Out From Under the Umbrella

playing in the rain


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Sadness, Anger, and Sympathy

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A friend of mine posted this a bit ago. She frequently posts these types of messages and prayers. They fill me all at once with sadness, anger, and immense amount of sympathy.

Let me give you a bit of back story.

She and her husband are in their early fifties. They were young, vibrant, active, and adventurous.

Her husband had always been a tall, strong, imposing figure. Yet he was really just a giant teddy bear of a man, always at the ready with a hug and joke.

In the blink of an eye that changed for them.

He was riding solo on his Harley Davidson when someone turned across traffic in front of him. Unable to stop he slid underneath the vehicle. After days of touch and go, not knowing if he would live or die, he pulled through.

She was awash with relief and sang the praises of her God.

Then the devastating news came that the brain damage would be permanent and also the paralysis.

That has been some four years ago now. The longer it goes the more desperate she becomes. She loves her husband and takes very good care of him but it is now more of a mother/child relationship. She has amply displayed her commitment. Yet she longs for that husband/wife relationship that she once had. She would never verbalize this but she can’t even move on. It isn’t even as she would want to if she could, but she can’t have her husband back either. Neverland.

And while all of that fills me with a great sadness it also fills me with sadness that in order for her to come to terms with her situation she must do these mental gymnastics.

She prays to the God she believes caused her situation to thank him for it. Thanking him for causing her circumstances in order to bring about her dependence on this invisible entity that cannot give her an embrace, cannot kiss her lips, cannot hold her hand – this invisible entity that cannot carry on regular conversation but is only voices in her head.

Yes, it is indeed sad.

It makes me so angry to watch as she struggles day after day with his pain management. She has long given up praying for healing. She believes her God’s answer is, “no,” that her husband must suffer and she along with him for some greater purpose. And that purpose is a desperate need for dependence on the very being that caused the pain in the first place. She will sing his praises and glorify him for breaking her down.

On Earth we call that abuse.

It’s like watching a parent beat their child until everything in them is broken and watching that child beg the parent to do it all over again. Stockholm syndrome doesn’t even begin to describe it.

The anger that wells up inside of me is visceral.

And at the same time I’m filled with so much sympathy and so much understanding of why she needs this to be so. It might all be too much to bear if it doesn’t serve some purpose. She needs to believe that all of this has some meaning or else she might just throw in the towel. It would likely break her mind to believe otherwise.

This is why religion persists, why it will likely always persist. And who could be so cruel as to even attempt to take the one thing that is holding it all together for her away?


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The Bane of Reason

elephant-room

The Elephant in the Room

I feel like I’m normally a voice of reason, level-headed and on an even keel.  Most of the time, these days anyway, I don’t get triggered. So when I was totally out of the blue it sent me into a spiral of sorts. I haven’t experienced that in quite some time.

Being triggered, for me, sets into motion a whole chain of negative self-talk and along with it self-doubt. In a sort of PTSD-like fashion it sends me right back to that place where I was before I escaped the situation that led to the PTSD to begin with.

Usually, not always, when it’s words that trigger, there’s what’s actually said, and what I understand the words to mean.

Someone might say, “How could such an intelligent person believe (insert whatever nonsense you like)?”  I hear, “Damn, you sure are stupid.”

When I hear, “Damn, you sure are stupid,”  I start to reevaluate every negative thing that’s happened in my life and come to the astounding realization that, “Damn, I sure am stupid.  And if I weren’t so stupid most of that wouldn’t have even happened.”

Belief in talking snakes and global floods?  Stupidity on my part.

Sexually assaulted?  Stupidity on my part.

Involved in an abusive relationship?  Utter stupidity on my part.

For two fucking decades?  Unimaginably, astonishingly stupid!

No one has to say it.   I already know it.  When someone even implies it, it only confirms what I believe about myself even when it flies in the face of logic and reason.  Belief doesn’t have to be reasonable.

The reality is(nothing like a dose of reality to kick you in the head), it doesn’t really even matter the words that are said.  Another person’s opinion of me or my situation doesn’t make it reality and it doesn’t change who I really am.  No, the triggering part is the words I say to myself.  What the fuck difference does someone else’s opinion of me make? It doesn’t make me less of a person.  It is my beliefs about myself that make me feel less off a person.

Therein lies the rub:  I know that logically.  It’s my feelz that get me into trouble.  Emotions –  fear, anger, sadness, joy, and yes, even love are the bane to the existence of logic and reason.  Yet none of us ever are always logical or reasonable.  I am not Dr. Spock of Star Trek fame.  I am fully human.  And as much as I value reason and intellect I have to admit I’m not always reasonable.  And I can surely do some stupid things.

