Are you happy?

Stoic Buddhism

A 5-year-old John Lennon, when asked what he wanted to be when he grew up, may or may not have said he wanted to be happy. And we all want to be happy, right?

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But what does it mean to be happy? We can bop along to Pharrell Williams’ song “Happy,” but that feels silly. Williams seems to mean euphoria. You can snort coke and feel euphoric, however.

Donald Robertson’s book Stoicism and the Art of Happiness provides a detailed description of Stoic philosophy. We don’t typically think of Stoics as valuing euphoria, though. But that’s not what Robertson means by “happiness.” He introduces us to the Greek work eudaimonia, which has no English equivalent. In addition to happiness, Robertson translates it variously as human flourishing, excellence, and good spirits. Others in ancient Greece described eudaimonia as the soul living in harmony with virtue.

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Reinvention is the Spice of Life…and Blogs apparently!

I’ve pondered for a bit on how I can help others and have decided to share some of my journey. Recently, I discovered that I fall into the Neurodivergent category. There is no diagnostic information precluding this discovery, but rather learning more about myself and how similar my experiences are to other Neurodivergent individuals. So here I am on my page once again, switching up how I want to communicate to others. Realizing that one of my biggest struggles is learning how to navigate daily living in a world designed and built for Neurotypical people, I decided to begin writing about ideas, systems, or tricks that have made my life easier. I’ll attempt to describe some of the issues I experience and how I’ve worked through them (or at least how I’m trying to at the moment). Here’s to hoping to reach at least one other person and helping spread not only support, but understanding as well.

That’s me…so goofy. Sorry pic is big. I can’t figure out how to resize 😦

I’d like to begin by introducing myself as I am today (see my mug above): Meris, a forty-two year old, non-binary person on the ace spectrum living with mental illness and challenges to caring for themself. My pronouns are they/them/theirs. I am a work in progress – an imperfect, lovely mess of a human being. As of today, I can say that I love myself after spending the majority of my life in the closet and wound up in a smothered ball of traumas. In 2018, my mental health was failing, my nervous system remaining in flight or freeze mode quite often. I had to make a decision to embrace who I was as a queer person and begin exploring who I really was, what I wanted, what values were important to me, and what I could contribute to the world. So many times I’ve felt the answer to that last question has been nothing, but I know that is clearly distorted thinking. We all have gifts, every human on this earth, even if you’ve not yet discovered yours. I did make the choice to come out of the closet and start my life over again. I lost a lot of people from my life during that period and it took a very long time to move through my grief and sorrow. I slowly began realizing that I had sheltered myself from any kind of pain because aside from my spouse at the time, I only had two other adult friends (a married couple) that I occasionally spent time with. I never felt I belonged or fit in at the church I attended and had difficulty socializing. My anxiety and depression kept me from taking chances – to meet new people, explore new hobbies, get involved with groups I wanted to support. My career path was dotted with increasingly gapped increments. I basically went to work, came home and went to sit in the bath because I was overwhelmed, if I happened to be working at all. Going out to dinner was enjoyable as was taking trips or watching television, but I found that many of the hobbies I participated in, like camping, were things I truly didn’t enjoy. My boundaries were also a mess. I was essentially a doormat.

Once I was responsible for taking care of myself after coming out and getting divorced, I began to understand how poor my mental health was and how difficult the road to any meaningful recovery was going to be. I could not afford counseling and have gone extended periods of time without health insurance due to the cost. I’ve never been truly responsible for preparing my own food continuously, only on occasion. The cook in the family, I was not. Following my divorce, my mother thankfully allowed me to move in with her to try to get my footing. Even though I didn’t have responsibility for my housing, I had to start from scratch to create a life I WANTED to live and support myself financially. I had to determine my likes, dislikes. I had to begin trying to heal traumas from my past. I had to learn how to set and maintain boundaries. Even though I began this whole process four years ago, there are aspects of caring for myself that I still struggle with on a daily basis. Making sure I have adequate nutrition is one of those things. Another is being self-aware enough to care for myself physically, mentally, and emotionally. I have issues with dissociating and that can make any task difficult. Ensuring that I hold down my job is a challenge and I’ll talk a little bit about that later. Feeling secure and at ease in my environment has been an undertaking, but is very much worth it. These topics are what I’d like to start opening up about.

Here we go!

