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Archive for January 2016

Sit On It

Posted on: January 27, 2016

sitonitfonz In my vast quantities of free time I am attempting to become a writer. Maybe a frequently-published one, maybe not, but at the very least an honest one. So I’ve joined many on- and off-line groups where writers share their successes, struggles, questions, experiences. I get to be part of larger discussions about issues from ethics and honesty to the mechanics of publishing.

One of the most life-changing lessons I have learned in one such group is the Sit With It Rule. That if you read something that sets you off (either in a book or online as a comment from another member), you are required to “Sit With The Discomfort” for 24 hours before responding and before drawing conclusions. It sounds rather facile and pointless but it very truly has changed my life, both as a writer and as a human being.

The point of the Sit With It Rule (which I prefer to call the Sit On It rule because it is just that uncomfortable) is for you to examine not what the writer said to upset you, but to examine what it is IN YOU that was primed to have that reaction. What is it IN YOU that generated the anger, fear, sadness, confusion, disappointment? And to truly have a conversation with yourself during those 24 hours to unpack the emotions. Are you really angry at the writer? Are you truly outraged on behalf of the people the writer impugned? Are you truly saddened for all the unfairness advocated by the writer? Are you irritated by the cluelessness of the writer?

Or are you mad/sad/confused/frustrated about something that is IN YOU? And are you (perhaps unknowingly) wrestling with feelings that the writer somehow accessed?

I have now had to Sit On It several times over the course of a year, and it has been unpleasant and initially unfulfilling each time.  Luckily, it does get easier overall to do the work of assessing from where the feelings are generated, but what does not get easier is curtailing the immediate flight-or-fight response that urges you to tell this person to Eff Off right now. That tells you to bleed your insecurities out all over the comment section. That tells you you have been wronged and you must immediately make it right. That tells you, when you feel the heat of shame and anger or fear rising from your core into your lungs into your tightened throat toward your heated cheeks, that you can stuff these feelings back into their box by demanding a retraction.  In one instance I had to take myself offline for the duration because I had The Trigger Finger of Outrage locked and loaded, counting down the 22 hours and 14 minutes until I could verbally demolish this heartless moron writer. But by the time I was cleared to respond I had nothing to write.

Why? Because sitting with your discomfort forces you to address it, if only because the frequency with which the discomfort arrives is in itself an indication that you have work to do.  Sitting On It also forces you to ruthlessly inventory the beliefs you sometimes unwittingly hold in your head. Are you a beautiful, worthy human soul? Of course you are. But does a voice in your head make you doubt it? And so, like the guy who yells at the waiter because he can’t yell at his wife, or the woman who abuses the cashier because she feels powerless at home–are you trying to shut down the writer because you can’t bring yourself to shut down the voices in your own mind and heart?

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In my case–every time–I was emotionally reacting to a feeling of unworthiness that the person’s words conjured in me.  (Yours might be anger, fear, shame, loneliness)…

Consider if you have ever reacted to a discussion or writing with the following:

“This person is saying something very hurtful.” Sounds legit. And yet hundreds of other individuals were reading those exact words and seemed to be doing just fine.

“This person should be more circumspect in his words.”  Okay, sure. But is every writer to write for the least able member of his audience? Does the writer have any obligation whatsoever to ruminate on how his words might be construed? Certainly if he is penning a political manifesto or the like. But essays? Books? Commentary? How far is it fair to require a writer to go to avoid creating negative feelings for the reader? Is that even his job, since all good writing should generate an emotional response? And is it even realistic that the writer would somehow have the clairvoyance to anticipate every possible reaction from every possible reader?

“The writer should have expressed her views in a more pleasant way. I didn’t like her attitude. How can we learn if we are being disagreeable?” Folks, this point in particular has been a life lesson for me. The notion that I will listen to your message, read your essay, or read your comments, only if you “say it nicer” is White Woman Socialization at its shameful pinnacle. That somehow I am owed a nice tidy discussion that does not challenge me, that does not ask anything difficult of me, that allows me to assert my white lady privilege so I get to ignore you or chastise you like a 6 year old if I don’t like your delivery. Well, newsflash:  We are all adults. Sometimes adult conversations and interactions are uncomfortable. Sometimes adult conversations are painful. Sometimes adult conversations involve communicating with people with communication styles that do not mirror your own. Sometimes you will read something and deem the writer “angry” or “mean” or “insensitive.” Sometimes those conversations and readings will make you feel bad.

Which brings you right back to Sitting On It.

Believe me when I say that Sitting On It is the way forward. I have worked to transfer the Sitting On It dynamic to my life. It has been a challenge but it has been fruitful and heartening. It has so far improved my relationships with my family, especially my children. I now try to ask myself in a heated disciplinary moment whether I am heated for a legitimate child-centered reason or whether the misbehavior has created feelings in me separate and distinct from those related to teaching my kid to act better. Am I embarrassed at the behavior? Do I feel like it makes me look bad? If so, why am I concerned with the opinions of the parents looking on? What is it IN ME that is feeding my need to handle this situation in this manner? Sitting On It has forced me to parent from a place that does not center on ME. I now, instead of meting out Mama Justice in the moment, say “I haven’t decided yet what we’re going to do about this situation, but it will be dealt with shortly.” Believe me, it is a daily struggle and I fail frequently. But it has been, for me, a genuine way to stop shifting the blame for what ails me onto others. To stop expecting other people to tiptoe around my sensitivities. To ruthlessly engage with myself on every level to be sure that when my 24 hours is up and I have something to say, that it is worthwhile, meaningful and maybe 80% reflective of my best self (hey, I’m a work in progress).

