Posts Tagged: thoughtful

Get your caucus here!

11705238_10205506481636053_1965115608713194476_nI figured today would be a good day to post political, with the kick-off of Primary Season, and all.

Funny, isn’t it, that we celebrate the beginnings of sport seasons – Week One of the NFL season is always a big day in my house – but we don’t get as excited about political seasons. I’m wondering: why is that?

Sports are meant to entertain us. The games are usually pretty exciting, but their outcomes have no real impact on our daily lives. I’m just gonna step over all a y’all Steelers fans, here, because you’re crazy 24/7/365. But honestly, what is most important, the thing we should really pay Super Bowl or World Cup level attention to, if not our political system; who runs it, and what the hell they’re doing with our money?

Say you pay $200 or $600 for a ticket to see your favorite team play, or watch your favorite band in concert. You expect them to put on a damn good show. You expect quality for that money. You expect to feel like, even if your team didn’t win, it was a damn good game. Those are reasonable expectations. Why don’t we have those same expectations in politics?

Nobody’s going to lose their job as a result of a poorly executed tennis serve, but a few tens of thousands might as a result of a poorly executed debate. Why is it so much less important to us? Why are there twelve ESPN stations and CSpan has, like, three? And they’re way up in the high numbers where nobody accidentally scrolls (FYI, I checked my cable provider’s website for the exact channel numbers for CSPAN and found a 1/3 page ad for ESPN’s streaming service on the homepage… I already feel a little vindicated.)

So how are we going to change this? I say WE because I assume, if you’ve read this far you do care about this stuff. So, how?

  1. Register to vote.Voter turnout numbers in the US are pitiful. We’re a republic, which means we elect our political officials to be our hearts and voices in our political system. With voter turnouts as low as 27.8% (I’m looking at you Indiana) and only as high as 58.1% (Go Maine!) we’re not represented evenly, fairly, or honestly. For once I’m not blaming our elected officials for it, either. That’s totally on us. On a side note: Don’t spend your time complaining about how our country’s going to a flaming, broiling hell, then tell me you never vote because what’s the point? That’s just stupid.
  1. Educate yourself about the issues.This is getting tougher and tougher, thanks to the ad nauseous number of links Google lists after you click the search button. As a test, I googled the term “two party system.” I got back 245,000,000 results in about a 1/2 a second. That’s overwhelming; it would take me more than THREE BILLION MINUTES to read just the summary of each of those pages.

What to do? First off, let me say, DO NOT rely on some political meme you found on Facebook, no matter how funny or real it looks. That’s also stupid. What you should do is learn from lots of different sources. Read them, and then find out something about the organization that published the material.

Everyone has an agenda. This, in itself, is not a bad thing. But you should know what their agenda is before you go embracing their data, conclusions, and politics. Mom and Dad used to tell us to wait a half hour after lunch to go back in the water at the beach. Their agenda probably had more to do with them wanting just a half hour of relaxation than it did cramps. Here’s Politico’s About Us page. I found it by scrolling down to the bottom of their homepage. I also like Snopes to debunk stories that sound either too good or too bad to be true (see political memes above). Some sites, like FactCheck.Org even publish how they’re funded. FactCheck, is a resource I like, but it is commonly cited as having a liberal bias. Finally, don’t forget to check the politicians’ websites. Fingers crossed they list clear information about where your politicians stand on the issues and what they’re doing in your name.

  1. Pick a side. What issues matter most? Obviously, that depends on who you are and where you’re from. My top three are equality, health care, and education. The environment and foreign policy are a close #4 and 5, but we have to prioritize, right? Pick what matters to you, personally. It’s a good place to start. What gets you all riled up? Government waste? Poverty? Land use and conservation? If you’re homeless, regulations that have been popping up all over the country, that ultimately ban the homeless from living outdoors, will have a huge impact on your living situation. As a woman, abortion regulations have a direct impact on what can and cannot happen inside of my own uterus. That matters to me on a very personal level.

Spend a little time considering what you really care about, then research what’s happening in your community (local, state, and national). Then research your candidates so you can pick one who most matches your concerns.