One habit I had started prior to my divorce was moving towards minimalism. Right now that seems to be a trendy word or practice, but for good reason. I used to have half a walk-in closet full of clothes, items stuck in every nook and cranny, piles of unfinished craft or art projects, lots of heavy furniture, crammed cabinets overflowing with pots and pans…you name it. Just describing it shoots a little anxiety through me. I began realizing that when an area was clean and uncluttered, my anxiety wasn’t as bad so I took small steps every few months to declutter. One of the first things was my wardrobe (and I kinda understand that now because the clothes I was wearing did not represent the real me). Letting those items go didn’t bother me and it felt much better not having decision overload when I needed to choose something to wear. I paired down my shoe collection, said goodbye to heels forever, donated lots of purses. As a side note, my issue with purses should have tipped me off that I wasn’t like other people. I was always so confused about purses and why people were always carrying everything around like they did. I would buy reasonably sized purses, but then after placing my wallet, keys, and a pen inside, I was at a loss. I knew it was common to put makeup or lip balm inside so at times I’d throw that in and never end up using it at all. Or I’d buy a travel lotion or hand sanitizer…nope, didn’t use those either. So I ended up carrying around mostly empty bags. Came in handy when I went to the movie theater because hey, candy is expensive, but otherwise the concept of a hand bag was lost on me. Okay, back from that mental field trip…It felt great to look in the closet and see about a fourth of what used to be there and once I moved into my mom’s home, I donated even more items and eventually replacing the lot in favor of gender-affirming clothes. One trick I’ve recently happened upon is only having the number of work outfits I need for about a week of working. This requires that you don’t care if someone sees you in the same outfit repeatedly, but it is FREEDOM! I need to dress business casual four out of the five days and on Friday I’m allowed to wear jeans. So I own about five button up, long sleeve shirts that I pair with golf pants each day. I realize I have an extra outfit that I technically don’t need for the week, but I’m not going to worry about that for now. When I do laundry, I fold the pants over the hanger and then cover them with the corresponding shirt so it’s sort of like a kit. All I have to do is reach in and grab one along with undergarments and a pair of socks. I could tighten the way I use my wardrobe even further and assign an outfit to each day, but that doesn’t seem to be something that would benefit me at this time. I have to say that this laundry hack and minimalism trick has helped make my mornings a lot less stressful. It takes me a while to motivate myself enough to move from the bed so I need my morning routine to be as quick as possible. I also keep items I need in the bathroom to a minimum as well so I don’t become overwhelmed with decisions which does still happen with some parts of my life. I like keeping just my basics like a toothpaste, tooth floss, a deodorant, lotion, a hair brush, hair spray, grooming clay, and cologne on my sink top. These are mainly the only items I need to get ready. My hair is shaved on the sides and back with sort of a mini pompadour on top. Super low-maintenance and I’d never go back to longer hair. It just feels like me!

