was up. I was hoping that someone in a position of authority would do something about this situation, but all I got from this woman was that there was nothing that could be done. I was in shock, but I didn’t know what else to do, so I’m ashamed to admit that I gave up on the whole thing right then and there.

But I would watch T, from a safe distance, running to and fro, and it always made me sad.

At the end of my freshman year I transferred from that school for unrelated reasons. I have no idea what became of T. Did she return the following year? Did she graduate? Did she ever get the help she needed? Where is she now? I don’t know.

But looking back from an adult perspective I can’t help but think that T was the victim of an institution-wide form of neglect. Obviously her parents had influence or she’d have never been there in the first place. But they didn’t care about her. Every one of her professors looked the other way as well. The administration chose to do nothing but take that tuition, which is rather sickening in retrospect.

And the girl in the center of this storm of indifference? She was just left to battle her demons by herself. And what a terrifying and lonely place that must be, emotionally and mentally speaking.

It’s so easy to just look the other way and assume that someone else will handle difficult situations. But when every adult, every single one, stands by and does nothing when a child is suffering, as far as I’m concerned that’s criminal behavior.

This, of all the stories that make up my life experience, is the one which cries out for the closure which I know I’ll never get.

T, if you’re out there, I want you to know that someone cared. I wish I could have helped you. I really do.

***************

8/22/13  Perhaps a little bit of closure after all! I just heard from T’s former roommate. She did want me to specify that these are vague recollections and not hard facts, but this is what she said:

“Hey, I read your story. I hadn’t thought about all that in a long time! I really only lived with her a few weeks. Then I went to the Dean of Students and asked if I could move to the room next door with M (who’s roommate didn’t show up). She grudgingly said yes. So I did. I lived with M the rest of the four years. I don’t remember if T came back the next year or not, but I don’t think so. I just can’t remember. Last I knew she was at a farm for mentally disabled people. I think she’s been there a long time. Hope that helps!”

witch

(Image credit: puppetsbypost.com)

You’re so Easy to Dislike

My former yoga instructor is a very profound woman.  She has a fantastic blog of her own called “in·spi·ra·tion” which I highly recommend. If you can get past the colorful language which I find hilarious but others might find offensive, and the crunchy granola-isms, you’ll discover that she imparts a great deal of wisdom.

One of the things she used to say in class (and I’m totally paraphrasing here, so forgive me, Alicia, if I don’t get it completely right) is that the people who get on your nerves, the ones who piss you off or even scare you are the very ones who are put in your path so you can learn something about yourself and see yourself more clearly. She says that you should actually seek these people out if you want enlightenment.

Once you get into the habit of seeing annoying people as opportunities rather than irritants, it really alters your worldview. Sometimes I even find myself inwardly amused rather than inwardly screaming. Sometimes.

One of the things that I find most annoying is when I’m not being taken seriously. That is exactly the way to make me see blood red, in case you ever feel the need. For example, the other day I wrote a blog about acupuncture and someone actually said that I wasn’t being cured by these treatments, I was in fact being ripped off. As if I weren’t there. As if I weren’t capable of noticing that when I went into the office I had a certain set of chronic symptoms, and when I left they were gone, never to return. As if I were some stupid, gullible, highly suggestible person who couldn’t possibly be trusted to make my own decisions about my health. As if I needed to be saved from myself and this guy was the one to do it.

So now it falls to me to ask myself exactly why this doofus rubbed me the wrong way. What am I supposed to be learning from him? Am I really that insecure? One of the things I’m most confident about in life is my own intelligence. Is it a throwback from my childhood? I definitely was not taken seriously back then. No doubt about it. But then most children aren’t. Maybe it triggers my post traumatic stress from my childhood abuse at the hands of my stepfather. I definitely don’t respond well when people in positions of authority do not have my best interests at heart. But this fool is in no way an authority figure over me. Was I just over tired? Perpetually.

Maybe he was just one more reminder that I need to, and in fact have every right to, define my boundaries. (A psychologist friend of mine once told me I needed to work on that.)  I had been putting up with this particular person’s disdainful comments for a long time. Probably a lot longer than the average person would have. I was participating in my own victimization. I pride myself in entertaining opposing viewpoints, but it was getting to the point where I no longer enjoyed this blog. My blog.

There comes a time when one has to say enough is enough. There comes a time when saying “this far and no farther” is entirely appropriate. I arrived at that point, and I did what I had to do, which was to eject him from my personal corner of the blogosphere. I feel good about raising my drawbridge, so to speak, and leaving him on the far side of the moat.

Is this the same as saying “End of Discussion” as I wrote about earlier, and as he so artfully threw in my face as his parting shot? No. End of Discussion is a tool that weak minded people use to try to shut down and control the people in their lives whom they claim to care about. I don’t care about this person and never did. No. Closing this guy out was more akin to using bug spray on a poisonous spider. You can love nature without wanting to risk your life over it. I have every right to repel poison when it is directed at me.

So thank you, annoying person, for that lesson! Now, kindly get out and stay out.

go away

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