Harsh Environments

I wonder about the people who live in these places.

I have always been fascinated by harsh environments. The relentless heat of the Atacama Desert. The cold, windy, thin-aired regions of Tibet. The remote isolation of Pitcairn Island. The International Space Station. Someday, the Moon or Mars. In particular, I wonder about the people who choose to live in these places.

From my comfortable perspective, I can’t imagine making the sacrifice to live in the extreme. You’d have to be very motivated, either by the desire to conduct research or the ability to make insane amounts of money, or you’ve been given no other choice. That last bit would be my definition of hell.

I can’t imagine being born on an island in the most distant reaches of the ocean, and never knowing anyplace else because you’re too poor to leave. I would hate to feel trapped and miserable in perpetual snow or heat. It really demonstrates how weak we are, when faced with the forces of nature. I feel really grateful for my circumstances.

Well, until yesterday. Nature reared up and slapped us in the face on that day. A snowstorm beyond all reckoning. So bad, in fact, that I couldn’t make the 25-mile commute to work, even if I stuck to the major arterial roads. The slightest hill had cars spinning out. The on ramps to highways were full of collisions and abandoned cars. I’m glad we were stocked up on groceries, because I wouldn’t have even wanted to go a block down the street to the grocery store in this mess.

Sometimes you choose the environment, and sometimes the environment chooses you.

My bridge yesterday.
My poor dachshund, second guessing his need to pee.
There’s a reason my rain chain isn’t called a snow chain.

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A Unique Opportunity to Cut Off Our Lunatic Fringe

Most of us can agree on much more than we think.

I know you’ll find this hard to believe, but I genuinely believe that not all Republicans are bad. But if we have learned nothing else from the insurrection in the Capitol a few days ago, there are definitely some on the absolute lunatic fringe (as are some democrats, of course). Most of us watched their actions in utter horror. I genuinely believe that includes the average Republican, too.

There are many things most humans can agree on. Violence is unacceptable. Our democratic process should be inviolate. We need to protect our planet as it’s the only home we have. Basic human rights should apply to everyone. We need to improve our healthcare system and our schools. Murder is unacceptable, as is rape, sex trafficking, and theft. We need more invention and innovation. Hate gets us nowhere. Facts are facts.

I think both parties should add the above, with mutually agreed upon wording, to our national platforms. We should rename ourselves the Rational Republican Party and the Rational Democratic Party. If our members can’t agree with all of the above, then they should not be considered part of our membership. They should be rejected outright. “Your hate and violence are not who we are. You do not speak for us.” Let them form their own insane little cohorts and self-destruct.

Each party, of course, still has room for a lot of planks in their platform that the other party may disagree with, and that’s okay. But we have got to agree that we can no longer turn our backs on basic human morality. The lunatic fringe does not deserve our support.

I think if we did that, we might discover that we all agree on much more than we think.

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Lack vs. Abundance

There is an interesting human spectrum that tells you a great deal about people. I call it the generosity spectrum. But it also has a great deal to do with trust, confidence, kindness, and a sense of karma.

At one extreme, you have people who are so wide open that they put themselves at risk. These are the people who will not only pick up every hitchhiker they see, but will invite them to come crash on their couch for a couple of months. Need a shirt? Here’s the one off my back. Yeah, I know it’s snowing, but you said you needed a shirt.

At the other extreme, you get the bitter old men who will not let the neighborhood kids retrieve their balls from their yards. They see everyone as a threat, and guard their property jealously. They are definitely not people who will support you in times of crisis. In fact, they will resent that you even ask.

I don’t think either extreme is particularly healthy, to be honest, but I must admit that I try to surround myself with people toward the more generous end of the spectrum. The reason I do that is that I’ve noticed that those people who look at the world from a place of abundance tend to have more positive things happening in their lives. As unscientific as it is, abundance tends to breed abundance.

Sadly, I’ve had quite a few encounters with the opposite extreme of late.