We all can.  If that were not so there wouldn’t be so many normally intelligent people who are divorced twelve times, or who lose their fortunes betting on a long-shot, or who fall for some of the most far-fetched scams imaginable. It happens.  And you wonder how such smart people can do such stupid things.

luggage

I have a big pile of baggage. No, it’s not a matching set.  I forget about it until it falls out of the closet like an avalanche on my head.

All of us come each day and to each post with our own sets of baggage; with whatever is bothering us that day, or whatever is happening at home that day, or whatever exciting things are happening for us that day.  We each come to every post, no matter how hard we try not to, with our preconceived notions of how the world works; the oughts and ideals which we value and hold dear – not necessarily reality or how things really are.

Life is hard and it’s messy.  Each of has in our own minds our various issues and insecurities.  We have our own niggles, things that eat at us and erode our sense of self-worth and security.  We all have our own perspectives even if they’re flawed.  We can only see from our own lenses no matter how hard we try to put on the goggles of another.  We can’t ever truly know what another has experienced or the stuff they’ve been through.  It would serve us all well, especially me, to remember that.


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British Family Vacation

Back during the summer I went on a rant about how I was having one problem after another and had a moment of…less than Ruth-likeness. I was burned out.

I took a much needed break. While TheBrit’s family was here I didn’t think about work, I didn’t think about bills, and I didn’t think about home and equipment repairs. In fact, the push mower and the power washer are still sitting in the shed – unrepaired(is that a word?).  They aren’t going anywhere and it’s turned fallwinter…ish here.

Not a one of them even noticed the window with the peeling paint.  Or if they did, they didn’t mention it.

Nope.

We just had a fabulous time.  TheBrit and I were both concerned about having that many people in our house for that amount of time.  We worried for nothing.

The pool wasn’t quite ready when they got here.  They found something else to entertain themselves for a few days.  When it was ready it was lovely and our niece wore us all out swimming.

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I think they had a really nice time.  Casa de Ruth e Brit was a huge success.  It got rave reviews from his sister:

Best family holiday EVER!!

 

When we first suggested that TheBrit’s family come here we thought it would only be his mother, his sister, and his niece. His step-dad(who he really looks at as his dad) and his brother-in-law were going to stay behind. Originally it was thought that TopBrit’s health would prevent him from taking such a long journey and B-I-L-Brit has an aversion to flying.

Just before we booked the flights(months in advance), however, TopBrit and B-I-L-Brit  decided they would make the trip as well.  TopBrit worked really hard on getting his diabetic legs in tip-top shape and B-I-L-Brit bit the bullet, so to speak, and faced his fear.

Truly it seemed foolish for them not to as this was supposed to be the trip of a lifetime.  They didn’t think they’d ever make the trip again.  They’ve decided otherwise now.  BritSis’ bunch is planning another trip in 2017.

Before they left his step-dad said that he’d had the time of his life.  He’d always dreamed of visiting the U.S. but didn’t, at his age and health, think it possible.

He’s not a terribly emotional man.  He doesn’t do mush.  But when we left them at the airport he had tears rolling down his cheeks.  I was fine until I saw that.  Then I teared up and had a little cry, myself.  It was hard to let them go.

I am so very glad that his health allowed him to make the trip and that he had such a lovely time.  Shortly after they arrived home TheBrit’s mum and TopBrit told us they were planning to come again next summer(2015).

Unfortunately TopBrit won’t be making that trip.  On Christmas Eve he had a massive heart attack and passed away.  His wry smile and his quick whit will be missed.

dad

Rest in peace, TopBrit.  Rest in peace.

*This has been sitting in my draft folder for several months.  This seemed like a good time to finish it. TheBrit and I will be travelling to England within the next few weeks.


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There are compliments and then there are compliments

***Edited to add:  This post is intended to bring awareness to the subtle sexist subtext(say that three times fast!) that permeates society.  It is not intended to slay or skewer anyone for having questions.  This issue is complex and confusing and we are all conditioned by our cultures and subcultures. 

In the last post Professor Taboo asked the following question:

Can women please list for us hetero men 10-20 appropriate ways to verbally (and non-verbally) compliment them intellectually, emotionally, spiritually, and physically that THEY find acceptable and uplifting? Please do not leave any of the four areas out.
Thank you! 🙂

My initial reaction to the question was…angst.  How hard can it be to compliment people without being sexist?  How hard can it be to compliment a woman without it being sexual?

