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Hugs Are Not Always Comforting

Saturday, 13 April 2019

Gina Barreca sums this up nicely and I hope you take the time to read her Op-Ed “Hugs are free, but they’re not for everybody.” before continuing on to read my entry below.


Something that people do not usually take into account, unless someone has taught them this, is that their well meaning hug or touch can actually cause the recipient to absolutely shut down. Not everyone is comforted by touch when they are struggling with something, are hurting or just need comfort in general. It is why I try to teach people to ask the person they want to comfort, how that particular person wants to be comforted. Do not assume that because hugs and warm blankets are comforting to you when you are upset that it works the same for everyone.

For instance I am not a huge hugger most of the time. This is even true with people I know intimately and love dearly. I have learned through the years how to tell people I am not huggable at a given time. In turn, those close to me have learned (because I have gently taught them) to either outright ask me verbally if I am huggable right then or to open their arms and give me a questioning look and then let me come to them, or not. They also do not assume because I have given permission once that it is a blanket permission forever or even that same day. (I love that my people get this!) They have also learned, again because I have told them, that when I am not huggable it’s not a direct reflection on them. It can be anything from I am tired because of a long day, I am having a tough pain day, all the way to I am on overwhelm around people and struggling with flashbacks and can’t stand to be touched by anyone. They love me, listened to what I told them and act accordingly based on what I told them and in return I do the same for them. Give and take in relationships, it’s a miracle! People, especially ones I don’t know, who come at me without asking permission are likely to (gently of course) get my hand in their face/throat or on their chest with a stiff arm to keep them back. (It is usually not a conscious thought as to where my hand ends up it is just reflex and the arm comes up.)

These days a casual hug that sneaks past my sensors doesn’t completely shut me down 99% of the time anymore. However, it is distinctly uncomfortable to me and I do not like it. Also,it is astronomically rare for me to cry, much less in public. So if in the unlikely event you see me crying DO NOT hug or touch me at all. It will shut me down faster than a bucket of ice water over my head. Crying anytime is really hard for me (remind me to thank my bio family for that…again). When you touch me in any way trying to “comfort” me you actually are shorting me out and causing me to miss out on the extremely rare opportunity to process whatever I am feeling via tears. (This is even true most of the time with my darling spouse, so don’t feel special.) This has caused me a great deal of frustration and anger over the years even though I know people “meant well”. I crave the ability to cry when I need to process like a dying person in the desert needs water. So when someone means well, that means very little to me; they entered my personal space without asking because they thought they knew what was best for me.

Let me also say that this does not mean don’t ever comfort someone because you may get it wrong and screw up. (Because there’s always folks who will read this and then say “Well, this just means I can’t ever comfort anyone ever again!”) No. That is not what I said here. It is also does not seem at all to be what Gina Barreca is saying either. However, if you assume that there’s only one way to comfort people and aren’t willing to learn differently it could mean that you’re a jerk. Because if you read the Op-Ed and have read my entry here then there have been at least two people telling you that there is more than one way to comfort people. Willful ignorance and burying your head in the sand is not an excuse to keep doing what you feel most comfortable doing. It is simply being a jerk. It only takes a few seconds to ask someone “May I hug you?”, “Would you like a hug?” “How can I comfort you best right now?” etc.

I can’t say it enough: if you want to comfort someone ask them how they want to be comforted. Even when they are in the middle of being upset. Especially those of us who a hug or touch isn’t just not comforting to us but can be downright traumatic. Trust me, most people would so much rather you ask even when they are upset than assume you know. If you are close to someone; best friend, partners, spouses, children (yes, this even means your kids folks), etc. have the conversation before you need to. I have absolutely asked partners and friends, before they are in a meltdown, how they prefer to be comforted so that if/when the time comes I already have that info. We are human and we may forget in the moment because it’s someone we love and we hate that they are hurting. That’s okay, stop yourself from assuming and ask again. I guarantee you that most of us will be so much more grateful that you asked again! Simple communication like this can make a deep and meaningful impact on those you care about and even those you don’t know well. This is how we make healthy connections and have healthy relationships folks; good and clear communication. Try to leave people better than you found them, especially when you are trying to offer comfort. And here’s the best part, you lose nothing in doing so.