I recommend trying it for a week. Every time you feel “triggered” or goaded into an altercation, resolve to wait 24 hours to email back, to return the call, to unload online, and resolve to spend the time looking inward rather than wildly flailing angry arms with pointed fingers outward.

I look forward to your comments (in precisely 23 hours and 54 minutes).  🙂

 
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stupid

Just when you are certain Sarah Palin has reached Maximum Stupid, boy howdy, she shamelessly brings more.

YOU BETCHA.

Let’s review The Week In Palin. She endorses Donald Trump because…

“He’s got the guts to wear the issues that need to be spoken about and debate on his sleeve, where the rest of some of these establishment candidates, they just wanted to duck and hide. They didn’t want to talk about these issues until he brought ’em up. In fact, they’ve been wearing a, this, political correctness kind of like a suicide vest.”

And disses the President with her usual clarity of thinking and speech:

“And he, who would negotiate deals, kind of with the skills of a community organizer maybe organizing a neighborhood tea, well, he deciding that, ‘No, America would apologize as part of the deal,’ as the enemy sends a message to the rest of the world that they capture and we kowtow, and we apologize, and then, we bend over and say, ‘Thank you, enemy.’ ”

Okaaaay. If you watch the video of the endorsement you can see even Donald Trump himself having a few WTF moments as she is speaking, trying to be all, “This seems fine. It’s all fine. Everything she’s saying is completely normal.”

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Sarah Palin is of course free to endorse whichever candidate she chooses. My primary beef with Sarah Palin this week is less her addled endorsement of fellow reality TV huckster Donald Trump and more her later remarks blaming President Obama for her son Track’s arrest for domestic violence.

You read that right. She claims her son has PTSD from his tour in Afghanistan and that his violent outbursts are a direct result of the lack of “respect” shown by President Obama to veterans.

BITCH PLEASE.

The hockey mom mouthpiece of the Party of Personal Responsibility says publicly that her PTSD-suffering son (who threatened suicide by his AK-15 after beating the crap out of his girlfriend) is in this situation because of President Obama. If she truly believes this–and I think she does–we now know that there is no limit to her irrationality as well as her political opportunism.

Why, if she is so concerned with her son’s mental health, did she not seek assistance for him?

Why, if she is so concerned with her son’s mental health, did she and her husband not secure or remove the weapons in his home?

Why, if she is so concerned with her son’s mental health, does she belong to a party that consistently a) sends our young people to fight wars and then b) cuts funding for the Veterans Administration that seeks to support them when they come home?

(Footnotes just in case you think I’m making this up:  http://www.militarytimes.com/story/veterans/2015/05/01/house-pass-va-budget/26691403/      http://archive.militarytimes.com/article/20140227/NEWS05/302270033/Senate-blocks-huge-vets-benefits-bill)

But no. Her son, who is no stranger to run-ins with law enforcement, is in trouble because The President of the United States doesn’t “respect veterans.” Instead of blaming Obama, ask your party why they didn’t fund the VA bill put forth by the White House in its entirety. Ask your party why they consistently claim “fiscal responsibility” as a reason for cutting veterans benefits but seemingly have no trouble finding the money to wage the war in the first place. Examine the voting records of the Republicans in Congress and you will see this pattern clearly: Yeas for acts of war, Nays for funding to assist these broken warriors when they return home. These are facts in the Congressional record. They are there for any citizen to see, and they speak for themselves. “Respect for veterans” doesn’t mean just flying a flag and saying “thank you for your service” to crowds of supporters. It means putting money toward their mental health, their physical rehabilitation, their re-entry into civilian society. It means allocating taxpayer dollars and plenty of them.

Or, you know, it’s because Obama doesn’t respect the military.

That is some shameful shit right there. Shameful AND shameless.

Which brings me to my final point: why are we giving this joke of a woman a single moment of air time? Why are we in the least bit interested in this woman, who wastes no opportunity to personally attack the Obamas, but who conveniently fails to address the fact that her abstinence-promoting daughter has now had TWO babies while unmarried? I personally don’t care if her kids have ten babies “out of wedlock” but I do care about the hypocrisy of slamming “liberal values” when you can’t keep your conservatively-raised daughter’s pants on.  Should Malia Obama ever find herself “in the family way” prior to marriage you will be able to set your clocks by the speed with which her parents’ ethics, values and morals will be destroyed by FOX News and its minions. But apparently conservatives just have to say Jesus forgives them and we’re all good here. Time to go endorse someone for leader of the free world.

Well, I for one am not up for another round of Sarah Palin in presidential politics. Her utter unfitness for office was, I thought, spectacularly evidenced back in 2008 regardless of John McCain’s desperate efforts to convince us (and himself) otherwise. The fact that Donald Trump thinks her involvement in his campaign is a plus says everything about him that thousands of column inches couldn’t.