Eating has been one of my bigger challenges. Let me explain: I was diagnosed in 2007 with Celiac disease and I have sensitivities to a few other foods as well like dairy and tomato products. In addition to having to eat a special diet, I have digestive issues that are tied into my anxiety. I usually don’t know what I will feel like eating on any given day. That alone makes meal planning extremely difficult. Add in that I struggle with my energy at times along with what feels like an inability to force myself to cook and my eating habits are just a complete disaster. I struggle with food addiction as well which just makes it worse. This is the current issue I am trying to get under control because it affects every aspect of my life. I have difficulty absorbing the nutrients from food I eat and even with supplements, I still show signs of being deficient. So, how to properly feed my body in a way that will support my physical and mental health? My solution has to be quick, something I can tolerate regardless of how my digestion feels, safe for me to eat, nutrition-packed, and taste good (also hopefully low cost because the economy, yikes!). I’ve tried meal prepping, cooking lots of meals all at once on the weekends to warm up and eat through the week, prepackaged sheet meals I can throw in the oven, giving up and just eating popcorn with a scoop of peanut butter, just eating junk food, planning on cooking during the week and failing, meal delivery kits (still gotta cook with most of those and the quality was still unreliable if I couldn’t get home in time to whisk it off the porch into the refrigerator), going vegan (not good because no B12 and I don’t care for nutritional yeast much), and the list goes on. Okay, that brings me up to where I’m at today. I’ll run through what a day looks like when I’m eating at home and what I’m getting ready to try next week. For breakfast, I have been eating a banana and granola bar with a diet Coke the past few days because either I’ve not gotten up in time to prep an alternative or work plans changed last minute (PANIC). On days I get up a bit earlier I like to fix cinnamon raisin oatmeal with hot tea for breakfast. I make sure I go slowly because rushing can be triggering for me. Looks like getting up earlier is the healthier option if I can pull it off. For lunch, my go-to is cutting up a fuji apple and drizzling chunky peanut butter on it along with baby carrots and cucumber, sometimes celery, with a scoop of lemon hummus. So good. Breakfast and lunch aren’t usually the issue and if lunch causes problems I will turn to eating out on the go. Right now it’s not financially a good idea to eat out, but I’d rather do that than sacrifice my health. I try to make choices that don’t involve burgers and fries all the time so there’s that. Sooooo, supper. My nemesis (I sigh). Once supper time rolls around I generally begin to loathe the fact that I have to eat. I’m tired, I don’t have a plan and my brain is not focusing. I’m hangry and just end up shoveling whatever I can find. I know that has to change. I’ve seen a smoothie delivery service pop up a few times and then a friend recommended it. I trust him so I’m gonna give it a try. My first box comes next week and I’m kinda excited about it. Basically all I have to do is dump the ingredients into my blender with the non-dairy milk I have on hand and blend away. Lots of fruits and veggies getting pumped into my diet. I’m hopeful! I’ll still have to figure out how to get enough protein I can absorb into my diet, but at least that will take care of fruit/veg if I enjoy it. Even on my really rough days I can manage a smoothie so at least I’m taking care of getting nutrients and not just turning to junk food out of frustration. Wish me luck! I’ll try to post an update next week along with some of the other things that have helped me along the way. Sending y’all good vibes for now 🙂

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The Importance of Sharing

*Trigger warning: The following post contains details about self-harm and mental health issues.

I’ve been thinking about writing on this topic for a bit now. I was just reminded by another post that May was Mental Health Awareness month and decided I wanted to share. This post is definitely staying true to what I want for this blog – for it to be open and vulnerable so other people might get a glimpse at my struggle and know they are not alone. I feel that’s one of the reasons it’s so important to share our stories. There is absolutely no reason for people struggling with mental health issues to be stigmatized. It makes no difference why there are issues; maybe it’s because a person’s brain is just “wired” a bit differently than others. Maybe there are genetic factors at play. Maybe there has been trauma. I used to say that the brain is just another body part and it can get sick just like anything else. Although diseases, disorders, traumas, and other issues can certainly affect our behavior, that’s no reason to group people with mental health problems into shame. No one asks for struggles like that in their life so why do we still try to shush people or make them feel broken and unworthy because of it? Why do so many still treat those problems with a low-lying malice that seems to imply a person “deserves” it or completely invalidate what they are experiencing by telling them to just shake it off (or something similar). Problems with mental health can occur at any point in a person’s lifetime and is something that we all need to observe and respond to with compassion and empathy. This issue needs to be one of high importance in society so that people who need help can easily access it. Mental health is just as important as physical health.

In my own story, I began struggling with my mental health at an early age and it became evident by the time I reached seventh grade. I believe I initally was diagnosed with depression which was definitely part of what I was dealing with, but I don’t think it described everything I was experiencing. I began to self-harm during that time. I remember feeling like I had so much bottled up that I could explode, yet I just kept packing everything down as tightly as possible. I remember feeling that no one else could ever understand what I was going through, what I felt, and that I was completely alone. My family generally seemed to be ashamed of my problems. My mother was the one that initiated my visits to a counselor at that time, but she was often very stern about the subject. It was one of those things that was sort of swept under the rug most of the time with exceptions of my brother and his girlfriend making fun of me. I was told that I shouldn’t tell anyone about my problems. There was so much shame surrounding my life and I pressed it down along with all the other difficult feelings I didn’t want to deal with. I was placed on a few different kinds of medications and eventually settled on one antidepressant. The medication left me feeling like stone inside – so flat and lifeless. I continued taking the medication I believe up until my senior year of high school. By that point I felt very little even without the medication. My mental health continued to suffer over the following years even during dating and marriage, jobs, and other “normal” life events. I will add that during this time I also had quite a few medical issues that were contributing to my problems. It got so bad it started affecting my ability to work and I developed a lot of anxiety. I was actually laid off from a job shortly after my son was born and stayed home for a while after that. I decided to take on a part-time job cleaning and during that time I began to get sick again. My anxiety around any medical issues could be described as extreme. After dealing with mutliple doctor and ER visits over the course of a few months, I ended up going to a small mental institution for about three days. At that point I could barely eat, barely sleep. My nerves felt like they were completely raw and even the smallest stimulus was overwhelming. After being discharged, I went back home and did my best to start eating more normally and was prescribed various medications to help control my anxiety and help me sleep among other things. It took a very long time, but eventually I built my body back up to where I could at least minimally function again.