You CAN Discipline Without Fear.

Thursday, 11 April 2019

I saw this today and it really struck a chord with me. This is something I devoutly wish my dad had understood. He was big on parenting through fear. My mom was usually the one I could just call when things went south even if she did get mad. She would still discipline me but I wasn’t afraid of physical harm, intimidation or that I was going to be living under the house because I was evil. (I can’t say that was true of my first step dad though. He was a lot like my dad in many ways and then add in a lot of booze and it didn’t get better from there.) I didn’t know my dads parents well as I was still a teenager when my dad’s parents passed so I never really got the chance to interact with them as an adult. I never got the impression that my Papa had ruled through fear but my Granny I could have seen the propensity for it in her but I will never know for sure. My dad cannot, even today, see where parenting through fear all the time was so harmful.

There were so many things that he did that majorly fucked me up. When my nieces & nephews began coming along I remember asking my oldest sister how she could stand to leave her kids alone with him. Wasn’t she afraid that he was going to teach them all the things like he did us through fear, intimidation & racism? She said that they figured that their kids were with them more often than our dad so that they more than balanced out anything he would tell them/do. I was fucking floored! I shouldn’t have been, but I was.

Let me say, my dad also taught us many great things about surviving, taking care of ourselves and so forth. Those wonderful, helpful, useful skills do not erase the fear mongering and hate that he also tried to ingrain, and often succeeded with (especially with my older siblings). Thankfully I was always the rebel black sheep and fought him tooth and nail because I knew in my heart that so much he said was wrong and hateful toward other people. I paid for fighting back, a lot but to this day I have never been sorry that I did it. I hated getting in trouble, whipped, grounded etc. but never once did I want to take it back.

I also want to add that this isn’t a all or nothing proposition. People seem to think that when you say things like what the picture says you are meaning that you should never discipline your kids. That is NOT what I am saying at all. What AM saying is that it is totally possible to discipline your kids without FEAR and making them think you are going to fucking kill them. For me, and I can only speak for me, it is my experience that the people who get all up in arms about not disciplining your kids and you don’t need to be their friend because you are their parent, blah, blah, blah. Those are the ones who often need this message the most.

This really hit me hard today and brought up a lot of feels.

 

Secondary Primer for Interacting with a Person Who Has Chronic Illness

Friday, 15 March 2019

I wrote this post two years ago about some struggles with well meaning healthy people giving advice to those of us with chronic illness. This happens a LOT to people with chronic illness. I have been thinking about this of late and a few other things in relation to some of the things that those of us with chronic illness and pain go through with those in our sphere as well as people who are randomly in our spheres for short periods. Very often I know that those of you without chronic illness, and even others with, mean well when they bring up some of these things but often I am also hyper aware of how ableist it comes across when you do. Please stop and check yourself and where you are coming from before you start recommending things to those of us who struggle with chronic illness. There are some things that I wanted to share with you along the lines of my post a couple years ago. This is not meant to sound mean and vindictive but to give you some perspective and hopefully help you have better and healthier interactions with those you come across in life or who are regularly in your life who have chronic illness/pain. Some of the thoughts may come across as hardline or harsh but that is more born out of the fact that many of us with chronic illnesses deal with this stuff multiple times a day, day in and day out. When all we really want to do is just go to the dang grocery, pick up a coffee, enjoy a quiet day alone or simply run some errands but we are constantly interrupted by folks not respecting our space and agency. So just remember that for us this is often from the perspective that you are not the first person to come at us with stuff even though it may be your first time coming at us with suggestions, questions, etc.