 

 

Elevated

Posted on: January 7, 2016

This is going to sound like a bad movie or a cheeseball sitcom, but I got stuck in an elevator yesterday. For real. Like what you see on the big screen but that you assume never really happens in real life.  Well, hello. It happened, and it was TERRIFYING.

I want to pretend I was all chill about it. I want to pretend that I was singing Hakuna Matata as I did the downward dog while achieving internal serenity. But NOPE. I was distinctly, unequivocally, unabashedly frightened.

Let’s review.

I had just finished my appointment at Dana Farber, victorious in my super near-normal blood counts and ongoing prednisone tapering. I was drunk with the power of my great good luck. My mom had come with me, so I was gladhanding my way around the building like Joe Biden working a rope line, reassuring my mom that while I may be a patient at the cancer facility, I am the COOLEST and least-likely-to-die patient at the cancer facility.

We breezed insouciantly into the elevator, pressed the P2 button and settled in for the 9-floor trip to the garage where we would drive on outta there like the goddamn healthy(ish) bosses we were. And then it happened. The violent jerk of the emergency brake stopping the elevator mid-trip. My exclamation, “Whoa! That was a rough landing!” as I oriented myself toward the doors. My realization that the doors had not opened and the digital floor readout was flashing 2, then blank, then –, then back to 2. Then the electronic voice: “Press the emergency button to summon help. Press the emergency button to summon help.”

Talk about pissing on a girl’s parade.

We reached a lady’s voice on the emergency panel, told her we were stuck in an elevator. “Are we okay? We are fine. I think.

Which is when you come to grips with several facts:

If you need to pee in the next hour you will be peeing on this floor.

If you need to (dear lord let’s not even ponder it) poop, you will be pooping on this floor.

If the emergency brake lets go for any reason you are going to either die or be profoundly and irrevocably injured by the impact.

If anything bad happens, you will have expired IN AN ELEVATOR. This is not the obituary I want for myself. Forty-three years old. Transplant survivor. Pneumococcal sepsis survivor. Aspergillosis survivor. Chronic GVHD survivor and attempted thriver:  Death by dumbwaiter.

elevator-shining

The entire ordeal lasted about 35 minutes, during which there was much banging and beeping and far-off voices yelling to us to stay calm. Sweet relief as we began moving, the doors opening and us running free into the blessed lobby of our savior. Where we immediately took the stairs to the garage, not being ready to step immediately back into a glorified Tardis of Death.

So what did I learn from this experience that I can pass along to you so that it wasn’t a total waste?

  1. When stuck in an elevator after a rather violent jerking stop, do not immediately think of all the movies you have seen where bad things happen to people in elevators or people in elevator shafts. Those elevators are old. This one is new. The people repairing your elevator are experts. Yes indeed. Experts. You just tell yourself that. Even as your mind starts to wander and starts to wonder why, if it’s no big deal really, they can’t seem to have it moving 20 minutes in. If it’s all programming and technology these days, how come there is so much noise going on? Try to accept that you know nothing about elevators or elevator repair. Most importantly, do not then fill in the blanks with your imagination. In an elevator and in life, never fill in the blank spaces of  your ignorance with offerings from your imagination. It will always be a recipe for failure, fear and heartache. diehard3
  2. When stuck in an elevator and you ponder the duration of your confinement, do not immediately conjure images of you unceremoniously squatting to poop on an elevator carpet, steeped in your own refuse and shame. Recognize that these scatological terrors are a function of two things: 1–The very real reaction of your body to fear and stress. That rumbling in the tumbling is real, but stay calm: it’s likely not a giant steamer that must be expelled. Yet. 2– Recognize that the PAPP (poop and pee panic) is a metaphor for the entire situation, for the very real lack of control and autonomy you are currently experiencing. There is no human fear like the loss of control fear, which often masquerades as the loss of bowel control fear. So take heart: in an elevator and in life, you likely will not shart your pants just because you have no place to “go.”
  3. As we waited for “the elevator guys” to fix the elevator, a woman above us kept talking to us to see if we were fine. A woman on the other end of the emergency phone button stayed on the line with us just so we knew we were not forgotten. We didn’t really speak; we just knew she was there. The power of knowing these women were present was enormous. They were strangers. Strangers with no more power to alter our physical situation than we had. But what they had was the power of human contact, of empathy, of simply being present in another human’s pain or fear. When you are trapped in a small stuck box with the potential for injury but without the potential for saving yourself, you just want to know you are not alone and not forgotten, especially as minute 18 turns to minute 19 turns to minute 20. So I am reminded that, in an elevator and in life, being present with another person in fear or pain or confusion or worry is non-negotiable. You may not be able to change the circumstances but you can be present, you can witness, you can support by simply being a voice in the distance, a face across the street, or a bystander who resolutely stands by. Simply choose to be present.

So we made it out alive. Lived to tell. And avoided the urge to pretend I was super cool and unflappable when I was in reality not cool and really quite “flapped.”

Next time, I’m taking the stairs.

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