I’m working on an anthology that will include several of my blog entries on the subject of, ironically, gratitude. Being my first book, this is an extremely low budget operation. I saw some artwork that I would have loved to have used on the front cover, and I approached the artist. I told him that I thought his work was amazing, told him what I had in mind, and asked if he’d allow me to use a print of his painting, give him due credit and increased exposure, and give him a percentage of the profits should any arise. He responded that he was sick and tired of people trying to steal his work. Message received.

I also saw an amazing film at the Seattle International Film Festival and had the opportunity to talk to the director afterwards. I then wrote a very positive review for this blog, encouraging everyone to go see it, and sent the director the link, thinking he’d be flattered. Instead he told me to take the review down, saying he didn’t give me permission to use his words, and that it had been a private conversation. (Mind you, this took place in a crowded room, with a total stranger, at a film festival where he was present to promote his work.) Um… yeah. That was the first time I’d ever had to take down a blog entry.

But perhaps the most painful encounters I’ve had with people more toward the “lack” end of the generosity spectrum have come from friends and family. I wasn’t expecting this at all. It has caused me to reevaluate the way I view some of them.

Recently tragedy struck my family. I’m extremely close to my niece and nephew, especially now that my sister has passed away. So when my niece needed help, I naturally stepped up.

Her husband broke his neck. He was the sole breadwinner of the family, and they have three children, ages 1, 3, and 6. Needless to say, this is bad. No family should have to choose between feeding their children and paying the rent, especially when they’re already dealing with the stress of extreme pain and slow recovery.

This catastrophe has consumed me for well over a week. I have averaged about 3 hours of sleep a day, and my whole world revolves around this situation. So I created a GoFundMe campaign to try to raise money to take some of the pressure off them. Then I asked friends and family to share the campaign on social media.

Mind you, I didn’t ask anyone to contribute money. Not everyone has the money to contribute. I totally get that. I live it. I simply asked them to spread the word. By doing so, they would be showing support at a time when I am feeling particularly helpless, and that is worth more to me than gold. They would also be giving their friends and family the chance to pay it forward if they have been through similar past tragedies and are in a position to do so, and that is a great opportunity for healing.

A lot of people stepped up and shared. This means so much to me that it brings tears to my eyes. But others showed that they are coming from a place of lack rather than abundance by reacting in a variety of negative ways.

I’m told I’m being pushy, or inappropriate, or embarrassing. I’m told that I have a lot of nerve, when there are so many people in the world who are worse off, and when there is so much drama happening all over the place. I’m being ignored by people who never ignore me. I’m being told that they get requests like this all the time, and if they shared mine, they’d have to share everyone’s, and we can’t have that, can we?

Oh, where to begin. Point by point, I suppose. First of all, I don’t think there’s any shame in asking for help when it’s desperately needed. Sorry if that makes you uncomfortable. Yes, there are billions of people who are worse off. How do you determine the cut off? Who is “allowed” to be scared, worried, stressed out, and in need of support, and who is not? I know that tragedies abound, but this is a situation where I can actually make a difference, and when an opportunity like that presents itself, I’m going to jump on it.

I would never, EVER ignore a plea for help. That’s just rude. And granted, my social network is probably smaller than a lot of peoples, so I don’t get requests of this type as often as they probably do, but I promise you, when someone comes to me, at the end of their rope, their lives changed for the worst, and asks me to simply share a Facebook post, I’m going to share it every single time. Every. Single. Time. Because the people on my Facebook feed are grown ass adults who can decide whether or not to contribute or pass on a post, so they’ll “get over” my intrusion. Or they won’t. Oh well.

And, too, coming from the more generous end of the spectrum, I truly believe that even if you can’t contribute financially to someone you love, you can, and should, always be able to contribute emotionally. It’s not easy to ask for help. But it’s made so much worse when you are rejected after you ask. It’s times like this that show what you’re truly made of. I’d hate to be made of selfish things. It don’t think it’s a good look.

But that’s just me.

End of rant.

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