My biggest suggestion is that you ASK us if we want your input before you just start giving it. The thing is that you are rarely the first person to come to us with a particular suggestion or even the first person that day. It becomes exhausting to field this kind of stuff all the time even though it is well meaning. Imagine, if you will, you have worked/gone to school/raised a family/etc. for days and days on end with no weekends, you are exhausted, worn through and your body & mind are crying out for a break of any kind but there’s currently none in sight. Now add onto that well meaning people always telling you that you should go to the gym because it will give you more energy or that you need to change your diet because it will fix your being exhausted or that you just need to take a break for yourself to go out and be social. Well, exercise, social life and diet are not the roots of your exhaustion are they? Yes, they may help a little but they will not fix the problem in the long run. Now try to imagine when about the 10th well meaning person comes up to you in a day/week to tell you these same things or some miracle supplement they have found that makes them feel amazing (even though they are not going through what you are with your exhaustive schedule, etc.). Try to put yourself in that place and you will start to have an inkling of what those with chronic illness go through with well meaning people always trying to fix them. So when you feel the urge to try to fix something for us or are convinced you have THE solution, stop and take a perspective check for a moment and then if you still must go forth with it, ask us first if we are in a place or even want to hear your ideas/suggestions. If we say no, please take it gracefully and let it drop. This isn’t about whether your suggestion is the most amazeballs thing on the planet ever. It is however about if we have the bandwidth to have one more person tell us they know how to fix us better than we or our doctors and healthcare team do. (Please refer to my first post on more about this if you need to…)

Secondly, if I have not invited you into the personal intricacies of my healthcare treatment then it is none of your business. Let me say that again, just because you are aware of my medical conditions etc. does not mean that automatically grants you access to the intimate details of my medical life. Yes, I share some things online and in public as I see fit to do so or if I think it will help someone else. This does not mean that grants you access to dive into my medical history and start asking me intimate questions. This is tantamount to me coming up to you and randomly starting to ask you intimate details about your medical health or even your sex life out of the blue. Now, this is not to say that I am not happy to sometimes help answer people’s questions if they are seeking a better understanding and want to be a better advocate. But if you are doing it as a general conversation starter or just to satisfy your curiosity, please don’t, these are not ice breaker topics for most of us; not even close. And if we tell you that we do not want to share the intimate details of our medical history/care by all that is holy let it drop, do not continue to press the issue. I am not required to share this information with you to sate your random curiosity stranger on the train/bus/at an event/in the grocery. I see this happen even more to my friends with service animals and every time I do and the random person pushes the issue it makes me just want to smack them for being rude. I have taken people to task in public for their rude behavior in regards to this and it is amazing how many are then offended that I called them out for asking me or other personal questions. So in my typical effrontery fashion when someone presses the issue I start asking them hyper personal questions about their medical history or sex life in return. I like reflecting people’s behavior back to them in a way that makes them uncomfortable if they won’t leave me alone. Maybe you think that makes me mean. I think it just means I am exhausted and fed up with someone being rude and I don’t want to go to jail for punching them when they won’t leave me alone and I try to ignore them. Though admittedly the visual I get in my head of punching them usually makes me smile inwardly. lol

With my particular illnesses and I know for a lot of others with chronic illness and pain, there are days I can barely remember my own freaking name. So please bear with me when I struggle to come up with a word we have all known since kindergarten. You do not always need jump in and try to finish my sentence for me. Trust me, it is humiliating enough to not be able to remember the word “orange” and to then have to try and juggle my own brain and people throwing suggestions at me it just completely derails my thought process. It is very likely I will start trying to describe to you what I am trying to remember to give you a better idea and to help jog my own wonky grey matter. So just be patient for a few moments or a minute. Honestly it can be super amusing to see what I come up with trying to describe a simple word I can’t remember. Trust me, my husband gets a tickle out of it all the time! Even I am surprised at the mental gymnastics my brain will go through to try to describe the simple word I can’t remember! It’s kinda mind blowing when I look back on it after the incident. lol