Many things have happened in my life since that time. I want to write a bit about some of the things I experience today and how I cope with them. It seems I have a problem with my perception of reality at times. I start feeling paranoid about being watched. I feel like the things I see online, things I hear on a daily basis are connected and my brain makes up stories about them. It could be anything from my current employer getting ready to fire me all the way to someone liking me or another person hating me. Sometimes the thoughts that come up tell me that my friends are fake because of what I’ve read or heard. Sometimes I think that I might have a serious illness. I have worked so hard over the past two years to learn ways to cope with not only this issue, but also my problems with anxiety and depression. I’ve also worked on what I found out were addictions to shopping and food. I would say that one of the things that has helped the most is becoming aware of my thoughts. Once I began noticing these quick stories that were popping up inside my head, I learned to send them through a “secondary sorter”. I began to ask myself what evidence I had to support those stories outside of my head. Most of the time the answer was that I didn’t have any evidence so I could try and discard the story. This was not an easy process, but has gotten better over time with practice. Part of it was developing mindfulness in my life and I will always be an advocate of its benefits. In terms of my anxiety and depression, there was a different tactic I used after being able to identify those feelings and thoughts. I either read or heard a quote that said something about anxiety was living in the future and depression was living in the past. I believe this may have been something Eckhart Tolle said. In any case, the concept just sunk into me. Anytime I caught myself feeling anxious I simply reminded myself that it wasn’t time to worry about whatever it was on my mind. I was essentially giving myself permission NOT to worry. For anxiety, it seemed to work very well. Depression was a bit of a different issue. Even though I could try to bring myself back to the present and away from thoughts of the past, I still struggled with feeling depressed. I wish I could say that I was able to completely rid myself of it, but I was not. I am back taking an antidepressant that does help quite a bit most days. Yesterday was not one of those days and although I’m not sure what to call it, I had a lot of problems with my perception of reality and paranoia. At one point I felt like I had actually passed away and was existing in some sort of purgatory. I was convinced that I was being watched and that it was never going to stop. The psychological pain from that experience was excruciating.

I can say that I have a wonderful friend whom I can confide in when I have times like this. It’s a lot more difficult since social distancing started, but I was able to go and visit with her and her husband yesterday. I am so thankful for them it’s difficult for me to express. I’ve always tried to be real with her about my mental health issues. I texted her yesterday and basically told her I was having a really bad brain day and wished she could give me a hug. She invited me over to hang out on the back porch which ended up being such a huge blessing. We sat outside for hours just catching up, looking at the animals in the neighborhood, and enjoying the feeling of semi-normalcy again. I left feeling quite a bit lighter and better and definitely more grounded than I had earlier in the day. I am so grateful for her kindness and authenticity. She is not usually one to sugar coat things and being able to talk about my mental health with her without being judged is priceless.

Today I received a package in the mail and was puzzled. I was trying to remember if I had ordered something and was a little concerned for a minute when I couldn’t. I opened it up and inside was a giftbox with a card, candle, book of matches, and a little succulent plant. The card read “Quarantine Succs”. It said on the back, “to my bestie, i miss you”. Mindy had sent me a little quarantine gift! I was so excited I took a picture and started texting her how much I loved it. I named the plant Merv 🙂 She really is an awesome best friend and hopefully once COVID decides to leave everyone alone I will be able to spend more time with her. I’m ready for some board games, cooking, chatting, movies, and lots of silliness.

I think we can all say that being isolated during quarantine, even those without mental health problems, is horrible. I would say I’ve struggled a bit differently during quarantine due to my mental health and not being able to do the things I enjoy as part of my routine paired with not being able to see the people I care about. It has been really hard. I know I’m not alone in those feelings.

In writing this I really hope that if you’re struggling that you know you are not alone in spirit. You may physically be isolated, but know that I am right there with you regardless of who you are, where you’re from, what color skin you have, what gender you are, what your sexuality is, what your job is, whether you have money or not, what your religion (or lack of) is. If I could give you a hug, I would. We all need one right now. We all need to feel comforted and connected. Even if you don’t believe the same way I do, please know that I am sending you peace and healing energies. Please take care of you and keep safe!

