Hate Kills


Photo from MarketWatch

I first heard about the shootings in Orlando, Florida during prayer in church on Sunday morning.  I spent my weekend watching home improvement shows, watching movies, and puttering around the house and garden.

As information became public about the shooter in the worst case of gun violence in our history we learned he claimed association with ISIS.  We learned the shooter may have had issues with his own sexuality, visiting the bar several times.  For any person of faith, Christian or Muslim, questions about sexual orientation are difficult. We also learned his behavior became unpredictable over the last year, perhaps due to mental health issues.

His wife, co-workers, and friends contacted the authorities about the erratic behavior  which resulted in the shooter being added to watch lists, and investigation by the FBI.  The FBI found no association with terrorists nor sympathetic organizations.  The FBI did find him “an angry young man.”  We also learned the shooter purchased his weapon during this period.

In the months before the Orlando shootings this “angry young man” listened daily to political talk about building a wall, closing boarders, domestic surveillance and/or deportation of anyone of his faith.

Also during the months leading up to the shootings was the passage of bathroom and other laws which can be viewed as state sanctioned discrimination against members of the LGBT community.  Members of the LGBT community have been portrayed as a danger to women and children.

“An angry young man” full of hate killed 49 people in the most deadly mass shooting on record.  Our political language, as well as our personal language has an impact.  There is a war going on not only against ISIL, but against hate.  It is a war defending the American experience and values.  The values of inclusiveness, and giving everyone a chance.



Are You All Right?

Am I alright?  Do I feel okay? Am I having trouble remembering things?  How am I feeling today?  These are the things Hubby asks me from day-to-day, and sometimes repeatedly throughout a day.  These questions got me thinking, am I all right?  Are you all right?

Today there is a break in the weather, with sun shining and temperatures headed for the 50’s.  This is a very nice break from the recent week of cold, bleak days with clouds crawling across my sinuses.    Seasonal Affective Disorder can plague many when the sun disappears for days.   You don’t need a full-blown case of SAD for the long dark days of winter to leave you heading for  warm blankets, and a book, to wait for the sun.

These dark days are perfect for dreaming and thinking about the future.  Spring will come in a few short weeks.  Gardeners are planning their gardens.  We plan our Summer travels.  Many are thinking about life transitions with weddings, babies, new homes, graduations, and new jobs on the horizon.  These transitions bring mixed feelings, excitement and fears.  Our personal worlds are full of joy, questions, fears, and we keep moving forward, with hope that we are making the right choices.  In most cases there is no one correct answer to our life choice questions.  Any choice we make is a good choice or bad, depending upon how we look at it.

Others in our world aren’t as lucky as you and I.  There is war, and conflict throughout the world.  Personal tragedies colored by racial prejudice and injustice cause concern for all of us.  There are so many problems in our world.  How do we respond to the many problems.  I am no expert, and have no solutions to the world’s problems, yet as a blogger and a human, I can’t help but think about my personal feelings and understanding of what is going on in the world, and feel concern for those innocents caught in the crossfire.

Am I alright?  I am thinking.  I am trying to figure out what is going on in this world, and is there anything I can say to make it better.  I don’t have solutions, except I know communication and understanding has a better chance of bringing a resolution to conflict than hate.  But I must acknowledge, there are horrible things happening, and I would like nothing more in life than to wipe the people who are the source of these atrocities from the face of the earth, and send them to their just reward.

So, again I ask:  Are you alright?

DifficuIt Family

Hard as we try to avoid them, sometimes we must confront difficult people and tricky social situations, maybe even at a holiday dinner. To insist on thinking that a reasonable person can overcome any and all obstacles, making all parties equally happy is to sacrifice your self-esteem, because the reality is that sometimes there is nothing you can do to make everyone happy. Holiday time will bring family together, and sadly old conflicts could also come up.

Hiding from conflict doesn’t help. Sitting in the background, keeping quiet, staying out of the way, is not going to solve anything. Instead, passively withdrawing from interaction is likely to backfire with an angry outburst that can be aggressive, leaving you feeling victimized and everyone involved with hurt feelings, making already strained relationships even weaker.