I firmly believe in supporting each other with chronic illness and building each other up. That does not mean I am going to take on all of the burdens of every other person I know with chronic illness and cause myself to drown. It does mean that I will encourage you, let you know I see you, share my time and energy when I am able and be honest with you when I am not able. It means that I will be supportive to you in positive ways and try to help you see the light at the end of the tunnel when you are struggling. I will be honest with you when I think you are headed off the rails and need a check and balance and hope you will do the same for me. I know that those of us with chronic illness have the best abilities to support one another in ways that folks who don’t deal with illness daily and constantly can. That’s not saying that people without chronic illness can’t be supportive, they totally can and many are. I just know that really knowing where the other person is coming from due to experience brings something completely different to the table. For instance it is one of the reasons that addicts in recovery are able to support one another in ways that people not in recovery don’t have the basis for.

Please don’t tell me to “think positive” or I need to have a much more positive outlook, etc. You get where I am going with this I hope. Let me tell you something, I am one of the most positive focused MoFo’s you are likely to meet. I am honestly so much so that others kinda find me annoying at times. But here is the crux of the thing. No matter how positively focused I am, it is NOT going to cure me. And by all that is holy if I am sharing about a struggle do not tell me that I just need to look at it more positively! I am going to struggle at times, I am sick that’s part of what happens. If you do not want to listen to where I am at and the struggle I am having, just say so up front and don’t try to shame me into not sharing. I will gladly move along and reach out to someone else who I can vent to or share with. It’s okay if you don’t want to listen or don’t have the bandwidth, I of all people get that. But say so up front and don’t try to make me feel bad for needing to share where I am at. I believe that often when this happens that the person doing it does not realize how disempowering they are being to the person with chronic illness. They often mean to sound empowering but it has the completely opposite effect usually.

I absolutely respect that we all have our own path in dealing with our challenges. I will respect that you have your path if you will please do the same for me. For me, at this juncture with my illnesses, I am merging the best I can of modern Western medicine and holistic approaches. Please don’t assume that if I am not going full tilt in one direction or the other than I am doing it wrong because you are taking that path or have known others who have. For example; assuming that I should completely take out the Western medicines and go completely holistic or vice versa. I respect that you want what is best for me when it comes to my health but remember that I am a full grown adult and I can still make those choices for myself. And if/when it comes to a point that I cannot, that job will fall to my husband not you. My husband and those I have chosen to be my healthcare advocates know the intimate details of my health and healthcare and are in a much better place to make those decisions. You likely do not have access to all of that information and are speaking off the cuff and based on what is true for you. I respect that you know what is true for you but please do not assume that you know what is true and best for me based on a few conversations we have had.

By all that is holy don’t tell me I need to “get out more”. First off I WANT to get out more but physically am not able to a lot, even with help. Yes, socialization is good and social isolation is bad in modern views. I think both are helpful in moderation. But the crux of this is to not assume that we are staying home because we want to. Many of us want to be out more and social but our bodies are not in complete compliance with these wants. And often when we do push ourselves to go out we pay for it dearly afterward. Trust me, I want to be out there dancing on tables & raising some hell again! Okay, maybe not the dancing on tables part….that was kinda humiliating after the fact. lol On the other side of this issue folks offer to visit with me and come to the house. This often ends up causing me a lot of anxiety because I can’t clean as much or as thoroughly as I would like. I know the people who love me don’t care and I get that on a cerebral level. But the truth is I have an anxiety disorder and this just spikes it. So, for me what would really rock would be “Hey, want me to come grab you and we can go get a cup of tea/lunch on a day you feel like it?” That gets me out of the house without my being worried I’ll have to cancel because I can’t drive that day (yay!) and I am not worried you are going to see my messy house that I can’t control right now. So, let’s go get tea! 🙂

Along the same lines of things I encourage you not suggest to someone, especially me, dealing with chronic illnesses is that we just need to exercise more. For the record I was extremely active most of my life. I rode motorcycles, horses, did gymnastics, swam, hiked, climbed, taught full contact martial arts and so much more. I would much rather be out there doing those things than stuck at home in pain. Yes, in many cases more exercise can help some but it can also hurt a lot more. We have to find a new balance with exercise and physical activity and some of us, like me, are now relegated to a much less active life than we were accustomed to. Maybe one day that will change for me, I dearly hope so, but for now it is what it is and I do what I can when I can. Suggesting to me that if I just exercise more that it will cure me or make it all better is likely to put you in throat punch range so I would suggest you steer clear of that. I hated losing my ability to be extremely physical and yeah, it’s still a sore spot so please tread lightly with me on this one and think really hard before you suggest it to others.