Something Not so Serious…

To lighten the mood a bit around here (since I’ve posted on more serious topics of late), I wanted to share some fun I had with my son today! It was a beautiful day outside. The sun was shining, there were birds chirping in the woods and sitting on their nests they’d built above the downspouts by the house, and our quarantined selves were ready for some fresh air.

I have a dirt hill in my backyard. It actually takes up at least half of it and is made up of mostly shale rocks. Lots of super fun potential for building and playing. Plus there are woods around the property that provide extra resources (like sticks) for building. My son had made a little village with roads, a sheep pen, a cow pen, and an opening to the “mine”. He decided that one of his toys, a wolf, needed a cave to live in away from the village. I went to work on that. I gathered buckets of dirt, made mud, and constructed my first cave. It was so much fun!

little cave

After we finished with that cave and his wolf was happy, we decided that another cave was needed as a dragon’s den. This was gonna take a lot longer to work on. He had dug a HUGE hole in the ground so I chose to use it as a starting point. I gathered a bunch of sticks, rocks, and moss to begin my project. After a few hours of assembling and mudding, we got about 3/4 the way finished. It was really hard work, but also a lot of fun working on the design.

big cave

It looks a lot smaller in the picture than it actually is. We both decided to call it a day, get cleaned up, and get some grub. Hopefully we’ll get to finish tomorrow. I think one more wheel barrow full of mud should do the trick and the dragon’s lair will be complete!

With Easter tomorrow, we’re going to be celebrating with our traditional egg war. We dyed some hard-boiled eggs last weekend so tomorrow they get smashed into one another to see whose wins. That’s been a tradition here for a long, long time. If you’ve never tried it, you should give it a go!

I hope you all have a great rest of the weekend and a lovely day tomorrow!

Building Bridges, not Walls

I wanted to piggyback on my entry from yesterday by continuing the theme of understanding and compassion. TED Talks delivered yet again, this time with a speech from Elizabeth Lesser titled, ‘Take the “Other” to Lunch’. First, I felt like I had known this woman for a long time by the way she spoke and how she described herself as being half mystic and half worrier. I feel like I come pretty close to that in my own personality. Her main idea was for us to identify our social groups (like political leaning, religion, etc.) and then to find someone in an “opposing” camp to invite to lunch for discussion. There were some ground rules for this interaction though such as staying curious, being respectful, not trying to defend a position, no persuasion tactics, and openly listening. Elizabeth actually invited someone to a lunch like this. She, herself, identified as a liberal so she invited someone who was fairly conservative. Elizabeth and the other woman apparently had a great talk over their meal, learned a lot about one another, and how wrong the stereotypes of each group were. To me, this is key. We need to stop labeling a whole group of people because that group could consist of thousands of individuals with varying thoughts, beliefs, and values. They are not going to fit into a neat little box we slap a label on. This is where the hard work comes in because it is mentally a lot easier to buy into stereotypes. Our efficient brains can be very lazy at times and choosing to accept a stereotype takes much less cognitive load than getting to know an individual as they are. As my title says, I feel like we need to do the hard work of building bridges of compassion and understanding. We need to do more of what Elizabeth is suggesting by getting to personally know and understand someone very different from ourselves. It doesn’t mean that we’re going to change our minds, beliefs, values, or even agree with them but it does offer a perspective we may not have considered before. Doing this work can provide understanding of what it was like for the other person growing up, some of their adult experiences, what they do on a regular basis. These are some of the questions Elizabeth included in her lunchtime chat with “the other”. These questions can provide information as to how the person sitting across from you was shaped by their experiences through life and came to their way of thinking. By the way, if you get an opportunity to watch her speech, please do!

I know there are so many ways we as individuals are being divided and not just by labels. Even the media is a huge factor in divisiveness. That division only offers misunderstanding, separation, less community, more anger or frustration, and so many other negative things. We can see that building walls either physically, mentally, or emotionally is detrimental to society. Choosing to build bridges of compassion and understanding as Elizabeth is suggesting will only provide benefits to humanity so why are we waiting (other than our shelter-in-place issue right now)? This may be a great time to invite “the other” to a zoom call for a chat over tea or even a meal!