My initial reaction as probably reactionary because we had just been discussing how to treat “scantily clad” women in a bar.  And then I was asked if it was sexist to wolf-whistle at a woman in a short skirt.  So when the question was asked I was viewing it in that context.   As if he were asking, “Well, if we can’t wolf-whistle, and we can’t cat-call and we can’t tell you you’re hot, just what the hell can we say?”

Turns out that’s not so much what The Professor was asking.  I think many men do want to know what is and isn’t appropriate.  Sincerely.

Many things sprang to mind when I thought about what my answer to that question is.  I didn’t come up with 15 or 20 but here are a few that immediately entered my mind:

1.)  Wow!  That’s really your color.  It brings out your eyes.

2.)  You’ve got a great sense of humor!

3.)  You’re a very interesting person!

4.) You’re intelligent.

5.) Your smile is infectious.

6.)  You’re very thoughtful and thought-provoking.

7.)  I like your work ethic.

8.) You’re so easy to talk to.

9.)  You’re a good listener.

10.)  You make the world a better place.

Some of these require that you have an actual conversation before you begin complimenting.  Some of these can be conversation starters.  ALL of these apply to any gender.

Immediately following Professor Taboo’s question Swarn Gill left a couple of comments.  These are prime examples of how to compliment a person in a way that is uplifting and positive but which carry no hint at a hidden agenda:

You are an interesting person. I’d rather just sit down and have a conversation with you!

And:

You are a much better writer than I am which is both annoying and great a the same time, but somehow just reading what you have to say has me completely agreeing but also going off in all sorts of directions.

Both of these comments made me feel really good about myself.  It let me know that I have value and that I’m appreciated as a person.  Not as a person of the female persuasion but as a person regardless of my gender.

About the wolf-whistling and cat-calling.  Just. Don’t.

This may come as a surprise but most women do not dress to attract men.  [Most] women dress for other women.  It’s a daily competition and most women would rather be complimented on their dress by other women.  It just means more.

[Most] women also dress for their own comfort.  I’ve been known to wear a dress above the knee or shorts.  I live in South Georgia.  Otherwise known as hell in the summer time.  If I wear a tank top and shorts it isn’t to attract a man.  It’s because I’m freakin’ hot.  And I don’t mean the way I look.

Wolf-whistling and cat-calling – especially from someone I’ve never met- is intimidating.  It’s presumptuous.  You might think that I’m stretching it to say that it’s not that far a hop to rape but when a man does that it shows that he’s aggressive.  It feels more about power than it does about complimenting anyone.  If a man would wolf-whistle or cat-call a woman he’s never met what else might he do given the opportunity?

When giving any sort of compliment the foremost thing should be sincerity.  Don’t say things you don’t mean.  It’s patronizing.  Think about what message the other person is going to get.  Don’t be superficial about it.  Show the person that you’ve really taken the time to notice what is important to them.

The important thing is to treat people with respect.  This is how we can address the more subtle sexism and misogyny that permeates society.


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Missing the Point

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Is that a whole forest over there?  Or is it just trees?  I can hardly tell the difference.

I, myself, have been guilty of saying that political correctness can go too far. It can be taken to extremes.  But is it political correctness that is taken to extremes or is it that we are trying to tip toe around delicate issues to the extent that we don’t want to hurt anyone’s wee wittle feelings at the expense of honesty?

My last post shone a spotlight on what it means to miss the point.  It is easy to spot sexism, misogyny, racism, homophobia, etc….etc…etc…

…in everyone else.  We tend to have a gargantuan blind spot when it comes to ourselves.  I am no exception to that. Oh, how I wish I were.

We often try to justify it when we say or do something inappropriate, hurtful, or uncouth.  When we’re called out on it we get defensive and immediately begin the damage control. Human nature rules the day.  When we say it or do it we want everyone else to know how “not racist” or “not sexist” or “not homophobic” we are.  We’d never!

But we just did.  How to reconcile momentary lapses of judgement with personal character…well, that is the rub, isn’t it?

Are we missing the big picture?  The broader concept of what’s being said is completely lost the minute we begin rationalizing our own behavior.  We can’t see the forest for the trees.

These posts are not meant to either endorse nor condemn any particular lifestyles or life choices.  These posts are meant to highlight both the blatant and subtle sexist and misogynist undercurrent that permeates society.