I LOVE to laugh and can have the best laugh at my own expense a LOT. I will often even invite others close to me, or when I am teaching, to have a laugh with me about my foibles and challenges. It’s a big part of how I teach and also how I cope much of the time. I find that sharing my ability to laugh at myself and being real about what’s going on with me at the same time helps others connect and be able to open up as well. I need to find the humor somewhere buried beneath all the miasma. I invite others with chronic illness to join me and share their own humorous stories. Though be warned sometimes what we find hilarious may seem kinda dark to folks who are not in the chronic illness community. We find our humor where we can! lol Please don’t try to short circuit our having a good laugh at ourselves. Most of us are very clear where the line is between having a good laugh at a foible and harmful self depreciation is.

On a semi-amusing note if you see me posting on social media or liking stuff that doesn’t mean I am available to take a phone call. lol Usually if I am sharing a lot, liking things etc. I am either trapped in the bathroom in gastric hell or stuck in bed feeling exhausted but can’t sleep am just not up to talking. I get tickled how many times I get a phone call when I am liking things or sharing things a lot. lol

I would love to hear from other folks with chronic illness/pain about some of the challenges you are facing along these lines. Let’s open a dialogue about it, support one another and hopefully help positively educate those around us about how to interact with us in empowering ways!

Pippi Longstocking in a GI Joe World

Thursday, 2 August 2018

I think sometimes that people think I am this Pollyana who always sees the bright side and doesn’t struggle. That can’t be further from the truth. Lately I struggle daily to keep my ass moving and out of the bed because it’s the easy and depressing thing to do. I am trying to rest when my body really tells me to but otherwise I have to move, interact, reach out and DO. It’s a conscious choice that I struggle with but ultimately I don’t want to give up so I don’t most days.

Is it easy? It is not. No, it is fricking hard and I want to give up many days but the battle wages on. Life has to be lived, chores need to be done and I have to keep going forward. There are a few key concepts that help me get through most days.

First, I consider life to be like school; I am here to learn things. I also consider, at times, that I am GI Joe and life is like a battlefield where I have to decide if hiding in the fox hole or charging forward helps my growth. That’s the key though in both instances; what will help me grow? I don’t hide in the hole because it’s the easy thing to do when those times happen, I stay there because there is a growth opportunity in that hole. The rest of the time I get up that damned hill whether I feel like it or not because I have to take the hill to win the fight and learn the lesson. Sometimes I charge up the hill and other times I trudge up that road. Either way, if I need to surmount that hill I will eventually take the first step and get up it.

So Mags, you may be asking, isn’t that a heavy lens to view life through? Sometimes, sure it is and that can really suck. Other times it’s light as a feather and I don’t feel the weight at all because I am in the zone, learning and growing on track. Another key to all of this is choosing how I see things that happen. Yes, it is can be a choice and one that we each control.

As humans we are so used to living life in a reactionary state where we are just reacting to what happens without forethought to how we might handle situations when they DO happen. And happen they will, you can trust me on that. My dad taught me a valuable skill in thinking about situations before they happen and how I might handle them when they do. He was a police officer for many years so much of his teaching in this area was around safety. I took that teaching and altered it to other things I was learning about as a young adult and still today.

Are the situations always fun to think about? No. Do I need to think about what will happen if my partner dies before me and how I may handle that? Yes. Now, thinking about those things won’t prepare me for the full on reality but it will help me prepare what I can ahead of time (wills, power of attorney, documentation and so forth) and it will also give my mind a chance to taste what the sadness and loss might feel like. I know that just that little bit won’t fully prepare me for the eventuality but it is a way to start handling that type of situation on some levels in my mind.