I hope you have a great Friday and a wonderful weekend

architecture art bridge cliff
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An Argument for Change, but Also for Compassion

I know right now the main topic on everyone’s mind is COVID-19 and rightly so. It’s an invisible, silent stealer of health and life. We are all focused on trying to keep ourselves and our loved ones safe from this virus while maintaining some sort of order within our tiny worlds at home away from what our normal lives used to look like. Since I already attended school online for the most part and work at a grocery store, my schedule hasn’t changed that much. I have found that I’ve been watching more TED Talks lately and have stumbled upon a series regarding intersex individuals. Being intersex means that an individual is born with gonads, genitals, and hormones that are a combination of both male and female. Sometimes their chromosomes differ from XX or XY. Being born intersex isn’t a new phenomenon. They have a history that dates back thousands of years. A few cultures have embraced them over time, but that is not the norm. Our modern-day society only accepts and acknowledges a set standard of what a female is and looks like, what a male is and looks like. Anything that differs is classified as a “disorder”. For those interested, google what is called the “Prader scale”. Part of my argument is that just because someone is different than what current society deems normal doesn’t make them disordered or less.

In listening to the TED Talks, I found their speeches candid, thought-provoking, and heartbreaking. In many cases, they spoke of having their genitals mutilated at birth because the appearance didn’t fit within the accepted binary. The speakers went on to talk about the multiple surgeries they had undergone to try and correct the damage done to them so early in life. They spoke of losing friends and family when they wanted to be their authentic selves instead of conforming to what was acceptable within society. It was mentioned that only three countries acknowledge that being intersex is valid and recognize citizens born outside the binary. According to each speech, there are millions of intersex people living in the world today. Imagine that many children being surgically altered at birth based on the doctor or family’s guess as to what the child’s sex might really be instead of waiting until they are old enough to either be involved in that decision or make it completely themselves. I found myself becoming angry towards those who had created their ideal binary to begin with and those that perpetuated it. I am one of the people that believes that the binary is not real, that sex, gender, and sexuality exist on a spectrum. I want to see change come about for the acceptance, protection, and acknowledgement of intersex people as well as those in the LGBTQ community. I list them in separate categories because I have heard some intersex people express they don’t wish to be in the same community.

One of the things I did last night as I was journaling was try to think through why the binary issue was such a controversial subject. In realizing that it had been upheld for thousands of years by most cultures and societies, its widespread acceptance as the truth would automatically make it difficult to dislodge. Another aspect of this difficulty is tied into religious beliefs. The very idea that a simple male/female binary isn’t true threatens many religious texts. Althought my knowledge of the Christian bible is limited, I can only recall a small portion of text pertaining to anything that might relate to being intersex. The bible discusses eunuchs briefly, either someone being born without testicles or having them removed at some other point in life. I believe biblically they were assigned to serve a certain purpose in a social or religious setting. As they were often sterile, they were seen as unfit for marriage. If we look at other passages in the bible, there are strict guidelines pertaining to what is appropriate for males and females in terms of appearance, manner, and status in society. Even in the early books of the bible it is stressed that god created man and then woman. It is noted that during the time of Noah that he collected two of each animal, one male and one female so the different species could carry on after the great flood. We can see the concept of a strict binary all through scripture and most likely other religions believed this way also. From my point of view, debunking the idea of a binary leads to threatening deeply held religious beliefs. I believe this is one reason that people become angry, defensive, or even violent when it’s suggested that sex, gender, and sexuality exist on a spectrum.

I’ve heard several arguments in favor of upholding religious beliefs such as, “I think transgender people are mentally ill because they want to change how god made them”. This is when I want to introduce the TED Talks featuring intersex people and the fact that adults, parents and doctors, are doing that very thing – changing the way “god” made those children so their little bodies can conform to what society deems acceptable. Think about how much shame and mental anguish these individuals experience when they discover what their parents did to them at birth. They would more than likely see a picture of people that were so ashamed of their child’s body they had to surgically alter it for the child to be loved and accepted. Think about the multiple surgeries they might have to endure to try and correct what had been done at birth if the doctor’s and parent’s “guess” at their identity was wrong. There are countless reports of these people being surgically altered only to identify the opposite way at some point in the future. I am sure their lives have to be tortured in those situations.