Aggressiveness can vary from disrespectful, manipulative, or demeaning, to abusive. Aggressive people need to win, and fail to look at things from another persons point of view. While being aggressive, a person wants to win, retaliating for perceived wrongs, and creating unnecessary conflict. In the wake of aggressive conflicts, relationships are left damaged, everyone involved feels like a victim, and any social support that may have existed is lost.

The better way is to follow a balanced path of being open and honest about your feeling in a non-judgmental way. Don’t try to change the behavior of others, but limit how their behavior effects you, by calmly and assertively expressing how you feel without engaging in a power struggle, or getting defensive. Sometimes a distraction, like excusing yourself to go to the bathroom, is very effective for interrupting any conversation that you need to get out of politely. Other distractions include offering to get beverages or snacks, or checking on what the children might be up to so quietly in the other room. Stay calm, and don’t rise to the bait that is offered.

When you are hit hard by disrespectful and abusive treatment, it is how your judge yourself that counts. If you know you are a good and loving person, who is competent and worthy of respect, then you have good self-esteem. Having good self-esteem will allow you to bounce back from difficult encounters with others, and will help you to treat yourself respectfully. As you treat yourself respectfully, others will also treat you with greater respect.

Communicating with assertiveness, will lead to fewer conflicts, help you build strong supportive relationships, and lead to less stress not only during the holidays, but throughout the year. Make a plan and be ready to act.

Take a Moment, and Breathe

I’m not here to tell you there is nothing to worry about. If I were, you would, likely, argue with me or think I am delusional. There is plenty to worry about.

The war against ISIL is on going. With the most recent shooting in peaceful Canada it is ISIL terrorism that comes to mind before other explanations or theories. In addition alert levels increase and airport travel becomes more of an ordeal.

Ebola has fears heightened about the world, and even the good news of people getting out of quarantine and recovering has some wanting the boarders shut tight at last. I heard yesterday that parents in countries with Ebola are fearful that life saving vaccinations for measles, mumps, and rubella are responsible for the spread of Ebola, so many parents are no longer getting their children vaccinated, and doctors are understandably frustrated at the idea of children dying from something that is preventable.

In addition the weather here is growing colder and Ebola isn’t our only problem. There is the flu that is sending people to the hospital in fear of exposure to Ebola. There are also respiratory diseases very dangerous to children going around. In the United States, and maybe Canada, these concerns are a little more realistic and immediate, if not as dramatic as Ebola.

Here in the United States our midterm elections are coming up, and I urge everyone to vote, because as both parties are saying, “make no mistake about it, the policies are on the ballot.” This statement lets both republicans and democrats know they need to get out and vote, and those of us who do vote can’t understand the apathy of those willing to just let the wrong side win! Voter or not, it does seem like everyone complains. Just listening to the political attack ads is enough to make you think there isn’t a single well-intentioned, patriotic person in government.

If these worries and concerns are not enough for you take a look at this light-hearted list by Chris Jurewicz It might make you laugh and the nice thing about laughing is that it makes you breath deeply and relaxes you.

The things I’ve listed are all external stresses, but we also have our personal stresses. Personal stresses include things like financial worries, healthy emergencies, family problems that maybe we can’t see a solution to right away. We need time to think. I swear I can sense skepticism from some of you. I know! Relax with all you have to worry about? Here is how.

Take a deep breath and blow it out. Follow with a slow breath in, to a slow count of four. Hold for a beat. Exhale slowly, to a slow count of four. Focus on your breathing. Repeat as needed, until you feel calm and clear of mind.

My Irrational Fear

They are called phobias.  They are fears that trigger a reaction that far exceed the actual danger being faced.  Small, harmless spiders, rodents or snakes can send grown adults running from a room.  Introducing yourself to a stranger can make your palms sweat and your heart race.  Speaking before a group, can leave you entirely voiceless.

I have faced down all of these fears and more, but one remains – Claustrophobia, the fear of enclosed places.  This fear behaves in an entirely irrational manner. I remember clearly when claustrophobia first reared its warped head.