Let me make this clear if I haven’t already.  I think men are as much a product of society as women are.  The way they were raised, the messages we receive from the media and advertisements, the systematic undermining of minority groups and those perceived as weaker – all of that plays into the dynamics of society.  The top dog wants to stay the top dog all the while protesting that they endorse equality.

Oh, yes, we endorse equality.  As long as it doesn’t diminish our own privileged place.  But wait, equality might just mean that privilege isn’t so much a privilege anymore.  It might mean…we are all of equal value as individuals.

This is an easy concept to say one is in favor of.  Yes, on paper that looks like it should, in fact, be so.  But what about individually?  Do we, with our own sense of entitlement, push anyone who dares gain an equal footing back down? Are we, individually, missing the point?

 


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Coming Out of the Dark….

…Ages, that is.

“When evil is called good, darkness is ushered into the land. And with the darkness comes a threat to our freedoms,”  says Janet Porter, author of the Faith2Action documentary, The Criminalization of Christianity, as she walks into view in the darkness under a moonlit forest, the tree branches bare.

What is this evil, you might ask?  The gays.  It’s always the gays.

Conservative Christians are alleging all sorts of actions by the “gay agenda”, such as making it illegal for a business that has an owner who has Biblical principles from opening in specific locations. Mike Huckabee has this to say:

What kind of freedom of speech do we have, if a person who expresses a biblical viewpoint about marriage is told they can’t open their business in a location?”

Yes, there has been much controversy over wedding services providers refusing service to LGBT couples.  Nowhere has anyone been told that if they have a Biblical viewpoint they cannot open their business. They have been told that they may not discriminate against customers based on sexual orientation.  In turn, businesses have screamed loud and long about having the right to refuse service to anyone they see fit.  It’s quite reminiscent of the days when businesses could refuse service to people based on the color of their skin.

In response to the upholding of non-discrimination laws some businesses have opted to shut their businesses down.  Not really.  They close their storefronts and then continue to operate out of their homes.

Another Conservative Christian pastor has this to say:

...homosexual activists get everything they want. Nothing less than criminalization of Christianity.

Listen, conservatives, it’s not that hard.  No one is forcing homosexuality on you.  The legalization of homosexual marriage in no way forces you to be homosexual.  How is that so hard to comprehend?    What you don’t seem to recognize is that what you want to do absolutely is forcing your lifestyle on others.  If you get to dictate whether or not consenting adults can marry then it is you who is cramming your morality down the throats of those who do not agree with you.


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“No” is a Complete Sentence

NOI’ve written before about my relationship with a narcissist.  But I wanted to expand a bit more on my role in that – the doormat.  Doormats are magnets for narcissists.  Being walked all over is no fun and it can suck the life right out of you.

Do you have trouble saying “no” to people?  Even after you’ve said no, if pushed, do you have trouble sticking to your simple “no”?  Do you understand that “no” is a complete sentence?  Or do you feel compelled to offer an explanation of why you’ve said “no”?  Do you accept unacceptable behavior from others?  Do you get in a huff about “having” to do this or that but feel you must still perform the task?  Do you take on others’ problems only to become overwhelmed by them?

You don’t have healthy boundaries.  How do I know this?  Because I’ve gone most of my life without healthy boundaries myself and still have a bit of trouble setting them.  At least I’m aware of the problem now.  When I become angry, or feel guilty, or get my feelings hurt I’m painfully aware that it is usually my own fault.  Am I excusing the behavior of others?  No.  They are still responsible for their own behavior. But guess what?  So am I.

When we walk around with this martyr’s complex, feeling like we do all the work in relationships, and feeling exhausted by the weight of these relationships we are not exercising the power we have over the one thing we can control: ourselves.

I had a very hard time learning this simple lesson.  Yes, it is much harder to practice it than it is to preach it.  For me, anyway.  Especially when it involves those closest to me.  The fact of the matter is the word no is a complete sentence.  No explanation necessary.   I’ve begun putting this into to practice and little by little, each time I do it, it gets a little easier.

I’ve always been afraid that people wouldn’t like me anymore or that they wouldn’t ask me to do things in the future if I said no to them.  That’s actually a pretty irrational way of thinking.  If the only reason a person likes me is because I can do crap for them they don’t really like me anyway.  If I always so no then, yes, they might stop asking me to do things because most normal people get tired of one-sided relationships – not because I say no once or twice.   If I don’t reciprocate and ask others to do things they’d also get tired of a one-sided relationship.  But that doesn’t happen either.