Another example of using this technique is to spend some time thinking about how I might handle myself at a company gathering where there may be a person present whom I have issues with. I spend time thinking about how I want to treat this person, how I want to act around this person and the boundaries I will set. This won’t prepare me for every eventuality but I will be more prepared for interacting with this person than I would be if I go in blind. If I have a plan in place, it may not go completely according to my own plan because people are people but I get to choose how I act regardless of the other person. Think about that for a minute; you get to choose how you act. That is true in every single situation in life to some degree.

So Mags, do you take time to think of fun scenarios and not just heavy crap like this? You betcha I do! You have to balance out the bad with the good. This is a skill set that crosses all boundaries! There are so many examples I can give you of how to use this skill in your daily life to learn how to choose to handle things that happen rather than simply reacting to them.

Then there’s the component of you just have to DO the thing. This can be tough and relies on will power to some degree. It also is a major part of learning and growing. I always say that the anticipation of doing something is almost always worse than the actual doing of the thing. We agonize and worry about things often for far longer than it takes to actually do the thing. I guess that makes me more of a rip the bandage off kind of person rather than trying to take it off easily and slow. Here’s the best part about this one though, you can get help. Well, truthfully you can get help in each aspect of this but you don’t have to rely solely on will power here is my point.

Ask for accountability help from your friends, family, therapist, etc. One of the biggest challenges many people face with this part is that they feel alone in what they are doing. Guess what? Most of us feel that way at some point or other. Think about how you feel if a friend reaches out to you for you to help them be accountable for some task and to succeed at whatever it is they are shooting for. Most of us want to help each other so don’t hold back reaching out and asking for help. It’s what we do for each other; help, care, love, support & sometimes push.

So, really I am more like Pippi Longstocking I like to say. I even have this wonderful bracelet a dear friend made for me that says “What would Pippi do?” Pippi was kind of a hero to me as a kid and that never fully went away. She would see a problem and dive into trying to work out what she needed to do to solve it. Now sometimes, ok a lot of the time, this led to hilarious results because they were kids books. The thing I took away from Pippi was that desire to help, to solve problems, to be kind, to be loving and to choose to be who you wanted to be. Pippi was very sure about herself and who she wanted to be and that really appeals to me even today. To know wholeheartedly who or what you want to be and to go after that with your whole being is something to behold and to be a part of.

I want to leave you with a quote that I keep by my desk that I adore from George Bernard Shaw the playwright, which is a huge part of my life’s mantra. “I rejoice in life for its own sake. Life is no “brief candle” to me. It is sort of a splendid torch which I have got hold of for the moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations.”

Go forth with your whole heart and be who you want to be in this life. Burn bright and fierce and never stop loving, caring and helping where you can.

Are You Listening?

Friday, 27 July 2018

I was not always a good listener. In fact I was often an avid non-listener and didn’t realize how terrible at it I was. With ADHD and not growing up in a family that was big on healthy communication I didn’t know how to be an active listener. I would hear you up to the point where I had something I wanted to interject. Then I would jump in with both feet, never mind that you weren’t done talking yet. It took me a long time as an adult to learn to listen fully to what someone was saying and not dive in and interrupt them. It also took me a long time to then not keep thinking about what I wanted to say when they were done. Because then I still wasn’t really listening to them.

Active listening is an important skill set to learn I believe. It took me into my early 30’s with a lot of practice to start getting some accuracy and focus into my listening skills. I still practice them and work at them on a regular basis because I value healthy communication.