I also want to point people towards nature itself. Consider how many fish are able to change gender based on reproductive needs. It’s been documented so many times throughout history that clownfish, wrasse, and other fish are able to do this. There are female snakes that can fertilize their own eggs without the help of a male. We can see so many examples in nature that a strict male/female binary for sex, gender, or sexuality does not exist. Nature has created a wide variety of creatures and plants that are completely beautiful as they are.

I understand and agree that changes are urgently needed in our society in regards to people that don’t fall squarely into the accepted binary, whether that be by sex, gender, or sexuality. Science has shown us the reality of our bodies and minds time after time. It is way past time for society to accept that and stop invalidating, harming, killing, and treating intersex and LGBTQ people as less than. In my eyes there is no excuse for us to endure what society has unleashed. While I do not and cannot condone people’s words or actions against us, I do want everyone fighting for our rights to understand why it is so difficult for those opposing us to deal with what is true. Calling into question those religious and cultural beliefs so deeply held can be extremely painful. It can tear your heart to shreds and turn your world upside down. I speak from experience. In coming to terms with my own gender identity and sexuality, I had to question my long-held beliefs in the Christian faith. I would describe the mental and emotional upheaval as violent. Now that I can look back on that time from a place where I love and accept myself as I am, I do not regret calling those beliefs into question. I do not regret the unraveling of my religious beliefs. I want people fighting for our rights to see how horrific it is to deal with the conflict between what you FEEL is true (religion) and what you KNOW is true based the lives of human beings right in front of you (the spectrum of sex, gender, and sexuality). What I’m calling for is not an acceptance of their intolerance or crimes against us. I am calling for understanding and compassion when confronting them. I am calling for us to see mentally and emotionally what they are dealing with then hold our ground with that found compassion. Beating someone over the head with truth isn’t going to help them see it any clearer or accept it for that matter. Change is going to be painfully slow and it will happen one person at a time like it did with me accepting myself. Regardless of how slow that process of changing hearts may be, let’s keep fighting on the side of love.

Thank you for reading and considering…may you be safe and be well

multicolored umbrella
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Technology Isn’t Enough

I’ve found myself thinking about isolation, social distancing, and being away from people and activities I enjoy so much more lately. I’m sure this is probably common amongst everyone. There have been a few times I’ve expressed my wish that after we have moved through the last dangers of COVID-19 that we, as a society and as a worldwide community, can emerge on the other side with a deeper connection to one another and a better understanding of how our technological advances are not the answer to staying close or maintaining meaningful relationships. Certainly Skype, Facebook, and other forms of communicating are helpful in those pursuits, but they cannot take the place of face-to-face interaction with people in our lives. There is so much that is lost over a quick text message or social media post. The sound of a friend’s voice combined with their facial expression, a hand that’s held out of a desire to comfort another, a laugh that’s contagious enough to spread through a crowd – we can’t find a way for technology to replace the intricacies of those things in person. There are nuances that cannot be duplicated online. What if having to depend so heavily on technology to stay connected as much as possible right now helps everyone understand how necessary and how beautiful actually being with others actually is? What if everyone can finally see how technology is just a sad and lacking version of what’s available in real life? Maybe we can make our way towards lives lived together again. Maybe we will have a fresh motivation to pursue friendships and relationships in person, knowing that there really is no substitue for the real thing.

If nothing else, we need to try to look for the good that can come out of this experience. We can see that even though this time has been difficult, that we are strong and resilient – if not creative and resourceful – in the face of adversity. We can use this time to teach us more about ourselves. Learning about our weaknesses can lead to a deeper understanding of what we need to do to improve ourselves and give us courage to make those changes.

Sending peace, love, and happy brain vibes to you!

yellow orange flowers in bloom
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Happy Thursday!

Hello from semi-quarantine! Sending some air hugs out to everyone this morning 🙂

I know social distancing is hard right now so I just wanted to send some encouragement out to everyone too. It’s awesome seeing all the different ways people are coming up with to keep living life on their own terms. I’ve read about drive-by birthday parties, online messages/pictures/videos sent to people from family members at nursing homes, Zoom friend hangouts, pretend restaurants at home, and so many more creative ways to stay connected. A lot of churches have even gone online to share their services since no one can attend. It’s uplifting to know how our human spirits can still thrive in this kind of environment if we just put forth the effort. We can find fun, humor, and novelty in the face of adversity.