You can take it slow. And maybe you should; it’s not easy. I like what Rand Paul has to say about staying out of foreign conflicts, but I would never vote for a man who said if you believe that every American has the right to quality health care “You’re basically saying you believe in slavery.” Things get messy in politics, but that doesn’t mean we should opt out.

  1. Put your money where your mouth is. Contribute to the campaign of the politician(s) who support your ideologies. This I can’t emphasize enough. (Here I’m stepping up on my soapbox.) We need campaign finance reform. It’s not right, fair, or responsible to allow individuals and corporations – NO, I do not consider a corporation to be an individual – to hide who they support and how much they’ve contributed. And contribution $$$ matter because if you only have $2,000 to run a campaign you’re obviously not playing in the same sandbox with the guys and gals who have $2,000,000. Do it. Contribute. I never throw a lot of money at my candidates of choice, but I throw enough to make me feel like I’ve done something. Whatever that number is for you, that’s what you should contribute. (…And now I’ll step off.)
  1. Put your time where your mouth is. Support your local food bank. Or your local school by volunteering for career day. Or write an opinion piece for publication. Or go clean up your local state park. My dad helped count the horseshoe crabs on a local Delaware beach. The long and short of this part is: it’s not up to our politicians to make our communities into what we envision them to be. That’s our job.

Did you notice in any of the above where I told you what you should think and why? You didn’t. Well. Maybe the part about campaign finance reform, but okay. That’s not my point. Of course I care if my candidates win or lose, but I care more that we become involved. This is my country. It is your country. If you’re not willing to stand up and be FOR us, work FOR us, then you shouldn’t call yourself an American. Not being involved has resulted in one current presidential candidate leading in the popular polls. That he can spout his filthy rhetoric and retain his popularity is beyond me. I find it frightening, but I also believe he is a direct result of our disinvolvement in the political system.

Hell yes, I want America to be a great country. But I’m more interested in watching a good game in the elections. A fair one. One that involves the best of the best political players. Any other scenario, in my mind anyway, is pointless.

Am I right?

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You don’t want to have to be politically correct anymore, huh? Well I don’t want to have to share 99% of my DNA with you anymore, either, so just give it back and we’ll both be happy. Problem solved.

I’m so sick of hearing why political correctness is a bad thing. Really sick and tired of it. I’m irritated every single day by people who tell me to quit being so offended. Or quit getting my panties in a bunch or being overly emotional about things. Really? Quit being offended?

Why should I? I want to live in a civil society. And surprise, surprise, that requires us to be CIVIL toward each other. So stop telling me that historically it was okay to use the word nigger, so you’re going to keep using it. There is no reason to continue to use terms (or symbols, for that matter) that cause other people heartache. It’s not that I expect you to be politically correct. I expect you to be civil. I’d honestly prefer you to be kind, in general, but if you can’t pull that one out, just be civil.

And while we’re at it, let me just say. Yes, I am tired of the ever-evolving terminology we have to use to not offend each other. Why call a janitor a building maintenance technician? I never heard of a janitor being offended by being called a janitor. Do you know why? I think it’s because somebody, somewhere, thought janitor didn’t sound important, or prestigious, enough. Well, I think that’s a wrong-headed assumption. Taking care of a place is noble and it’s a job done by good, hardworking people. When did we suddenly decide that good and hardworking wasn’t enough to be a proud American?

Same as with the terms homemaker, or gardener, or cashier, or cook, or teacher… Anyone who ends a day having worked earnestly and well is deserving of my respect. And yours, too. Not to mention, they’re worthy of pay that makes their lives livable. It’s simple.

So what if they have no further desire than to live a simple life in a simple place? Not everyone wants a big, expensive car. Not everyone needs a house with more rooms than he or she will use in a year to feel validated. Not everyone needs botox, hair dye, and designer clothes to feel worthwhile.