It was Christmas, and I was innocently shopping, weaving my way through a maze like display, when I realized I had now idea how to get out of the display and back to the open aisle.  I barely had enough room to turn around, and as my pulse began to race, and my breathing became labored, I seriously considered breaking through the display to make my own shortest way, straight line way out.  I called out to my husband, who recognized the panic in my voice, and came to my aid, getting me out of the display.

I had never had such anxiety before, and was surprised by the intensity of my panic.  I assumed this would be a one time event, but I was very wrong.  I quickly learned that any time I could not see around myself the panic began to set in, and since I am a little shorter than average, this can happen in crowds.  Getting on an airplane is a special kind of hell, although once I am on the airplane I am fine.

Yes, I realize this is totally irrational.  While my research says this is strictly an anxiety disorder, I hold out hope that there is some physical, perhaps inner ear issue that is at fault.  Something changed, and now I have claustrophobia, but it can also go away.

There are some things I am doing, that anyone can do, to help conquer an irrational fear.

1. Don’t avoid situations because of your fears, or your life will get smaller.

2. Take slow, relaxing breaths when confronting your fears.

3. Focus on the things around you, experience them intensely, their feel, scent, and color.

4. Take care of yourself.

5. Maybe a professional can help: medications, someone to talk to, reassurance.

There are times my irrational fear seems to be totally gone.  Other times my irrational fear unexpectedly pops up, but I am ready with a plan.  I am not going to let something as totally irrational as a fear of not being able to see two feet past myself control my actions.

How have you beaten an irrational fear?


Robin Williams and the Choice of Happiness

Robin Williams, a bright, successful, talent, was one year older than my current age, and he has committed suicide.

The death of Williams has affected me in a most profound way, not because of his celebrity, but because I also share a lifelong struggle with depression. This is a disease that touches several thousand in the United States alone, resulting in 30,000 deaths each year. I was coming to hope that my age, years of experience, including counseling and other treatments, and a trusted group of people would inoculate me against suicide. Surely Williams had much the same experience and safeguards in place for himself.

Many people tell me to just choose to be happy. They believe happiness is simply a choice. Abraham Lincoln is often quoted, “Most folks are as happy as they make up their minds to be.”   Looking at the temperament of my brother, sisters, children, and grandchildren I notice different reactions to the same events. You would not think any of these people have anything in common, certainly not DNA, upbringing, nor values. Their reactions to events are as different as night and day, and their emotions range from easy-going and cheerful to anxious and distressed. Telling the later group to just be happy about what is going on does not change their behavior.

Personally, I am tired of being told to chose to be happy when I have some real difficulties, and am struggling with putting one foot in front of the other. This is not depression. This is coping, but coping is not easy when you are dealing with the death of loved ones, financial difficulties, or a host of other life problems. You know it won’t last forever. You are making all the correct moves. Sure, prayer doesn’t hurt, but neither would a phone call or card saying, “You will get through it. I’m pulling for you.”

People have a remarkable ability to make the most of whatever situation they find themselves in. No one has the choice of where or what circumstances they are born into, Many things can happen to us in life that we have no control of: financial reversals, life changing accidents, personal tragedies of all kinds. I was stunned to learn that a paraplegic is just as happy six months after his/her accident as he/she was before the accident. People bounce back!

Depression takes away the ability to bounce back. Depression takes away the ability to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Putting on a mask of happiness for the world only intensifies the isolation that is felt. No one can understand what you are not sharing. You do not share, because you are protecting those you love. But they see your negativity anyway, and you feel like a burden. The choice to be happy becomes harder, as the feedback loop between brain and body becomes stronger.

What does depression feel like? It feels like a severe case of the flue, or a really nasty hangover that never goes away. Your head and body aches. You have nightmares. You can’t sleep. There is no pain reliever. It is no surprise some like Williams turn to drugs or alcohol. You lose hope. There seems to be no way out. The struggle seems constant and impossibly hard. The most dangerous time for suicide is often after you start taking medication, because you finally feel well enough to take an action. Depression wins.

If you are lucky, like me, a family member or friend will break the spell at a critical moment and you will come back to yourself. My biggest fear is that next time depression might win.

Being a friend isn’t about providing a solution, but about just being a friend. That is all there is to it.

I’m sure Robin Williams is saying, “Wait. Can’t I get a curtain call!”

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