One of the things that I started to do in the early learning stages of trying to be a better listener was a technique called mirroring. I still use this skill today. Someone shares something with me and I say back to them “What I hear you saying is…” and then share what I heard them say followed by “Is that right?” Or some variation of those two sentences. This gives me the opportunity to cement what I heard and gives them a chance to tweak it if I misheard something. It means I have to be actively listening to be able to mirror back what I hear. I don’t use it all the time but it is a great tool to use in work conversations to make sure you have the details correct. It is also a wonderful thing to use in interpersonal conversations when you want to make sure that you are on point with what your partner or friend is sharing with you.

So I say all of that to now say I may have become too good of a listener. I listen so much that I have begun to rarely talk, interject and share. I began to realize this recently when while I was really struggling through some stuff in my own life. I found that I was listening to everyone around me and what was going on with them but no one was asking about me and I wasn’t introducing what was going on with me into the conversation. I think that being a good listener is a valuable skill set but it can’t be all I do. I have to still be a part of the conversation and share what’s going on with me as well. If I am not doing that am I still being genuine in my part of the conversation? It’s a question I have been asking myself lately and will likely continue to for a while.

I know some people would say that if the people I am talking to aren’t asking about me too then they don’t care. I will agree up to a point on that. The people I am very close to do ask how I am doing and take time to listen to me. It’s more of the next couple of rings out from friend and family central that I was getting this behavior from. So I am asking myself what is it in me that is encouraging this behavior and is it something I want to tweak or change? I think it will be something I want to tweak and I will have to figure out how I want to go about that.

There are many people in my life who are going through some heavy stuff lately so I am not alone in that. Much of this is about finding a balance I believe. Even more so when the lot of you are all going through things at the same time. In an ideal world you would experience tough times in staggered stages so you could help one another while not mired down in your own crap. Rarely does it work out that way though in my experience.

So, I am back to balance. I need to find the equilibrium of listening to those who are in need but also taking time for me to be heard as well. I can’t pour from an empty vessel. If I am always giving and not receiving, even in the outer circles of friendship it creates imbalance. And while temporary asymmetry is fine, a friendship cannot maintain, nor thrive in it. I will be looking at the circles where this behavior seems to flourish the most and be working on ways to feel more heard as well as hearing others out.

If you aren’t familiar with the circles of relations, friendship or connection below is a diagram.

 

Disconnection in a Connectivity World

Thursday, 12 July 2018

Here in the Western world, we live a life where most people are connected electronically somehow. We have multiple social media sites, work connection sites, shopping, school reunion sites and more. We are seemingly never alone. Or are we? A phone or computer isn’t the same as a human to human interface. It begins to beg the question about whether all of our technology is really connecting us or keeping us more and more disconnected from one another. These are questions that I ask myself often these days. I have begun seeking out answers and others who are asking the same questions. I have sat down to write this post so many times but the words have simply eluded me much like regular contact with others has in recent months.

The theory put forth by Johann Hari in his book Lost Connections, which I have been reading, as well as renowned scientists is that we are more disconnected now from each other than we ever have been before. Those connections are a needed quantity for most of us to be a healthy and whole person. Johann Hari talks about the fact that we don’t have tribe anymore and we don’t connect on a personal face to face level regularly with tribe like we have in the past. (For the purpose of this discussion tribe will be used to mean a group or groups of people that we interact with whom we can depend on for help and to help in return.) Humans are social animals and the more disconnected we become the more anxious and depressed we are becoming. Our society has the highest rates of depression and anxiety ever in our history. I believe that we need more quality human interaction with one another on a much more regular basis than many of us are getting.

I have seen this happen in my own life as a result of chronic illness, OCD and depression. Then you add in some environmental factors and it’s a recipe for disconnection disaster in my world. About 7 months ago my car died on me and since I am not working we really can’t afford to fix or replace it. (We are working on it and it will hopefully be resolved soon.) So this has meant that I am in effect trapped at home, a lot. When my partner is home in the evenings & on weekends I can use his car but there’s a limited window of when I have access to the car, when I feel well enough to go do something and when others are available to do things with me. Throw in that we live about 45 minutes to an hour from most of our tribe the window gets even smaller. Needless to say the optimal window when all three main factors are available is relatively small and hard to fit through.  I am someone who loves my solitude and alone time but apparently I can have way too much of a good thing.