And also while we’re at it, I’m sick and tired of having to apologize because I am somewhat intelligent and use my brain to determine my opinions. When did it become a bad thing to be smart? Why is it wrong of me to consider things like poverty from all different angles? How is it wrong of me to say I understand why Middle Easterners feel righteous in their anger toward us? We need their oil, so we think we have some right to tell them how to run their politics, just so our oil supplies aren’t compromised? That’s like you coming to my house and turning the TV channel to your favorite show just because you’re there. No, man, it’s my TV. Maybe you should have DVRd your program at home before you left. Not my problem. And yes, I probably invited you to come to my house in the first place, but that doesn’t give you the right to take over.

I do think about issues that are important, to all of us. I think about how I feel about things, and why I feel that way. I mull things over, I chew them up and spit them out. And like when I was a kid and wasn’t done chewing a piece of gum, I might stick it on my bedpost so I can pop it back in my mouth the next day and chew on it some more. It bothers me when someone doesn’t take the time or the effort to think about things just because they’re complicated. So then what happens? We take the simplest route to gaining our opinion and call it good.

Here’s a good example: Illegal immigration. It’s not simple. It’s a refugee crisis, more like. Many (probably most) of the people coming over our border illegally are running from violence and poverty that we can’t imagine. Are you hard up enough to leave your home, your family, and everything you’ve ever known and travel thousands of miles, on foot, with just a few of your possessions in a sack? Are you doing that? No. You’re not. Do you know why? You don’t live in that level of fear or poverty. So tell me anyone who makes that trip doesn’t need our help and a little damn bit of civility? Come on. Nobody’s asking you to give them your home or your family. But the simple answer is to build a wall, to keep them out? That sounds like a good way to spend your tax dollars? Really?

And let me just add one more thing while I’m here. To those of you who over the years have called me, and others like me, overly emotional. I have just one thing to say: fuck you. I live a rich and fulfilling life. A big part of who I am is based on my emotionality. I feel things fully and deeply. I’m sorry if you can’t. Truly, I feel sorry for you. But just remember, I don’t go running around calling you a cold-hearted, unfeeling robotron, do I? Nope. I don’t. Just let me be me and I’ll let you be you. I never said you have to like me, anyway.

Is there a point to this rant, in the end? I guess the point is that I expect more from us. We can’t claim to live in a civilized society then refuse to be civil. We can’t claim the right to say anything we want, any way we want it, and then claim that no one has the right to react to it.  We can’t claim to have compassion and not show it, or to have intelligence and not use it, and, in the very end, claim to be human and not be humane.

And last but not least, for those of you who want to run around saying horrible things then claim, “I was just kidding” or “It’s just a joke.” Stop. Just stop that. Because whether you were a kid on the giving end or the receiving end of that sort of thing, we both know the truth. “I was just kidding” is what you said when mom came along and caught you being an asshole, right? Am I right?

You know I am.

Thoughtful

Thoughtful 800(Day 23 of 30)

I try hard to be a thoughtful person. It seems easy for some people to do what’s thoughtful and just be that way all day, everyday. It’s not for me. I try, but I wish it were more automatic. So with that in mind, here are seven reminders for how I can work to be a more thoughtful person:

  1. Schedule thoughtful plans into my calendar. This seems counter-intuitive, but it’s really not. Scheduled thoughtfulness is not automatically thoughtful. But if I make consistent plans to be thoughtful, then being thoughtful could become automatic. Fingers crossed!
  2. Smile often! How easy is that? A simple smile can brighten the day for every person you pass. And even if they’re not in need of one, a genuine smile is always welcome. Plus, smiling releases endorphins (those HAPPY hormones). WIN – WIN!
  3. Be patient, especially when I’d really rather not. It’s hard to remember that everyone moves at their own pace. Just because I’m feeling rushed doesn’t mean people around me are; most likely they’re not. I’ll try this: the next time I’m stuck in traffic and someone is moving like a slug I’ll remember that the couple of extra seconds I might gain won’t make a real difference.
  4. Practice generosity. I live in the Las Vegas Valley and we have a lot of panhandlers here. Some are truly in need, some are not, and sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference. I want to be generous, but don’t want to get duped. Here’s a plan – I’ll buy an extra bottle of water when I’m buying myself one in the convenience store. That way, when I stop at a corner and there’s a panhandler looking for money, I can donate a cold drink instead. Even if they don’t really need money, they certainly need to keep hydrated.
  5. Be on time. There’s nothing more wasteful than wasting someone else’s time. I have friends and family who are chronically late. I know this about them, and I fully understand that it’s hard to get out of the house on time every time, but for god-sake, try. Just try. And if you’re the one who schedules an event and you’re not there at the time you scheduled it? That’s inconceivably rude. Don’t do that.
  6. Be efficient. Wait, what? Yes, efficient. Here’s a good example: When I’m waiting in line at the bank, I can use that time to fill out my deposit slip. When it’s my turn at the teller’s desk, I’m ready to do business. That way I don’t end up fumbling around in my purse and slowing up an already frustrating and long line.
  7. Recognize my own imperfections. Yes!! As perfect as I’d like to be, I am far from it. I know this about myself and I own it. The fringe benefit of owning my imperfections is that it gives me room to accept the imperfections of others. All I, and you, and everyone else can do is try our best. None of our bests will be perfect, but at least we’re trying.

Which is a perfect place to end this list, because, well, I know darn well as hard as I try, some days I will be a thoughtless cur. And the best thing I can do at the end of those days is know that I have another chance to be the kind and thoughtful person I want to be tomorrow.

Ruminator

Ruminate 800(Day 10 of 30)

It took me a long time to embrace my own personal thought-style. I’ve always been a slow thinker, but for a good part of my adulthood I thought of that as a bad thing. Like if the early bird (someone who’s faster to wake up) gets the worm, where does that leave me?

The older I got the harder it was to embrace my ruminant nature, which is generally the opposite of how we mature. But the digital age popped up in my late 20’s and has been moving exponentially faster ever since. So the older I got, the faster the world moved. I know, this is the eternal lament of the aged, but let me ask this question: Has progress ever progressed this fast before?

Anyway, back to my personal conundrum: As I aged I became less comfortable with the slow nature of my thought process as the world became more  instantaneous. But now that I’m just a few weeks from turning a semicentury, I am coming to accept, even embrace my need to ruminate.

Ruminators: The ruminants comprise the cattle, sheep, antelopes, deer, giraffes, and their relatives. Also, a contemplative person; a person given to meditation.

Here’s the thing. I am a slow and meditative thinker. Maybe I even overthink at times, but because of these habits I avoid the mistakes a split-second decision maker make.s

Is it a good trade off? I think so.

But there’s another thing, a bone I have to pick, to be plain. I’m sick of people (society, bosses, salespeople, “thought leaders”) making me feel wrong or less than effective because I’m not comfortable with quick-made decisions. For me quick decisions come under the category: just because I can doesn’t mean I should. I can buy a luxury car today. I can eat a whole bagful of sour cream and onion chips. I can hop on Tinder and find an anonymous hookup. But does that mean I should? Of course not.

The reality is that I can make quick decisions; sometimes they are absolutely necessary. But my nature is to think things through, meditate on them for a while, and then maybe I’m still not comfortable making a choice. Decisions are like good friends: we sit together over coffee, or maybe take a walk together.  We throw our feet up and get comfortable. Through all that we learn to understand one and other.  What’s so wrong with making decisions this way?

Sure. I know a decision isn’t a friend, in the physical sense, but who says I can’t think of it as one?

 

Moved by nature

Nature 800(Day 7 of 30)

For me, there is nowhere better than being out in nature. It doesn’t matter the scene: it might be a cool green woodland, a hot desert wash, a walk by the ocean, or following a stream as far as its beginning. All that matters is I’m in a place where I can turn my brain off and simply exist.

I am naturally a quiet person. I prefer quietude to any other state. In it, I am able to pay attention to minute details I would otherwise miss if my brain was buzzing and busy.