Even though it’s not for everyone, I found that decorating the house for an upcoming holiday was a lot of fun and just made the mood a bit brighter, more festive. I’m one of those people that enjoy decorating for lots of different holidays, not just Christmas. So there are rabbits, stickers, posters, a banner, and tchotchkes adorning the rooms. I read one suggestion that mentioned possibly putting Christmas decorations back up just for fun. Sometimes I think we forget that there really aren’t any “rules” about this kind of thing. As adults, we can put up Christmas decorations in the middle of the year if we feel like it. We can declare ice cream for supper on an evening when we need to let loose and feel like a kid again for five minutes (and maybe share that with loved ones too!). I think the whole point is to encourage everyone to try and think outside of the box, to do things a little out of the ordinary since we’re experiencing such a difficult time right now. Have fun at home in whatever ways you can. Maybe that looks like building a blanket fort with what you have and watching a movie with some popcorn (yes, even if you don’t have kids). For some, what if that looks like rearranging the furniture and having a sleepover in the living room with the people you’re quarantined with? I read one family recreated “The Pirates of the Caribbean” ride in their house. That was cool. Try a picnic indoors, especially if it’s rainy outside. Find inspiration from others online doing some inventive things at home to stay uplifted. The internet is brimming with ideas!

I want to say a huge thank you to everyone still working! You are so appreciated!

Take care of yourselves and your loved ones!

Wishing you good health and safety during this time!

Self-reflect a little for me…

I’m pretty sure we can all relate to a day where we’ve felt completely up-ended and turned over by life. Our spirits drop, depression may strike, anger may rise. Any number of negative emotions can come up for us. On those days, we probably all think that we should be afforded a little extra “grace” by others whether that comes in the form of a supportive friend or maybe people staying out of your way because of the tears flowing from your eyes. Sometimes we just need to be alone. When you stop to think about it, really think about some of your worst days on this earth and how you may have acted on those days, it’s easy to feel as if you’re entitled to behavior that may not be your social best. You would want exceptions to be made and any harshness overlooked by others. That’s where I’d like you to pause for just a sec. So far, we’re probably on the same page and understand what all that feels like. Let’s take a step further. Maybe you’ve just had an ever-so-unpleasant encounter with your next-door neighbor or a stranger cussed you out for accidentally bumping into them on the sidewalk. Could it be that you’ve had a run-in with a grumpy coworker or a barista who barely fills your coffee cup after messing up your order twice? Your first and almost immediate reaction to any of this would probably be anger, irritation, or frustration – maybe all them. Let that soak in for a moment. Imagine that any of those interactions caused by other people, our fellow human beings, happened because they were having one of the worst days or worst times in their lives. What if your neighbor just found out her son has cancer? That stranger on the sidewalk? They’re in the middle of a very painful divorce. I think you see where I’m going with this. My point is this: in a world where people desperately need to be shown compassion and kindness, even a shred of it, how can we be the ones to fall back on hostility instead of making a conscious decision based on how you would want to be treated on your worst days? It is dead easy to give into those negative emotions and instantaneous reactions. On the other end of the spectrum lies the difficult work of pausing and choosing kindness. I can hear some of you saying, “But what about the way that person treated me? I should be able to say what I want, retaliate, tell them what a horrible person they are.” That is one of your options, absolutely. Ask yourself this though – will responding in a venomous way erase the way you were treated? Will it correct the situation, make anything better at all? In all likelihood it will not do any of those things. That means you have an opportunity each time you encounter an unpleasant person. You have the opportunity to pause and try to understand. Reframe the judgemental thoughts about the person you’re interacting with and replace them with the question, “What if this person is having one of their worst days?” Choosing this path of compassion doesn’t excuse the other person’s behavior at all. Walking away and ignoring the incident is also an option. It is definitely kinder than reacting with vicious words or worse. I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve struggled with this so many times during my life, but to be honest my norm is usually to avoid, run away, or just “take it”. I can think back on times in my life where I wanted to have the greatest comeback line (and may have even thought of one much later), but chose to bite my tongue out of fear. Even though I escaped those tense interactions without reacting negatively towards another, many times it was for the wrong reasons. I’ve had to do so much inner work to even get closer to making a conscious choice to choose kindness. So when I’m writing all this here, I’m writing to myself also. I’m reminding myself that everyone deserves grace. No one person is any better or any worse than another. We’re all in this messy human experience together. Here I am, today, encouraging all of us (especially in this era of corona), to let the love flow.

Wishing you peace on your journey and good health!

hands people friends communication
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