I have tribe, I have family of choice with whom I am close and I have some bio family that I am still tangentially connected to. However, even with all that I still often feel cut loose in this overly connected world. It’s ironic that the more I am connected, the less connected I feel. I am very fortunate to have a smart phone, a tablet, a laptop and a PC. I am about as connected as you can get electronically. I have social media profiles and lots of friends to keep up with there. But there is something inherently missing in this electronic communication for me. Maybe it’s body language, maybe it’s tone of voice, or the glint of an eye as someone laughs about something or maybe it’s just simple human touch and contact, sharing that energy of just being in each other’s aura for a while. Whatever it is I know I need more of the human connections and far less of the electronic connectivity of our modern world. We are all so busy and on the go all the time that we don’t always have or make time to connect with each other more deeply.

Don’t worry, I am not throwing out all my gadgets and going to live in a yurt in the woods somewhere. Ok, maybe the yurt one day but I will still have my electronic gadgetry.

So what’s the solution you ask? What I am going to do is reach out more even when it is tough and the depression is telling me no one wants to hear from me. I am going to make more phone calls to reach out rather than texts because there’s something to be said for that connection of hearing another person’s voice. I am going to put down the electronics more often and interact in good old fashioned ways. I am going to  send more cards & letters because I know how much I love receiving them so why not start the ball rolling and send them? I used to be a very prolific letter writer and then just got out of the habit with email and such. And last but certainly not least of all, I am going to get together face to face whenever I can with those I care about, make time even if it’s just an hour here or there.

I don’t know that this is a perfect solution to all the disconnection I have been experiencing and that I see all around me but I know it’s a start. A journey can’t begin until I take the first step out and begin. So, here I go beginning.

 

Mother’s Day Hermitage

Wednesday, 16 May 2018

I wasn’t sure I was going to post this but I really feel moved to do so as this is a tough topic for me and therefore means I need to examine it and share it. I love my mom but we have a weird relationship and always have kind of. But she’s not what this post is about. I love that we have a days to celebrate parents (though I think that should be every day really as most moms and dads are pretty awesome).

Mother’s Day is a really tough day for me every year. I tend to hermit up on Mother’s Day and stay away from social media as it’s just too overwhelming for me. Something a lot of folks don’t know about me is that I really wanted to be a mom and think I would have been a pretty great mom on a lot of levels. Due to severe PCOS and other health conditions it just never happened and now it can’t due to a needed hysterectomy. Fostering and adoption were also not options for me/us. I know that my life is just not meant to contain motherhood to a child of my body this go around and most of the time I am ok with it. But, there are certain times that I still struggle with never having the chance. I struggle with not getting to help raise a small human and hope they go on to make the world a better place. I struggle with knowing that I won’t have the comfort of them in my life as I grow older. I struggle with not seeing my family line go on for a lot of reasons. So when I see all the ads about Mother’s Day I start to shut down and tune out. My mom has suffered for that over the years on Mother’s Day and for that I am sorry. I keep working on this every year and it does get better but I do wonder if it will ever really go away.

I have a dear friend who told me some years back that every person I have sponsored, mentored, been a deep friend to and helped are all sort of like my kids in a way. That thought has helped me a lot over the years thinking that hopefully a piece of me will live on in all the teaching, mentoring and sponsoring that I do. At the root of all I am is the desire to help make the world just a little bit better place. While I didn’t get to do that having a child, perhaps in just a lot of little ways I still managed to do so.

To all of the others out there like myself, I see you, I feel your pain and I love you. We don’t have to be defined by whether we had kids or not and I know how hard it is in a society that values parenthood so highly as a status marker. Be your awesome self and keep kicking ass!

To all of you awesome parents out there rocking it each day, I see you and I appreciate having you in my life. You teach me and help me help others through what you do with your kids. Keep being awesome and make time for yourself too!

Now I am going to go get some tissues, dry my eyes and get back to kicking butt!