I sometimes wonder if I am this way because I was born this way. Or is it because as a girl I frequently played by myself and got used to hearing only the sounds in my head? I grew up with three brothers and, though, sometimes I joined in on their fun, mostly it was too rambunctious for me. Most likely, it’s a bit of both. Life usually works that way: we become a mixed up mess of who we always were and who life makes us into.

I wonder, too, if everyone is as moved by nature as I am. I feel a quiet  joy out walking in the woods. It’s not easy to describe, except to say that the whole core of my being awakens and fills with an almost excited feeling. Near to joy? Near to excitement? Yes, but on a subtle level. It feels, inside, like the faint rustling of leaves on a breezy day, or the babbling of water in a stream, or the quiet sliding back of saltwater after a wave has crashed. All barely noticeable when my attention is captured elsewhere, but they are powerful when my focus is trained directly at them. This is how I feel in nature. I have that near-to-joy feeling in my center and if I pay attention it becomes this giant overflow.

I lived in Manhattan for a year, once upon a time. It was a wonderful experience. I took the bus across town to work every day – I read more that year than I ever did before and have since. The excitement there is like nothing else. There is diversity and variety, creativity, highs and lows and I’m so glad I experienced life there for a time. Ultimately, though, it was not for me. The subtle scents and sounds of nature are lost in the city. Central Park, as big as it is, still has underlying city rumblings. Not to mention no matter what direction you turn, there is always a skyscraper poking up from behind the trees.

Lesson learned? That’s probably one of life’s easiest lessons for me: I’m no good if I can’t get out in nature often enough. Which is hard in the middle of the hot, desert summer. But I go when I can, and when I do, I am refresh and enlivened. My batteries are filled and I’m ready to go take on life in all its glorious complications.

Be a powerhouse

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I find it interesting that in the English language we don’t have masculine or feminine words, like other languages do; French and Spanish come immediately to mind. Yet we assign, as a culture, masculine and feminine traits to words. Powerhouse, for example.

Powerhouse: (noun) a person, group, team, or the like, having great energy, strength, or potential for success.

As Americans, we attribute maleness to any word related to power. We see it as manly to be powerful. Even 45+ years after Gloria Steinem first took to New York Magazine to chronicle and highlight the growing Women’s Liberation Movement, power is still, in a subconscious and deeply ingrained way, a man’s game. That fact is unfortunate for so many reasons, but let me dive into just this one.

Powerhouse.

I am, at my very depth, thoughtful. I put more time and effort into consideration of my daily words and actions than some people put into doing their yearly taxes, which is to say, a lot. I am a ruminator, a cow chewing her cud. I think things through thoroughly and honestly and wholeheartedly, so much so that my decision-making is usually a tediously slow process. The upside is that once I’ve made a decision I stand very firmly on it. You could say I’m stubborn, and you would be right, but my stubbornness comes from a position of power. My powerhouse is thoughtfulness.

Another definition of powerhouse is a generating station. In common terms this means the generation of electricity, but I’m going to expand that and say it should mean to generate and distribute whatever individual, unique powers we have. And by power I mean our innate intention, our most powerful and resilient and individually characteristic human quality. Your power is likely how you are described by the people who know you best. Most people have more than one, for sure, but some, like Mother Theresa have one that seems to fill their entire soul.

Here’s why I like this word, powerhouse: it’s a “place” where power is both created and distributed. You make your power and you also send it out into the world. I can’t think of any better way to live, creating and giving away the deepest and most valuable part of who we are. It’s enriching for us, as individuals: When we’re focusing attention on our deepest and most authentic selves we can’t help but grow deeply satisfying lives. But there’s a community component here, too: We’re all a single piece of a giant, Earth-sized puzzle. And if you’re not filling your spot, who is?

We’re all born with certain strengths,  certain powers. I am convinced that we are meant to use our powers to support and grow our community, our world really, into its best version, while we grow ourselves. It’s not such a leap to suppose that if we’re all busy growing these rich inner lives that the community would also be gaining the benefit of that wealth, too, is it? And if for no other reason than that, we should take back our power, in aid of our communities. But isn’t it an even better idea to take it back for ourselves?

So tell me, what’s your powerhouse?